Downtime in the Woods

I’ve described the campground where we decided not to stay and even the one we stayed at last, again, but I haven’t said much about this campground, and we’ve been here for five days. It’s peaceful here, so there’s not a lot to shout about.

Biking Back Roads

All the land around this lake is owned by the electric company, so I’m guessing the many dirt roads that seem to go nowhere through the woods are access roads for who knows what.  Secret underground physics experiments? (If you haven’t seen the TV show Tales from the Loop, look it up). Wherever they go, they make for easy-going bike riding.

When Tracy and I had our bikes stolen from my apartment in Fredericka few years ago, we bought these from a pawn shop, so they’re not great bikes, but we’re not great bicyclists so they fit us fine. Yesterday we tooled along side by side trying to guess the code of the colors painted on some of the trees and wondered where the heck we were.  

Because Tracy’s bike has road tires and there’s a lot of loose dirt and gravel on these roads, we didn’t go all day, but we could have.  Maybe we would have ended up in another timeline.

Alone Time

This morning as I walked Banjo, the sun was rising above the lake spectacularly.  We don’t have a lake-side site, but the short walk to the boat landing is fine by me. 

After I dropped her off at the trailer, I wanted to hit the trails around Bond’s Falls before the masses arrived, but danged if my bike tire was flat—for the third time since Iowa. So I lowered the seat on Tracy’s and carefully made my way there on the paved road and then through the woods, and I gained a quick appreciation of the challenges of riding with thin tires on loose, thick dirt.  Yikwa.

The trip was worth it though: I was the only one around, along the paths, in the woods, everywhere.  I walked all the little trails away from the main trail along the falls, over packed pine needles and cleared forest. None of the trails went anywhere: I imagine they were made by the hordes of tourists who swarm the falls starting around 1 pm. 

I felt a little like I was in a normally busy library when it’s closed.

This photo is strange, but I’m looking up part of the falls into the rising sun.

Cooking over the Fire

This is the perfect place to experiment with cooking over the fire on my cast iron pans. Without electric hookups I’m figuring out what I can cook on a fire that I normally would bake. Plus the firepit here has a grate that sits on top pretty neatly. 

My first attempt at pizza was a partial success.  Thanks to my friend Gavin’s suggestion, I cooked the crust for a bit and then flipped it, put in toppings, put on a lid (my thin cast iron pan), then baked more.  

Turns out the crust needed to be cooked more in the center, so next time I’ll wait longer to flip it, and maybe I’ll use a thinner crust.  Tracy and I both love charred, crunchy, smoky, things, so this is definitely worth trying again and again.

Next up over the fire: mac and cheese. I’ll boil the pasta on the stove top (that’s propane-fueled), but I’ll make the rue in the cast iron on the fire then pour in the pasta and cheese, top with spicy breadcrumbs, and cover with the other hot pan.  I’m making myself hungry planning it.

If you have any favorite foods you like to cook over an open fire, let me know!  I don’t have a big pot, just a deep frying pan and a shallow one.  So far. 


Overall I’d give this place a B+ for solitude.  There’s a young couple a few sites down, out of sight but very busy in their stealth van (#vanlife) and bikes with fat tires and two big dogs. No leashes, apparently. 

That drives me nuts. It means I can’t walk in that direction with Banjo, and that side of the lake is fun to explore: there are many former campsites along a peninsula that are closed now for loon conservation, but their trails are still walkable through wildflowers and opening up to sweet little lake views.

This young couple also rides their bikes to forage for wood, and their dogs run along in front or behind, with the Golden being a slacker who I can imagine might come into our campsite when not watched.  Banjo would not like that.  So we’re keeping an eye on them.  

I wish we could like people more and not be so frustrated with the way they deal with their dogs. Just like the two off-leash black labs we had to keep an eye out at the last site, I would like to say hi to these dogs: one looks to be an enormous Australian Shepherd mix, very much at their side all the time and smart. That goofy Golden, though would probably wander right into our site and ask Banjo why she’s growling.

Last night two families pulled in on either side of us, and I was seriously bummed. One had a YELLING child. But this morning they both pulled away.  We’re back to not being able to see anyone.

Huge To-do Item Done

The solar panel is giving us problems, and we need to get help with that; in the meantime we’ve run the generator a bit each day to top off the batteries. When we’re doing that we can recharge laptops, hotspots, earbuds, Kindles, etc. It’s like a free-for-all for that hour. 

Yesterday while we were all plugged in and sitting inside (I hate the sound of the generator), we tackled a project we’d been dreading: making doctors appointments in Texas.

Our plan had been to get to Texas last spring where we would register the vehicles, register to vote (!), and establish all our new doctors. Of course that didn’t happen. Now we have to go there this fall because the DMV paperwork can’t wait any longer, nor can the voter registration. 

So we tried with little hope yesterday while running the generator to make a million doctors appointments, all with doctors accepting new patients, on our health insurance, near where we’re going to camp to visit the DMV, and within the small window we’ll be there. Oh, and with only one phone since mine has no reception. 

Shockingly, we succeeded! We now both have appointments with four doctors over one week, and we have only the vet left to schedule. It’s not a perfect situation: it’ll be too early for one routine test I need to be covered by health insurance, but the plan is not to be back in Texas for another year, so I’m going to pay out of pocket for that one.  And we skipped non-essential doctors like the optometrist; we’ll hit those next year when the Covid rates in Texas are lower.

What a relief though just to have those appointments made!  Before this we technically did not have any doctors at all, since we’d closed out our accounts with our former ones in Maryland. Now at least we have an actionable plan. 

For not doing much of anything in our quiet campground, this is a long post. You guys take care!

7 thoughts to “Downtime in the Woods”

  1. A cast iron dutch oven would be nice…right?

    Also…have you tried the Bose noise cancelling headphones? Expensive…but worth it. Neighbor blowing leaves? Headphones. Roofers next door? Headphones. I also jack them into my phone with new age music playing…or the laptop to watch movies when the power is out and neighborhood generators are on. Highly recommended from one who is overly sensitive to sooooo many sounds…

    1. That’s right – you have tinnitus, right? I go inside and listen to something with my regular earbuds – what makes me mad is that I have to go inside at all 🙂

      1. Seriously? I’d be happy to mail you an oven. The Bose phones have multiple modes…I were them in the car for instance…cuts out essentially all the car noise but I can still play tunes or hear someone talking to me.

        1. I’m joking about the oven – we’d have to figure out what to sacrifice for it in terms of space, and I’m not there yet. This summer we give up half the room under the sofa for lithium batteries when we get more solar, so I’m trying to get rid of stuff, not get stuff. Thank you though!

          1. We happen to have a Le Creuset round lid that fits perfectly on a round cast iron pan. Maybe that will be your solution for a Dutch Oven.

          2. That might! Right now I’m using a cast iron flat skillet as a lid. Frankly I need to spend time seasoning them both.