If you’ve been a longtime follower here, you might remember our first camping experience together a few years ago, which ended in torrential rain, lightning, and thunder storms. Despite the unfortunate weather, we still had a good time and have been wanting to go again. We haven’t been able to make it work, mostly due to lack of planning, until earlier this spring when we went ahead and picked the first weekend of May for our next camping adventure.
When I was growing up, my family camped at Caledonia State Park, which is nestled in a valley of the northern Blue Ridge Mountains, just west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Between our love for the mountains and the attraction of the historic battlefield nearby, we knew this would be the perfect spot for our weekend. Leading up to our trip, the forecast didn’t look promising for clear weather, but as the weekend approached, the chance of rain all but vanished. We were thrilled! So, on Friday afternoon, we packed up the car and headed to our home in the woods for the next few days.
Once we arrived at the campsite, we immediately pitched the tent, which was surprisingly easier than I anticipated. Despite the lack of rain, we were battling some pretty strong wind gusts, so I was a bit nervous about our tent staying put, but once it was up and the bed and blankets were added, it was good to go. Meanwhile, Jody battled getting the campfire to stay lit as I set the rest of our site up. Not only was the wind bad, but the temperature was quickly dropping into the 30s. As the sun faded behind the mountain ridge, we resorted to pulling out our gas grill to make dinner. Embarrassingly, we didn’t think to build the grill before we left home, and didn’t think we had packed a screwdriver to put it together. Annoyed, hungry, and cold, we nibbled on a few crackers while still fighting the fire. After hours of rotating through the cycle of finding kindling, getting the wood to catch, and then for a gust wind to blow it out, we frustratedly retreated to bed.
The following morning, we woke up to sunshine and a cool breeze, giving us a bit of hope for a better day. Jody immediately went to work on a refreshed attempt (with no gusty wind!) at a fire, while I stayed under our blankets in the tent, praying, albeit a bit dramatically, that I would at least be able to have a cup of coffee. Like a true outdoorsy superhero, not only did Jody get the fire lit, but also he found a mini screwdriver in his backpack to put our portable grill together! A very anticipated cup of coffee and breakfast sandwich later, we felt like true campers.
Caledonia is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Gettysburg, so we headed to check out the recently renovated Visitor’s Center at Gettysburg Battlefield in the the early afternoon. We purchased tickets to view the museum, film, and cyclorama about the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. We spent about 1.5 hours viewing artifacts, plus both visual experiences, but easily could have spent longer. However, it shaped up to be a gorgeous day, so we instead headed back to the car to make tailgate sandwiches, before walking around the battlefield. Before heading back to camp, we did stop at Adams County Winery for some wine. We had actually visited this winery before with friends, but thought it was a bit sweet for our liking, so we ended up at Reid’s Winery and Cider Tasting Room, where we enjoyed a snack with our flight. We purchased a bottle of red wine and a blackberry cider and then headed back to our campsite for the evening.
Happily, we had no issues with our fire this time, so we had a wonderful evening of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire. We listened to music and chatted late into the night retreating into the tent.
I woke up with the sun the following morning, and enjoyed a peaceful morning listening to the birds chirping as the campground began to wake up. Jody and I went on a morning stroll through the loops near our site, before making another round of coffee and breakfast sandwiches. We didn’t have to be out of our site until 3:00pm, so we spent some more time by the fire reading and enjoying the nature around us, incredibly grateful that the last two days totally redeemed the first night!
Even though our first night was less than ideal, we are so glad that we went and were still able to have an amazing getaway. One of the things I love about camping is that it forces you to unplug from technology and slow down to soak in each fleeting moment – the smell of a crackling campfire, the beams of the early morning sun streaming down through the trees, and of course, the sweetness of s’mores late in the night 🙂