Camping at Turkey Pen in Pisgah

There are some work weeks that call for a high intensity weekend and other work weeks that call for some relaxation. A little while ago Remington and I needed some relaxation, so we headed to the woods at Turkey Pen in Pisgah National Forest.

To get to Turkey Pen you have to drive a mile or two down a windy, bumpy, dirt road until you reach the parking area. From there, you can hike, bike, or horse-ride down into the valley. The valley offers immediate seclusion with a network of trails along and across the Mills River. After couple days of hiking, fishing, and camping, we left Pisgah feeling refreshed, and it occurred to us that the words refreshing and camping may not be used in the same sentence for everyone. Here are some tips for a relaxing weekend outdoors:

Before you even hit the trail make sure you turn off your electronics and leave them off. The one exception to this rule is your camera, but I strongly discourage using your phone as a camera. If you take a picture with your phone, then the next thing you know you will be posting to Instragram…and Facebook…and Twitter.

Now that you are ready for the trail, one of the easiest ways to have a relaxing time in the woods is to get there early. No one enjoys setting up camp in the dark – especially if you are cold and hungry. On one of our first backpacking trips together, Remington and I underestimated the strenuousness of the trail and arrived at our campsite about an hour after sunset. While it proved a good test for our patience with each other, it was definitely a situation we would have preferred to avoid. Another perk of arriving early is it gives you

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time to scout out the available campsites. Most of us retreat to the woods to escape the rest of society, so we want to find an isolated campsite. Unless you have been on the trail before it is hard to know which sites are private and which sites are directly on the trail.

Once you have found a site and have set up camp, then you will be ready to start exploring. Hopefully you always pack a map, so this is the perfect time to open your map and study the trails near your campsite. You may notice a trail that leads an overhang with a view or a small waterfall. In Turkey Pen, Remington and I saw some river crossing on the map and decided to check them out. The trail led us to a cool suspension bridge over Mills River. You might be thinking, “I just went hiking, and now you’re suggesting I do more hiking??” Don’t worry, I think that a lot and thankfully there are plenty of other backpacking friendly activities. We purposefully camped along the Mills River so we could go fly-fishing. Fly-fishing rods are lightweight and easily pack down to attach to your backpack. Other options are slack lines, plant identification, frisbee, card games, and knot tying.

At this point you are bound to be getting hungry. I am a firm believer that just because you are in the woods does not mean you have to eat like you are in the woods. One of the best boosts to camping morale is a yummy meal by the fire. It was a little chilly while were in Turkey Pen, so we packed the ingredients for Tree Frog Soup with Rattlesnake. Our spirits were rejuvenated instantly and we spent hours talking as we stared into the campfire. One of my parts of camping is taking time to enjoy the stars. Remington and I live in downtown Greenville where we can only see a limited number of stars. It is always refreshing to watch the stars come alive in the night sky while we are secluded in the woods. Finally, have a pillow for your sleeping bag so you will wake-up feeling a relaxed as when you went to bed.

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Morning sunshine on the Mills River
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