Mattamuskeet Journey v. 2018

Mattamuskeet Journey to see migrating waterfowl v. 2018

In January of 2016, we headed out with a newly-acquired Alto camper trailer (we named Roomba) to accompany tent-camping friends to Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge, camping at Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina, just on Lake Phelps.

That was so fun we decided on a reprise of that trip with the same friends, who are now also Alto trailer owners (they named theirs Moon Shadow). Last time, the temps were quite chill, and Mike and Barbara were tenting, although we shared our camper’s propane heat on a couple of occasions. But it was bitter cold.

This time was not as gray and frosty, but still cold overnights, and — well, I’ll let you read all about it in several posts.

Sunday, January 7

Left MoD when the temp was about 10 degrees. We began prep around 8:30 – 9:00 AM and had said goodbye to the doggies and were driving down Rt. 59 by about 11.

The weird thing about the whole stowing and prepping during this type of winter camping is that nothing that would be damaged by freezing could be out in Roomba nor in the back of the truck overnight. So we could not pre-pack as we so often do to assure an early departure. We removed our bathroom kits from our clothes bags, and put all the  food (including the ‘fridge food, as nothing was going in from our home freezer) and other things that would be damaged by freezing into the truck very last before hitting the road. We put the refrigerator food into the ‘fridge without turning it on, figuring that it would not freeze solid in the 3 hours it was going to take us to get to North Bend (halfway point overnight spot). Measuring by past experience, the interior of the camper gets really cold on cold traveling days, so we couldn’t even put the dishwashing liquid into Roomba where it usually stays.

So the whole packing up thing was a challenge. We’d left our bed topper rolled and in Roomba for the entirety of this deep freeze (started about New Year’s Eve and overnight temps were in the low single digits — one AM we had zero degrees F — steadily for the whole of 2018). So the topper was stiff as a board and we probably could not have unrolled it even if we’d wanted to. Our hope was that it could ride in the back seat of the truck and thaw a bit, but it was too wide/stiff to fit into the cab, so we had to leave it in Roomba.

Once we arrived at North Bend Federal Campground (around 3P, after a stop for lunch and another for fuel) we plugged up (site 51–with between 2 and 3 bars of LTE and/or 3G cell service) and cranked the propane heater which solved the problem of the frozen bed topper nicely.

North Bend was 28 degrees, and there was still significant amounts of snow along the roads, especially at the edges. The guard said that there had been about 5 campsites used last night, but everyone had left.

They had sites 51 – 77 open, with one heated bathhouse that has maybe 8 private toilet/bath rooms. Site 51 is far from the lakefront, but pretty close to the bathhouse.

We did not unhitch, only leveled and set up, again pondering what would go where when we take off for Pettigrew State Park in NC tomorrow. We’re about 3 hours away from our next stop and, happily—although tonight will be lows in the teens again—the temps will be trending upwards for our whole stay at Pettigrew.

We have brought yeast rolls rising in Omnia, plus a lovely (but untried) chicken stew in the Billy Boil. After set up and a quick walk down to the lake (water levels are waaaaaay low—the “beach” I walked along was really the lake bottom) we are now happily ensconced in the warmth, and getting ready to continue our listen to another of the “Department Q” crime/mystery series (by Jussi Adler-Olsen) with Carl Merk: The Hanging Girl.

Belle Isle Hike

April 25, 2017

Took some of the rainy time to take a shower while no one is around.

The wind combined with the waterlogged soil made it challenging to keep the awning staked up, but we triple-guy-lined the windward side pole, and that seemed to do the trick.

About 12:30P the constant rain began to ebb and by 1 it was not raining for the first time in two nights and two days. I took advantage and headed out along one of the trails hereabouts. I donned my hiking boots that have sat, lonely and forlorn in the back seat of the car, and tied my rain jacket around my waist just in case the clouds were not serious about turning off the spigot. It was still pretty cool, so I kept my hoodie on and set out.


Had a really lovely 4 mile round-trip walk; first down the trail they call Watch House that ended at the Rappahannock River. Of course, there was some mud, but mostly it was hard-packed gravel and dirt.


Another longer trail headed off of that one, to something called “Brewers Point.” Of course, I had to go out thataway. It was a longer, 1.9 mile trek and it was along there that the sun came out, the humidity rose and the hungry insects came to see what might be for lunch. So the good news/bad news thing of the day was that I had to wear my hoodie because I forgot bug spray.


At the end of the trail to Brewers Point were more insects, but also a “canoe-in camping area.” It was actually quite nice, with four raised tent platforms, four picnic tables, a common fire ring, and an area to hang stuff like wet towels as well as lanterns.


Of course, there was a fee-paying station; but oddly, no privy. Short of walking the 2-plus miles back to the campground for the bathhouse, one would have to portage in all one’s water, and bring along a good, light shovel for burying non-trash waste. If you’re a purist camper who packs out everything he packs in, this site would be perfect. Very remote and primitive.

Every creature in the region, including the biting insects, had been sequestered, it seemed, during the rains, because I saw no fewer than 7 rabbits out for a nibble along the path; and 3 groundhogs. The birds and frogs in the wooded areas were legion and loud!

First rabbit

I got back to the camper where Jack had spread our outdoor rug and a couple of other wet things in the sun to dry. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too much longer when the clouds rolled back in. It began lightly raining again at about 4, just as Jack received a Happy Birthday phone call from his longtime buddy, Harry (Jack’s big day is tomorrow, our transition day). Below are various additional scenes from my hike.

After a bit more reading and game-playing on our devices, we set to making dinner: tortellini pasta with pesto sauce, Italian sausage, and a salad. More things removed from the fridge, so I can get more beer in there (hehe) 😉.

That’s pretty much the sum of our Tuesday, April 25. Tomorrow the weather is supposed to improve and stay that way, so we might be able to take a quickie ride or two before we head over to Powhatan State Park near Richmond, VA.