For the first time, I made it to a hipcamp spot in time to enjoy myself, and I'm glad this was the location for that to finally happen. My previous trips to Pristine Pines and Petit Jean Farm Orchard had been very quick trips in which I barely had time to put up my tent before the sun was down.
Indian Hills Lake is a privately owned campground and lake just outside of Cabot. To be honest, I had never heard of it despite it being a short 15 minute drive from my sister's house, and it was nice to have my brother-in-law and sister visit my campsite for a couple hours in the evening.
Since I had the time (and because my spot was so full of rocks, I decided to hammock camp for the evening. It was my first time setting up the full combination of tarp, hammock, and bug net. while the tarp was unnecessary (the temperature was perfect and there wasn't a cloud in the sky), it was good practice.
For me, I found there were three negatives when hammock camping. The first was having to get out of the hammock in the middle of the night when nature called. It was such a pain getting my closed cell foam pad and sleeping bag back in the right position that I didn't sleep well the rest of the night.
The second issue I had with the hammock set up was how long it took to tear down. Now, I'm sure other hammock setups are probably easier, but i bought my tarp, hammock, and bug net separately from each other and each has a suspension system. So, while my backpacking tent sets up and tears down in minutes, the hammock system took about thirty minutes to set up and forty-five to tear down.
The third issue I had with the hammock set up was that I didn't have space for my pack/gear inside the hammock. Leaving things sitting around isn't my favorite way, and if I weren't car camping I wouldn't have been as comfortable. I was able to lock up my stuff in the car for the night, but were I out with a 50 liter backpack somewhere I'd have my gear just laying on the ground. I'm not keen on that.
Back to Indian Hills. The non-electric campsites are rocky but nice. Each has a grill, fire ring, and picnic table. I didn't use the grill, but built a quick fire with some found wood, and enjoyed it while I drank a mug of wine. The owners of the site ask for no drinking in public, and I think smoking was completely prohibited, but there were some cigarette butts on the ground of my campsite.
My site was just off the third lake, a very small lake surrounded by trees, and it had a rickety but functional dock sticking out across the water. I didn't enjoy the dock before sundown, but I loved the fog across the water in the morning as I drank my coffee.
This is my favorite hipcamp find so far, and I look forward to visiting here again.
I'm not sure why, but both times I've booked through hipcamp I have been so late to my destination that all I've gotten to do is put up my tent, have a glass of wine, and go to bed. It is a shame because I really liked the solitary nature of Prestine Pines (my first hipcamp stay) and I would have loved to spend more time at Petit Jean Farm Orchard. it is a really cool spot in central Arkansas just by (you guessed it) Petit Jean State Park in Morrilton.
First off, I'm not sure what kind of Orchard we're looking at here. In reality, the spot to set up camp was just off the highway (which made me a little nervous at first), and it didn't really "feel" like an orchard. It felt like a yard just opposite an old barn. That barn, of course, was pretty cool. It is the home to The Petit Jean Farmer's Market which is run almost entirely by the Amish.
Although I was nervous about open nature of the campsite, once the sun was down and I realized how dark and secluded the spot felt, I was much happier. This really is a good spot for a camper to pull in, but not really a good tent spot. I did enjoy sipping my cup of wine while staring up at the stars. I also enjoyed having a good cell phone connection to talk with my wife before settling down in my tent for the evening. Most campsites I go to are dead zones for cell service. Having all the bars was nice.
The fence behind the "orchard" was a cool little track for sheep to roam back and forth. The sheep came by to check out the oddball guy sitting on the other side of the fence, but would take off whenever I got too close.
This was my first time trying out my 27.00 backpacking tent. and I took it as an opportunity to spray it with a waterproofing spray. I enjoyed my cup 'o' wine, stared up at the stars, and talked to my wife on the phone as the waterproofer dried. Finally, I felt asleep to the sound of cicadas and owls until the sun came up in the morning.
In the morning I was able to try out my new sterno stove. It was a vast improvement over my old hobo-style aluminum can stove. I made my oatmeal and my coffee. After my breakfast, I broke down the tent, put it in a stuff sack, and headed to Memphis for the day.
Read my First Draft from PJFO here.
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.