Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rent-A-Camp Expedition

One of many benefits of attending a "Becoming An Outdoor Woman" workshop (see previous blogs on B.O.W.) is that there are really nice door prizes to register for. I was the lucky recipient of the drawing for a gift certificate for free camping at an Arkansas State Park. After looking over the numerous travel options this afforded me, time constraints on the expiration date of the gift certificate made me realize if I didn't use it this week, I would probably not be able to do so before this "freebie" offer ended. So that led me back to a place nearby, where I first camped in 1960, with a group of about twenty Girl Scout friends----Bull Shoals/White River State Park. A nice feature about BS/WR State Park is that they have the "Rent-A-Camp" option where your package includes the basic items needed for a camp out (tent, camp cook stove/ fuel bottle, light, broom, dustpan, ice chests, sleeping platforms, and ice chest). But the wonderful thing about the BS/WR package is that the tent is already set up for you----WHAT A DEAL! What I wasn't aware of until I checked in, however, was that the light was an electric light on a long extension cord, that could be hung either outside on the pole for that purpose, or inside the tent. I had envisioned a Coleman lantern-type light, from reading the description, since it only said "light", instead of "electric light." So I was delighted to find out upon arrival that I had an electrical outlet, which came in very handy, not only for the light, but recharging the camera batteries after a full day of photography. It is probably a good thing that I didn't know in advance that I would have electricity. I might have been tempted to bring the electric fan, the electric vacuum, the electric can opener, the electric radio, the electric can opener, the electric pencil sharpener, electric toothbrush---anyway---you get the picture! The camp site also had a water faucet for running water, a picnic table on a concrete pad, a charcoal grill, and a fire pit. All this sets on a gravel-covered area that cuts down on mud, dust, and tick/chigger visitors. And talk about a BEAUTIFUL location. The two Rent-A-Camp sites are perched right beside the river, at the far end of the camp grounds, so they are a bit more spacious than the pricier RV sites.

If you take advantage of the various types of rental boats available at the park's dock on the river, you can get a "fish eye" view of what your campsite looks like from the river.
The fact that the tent is already set up for you gives you more time to enjoy the countless activities available in the park, just a few of which are pictured here (clockwise: boat fishing, kayaking, canoeing, shore fishing, classes led by park interpreters/naturalists, WIFI on the covered deck behind the dock, and bicycling). In addition there are numerous nature trails for hiking, the Gaston Visitor's Center (see past blogs) a new mountain bike trail, scenic overlooks, plus the park staff offer guided riverboat cruises/ lake cruises (these will be described in a future blog), and a return to tours inside the dam, after many years of no tours due to security concerns following the events of 9/11.
Making your visit to BS/WR park an overnight stay gives you the opportunity to see the glow of your campsite in the dark (lower left photo), as well as getting to wake up to that famous white fog that covers the river many mornings to making it truly "The White River" (top photo). I need to mention yet another nice feature of the Rent-A-Camp site---the tent sits on a wooden plank floor, with a wood frame attached to it. The attached frame means you don't have to be tripping over lines hooked onto tent stakes sticking up out of the ground---a great advantage if you ask me! And one of the best things about my night in the tent is that I didn't have to test the survivability of the "rain fly" that protects the tent beneath---the rain held off until AFTER I checked out----thank you, LORD! Although this experience hardly qualifies me as a Bedouin, I have a greater appreciation for all those details God laid out in the Old Testament book of Exodus, for making his tabernacle (The English word "tabernacle" is derived from Latin word -tabernaculum- meaning "tent") . The tent I was in was made by Anchor Industries in southern Indiana (it was called a "standard army tent", with split corners for wall roll-up) and cost hundreds of dollars to purchase, not to mention, build the frame, and maintain! Therefore, I think enjoying time in Arkansas' treasured state parks is an expedition all can enjoy, while seeing your tax dollars put to very good use! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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