Last year, I was eager to find a campground for Thanksgiving. We wouldn’t be seeing our families without a vaccine. There would be no Friendsgiving to host. I was eager for a distraction – from COVID, from the unraveling nightmare that was the Election – everything. Camping seemed to be the only safe way to venture outside of our town for a little exploration and adventure.
I was chasing the moments where I could forget we in the middle of a pandemic, when there just was enough normalcy that I didn’t have to remember what we were living through. Those moments were usually brief, but I was hoping to capture some of that with this trip.
My only criteria were (A) getting the fuck out of Indiana and (B) finding a location that wouldn’t be longer than 5 or 6 hours from our house. We settled on Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. Excited by the potential of waterfalls, but less excited by the nonexistent mask mandate in the state, we made a reservation at the campground for two nights.
Our drive to the campground brought a little of the normalcy I was craving. We stopped at the White Castle drive-through in Louisville, listened to music, laughed and tried not to talk about the election.
By the time we arrived at our campground, it was already dark, and very cold. The low that night was 25 degrees but felt much colder with the wind chill. I’d purchased a tent and sleeping bag rated for colder weather and we’d been in colder weather before. But this wet cold was different. It seeped in the blanket we’d brought to put on top of our sleeping bags. We felt it in our toes that would never feel warm as we wiggled them in our boots. We looked longingly at the RVs at the adjacent campsites, imagining how warm it must feel inside of them. As I shivered inside of my sleeping bag, I realized why the term “Cotton kills” exists. I nestled Apollo close to me to keep him warm.
I woke up in the morning exhausted, but still feeling the thrill of being in a different place, despite everything happening in our lives.
The campground was still quiet as I ventured out of my tent, and I savored the stillness.
I don’t want to make it seem like we were roughing it, though. The restroom had showers and, more importantly, heat. Oh, and I guess this too.
I returned to our tent to find that my intrepid little puppy was ready to start exploring.
After breakfast, we packed our gear and tried to find the trailhead, which was not well-marked. We finally found the trailhead and began our adventure.
We soon came across a rickety-looking bridge. We stopped – did we want to cross this thing? After a large group of children happily trotted across it, we realized were weren’t in any danger and that it was much sturdier than we initially thought.
I picked Apollo up (he’s scared of bridges) and walked across.
After we crossed the bridge, we saw our first waterfall!
We started joking that Apollo was unimpressed by the waterfalls after photos like this one.
The park had several beautiful waterfalls to enjoy.
We next hiked to the base of the falls, which was much steeper. This part of the trail was also very crowded. Husband and I were the few to wear our masks.
We passed several Texans on our way to the base – I was wearing my Texas A&M hoodie, a giant calling card for any Texan (either out of appreciation or to make fun of you, depending on which side you fall on the now defunct A&M/UT rivalry). One woman said she had moved from Texas to Tennessee that spring. “I miss it so much,” I blurted, still in the stage of wallowing deeply in my homesickness and sharing it with everyone around me. “Yes, but it’s nice actually having seasons,” she laughed as she walked ahead.
Finally, we made it to the base of the Falls! Apollo was confused.
After seeing the Falls, it was time to hike back to our campsite.
We got back right around dark. Luckily, it was not as cold that night as our first night at camp. We warmed up our dinner, and Husband figured out how to make a roaring camp fire (though this was our third camping trip, learning how to make a fire was a process!)
We sat in front of the fire until I retired to my tent. I was asleep before 9 pm – I was exhausted but content.
I think Pup was too.
We drove home the next morning tired but satisfied with our Thanksgiving camping trip. These camping trips were happy anchors in an otherwise sad, confusing year that I’ve already blocked out.
Our other pandemic camping trips: