First up on our Georgia State Park bucket list is Hard Labor Creek State Park.
Why did we pick this one in particular? Well two reasons:
- The name is fascinating! I mean seriously, how did it derive it’s name?
- It is close to home and on the way to our daughter’s apartment in Augusta.
So let’s talk about the second reason first. Our daughter, Olivia, lives 2.5 hours away in the most eastern area of Georgia. She has epilepsy and cannot drive so we visit her every other weekend to to check up on her. We figured this would be a good park to hit first so that a large portion of our day Saturday could be spent with her and we would not have to figure out what to do all day in the woods. I know, I know, we are camping losers! But I swear we will get better!
This brings us back to the number one reason for choosing this park as our first to visit.
So What’s with the Name?
My husbands first thought was that maybe it used to be an old prison camp. Wouldn’t THAT be fun with the rich history and ghosts of dead inmates running around. But alas, that is not how the name came about. The park is named after Hard Labor Creek, a small stream that cuts through the park. The creek’s name comes either from workers who once tilled the summer fields, or from Native Americans who found the area around the stream difficult to cross. Still kind of cool.
How Did Our First Camp -Out Go?
We came unprepared, un-supplied, and unworthy of calling ourselves “campers”
In my very first blog I discussed camping supply list. My husband and I didn’t want to invest in a lot of items for camping until we knew that this is really something we wanted to do. Therefore we purchased four main items before setting off for the woods.
- A tent
- 2 sleeping bags
- 2 chairs
- Cooler with 2 meals in it (Hamburgers and eggs and bacon)
After spending one night in the woods, on the second afternoon, we went shopping for a wee bit more supplies, such as bug spray. Lesson #1: Don’t get caught without the right gear ya’ll. Check out a complete (and ever growing) list of items needed here.
So, I could lie and tell you it was all sunshine and happiness, but I won’t. Here is the dirty truth of our first camping weekend.
It starts here…
Y’all, let me tell you something, I am like the princess and the pea when it comes to my pillow. I can tell the minute my head hits the pillow if I don’t have the right one. I also will wake up with a crick if I don’t have it. Can I get an “amen” from all you out there who understand me on this?
The weekend started by Shane picking me up at work on Friday evening. I glance in backseat and see my bag and squishy pillow. My man, being thoughtful, packed the right one for me. I get in and give him a quick kiss and say,
“Thanks for making certain that you got my squishy“.
His reply was a matter-a-fact: “well yeah I was so worried about getting all your $h!t, that I forgot my own pillow……”
*wow! I am already hearing crickets and we aren’t even in the woods yet!*
After the song of silence, I have a brilliant, “save the day” idea! I jumped out of the car and run back into my office building. I came out holding a small square pillow from the 1980’s that I
stole borrowed out of the owner’s office.
Look carefully, you can see the pillows in the photo. Shane still wasn’t impressed, but as usual, I was please with myself.
We arrived at the park around 7pm, checked in and headed down the quiet, tree lined road towards the camp ground. We found the perfect spot that was a little secluded and unpacked our supplies. Seeing that the packing list was very small it took all of about 45 seconds.
Tent went up in a cinch! Whooo! we are off to a good start!
Shane had picked up some food to cook in the evening and some charcoal so he started preparing the hamburgers to cook on the grill while arranged our sleeping bags out in our tiny two man tent.
Shane thinking that charcoal would do the trick for cooking, started the fire only to realize it wasn’t getting hot enough. The grill inside the little fire ring was too far away from actual coals. We needed wood. We don’t own a truck so hauling wood around in our cars trunk is not exactly what we would like to do, so it was not purchased. However, my man had thought ahead and purchased this little cable saw so off we went into the woods to gather some fallen limbs to stoke the fire. So far we hit two obstacles but over came both pretty easily! Not bad for two middle age city dwellers who have no idea what we are doing. Edit by Shane: he knows what he is doing it has just be a while since he has done it.
As Shane is tending the fire, I decide that I am going to send a text to my girls to let them know we made it to the site and to keep in touch with us and each other in the event there is an emergency. I have a 23 year old, who lives on a lake with her boyfriend, a 19 year old who is attending college and a very soon to be 18 year old who was staying home for the weekend. I unlock my phone and open my messages and quickly type a message to Emily, Olivia and Julia stating what should happen in case of an emergency. I hit send and immediately I get a bounce back saying, “MESSAGE UNDELIVERED“. I look at my signal expecting to see one bar and was horrified to see the words “No Signal”.
Don’t Expect to have a Signal in these Woods.
Oh.. my … gosh.. that is SO uncool! Technology is my friend!
I NEED MY PHONE!!!
My ADULT children have no way of knowing I am UNREACHABLE!
I start to slightly panic. I consistently ride the crazy train of anxiety when it comes to my family and I know that I am going to be channeling that very Ozzie Osbourne song in about 2 minutes. I can hear the lyrics resonating in my head, “All Aboard… hahaahahahaha”. This is the first time in 24 years of being a mother that my children have no way of contacting me. This is not an option… Or is it? I start walking around holding my phone up in the air hoping to see a tiny bar pop up. Nothing. So I move around closer to the fire. Nothing. How about towards that tree over yonder? BINGO! I hit the sweet spot! One bar! I quickly hit send again and call my sweet sister to tell her she was on emergency duty all weekend. All I heard from her through the garbled signal was, “I heard you! On it!” Whew! No panic stricken Crazy Train singing needed. My chair was planted in the spot and it stayed in that spot all weekend. Turns out, I didn’t even need the phone again. It was an option and it was going to be okay.
Fire Pits are Hot in Georgia Summers
As the fire began to roar and the heat coming off of it (combined with the Georgia summer humidity) caused lines of sweat to run down our torsos and into the cracks of our butts, now we’re cookin! Shane threw our frozen hamburger patties on the grill and looked at me and smiled. I went to the cooler and opened it. Looked around at the bags on the table and rummaged through them and then announced, “um, we forget the condiments and seasonings” *sigh* Now boarding the crazy train! “All Aboard! Hahahahaha” (Please tell me you get the reference, if you don’t you should definitely go listen to a lil’ Ozzie.)
Seriously, we were either very hungry or those frozen patties came pre-seasoned because they were dang good! Or maybe it was what was in my solo cup that made me care less.
By the way: Alcohol in GA State Parks is Prohibited.
Don’t say I didn’t warn ya if you get caught playing “True American” in your campsite.
Best keep the noise down and the drinking to a minimum if you are going to break the law and all. I also saw the rangers drive by a few times right after dark checking on things before they bunked for the night.
As we ate our condiment free burger in the twilight fleeting evening a sense of relaxation came over us. We quietly sat there just listening to the crickets, bull frogs, and owls. The sun was slowly setting and the sky grew darker and darker until….
BOOM! DARKNESS FALLS
Dude, there is absolutely zero light under the canopy of trees. I mean I know the moon was up there but dang.. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face! I tried to record the hundreds of fireflies that were in the woods beside us, in front of us and above us. They were everywhere, but it didn’t pick up on my camera. This show was so much better than watching TV or playing on my phone. We sat there and talked about catching lightning bugs (that’s what we call them here in the South) when we were children. Did you know that lightning bugs are not out west. I read that and was shocked. People in California say they have never experienced them before.
Interesting fact: The main reason Lightning Bugs flash is to attract mates. Males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation. If the female sees a flasher and she’s ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male’s last flash.
Electricity in the Camp Ground? Maybe, Maybe Not.
Right before bed we decided we should probably charge our cell phones over night in case of emergency so we headed over to the post with all the outlets on them. By flash light we read the directions and plugged our phones in. Nothing happened. For the life of me we never did figure out how to get the electricity to work. But as a note, this camp ground like most GA State Parks do have electricity (if you know how to work it.)
Sleeping on the Ground is .. HARD
Only thing to say here is: Buy a sleeping pad, air mattress or something. Don’t sleep in just a sleeping bag.
We bought food to cook for breakfast but instead decided to head to the small town of Rutledge to eat at a local dinner before heading to Olivia’s for the day. We ate at Yesterday Cafe and the biscuits were to die for. They were these huge fluffy pillows that melted in my mouth. Shane could have used one of these the night before to sleep on! I also hear that the buttermilk pie is heaven on a platter, but seeing that it was 8 am we didn’t partake. The workers were so nice and it has just this quaint little cafe in a small town. And I do mean SMALL. Right next door is an old time hardware store that is really neat. It is a museum of sorts about plumbing and such things.
Hiking the Trails
Every morning we had two lovely cardinals greet us. It looked to be a male and female. The male would come sit on the log while the female stood guard in the trees. They enjoyed our bread very much.
This park has 24 miles of trails. We hiked 3 of them. The terrain was very easy with several bridges to cross. There is a swampy lake that is picture worthy. We saw flowers and odd trees. One tree grew up the side of a cliff, ran along the ground and died, sprouted new roots and then up it went to the sky. Very cool indeed. If you stumble upon this wonderful old oak, look inside the dead part for a Geocache.
Don’t be a schmuck… see this beauty. We missed it… before heading to a park, check out what the park has to offer. I didn’t. I relied on just the site map and because we didn’t do our homework we missed this.
About the State Park
HLCSP is just outside the Atlanta metro area. It is located between Madison and Covington off I-20.
The park has a plethora of things to do.
- Lakeside beach
- 24 miles of trails
- Horse owners can bring their horses and house them in stalls
- Kayak rentals
- Bird watching
- Twilight and night hike guided tours
- Night sky observations during summer months
- Breakfast with Ranger John
The Creek Golf Course provides one of Georgia’s best golf values, along with a pro shop, driving range, rental carts and special rates for seniors and children. The 18-hole course is a favorite for its challenging layout and well maintained greens combined with a pristine, natural setting. The first hole has been called “the hardest starting hole in Georgia.”
The Trading Post has a few supplies if you forget something like salt & pepper, like we did. But be willing to pay a bit more for the luxury of not having to leave the park to run get ice. Make sure if you visit the trading post you say hello to “Evander Holifield Kitty” (that is the name we gave him, not his real name) any guesses why we named him that?
- 46 Campsites
- 20 Cottage
- 11 Horse Campground Sites
- 4 Picnic Shelters
- 2 Group Camps
- 30 Horse Stables
Ready to make a reservation? Visit Reserve GA State Parks