category: Road Trips

Camp Taylor with Sisters on the Fly

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my very first road trip with the Escape and my new Springbar tent.

The destination was Camp Taylor in Columbia, NJ.  The trip took 5 1/2 hours and I loved every minute.

I met up with an amazing group of women who were all either long time members of Sisters on the Fly, the Atlantic side or newbies to the group like myself. Back in 2009 when I was looking into camping for the first time, I came across the Sisters, women with a love of the outdoors, camping, kayaking, fly fishing and much more and thought FINALLY, like minded women (though I’m not a fly fisher myself).  I thought about joining but didn’t because the majority of the trips were in the mid-west.

Coincidentally, I had also been following the blog of Alison Turner , an amazing photographer who travels throughout the country with her dog, writing about her experiences and photographing the people she meets along the way; a true adventurer.   She wrote about the Sisters back in 2010 and I got reacquainted with them.  It wasn’t until the end of last year, after a rough period of family illnesses that I turned back to the Sisters and joined simply because I thought if I joined, it would encourage me to get out there and join them.  To finally begin road tripping.  Then maybe, I would find what I was looking for.

From what I had read about the Sisters, I knew they traveled solo with their vintage trailers living by their motto of “we have more fun than anyone”.  The idea behind the Sisters is that the women get the chance to get away from it all, no husbands, no kids, no pets (what?) and concentrate solely on being kids themselves while relying on their own resources and being independent.  The rules are bent on certain trips where kids (both the canine and human variety) as well as the husbands (affectionately known as the Mister Sisters) are welcomed.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and leaving the kids behind was rough because I rarely go anywhere without them.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous to walk into a group of people I didn’t know.  My father thought I was nuts taking off and meeting up with a group that I had never met in “real life.  I got in touch with  Donna, of Donna’s Do Right Dogs (a friend and dog trainer/pet sitter).  It was a load off my mind that I had her taking care of the kids while I was away.  I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about them and that they were in the best of hands.

I arrived shortly after 4 p.m. and set up my tent by a creek that flowed to the campground pond.

When I registered at the front desk, the ranger gave me a pamphlet explaining that I was in bear country and that I was not to leave any food in my tent or any scented products like deodorant or toothpaste because to bears, any scents could be considered food and they would be likely to raid the tent.  He told me that black bears are regular visitors.

So I turned the back of the Escape into  my kitchen.

The first Sister that came to greet me was Sallianne.  After only a few minutes, I felt like I had known her all my life.  Soon after, Rody and Elizabeth came to pitch their tent next door and we got to talking.  That’s how it was for the next two days.  23 women in total, from all walks of life, and conversation was easy among everyone.

Their vintage trailers and small rv’s were amazing and had me missing Westly (who has been more aptly named Westly the Fried Green Tomato).  Each woman decked out her trailer with motif that best personified her.

When asked what I had brought for dinner, I told them about my freeze dried Mountain House food.  Rody and Elizabeth would have me eat none of that.  For breakfast on Saturday morning, they called me over to their campsite and made me an egg, cheese and bacon burrito with hot coffee.  Rody said, “there’s no reason to not eat well just because you’re camping as long as you have fire”.  At night, the feast was fit for Thanksgiving dinner and included everything from chicken curry to pulled pork and fried chicken.  Each Sister made a dish with either a crock pot, dutch oven or grill.  I was in awe (and heaven).

After breakfast on Saturday, some of us visited the Lakota Wolf Preserve.  I can’t tell you how profound the experience was for me.  To be that close to such wildness left me with goosebumps.

We were given a tour of the facility and near the end, our guide got the wolves to howl and it literally brought tears to my eyes.  I’m not kidding.  But I think one of the best things about staying at Camp Taylor, so close to the preserve, was hearing the wolves howl to each other, with no encouragement from humans, in the middle of the night.  It was spectacular lying in my sleeping bag and listening to them.

Later that day, we headed to a wine tasting at Brook Hollow Winery.  I know, can you believe it?  Camping you say?  Camping I say?  Indeed, camping.

I selected wines to bring to Saturday night’s dinner because, heck, I couldn’t show up with a vat of freeze dried food.  One of the wines benefited the wolf preserve so of course, I made sure to buy two of them.

And you know I had to get this image of the winery’s two dogs lying in the perfect patch of sunlight.

Sisters, thanks so much for welcoming a newbie with open arms.  From the campfires to u-turns on major roadways, the trip was something I won’t soon forget.  I haven’t laughed as much or as hard in a long time and I’m looking forward to getting together again down the road.


No Electricity, No Running Water and the First Blizzard of the Winter

Upon hearing a snow prediction of 3 to 6 inches, most people tend to hit the grocery stores to stock up on bread, milk, eggs, shovels and rock salt before holing up at home until the storm has passed.  Me?  I pack the food, my sleeping bag, a few lanterns, some matches, grab the dogs and head camping.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve had true time to myself; no people, no responsiblity, no place to go, no place to be, nothing that has to be done….just simply exist.  I’ve had this weekend planned since the beginning of January and I was damned if anything or any act of nature was going to keep me from going.  Mom and Dad were safely in the hands of my brother Paul and I was so close that if I needed to be home I could make it in 20 minutes.  Where could I have been deep in the wilderness yet only 20 minutes from home?  Ponkapoag Campground.  Ponkapoag is in the heart of the Blue Hills Reservation, an 8,500 acre forest.  It sits on the edge of the 230 acre Ponkapoag Pond.  I prefer my camping experiences to be in the off-season instead of amongst the throngs of people who choose the summer months, because it’s a lot more quiet and you can enjoy the sounds of a silent forest.  There are less bugs (particularly mosquitoes and ticks), less commotion, fewer screaming children and in general, a more calming, peaceful time.

I had intended to leave Friday night but knew the dogs would never settle in if we arrived in a new place without my exercising their energy out, regardless of being in the middle of the woods with no light, so I opted for leaving shortly after dawn on Saturday.  Instead of hitting the road immediately when I woke up, I wasted several hours arranging and packing gear while watching the snow begin to fall faster and heavier, all the while wondering if I should indeed be using better judgement and postponing until next weekend.

The ride through the Blue Hills, Georgia whining and bouncing with anticipation the whole way and Pippin sitting alert and quite (God bless him) in the back seat, was a white knuckle drive with low visibility.  By the time we turned onto the mile long dirt road that headed to the campground, it had been covered with several inches of fresh, fluffy snow.  While breathtaking, I prayed we’d make it in (and out) without getting stuck or veering off uncontrollably into the woods.  I handed the task of plugging along to the car and held my breath.  Even without 4-wheel drive, it handled the road with great accuracy with almost no assistance from me on the gas….only on the wheel and brake.

Godfrey, my adorable little cabin, sat at the top of a small hill.   I couldn’t have conjured a more suitable place in my imagination and the only thing lacking (aside from electricity and a toilet with running water) was the welcoming song of the animated blue-birds, chipmunks and deer of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I pulled almost to the top, brought the dogs in and began the grueling task of dragging my gear from the car through the snow making several trips in the frigid weather.  It was only after I went for more fire wood later that day that I found the grounds proprietor had sleds for dragging fire wood from her facilities to my cabin but hey, live and learn.  Next time, I’ll load the sleigh and put the dogs to work pulling it for me.

Ponkapoag Cabin
Ponkapoag Cabin
Ponkapoag Cabin

Ponkapoag Cabin

After settling in and having a big bowl of Frosted Flakes and fresh bananas, Georgia, Pippin and I hiked two miles in the snow.  It was truly amazing.  Snow falling, no noise except for the dogs snuffling and chuffling as they jumped, twirled, dug their heads into the snow coming up with great mouthfuls and bounding off again with me at the end of their 30 foot leashes throwing snowballs for them to catch.  Fresh water brooks, the only thing breaking a way through the white covered ground, provided thirst quenching opportunities.  We played and then paid with stiff and creaking joints later that night.  I’m still paying for it now with aches in my back and legs; a reminder that I have a lot of work yet to do in keeping myself fit and a sad reminder that the kids are getting old.  Pippin will be twelve and Georgia eleven this year.  While a two-mile hike on regular footing is nothing to us, the snow kicked our collective arses this weekend.  But we paid with smiles on our faces.  What?  You didn’t know dogs could smile?  Oh but they can….so can cats (only cats do it more with their eyes).

The rest of the afternoon found me at the wooden table by the big picture window writing the day away and looking out on the frosted forest.

Ponkapoag Cabin

Dinner for the dogs consisted of raw hamburger slightly heated on the grill to take the chill out with boiled veggies and some rice.  I had the same but subsituted the raw hamburger with well done steak tips. Bellies full and glass of wine at hand, the evening was spent reading by the fire (which took me over an hour to get going when we first arrived and then had to restart when the cold woke me at 2 a.m.), while the kids slept exhausted by my feet.  I don’t know of a better feeling than a dog laying on your toes and by your side.  Our little family feels safe.

Ponkapoag Cabin

Ponkapoag Cabin

All electronics stayed at home with the exception of my camera and my phone which I didn’t even look at except for the one or two times I wanted to test my skills at reading sky light and guess the time (I was pretty accurate).  I shot a little video footage with it too.  No Facebook, Twitter, Internet, phone calls, wake up alarms, nada.  It was as if the world had disappeared and I had entered a completely different dimension.  No wildlife calls either which was disappointing.  The forest sat eerily quiet as the snow fell hard and steady.  I imagine all creatures, like us, had hunkered down.  I could have stayed the week.

Ponkapoag Cabin

I burnt my finger three times in the same place on the wood stove, had to use my traveling porta potty, had no electricity, cooked on a Coleman grill in 18 degree temperatures, trudged through snow to get more firewood so I wouldn’t run out only to realize I got too much and had to trudge what wasn’t used (20 pieces) all the way back to the pile in the morning, got way too hot and then way too cold and once more way too hot trying to regulate the fire, hurt my back and my legs, but would do it again (maybe not in the snow) in a heartbeat because the personal payoffs are incomparable.  Matter of fact, already booked for February though in a different cabin.  Maybe I’ll try all of the cabins before winter is out.

Ponkapoag Cabin

Ponkapoag Cabin