Summer Camping?

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Ever had the urge to go camping with 49 other people in the middle of hot and humid Georgia summer? Yeah, me either. However, REI was hosting an event at Unicoi State Park in Helen, GA this past weekend. A few months ago my friend Heather** (whom I met along with her husband, Jarrett, at another REI event last year) asked if I wanted to go, and mentioned she and Jarrett had signed up. Sometimes I need the kick in the butt from others to get myself out there, so while it wasn’t my ideal camping climate, I agreed.

The weekend started out on Saturday morning. We were all arriving and setting up our tent sites. REI was so organized, as always, and made everything as easy as possible. By the time I had taken all my gear out of my trunk I was already pouring sweat. This would be the constant throughout the weekend.

Tent set-up went smoothly:

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And then I was off to register and sign up for my events for the weekend:

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As you can see, there were many events and activities going on this weekend in just a matter of 36 hours. Hiking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), mountain biking, a map and compass class, sunrise yoga on Sunday, an outdoor photography class, and live bluegrass music provided by The Mermaid Motor Lounge. There were so many activities it was impossible to do them all. The variety and availability of activities was incredible!19990466_10155779086296162_4695411398060961836_n.jpg20031604_10155779104901162_5100730902575259541_n.jpg20155943_10155779105251162_2848459629259375721_n.jpg20106806_10155779106281162_4693132747356318041_n.jpg

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While the temperatures and humidity made things quite uncomfortable at times, it was almost a non-issue because of all the fun people and activities we were surrounded by all weekend. The REI staff made things fun and easy and always seemed genuinely happy to help with anything you might need. Aside from a few pop-up thunderstorms everything went off without a hitch. My SUP session on Saturday was delayed for about an hour due to lightning, but our instructor Ashley made the time fly by simply by being her friendly and entertaining self. We had a great time on and off the water. Dinner was catered by Fox Brothers BBQ, and s’mores by the fire with live music followed shortly after.

Camping in the middle of July in Georgia still wouldn’t be my first choice. However, I can say without a doubt that I would jump at another opportunity to participate in one of these REI Campouts, no matter when or where- and you should, too! REI offers many other free and inexpensive classes and events all over Atlanta and at their various store locations. Visit http://www.rei.com/learn to check them out. I already have a bunch more added to my calendar over the next few months 🙂

And with that, I leave you with a few more shots from the weekend: A sunrise, sunset, and a couple nature shots!

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**: Most photos in this post courtesy of Heather Kahl

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