Monday, January 8, 2018
AM temp was 20 where we were expecting 10, so it’s good news. We thought to try the new ceramic heater overnight, taking advantage of the electric hookup, so we lowered the propane heater thermostat to 45. By the wee hours, the propane had kicked on a few times—we guess between 3 and 4 total overnight. So the ceramic heater is good for maintenance, but for bringing or keeping the temps up, it’s slightly anemic, at least when it’s really frigid outside.
Had cheesy grits with bacon crumbled in it for breakfast, and headed toward Pettigrew State Park (NC) around 11, after giving a tour of the Alto to one of the rangers.
As we drove east, more and more snow was visible—left over from the “bomb cyclone” that hammered the east, all the way down to FL around New Years this year (if you’re not sure what a bomb cyclone is, check this out: https://www.popsci.com/bomb-cyclone. Anyway, through some of the small towns (we routed via backroads, and it was a pleasant and pretty drive) there were significant lumps of packed ice/snow in the main streets. By the time we were taking our final approaches to Pettigrew State Park, we had to avoid lots and lots of unscraped, hardened, lumpy snow/ice in the roads. Along the NC Rt. 64 (4-lane but not interstate) we traveled quite a lot in the left lane because there were so many shady places where masses of snow were packed solid along the middle of the road.
During our lunch stop in Plymouth, our friend and fellow Alto camper Mike called, because we’d not found any firewood and warned him to look for some early. He had taken the step to call Pettigrew, and the folks said they had firewood available for sale, so we all figured we’d just buy it there. As it turns out, it was far too cold and we were out far too late to mess with any campfires during this trip.
When we pulled in to the park, the Mike and Barbara were already there, discussing options with the staff. One fellow had recently been on the tractor clearing the 4 inches of snow from the campground. Barbara thinks they didn’t really think we were coming until they conveyed the info about the firewood, then they stepped on it to clear our designated camp sites.
The supposition by staff was that it would be inadvisable for us to go to the campsites because the tractor clearing snow had nearly gotten stuck. So we suggested we camp at the boat ramp (the majority of Phelps Lake itself is frozen solid, so no boats would be launched there). The staff laughed, and since we thought that was a real possibility we walked down to check it out.
Alas, it would certainly have been a perfect set up—beautiful and flat/paved/dry—but when we actually stated that we’d like to do that, they (after quite a lot of discussion and trying to find the “right” person to ask, which resulted in a delay in our campsite set-up procedures) decided they would not be able to allow us to do that.
Assuring us that by tomorrow we’d be able to get into the campsites proper, the head ranger encouraged us to set up right there in the parking lot, which we (eventually) did. What an excellent opportunity we had taken away from us. I wonder if he thought there would be some sort of precedent set if he let us camp down there.
All of us who were familiar with snow and cold nights knew we were not going anywhere next day.
Anyway, we quickly set up (mostly 2 bars of LTE near the ranger station) and again did not unhitch the cars because it was late and we were all tired. After we’d both cranked up the heat and fixed our respective dinners, Jack and I carried our food over to Mike and Barbara’s Alto—just like ours but newer, and called Moon Shadow—and shared stories and food. The best kind of camping in the world.