The Oyster Blog

The official Anderson's Neck blog with progress updates on our mission to Save the Bay One Oyster at a Time. We will notify you when we post new articles if you Join Our Mailing List.

Laura and I are not avid campers by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, we have never camped together before.  But we had a strong urge to spend the night at The Neck.  When Laura bought me a goose down sleeping bag for Christmas along with some camping supplies, we had what we needed.  Seeing as the winter weather had been mild so far, I suggested on a whim that we celebrate New Year’s at The Neck.  Laura surprisingly agreed.  We kept our plans secret, however. We didn’t want our friends to think we were nuts.

Well we got set up in the middle of our traffic circle at the end of our access road close to the salt marsh.  I was busy chopping firewood and Laura was digging a fire pit.  Once we had everything ready, we got out our chairs, drank a few beers, and cooked up our gourmet dinner of hot dogs and beans.  Boy I sure know how to treat a girl right.  When we were finishing up dinner my dad called on my cell phone to wish us a Happy New Year.  He was telling us all about a six course meal that Bev and his group of friends had cooked up for an all night New Year’s party.  They were dining on all kinds of gourmet French dishes, seafood, and copious amounts of Champagne.  When he asked what we were doing, I told him “we are eating roast hot dogs and beans at The Neck.”  There was a long pause on the other end of the phone which was followed by an explosion of laughter.  He told me, “OK, that’s a first.  Can’t say I ever heard of anyone camping on New Year’s before.”   I am sure I provided him with plenty of dinner table material for his friends that night.

Laura and I sat around the campfire watching the stars.  There was an occasional firework we could see in the distance over the River.  We even saw a shooting star or two.  Then things started to get a little weird.  We started hearing ATVs roaring around on what sounded like our property with a bunch of barking dogs and gun shots.  Really, hunting on New Year’s, as well as trespassing and poaching on our land in the middle of the night?  These hunters never give it a rest.  Our land is apparently wonderful hunting grounds for generations of families who keep coming back, despite not having permission to hunt on land that isn’t theirs.  We’ve had to navigate a gauntlet of hunters along our road who run dogs with radio collars through our land to flush game out.  During hunting season, this is a daily occurrence, including Sunday, when it is illegal to hunt.  Laws don’t seem to deter these guys.

Then the wind started to pick up.  It had been unseasonably warm for the past two weeks and it appeared that a cold front was coming in to return temperatures to normal levels.  We huddled close to the campfire, but our backsides were getting cold.  So we put out the fire and decided to call it a night.  Our plan was to sleep in our semi-constructed shed.  The shed had walls, trusses and a loft floor, but no roof.  We figured we would put our sleeping bags up in the loft so we could see the stars and stay away from the critters down below.

We climbed into the loft, zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags, and settled down for the night.  Our sleeping bags were designed to nearly close at the top to keep the cold air out.  The only problem is that it is tough to breathe when you do that, so I kept mine partially open.  But the temperatures continued to slide big-time.  I spent the day sweating in near 80 degree balmy weather cutting firewood to now find myself camping in temperatures just below the freezing point.  I was shivering like crazy.

Then an owl on one side of the forest started hooting to his buddy on the other side of the forest who would return the call.  At first we thought this was great as Laura and I love birds.  After about three hours of non-stop hooting however, I kept thinking to myself, is he ever going to knock it off and let me get some shuteye?  Apparently not.  Then I heard a huge animal go crashing through the woods and what sounded like a tree falling down.  That was weird.  Then those beers caught up with me.  It was time to venture out of the sleeping bag and take care of some biology.  Man was it cold!  Back into the bag now and try to warm up and finally get some sleep.  I think I managed to get an hour or so, before the dawn broke.  The minute I saw the sun, I poked my head out of the bag and Laura looked right at me.  She was thinking what I was thinking: “Finally, let’s jump in the truck and warm up.”  When we got out of our bags, we realized they were entirely encapsulated in a membrane of ice that had formed from the dew.  It was colder than we thought!  I started up the truck and Laura jumped in, turned the heat to nuclear, put on the seat warmers, and looked for our coffee pot.  We fired up the stove, and cooked up some breakfast.  We jumped back in the truck with breakfast and coffee in hand.  My God, coffee never tasted so good!

We cleaned up the camp site, packed up the truck and headed back to Richmond.  I don’t think I have ever been that cold.  We were trying our best to thaw the whole way back, but it wasn’t until I jumped in the shower back home, that I started to feel human again.  We spent the day recuperating on our couch watching parades and football.  Occasionally we would look at each other and laugh because we both knew that was a crazy idea.  While it may have been silly, New Year’s 2012 at The Neck is one we definitely will never forget.

Tags: ,