One of the best ways to make memories that last a lifetime is to go camping - because no matter how much you plan, you never know for sure what might happen! What better way to do that than with a great group of Christian guys (my roommates) as we took a quick camping trip to Jones Gap State Park this weekend - one of my favorite places in South Carolina.
For about half a year now, my roommates and I have been planning to take a trip out west to Yosemite and several other amazing National Parks this summer (which is something I've always longed to do!). However, we wanted to have at least one camping trip here at home to break one of my roommates in with the idea of "roughin' it" in the woods before we embark on the grandeur of the wild west! I think it's pretty safe to say we (or the weather) broke him in well for at least one night!
When I'm planning a camping trip, its like I also become a weatherman - checking the weather everyday before the trip. We had this weekend planned for about 2 weeks, and would you know it, our first tropical storm decides to hit the weekend. I don't mind camping in the rain every once awhile, but I also wanted to be able to enjoy some fun things for our first time camper (like building a fire and making Jiffy Pop). After checking constantly throughout the week, we finally looked like we were going to dodge the bullet with the tail end of Andrea leaving the Upstate by the time we got up there Friday evening.
We were excited to hopefully have a dry night, so we packed the car and prayed for safe travels and good weather before we hit the road!
As we were getting near Greenville, we noticed the sky started getting real overcast and dark towards the mountains. Robbie checked on his iPad and saw that the small rain cell that I had seen in Georgia and not worried about had become a large blob and it was heading our way. Alittle worried, we still pressed forward and tried to make it to the park before sunset. We finally got to Jones Gap around 7 PM and when we checked in with the ranger he asked us "y'all know we're about to get wet?" He went on to tell us we would probably have enough time to hike up to our campsite and set up camp and possibly start a fire before the rain came. So we took his advice to hustle and strapped on all of our equipment and hit the trail to hike about half a mile to our camp! Here's our BEFORE picture (we were dry):
At our campsite, I hurried and set up my 2-person tent. But, as Chris was setting up his tent one of the poles snapped and broke! So he and I tried to quickly think of anything to get the pole back tight so it would hold up the tent. But before we knew it, the bottom fell out and it began to rain for about 2 hours. Chris and I still tried to put together the tent while it was rain, but came to the conclusion that it was no use anymore since his tent would have been like sleeping in a waterbed after how soaked it got. Oh yea, during all of this - we explained to Robbie (since he looked wet and worried) that this was "extreme camping" now and not real camping! Haha! But to my surprise, Robbie responded "funny thing is, I'm actually having fun!" After playing around with the option of letting Chris sleep in my hammock with a tarp over him, we decided that he could sleep in my Jeep.
Now it was about 10 PM, we were soaked, without one tent, and with no fire and hungry stomachs. So we decided to hike back down the trail with our headlamps to the bath house to at least get out of the rain and regroup some. We made it to the bath house successfully, can't you tell we're happy (and soaked)?
After drying off and standing awkwardly in the restroom for a little while, I had the idea of using my backpacking stove to heat up our can of chili and cut up our hotdogs in it. I was getting everything set up then Chris asked "Do you have a can opener?" Me: "Uh....nope". We were going to try to use my knife but we noticed that the rain had died down outside. Still determined to have a fire and make a decent attempt of a meal, we decided to take a chance and go back up to our campsite and hope our firewood stayed dry enough under a tarp. Fortunately after cutting up the firewood some and using my fire starter sticks, we were able to get a fire going around 10:30 PM! After a whirl wind of a trip so far, we each gave each other a high five and we told Robbie "now this is real camping now!".
Here's us enjoying some hotdogs and Italian sausage on the fire! It was good to finally sit and relax and have a good time around the campfire!
And we even got to make my Jiffy Pop popcorn!!! A camping favorite!
It's not a UFO...its Jiffy Pop!
Finally after midnight, we decided it was time to walk Chris back down the trail (this was now our 4th time going down the trail at night) to my truck to set up a way for him to sleep in it. After doing so, Robbie and I hiked back up the trail to finally catch some sleep in the tent.
Morning in Jones Gap
One of my favorite reasons why I love camping at Jones Gap (which my brother and I have done many of times), is because of the beautiful Middle Saluda River that runs right through it - providing a peaceful river sound while you sleep and one of the prettiest rivers in South Carolina to play in and admire. I can't sleep long in a tent, so once I saw the sun coming up, I got out of the tent around 6:45 AM and sat by the river. I was able to get some good alone time in with God as I enjoyed the peacefulness of the nature around me. I also was able to get some awesome river pictures with excellent morning light. Check them out:
By then, Robbie had woke up and came down by the river. He relaxed for a while and also got some cool pictures of me taking some pictures.
After spending some good time by the river, we hiked down the trail to go see if Chris was up yet and out of my Jeep. Here is what we found when we got there...he had just woke up after a good nights sleep in a Jeep!
Hiking to Rainbow Falls
One of the most beautiful waterfalls in South Carolina is in Jones Gap State Park. It is also one of my favorites I like to photograph. We were blessed with beautiful weather (but 100% humidity) to hike a 2 mile streneous trail to the waterfall. Here are some pictures from our hike and when we reached the beautiful waterfall. It was the most full I had ever seen it with all of the rain we got during the week.
Approaching the falls, I loved seeing Chris's and Robbie's face as they saw it for the first time!
The waterfall was so powerful it made a ton of mist, it was hard to keep my camera dry. (Chris took this picture and I give him credit! Even with the water on the lens it looks awesome! Check me out at the base of the waterfall!)
Pretty Place Chapel and Caesars Head
After and exhausting hike to and from the waterfall in 100% humidity and not good sleep from the night prior, we rewarded ourselves with driving up the mountain to one of the most beautiful places around! Pretty Place Chapel's name says it all. The outdoor chapel on top of the mountain that overlooks Jones Gap, is PRETTY. Many more words can describe the beautiful of the holy place, but my favorites are the words that are inscribed on the pilars of the chapel as you look out toward the mountain view and the Cross: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills..." from one of my favorite Bible verses:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
After seeing these beautiful sights and stopping by Golden Coral to tear into some food like hungry bears, it was a perfect ending to a great camping trip. We thanked God for keeping us safe even in the rain, which in the end provided some great memories that we'll carry on for long time. I encourage you to get out and explore our Lord's beautiful creation - and hey, even give camping a shot! Robbie has already told us he'd do it again! We can't wait to go out west now...
Remember, any of my nature shots are available for purchasing in prints or canvas. Check them out on my website. Thank you for reading my blog!