360 degree views, cooking over an open fire, mountaintop yoga, and even a minor cow-poop situation included, it was the best camping experience of my life. More so, I’m thrilled to have discovered this new, creative, affordable, and accessible way to travel and get outside! Welcome to Hipcamp.
Last weekend was my first experience with Hipcamp – I’ve come to call it the Air B and B of camping. It’s a great resource all of the time – but I’m especially grateful to have found it now. As someone whose batteries are recharged by getting outside, present circumstances have made that rather difficult.
After learning that a nearby campground that I’d been eyeing on my drives around Nelson County was shutdown, I Googled “camping in Charlottesville” and a website I’d never heard of popped up. It seemed to offer camping options on private land, and some hosts were continuing to operate as they, too, shared an appreciation for the outdoors and wanted to provide a space to continue enjoying nature and implementing self-care in a way that is safe in our current environment.
Several hours of perusing beautiful campsites, riverside shelters, and wooded A-frames, I settled on a campsite nestled in northwestern North Carolina – about a four hour drive away. It appeared that the campsite provided nearly 360 degree views, a giant, gorgeous fire pit, and the possibility of cow interactions. I could almost see the warm glow, smell the musky smoke, and feel the heat on my skin. BOOKED!
On Top of the World in NW NC
After briefly walking around the quaint downtown of West Jefferson, NC, my boyfriend Nick and I headed 10 minutes back into the suburbs to check in to our campsite. The host, Jon, gave us an address at which to meet him and were instructed to follow him back to our site. Right on time, a man came ripping down the hillside in an ATV – Jon, presumably. He instructed us to use our 4WD if we had it and to follow him up the mountain. We climbed up a rather steep grade, and upon rounding a bend, the rural neighborhood that was previously in view was exchanged for a vast vista of undeveloped, gorgeous land.
Jon hopped off his ATV to introduce us to one of his Scottish Highland bovine – the very animal that he farms. He informed us that we would be sleeping in a pasture with these very animals – also the same animal that had been sacrificed for our dinner that night. (I had attempted to surprise Nick by purchasing two filets, a bag of morels, and a fresh local-made salad. A part of this Hipcamp experience that made it all the more unique.) Our host said that if we were lucky, the Scottish Highlanders might come and say hi.
Our host showed us around the remainder of his property. We got to visit with his goats and observe some of the cutest baby pigs. After familiarizing ourselves with his homestead, we retreated to our campsite to set up, practice a little yoga perched atop this beautiful mountain, and get dinner going.
Nick got to work in preparing what he now calls “the best meal of his life.” He perfectly cooked the filets and prepared garlic morels in a cast iron skillet balanced on two beams above the open fire. Our host gave us local ramps that we cooked in with the mushrooms – a local species of wild onion – that added a unique flavor and novel experience. To top it all off, we had packed a homemade bottle of wine, made by our friend Jeremy who works as a cellar master at a renown local winery.
Full and fully satisfied, I was gazing at the fire when I noticed something staring at me from across the flames. Sure enough, it was a 1,300 pound bovine eyeballing me (and maybe my previously devoured food) from about 6 feet away. Upon better taking in my surroundings, I realized that there were three adults and one baby enjoying the fire right beside us!
Nick and I enjoyed observing and interacting with these massive but friendly bovine. About an hour later, it was time to go to bed as we had an early morning planned. We successfully managed to usher three of the four cows away so we could clean up our camp and go to bed, but one cow (the white one, pictured) just wasn’t ready to depart. After getting a few belly laughs listening to Nick moooo at the cow and wave his arms as though he had horns of his own, this bovine parked himself about three feet away from our perch. It was then and there that he chose to relieve himself. Numero dos.
I could elaborate on this story, but in an effort to be PC I’ll save details of the cow poop tale for my near and dear friends, preferably over a cool beverage. I wouldn’t have chosen the cow poop, but it did make our experience all the more memorable! (Turn your volume up for the below video!)
Nick and I can’t wait for our next Hipcamp experience. I’ve got my eye on the most beautiful A-frame in the southeast and another farmstay in New England! Until then, stay safe and stay sane, friends!