Thursday, Day 3 of travel, turned out to be the beginning of an interesting series of events. I started the day by play with a drone I was fortunate enough to borrow from a friend for my trip (Thanks Damble!). Got a few quick, cool shots of the area, and then moved on to making breakfast and breaking down camp. I made pretty good time getting out of Red Rocks Canyon State Park, and started heading east, towards Arkansas. Once I got to Arkansas I let Penny stretch her legs while I got some info at the Welcome Center again. She insisted upon getting her picture taken on the Arkansas state sign.
The woman there recommended Redding Campground, or Shores Lake Recreation area. Given that I’m from Reading, PA, I figured I had to at least check that place out. The employee saying it was her favorite only reinforced my decision. After a quick walk around the rest stop, Penny and I made our way to Redding Campground, but not without stopping at a Walmart in Alma, AR for some supplies.
I picked up about 2 days worth of groceries, and some basics that I was missing like bug spray and a citronella candle. I don’t want to brag, but my speed and efficiency in the store was on point. Since its summer in Arkansas, I have to leave the car running with Penny locked in it (thank god for the keypad on Fords), so time is of the essence. In no time I was back on the road, heading for Redding Campground. We got there and after initial inspection, the campsites were all open and there was a gorgeous swimming hole.
After looking around a bit, I decide that as cool as it was, I wasn’t about to go swimming and the place overall had a very murder-y vibe. With that, I made the decision to check out the other recommended place, Shores Lake, which was just 30 minutes away. What the GPS didn’t tell me, was that the road I’d be taking wasn’t the highway that connects the two, but a “shortcut”, 15 miles down a gravel road. As I’m cruising down the steep, windy, gravel road the camper is bouncing around behind me. Of course I’m now thinking through “the safety pin on the hitch is latched, right? And I definitely have the safety chains on there too, right? Yea, definitely. But am I REALLY certain?” I rolled the dice and trusted past-Joe that he hooked up the trailer correctly. Fortunately, I had.
I hadn’t seen another car the entire time I was on this back road, that is, until I was about 10 minutes away from the second campsite. I came up over a big hill and just over the top I see a pickup truck backed into a spot in the trees, looking up the road. Immediately I recognized the distinctly Arkansas truck, and its driver who was leaning against the side of it with a cigarette bobbing off her lip and a giant water tank in the truck bed. She had been in the Walmart parking lot when I stopped earlier, with a cigarette hanging off her lip just the same. Odd because that Walmart was 45 minutes from there, even if you don’t go via the gravel road with a pit stop at the first site. I brushed it off without much thought and continued down to the campsite.
When arriving at a new campsite I allows approach it like a bar, or a social gathering. I need to make my way through the full location noting what spots have prime real estate close (but not too close) to bathrooms, bear-resistant dumpsters, and any other amenities like the lake or a trail head. Also like a social gathering, you keep an eye out for who looks like fun to talk to and who looks creepy.
Now, state parks are often seriously underfunded, meaning payment of fees are often not checked on a daily bases, or sometimes even weekly. It mostly relies on an honor-system of sorts (or fear that today’s the day the Rangers will come by). You can also legally camp at a state park for 14 days, with running water nearby, and electric hookups for your RV/camper. As a result, this sometimes attracts folks who are living out of their vehicles full time. With that in mind, its always good to eye up your neighbor before you settle in.
My loop of the campground came up with 3 other sites being used – 1 nice looking 5th wheel from Alberta, Canada, an orange panel van occupying a site with a dad and what I hope was his son, and last but not least, a trailer that might as well have had moss growing on it. The last group had clearly been there for a while. Their entire wardrobe appeared to be on laundry lines between trees, almost blocking the view of the microwave on the ground plugged into the shoreline power. They had practically a half-cord of chopped firewood next to their camper as well. They had clearly settled in. They may be great people, but I’m not super interested in camping next to them.
After a full lap of the campground I decided to settle close to the bathrooms, and not far from the Canadian RV. Before losing sunlight Penny and I did some quick exploring around the lake. Sadly despite it being near sundown, it was still blisteringly hot and humid. The
heat somehow made the swampy shorelines of the lake seem right at place, almost as if it was so hot out the ground was melting into the water.
After our walk I made a quick dinner and settled into a new book, Squirrel Meets Chipmunk by David Sedaris.
Once again it wasn’t long before the cough medicine kicked in and I was out for the night, completely unaware what the next day had in store.