Another long cold night last night, made longer because we’re turning in earlier than we would do normally just to try and conserve what little power there is in the batteries for the heating system to operate during the night. After showering we had a hot breakfast and checked on our next door neighbours through the window. They were a couple of young lovers who had pitched their tent in an RV space, so were no doubt being woken this morning by the noise from our generator. I’ve no idea what they’re eating apart from each other, as we’ve not seen them surface at all apart from finding them sitting by a smoky log fire yesterday when we returned from a walk, and soon afterwards disappearing back inside the tent. They will certainly have needed their love to keep them warm last night.
When I eventually stepped out of the vehicle I noticed that the Park Rangers had run off with the remains of the 3½ft heavy log I’d carried all the way from inside the forest yesterday, no doubt because it didn’t conform since it was larger than the Fire Pit/Grill it sat in. Never mind, I was still left with about 70% of the large original log I dragged up the river bank and which was slow to burn.
The first job was to try and sort out the auxiliary batteries. I hacksawed through the bar which clamps across both batteries to hold them in place, it was the only way I was going to get to check the fluid levels. Once it was off I managed to wiggle things around a bit until I could get the inspection covers off the cells. Surprisingly they weren’t dry at all but may have been down a little and so I gave them a bit of a top up. This was to prove a waste of time as it didn’t make any difference at all; still the exercise of hack sawing on a cold morning was a good way of keeping warm.
The young lovers eventually surfaced, took their tent down and packed everything away, leaving about 13:00 – they must have been hungry.
We were running a bit behind schedule and didn’t leave for our planned long walk until about 14:00. It was supposed to have been about 6 miles long, but foolishly we hadn’t thought to bring any water out with us and by now it was sunny and warm and we were on a steep, uphill, narrow trail in the forest. We soldiered on for well over an hour before we concluded that we weren’t making sufficient progress to ensure that we were back in good time and in the daylight, therefore we felt the most responsible thing to do was turn round and go back again, something we don‘t like doing. After a while we came across a young couple coming the other way, just as we passed them she shouted ‘SNAKE’ and we all stopped, I said “Really?” and she pointed to a small greeny-brown smooth looking snake, only about 15” long which must have been crossing our paths as we walked along the trail. After watching it until it disappeared into the undergrowth we continued our descent.
When we arrived back at the campground our RV was absolutely covered in ladybirds, the same thing had happened yesterday, there must be something very attractive about the combination of the colour white and sunshine. On entering the RV there were lots of them inside, then I remembered that most slide-out units, despite having rubber seals, have small gaps around them when deployed and the ladybirds had found them. It was no use our opening the door to let them out as they would have been joined by hundreds of others trying to get in. First we would bring the slide-out unit in; this would give us a proper seal around its edge with the bodywork. We could then deal with the insects inside. The slideout came in bringing with it hundreds more ladybirds who thought they’d pop in for a look around. So now the killing began. The 50 cent fly swat I bought in a Wal-Mart store rather than use chemical sprays in such a confined space came in to its own; we were even vacuuming them up alive as well as dead. After the first major killing spree we went for a sit out in the sun in the hope that those remaining would show their faces thinking they’d got away with it, then we’d strike for a second time, which we did about an hour later. We managed to get a lot more of them but knew we’d be finding them for days to come. Strangely enough they didn’t venture in to the bedroom area, which considering the RV’s open-plan design is very odd.
I’d concluded that this campfire stuff is a bit Alpha male and a bit competitive – step forward the guy with the trailer (caravan) in a pitch on the loop across from us but down in a small copse. Last night he had a pretty good fire going until I set fire to the two logs I’d collected and about $7 worth of the ‘tourist’ logs. Once it took hold it put his to shame. I guessed he’d be looking to put things right tonight in some kind of rematch. The problem for me was the Ranger had run off with one of my big logs and there was no way I was going to buy any more tourist logs - but I had a cunning plan.
The good fire pits or rings have the round bottom area for burning logs in and above that an adjustable grate or grill which can be used for cooking food over the fire, or can be tilted 90° to the upright position out of the way leaving just the fire pit. Nobody seems to use the grates as they’re usually rusty and grotty, and so before battle commenced I took out of the pit the remaining log from last night, placed some baco-foil in the bottom of the round pit, and then stood my LPG powered campfire in it trailing the gas pipe out of the ring and attaching it to a gas cylinder hidden behind a tree and out of his view. I then adjusted the grill so that it was about 4 inches above the ceramic logs of the LPG campfire and on to the grill I placed the large remains of my one slow burning log.
I then set up our own LPG BBQ grill for our evening meal. Sure enough after a while out he came and started his fire with lots of eye contact – this was it then, let battle commence. I ignited the LPG campfire and kept it fairly low, he took the bait and began piling more wood on to his, and he was giving it his best shot. I left it until he was gloating sufficiently before turning the LPG to full power allowing the flames to rise up and burn the remaining log, then sat relaxing next to it enjoying the fire.
After a time he was clearly struggling to understand why I wasn’t continually getting up to put more logs on, he must have been running low on wood because he went off for a while searching for more. From a distance mine would have looked like a large pile of logs brimming over the top of the ring, but was in fact just one log perched high up on a grill and a whole lot of gas flame coming up from underneath it. In the meantime The Chef asked me to pop up to the bear-proof dumpster and deposit today’s rubbish. On my return I passed the fire pit of the young lovers, our previous neighbours and now a vacant pitch, and low and behold there was the equivalent of half a bundle of slightly burnt logs in there, so out they came and on to the grill they went to join my one and only large log. Soon they were well alight and then The Chef called me in for our evening meal as we were eating it indoors due to the chilly air. Having enjoyed our meal we both came out to sit by the well developed fire, when I looked across at the opposition, his fire was out, and he was in, probably crying in to a tightly held glass of Jack Daniels. Never mind it was an entertaining way to get rid of a lot of excess LPG before the end of the trip.
We were again in bed early because of insufficient power for the heating. I was determined to sort this problem out as we couldn’t continue with such limited auxiliary power, it was starting to spoil things and that couldn’t be allowed to happen. Tomorrow we will be on the move towards Atlanta.
LOCATION TONIGHT: Smokemont Campground, 60 Enloe Floyd Bottoms Road, Cherokee, NC 28719.