In need of some off-grid nature time to decompress from the stresses of current events, I reserved a campsite for Cole, a friend, and myself at Governor Dodge State Park in Dodgeville, Wisconsin for 4-days/3-nights. It seemed like a good opportunity to also try out some new gear I had been gathering in preparation for a road trip later this fall. The night before I was scheduled to travel to the park, Cole started having some issues with his back which kept both of us up most of the night. In the morning, instead of loading up my camping gear, I hopped in the car to take him to the vet. As soon as I put the car in drive, I saw that my low tire pressure light was on. After dropping Cole off at the vet for his exam, I drove over to the Kia dealership to see if they could take a look at my tire. Luckily they were able to squeeze me in and found that I had a nail stuck in the tire. They were able to fix the tire for a small fee and had me back on the road in time to pick Cole up from the vet along with his new medication.
After picking up Cole, I raced home, loaded up the car, took my last shower for the week, tied down my kayak to the roof of my car, and hit the road, already soaked in sweat from the hot and humid air, despite being freshly showered. Between my home and the campground, I had to stop at least six times because my kayak decided for some reason that it would not stay in place, even though it was tied down as I’ve always done without issues in the past. When I pulled into the campsite, it was already 5:30 pm. My friend and I quickly began setting up camp and amidst wrestling to fit my air mattress in my tent, which ultimately required letting out some air, moving the picnic table, backing up my car to the tent so the cord would reach my inverter, the camp host stopped by to inform us that we needed to move my friend’s car a few feet to be completely on the gravel driveway. After we finished setting up our tents, camp chairs, bathroom (also known as a privacy tent and 5-gallon bucket), and cookstove, we turned our attention to starting our campfire. Our neighbors let us know where we could buy some wood but unfortunately, we were seven minutes too late, the store had closed. About to resign ourselves to an early night after a quick dinner, our camp neighbors brought us some excess wood they had. Hoorah for generous people!
The next morning, feeling much more refreshed after my previous sleep-deprived and stressed out day, we enjoyed a leisurely morning of coffee, lounging, and reading. Unfortunately, as the day pressed on, the heat and humidity really started to take a toll on Cole not to mention me as well so we decided to go check out the nearby beach to cool off in the lake. After a short drive, we arrived at the parking lot and were greeted with a sign informing us that no dogs were allowed on the beach. Unaware of the neighboring dog beach, we drove to the boat launch to see if we could access the water there. Unfortunately, the water was filled with algae and other vegetative debris. We decided to try the other lake boat launch nearby and found the water quality there in slightly better condition so I dipped Cole in some shoulder-high water to cool off and then we found a shady spot in the lawn to dry and cool off. Afterward, we decided to do a short hike to Stephens Falls. That proved to be the best spot for cooling off since the air temperature at the base of the waterfall was considerably cooler and the water was indeed ice cold which felt wonderful to walk around in with Cole. After we were done soaking in the beauty there, we headed back to our campsite to enjoy dinner and another fire.
During the nights, we were visited by our curious raccoon friends. Luckily, they did not figure out how to pull my friend’s cooler out from under the picnic table seat but they sure did try to open the lid enough. Bang bang, bang, bang bang. We kept our flashlights handy to sneak a peek at the masked critters, much larger than I expected them to be. From the sound of it, our neighbor was not as lucky as us and I heard quite a bit of ruckus and bag crumbling happening over there. Despite the critter interruption to our sleep, the weather at night was rather comfortable and on the second and third nights, we felt confident that we could leave the rain guards off the top of our tents so we could stare at the stars during the times when we couldn’t sleep. On our last full day, we each took my kayak out for a spin at Cox Hollow Lake. I brought Cole with me for the first time to see how he would like kayaking and I’m happy to report that if it weren’t for the heat, we probably could have stayed out there all day. He showed no fear of the water and enjoyed hanging over the side of the kayak as I paddled around the lake, doing my best to offset his weight over the edge by leaning slightly in the opposite direction.
Before long, it was time to pack up and head back to the real world. After fighting to fit my tent back into its tiny bag and get all my gear back into my tiny car, I said farewell to my friend, before Cole, myself, and my kayak hit the road. Unfortunately, the issue I had with the kayak on the way to the campground came back to haunt me and I ended up having to drive slowly through a bunch of backroads to get home, adding much more travel time to my journey. Once home, I unloaded the car and my poor kayak, and promptly hopped in the shower to wash the dirt, bug spray, and sweat off of me. Camping was such a wonderful way to escape life and commune with nature but it also was a wonderful reminder of how much I appreciate the conveniences of running water, flush toilets, air conditioning, and walls that keep the bugs at bay. After a lazy weekend of TV watching and sleeping in my cozy bed, it’s time to prepare for my return to the real world full of jobs, news, household chores, and errands tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m already planning my next escape.