Gov't Shutdown? Let's Camp!

See the cones? Thanks, Obama. I kid, I kid. But really, only foot traffic allowed in a closed National Park! It was all ours... OURS!

The experience was unique during the shutdown. We were able to walk in the middle of the road, winding up into the Smokies, and cross under a bridge on foot. With nearly no auto traffic, it felt eerily like we had been abandoned in some formerly inhabited city. We passed a few other hikers at Afsi's break-neck walking speed, but other than that, we had the park to ourselves.

Along the road, there were vines on which we could swing and walls we could climb. With some sheer dumb luck, all of our extreme hiking activities were missed by the occasional park ranger, who would periodically speed along our mountain hike-way. 

George of the Jungle

Story time! We got about 7 miles into our hike on the paved road and we finally found a trail head. We started walking into the forest and I had a funny feeling come over me. Like something was wrong. So I started making up stories about bears to Kevin, that the horse hooves we saw were actually bear tracks in disguise.

The clever Smoky Mountain bears have advanced to using tools. In our imagination, these horseshoe prints were made by groups of bears using the legs of beautiful, innocent horses that had ignored their instinct and paid the price. The peaceful little trail we had found was definitely leading us directly into a trap. The worry was almost

We had food and they love food, and of course the food we had included honey. After about 10 minutes of rambling my nonsensical bear stories, we turned around back to the paved road. Suddenly, a dingy white truck with a Marine Veteran sticker pulled up. Which first, I thought, it's foot traffic only! The rangers will get 'em! Then we noticed a couple of ladies sitting in the truck bed. The elderly veteran kindly asked if we wanted a ride down the hill because he'd spotted a momma bear and two cubs about a mile away. BEARS. THREE BEARS. The truck driver was a rancher for the park, in charge of running the stables. Needless to say, Kevin got many "I-told-you-so"-looks and now he knows that I am more in tune with nature than him (which obviously I'm not).

I bet a bear did this.
After we thanked the kind gentleman for almost certainly saving our lives, we walked back to our little campsite at the KOA and made dinner number 1, which turned out to be delicious.
Be Prepared"- the Boy Scout motto. I was more than prepared with food options so I requested two dinners, which Afsi delightfully accepted. She invented a rice and shrimp dish that could be easily cooked all together, and we closed out the evening with steak, caramelized onions and potatoes, all roasted on cast iron over the fire. It was a romantic evening, as we finished our steak and settled in to watch the Little Mermaid with the rest of the campground's families. Parts of the movie were punctuated with shouts from around the KOA, as the real campers celebrated and mourned their favorite sports teams, being watched on satellite from La-Z-Boys on big screens on the side of their RVs. This was an entirely new style of camping for this Eagle Scout, one that seems to be a perfect blend of my love of fire and sleeping outside and Afsi's love of hot running water and people (to keep the bears at bay).

If you need campfire recipes, or just want us to cook for your over a campfire - you won't be disappointed!

**written jointly by Afsi and Kevin.