The camping bug had been nibbling away at me for quite some time. The problem was we were tight on funds. And I didn’t really want to spend a weekend in a state campground, hearing loud music I cared nothing about, and having car lights swing through the tent in the middle of the night. And we had recently added a dog, a clumsy puppy that we weren’t sure how he would react camping. So with that in mind I set up camp at Grand Trace Conservation Area near Bethany, Mo., for free camping and no neighbors and waited for my wife to get home from work.
Grand Trace is a 1,562-acre conservation area with a primitive camping area. There’s no water, no vault toilets, no actual hiking trails — nothing but a few fire rings, a gravel road, a couple of ponds, lots of timber, and more peace and quiet I had experienced in quite a while. One car came down the road Friday. Three came Saturday, one was a Missouri Department of Conservation agent, but not a single one came by after about 5 p.m. It was like having your very own campground.
Actually there were a couple of other visitors. Each morning and evening a cottontail would come by camp to nibble at clover. And each day, all day long, a bird — a mockingbird, perhaps? — tweeted a variety of songs from atop a pine over our heads. There were only a couple of drawbacks. One was that tick season was in full swing but we treat the dogs each summer for ticks and fleas so that wasn’t a major problem. The second was we became hot and dirty at times and came to the conclusion we need to invest in a camp shower. A pleasant breeze kept us comfortable most of the time. And as for the new puppy, well except for trying to get into the tent when it was zipped and awakening us at 6 a.m. each morning by jumping onto to our bed, he did great. Both dogs got all the exercise they needed. In fact so much so that after we got home they didn’t even want to go outside and explore the yard like they usually do. All they wanted to do was just lie around and nap.