Lost Arrow Campground: A Spooky Short Fiction Story for the Campfire

Lost Arrow Campground

It was about 9:00 pm and both driver and passenger were starting to nod off. They were keeping an eye out for campground signs and pulled over at two different ones. But was a Saturday night and neither had any space left to set up, so they moved on.

Aura, Raoul, and their dog named Chicken had been moving from one campground to the next to see the country and explore the great outdoors. That sort of lifestyle would be spontaneous enough for most people, but these adventurous three had fallen into a comfortable routine after six months and needed to switch things up a bit.

So on this particular day, they had decided to drive their Jeep and pop-up camper until they could drive no more and then look for campground signs along the highway. It was a hot, muggy day in late August, and they had made it as far as Oklahoma. This was a particularly long stretch of road that they were looking to get through as quickly as possible.

A few miles later, they saw a sign that read, “Lost Arrow Campground.” That sounded just fine, considering it was almost 11 pm and a thick fog was starting to roll in.

They pulled into Lost Arrow and saw a small shack at the front. Understandably, there was no one working at this time of night, so they decided to just set up and check in and pay in the morning. Camper set-up went quickly, and the couple divvied up the last tasks of the day. Aura took Chicken out for her last walk of the day, and Raoul went to a nearby utility sink to wash dishes from their on-the-road dinner.

As typical, Aura was distracted on her dog walk and texting her best friend, Michelle, about their exhausting journey to spontaneity.  She was looking down at her glowing iPhone when BAM! She walked into a towering beast of a man with a huge belly, bounced right off of it, and fell backwards into the gravel. Meanwhile, Chicken, who was always alert-to-a-fault and way too social, didn’t even respond to the fat man that was in their way. The pup had only been startled by Aura’s fall, nothing more.

Stunned and shaken up a bit, Aura brushed herself off and picked herself up off the ground, still holding on to Chicken’s leash. Feeling paranoid and a bit frantic, she rubbed her eyes and whipped her head in either direction. There was no one there. No one to apologize for being fat and in the way, no one to give her a helping hand out of the gravel, and no one to explain why she had bounced back so violently. Exhausted and unwilling to think about it anymore, Aura and Chicken made their way back to the camper to settle in for the night.

Meanwhile, Raoul was behind an old rickety shed hovering over a large sink with a few dirty bowls and spoons. He turned on the water without really looking at it and it instantly felt thicker than any water ever should – even campground water. It was pitch black outside, and his headlamp battery was becoming dim. The water coming out of the faucet was red, blood red. Instead of feeling alarmed, he was just angry. He had grown weary of life on the road and all the shitty accommodations along the way. For a brief second, the thought crossed Raoul’s mind that it could be blood, but he blamed his headlamp, his tiredness, and his color blindness and didn’t get it a second thought.

Back at the camper, Aura and Raoul were too tired and cranky to even get into their respective stories about what had happened on their separate outings. Instead they just crawled under the covers and tried to forget about what just happened.

That’s when they noticed that a smell was starting to creep in. It smelled rancid, pungent, and unlike anything they’d ever smelled before. Over the past six months, they had camped next to landfills, pig farms, and Appalachians with serious BO. Yet nothing compared to this smell. It was the smell of rotting flesh, yet they had no idea.

Still hoping to get at least a couple hours of sleep before the sun came up, they closed all the windows, lit a stick of incense, and covered their heads with a blanket. This seemed to work for a little while until the sounds started up.

Moaning sounds echoed through the trees and bounced off the flimsy canvas covering that separate the inside world from the outside one…and the familiar one from the hauntingly strange one on the other side.

Heavy duty earplugs helped to muffle the moaning sounds better than nothing, and before long, the birds were chirping and the first glimpses of sunlight peeked out onto the horizon. Aura, Raoul, and Chicken weren’t entirely sure where they were, but they just knew they wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and get back on the road.

Still angry at having stumbled upon yet another disappointing campground, Raoul started packing up. In her usual stubborn way, Aura refused to help and insisted that they go check in at the front office to pay first. They already had an outstanding citation for failure to pay at a campground in Pennsylvania, and the last thing they needed to add to the mix was more legal trouble. The couple went back and forth in a passive-aggressive fashion until Raoul finally threw his hands in the air and gave in just to keep the peace.

The three of them stepped outside the camper and started making their way to the front office to pay for the night’s stay before packing up. There was a low-lying fog that blanketed the ground and hovered about three feet high in all directions. Chicken seemed to disappear in the fog as they walked towards the shack along the road. There were no other campers or tents in sight, which was a bit odd, but not entirely unheard of.

When they arrived, they found no one…only an abandoned, dilapidated shack with splintered wood and broken windows. There was no sign designating the business as Lost Arrow Campground and no pay box in sight. So they gladly accepted that this terrible night was at least a free night of camping and started walking back to the pop-up to take down and move out.

At that moment, the blanket of fog was just starting to lift. And what was under the fog began to reveal itself.

Tombstones. Gravesites. Corpses. Everywhere. And in all directions.

The real Lost Arrow Campground was up the road another half mile, and they just hadn’t gone far enough. Aura, Raoul, and Chicken had just camped overnight in a cemetery.

The residents were none too pleased about it, and they weren’t about to let them get away with a free night of camping for nothing. Mangled limbs began to claw their way out of mounds of dirt, and there was nowhere to run.

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Two Months on the Road! A Full-Time Camper Life Update

Two months down…??? to go!

Two months ago, we drove out of Atlanta with the Jeep and pop-up camper filled to capacity and have been touring the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic states ever since. On or around the 14th of each month, I’m aiming to write a quick update about where we’ve been, where we’re headed, and things I’m learning along the way.

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Related: 

Places We’ve Been: Month #2

We slowed down our pace a bit and have been spending a week in each place to better accommodate our work schedules and see more in each place.

  • New River Gorge, West Virginia: Home on the road #8
    • Favorite Parts: Hiking around the gorge and bridge with beautiful views, coal mine & ghost town hikes

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  • Red River Gorge, Kentucky: Home on the road #9
    • Favorite Parts: Turning 33, meeting up with my parents, rock climbing and lazy floating on my birthday

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  • Claytor Lake State Park, Dublin, Virginia: Home on the road #10
    • Favorite Parts: Easy access to kayaking & SUPing, playing horseshoes, decorating for fall

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  • Roanoke, Virginia: Home on the road #11
    • Favorite Parts: Staying in a hotel (Labor Day camping is for amateurs), solo museum outings, Black Dog Salvage

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  • Virginia Beach, Virginia: Home on the road #12
    • Favorite Parts: Camping right next to the beach, beach yoga/running/swimming, meeting up with my buddy Dwight

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  • Surf City, North Carolina: Home on the road #13:
    • Favorite Parts: Still here, but so far it’s been surviving a crazy storm with flooding (bit of a rough start)

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Biggest Challenges: Month #2

A lot of the challenges that were really getting to me in month #1 have mellowed out as I’ve settled into a better routine. Overall, the weather has been more pleasant in month #2 and our campgrounds have been pretty accommodating.

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The single biggest challenge I’ve felt this month is finding good internet for working. We’ve had to upgrade our data plans to make up for crappy service at campsites and have even had to move sites within campgrounds for better reception. These distractions cut into my productivity and make it more difficult to enjoy the other aspects of camping life.

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The other big challenge that comes to mind is mold/mildew. After some rainy days in West Virginia, it started growing on our camper canvas above the two beds. We didn’t discover it until we were in the Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky where cleaning supplies were very sparse. Vinegar ended up working pretty well until we got to a bigger store and picked up some mildew spray. Fortunately, no one got sick.

Realizations & Ramblings: Month #2

Over the course of the month, I jotted down random thoughts as they came to me. Here’s what my month #2 list looks like:

  • I’m getting better at doing yoga in weird places and feeling better physically and mentally because of it.
  • I’m getting more tolerant of bugs and getting better at ending their lives when necessary.
  • Monkey needs social time even when I don’t. We met her perfect playmate at Arrowhead Bike Farm in Fayetteville, WV – a hound named Hank.

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  • Keeping the inside of a camper clean is hard, especially when you’re camping in mud or sand. We are constantly sweeping the floor with a tiny broom and dust pan.
  • I really crave my end-of-the-day beer or mug of wine
  • I don’t necessary identify with West Virginia culture, but the uncrowded/outdoorsy vibe really resonated with me.

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  • Having our own downloaded TV shows to watch separately makes for easy and refreshing solo time. I’m currently watching Girls, Scandal, and Wentworth solo.
  • We did an “art in the park” day that involved drawing in sketchbooks and painting on watercolor postcards. I want more of these days.

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  • It’s possible to keep up many favorite hobbies even without an apartment.
  • When one person in your travel party isn’t coping well, the other needs to pick up the slack. Take turns with negativity.

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  • Inspired by scary campfire stories, I wrote a short fiction ghost story. Once I fix it up a bit, I’ll plan to share it here and perhaps write a few more too!
  • Once a month, it’s nice to treat ourselves to a hotel to switch up the routine. The Sleep in in Roanoke over Labor Day weekend to avoid crowds and the hurricane was really fun.
  • I love living by a beach.
  • Inspired by the beach I’m trying to start meditating again. I’m trying out guided meditations on this app, Meditation Studio by Gaiam.
  • I’m getting tired of wearing these same clothes and can’t wait to toss/donate them at the end of the season.
  • I have made more income so far this year than ever before in life!

Looking Ahead to Month #3

If you take a quick look at a map, you’ll see that we’ve made a big loop and seem to be circling back. But don’t be fooled because this trip is nowhere close to done!

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After stops in North Carolina and South Carolina, we are heading back to Atlanta for a few days. Here we’ll revisit that packed 10′ x 12′ storage unit and swap out water sports gear for biking gear, and summer clothes for fall and winter clothes. This will wrap up our tour of the Eastern U.S., and from here, we drive west!

For many years, we’ve wanted to go to the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, and this is the year we’re finally going to do it! So we’ll be putting in long hours in the car to breeze through Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas to get to the festival in time. Month #3 will be incredibly different from months #1 and #2 because it begins our journey of the west. I can’t wait, and as always thanks for reading and staying in touch!

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One Month on the Road: A Full-Time Camper Life Update

As you can hear from the crickets chirping in my blog (*chirp chirp, chirp chirp*), I haven’t had much time for personal writing lately. But today marks one month of living the nomad life, so I thought it was high time for an update. This certainly isn’t the longest we’ve been on the road – the trips to Mondakoming (Montana-South Dakota-Wyoming), the Northeast, and New Mexico have all been longer.

Yet this one feels a bit different because it has no end date, there’s nowhere to go home to, and the journey is just getting started.

From July 14th: Final Days in Atlanta…Next Up: Full-Time Camper Life!

We’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things so far, but I’ve often struggled to keep my head above water with the constant planning, excess of work projects, and little hassles along the way. Clearly, I haven’t been blogging, but I have been updating my friends and family weekly home-on-the-road posts via Facebook and using an app called Track My Tour to waypoint the places we’ve been with photos and quick captions.

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It’s hard to lump a month’s worth of happenings into one little page, but here’s an attempt of sorts. I’m not feeling particularly witty or insightful right now, but I just need to take a moment to reflect and get a few things out on the page.

So to simplify matters, in text and in my own head, I’ll kick this blog post off with a few lists.

Places We’ve Been So Far: Month #1

  • Asheville, NC: Home on the road #1
    • Favorite parts = hiking, scenery, breweries, catching up with old friends, kayaking
  • Richmond, VA: Home on the road #2
    • Favorite parts = Best campground fitness center and free breakfast EVER, historic stuff
  • Alexandria, VA: Home on the road #3
    • Favorite parts = Waterfront walks, switching it up with a hotel stay during a work conference
  • Washington, DC: Day trips
    • Favorite parts = Monuments at night tour, Natural History Museum, catching up with old friends
  • Annapolis, MD: Day trip
    • Favorite parts = Waterfront area, ice cream, dressing Monkey up in cooling gear
  • Milton, Delaware: Home on the road #4
    • Favorite parts = Secluded beach 10 minutes away, learning that Monkey can swim, every brewery except Dogfish Head, SUP in the ocean
  • Lancaster, PA: Home on the road #5
    • Favorite parts = Gnome-themed campground, Gnome Countryside tour with Rich Humphreys, Amish déjà vu
  • Hershey, PA: Day trip
    • Favorite parts = Free chocolate tour, milkshakes
  • Coopers Rock, WV: Home on the road #6
    • Favorite parts = Hiking every day, playing guitar outside at the campsite, Rattlesnake trail at Coopers Rock, Lakeside crab restaurant
  • Seneca Rocks, WV: Home on the road #7
    • Favorite parts = Totally unplugging due to no phone or internet, bouldering the peaks

Biggest Challenges So Far: Month #1

However, it’s not all been fun and games. If you’re my Facebook friends, those are the photos you’ve been seeing. But there’s a darker side to live on the road that doesn’t get shared.

  • Ant infestation in the camper
  • Nowhere close by/secluded to pee in the middle of the night after too many beers
  • Constantly bothered by annoying strangers wanting to meet Monkey (more on this to follow)
  • 100+ degree temperatures
  • Campgrounds next to landfills
  • Flying insects of all kinds
  • Dirty, public laundry facilities
  • Finding dog-friendly restaurants and attractions
  • Feeling overloaded with work
  • Listening to Christian music in campground bathrooms
  • Infection that landed me in urgent care
  • Too rainy, hot, rocky, etc. to start my days with yoga
  • General crankiness due to all of the above

Realizations Thus Far: Month #1

Admittedly, I haven’t taken much time until now to reflect on my situation and how it’s been impacting me personally. Now it’s all coming at once and hard to take in. Yet taking myself out of my comfort zone and adopting a nomadic life has definitely made me realize a few things about myself.

  • I can tolerate and enjoy high heat much more than most people
  • I can totally maintain a full-time freelance writing job on the road. Business is great!
  • Having people around makes me feel exhausted, annoyed, and drained.
  • The strangers obsessed with Monkey are really wearing me down
  • My feet smell awful, especially after wearing hiking sandals
  • Having my favorite jewelry and toiletries in campgrounds makes me feel normal
  • I will never have a good hair day with all this humidity
  • Figuring out how to play new guitar songs is really hard

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Ramblings: Month #1

One thing that is really getting to me one month in is my annoyance with strangers on the road so far. I was introverted as a kid, went through an extroverted phase in college and my 20s, and have more or less returned to my introverted roots. I’m okay with that. I can “turn it on” and be social pretty darn well when I need to. But I rarely want to, and after it’s over, I feel like I’ve figuratively checked a box for the day and am happy it’s all over.

Dog owners, serious question here: how do you walk down the street in peace?

We literally can’t walk down a street/trail for five minutes without someone exclaiming “PUPPPPYYYYYY!” (she’s about 2 ½, by the way) and rushing over to maul her. Sure, she’s cute, but there’s tons of cute dogs out and about.

I want to get her a t-shirt that says, “I’m social 24/7, but my parents aren’t. Please admire me from afar.” But a t-shirt would only attract more attention, and Monkey LOVES attention and petting from anyone and everyone.

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However, I can’t be social all the time, and these constant conversations are draining. So seriously, guys. Does anyone else have this problem? Do you enjoy and embrace the random interactions? If not, how do you cope with them? It’s basically impossible to avoid them while living in public places. I’m working on a separate blog post all about this rant, so stay tuned.

So many travelers go on and on about how meeting people on the road is the best part about traveling, but I disagree. Extroverted travel is just one way to travel, and not necessarily the best way for everyone. I loved catching up with my old friend and his wife and baby in Asheville and my old coworker and her husband in DC. Not to mention meeting Rich “The Gnomeman” Humphreys at Gnome Countryside was definitely a highlight of my trip so far. But beyond these low-key, pre-planned social get-togethers, I crave time to myself more than anything else.

For the past month, my days have been jam-packed with work projects, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. Sure, this is always a “good problem” to have as a freelancer, but sometimes it’s exhausting and just becomes too much.

Besides the workload, we are in a constant state of planning, which also becomes exhausting after a while – always looking for the next campground, the next dog-friendly brewery, and the next museum to take turns going into while the other one hikes around with Monkey. To solve this, we set aside some time to book our next several campgrounds so that piece of the puzzle is taken care of for a while.

Looking Ahead to Month #2

We’re spending a bit more time in West Virginia and then heading into Kentucky next. My birthday, the big 33, is coming right around the corner and we’re meeting up with my parents for a little on-the-road celebration. My birthday’s on a Wednesday, so I’m hoping to take the day off work and do some climbing at the Red River Gorge.

From there, the plan is to head to the coast of Virginia and start traveling south. I’m not entirely sure where we’ll land at the close of month #2, but despite my rare divulgence of frustrations and rants, I’m still definitely excited to see what the next 30 days bring.