Friday, 3:00 PM - Maybe the weather man was wrong? Everyone packed and drove up for our Rain or Shine event, and for the moment, it was shining. In fact, it was kind of warm and sunny as we all made our way to Amicalola Falls Park.
By 7:30 PM we had reached pitch blackness in the National Forest. Wow! It was dark when you turned out the lights. Everyone was discovering what they had forgotten to pack, and along the way we all set up our tents. Katt had prepared our food, and it smelled really good, it was, after all, time for dinner. Still, these tents needed to be set-up. And there was happy chatter all over camp, and flashlight beams bouncing around on the ground and in the trees. Most everyone had made it to camp, and within an hour or so most of the tents were up too. Soon we made our way toward the coleman lantern hanging protectively over our dinner. We grabbed plates and loaded them with tender chicken and rice dinners. Everyone was hungry, and it got a little quieter after everyone was full.
Midnite approached and was quickly surpassed by several hours of conversing around the fire with good friends and favorite beverages. Our fire was steady, our laughter was rising and falling...and...what? Was that a rain drop? Thunder? ...quiet...OK...laugh..itís gone...itís blowing over...five minutes later, steady hard rain. Everyone dashed for their tents, vans, trucks. Camp fell quiet except for laughter from here and there. The rain continued to fall and made the rest of the night challenging, especially for those who yearned to be free from the city life and all of its worries this weekend.
The night drew on and others arrived to find the campsite was dark, no fire going. Within minutes of frantically looking for a flashlight, several members jumped out from a jam packed van to bring them in out of the mud soaked land. These latecomers were the extreme campers, that have survived several rainstorms and near misses from close-by tree fallings in the recent past. They were funny and livened things up, by cracking jokes, until everyone else expired. They were smart to stay up late, for no one knew they never pitched the tent, but slept in their car to keep dry from the rain.
Morning came and so did the cold. Slowly everyone rose to the smell of Bacon?..snf..Bacon?..snf..Bacon?...Bacoooon!! Though the source of this quote shall remain anonymous, everyone was happily surprised as Katt made breakfast happen again. She didnt do it alone as the two MASTER grillers took care of preparing the stove, I mean fire. Of course, there was the great debate as to which side of the river cooked the best bacon.... For others, anything remotely familiar looking made the grade. It wasnt long before someone found a way to make great coffee in the ruff. Thanks Master P for a job well done.
More folks made the break from city and drove into camp, including Darcy who wowwed us with the Taj Mahal tent in tow. A number of folks headed for the showers on the other side of the park while others sat and talked to learn whose tents and sleeping bags survived the previous night. It was a lot of rain and some campers found themselves sporting their tents in an area quite similar to a rice field. The new arrivals were sharp as they staked their claim on grassy knolls above base camp.
The day was shaping beautifully, a cool-dry front was coming in from the west! Everyone seemed happy and carefree that they had come and weathered out the storm. Time passed and afternoon came quick. Some people took off for a short hike to finally see the Amicalola Falls. By mid-afternoon, many were bucking to get to Oktoberfest, and after we selected volunteer designated drivers (many thanks to all who did this for the group), we made our unforgettable drive to Helen. By 5:00 pm, most of us were eating dinner, albeit we had inadvertantly broken into two or three smaller groups. Eventually we all made our way to the Wurst bar (no pun intended) on the street with the loudest DJ. This is where the largest beers were served too (coincidence? I donít think so)...and later, we would see Dawnmarie prove that white guys who canít dance really canít dance. She was awarded a cold (tall!) beer for this demonstration. The dancing was great and people really came together as a group.
A couple of the members got a chance to walk their dog down the beautifully lit streets of Helen while others did some late night shopping, including the purchase of some killer chocolate from one of the local shops. Still others didnt want the night to end and decided to play a game of hide and seek and catch me if you can.
As night fell so did the energy of some of the members and we left Helen for some rest and relaxation. Some went to sleep early, some went to Hel-end-back, but for those brave souls who had the appetance to stay up late, we gathered around a great campfire for stimulating conversation and shenanigans. Spirits were high and laughter was loud. Yet some folks fell reflective and quiet. This is the magic of AOC camping...the best part of it, lending courage to cold and wet campers. Of course stocking extra blankets and sleeping bags this weekend only made several members happier. As the fire grew strong, Todd setup his telescope and a good handful of us got a chance to take a closer look at the craters and mountains on the moon. Very cool. Thanks Todd!
Morning came quick, some called for the warmth of their homes while others called for another spectacular breakfast with OJ and fresh Master P coffee. There were a few who tried to sample the buffet at the lodge, but wound up missing both breakfasts. :( We all know who you are, and with a small donation of a few beers on the next trip we will surely keep your secret... ;)
We built a new fire, and with it new conversations were generated. Some members finally got to introduce themselves to others they had not yet had a chance to meet. A few people even organized another hike to the Falls for one last look and picture taking event. It wasnt long before everyone was putting away their tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, and coolers...and later their chairs.
By 3:00 PM, the only people left were those who took the jeep off-road for some bumpy rides and muddy water action. They found some hikers and laughingly asked for directions on how to get out, and with a blank look on the hikers faces they pointed in several different directions to get us through the National Forest.
Many thanks go to all those people who stayed behind and helped clean up and pack. In the end a few of us headed to the Smith House in Dahlonega for a big home style cooked meal like no other; only to delay the inevitable reminder that tomorrow was Monday and that we would have to figure out how to survive the next five days until a new weekend could begin...
Many thanks go to Barry Bolling and Todd Biggs for their journal entries.