Sometimes when I go north to camp it’s with the sole purpose of getting night sky images. Those trips I don’t care much about the campground, it’s just a place to nap during the day. Mostly I care if there’s a dark sky park nearby, or at least some open sky with something interesting in the foreground.
Those trips I usually spend the days sitting around at the campground reading and nibbling on snacks that aren’t good for me. When I begin to fall asleep over my book I tuck myself into my sleeping bag and take a nap.
Sometimes that’s the best part about camping…eating, reading, napping. Repeat. I’m usually impatient for the sun to set, eager to try again for the shot I can see in my head but rarely get captured on my camera.
This trip, planned months ago, just happened to coincide with clear dark skies and no moon. So I got lucky.
During last week’s camping adventure I had company, and a more varied agenda. We were camped in a walk-in site, we were the only people camping on our loop which was wonderful and so quiet we could hear owls at night as we sat around the campfire.
OK, full disclosure. Mostly we sat around the campfire to get warm because it was stinking cold out there! Last year, on our camping trip the exact same week, we were wearing shorts. This year we were wearing long underwear, layers of sweatshirts, jackets and winter coats. I slept, the first night, wearing gloves and a hat, as well as my winter coat while in a sleeping bag and under multiple layers of blankets.
But the next day, after a night of shivering and then squealing over the Milky Way, the sun came out and we paddled down the Platt River, almost all the way out to Lake Michigan. We got out of the river at the exact location I shot the Milky Way the night before.
That made me smile.
We had the site reserved for three nights, Monday through Wednesday, but though the second night wasn’t quite as cold as the first, I still slept in all my clothes and piled towels on top of the blankets on top of the sleeping bag.
Being cold all the time can wear a camper out.
Plus the weather people said it would get warmer but we were going to get rain Wednesday afternoon, and that it would rain all day Thursday, the day we were scheduled to leave.
We decided to pack up on Wednesday morning and hightail it out of there. There’s nothing worse than packing up camp after a night of rain. Wait. In truth it’s worse to pack up camp after a full night of rain, while it continues to rain. Trust me on this.
So we abandoned ship a day early. I think I did that almost every camping trip I took last summer, and always because of rain. Rain while camping in a small tent is not that fun after the first few hours of listening to it drum on the rainfly. Rain accompanied by wind and thunder can be pretty terrifying.
Anyway, we chose to bail, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back. Camping in the woods without big RVs next to you is a delight.
I just hope next time it’s warm enough that I can sleep without wearing my hat and parka.