Saturday, November 05, 2005

Plumbing, Lady Bugs and Camping...

Spent a good part of the day doing plumbing and plumbing related work which was long overdue. Plumbing is not my specialty. I am generally handy but plumbing and I have never got along. With plumbing, I am usually satisfied if it works in the end-no matter how it looks. Mrs. Curley is always sceptical of my pipe, faucet, toilet repairs (although I have become quite an expert on toilets)-but she wasn't around today to critique my work. It will all be covered up by the time she returns on Monday.

After an exhausting day looking up from my back under cabinets, I stopped up in my office to check my email and found that I am infested with lady bugs. Son Connor told me, as he brought up the vacuum cleaner, that it is their migratory season. It may be, but why migrate to my office? Last year they did the same. Now every day or so for the next few weeks I will be vacuuming them up.

Tomorrow after Mass at St. Catherine's we will visit the nearby cemetary, (it is still in the octave of All Souls Day) and say some prayers. Then we will head up the road 8 miles or so to Andrew Jackson State Park for a picnic and a hike. The two trails are only a mile or so-perfect for the young ones and a warm-up for the older ones. I think there is also an old log cabin there and some other sites. We will check out the primitive "group" campsite also for a future trip. (At dinner young Thomas said that we were big enough to be a group all by ourselves. But I told him that we would get the 'Blue Knights' together for a reunion camping trip (we haven't had a meeting since we moved to Bethany.) I dislike the 'drive-up' campsites. I go camping for the quiet and solitude, (although the quiet part is hard with my crew. But I tell Mrs. Curley that their noise keeps the bears away), and also because some things just cannot be seen unless you spend a day or so hiking to them. The drive-up sites can be extremely noisy (people driving around honking horns at 9:00 at night looking for a campsite) and are often overrun with racoons. So usually we wouldn't go to a place like Andrew Jackson State Park. But we haven't gone camping in the longest time and we are all getting a little itchy for a campfire. And, the primitive group sites are usually more remote. Most of the best places in SC to go hiking an camping are 4 or 5 hours away now, and with gas prices as they are....

There is something special about saying the rosary around the campfire followed by some good songs and stories, (and a Guiness or two.) So we will check out their primitive site to see if it meets our minimum criteria.

The last two times we went camping was at Kings Mountain National Military Park (not the state park of the same name close by). The primitive site is a good 3+ mile hike if I recall correctly. But the forest there is ho-hum. Jones Gap is much better. The trail runs along the Middle Saluda River. There are a couple of spurs which have great waterfalls. The campsites are along the trail and right near the river. (Great for keeping Guiness cold and for falling asleep with the sound of running water.) From Jones Gap, you can hike across to Ceasar's Head State Park and see Raven Cliff Falls (photo in the previous link) from above the falls or across a ravine. Either way, it is the most scenic waterfall (and most photographed in SC. The trail to Raven Cliff is moderate, but can be a little long (especially on the way back) for younger ones. Table Rock is a strenuous hike, but the view from the top is spectacular and worth the trip. Here is a picture of the boys about 3/4 of the way up from a few years ago.

We have camped at the primitive group site at Congaree Swamp a number of times, but I really want to go farther in and camp near the river. The old cypress trees there are spectacular. You can camp anywhere at Congaree Swamp, but no open fires except at the group site, which is about a mile from the parking lot. The other place I want to go again (I went in college) is up near the Chattooga River. This is very quiet country. My favorite spot though is Mount Washington State Forest in Massachusetts (just on the border between MA, CT, and NY) It is also very quiet because the sites are along the trail, but several miles in. A cold river runs near the trail. I will never forget the night many years ago, my friend Tom and I hiked in after a rainy week and for the life of us couldn't start a fire with the wet wood (this would never happen now-my backwood skills are much better). We were cold and hungry. So I took our roll of toilet paper and placed a can of B&M beans on top of the roll and lit it. Those beans were the best I ever had. And, this was just enough to get our wood to light. I would love to take my boys up there some day...

(I remember our first "hike-in" camping trips when I carried all the food, and supplies and tents, and half the sleeping bags for three or four of us. Now I am a bit older (and heavier), but my boys can carry more of the load now.

We used to do just hot dogs and beans on these trips. But in recent years, we have added much to the menu: chicken (usually pre-cooked), barley, and corn (sub fish for the chicken on Fridays) mix; cornish hens, etc. We usually have oat meal for breakfast, (very hardy and doesn't take much time to cook or clean up when you want to break camp quickly.) We have started roaring fires in the pouring rain. We have learned a new skill or new way to cook in the backwoods on virtually every trip.

We've gone camping as a family twice. Once we hiked in the mile to the site at Congaree Swamp, (See picture-we are about to hike out in the morning. Most of those sleeping bags ended up on the top of my pack!) We even brought an old wind-up phonograph and one 78rpm record, (Don't Tell Me Your Worries When You're Lonesome by the Carlisle Brothers) with us. Mrs. Curley was up half the night listening for wild boar (no bears at Congaree). The other time was at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Tennessee. This was a drive-up site and now Mrs. Curley knows why (noise, drunken neighbors wandering thru your site at 2:00 AM) I prefer remote, hike-in areas. People can be worse than wild boar and bears when you're camping.

Of course now at Bethany we can have our 'campfire' in the back yard. We have an area where we have have been developing a sort of firepit. It is over grown now, but it is time to get it back into shape for fires as the colder weather is here.

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Eternal rest grant to them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

From Bethany, the small holding in Bethune... Oremus pro invicem!

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