Brenda, our two dog and I took a short camping trip to the mountains. Less than 2 hours from our home in Good Hope we ended at Don Carter State Park near Helen, Georgia.
The Don Carter State Park is on Lake Lanier and is the newest of the Georgia State Parks. It is in a great location, on the Lake and close to Helen and Dahlonega. Both towns are about a thirty minutes drive from the campground.
The park has nice boat ramps and 8 miles of paddling trails. We didn’t bring kayaks on this trip but next time the boats are coming along. There are 12.5 miles of trails which River, my lab, and I spent hours investigating. More than once we walked up on deer. I was glad we didn’t cross paths with any bear.
Even though the trip was short we learned that camping nearby could offer a change of scenery and easy access to trails, water, and cool Georgia towns.
We just returned from a four-day adventure. During that time there was Bluegrass music, eating, camping, ATV riding and hunting. It was a quick trip but with all the activity it seemed longer.
Our youngest daughter has moved back to Georgia. For her it is the beginning of a great adventure. She, her husband, and their three children are planning to take the next five years, travel the country and station themselves periodically near work projects. Jason, my daughter’s husband, has a job where he works with a team to repair historic sights. This will take them to exciting locations across America. For the next six months are so they’ll be in Georgia as they prepare for their journey.
Our four-day mini-adventure began by a visit with them. Before the visit began we stopped at Tabor Baptist Church in Tignall, Georgia. The church was established on 1827 and a friend of ours is the “Preacher”. The Preacher is also the Sheriff. No one acts out in church.
It was homecoming for the local Baptist member and to celebrate Li’Roy and Lizzie’s Bluegrass Band played. This is an award-winning group that recently won the Bluegrass/Country/Roots Song of the Year, “Dinner on the Ground.” Lizzy was also recently inducted into the “America’s Old Time Fiddler’s Country Hall of Fame”. During the service, the band succeeded in playing long enough in the packed church to avoid a sermon.
After church, we drove into Lincolnton for lunch at the Home Café, owned by Richard. I don’t know his last name, but I know most of his staff by their first names. Ray (Papa) eats there several times a week. I eat there when we’re in town. You will not get fancy food. Richard will, however, serve you good Southern food and your plate will be filled.
Because our daughter is, for the moment, staying with her Grandfather, Ray (Papa to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren) Brenda and I camped at Hester’s’ Ferry campground. There is currently no room to lay our heads at “Papa’s.”
Hester’s Ferry is one of our favorite campgrounds and this time of the year we had the place to ourselves.
This is also hunting season. Last year, with our move from North Carolina home to Georgia, I didn’t get to hunt. I did get out into the woods a lot. Just not for hunting. I’ll hunt with either a rifle or bow. Right not I am still using my bow. I may stick with it all year. There are areas where I hunt I know I’ll not see a deer within 50 yards. When I am there I’ll go to a rifle.
I did get to hunt on this trip and I did see one buck. In fact, that deer, a young buck with a medium sized four-point rack, showed up about 40 minutes after I’d settled into the stand. Despite a perfect opening for an arrow this buck stayed behind branches for about 30 minutes avoiding the opening. He meandered around and snacked until he moseyed out of range.
After calling it a day of hunting I headed back to “Papa’s” to ride grandkids though woods on ATVs. Even though these children have lived in Pittsburgh their entire lives, my daughter (a true Georgia Girl) has had them outdoors pretty much non-stop. During the ATV trips my oldest granddaughter, seven years old, was able to pick out animal tracks and name the animal that had left it behind. In this instance she pointed out: deer, turkey, raccoon, rabbit and squirrel without assistance. She, as are all our grandkids, is extremely comfortable outdoors.
It was a nice four days. Camping, hunting, riding ATVs, and good Southern food make for a successful adventure. With hunting, I don’t need to shot something to call the trip a success. It is more about being outdoors, enjoying family and friends. Live Bluegrass Music from one of the top groups in the business is a bonus.
It was a long week. Starting with an archery tournament and ending with another both in Social Circle. In the middle there was a big family gathering and one huge birthday party.
The start was a competition I nearly didn’t shoot. It wasn’t the difficulty of the shooting that created some pause, it was the hour. It tournament didn’t start until 7:30 PM. But, it was shooting near home, about 25 minutes away in Social Circle. Being so close it is hard to pass up archery contests such a short drive down the road. Heck, if it got too long I could always just go home.
Going home was a drive for others that came to the tournament. Archers from Atlanta, Decatur and Kennesaw were on the line. The line was at 50 meters and the lines were full.
Yes sir, it was a long tournament, but I didn’t leave even though this event went well past my bedtime. The crew from ACE Apache, led by USA Archery Level 4 Coach Big John Chandler, did a great job of organizing and running the show.
I did leave before the awards were presented. I’ll go out on a limb and say I won my age group (over 50). The chance projection is based on the semi-final Olympic Round where when I was finally eliminated – the other few remaining archers seemed no older than 30 years. I made it home at midnight. I was so keyed up that there was no sleeping until after 2:00 AM.
Even though I didn’t fall asleep until around 2:00 AM, our dogs insisted that I was up by 6:00 AM. Dogs have no mercy when it comes to human sleep requirements. It took three days to get over the break in my sleep pattern.
With that to endure there was no time to ease up. There was a birthday bash to follow. By birthday bash, I mean catering, a live blue grass band and a good percentage of the Town of Lincolnton, Georgia attending. This shindig was put together in part by his friends in Lincolnton and his family. It was Ray’s, my father-in-law, 90th birthday.
Aside from lawn maintance my role was to smoke a ham, two large Boston Butts for pulled pork, and grill about 12 pounds of sausage.
At the end of a long week I got to pick up a bow and shoot another tournament, this time a 3D competition. What I can say about the crew at ACE Apache in Social Circle, the put together a 3D range that was perfect. I won that on as well.
Alas, life is full of disappointment. Among them, for me at least, was this past week’s Georgia State ASA Championship. One thing that was not remotely close to disappointing is the Po Boy’s Archery 3D range near Mitchell, Georgia.
The Po Boy’s 3D range is one of the finest I’ve seen in my nearly five years (4 years, 8 months) of archery. It was such a nice range I wanted to ask if I could shoot it again for fun. I didn’t, the range was full of archers, young and mature, giving clinics on how to shoot 3D.
The competition was so strong that if you messed up on a single shot you’d more than likely be out of the run for a first place award. That was me, only I managed it on a few shots. But, there was only one that was strictly unrecoverable – a big hog.
I have a couple pigs on my 3D practice range. The hog on range ‘A’ was honestly one of the easier targets. It was a giant of a pig at least 3 times the size of my largest and my downfall. It was sitting behind two trees which bordered it. It was a great target. It looked so close.
I misjudged that hog by 10 yards. I knew it in the millisecond before my arrow released. And there flew any chance for a descent finish. You know, a giant hog at 38 yards looks a lot like a small pig at 28 yards – at least it did for me. Despite a very solid second round, on range ‘D,’ my tournament was over on range ‘A’ target 10. Unless there would be others that might botch a shot.
On range ‘D’, the second of the two ranges I’d been assigned, I hit seven upper 12s. I knew I’d hit them before I shot. I never called them. The fear was that if I called them I’d shoot an eight and I needed to be conservative and finish with all 10s. The hope being that the other archers in my class (Senior Hunter) would screw up. They did not provide me any help. I finished a sad third place.
My plan going into the tournament was to finish even. Shoot for tens and maybe pull out a 12 here and there. It seemed that 2 to 4 up would win the day in the Senior Hunter class. Shooting even might even bring home a fancy belt buckle.* If I could have stuck with the plan it would have worked. If I’d shot range ‘A’ like range ‘D’ it would have worked. If I’d just shot range ‘A’ a bit tighter. If only, if only….
Believe me, these archers in Georgia aren’t going to cut anyone any slack. The average (eyeball measurement from Facebook posted scores) winning score was 8.7 up with a couple division winners hitting plus 28. If you shoot yourself into a hole there is little opportunity to dig back out.
Once again, there’s next year.
As it turned out shooting even would have won the Senior Hunter division. It is a tough class with a 40 yard maximum yardage, using a hunting rig, and at unknown distances. The winner took the prize at 8 down.
Every year Ray Gastin, my father-in-law, puts on a fireworks show that rivals that of the small towns near his home on the Lake at Clark Hill. These aren’t firecrackers and sparklers. Each is at the maximum class he can purchase having around 500 grams of explosive power. It is a big show that takes days to prepare.
While getting ready for the 4th Brenda and I spend time with Ray. We used to stay at his house on the Lake. Now, we take our camper and use it for home base. That doesn’t mean Ray is home alone. The 4th brings his sons home, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren. There is a house full of people getting ready to enjoy the show while swimming, fishing, heading out on a boat, jet ski or kayak.
The fireworks are ignited and launched from the top of Ray’s double decker boathouse. Prior to the show there is dinner of low country boil, smoked ham and desserts for the family and friends that come to watch and eat.
Looking over the crowd this year I noticed that nearly everyone was either a veteran, the child of a veteran that had grown up while dad was in the military, or spouse of a veteran. Ray is a retired master sergeant that after active duty went on to teach ROTC for 20 years.
Just before dark the cove, where Ray’s dock serves as a launching pad for the nighttime spectacle, becomes filled with boats. We don’t know these people that come to watch. But, over the years the number of boats has risen to around 15 to 20. It is hard to get an accurate count. Boats continue to drift in as the show progresses.
During the display you can hear from people yelling with pleasure and boat horns blasting. Along the shoreline more people gather to watch. Other families have also joined the show firing off similar fireworks – not nearly to the same degree as Ray’s. The result is a cove where above there are explosive colors filling the sky while encircling the audience below. It really is awesome.
For some the 4th of July is just another break from work. For Ray, a 40-year Army veteran it means more than another holiday. The same holds true for the other NCO’s, Chief warrant officers, and commissioned officers that share a special bond with Master Sargent Gastin.
(Note: as I write this I am reminded of a group of archers in Maryland. They have a Facebook page. I shared a posting about the 4th of July with them several years ago. That act got me banned from their Facebook page. I honestly have forgotten who they are and have no idea if they remain fanatical about their treasured Facebook page. I’ve imagined them totally committed to the sport of archery by example of the time spent working on and practicing Facebook. As for me I remain unassociated with them. I feel a certain pride in their rejection. Although, I look forward to competing against any of their members.)
The Winnebago is connected to my King Ranch F-150. Reservations are secured at Parkland RV campground in Statesboro, Georgia. In the morning I’ll finish packing my gear and hit the road. I’m packing to head to Georgia State University to compete in the Georgia Cup, an outdoor 50-meter archery tournament.
The campground is only 3 miles away from the Georgia Southern University range where the Georgia Cup is being held. Talk about convenient!
Brenda and the dogs are staying home. Archery is yet to find its place as a spectator sport. However, a friend that lives in Statesboro is going to come and watch for a while.
Saturday, during the qualification round the weather is going to be nice. On Sunday, during the Olympic Round there is a 50% chance of rain and wind at 13 mph. Nothing can be done about that and we all have to compete under the same conditions.
We’re back in New Hope, North Carolina after two weeks on the road living in our Winnebago Micro Minnie. The trip began as a three-day outing to Madison, NC to attend an indoor archery tournament. The adventure expanded to six campsites over three states: North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina.
From the various campsites we took day trips. Among those was a drive to Wilmington, NC. Wilmington is a nice little town except for the traffic. I especially wanted to go there to see some of the sites where “The Hart of Dixie” was filmed. I have no idea how popular this show was when it ran. I watched it after it had been canceled. It is one of those rare series that had me laughing so hard at times I could barely catch my breath.
In Kinston, NC we stopped and for a second time had dinner at the Chef and the Farmer. Kinston has a nice first come first serve campground at a Nature Park on the Neuse River. It is one of the best deals going at $15.00 per night for a full hook up roomy campsite.
Our longest stay was near Tignal, Georgia at Hester’s Ferry campground. By far this ranks as the best campground we’ve used since we bought the RV. This was our longest stay on the trip because we were in Tignal for Thanksgiving.
At all the campsites I found great running trails and got in some off road cycling several times. After the tournament in Madison, NC, I was able to continue archery practice in Tignal.
What I can say about two-weeks in a Winnebago Micro Minnie (the 2106 Model) – there was plenty room, we never ran out of hot water, and the heat at night (temperatures down to below freezing a time or two) was toasty. Nevertheless, it is good to be home.
Once before I tried a 50-meter event. It did not go well and for a while I swore I’d never do another. It wasn’t the distance or weak shooting that caused me to curdle. It was the hours and hours and hours of sitting around, shooting a little, and sitting some more. Never in my life had I experienced a sporting event as miserable. In fact, after around 6 hours of the mess I packed my gear and went home. A year later, I decided to give it another try at the North Carolina State 50-meter Championships.
The second try compared to the first was about as different as night and day. We shot 12 warm-up arrows, 72 qualifying arrows, took a 40 minute lunch break in the middle and were still finished in about three and a half hours.
Prior to this episode I practiced a lot at 50-meters. Fifty meters is not an awfully long shot, but long enough that is you don’t practice you’ll be losing arrows or sticking them in the blue rings when it matters.
During practice it was often hot and humid here on the eastern shore of North Carolina where I live and train. I was glad I’d never let the weather conditions keep me off the practice range since there were nearly (or possibly) record-breaking temperatures in Burlington, NC during the two-day tournament. A fellow archer had an electronic thermometer with him and recorded the temperature at 100°F. That evening the local weather woman agreed and then expanded the claim broadcasting an achieved heat index of 111°F.
The heat didn’t bother me too much; I was acclimated to the temperature. Heat has never really caused me to suffer as much as it seems to impact others.
In 2007 at the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon* qualifier for the World Championship it got asphalt melting hot. I earned a spot on the team because I outlasted faster duathletes in the heat. The World Championships were another matter. It was so cold on race day I was cramping before I’d even started the first run. I don’t think I ever warmed up on that day. Getting warm was not a problem in Burlington.
Two of the biggest problems I had were the slope of the field and the sun. Neither was a major issue, I prepared for each possibility. But, the main problem was four minutes versus five minutes.
Somehow I’d gotten the impression we had five minutes to shoot six arrows. I’d trained with a stopwatch to maximize the 5 minutes. Opps, we only had four causing a few anxious ends – like 12 of them. More than once I’d look at the clock to learn I had 57 seconds or so to shoot two arrows. I rushed a lot of arrows.
The result was that I ended up shooting subpar hitting several eights and one seven for the day. Honestly, I can’t remember hitting a seven prior the one I hit rushing to beat the clock. The seven wasn’t even the final arrow of an end – I had plenty of time.
When it was all done I did not shoot as well as usual. I also didn’t hit rock bottom. Best of all, I shot well enough to win.
*A duathlon is a multi-sport event consisting of a run segment, a bicycling segment and lastly another run segment.
I’m headed to Burlington, NC for the USA Archery North Carolina State Outdoor Championships. This will be nearly a first for me, that is a 50-meter tournament.
I’ll be camping at Jones Station near Mebane. The Winnebago is hooked up and ready to hit the road. The campground is about 15 minutes from Burlington.
Once before I tried a 50-meter tournament, but walked off the range before it was completed. That one was in Georgia. It was really a sporting experience that remains hard to believe.
In Georgia, after six hours of judges trying to get archers through 72 arrows we were still shooting. It was truly amazing. Heck, I had to leave – I had to get home. Home was another 3 hours on the road. Later, I learned the event wasn’t completed until 11:00 PM. I’d arrived at 2:00 PM. That soured me on 50-meters.
During that tournament the sky was clear, very little wind, and a tad on the hot side. To this day, I have no idea why the officials could not keep that tournament rolling. In hindsight, it was a waste of time.
I’ll give it another try this weekend. The posted start times gives me the impression that shooting 72 arrows is not going to take six hours.
We’re one the road and in Georgia. It’s our annual 4th of July celebration. We’ve been doing this for decades. Since I’ve been writing on this site this marks the third year where our 4th coincidenced with archery. We have a big production here at the Lake House.
My father-in-law, Ray, is the primary instigator of the celebration. He’s retired Army and retired ROTC teacher. The 4th is particularly meaningful to him.
To get to Georgia we stop along the drive and camp. We used to make the drive in one shot. Since we bought our Winnebago, it’s more fun to take our time and enjoy the view.
Our first stop was at Little Pee Dee Campground near Dillon, SC. This makes our third stop at that Campground. Because our trip was just before the weekend of the 4th, we had to settle for the last open campsite. It was really tight. That’s not to mean it wasn’t spacious, it was tight with trees requiring extremely careful parking of the RV.
I needed to be perfect backing in because two trees bordered the entrance. One of them leaned in allowing just inches of clearance. Once in the space was just excellent.
In Tignal we camped at Hester’s Ferry Campground. Having a Winnebago means no one has to rent a place for the overflow of family that comes to enjoy the lake, food, and fireworks.
The trip is not a vacation from archery. We have a field where I practice with my bow and Ray practices with his crossbow. This trip I brought a large block. There are two blocks here, both shot to pieces. The bigger block, carried here in the truck, has two sides that will stop arrows. The larger sides don’t even slow arrows.
The block was hauled to the field, balanced on a smaller block that rested on a chair. Once the paper target was attached to the old block I used a 100-foot tape measure to wheel out 50 meters. Before long the range was open for business.
In the past, I’ve said that I prefer warm weather to cold. Well, I got my wish. I think the coolest day during this trip peaked at 93°F. That’s not to too bad. We get similar temperatures on the coast of North Carolina all the time. Sure, archery practice can be a sweaty business.
Cycling, in the case of this trip, was done pretty early and the heat was not a factor. Even bike rides later in the day didn’t feel as hot as did standing still in the sun shooting. Riding a bike creates a nice breeze.
The final day of 50-meter practice here was the hottest of all – over 100°F. The forecast was for 100°F and we surpassed the prediction. Hiking to pull arrows I made sure to put my bow under the shade of a tree otherwise after an hour or so the bow gets really hot. A black aluminum bow is a great thermopile. Still as hot as it was, I’ll take it over the cold.
We begin our trip home tomorrow. Another 4th is history. Thousands of dollars for fireworks blasted. A mess of great food was eaten. I’ve finished a short bit of writing to remind me about it in the future and I am sharing with you.
In a final note there is group of archers on western shore of Maryland who banned me from their site when I shared my 2014 4th of July post with them. To them I say, “Happy 4th of July! And may the blue rubber suction tips on your arrows always hold true.”