I just took my family on what is arguably the worst camping trip of our lives. We went to Cherokee, North Carolina which is one of the last vestiges, perhaps the last, of Cherokee Indian land in the United States. Fifty-six thousand acres I'm told are all that is left of the Cherokee holdings which used to include Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and only the Cherokee know what else. It's a beautiful setting, nestled in at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a quaint but continually growing tourist location at the intersection of Highways 441 and 19 just north of the Georgia line in North Carolina. Because we wanted to be in Cherokee, and we are leery of Mom and Pop campgrounds (some are wonderful, but . . .) we went ahead and booked a KOA. Boy am I ever glad we did.
The weather this trip started great: we arrived Sunday to 70 degrees and sunny. Sunday night, temps dipped to the high 40's and throughout Monday it got up to 74º and clear as could be. The location was gorgeous, river to our right and mountains all around, we were in an idyllic valley. The kids spent a large part of Monday in the indoor pool on site, we cooked hot dogs over the fire and got some nice sun tans started. Monday night got rough.
I noticed a weather report around 4 p.m. coming through up at the campground office of thunderstorms coming in for the overnight hours. I thought little of it.
By 5 o'clock I decided to start dinner early, chicken legs on the fire, because a few dark clouds had begun to pass sporadically over head. By 6 o'clock we were fighting to finish off the cooking as the temperature dropped quickly and short, severe thunderheads burst above us. One minute here. Two minutes there.
By 7 o'clock it was pouring more often than not and doing dishes was out of the question: we just wanted shelter. The temperature was still dropping. We put the kids in the truck to watch a video on the portable DVD player, my wife went to bed, I went to the pavilion to read by lantern light. By 10 o'clock we were all soaked, miserable, and in bed.
The storms that night struck hard. Killed 9 people I'm told. Twice I thought our camper would get tipped over by the winds. When we awoke, it was to soaked feet, a flooded fire ring, and sleet coming down lightly, but continuously. Before breakfast was cooked, it was snowing. I wasn't prepared for snow. I managed to cook, feed and clean up then we headed to town for shopping. No way I was going to stay in that cold campground all day in that constant breeze (being in a valley, the wind tended to rush through all the time). Temps never got above 50 that day, both my coats were soaked from the previous nights storms. It was a miserable day.
After lunch, the kids spent some more time in the indoor pool and that was literally our salvation. If there weren't so many amenities, we'd have had a the worst trip of our lives. As it was, though. My wife and two eldest enjoyed shopping. My 3 youngest got to swim. Maybe KOA isn't real camping, but with five in tow for a too-early Spring Break, KOA was a God-send this year!