A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving the weather was so nice we planned a long weekend camping trip. How bad could it be? The daytime temps were in the upper 60s to mid 70s and the nights weren’t too cold either. So I logged onto Reserve America and searched for camp grounds that still had vacancies for Thanksgiving. Gunter Hill came up in the search and it was one of the few that had a site open. Plus it’s close enough to home we can head to the house if the weather gets too rough. Also, who knew that camping on holidays was so popular! I booked us a site for the day before Thanksgiving and all the way through Sunday.
We’re going to make this camping trip count even if I have to figure out the best way to cook a turkey on a campfire! Each day forward I watched the weather and realized we may have to do a little adjusting…our sunny warm weather was slowly turning into rain, freezing rain and coldest temps of the year. Due to the heavy rain we delayed going camping but did show up on a sunny Thanksgiving morning to set up camp. Yes, we were the only people at the campground in a tent! This was also Ironbowl weekend and all the campsites were decorated up as either Auburn or Alabama.
Most nights were a little cool (ok FREEZING) and in the 20s to 30s for most nights. Saturday night was much warmer in the low 40s. We prepared well and took a lot of clothing layers. Our old Coleman sleeping bags were left at home and we used our Mountainsmith sleeping bags which were rated down to 20 degrees. We stayed snug and toasty and the bags lived up to their reputation.
A little secret…our tent had a television. Yes, I had to bring my little 13″ television, but with a digital converter and antennal we were able to pick up about 20 channels. Most importantly we could watch the Ironbowl for the comfort of our tent. Needless to say if the television didn’t work out there were enough big screen tv’s in the campground to make Best Buy jealous. Side note… satellite broadcasts vs over the air broadcasts = a 15 second delay for the folks watching via satellite. It was like yelling out spoilers once the game started since we could ‘see the future’!
Overall the trip was great and it was good to get away for awhile. It was just the two of us since the kids have their own things to do for the holidays. Click here to see more of my Gunter Hill Campground photos.
Here are a few observations for Gunter Hill Campground:
- Showers were heated and there was plenty of hot water. Note: Use the old shower house since the new shower house shower’s on a push button system. Also the new shower house has automatic fans that come on when you enter and within a few seconds all the warm air is sucked out of the room and cold air is pulled in. Great for summer, but not for winter.
- Catoma Loop reopened this year and has been fully refurbished
- Sites are cleaned after each camper leaves. Leaves are blown from the site and ash from the fire pits are removed.
- Sites have concrete parking pads and a gravel area large enough for even our tent
- Sites have picnic tables, lamp hanging post with small table and a grill
- Road through the park is newly paved
- Sites have electric, water and sewer
- Plenty of room to ride bikes and playgrounds for the kids
- Pet Friendly
- Did I mention clean? Very clean campground.
Tonight is the night. I finally broke down and purchased some new sleeping bags for camping. Our ‘wally world’ bags have served us well but are 12 years old, inefficient and worth the $20 we paid for them when we got them. They are not the type of bags someone would take on a hiking trip since they are heavy and don’t keep you warm unless its summer.
The new bags I got for us are from Sierra Trading Post and are Mountainsmith Redcloud 20′s. (If you sign up with my Sierra Trading Post link you can save $10!) This will be our first night out in mummy bags and add to that the weather is supposed to be quite chilly. Here’s the forecast for tonight in central Alabama.
Our accommodations for tonight will be our 8 year old Sir Edmund Hillary Tent (Sears) and two sleeping bag pads. The documentation for this tent states that it will accommodate up to 4-6 people, but honestly I’m not sure how well that many people would fit in the tent unless it’s two adults and four children under the age of 6! The view from the tent is of our picturesque surroundings (aka our back yard) and the resident wildlife (aka squirrels and the occasional bird).
Fingers crossed that I’m not running inside at 2am for the warmth of my bed! Hubby laughs at me since he’s used to camping in snow…this southern girl may be in for an awaking tonight!
We’re ready to go camping again and I found two more things to go with the new tent. From all the stuff we’ve picked up it’s a good thing we only camp close to the campgrounds because I doubt we could haul everything in! Over the past six years I’ve had two back surgeries for a ruptured disc, so stooping tends to make my back hurt and the last thing I want is surgery number three.
Our old tent wouldn’t allow you to stand up so we found one online that is huge! We can finally put our two air mattresses together next to each other and I can stand up in the tent, and enter and exit without having to stoop! We set it up once since it arrived just to see how large it really was. The tent we got is a Wenzel Sierra Pass 2-room tent. It is last years model and we only paid $67. Not bad since it’s a 18′ x 10′ and those are usually pricey.
We’ll respray the fabric and reseal all the seams. Truthfully after going inside it after we set it up I though “OH MY!” I think we should consider it a portable cabin! Hmmm….maybe I should glam this thing up and call it our glamping cabin! Did I mention that if I stand in the middle of the tent and reach up to the ceiling I can barely touch the roof. I’m 5’7″.
This past weekend was a busy one, but we wanted to try and get away for just a little while. Since we’ve been talking about going camping sometime soon we got out the tent and set it up in the backyard. It has been a few years since the last time we went camping and that trip everyone got soaked…every night! Nothing like going to the laundry mat in town just to dry out your sleeping bags!
So the plan was to get the tent out, see if all the parts were still there, clean it up if needed, then pack it back up the next day. Well we decided to sleep outside Friday night. Nothing exciting since the rain wasn’t going to be here until around 10am on Saturday.
Plenty of time to enjoy a night of backyard camping. Add to that we decided to bring Libby our dog along too. We weren’t sure how she’d like it, but after about two hours she finally quit wanting to bark at every weird noise she heard. Ok, I will say that the coyotes in the woods carrying on was a little nerve wracking for a bit, but I was finally able to get to sleep. We even got out the air mattresses too. I was afraid my back would complain since we’ve not been camping since both of my back surgeries. The air mattress was just great and neither one leaked either.
Saturday morning we woke up quite early. Since the tent is white it blocks very little sunshine. We didn’t notice that much when we used it last since we were in the woods under some large trees at the beach. Around 10am the rain started so we just left the tent up to give it a good washing. After a day of constant rain I decided to run out and check the inside of the tent for leaks. Nothing leaked under the rain fly, but the floor looked to be leaking everywhere a stake strap was sewn in, and around the tops of the vestibules. If I could find two more rain flys I could probably remedy the majority of the leaks. Well it’s still raining today (Monday) and I’ve scooped out more water from the inside. Hopefully everything will dry up soon and we’ll try a little waterproofing. I’ve also thought about getting a very large tarp and create a new improved larger rain fly.
I’ve debated keeping the tent or going to a newer model that has better reviews. Then I think of the age of this tent, it’s good condition and the fact that we could probably remedy the leaking quite cheaply. Plus I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve been camping. Hopefully next time we go camping will be soon, dry and uneventful. At least this time we didn’t get wet!
PS, this tent is a 4-5 person tent. Even with just the two of us and a medium size dog it was quite cozy.