Sunday, September 15, 2013

Friday the Thirteenth Campout - We Were Attacked!

View from site D-10 at Bailey's Point on Barren River Lake
 I've been to Bailey's Point many times over the last several years, both tent and pop-up camping, but this is my first written review of the campground.  It sits on Barren River Lake, not too far from the state park campground, only at Bailey's you don't have to deal with the highway noise of 31E lingering nearby.

There are several loops, A-F, with loops A and B not having nearly as many trees. 

Think of the loops as a spectrum.  From loop A all the way to loop F, the crowds diminish and the trees multiply. Tons of trees in E with the most being in F.  There's no power hook-ups in F, so the fewer campers in the area and wooded setting give it a Jason Voorhees-ish vibe.   This is most likely heaven for some, but will probably provide unease to most.  After all, there aren't many around to hear you scream.  I'm not kidding!

I'm a shade and privacy kind of girl, but I also value my life so we camped in D-10 this past weekend.  The weather was absolutely perfect for camping.  A pleasant seventy-two degrees during the sunny day with a crisp forty-eight degrees at night and a constant light breeze coming off the water. 

All was fine as frog hair as we roasted hotdogs over the campfire until the sounds came.  It started as a light buzzing, then a perpetually louder motor-sound.  I saw a black blob begin moving like a crazy horse fly under our awning.  I first thought it was a strange moth because it was well into the night hour.  Derek quickly realized this was a hornet of some type.  He grabbed the fly swatter while I hesitated and ran for the shelter of the pop-up.  I slammed the door behind me, realizing I'd left my family behind!  "Did you kill it?!" I asked through the canvas. 

"No...it won't be still!  Ahhh!"  Now my husband doesn't actually scream but let me tell you, this had him on his toes.

"It's in my hair!" my daughter cried.  "Get it off!"  I go for the door to help and peer out and she's leaning her head down as Derek combs through with his fingers.

"There's nothing in there.  You're fine," Derek says. 

Buuuzzzzz, slaps into the camper, Buuuuzzzz, slaps into the awning.  Derek sorta hollers out again.  I open the door this time and tell Bella to get inside.  Now it's just Derek and the nutz-o hornet.  Man verses insect.  There's a sudden loud slap.

"Did you kill it?"

"No!"

Now my daughter and I anxiously await the death of this horrid flying insect that just crashed our campfire.  There's mere silence and we wonder if we'd scared it off. 

"I think it's gone," Derek says.  In no way does this convince me to take one step outside the camper.  Buuuzzzzz, slaps into side of camper.  "Nope, it's back."  He bangs around a few more times with the fly swatter, desperately trying to kill it. "I think I got 'em!" 

I find a flash light and shine it on the ground (through the window of course).  We inspect, well, Derek inspects as I peer through the screen and observe what had just attacked us, because that's what it felt like...an attack.  This thing was very aggressive.  "There he is," Derek says as he stomps it to make sure it's dead. 

All of a sudden, we hear another one.  I begin to wonder why it sounds like everyone else is having a jolly ol' time and we're fighting for our lives, er...fighting for our dignity.  I figured there's gotta be a nest close by. Yes, I am a genius. 

Derek quickly kills the second one.  We wait a minute, hear nothing else, and I finally pep-talk myself into coming out and enjoying the night. 

We're not two minutes into a new conversation when Derek stops and looks behind him.  "There's another one!  $#%!" 

Before the night ends, he's killed a dozen of them.  Slightly alarmed of the obvious nearby nest, we decide to inform the check-in post the next day.  Yes, I realize this is camping and pests, bugs, etc. are all part of it, but we've been camping all over Kentucky, from the banks of the Mississippi to the Red River Gorge area, including a few times here at Bailey's Point, and we've NEVER experienced anything like this before.  If a child were to wander around and stumble into a nest, it could be seriously dangerous. 

What really had me stumped is there was only one that would show up at a time.  Seems like when one didn't come back, another would come check it out.  At one point there were two at a time, but no more. 

The next morning, I crept out of the camper and there's nothing buzzing by.  I sip my coffee and watch.  I see a few buzz by - they are REALLY fast - but they don't pay any attention to us in the daylight.  I notice a tree or two they seem to fly around, away from our campsite but still too close for comfort, and I observe.  They crawl around on the bark finally disappearing near the bottom of the trunk.  See my picture below.  It's the dead tree on the left and the one to my right.  Isn't the view fantastic at least?

I felt like Chief Brody on watch for the dangerous creature lurking nearby.


I checked out Google on my cell phone (Yes!  Cell phone service at Bailey's) and quickly found something called Japanese Hornets.  These things are reported all over the southeast but are supposedly from Aisa - hence the name.  I told you I was a genius. 

The sting is described as a hot nail driving into your skin.  That's nice.  Some property owners I read about noted they couldn't mow their yards anymore without being attacked, so they tried mowing at night but they were still attacked.  Spray didn't faze the little terrors.  Apparently they don't go hunting humans, but will attack if they feel threatened such as being stirred by loud noises, vibrations, or if you get in their way.  Our particular situation, they were attracted to the light.  They have orangish-yellow and black stripes.  And they have FUR.  Seriously.  See image below.



I wish I could zoom in better but I forgot my Nikon.  Me, Derek and my daughter headed up to the camp post to report, and the guy (friendly staff by the way) tells Derek they are aware of the problem and have tried spraying but don't know what else to do.  All the while I'm thinking, 'Thanks for the heads up, Dude' but that would be like screaming shark at a beach on the Fourth of July.  They don't wanna lose 'da business. 

The Army Corps of Engineers has even been out there and sprayed to rid the campground of these hornets and it doesn't kill them!  The guy at the post said the only thing that will are those electric bug zappers.  He proceeded to show us and there were dozens of zapped hornets.  We suddenly remember we've got one of those!  I dig through the camper storage and find it.  Heck yeah, baby.  These hornets are getting roasted tonight.  A little happy dance took place.  PETA hates me.

All in all, we didn't let this ruin our camping trip.  I still ate the HECK out of some roasted marshmallows and walked down to the lake shore with my daughter.  It was a beautiful day and as the sun sank in the sky casting oranges and pinks on the water below, I smiled and gave thanks to the Father.
Coolin' the feet.


The next morning, Derek found about a dozen more dead on the electric bug shocker.  Some were still alive in the bottom, but trapped.  He carefully killed them and made sure the others were dead before cleaning it off.  We packed up a little quicker than usual this time and were glad to leave without any stings.  I bid farewell to the lovely lake and drove home. 

Bailey's is a great campground.  It's located on Barren River Lake in the Western/Central part of Kentucky off of 31E.  Technically it's off a country road off another country road from 31 E but if you follow the signs, that should get you there without problems. 

Bathrooms were clean, sites are nice and woodsy (except loops A and B) with lots of sites overlooking the water.  There is a camp store behind the bath house in loop B and they also sell firewood. 

Just beware there's a new insect in town, and he isn't quiet or concerned with how rude it is to raid your campfire party.  Be careful.  Don't try to go hunt the nest and kill them.  If the Army Corps of Engineers can't come up with a concoction to kill these little SOBs, then I doubt your little can of grocery-store bought Raid will do any good.  You'll just tick them off and outrunning these hornets is impossible.  Just keep your trusty fly swat nearby and your eyes and ears open.  I would even suggest asking the campground host if they know any areas of the campground that have infestations so you know ahead of time what areas to avoid.  Get a bug zapper. That seemed to help, too. 

Then you can mosey on down in your comfy camping chair and do whatever it is you like to do when chillin' by the fire. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Six Ways to Irritate Your Fellow Campers

Camping at Bailey's Point, September 2012
I wrote this article last year for the QP news in Bulter County.  It's an online new source I sometimes write opinion articles for and I came upon this old article, thinking now would be a good time to share some campground etiquette that's sadly not very often used!

Summer is almost here and the great outdoors beckons our human instincts to star gaze, make fires and roast processed meat on a stick. Okay, sorry. I’m being a fuddy-duddy about the hot dogs. Seriously though, they’ll kill you.


Anyway, ever been to a campground and thought the following? Or are you one of the clueless, offending folks whose empathy towards others’ comfort is about as deep as a puddle? Here’s a collection of my thoughts while visiting campgrounds over the years.



1. Not everyone within a mile radius can appreciate your love for Stevie Nicks. Be respectful of your neighbor’s choice in music. If you want to blast your music while chillin’ in your lawn chair, stay at home.



2. Stop and say hello to fellow campers, but don’t pull up a chair unless you are invited. There’s usually a sense of camaraderie when strolling through campgrounds and it’s okay to say hello, or chat about the weather, but not cool to invite yourself to the campfire.



3. The hyena laugh. Enough said. Don’t be that guy.



4. Letting your children wander around unsupervised is rude and careless. There’s not just the safety factor to consider, but it’s annoying when curious, talkative children wander into my campsite, asking questions, touching things, and eyeing my marshmallows. They’re mine, and you can’t have them. Nah-nah-nah-nah-naaaah-nah.




5. Don’t show up at midnight to set up camp. It’s happened to almost every camper. The fire dies down, the belly is full, it’s time to call it a night. Just as you snuggle up in your sleeping bag, Billy Ray decided last minute to show up with ten of his friends. No worries. They’ll just use their headlights as guidance while shouting to one another as they set up camp. No biggie.



6. Trees for privacy? Uh, no. Guess what guys, when you go behind a tree to relieve yourself – in the daytime – I can still see you. And it’s disturbing. I don’t go seeking it. I’m casually admiring the forest and thinking, “Oh look, it’s a cute squirrel and…oh my GAWD for all that is holy!” I really didn’t want to see that.



Don’t be a slave to television this summer, or at least not the entire summer. Get your kids out of the house, and let the lull of crickets sing you to sleep…that is, as long as Billy Ray doesn’t show up with his buddies and a full bladder. Happy camping!

Sunset at Bailey's Point Campground, Loop C, on Barren River Lake

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winter Silence

First, let me say, "Happy birthday, Dad!"

Fall is my favorite season, but I have an appreciation for what each season brings.  Even winter.  The silence, the snow, the homemade stews and cornbread all come together as a wonderful sense of comfort from the sun's heat and the busy rush of a harvest. 

I snapped this photo in the patch of woods behind my home.  Simply standing in the light snow that'd fallen and the quiet of the environment so rich that the only sound was my breath is what I love about winter.  There's no other season that gives our ears such a break.

The earth is asleep but there's plenty to still enjoy about the outdoors.  What's your favorite outdoor activity in the winter?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nolin Lake State Park Campground


I’m writing this review directly from the park itself.  This campground is much smaller – only thirty-two sites.  Each spacious site has water and electric hook-ups, and many of them afford a view of the water.  If you want to camp here, do a reservation. 

 

Site 31 at Nolin Lake State Park Campground
We currently inhabit site thirty-one, which gives us a unique view of the lake, a nestled section of water where an occasional fisherman on a boat might cruise through looking for his latest catch.  There’s a tiny path from our site that leads down to the water, but be careful, it’s quite steep!  Bring your fishing poles to this campground.  You don’t even have to drive elsewhere if you select a site next to the water.  You’ll have your own piece of the lake!  Just keep in mind some of the trails off the campsite to the lake are narrow and very steep.  If you have bad knees and high expectations  of a private island setting, you may be disappointed. 

 

Upon our Friday arrival, we purchased firewood.  Instead of picking out our own bundles, it was delivered to our site and the kind gentleman employee unloaded it himself.  On Saturday morning, we wanted to check out the hiking trails.  Needing a map, we stopped at the check-in office and a lady told us where we needed to go, but there was no map available!  

 

Feeling adventurous we took to the trail anyway.  There is a map available for viewing at an information station at the head of the trail. It wasn’t so bad, just stay on the path.  It makes a loop back to where we started.  We took the Waterfall Loop which is about 1.6 miles, but the waterfall was dry.  For mountain bikers, there is a new trail that loops around approximately eight miles, which splits off of the Waterfall Loop.  The new trail is called the Omega Loop.  We saw a father and son on a bike outing and it appears very challenging.  Lots up hill, winding trails through the woods.  Thumbs up on the added adventure to this state park!   By the way, both trails are for mountain bikers and hikers, so please be aware and respect each other’s presence. 
An unsuspecting me leaving bathhouse.

 

The bathhouse gets an thumbs up from me.  Clean, modern amenities and that’s all I can really ask for.  I hate walking into a campground restroom only to feel like a hockey mask is going to peer at me from under the stall.  The other side of the bathhouse has an indoor laundry facility and vending machines. 

 

Site 31 looking over to 32.  Nice distance between sites.
Our neighbors this trip were the kind of people you hope you never camp next to.  This can happen at ANY campground so I don’t want this to reflect badly on the campground itself.  There was a crew of at least a dozen people camping at the site across from us.  They took great pleasure in laughing and talking as loudly as possible all day and nearly all night.  It was like a forty-eight hour birthday party with your annoying Aunt Edna cackling the whole time!  Even well past the established quiet hour, the noisy campers continued their revelry.  These were not rednecks or metal heads, but middle-aged fifth wheel camper owners who walked their sweater-wearing dogs.  They finally quieted down, and I’m not sure if someone complained or if an attendant had to shush them, but I was happy to finally go to sleep.   Sleep at last!  Oh but wait, the same noisy crew decided to chop wood at six-thirty the next morning.  What?  This can’t be! I wanted yell at these inconsiderate campers.  So I do only what I can do.  I take a deep breath, shake my head in annoyance and choose to get over it.  It was time for coffee anyway. 

 


Our final morning here, Sunday, it’s thirty-nine degrees outside.  Our heat is keeping us toasty but I must enjoy my coffee wrapped up in a blanket under the awning.  The fog is lifting off the lake and I can hear a wood-pecker off into the distance.  Squirrels are gathering nuts for breakfast and I envy their freedom.  They have no office to report to come Monday morning.  If only I could make a living visiting campgrounds and writing reviews!  But I do this for free because it’s what I love.


 
Pros: 

·         Well-maintained campground/friendly staff

·         Clean bath houses…zero creepiness!

·         Camp sites are spacious and there is a nice distance of separation between sites

·         This campground is very accommodating for both the RV (large fifth wheel to a pop-up) and the tent campers.

Cons

·         Zero bars for cell phone reception/zero 3G network/zero Internet – you’re camping anyway!



 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Summer is Great and All, But I Really Miss the Fall



This photo is the quintessential hiking trail for me. It was about a fifty degree morning last fall at Natural Bridge State Park when Derek and I hiked up to the natural bridge. Not a soul was around. It felt our feet shuffling through the leaves on this path disturbed the environment, and we actually found ourselves whispering.

"Why are we whispering?" I asked. We laughed and remembered to make some noise because this was bear country. Sneaking up on a black bear in search of her morning breakfast is NOT an ideal hiking trip.

I love the fall. It's my favorite of seasons. I cherish the coolness of the air and the colors that adorn the walls and floors of the forest. My hands were freezing and my heart was racing with the exertion from the hike (notice it's just about all uphill) but it was the joy of nature, the peace of God's creation that really made my heart beat.   


We're taking a break from this humid-hellish heat and there will be more reviews coming up this fall. 


Know of a great hiking trail?  Share it in a comment below, please! 


On top of Natural Bridge.  Sixty foot drop-off on either side!



Sunday, June 24, 2012

Prizer Point: Great View, But Guard Your Wallet!



View from the campsite.  My husband and stepson throwin' a line.
Location:  Cadiz, KY, Western Region

We made another trip to Lake Barkley this summer by going out on a limb at Prizer Point.  I say that because the prices were unbelievably high, more than we've ever paid for a campsite.  For our prime site on the water, we paid $90 per night! 


Now, the site itself was beautiful, as you can see from the photos.  We were right on the water, the sunsets were ours (along with everyone else we shared the shore line with) and fishing was just a few steps away -- no packing up the tackle box and driving to a separate location. 

But, with the cost associated with this campground, I guess I expected more.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It's camping.  We brought our kids and thought how much they would enjoy all the amenities described on the website, figuring the extraordinary costs would be well worth the splurge.  Free high speed wi-fi, a game room full of arcades and air hockey, a swimming pool and mini-golf.  How nice would that be?  After all, we'd spend the money easily on those activities combined, right?

Well, considering the wi-fi was unattainable and "fair" at best, the game room had broken machines, some which were not marked "out of order" and took my daughter's quarters.  Imagine the disappointment when we found the air hockey table in the back room and the trash talk had already begun on who'd beat who, we put the fifty cents into the slots and heard the hiss of the air escape the table, ready for action!  Only...where's the disc?  "Mommy, is the disc on your side?" 

"Nope, are you sure it's not on your side?  No?"  Guess they took the meaning of air hockey literally.

The swimming pool was nice and refreshing but it got a little crowded, especially when about a dozen or so adults got in with their frosty beers.  Okay, that's fine, drink your beer, but keep it to your campsite and please do not slurp on it whilst in the same darn pool my daughters are swimming in.  Thank you very much. 

Finally, a staff member showed up and told the people they weren't allowed to drink while in the pool.  You'd figure adults well over the age of forty would know that.  Guess it takes a genius.  Sorry, people annoy me sometimes.  Did I mention this campground is REALLY crowded?  Every single site was full.  It's not that I didn't expect that -- I know weekends run busy -- but if you are looking for more privacy, or quiet, this is not the place for that.  I would recommend the state park at Lake Barkley instead.  At least the sites there are set up where you aren't constantly observing another site.  They appear more private and are in a more wooded setting. 

Mini-golf.  Sigh.  Where do I begin?  This "course" was a joke.  It's probably the worst mini golf course I've seen.  Ever.  Looks like someone took a bunch of plywood, covered them in astro turf, put some creepy animal statues up as decor and called it a day. 

By the way, the mini golf and jumping pillow (like a big trampoline) are NOT included in the cost of camping.  You've got to purchase a wrist band for an additional $10 per person to "enjoy" these amenities.  Can you hear the cash register ringing in your ears? 

A nice thing to mention:  When my husband went to purchase firewood, the assisting staff was a really nice young man who told us he felt like the cost was a rip-off for what we got.  The normally $5 per bundle of wood was given to us, courtesy of him.  Not sure if that's safe to say here since it probably wasn't his call to do so, but either way, when you're getting sympathy of costs from the staff, that's usually not a good sign.  All in all, we enjoyed a fantastic camp fire and were able to roast our marshmallows. 

Pros: 
  • Really, and I mean really awesome lake side campsites. 
  • Children will love this place and will most likely see it with a less critical eye
  • Friendly staff (we got escort service to our camp site, but I've received the same service at state park campgrounds)
  • Bathrooms were rather clean
  • Cell phone reception - no problems sending or receiving text messages
  • Wi-fi available, but iffy reception, and couldn't obtain it during much of our stay (two nights)
  • Outdoor movie screen -- no extra charge.  We enjoyed this feature (Shrek II) very much.  Walk up, bring your own snacks and blanket.  Family friendly movies.  
Cons:
  • Terribly expensive.  Not worth the costs we paid.
  • Crowded, popular place. 
  • I felt the Prizer Point website didn't live up to their glorious website.  Never pump up your customers'/guests' expectations to come visit you and then offer them half-a**ed amenities. 
However, we plan to return next summer mainly for the great view and the fun our kids had, but are going to plan a through-the-week visit.  Weekends are too crazy.

New thing we tried this camp out:  Those HUGE marshmallows at the grocery.  If you try them, break them in half before roasting.  If you try and roast a whole one, they'll only cook on one side and will most likely fall off into the fire.  Break them in two and they roast beautifully and oh my goodness, they are terrific in s'mores. 

Next camping trip, I'm just ready to chill out by the fire and enjoy the sounds of nature.  I don't want all of the activities Prizer Point offers when I'm camping.  If you have kids, then this place may be for you, but if you're just a couple looking for some quiet time, look elsewhere. 

Visit http://www.prizerpoint.com/ for more info.  This is a KOA campground. 


Twilight on the lake.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lake Barkley State Park

The girls check out the sea shells by the lake shore.
Location:  Cadiz, KY, Western Region.  Follow HWY 68/80 

This woodsy campground was a Memorial Day weekend treat.  I remember going to Cadiz when I was a kid in the 80's, shopping with my mother at the Piggly Wiggly and staying at our little cabin my dad had built years before.  It had a wood stove that warmed us up nearly to the point of stripping to our undies in the winter time.  We chopped down our own Christmas tree one year and spent several chilly days of December in that cabin.  In the summer, I'd catch tadpoles in the nearby creek and my mom would have to check me for ticks each and every time I came back into the shelter of the cabin. 

Anyway, those are my memories of this area, so I was looking forward to a stay at the same lake that is only about a mile from my childhood memories.  That cabin is long gone now, my dad sold it years ago, and the last news I heard of it, my stepbrother, Jamie, had driven by one day out of curiosity when he was in the area.  The cabin had burned down. 

So here we are at Lake Barkley.  Our site was off to a hillside but the pavement was pretty level and a nice little deck accompanied our hang out spot.  It was hot during the day, very hot actually, but the shade from the trees provided comfort.  We camped at site # 41, a little uphill walk to the restroom, which can be a pain if you've no bathroom in your camper, which we do not, but not so bad.  Good exercise if anything. 

The restrooms are not air conditioned and are completely covered in little pesky gnats.  Nor are they maintained but maybe once or twice per week.  There was an employee who came by to remove the trash and sort of wipe down the sinks, but the shower stalls weren't cleaned.  I definitely recommend wearing your flip flops while showering!  Have I mentioned I cannot wait for the day we own a camper that has its own shower? 

It was crowded for the holiday weekend.  Every site was full. Come Sunday morning though, majority of campers packed up and left.  We enjoyed the quiet that overcame the campground, the only sounds were the hum of passing boats on the lake just down the hill from us. 

The hiking trails were hot and long.  Not recommended for summer time.  The maps weren't officially up to date either.  We began looking for the Wilderness Trail but the trail head was no where to be seen even though we were at the correct location according to the map.  We checked with a friendly park employee and he noted the trail was closed. 

It hasn't really been cleaned up from the January ice storm that his the area hard back in 2010.  Several branches from trees were crushed by the weight of the ice, covering the trail.  He also noted there was a high population of copperheads down by the water this year.  Good to know!

There is a nice, quick trail (that is open) that starts at the campground and will take you to the beach.  We walked this trail with the kids and came out to the parking lot. 

My kids loved swimming in the questionable lake water.  However, I'm not big on any form of public bathing.  I let my feet get a little wet, but that was all.  It was so hot and they love to swim, so I let them jump in and refresh for about an hour.  They have immune systems anyway.

There is an outdoor shower by the restrooms to rinse of the sand and lake water, which I felt was a nice feature.  They need more than one however.  It's located right next to the entrance to the ladies restroom.  There should be one by the men's as well.   

I needed butter to make my fire roasted potatoes, so we took a quick drive to a little general store, where an elderly man sat at his counter, the smell of cigarette smoke thick in the air.  He was quiet, barley nodded his head when I said hello.  His dog lay in the floor by the entrance, a friendly fellow.  Luckily, they had butter, so we purchased it, along with some ice cream for the kids and headed back to the camp site. 

By the way, the recipe for the fire roasted potatoes (or any additional veggies) I'll place in a separate post.  They were AWESOME and not a single bite was left.  Even the kids enjoyed. 

All in all, we will return to this wooded paradise.  I don't expect elegance or service because after all, we are camping. 

Pros: 
  • Friendly park staff
  • Very wooded, nice and shaded
  • Quiet setting, no highway noise, but not too far off the beaten path
  • Playground for the kids
  • Cell phone reception was good in the mornings
  • Hiking is available.  Check with staff to ensure up-to-date info on the trails. 
  • Treat yourself to breakfast at the lodge one morning.  You won't regret it.  Great food and service.
Cons:
  • Bathrooms are an icky, gnat, spider infested mess
  • If I have to pick, it'd be better maintained fire rings.  There were cigarette butts and lots of ash/debris/trash in ours that I had to clean out before making our own fire.
  • No firewood available for sale on site.  Firewood for sale at the local general store.  Follow the signs. 
By the way, I forgot the SD card for my Nikon.  I shot a few pictures with my cell phone.  You can see our campsite below.