With the great weather we'd been having here in northeastern NC recently, we decided to spend a few days in Great Smoky Mountain NP last week. This early in the season and going mid-week, I figured getting a site at any of the NP campgrounds would be a breeze - WRONG, forgot about Spring Break for the college kids.
We arrived at Smokemont around four, drove through and the place was packed. Fortunately, the lady working the desk said she was just getting ready to open another loop and to follow her while she did so. Got a great site
After setting up, we kicked back and watched the rest of the sites in the loop fill; almost all of them with college kids. For those who've never experienced this, I highly recommend it. It was obviously the first time camping for many of them. Beside us were six guys from Michigan with a huge old Kelty tent they'd borrowed. Unfortunately, the shock cords had deteriorated and no longer connected the various poles. I think they had at least a half dozen sections left over but it did sort of look like a tent when they finished. On the other side, four Ga Tech students strung hammocks, one over the other, between two big fir trees. The top one must have been at least ten feet above the ground. The group behind us had purchased a cheap WalMart tent that was missing stakes and guy lines. Twenty five students from Tn were with their instructor for a camping class offered by the school (don't recall that being an option when I was in college). Several just had a sleeping bag and pad laid out on the open ground.
We provided duct tape, stakes, line, matches, charcoal and limited advice to many, shared our dutch oven peach cobbler and met almost all the kids in our loop. Just watching their unbridled enthusiasm and fun made us feel forty years younger by the time we left. I can also say they were, without a single exception, polite, respectful and courteous. There was very little alcohol displayed and no one got out of hand. I'd guess most of them came over to say goodbye as we were packing up to leave. Maybe the future of our Country won't be in such bad hands after all.
The next time you're out, find a group of young campers and watch them for a few minutes. Chances are they won't have all the toys we do but, if they're anything like those we camped with last week, I'll bet you'll envy the experience they're having and recall similar times when you first started.