Doughton Park Camping 2018

by - October 18, 2018

How nearly every Blue Ridge Parkway adventure begins and ends: a stone arch

We planned this trip three weeks out when we were looking to camp in Hanging Rock during an October weekend. Every single reservable campsite was booked for every single weekend in October. When I relayed this information to my friend Sarah, who had felt me out on whether we would want to try a joint family trip, she suggested checking out Doughton Park, which I had never heard of. This is a national park, and camping reservations can be made through To our good fortune, there were still three or four spots still available. We grabbed two, and she planned on getting there early to see if they could switch to adjacent sites that were first-come-first-served.

A little background on camping with other families: the trips with other families and later the youth group / college backpacking trips are some of my most life-giving, happy memories. I have beautiful memory locks on these various trips, and since starting a family of my own, I've longed for my kids to share in this type of experience. I'd even say most of Joe's good memories are camping with his dad and Scouts. Growing up in Chattanooga (and Joe in Salisbury), camping was commonplace. Being in Raleigh now, it takes longer to get to the mountains and it is harder to people with similar interests. Throw in a broad range of children's ages, rogue colds and viruses, late summer/ early fall hurricanes, school schedules, and social, church and work commitments, it can be even harder to pin down a date to go once you find these people. We have tried to take the kids camping at least once a year, and so far we've done pretty well. We've done Wiseman's View at Linville (our first trip with kids in 2012), Hanging Rock, Staunton River, Kerr Lake, Blue Bear Mountain, Cape Lookout, Stone Mountain and now Doughton Park.

The Campsite

The campsite we settled on was way back into the campground but right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were very few people actually camping last weekend, so we had a section carved out where the kids were free to run all through the woods without bothering anyone. Really, when we weren't eating or hiking, we didn't have to manage the kids at all. They were off playing out the characters in Lord of the Rings, wielding stick swords, and duct-taping various weapons to their clothes. 

We brought three bundles of wood, but mainly kept the fire going with downed wood.
Joe keeping the flames going

Hike to Brinegar Cabin

I don't know if Brinegar is pronounced like vinegar. I might should have asked the park staff that was working the weaving loom at the cabin. We hiked from the campsite to Brinegar's cabin, and I enjoyed all the textures on the trees and the wide open field along the parkway.

Turkey fan mushrooms?
This tree has some serious bling.
Colors and textures!
Doughton had several trails that were no more than mown grass.
Melfies. Otherwise we'd never be in pictures.
I love thistles and these fall colors.
Field along the parkway
Peperoni sticks!
Douoghton Park Picnic Area

We had one full day of gorgeous weather. After the morning hike to Brinegar's cabin followed by lunch back at the campsite, we drove to the picnic area and walked up to the buffs and then headed over to Wildcat Rocks. The views were so amazing and life-giving.

Trail to the bluffs
Joe likes maps.
Grassy Gap Rd, maybe? Maybe the Parkway?
Sarah likes views
Joe likes having his picture taken.
We salute the view
I like plants.
Dads and their cubs
Scoops knows how to relax
Rock texture
Stephen had to know the hammock would draw the crowds, right?
Time for some reflecting

As I've shared in a few writings now, I'm doing a good bit of reflection on what drives me in the way I relate to others in relationship. Often, I'm driven by a desire to be unique or not like everyone else. This plays out in many ways from my dry and at times brash humor, the memories and stories I choose to share, to even the way I refuse to jump on board the latest health trends and instead brag about my love for butter and bacon. Sometimes I'm intensely aware of not fitting in, and it's then I feel deeply alone and trapped in that persona which I've donned. It's as if what I thought I longed for was nothing but an empty shell born out a faulty belief that it would bring me love and acceptance, but in fact, the natural path of acting on that longing is pushing others away, alienation, and loneliness. My quirky, humorous, "vulnerable" shell brings a nod of fondness from friends (Oh, that's just Paige being Paige) that could at any point change directions with the winds of annoyance because what I've given isn't the real me, so there is no true tether of love. Love is not fondness. Love is not tolerance. Love is not entertainment nor is it convenient. Christian love is the deep embrace of two raggedy souls entwined with a Love that enters our shells and grows from the innermost place until who we've presented ourselves as to the world begins to shatter as it can no longer hold who God has created us to be. So the desire for uniqueness is the middleman, and he's not delivering on the core desire. 

What does this have to do with camping? I love camping because I love the mountains and love connecting with nature. Yet on some level I love camping because that fits my idea of who I am and how I want to present myself to the word. It fits the image I have of who we are as a family. We aren't like these other city-slickers. We camp. We raise chickens and grow food downtown. We have camping gear from high school. We we we. This past weekend stretched me in a joyful way of becoming we community, not we Pucketts. I may be making way too much of this, but I don't think I am. Camping with another family, sharing stories around the fire, sharing traditions, and letting people see us not just for one pretty hour on a Sunday was good. It's fine and well to create a family identity, but when life becomes all about maintaining that mechanism of the way you operate and not about connecting and communing and finding commonality, it serves only to isolate. What I've found true of gardening is that it brings me the greatest joy is when I'm able to share it with others by passing on plants, food, sharing know-how, letting friends explore. What I've found true from childhood and now again that the kids are no longer little, is camping with friends makes it better. 

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