by Lisa Fischer
Espresso machine. Check. Catered dinner. Check. Flowers and monogrammed napkins. Check. Sounds like a fabulous dinner party, doesn’t it? It was my first ever camping trip. Yes, I said “camping,” but I meant, “glamping.” I combined glamorous elements on my trip to the great outdoors. And you can sign me up to go again.
Of course, it wasn’t anything I would have known to do. Our publisher Heather Baker and her husband Joel are Olympic gold medalists when it comes to outdoor activities. They have all the gear associated with camping with Jeeps and stuff. Like their own propane tank. A fancy tent with a blow-up mattress. Even something that allows Heather to sleep on the top floor or whatever that is on TOP of the Jeep. They are overachievers. I, on the other hand, am a city girl. I was born in Newark, New Jersey, and lived in New Orleans before I moved to Arkansas when I was 12. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Am I right?
Things started off beautifully and stayed that way. We picked up our zillion dollar recreational vehicle in Conway at Moix RV. It was a $100,000 house on wheels. It had faux granite, a real toilet and shower and enough accommodations to sleep 10 of your closest friends. My husband Kris and I got the master suite; Heather chose the sleeper above the driver’s seat. Joel slept outside like a real camper. My husband spent his childhood going to Arkansas state parks camping so he wanted the fancy seats when he came with me.
We drove to picturesque Petit Jean State Park for a perfect weekend. When we first got there, Heather and I walked some of the property. My husband and I often hike Cedar Falls there, but Heather and I took a different route. (Plus the thought of a margarita at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon trumped any real athletic endeavors.) But I wasn’t aware that there was a little lake there, Lake Bailey. We found the cutest little duck out on the pond, but he was camera shy. Then we wandered over to where people fish on the lake. I met Sharon Ester, 52, of Pine Bluff who says she had just caught 30 bream and “one nice catfish and two smallmouth bass.” She says “Petit Jean is my favorite place to fish.” I see why. In fact, Lake Bailey is 100 acres of property for fishing, pedal boating and kayaking. This is an affordable activity for your tribe. Get a fishing license from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website (so easy to do) and then grab a line and a pole and go to any lake in the state. Yes, it’s cold now, but there are always days when you can wind up on a river or lake to connect with the great outdoors. I have my fishing license from my fly-fishing expedition last February. If you missed the drama in the March issue of AY About You, you missed something. And snacks were involved there, too. Food is always a thing with me.
Back to my stress-free overnight camping expedition. We weren’t the only ones with the idea. In fact, Petit Jean State Park was full for campers, overnighters and even yurt guests. Yes, there are the four Rent-A-Yurts at the park. I loved how people decorated their areas, whether it was their camper, RV or yurt. Christmas lights and American flags adorned their temporary dwellings. My husband and I took a walk after dinner while it was so quiet. The weather was absolutely perfect, but it would even be a great place to go in the dead of winter. I love the soothing sound of silence, away from the city’s noises that we hear all the time.
For the holidays, the need to connect with nature is a must, too. Going to one of our state parks, fishing on the lakes or just taking a hike to walk off the sweet potato casserole are all healthy options dealing with stress and too much holiday family. Did I just say that out loud?
The overnight camping adventure did not last long enough. I learned a lot about myself in those 20 hours. One is that having a toilet on your “property” is a plus. Also, as we camped, I knew I was in over my head when Heather didn’t even wince when a daddy long legs was in her hair. But as the catered foods were served on fancy paper plates, I realized that camping in the Natural State is a great pastime for singles, couples and families.