The year 2020 was supposed to have flying cars, those “replicators” from Star Trek that instantly materialized a breakfast burrito, and Internet that doesn’t lag. Instead, kids are eating Tide-Pods, Joe Exotic came back, and The United States put everyone on house-arrest, unless you’re “essential” like Healthcare, Public Safety, or Grocery.

We also learned that amidst the “Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020” that we needed to be socially distanced. What that is supposed to mean is that everyone stays 6 feet apart, however what it looks like is complete shut down of public facilities. So, being that we love camping, and we were all in need of a break, new friends banded together to practice #DistancedButSocial and took to the mountains of North Carolina.

Fun fact… we will be celebrating Cinco De Mayo at home on Taco Tuesday because of a virus named after a Mexican beer.

I left the house early on Friday. When I say early, it’s because I was supposed to work till 5. 5 to me, is actually 4 because I start my day earlier so that I can get more accomplished. But on this particular Friday it was exceptionally rough. So, I threw the laptop on the passenger seat, connected to my hotspot, and took my calls from the highway. I had completed all of my work already, and so I just needed to be available for anything that may arise. I figure, working remotely means I can work anywhere, so as long as I had my stuff with me, I could easily pull over and address any concerns that needed my attention.

Working “Remotely”

I arrived at Old NC105 which feeds into the Pisgah National Forrest around 6pm. It’s a fun gravel road which winds through the mountains on the back way into Wisemans View. On the right are gorgeous views of Table Rock, looking in the direction of Grandfather Mountain. To the left, are other amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I stopped along the way up and took some pictures while I searched for the people I would be camping with. @Jess_The_JK and @TinyTanTank were supposed to meet me here.

I bumped into @Jess_The_JK (Enrique and Kate) and we stopped at Wisemans View to “rehydrate.” @TinyTanTank (Matt) was supposed to be just behind me but after a couple of hours, we decided to setup camp and start a campfire and just let him locate us. When Matt showed up, we met his friend Kate, and his dog Oden. After camp was set up, we all stood around a small campfire chatting about all things until we heard a familiar sound – the sound of a police siren followed by “Police Officer”. We were informed camping was not allowed because of the “state of emergency.” So apparently, while they want us socially distanced, the most socially distant thing you can do is off limits. We were polite, and in return he “allowed” us to stay until Morning.

Around 1:30 am we all fell asleep. I slept about 3 hours total, and around 6:00 AM decided to just get up. I woke, searched for my coffee rig (an AeroPress and JetBoil combination) and proceeded replenishing my caffeine intake. I watched as the sun came up over Table Rock, walked around camp a bit and waited till the rest of the crew arose (around 9:30). Once camp was packed up, Matt had connected with a friend of his and secured us a dispersed campsite on the New River near Boone on private land so we proceeded to ride through town on our way there. A quick stop for fuel, restrooms, and for them to get some McDonalds resulted in finding out Enrique had blown his driver-side sway bar connect. Thankfully, it is a relatively inexpensive repair and no other damage was done. We arrived at Dollar General for some additional supplies and met with Matt’s Friend Jeff.

Navigating the trails

A short drive away we reached the winding trails that would take us to the private land. Man… the first true trails I would be taking the Tacoma on. To add to the anxiety, I had Rachel’s dog (Rachel is Matt’s sister and came along to ground-camp) in my truck. Going up some sketchy trails, I ended up putting the truck in 4LO and she did great – up and until “Tilley” (the dog) nailed my truck into neutral. I thought I blew a driveshaft or something! Thankfully, putting the truck back in drive we were good to go until Jeff realized he went the wrong way and we all got to enjoy the luxury of on-trail turnaround. Enrique went 3 wheels on ground as he turned around, and I tucked my back driver tire all the way up in the pocket as I made my reverse. But once we arrived at the site there was one last thing to do …. a huge mud pit. Next time, maybe I’ll remember to roll the windows up!

Sitting around the 4-Star Hollar

Camp was setup and we all sat around talking for a while. The weather was perfect – a little warm in the sun, a little cool in the shade. Eventually, Jeff setup a pretty good campfire and we all transitioned to sitting around that. Dinner’s started cooking, and we all continued to “rehydrate” when all of a sudden a mason jar of “not-water” started passing around. I’ve had some before, but this was probably the best “not-water” I’ve had. We decided that because of the views, the campfire, the sounds of nature, and the friendship – this would be called the “4 Star Hollar”. It would have been 5-stars, but apparently the other campsite (which was being used) is a little better.

Around 10:30pm we were all spent, and agreed to call it a night. We packed our things and climbed in our tents. Enrique and Kate in their Alu-Cab, Rachel and Tilley in her ground tent, Matt, Kara and Oden in his CVT Mt Rainier Summit Extended, and me in my CVT Mt Rainier Summit standard. I had the best sleep ever in that tent this night and woke the next morning feeling great. I laid in the tent looking up through the sky panels in my tent at the sky as the black turned light blue, then lighter, and finally blue as the sun was up and above the horizon. I changed into fresh clothes and started packing my things (my ritual in the morning to make tear down of camp quick and painless). Once everything was packed, I opened up the vents to make folding the tent up a little easier, and laid inside watching the New River flow by, listening to nature, and just soaking up the last few minutes of PandemiCamping.

Overlooking the New River

I was ready to get home to see my kids, and Enrique and Kate knew they had to take their drive slowly with their sway bar disconnected so we shook hands with everyone and wished them well. Matt, Kara, Rachel, Jeff, Oden, Tilley and Jeff’s dog Boone stayed to enjoy some trail action while Enrique, Kate and I started our trip back up the trail to the main road. I used Crawl Control in my Tacoma just to see how it worked and it did great. Wasn’t necessary but it had some cool factor. As we left the property and came to the stop sign at the end of the road, Enrique and Kate turned right and I turned Left, thus ending our time together as new friends. 3 and a half hours later I was pulling in my driveway, tired from a lot of driving, a little sunburnt from enjoying the weather and driving home with all the windows down, and ready to unpack and spend some time with the kids.

Matt, Kara, Enrique, Kate, Rachel and Jeff – thanks for the awesome trip!

Tilley – thanks for not causing us to wreck.

Oden…. thanks for not biting me!

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