Sunday, August 12, 2012

Camping in Arkansas


Remember how I wanted to get some time outdoors? Well, on a weekend between our other travels, Nathanael and I decided to take a 6 hour trek to Arkansas to camp at Crater of Diamonds State Park, somewhere we had been really wanting to visit.

 But I can't tell you about the diamond hunting in this post. Not yet. That portion of the trip will have to wait, because this post is going to have too many pictures of camping to make room for any of the others.

 When I finished my Masters Degree, my parents gave me a tent as a graduation present. My family did a good deal of camping while I was growing up, so it was an exciting present for them to give me right before Nathanael and I got married. But, even though we are getting close to completing our third year of marriage, this trip was the first time we had been camping together. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. As a result, my photo documenting makes it look like “Nathanael’s camping adventure storybook”. I am still developing the goal of getting more pictures of us together.


Nathanael getting out the tent.


Nathanael scoping out the tent pad.


 Nathanael putting the tarp down.


Nathanael laying the tent down.


Nathanael putting the poles in.


The tent popped up, 


and the fly on.

 When we planned our trip, we discovered that the park (or maybe the state?) had a burn ban. Some part of my mind assumed that driving mostly north for six hours, and going to a campground to be surrounded by trees would somehow grant at least slightly less heat and humidity than the 99 to 109°F that we had each been working in all week, but as we began setting up our tent I wondered if we would fall asleep, or just steam cook all night in our spacious shelter. 
I did help with the tent assembly. Really.
You can see evidenced by the following:


Nathanael’s knot to keep the fly attached to the stake


Sarah’s knot. 

 Nathanael asked me what kind of knot it was. That’s just it, it’s a Sarah knot. 

 Nathanael and I took a short walk, then spent two hours doing some diamond hunting. As the 8pm closing time drew nearer, intense winds and horizontal rain gave everything a thorough soaking, and cooled the night down significantly (cooled down = good sleep).  For dinner we filled tin foil packets with potatoes, carrots, onions, ground beef and seasonings. To my hungry self they were the best food ever. (“We should make these all of the time!”)

 Nathanael had coordinated all of the food for our weekend away, and when I awoke in the morning he was coaxing his home made wood burning backpacking stove to sit in the low-air-flow grill area and burn charcoal for the cooking of chocolate chip pancakes.



My morning view. Ahhh.

The fire ban rules required that we not cook on the ground, and that our fire not burn wood, so the stove was not using all of its typical high heat potential. It was fun to watch Nathanael’s pancake arrangement, and it was a delicious start to a long day of hard work.


The camping stove poised for pancakes


Nathanael tending pancakes


Our vintage maple syrup, from a case of them saved by Nathanael's grandparents.
(Wise grandparents.  If you're going to save a case of something, real maple syrup is the way to go.)

 For lunch we took a break for some ham sandwiches,


 and moved our tent from the camper site it was on, to a primitive site (made for tents, but without a spout or grill, so we walked across to the camper sites when we needed to cook).

When we moved it we just took the stakes out and carried it a few hundred feet away, which was certainly faster, though more of a workout then taking the tent down. When you are holding an already constructed tent with your arms spread wide to hold the poles there are a lot of muscles being used (and a lot of balance skills failing if you are me). What is even better though, is with a tent as large as ours it looks like you are carrying an elephant, so despite the slightly tired muscles you feel really strong. (Ok, so I felt strong, Nathanael probably had a better grasp on reality.) 



Coordinating sheets. That’s right. We that’s how coordinated we are.
 In actuality, the sheet matching the tent was completely accidental, but from here on out that will be deemed the camping sheet. 

 When our day of diamond hunting was done we followed it with a late dinner of chilli with fritoes. We discovered that you can have too much cheese on your chili, and we were also teased by surrounding campers, “Do you have other people staying with you in that tent?”, “Do you think that tent’s big enough?”. A six person tent is plenty spacious for the two of us right now, but we plan to have some little people in there with us someday, so we are glad my parents have our long term camping career in mind. 

 For our final morning we had bacon and eggs for breakfast,


and fashion.

 And then packed things up for the trip home. We are still reading the C.S. Lewis space trilogy and just finished the second book, Perelandra. It was intense. If you are unfamiliar with the writings of C.S. Lewis (thanks for asking Liesl!) , I would recommend starting with his most well known work, the Chronicles of Narnia (I prefer them in the original published order instead of the currently published order, because it leaves more surprises to be discovered, but that is really up to your preference). Though it is a children’s series, there are some really beautifully presented truths throughout the series, which is one of the reasons I always think of C.S. Lewis’ (and George MacDonald’s) books as “teaching fiction” rather than plain fiction or fantasy. If you prefer to read one of his adult books, The Five Loves (non-fiction), Mere Christianity (non-fiction) and The Great Divorce (fiction) are also fine works.  C.S. Lewis books have been available at every public library I have visited (which is quite a few now!), so be sure to take advantage of that!


I would love to hear about your summer adventures, and maybe get some ideas!  Have you spent some time sleeping outdoors this summer?  What have you been reading?

Do you have any favorite camping foods or fun tips?


  1. Also, it seems like you've matched your shirt to your tent and bedding ensemble. Awesome!

  2. How awesome! Looks like you had a really great time. I have to admit, I'm jealous! I haven't been camping in *years.* Nobody seems to want to go with me! So I'm tempted to pitch a tent for myself in the back yard this autumn.

    And thanks for the CS Lewis suggestions. I'm added them to my To-Read List.

    My brother and I were just talking about Fairy Tales last night and how important they are. CS Lewis always pops up as a, I guess you could say 'compass' or 'beacon', in the literary world. A *must read* for kids and adults. There is a book out that I think looks interesting called Enchanted Hunters. It's about the power of stories for children. I think they are important for adults too.


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