Black Bears and Pit Toilets
01.07.2011 - 01.07.2011 88 °F
Camping for the Wandrin' clan is a complicated and laborious undertaking. Many lists are compiled and days of preparation are required for a successful outing. On the day of departure, the spatial expertise of an engineer is required to fit all the necessary gear into the limited space of one medium-sized SUV. Ever so rarely, I wonder if it is all really worth the aggravation for just a few days in the Great Outdoors. And then, when I finally find myself in the Great Outdoors - tents erected, bedding settled, and fire started - the agony of preparation is forgotten. There is just something about sitting around a campfire in the evening, telling stories and toasting marshmallows, that makes all the hard work very worth it.
This summer, we had only one weekend available to camp - the July 4th holiday. Although we knew it would be a busy time at any campground, we liked the idea of a long relaxing weekend. We chose Hickory Run State Park as our destination based mainly on the boys' recommendation. They had camped there with my parents last summer and wanted to return for a closer look at the Boulder Field and a chance to hike the Shades of Death trail. Of course, I did a little research. Hickory Run is located in the Western part of the Poconos near White Haven, PA. There are several trails to hike, some small lakes to fish, and one lake with a beach for swimming. If, by chance, we needed a change of pace, we could do whitewater rafting on the Lehigh river, bike the trail through Lehigh Gorge state park, or visit the quaint little town of Jim Thorpe. With all these options, we had no problem agreeing to head to Hickory Run for the weekend.
We left Friday afternoon, about 45 minutes later than we wanted to (our normal MO). Obviously, this put us in the thick of rush hour traffic on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. We crawled through Centerville. Then inched through Manheim. And lastly crept through Lebanon. We were finally able to make some time on Rte. 81. We took a break for supper at Applebee's in Hazelton. It was just what we needed to make it through the last few miles. We arrived at Hickory Run about 7pm.
(As a side note, the kids traveled very well, considering they all had to sit in the second row seat, touching each other the entire drive.)
I dutifully checked in at the park office. The woman behind the counter talked so fast that all I heard was "active bear population" and "keep tooth paste in your vehicle". She handed me a pile of papers, highlighted our campsite, and before I could say "thank you" was already yelling for the next person to step inside. Since we've camped in bear territory before, we already knew to keep ALL toiletries and food items in the truck. After engaging in a very active discussion concerning the size and ferocity of Pennsylvania black bears, we decided that we would be able to sleep without fear that one would attack our tent and drag us away in the night.
Our campsite was located in the more rustic section of the park. Rustic = no electricity or showers. Rustic also = pit toilets. The pit toilets became a frequent topic of jokes and discussion during our stay. Buddy, our middle son, complained regularly of the single ply paper that disintegrated in the midst of taking care of business. Jay griped about the limited space in the stall which required acrobatic contortions for him to take care of business. Lovey didn't want to take care of business at all because of the smell and put it off as along as possible. I shared all the different types of bugs I observed on the stall door while I was taking care of business. Little gnat-like bugs the color of new leaves in the spring. Small, delicate brown and white moths. Daddy-long-leggers. Despite the lack of modern conveniences like Quilted Northern and space to pull up one's pants without bumping one's head on the stall door, we were not unhappy. Our site was very nice. It was flat, backed to the woods, and had perfect trees for a hammock. We quickly set up camp and were relaxing around the fire by sunset.