Week 1 - Falls Lake

On Saturday I loaded up my scooter Kiddo with an 18 gallon plastic tub strapped to each side and set off to the Rolling View Campground at Falls Lake State Recreation Area to camp for the week, work, and test out all my new gear. Kiddo handled fine with the extra weight, but was noticeably slower going up hills. I think whenever I wind up heading away from the coast I might should get a more powerful bike to handle the mountain slopes without slowing to a crawl and pissing off the cagers even more than I already do. But not too powerful, I don't want to be tempted to get on the interstate or anything.

It being Labor Day weekend, and the weather being cool and dry in a way I'd long stopped hoping for, the campground was pretty much full. The beaches were closed due to COVID, and somewhat more unusually, all trash cans had been removed from the campground, as if they would be any more dangerous than the bathrooms. I overheard a ranger at the gate telling a visitor, "no, you can swim in the lake, you just can't use the beaches." She had a wry smile on her face, which I later came to understand while exploring the park for good places to work. The one open area with a beach was quite busy, and people were lounging and swimming along the shore in every area but the beach. A masked ranger stood on the beach, I guess to shoo people off it. It was a bizarre scene, but I guess legislation is slow to react and has odd priorities sometimes. At least nobody can take a picture of a crowded beach to shame the state government, and people in the woods are just harder to get a clear photo of.

By Tuesday everyone had cleared out of the C loop and I had it entirely to myself for three whole days. Which was good, because I had a lot of grief to process and it was nice to not worry that anyone might be discomposed by my loud crying. Also I could pee in the woods, even in the daytime, which is more convenient and enjoyable.

Everything felt a bit awkward at first, since with new gear and a new style of camping, I wasn't sure how to organize my stuff or sequence my activities. The major novelties were camping in a hammock (not entirely new to me but newish), maintaining electronics and cellular internet so I could work, cooking with sticks instead of alcohol, using non-miniature cooking gear, and eating foods that I wouldn't normally take backpacking. In an attempt to keep a supply of fresh vegetables without refrigeration, I experimented with using sous-vide bags and a miniature vacuum pump to make fermented pickles. They've turned out pretty well so far, although I did have a leakage incident with the kimchi and also I think I made way too much. Otherwise food preparation and storage has been pretty smooth and I've been eating well. It's really nice to be able to use a full-sized knife and cutting board, and to cook in a sturdy wok on a sturdy stove. Using sticks for fuel is pretty satisfying, although it does require lifting the pot off now and then to add more of them.

Working outside has actually been much better than I expected. My rugged laptop, which I've named Turtle, is enjoyable to use, although the rubberized keyboard felt very strange at first. It was a bit surreal working in light rain and just letting it fall on the computer and reminding myself not to feel anxious about it. The changing weather, the moving shadows, and the slightly sub-optimal ergonomics of my chair remind me that I have a body and need to get up and move it periodically. Surprisingly I think I've actually been more productive than I was working inside over the past few months.

I thought I was going to have a lot of free time to kill, but camp chores, gear adjustments, and crying breaks all take time. I have been able to do some swimming in the lake, a bit of hiking on the day I worked from the Falls Lake Trail, some reading, and some social time. M&J fed me dinner and advice when I went over to pick up the new phone that I had shipped to their house, and the new phone allowed me to have a good conversation with JC. Just being in the woods all day has been really relaxing and is helping with my goal of staying more embodied, even when (or especially when) things got a little uncomfortable or frustrating.

Tomorrow I plan to start heading east to Croatan National Forest, with a potential overnight stop at Busco Beach. There are a number of $10/night campgrounds to choose from, as well as $0/night dispersed camping, so I'll want to do some exploration before settling down anywhere for the week.

Things I Learned

  • Campsites C-14, C-15, and C-16 all have a nice view of the lake through the trees and a shared trail down to the water. C-20 has a platform surrounded by a majestic little drop into a wooded valley.
  • Cotton balls smeared in petroleum jelly are an amazing and dirt cheap fire-starter. I can't understand why I only learned about them this year.
  • Uncle Ben's Ready Rice, the whole grain kind, is not as good as brown rice from a pressure cooker, but damn it is convenient.
  • Uncle Ben is in no way a real person, living or dead.
  • Dehydrated mashed potatoes are actually quite good. If you add more water than it says to on the package, you can make a potato soup.
  • Free electricity is way easier to come by than I had anticipated, even when the sun isn't shining. There are outlets over all the sinks in the bathrooms, I guess for hairdryers?
  • You can get a sunburn from light reflected off of clouds. I was working in the shade under a tree, facing away from the sun, when some clouds rolled in and the north side of me got burned (thankfully not badly enough to be uncomfortable).

Wonderful Things

  • Looking up from the computer to see herons and egrets commuting to work.
  • A spider weaving its web next to me while I watched the cumulus clouds across the lake, front-lit by the sunset and back-lit by flashes of lightning.
  • Riding through the smell of pine trees and farm ponds at night on an empty country road.
  • Falling asleep to the sound of rain on a tarp.

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