Monday, April 6, 2015

Primitive Camping at Corney Lake | Bernice, Louisiana, Late March 2013

Let's be honest...I have been putting off this article for forever.  I still feel a tinge of bitterness when I think about our time spent in Northern Louisianna.  It wasn't all bad.  We did make time for daily bike rides (in between the rain storms), Brian made a mean camp fire chili, and we enjoyed a really fun night by the fire with a bottle of cheap whiskey and our favorite internet radio station (thanks to verizon unlimited data and solar panel power for daytime charging of electronics).  

We were spent by the time we hit Kisatchie in late March of 2013.  Upon leaving NOLA, we drove north to Lafayette and settled on camping in a private campground called Maxie's, that Brian had found while leafing through a lodging magazine we had picked up at a rest area.  Unfortunately, this RV park just happened to be right next to a highway.  The tree barrier did little to block the sound and late night hours did little to alleviate the traffic.  The one highlight was our camping neighbor, Barb.  She, too, had sold everything and bought an RV to travel.  It was the second and last time we would use our movie projector purchased with the vision of hosting movie nights in campgrounds we stopped in across the US.  Our thought was it would help us meet people.  That night we watched Nature Calls (appropriate...we thought so) projected on the side of our pop up.  Barb joined in contributing cracker jack snacks.  Barb is still traveling today.  Check out her blog here.  
The movie Nature Calls being projected on the side of our pop up

We packed up the next day and by the time we were ready to pull out it was more afternoon than morning.  After solely camping in the pop up from mid February through mid March, we treated ourselves to a free stay in the  Best Western up the road by using points from our rewards card.  This was followed by several days in a cheaper hotel across the street which we paid for out of pocket.  We needed to decompress.  We needed to regroup.  We needed to ask ourselves some serious questions.  Could we really do this?  Physically?  Financially?  Mentally?  Should we just throw in the towel and head back to PA?  

We decided to stick it out for the time being.  Reevaluating our finances, we began to look at free camping options to offset the cost, making more money available for food and gas.  Our first destination would be Corney Lake, about 4 hours north of where we were.  Following several days of "cushy living" while staying in hotels, we figured we would be ready from some backcountry camping.  We were also hoping for some more seasonable temperatures.  As we pulled away from the hotel I felt a bit of excitement at the prospect of returning to life in the pop up we now considered home.
Our first day at Corney Lake 

Corney Lake is located within the Kisatchie National Forest.  The nearest town would be Bernice, 9 miles down the road.  As a rule, camping of this type is free and sans amenities such as water and electric.  This location did provide pit toilets within a short walking distance and flush toilets within sight best visited by bicycle or car (though we did walk there several times a day all depending on urgency).

Our first night there we set up camp, got a fire going, and poured ourselves a celebratory drink.  It was nice to be back on the road and back in our "home".  It was a fair evening and the sky was clear.  The lake lapped the shore lulling us into relaxation mode.  Truman slept, while Brian and I continued to celebrate.  Patting ourselves on the back for deciding to tough it out.  If we had thrown in the towel, we would have missed this.  We were feeling fine.
Truman happy to be back in the Pop up 

And then we were blindsided by what came next.  

As I stated above, we were in search of primitive camping and cooler temps after a week in Lafayette with temperatures pushing 80 degrees and summer like humidity.  We got more than we bargained for...and not in a good way.  We were plagued with freezing temps, rain, wind, lack of sun (so very limited power), and neighbors with a generator that they ran 24/7 (even though courtesy hours were posted on site).  There were some positive highlights from this stay, but many of the pictures and videos captured during this time show exhaustion and desperation.
Raw emotion

The Palm Sunday Snowstorm of 2013 brought rain and cold temperatures to the southeastern United States.  Northern Louisiana was experiencing daytime temps around 50 degrees and nighttime temperatures in the 20's.  The wind blew constantly.  We had realistic fears of freezing to death in our sleep.  Because of this we all slept in one bed.  We layered our clothing and slept in hats.  We always put Truman in the middle to keep him warm.  Every blanket and sleeping bag we owned was piled on top.  If fear and desperation are the mother of invention, than Brian was Macgyver.  He concocted this radiant heating system using fired heated bricks and our large soup pot.  It actually worked pretty well in our little pop up.  
Brick Heat 

Hey, on the bright side, ice lasted forever and we didn't lose any food to spoiling.

And now, back to bitching.  As if it wasn't enough our sleep was being affected by the cold temps, those people and their damn generator.  It was so flippin' LOUD!  "RRRRR RRRrrr rrrrrr" it went, all hours, day and night!  And gas was over $3.00/gallon then too!  They arrived day 2 and were still there when we were pulling out.  There went our peace and tranquility.  If we have a pet peeve this would be it, respect posted camp courtesy hours, respect your fellow campers, and we won't have a problem.
Who needs a generator? 

Back in Alabama the idea of camp hosting had peaked our interest.  After a little research, we settled on exploring our options within the National Forest Service.  This option offered free campsites in exchange for 20 hours a week in labor.  This plan had the possibility of giving us long term lodging security.  If we were successful in our placement, we could have future opportunities in locations across the US.  We kept our heads down and focused on applying to voluteer positions with the National Forest Service.  We had a lead from Northern California while we were in Lafayette, but our services were not required until the end of June.  And honestly, we needed something sooner.  Our original plan had been to stay in Kistachie 2 weeks, but our patience with our impolite neighbors was waning fast.
Our Home (February 2013 to May 2013)

All our hard work paid off and we got the call.  We had been accepted as camp hosts with the Tonto National Forest at Roosevelt Lake.  Our start date was set for April 1st, 2013.  We began planning our departure.  We woke up early and packed up camp.  With adventure awaiting us and that noisy generator in our rear view mirror, the highway beckoned us.  We pulled out with 1,245 miles of road ahead of our destination and a renewed sense of passion for our cause.
Until we meet again...

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