Sunday, March 29, 2015

LHC Campfest 2015

Louisiana Hiking Club (LHC) members display their versatility by launching a paddlecraft exploration of the lake at Chicot S. P. near Ville Platte, LA.  The group launched from the east boat ramp and explored the northern part of the scenic lake, one of a host of activities group members enjoyed at CampFest, a weekend of seminars, demonstrations  and field trips held by the LHC for members each spring.. 
          Beautiful Chicot State Park, just north of Ville Platte, LA was again the headquarters for the Louisiana Hiking Club's (LHC) annual Campfest, for 2015 held March 27-29.  Also beautiful was the weather with night time temps dropping to the frosty 40's and sunny, dry days in the 70's  Members said the nice weather was a factor in attracting nearly 80 members, though the exact count is uncertain because many came just for one day and did not register.
          CampFest headquarters is at the conference center on the east side of the lake.  Attendees pitch their tents among the trees near the center.  The conference center offers group kitchen facilities, a dining hall/activity room and indoor restrooms but no showers.  Some might consider that primitive but developed camping and cabins are on the other side of the lake about a 20-minute drive away, one-way.
         Many arrive Friday when nothing is scheduled and tour the park or visit the trails at the nearby State Arboretum and the beautiful new interpretive center there. Saturday, a variety of seminars ranging from outdoor cooking and how to pack for a backpacking trip are the main events interspersed with lots of schmoosing.  The Saturday evening meal is a group effort with club members bringing side dishes and desserts and the club providing the main course.  This year, the club presented a taco bar with all the fixins' instead of the grilled meat supplied in years past. Club members appeared to approve the change in the main course.
        Afterward a raffle distributing the swag--from coffee cups to day packs-- donated by local outdoor shops and a freeze-dried food business, provided the after dinner entertainment, as usual.  There was a movie too. 
          The Sunday morning pancake breakfast was well attended though a balky coffee urn created some anxious moments.  For the other meals attendees are on their own, most snacking or feeding from cooler contents.  The 6,000 acre Chicot S.P. is in the middle of nowhere so most come to the event prepared to supply their food needs from their own portable larders.
         Many in the LHC are also paddlers, packing their canoes and kayaks wherever they go.   In Chicot the 19-mile long blazed hiking trail (22-miles counting all the spurs) which the LHC helps maintain, around the lake offers great hiking.  But the 2,000 acre lake has trails of its own.  Three water trails direct paddlers to every part of the skinny six-mile lake.  North Loop Trail is 4.8 miles; the trail connecting the east and south landings is 1.8 miles, one-way and the South Trail from the South Landing is 2.8 miles, one-way. (See previous articles on paddling Chicot S.P. in this blog for important details about securing an overnight primitive campsite along the lake.)
        Many at CampFest wound up their visit to the park with a paddle on Sunday, leaving the East Landing boat launch and exploring the northern sections of the lake.