In our time as campers we hit dozens of state parks and National Forest Recreation Areas, in addition to several National Parks. We were generally having a great time wherever we went, even when the weather didn’t cooperate, such as the time we experienced sub-freezing temperatures and snowfall in October (in West Virginia), and unseasonably cold weather and extremely high winds one May (Shenandoah National Park). No matter what, though, we managed to have a good time.
Two years ago, however, we were camping at the Standing Indian Campground near Murphy North Carolina. This is an amazingly beautiful National Forest campground and we had a great spot right by the river. At night we would fall to sleep to the sound of water rushing over polished stones. It was great.
(Our last all-tent campsite.)
Until, one evening at around midnight, we were awakened by a loud crashing noise. I immediately knew that it could be only one thing: a bear. Whatever it was, it was trashing our campsite, despite the fact that all of our food and food items were packed up tight in our truck. I grabbed a flashlight and pointed it out through the door of the tent at the picnic table and, sure enough, an enormous black bear was hovering over our picnic table while scattering all of the things we tend to leave out in the night—things that are not associated with food, but which the bear was trying out anyway.
So I did what one is supposed to do in such a situation. I came out of the tent, put the light on the bear, and shouted for it to leave. Indeed, the bear did leave, vanishing into the thick rhododendron that hemmed in the campsite. We came out of the tent and began to clean up. I was on one side of the picnic table and my wife on the other. After a few minutes of tidying up, my wife screamed as the bear reappeared, shoving his enormous head out of the brush right beside her.
This was too much, as I realized that this bear was just too big and too aggressive to face down a second time. We scrambled into the cab of the truck and watched the bear for a few seconds. I decided to start the truck, with an idea that I might even try to nudge the bear away with it, but as soon as the engine fired, the bear took off in great haste, racing down the campground loop road in front of us. We waited for a bit and then got out of the truck and finished cleaning up and returned to our tent. My wife went right to sleep, but I wasn’t able to nod off until a couple of hours passed.
The following morning we learned that the bear had traversed the length of the campground (188 campsites!), hitting many along the way as he scrounged for food. Even though all of our food was secured, he wasn’t going to pass us by without checking to open up everything he could grab that looked as if it might harbor something good to eat. Since we didn't want to be something good to eat, we decided that it was time to ditch the tent and buy some kind of trailer.
For some months, Carole and I had been contemplating purchasing a travel trailer. We’d considered a number of options, including a pop-up, a hybrid model, and a 21-foot aluminum model. But a friend at work showed me a molded fiberglass RV he’d purchased and we were sold on the trailer he had:
At only 17 feet in length, it’s small enough and light enough to be able to be towed by my V-6 truck to any of the very out-of-the-way National Forest campgrounds that we prefer. In addition, it’s self-contained and has a complete bathroom in case you’re staying somewhere a bathroom is not available (the case in many National Forest sites). So we went with the Casita, and picked up our very own in August 2005. Since that time, we’ve taken it camping up and down the east coast and all over the high country of the Appalachians. It has been nothing but a delight and has made camping not only as much fun as before, but also far more secure. I can’t recommend these fiberglass trailers enough. Whether you buy a new Casita, Scamp, Escape, Bigfoot, or one from a new manufacturer, or a used model from one of a number of out-of-business companies, you are going to be sure to have a quality trailer that will give you many years of camping pleasure.
At Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys.