October 4, 2010

For all who have not already heard, Fire Master B has a new lady friend, Aime. As a former member of the US Army and a Girl Scout troop leader, Aime has more than adequate outdoor skills to compliment our camping adventures. So, it was no surprise that our next camping adventure included Brent’s lady friend.

Brent’s property in Loan Oak, TX (fondly known as Foster Farm) seemed the most logical and convenient destination for our Trip over the weekend of May 14 - 16 (I know...my blog is unforgiveably delayed...again). It is so rare that we are able to get away for more than one night at a time. We were ready for a full weekend camping adventure.

Few things are worse than pitching a tent in the dark. Fighting the clock to get the camp site up and running before the sun dips below the horizon is almost as frustrating. I was keen on the idea of getting out to Foster Farm early enough to get everything set before it got to be too late in the evening. Since Camper Joe and I had more flexibility with our schedule, we arranged to arrive at the farm Friday afternoon to pitch tents and set up camp so that everything was ready to go when Brent and Aimee arrived later in the evening.

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? They often go awry. Well the plans for these campers definitely went awry when Friday morning a terrible thunderstorm passed through north Texas. We were all glued to the weather channel, weather.com, and the local Doppler radar. How much more rain? How long will it last? How bad has it been in Loan Oak? Should we still go? Well, after several hours of deliberating , we decided that the worse had already passed. If we could tolerate a few more hours of poor weather, the rest of the weekend promised to be beautiful and pleasant.

Despite being an hour or so behind schedule, Joe and I set out for Foster Farm. As we drove towards east Texas we started to catch up with the weather front that had just passed through Dallas. We arrived at the farm under light rainy conditions – the worst was passed. We stopped by the barn to gather some dry wood, timber, and basic supplies and headed out towards our most recent camping spot.

Heavy rains are a true enemy at Foster Farm, at least in terms of reaching our camp site destination. I refer you to the “Return to Foster Farm” blog from June of 2009 in which we went camping after several days of heavy rain only to find that we could not even drive all of the way to our camp site (we had to walk (or rather wade) through swamp like conditions to reach our location). There is one particular dip in the terrain (perhaps a dried up creek bed) that poses significant challenges following rain storms. We have had moments in the past where getting stuck in the muddy dip was a very real possibility. If we didn’t make it, we would be stuck for several hours until Brent and Aime arrived. Having said that, our first adventure on this trip required maneuvering this spot to reach the camp site. With some skill, a few prayers, and a lot of luck, we made it past this spot and arrived safely to our camp site. Or, more appropriately, what once was a camp site.

It had been some time since our last visit. Since spring is synonymous with growth, it should be no surprise that our camp site was overgrown almost the point of being unrecognizable. All of our work clearing out the spot, raking, gathering wood was for naught. Evidently we had neglected our spot for too long.

We suited up in rain coats and ponchos to cope with the light drizzle. Not much purpose in avoiding the weather. Getting wet was inevitable. So, we started working. With limited equipment we cleared space to the best of our abilities, pitched the tents on tarps to protect the tent bottoms and keep out moisture, and unloaded our gear.

(I will probably be divorced for writing this next section, but the truth must be told). Camper Joe spent a frustrating and fruitless hour attempting to start a campfire. In his defense, it was incredibly wet conditions. Even the dry kindling we brought from the barn has since sucked up the moisture in the air and was reluctant to catch fire. Bless his heart. Meanwhile, I single-handedly set up Aime’s new tent. I still think he had the short end of the stick on this arrangement. Joe’s pride demanded that the fire be started before the rest of the campers arrived. He attempted to invoke the techniques of Les Stroud and Bear Grylls with no such luck.

Fire Master B to the rescue. Evening rolled around and Brent and Aime finally arrived. Just in time to get the fire going before sunset. He is called Fire Master B for a reason. By this time the rain had stopped and clouds broke way to the night sky. One of the greatest pleasures of camping is the brilliance of the stars. You just can’t get the same effect in the city.

We relaxed into the evening with a fire grilled meal and a few adult beverages. Before long we called it a night retired to our tents.

Saturday morning started off slow and lazy. Gradually, we each emerged from the comfortable cocoon of our tent into a bright and beautiful morning. Knowing we had all day, we took our time getting some breakfast together. We realized that we would not make it through the weekend without additional ice for our coolers.

Joe and I planned a brief trip into town to pick up a few bags of ice. We got into the Explorer and with some trepidation approach the infamous dip in the terrain. It turns out our trepidation was
entirely warranted as we got stuck in at the bottom of the dip as we attempted to make our way back up the other side of the crevice. Reverse, gun it, and go. Back up and try again. Still stuck.

The last time we were at the farm, the tractors tire was flat. We crossed our fingers and prayed that this time the tire was aired up. Thank God for small blessings. A short while later, Brent hooked the tractor up to truck and slowly pulled us out of the muddy mess. But something had to be done or we would just continue to get stuck with the dip getting worse for the wear each time we went back and forth. So, or short little jaunt for ice turned in a trip to Greenville (about 20 minutes away) to the local Home Depot. Our short term solution was to line the ground with ply wood. So several hours later and 2 large sheets or ply wood. Our problem was temporarily resolved.

While Joe I ran into town, Brent and Aime stayed behind. They jumped on the tractor and started to mow down much of the overgrowth in the common path ways. In addition, we spent a good portion of our camping trips collecting wood. It was a challenge to locate some good fire wood that was at least dry enough to catch a flame. Fortunate for us, the sun was warm and bright enough to dry out most of the dampness of the prior day. Before long, most of the ground was dry (with the exception of the infamous dip). The guys broke out the chain saw and cut up some large tree limbs and fallen trees in convenient fire sized pieces. Although we were laboring throughout the day, we took our time and the day slowly passed into evening.

Brent has made it through most of our adventures relatively unscathed. I have had a few moments of embarrassment that have made their way into the blog (refer to the “Eye Spy” incident at Lake Bob Sandlin, January 2009). Camper Joe has certainly had his fair share of noteworthy moments, most notably the “Emergency” during the June 2009 tubing trip to New Braunfels. Now it is Brent’s turn to get razzed. Sometimes a person says something that is totally innocent, but ones mind can’t help but go to the gutter with alternative meaning. For some reason, Brent just couldn’t open his month without something coming out along these lines. Here is just a sampling of the one-liners that keep us rolling over the weekend (taken
totally out of context): I need another eight inches…I wish I had a bigger one…(Lucky for him some time has passed, my memory is short, and I cannot remember the other incriminating quotes).

Sunday morning was another warm and beautiful spring day. But on this day, we did not have the luxury of time to enjoy nature. It was time to clean up, pack up and make our way home. The weekend was drawing to a close. Aime survived her initiation at Foster Farm (I knew she would), and we once again have new stories to tell.

As a final thought, this camping trip represents several "lasts" for us.  It was Mia's last camping trip before her passing.  And sadly, it may end up being our last visit to Foster Farm as shortly after this visit the property was put up for sale.