Camping with Wolves

Hello all! This weekend I took a wonderful overnight trip to Columbia, New Jersey to camp at Camp Taylor Campground and visited the Lakota Wolf Preserve.

My boyfriend Dan and I were looking for a primitive and secluded campground within a 1 to 2 hour drive from home. After searching the web I landed on a page describing a quiet campground up in the hills of North Jersey, just 10 minutes from the Delaware River and the Water Gap. As I read more on their webpage, I realized that it was on the same grounds as the Lakota Wolf Preserve which Steph had told me about a while back. Excitedly I called to ensure they had availability, and off we were!

Upon arrival, we were greeted with helpful staff. They went over the ground rules with us (quiet time @ 11pm, recycle, and watch out for BEARS). They handed us a map and highlighted the available spaces and allowed us to drive back to take a look around and pick out the site we wanted! We paid the $30 nightly fee for a primitive site and $10 for 2 bundles of firewood.

We drove back in to the woods and picked site #87, which was surrounded by trees and right next to the pit toilet and drinking water tap. It had an awesome stone fire pit and a picnic table ready for us to use!

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Check out my new Ozark Trail two-person dome tent.

After setting up camp, we hiked a nearby trail for about 15 minutes until we came up to the large enclosures where the wolves lived. As soon as we walked up to the fences, two wolves ran right up to where we were standing and started playing with each other. I feel like they came to put on a show for us. Check out some more videos from the Lakota Wolf Preserve on my Youtube channel!

They also had two bobcats and two foxes living on the preserve as well. I believe there was a second fenced off area which had some deer in it, but we didn’t have a chance to check it out on this trip.

After spending some time admiring the wildlife up close and personal, we headed back to our campsite for some dinner. Dan and I used our scout skills to get the fire started. We put on the Classic Rock station on Pandora and started roasting some dogs (Hebrew National All Beef Kosher Hot Dogs). The hot dogs roasted over the fire were AWESOME by the way!

As the sun began to set, the darkness crawled in. Sitting in blackness only illumined by the glowing fire, we roasted marshmallows for s’mores and sang Piano Man by Billy Joel. This was the first time I had ever been to such a secluded campsite. Growing up, I always went with with my family with our retro hitch camper to a parking lot or field. I looked all around us and all I saw was black. I looked up through the darkened tree tops and saw glowing stars on an indigo sky. It was beautiful and peaceful. I was tipsy off two glasses of boxed moscato and was truly enjoying life. I had been so stressed out lately with my job, internship, and schoolwork. I almost forgot what it was like to feel care-free. This was a much needed trip!

Before getting to bed, we took my little LED lantern over to the pit toilet for a pit stop. Dan opened the door and something started flying all over the place. It was a poor scared bird fluttering around and something fell from it as it was trying to escape. I thought we “scared the literal shit out of him” but it turned out the bird had only dropped his dinner… a GIANT BLACK SPIDER. Surprisingly I did’t scream and just anxiously observed to see if it moved. Thankfully, the monstrosity had already passed away and was sitting motionless in the back corner. I somehow gathered inner strength to still use that toilet. As gross as it was, what can you expect from a back woods pit toilet?

The excitement doesn’t end there. Once Dan and I were all cozied up inside the tent we spent some time tossing around trying to get comfortable. I purchased some foam tiles from Five Below for a makeshift floor. They were excellent in protecting us from the rocky ground, but we still could’ve used some more cushioning besides our sleeping bags. I also couldn’t sleep because I knew I’d have to use the bathroom again (too much wine I suppose). We finally started to settle down and relax after I asked Dan to accompany me to my second bathroom break (this time a little further down to an actual porta-potty).

As we lay there searching for sleep, we suddenly began to hear leaves shuffling. My heart was pounding heavily in my chest. Dan and I were both thinking the same thing… BEAR. I swear if I did’t pee beforehand I would’ve wet my PJs. We grabbed the lantern and our iPhone flashlight to try and peer into the darkness. It was just past the trees where we saw two eyes glimmering back at us. Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit…

Dan and I looked at each other. I said “Wanna run to the car?” and he said “Yes!” So we bolted for my car and slammed the doors behind us. I rolled down the window to shine the flashlight back out in to the woods. I could see the eyes coming closer and closer. Then I saw a second pair of eyes… and then a third. I definitely thought I was going to die on my first “real” camping trip.

But as the eyes came closer, so did the creature’s silhouette. Turns out, it was just a pack of hungry deer. Dan and I laughed it off and hurried back in to the tent. Now a little calmer about the local wildlife, we could rest easy. It still took me a little longer to fall asleep due to the constant rustling of leaves and rocks around the tent. Also, it was a bit chilly, but my new sleeping bag kept me toasty warm.

We woke up with the sun the next morning, but then drifted in and out of a lazy sleep until around 9am when our nearby neighbors started to get up and cook breakfast. We got up as well and had our granola bars and fruit before starting to pack up our things. I was tired, but happy. It was an excellent camping trip with beautiful spring-like weather. I would definitely recommend this campground and I hope to go back soon!

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