Randy Smith: Out Of Your House Or Out Of Your Mind?

Friday, March 27, 2020 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

I guess the sport of the day has now become spring cleaning. My wife is working from home so her job has merged with full steam ahead home making. She is thrilled ....and I am trying to see how weekend baseball tournaments with our oldest grandson can be replaced with a well-organized garage space or a leaf-free yard. We are outdoor people and the loss of our typical sports routine has led us to explore some local venues while maintaining an acceptable social distance. Let me share some of my observations.

First of all, making a trip to a curbside pickup this week made me eerily aware of what it looks like when restaurants, bars and stores are closed. It reminded me of what it was like 50 years ago on a Sunday afternoon but in a bad way. On a more positive note, Chattanooga has some great outdoor spaces within 30 miles and these are my notes on three popular locations good for camping, "glamping" or simply day trips.

Chester Frost Park - CFP is a county park located just up Hixson Pike past the Northgate Mall area. Typically a much sought after camping destination, the camping situation is iffy right now due to concerns over the coronavirus. The website says no more reservations are being accepted online at this time. In the absence of camping, CFP has much to offer for day trippers One of the most unique things is the beach. Lots of pretty white sand rivals any Gulf beach. If the playground area is off limits, the fishing spots abound. Just pick your favorite spot on the bank and wet your line. In the late afternoon or early evening, take a picnic and wait for the deer to roam around. They are beautiful and fun to watch.

Cloudland Canyon State Park - CCSP is located in Dade County, Georgia on Lookout Mountain. Camping sites are nice and large with lots of trees and can be found in two different campground areas in the park. While the East Rim area is newer and more updated, the West Rim area has more of a natural feel. CCSP has cabins and several Yurts to rent. The Yurts are really neat and I can imagine that the Smith "grands" would love spending a night in a Yurt. Day tripping adventures are unique and plenty at CCSP. Many folks may be familiar with the great hiking trails but there is also a frisbee golf course as well as a fishing pond. The drive to CCSP is not bad at all and if the I-24 traffic debacle bothers you, take St. Elmo avenue up to Lookout Mountain.

Harrison Bay State Park - BSP is located off Highway 58 between Harrison and Ooltewah. It is my observation that funding at all Tennessee State Parks has been cut and many have gone down in the last few years. HBSP is a beautiful facility right next to Chickmauga Lake. Driving in to the park the first things you notice are the birds as well as the educational display  There's a lesson right there for all you newly assigned parent teachers. Camping is open and reservations are easy to make online, unlike Chester Frost Park. Note: All state parks have an excellent online reservation system and, if a last minute cancellation needs to be made, it can be done easily. That's not the case at Chester Frost Park. The online reservation system is not very user friendly and if you must cancel your reservation it's a difficult and complicated process and your refund depends upon approval and could take some time. Campsites at HBSP are very nice, some better than others. A few are very unlevel and require some engineering skills to get your rig set up. Some are very crowded. No one wants to be jammed up so close you can hear every word and see every action of your neighbors. But if you are lucky enough to get one of the really good spots, you will be in paradise. 

The lakeviews are awesome and the lake is easily accessible for fishing, kayaking and other water sports. Wooded spots not directly on the water afford those back to nature experiences where you listen to the birds sing, then watch the deer in the early mornings and late afternoons. At night however, beware of the raccoons. They have no concept of social distancing and will get all up in your camp space foraging for food. This resulted in a traumatic experience for our youngest grandson Boone on a recent camping trip. Boone has discovered his love for fishing and in anticipation of a full day of fishing he had procured two boxes of fat, fresh worms. His line was rigged and ready for the next day when he went to bed. He awoke the following morning to discover the boxes dumped, dirt on the ground and the worms gone. The rude raccoons had eaten every single one of Boone's worms and if a seven-year-old could cuss, I'm sure he would have cussed the raccoons. Instead he was just "mad-sad " There is also a nice playground with basketball courts and hiking and biking trails.

At the Smith house, we are fully engaged in social distancing. My wife is the queen of "curbside pickup." Who knew you could just park in a spot and someone would magically appear with your purchases ( and not just groceries ) and put them in the back of your vehicle with minimal human contact. But that minimal human contact is hard on us who love gathering together. Being indoors is hard on your mental health. Watching an overload of information on Covid-19 will definitely take you to a dark place. In my opinion, the antidote is to get out and have an experience  Social distancing limits your options but the destinations I've listed above are good options. One final note....carry your hand sanitizer, wear gloves when you pump gas and stay at least six feet away from other people. And most of all, remember to wash your hands. We can and will flatten the curve because we are all in this together.   

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com



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