If I had to take something away from my first time camping out in a tent, it would be that 1) it gets a lot colder at night than expected, 2) tents are surprisingly waterproof, and 3) barred owls ask weird questions at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Earlier this week, I spent my summer vacation camping at Hearthstone Point in Lake George, New York. It was my first time actually camping; when I was young, I was a member of Girl Scouts and went on several “camping” trips, but they were nothing like the stories my Eagle Scout boyfriend has shared with me. Sure, we stayed in the woods … in a cabin, with mattresses and bunk beds. And there was that time we camped outdoors … in wooden framed “tents” right outside of a bathroom and shower facility.
I eventually quit Girl Scouts, as it wasn’t for me, but I never got to experience a truer version of camping. As a child, I had gone to Lake George with my family for various summer vacations. We usually stayed in cabins at one particular park, but also spent one vacation at an RV park. This was as rustic as my camping experience got, but the rental lodging still had all the amenities of daily living – a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, electricity, etc.
Source: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
A map of Hearthsonte Point, the campground where we stayed during our Lake George vacation.
This year, I decided that I wanted to revisit Lake George with my boyfriend. After some digging around on the internet, I discovered that not only was reserving a tent campsite for a few days far less expensive than a hotel, but also that the parks to camp in were endless. After browsing Yelp! for good reviews, I settled on Hearthstone Point in Lake George. I was already excited to go tenting, and set myself in charge of our vacation itinerary.
My boyfriend helped us pack all the necessary gear – most of which he already owned – and we set out early Monday morning. I didn’t know entirely what to expect, but was bothered by how much some people were surprised that I wanted to camp in a tent, like I would spend my vacation miserable. I was determined to show that not only would I survive camping, but that I would enjoy it. I was looking forward to quiet nights under the stars and tall pines. I was seeking a sort of peace for the both of us, away from our mundane jobs and daily lives.
Source: Jessica Marello
The rain on our first night trapped us in our tent for a few hours, playing card games!
The first evening, we were assaulted by rain. We shut ourselves in the tent for a couple of hours, playing Zombie Fluxx, card games and listening to the radio while it poured. Luckily, we discovered that the old tent and the rain fly were still waterproof. Yes, this was an actual concern. When it slowed down, we drove over to the shower facilities on the other side of camp. My shower would only work when I held down a metal chain with one hand and washed with the other. It was a very short shower.
I did appreciate the shower bathrooms, despite the saloon doors with large gaps in the middle. They had a lot less bugs flying around than the facilities next to our campsite, which were small cabins with two toilets and a sink. I found it helpful to talk to the insects like peeping, nosey friends. Luckily, I was the only one in the bathroom to hear myself talking. Even better, we were within walking distance of two separate bathrooms, and right next to the water pump.
Source: Jessica Marello
The view from the walls of Fort Ticonderoga was stunning, especially on this beautiful day.
We did some of the usual Lake George activities during the day; we went lazy river tubing, did a wine tasting, ate great food and browsed most of the shops. We visited Fort William Henry on one day, and traveled up to Fort Ticonderoga the next. We took gorgeous pictures from atop the fort, as well as along the waterfront back in town. We played miniature golf just because, and overall had a great time. I planned enough activities to give us something to do during the day without getting exhausted.
Aside from the rain, the first night out taught me how cold it really got at night; after assuring my boyfriend that I wouldn’t need my sleeping bag and that the sheets were enough, I woke up in the middle of the night shivering. After we got my bag from the corner of the tent, unrolled it and zippered me inside, I was instantly cozy. I have no idea why I thought sheets would be enough, considering I still sleep with a comforter in the summer months. Newbie mistake, I guess.
The weather the second night was gorgeous, allowing us to have a campfire and attempt to cook our own food. Due to a silly mishap, I only ate mashed potatoes. But something about camping outdoors really kills your appetite, and potatoes did it just fine for me. Granted, I could live off of potatoes and pasta, so that doesn’t say much. We made the same trip to the showers, where I chose a stall with hot water this time, and a button I had to push every minute or so to activate it. I made the smart decision to go to sleep zipped in my bag this time, and dozed off.
Imagine waking up to the call by the barred owl, and you will be where I was at 4 AM!
Around 4 o’clock in the morning, I woke up suddenly to the loud, foreign call of some animal. My shuffling on the air mattress told my boyfriend that I was awake (and would have woken him if he wasn’t already). “It’s just an owl”, he assured me, explaining the call with the words “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”. Grumpily, I wondered why this loud owl cared who was cooking for me in the first place. The owl’s call cut short, and I slipped back into sleep.
During our last night, we burnt all of our firewood so I could make s’mores, actually met our neighbors (with whom we talked about our beloved barred owl), admired my boyfriend’s new largemouth bass drink cozy, and prepped to leave tomorrow morning. We discovered that there had been a modern shower facility on the hill above our site the whole time, with locking doors and normal bathroom stalls. I only had to push my shower button once – it was luxury. Way to not put it on the camp map, Hearthstone Point! We showered that night and the next morning.
Am I an expert camper after this trip? Probably not. I don’t know if I could set a tent up by myself, or keep a fire going for a couple of hours. But I do know that it is cold at night no matter the season, and that barred owls ask silly questions even when you are trying to sleep.
Check out my hub on how to survive your first camping trip, based on this tenting experience in Lake George!