Navigating a Hipcamp in the Heat

This week we’re parked at one of those brewery/winery/event spaces that are so popular with young, Eastcoast families with disposable income, this one near Fredericksburg, Virginia, and we chose it only because we were pretty desperate. It was a last-ditch plan because it’s part of the Harvest Hosts and Hipcamp listings that drive us bonkers: places to camp that are owned by companies and random people who think they can make an extra buck simply by having land, but these days a lot of them don’t know a thing about camping. And they don’t care.

Camp with Non-Campers

It’s a big deal to us to know when we pull into a place that we can pull out again (is there room to turn around?), much less actually camp there in relative peace for the night. Before we pick a place, we check it out via Google Maps Satellite View and we read reviews, but you just don’t know until you get there.

Is there any—even somewhat—level space to park? Are there off-leash dogs? Is there trash everywhere? Does it feel unsafe? (Doug and Melanie left one Hipcamp before they even unpacked.) If you’ve never camped in a stranger’s field (like, say, you’re the manager of one of these places), you don’t think about these things.

Here’s my solution. If you want your land or business listed with one of these organizations, you should be quizzed on a checklist of criteria your land needs to meet. Not just, “Will a rig fit there” but “Will someone actually want to spend a night?” You sleep in a Walmart parking lot before you tell me the illusion of safety is not a big deal.

Prospective hosts should also be told what to say to people when they pull in. Not just, “There’s a field down that dirt road. Park anywhere,” like I was told here. How about:

“The only level section is by the woods, but watch out for poison ivy.”

“This is a working farm so don’t park at these spots or a tractor will have to drive around you.” [Even a hand-drawn map would help, people.]

“This field [the only level place around] here looks empty but it’s really a crop-cover coming up. so don’t drive on it.”

“Our Great Pyrenees dogs live over there and are gonna bark at you 24 hours a day if you park near them.”

It never occurs to them to say this stuff because they’re simply not in the business of camping. Why the heck do we try and camp with them, again?

The Benefit of Farm Animals

Despite not being told any of this, we do like this place. Also despite it being one of those overgrown destination locations, where families come for a big day out and expect something for everyone. Wine, craft beer, a band, food trucks, a petting zoo, hay rides, whatever. These places are a zoo, alright. Long lines for food and the bathroom, children running amuck, basically like a day at a fair.

What’s different here is that, because they have so many animals, they insist children be under adult supervision at all times. YES. I am tired of having to hold on to my beer extra carefully due to a five-year-old’s birthday party going full-tilt right beside me. This is a brewery, people, not Chuck-E-Cheese. Here, though, there’s even a fenced-in section where children are prohibited.

There are lovely koi in the trickling pond, duck families, chickens, and a beautiful rooster (who aggressively begs), plus a peahen. So much more enjoyable to watch than a small-person meltdown. We’ve walked over our field to the brewery area each day we’ve been here. Local bands, a packed picnic bag, a game of cards. It works.

It’s true the beers are like $10 and in small plastic cups, but what the heck.

It’s a one-minute walk from our home, and it’s in the cool shade.

The Heat

Why we’re so desperate to walk over to drink expensive beers and watch chickens is we’re parked out in the open with no electricity in the middle of a heat wave. Highs in the mid-90s mean the trailer heats up like a tin can left in the sun (well, not like that, but exactly that), and we can’t run the ac off our solar power for any significant time. So we’ve been sleeping with the roof fans on and the windows open to cool the trailer down at night, and we’ve been closing up during the day to keep the sun out, with strategic windows cracked and awnings out and an eye on the fridge temp in case it gets too high.

When she’s not dining on berries, Banjo’s sleeping under the trailer on the cool ground. She’s allowed at the brewery with us, but with all the other dogs and roaming chickens, she really needs to stay home. So far we’ve kept the trailer cool enough for her, but we’re going to try to take her with us today. On a very short leash.

Tracy’s been good about keeping cool while at the trailer by moving his chair along with the sun. I have not. I’ve been trying to sort through yarn for a sweater I’m knitting for Finn, which means attaching my yarn winder on our outside table, which means standing in the sun for an amount of time that grows as the yarn gets more tangled. I got super frustrated yesterday and ranted on Facebook, prompting my friend Matt to write a song for me. Just imagine 20-year-old me in combat boots and green hair, shouting this on stage. (The bass line in the song is from the band we can hear from across the field. My band would have a rad bassist.)

Stupid bra, poison ivy!
Throw in some hunger, hunger.
Full sun untangling
Slats, the bass line -
doesn't he know another one?
Full sun untangling
Push me into fury, fury
Push me into fury, fury
Stupid bra!
Full sun untangling
Stupid bra!
—Matt Wall, freestyle lyricist extraordinaire

Wish us luck through this heat. I’ve got my phone literally in my hand at all times, waiting on that appointment from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

8 thoughts to “Navigating a Hipcamp in the Heat”

  1. We’re experiencing heat, too…with the added displeasure of humidity. It’s brutal out there; I can’t imagine how you’re faring in the tin can. Try to stay cool and enjoy those beers!

    1. I saw a graphic of the current “heat dome,” and it looks like not many places are escaping it. I’m in the shade drinking a beer (and water) right now.

  2. No a/c in this heat wave? Kill me now, I couldn’t do it. It’s going to be in the nineties here this week and I may not leave the house or cook. We have a few window units that run full out when it gets that hot… I can’t even imagine how hot your rig gets. I guess running a half mile extension cord is out of the question?

    1. We keep telling ourselves if it gets terrible we’ll pack up the fridge and go to a hotel. Not that bad yet!