October 2013 – Vogel State Park, Ga.
I grew up camping with my father in Northern Georgia. Whenever there was an open Sunday afternoon, we’d set out hiking, regardless if it was in a state park or in the backwoods of his house.
With that in mind, I began researching the organizations available at UF that offer outdoor activities and trips. Two of my friends and I settled on TRiP, an organization that plans a series of one-day and weekend trips all over Florida and nearby states. This brings me to my second travel of my junior year of college (the first being the aforementioned San Francisco trip with my boyfriend) to Vogel State Park, Ga.
We left on Friday for the three-day trip, which involved carrying all our belongings, including all the food and supplies we’d need for the weekend, on our backs and backpacking to a primitive campground. Primitive camping — meaning no showers, no bathrooms, no outlets and no communication with the outside world.
(I go the gym about once a month so I clearly did not know what I was in for.)
We arrived at the park late in the afternoon on Friday and began our trek toward our camping site for the night. With an estimated 30 pounds on our backs (this is not an exaggeration), our ten-member group followed the two TRiP leaders through the woods. We hiked mostly uphill for about three hours. It was without a doubt one of the hardest things I’ve physically done in my life. Oh, and half of the hike was done in the dark, because the trees completely hid the sun by 6:30 p.m. Needless to say when we arrived at our destination, I was one happy camper. (Ha, get it?)
We set up our tents, picked roommates for the night (my two friends and I ended up rooming with Derek, an engineering student who seemed to be in an affair with his technological devices, seven of which he brought on the trip). We were told to bring one bowl and one spoon on the trip, which we licked clean at the end of every meal to not attract any animals. I bathed in baby wipes and survived the night (thanks to the awesome sleeping bag I rented from the Outfitter at school).
Saturday we woke up at around 7 a.m. and had a banana and M&M pancake, cooked by our top chef TRiP leader. We hiked down to a lake (which had actual an bathroom facility – YES) and the stronger ones of us braved out the cold and jumped in. I was in the weaker group. We were eventually kicked out of the lake area because we had crossed over in a national park, and this was during the government shutdown (shout-out to Congress).
On the way back to camp, I got stung by a bee.
That afternoon, we packed everything up and hiked up Blood Mountain. That night, we slept on top of the mountain.
We laid our sleeping bags on a flat rock that overlooked an incredible view of the Georgia mountains. Falling asleep beneath the stars that night is definitely in the top-10 most amazing nights I’ve ever had.
Moral of this trip: UF TRiP is definitely worth it! Take advantage of the opportunities given to us through our university.