Close to home…

You will see a lot of posts featuring Lake Glendale at Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, near Paducah, Kentucky on this weblog. I like to think it has basically become our unspoken home base campground. We were there probably 4-6 times last year. 
One of my favorite features of this place is the very tall, slender trees:  

 
M’s in-laws keep their Airstream near here year round as it’s the grounds the men in their family use for deer camp during hunting season. 

M’s husband C has an awesome family that brought their kids up coming to Shawnee so they are very friendly with the camp host and some of the surrounding businesses. 

Also, Lake Glendale campground has THE NICEST bathroom/shower house I’ve ever been in. It’s super clean, cool in the summer and heated in the winter, which is nice! We spent this past winter doing weekends in Lulu and sometimes in C’s family Airstream.
This post is mostly sharing my first trip to Shawnee last April; another M and Jen camp weekend sans husbands (they do accompany us sometimes, I promise!)

 
This campground is close enough to home at 2-2.5 hours, has a great liquor store on the way (shout out to Speakeasy!) and sits on a beautiful lake. It also features a stable nearby for horseback trail rides plus firewood and ice at the entrance. This campground is nearly always quiet, the primitive camping section is spaced nicely and feels private. The RV electric sites are also super nice!  
   
 
This entry isn’t as wordy in detail or filled with weird unexpected guests (I digress…most fellow campers we’ve come across have been helpful, kind, trustworthy or non-interactive at all…I know Campfire Mike on my last post was truly harmless. It’s the thought of two women by themselves being approached by a lone camper in the night that adds a little flavor of sketchiness! Disclaimer: no need to be offended or disgusted when I half-jokingly refer to people we meet in the woods as creeps or weirdos, they’re always treated respectfully, it’s all in jest for the story.) 

What I really remember of this trip was how beautiful the weather was (actually one year ago today! Came up on my timehop.) I also remember my body aching from riding a horse, which I hadn’t done since I was probably 11 years old. Oh, and falling off of it. Twice. M says it was the most graceful fall off of a horse she’s ever seen. The second time I fell off of it however, nearly dropping my elbow in a nice steaming pile of horseshit was not as graceful. I’m severely awkward at dismounting apparently. Definitely feeling grateful that I don’t get embarrassed easily and can laugh at myself. Let’s be real, if I saw anyone fall off of a horse twice within an hour, I’d absolutely make fun of them. It’s just that person was me. You’re welcome. 

   
 
Another delightful slice of this trip was spending the afternoon out on the water. M has a couple kayaks we drag with us often and this trip they were very welcome. A bottle of wine each, some sunglasses to shield our highly possible sleepy sun naps from passers (floaters?) by and some music drifting from one of our iPhones. For those of you curious – our campground playlists often consist of Neil Young, The Eagles, several bluegrass and Americana artists, CCR, Nikki Lane…and the occasional Slayer and Metallica. 

   
 
This trip was also when we dubbed our cowboy boots “piss kickers” thoughtfully derived from the traditional term “shit kicker” – because peeing in the woods at night is tricky. Hey, I never claimed we were entirely ladylike. 
   
 
All in all I am always happy with our stays here at Lake Glendale. If you should ever find yourself in the vicinity do yourself a solid and spend a night! 

   
 
J

You can follow our past, present and future trips on IG #winetimewithbigfoot

Living in the moment…

In my personal opinion, anytime outdoors is refreshing and time well spent. Except for when it’s too cold. Or rainy. Because my hair, duh. Or hot. Like humid sweat your face off awkward sunburn hot. 

Basically just give me somewhere between 60 to 85 degrees all day long and we’re good. I can even maybe stretch to 90 if you’re gonna be difficult. 

Sometimes you plan a camping weekend so far in advance (I am partially guilty of planning 1 or 2 per month from March – October…) you have to plead and cross your fingers to the universe that the weather will cooperate. Sometimes we just suck it up and go no matter what. (Now that M has Lulu, her adorable vintage camper, we can indulge all throughout the year! We even spent this past New Year’s Eve camping. That trip is for another post!)

A few weeks back, M and I were doing what we do best. Which is essentially day drinking, sitting on a patio somewhere  chatting…and she asked one of those real life questions. “What experience have you had that you feel like you REALLY lived in the moment?” 

We each spoke of a few things and it wasn’t shocking to me when we agreed on an event we both shared. Because it was awesome.

Last August, M messaged me and asked if I wanted to go on an impromptu weekend camp trip. Absolutely. My husband and I were flying out the next weekend to Vegas with my parents so I knew I was due for some quiet downtime before that whole scene.  

She sent me links and photos of this newly discovered place not far from another familiar location. (We haven’t really disclosed the place with many people, because it’s ours now. Just kidding, but really nobody else can know because then it won’t be a quiet secret awesome spot anymore.) Moving on…

It. Looked. Amazing. 

There’s a crystal clear natural spring fed creek, waterfalling into a rock bed below.

“I wanna be in that.” I thought to myself. 

We headed down on a Friday afternoon, and pulled into the campground. Only one other camper. It was someone camping out of their old model Explorer. M swears she saw two people but we eventually found out it was just one guy. You know how we are smart and go places alone and then somehow always end up in situations? It happened again!
We got our site set up, and saw some of the juiciest, hairiest spiders I’ve ever laid eyes on. The thought of them slowly faded as I partook in some campfire wine. We were discussing how adorable mini-bottles of wine were when we heard a voice from behind us saying “Hello!”

A middle aged man, probably 5’7″, 190 pounds with a goatee and long brunette hair pulled into an old baseball hat stood before us. He looked harmless enough. He introduced himself as Mike (looking back we should have totally been Tina and Angie, damnit!) and we invited him to join us at our fire. He was very nice, funny and personable. Therefore he was probably going to murder us.

Mike loved to talk. He told us he grew up in the general area, but he came from where he currently lives and his GPS took him a very long route. Like, 5 hours. (How does that make sense? If you’re from somewhere why do you need a GPS?) He was also sure to let us know he had friends coming the next day. We let him know our husbands were possibly planning to come also. (They weren’t, but you know. Safety-ish just in case things.) 

He then let us know that he was a firm believer in Bigfoot. (He wasn’t entirely amused by our #winetimewithbigfoot hashtag.) He shared stories of Sasquatch lore, his astral projection experiences and how Pink Floyd and Gwar were in his CD rotation. He was so totally stoned. I don’t know why, but I trust stoners. We all decided to crash around 3 in the morning. 

I watched Mike walk a few campsites over and get into his vehicle before I took my 8 inch hunting knife into my tent and fell asleep spooning it. Hey, it was in a sheath. Again, safety. And air mattress.

M and I woke up early and made breakfast. We made some mimosas and changed into some creek swimming clothes. Mike came wandering down soon after and at this point we decided (accepted?) he was just going to be part of this weekend with us. He wasn’t going anywhere. His friends never showed. Although ours didn’t either. 
M decided he probably lived there. (We’ll see when we go back for Memorial Day weekend!)

It was cloudy off and on but warm outside. We had no clue where we were going or what to look for. This is why I feel the universe placed Mike in our path. 
Like he said the night before, he had grown up coming to this campground, and claimed to know all the sweet spots. So we all loaded up in my car and he directed us to an empty road. He pointed and said “Right there. You’ll wanna pull up a little and park off the road. We’ll walk down here.” 
In “chances this is the creek” versus “is this where we die by the hands of Campfire Mike?” We definitely chose to believe creek. I’m sorry dad, if you ever read this! 

  
We hiked down about 60 feet from the side of the road and there it was. The creek, the waterfall, the surrounding rocks. Thank you, Mike! We gathered the Bluetooth speaker, a freezer bag full of vodka soaked watermelon and some towels then carefully made our way down and over the terrain. There was a small family there but that didn’t sway us. 
   
   

No glass for us. Vodka watermelon!

  
The three of us claimed our post and sat in the fickle sun that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be present or not. Soon, it started to thunder. The family that was splashing and playing in the pool of the creek packed up and left. Mike decided he was going to run back to the campground to grab some things, leaving just M and me. We hung out in the water off and on for about 30 minutes before big fat rain started to fall.

  Before the rain started coming down! This is where we sat.

  
The kind of torrential downpour that there is just no use in trying to outrun or hide from it. We gave in and sat in the rain. It was one of those like, music video moments where the main actress dances and twirls and lets the rain take over her. Only we weren’t dancing or twirling.

It was the first real moment I had with myself after losing my grandmother 12 weeks before. It was like a literal cleansing of all of the stress, numbness and sadness that I had been feeling…everything just then was okay. It was all fine. 

I remember closing my eyes and taking my hat off and just letting the water envelope me from every angle. I was sitting on the ledge of a waterfall and the rain was cold but I didn’t care. There were no photos of this particular moment, there was no soundtrack nor did we look refreshed or beachy casual with perfect wavy hair. We were drenched and I especially looked partially drowned. 

It was however getting kind of chilly so we decided to get back to camp to check on our stuff. We ran back to the car in the rain and drove the short distance to our site. Which was entirely flooded out. Easily 2-3″ of water pooled around our things. We decided to cut our trip short and head home. Everyyything was wet. 

We packed up quick and disorderly, and caught sight of Mike on our way out and thanked him for all of his help and company. I think he was probably bummed to see us go. I hope his GPS got him home correctly. 

So those couple weeks ago when M asked me when I’ve truly lived in the moment, we both had to agree on that experience. It was very real and instantaneous and apparently much needed. 

Yet another moment in nature I can thank for helping to keep me on a positive path and open mindset. Let things happen and take it all in. 

J

You can follow our past, present and future trips on Instagram #winetimewithbigfoot

Here we are…

trail·head
ˈtrālˌhed/noun: trailhead; plural noun: trailheads

The place where a trail begins.


Or in this case, Jenny the Trailhead: a willing 30 something addicted to the outdoors and exploring new places when she can.

I am not an experienced camper or hiker per se. I didn’t grow up doing it with my family. Although, I’m not a newbie either. I just know that the outdoors have changed me and saved my life.

I fell in love with camping a couple of years ago kind of on accident. I had been on plenty of summer float trips in my early 20s; being from Southern Illinois it’s what we do best in the heavy July and August heat. Trying to get anyone onto the camping bandwagon when it’s 98 degrees with a humidity percentage of 100% is near comical, but with the promise of a just-chilly-enough babbling mid-Missouri river, your craziest friends, cheap cold beer and some ’70s classic rock cranked until the wee hours of the morning…it’s kind of hard to say no.

It wasn’t during those summer nights I became a camp addict.

It happened in the Mark Twain National Forest, during the still very chilly off season on the first weekend of March in 2014. The daytime high was 40 degrees that weekend, with night temps dipping at an unbearable 15 degrees. That did not stop my friend M and I from packing all of our things, (did I mention that I had no cold weather gear, nor did I have an appropriate tent…) piling ourselves, our over-packed weekend bags, gear and 2 kayaks into her husband’s big ass Dodge Ram and heading south with no regards to how insane we really were.

Yes, I know people camp willingly in the snow, and hike for miles, and camp in the snow again, with very little gear and usually by themselves. But there we were, two women who were craving some kind of adventurous camping trip after a long and dreary winter. There we were, so ambitious during the off season…in tents…with no firewood. Anywhere.
We checked gas stations, feed supply stores, people who lived on acres of land with their own personal stash (and none of them would give it up!) We didn’t quit there however. After some deliberation we stopped at a little filling station in the middle of nowhere, bought two MangoRitas, and parked ourselves near the entrance. We resorted to asking the locals milling sparsely in and out, “Where for the love of God can we get firewood!?”

A woman that had passed through came back out. She was packing and unwrapping a pack of Marlboro Lights and said “I’ve got some wood. Just chopped down some trees. My name is Angie. I live in the trailer behind the abandoned bar right off the main highway that way. Meet me there in 15.” She gave us her phone number before taking off and said to give her a call if we got lost.

We got lost. For like 30 minutes. I called the number she gave us and asked if I had reached Angie. The woman that answered the phone in a raspy voice let me know I was talking to Tina. I told her how we met Angie and were coming for wood. At this point we were exhausted and cold and wanting to get to our site before night fell.

We soon after found Angie’s trailer and were greeted by her familiar face, 2 happy and wiggly pitbulls and another woman that I assumed correctly was Tina. We piled as much wood as we could into the bed of our truck and handed the ladies $30 in cash even though they insisted we take it. We were just relieved to finally be on track and headed to our campsite.

Darkness was setting in while we set up camp. It was COLD. After trying relentlessly to get the very damp wood burning, we decided to polish off a couple bottles of wine and turn in for the night. It was roughly 9:30pm. It was a very cold, silent, shivery sleep. I had a $25 one person tent with an inadequate floor and rain fly, a half filled air mattress, a hoodie, sweatpants, wool socks, a down comforter and a Coleman “all season” sleeping bag. Brr.

We woke up with the sun. Regardless of how cold it was I woke up pretty well rested and proud (surprised?) that we made it through the night. Upon exploring the campground and gathering some kindling, we discovered we were the only campers. Then it started to rain. A lot. M and I scrambled to put up the shelter she had luckily brought along. We placed the shelter over the pathetic semi-smoking fire pit (Safe? Smart? Ha!) in hopes to keep the wood as dry as we could.

We were both let down and feeling pretty moody. We contemplated just going home. Luckily we were too cold to get up and pack, because soon, the rain started to let up, and the fire was miraculously catching. We decided that if we came this far, we could follow through! We made a warm meal on the fire and drank more wine to keep us feeling fuzzy. We sat in silence, reading magazines and dozing by the fire.

It was in that time I realized that even though this shit was cold and frustrating, it was also the most rewarding and relaxing time I’ve had in so long. I also realized that M and I always handle and function very well together in those hard to deal with moments; that is a great quality to find in a travel companion. You make it through a trip like this and you know you can do it over and over again. Find yourself that person! No whining allowed!

That afternoon, we hiked down to the lake. We had every intention of taking the kayaks down and paddling around the lake but alas; frozen. Snow topped ice and slush on the entire lake! We couldn’t help but laugh. Of course it was frozen. It was 36 degrees outside.

We spent one more cold night in our respective tents (discussing later; sleeping in one tent would have been much smarter and warmer…) listening to Johnny Cash’s greatest hits and hungry forest creatures foraging our mini muffins and the days trash. We were too cold to care or move.

The drive home in the heat of the truck was well earned. We laughed about calling each other Tina and Angie the whole weekend, and decided we probably needed better plans of action for our future camping trips. All in all, it was incredible.

That was how I truly fell in love with camping. There was no beautiful moment I witnessed in nature, no perfect sunny weather, no raging campground frat party. It was just us. Making it work. Making the decision to tough it out and having the balls and respect for the unpredictable forces of nature to do it.

It made me a real camper. I will always remember it.

This blog is for my thoughts/adventures, personal opinions on gear, trails & campsites and my ever evolving lifestyle regarding camping and hiking. Welcome!

You can follow our trips on IG #winetimewithbigfoot