|Empty chairs around the firebowl await Saturday afternoon while their owners, members of the Louisiana Hiking Club, attend seminars or hike or paddle in Chicot State Park, north of Ville Platte, LA Saturday at the 2014 Campfest.|
When showers finally did appear in the late afternoon, the noisy gabfest came inside the dining hall, the hungry attendees anxiously awaiting the club's signature potluck dinner. The club provides the main meat course and members bring the sides. After the feeding frenzy ended this year one long- time member declared, for all to hear, that this was the "best potluck ever!" Maybe that is because every year there seems to be more and more desserts!
Immediately after the dishes were cleared, the raffle began for the many outdoor doodads donated by area outdoor shops and regional outdoor gear reps. The crowd, which seemed a lot larger than 60-70 people, all responded enthusiastically when the big ticket items, such as packs, a hammock, generous gift certificates and a water filtering system found their way to the hands of appreciative winners.
After the giveaways, a movie, "Journey on the Wild Coast" was shown. The movie featured Erin Mc Kittrick and her husband Brentwood "Hig" Higman hiking and cross country skiing across the wild and mostly frozen terrain along the Pacific coast between Seattle, WA and the Bering Islands west of the Alaska mainland. The inflatable rafts they carried or dragged behind them to carry gear through the snow and ice, were used for crossing rivers and open waters. The pair also filmed two tense bear encounters and ran dangerously low on food near the end of their trip.
The 4,000 mile trip, which took nine months to complete, was taken, in part, to raise awareness for an environmental awareness foundation the pair started.
Before the film was released, McKittrick wrote about the adventure in her book "A Long Trek Home: 4,000 miles by Boot, Raft and Ski," published in 2009. Her most recent book, "Small Feet, Big Lands: Adventure, Home and Family on the Edge of Alaska," is about introducing her two children to the rigors of traveling the frozen tundra of Alaska at a very early age.
Most of those viewing the film were particularly impressed, but not in a good way, with the scene of Hig crossing a stream amid the broken ice chunks in bare feet. Perhaps the biggest crowd reaction came from the clip of McKittrick, in full pack, and probably newly pregnant, laboriously cross country skiing through deep powder briefly singing an hilarious and profane reworking of the chorus of the classic winter song, "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow."
Sunday morning at Chicot State Park made the frozen Northwest in the film the night before seem a world away. After a wet, stormy Saturday night, Sunday dawned gray and warm. The traditional pancake breakfast went off without a hitch, but leftover light showers cancelled an early morning hike. After the showers passed many remained to explore the nearby state arboretum and new visitor center in the park.
Before leaving for the drive home, most stayed to make the dining hall spic n' span and to thank the many volunteers who give so much time to make such a fun event possible.
This year Campfest was held March 14-15-16. Usually it is the first weekend in March but this year a conflict with the scheduling of the Mardi Gras, Tuesday, March 4 was Mardi Gras Day, made the later Campfest date necessary.