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Bridge holds first campout

Several families from the Heart of Virginia were among the first to camp out overnight on High Bridge, beginning Saturday evening through Sunday morning.

The event was organized by the High Bridge Trail State Park. Officials with the park said it was the first camping event it had ever hosted — particularly camping on the bridge itself.

The event coincided with a national event called the Great American Campout, where state parks across the nation encourage people to interact with nature through camping. The national event is headed by the National Wildlife Federation.

High Bridge Trail State Park Manager Daniel Jordan said he received enough requests from families across the area that camping on High Bridge would be a success.

“It’s an opportunity to do something a little bit different,” Jordan said.

Six groups reserved spots on the bridge for the event, Park Education Specialist Bob Flippen said, each costing $35.

The event, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday evening, included an “Owl Prowl,” where participants, along with Flippen, called nearby owls. The event included a campfire off of the bridge and a night hike.

While Tropical Storm Cindy earlier in the week prompted concerns about the weekend weather on the East Coast, the event ended up falling on a clear evening with slowly cooling temperatures.

After the festivities, families and friends camped overnight and rose with the sun Sunday morning. 

As families set up tents and prepared for the evening’s activities, both kids and adults were excited for the prospect of camping 125 feet in the air.

Erin and Chris Opperman, who live in the area with their four children, said they heard about the event through a Facebook post from a home schooling parents group.

Erin said she and her family wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see the bridge and trail in a whole new way.

This was 6-year-old Quinn O’Connor’s first camping trip. Her grandparents, Patrick and Becky Fisher, took her on the trip. O’Connor, alternating between peering through binoculars and putting on her headband with a light for the night hike, said she was most excited about hearing campfire stories.

Becky and Patrick said the family is no stranger to High Bridge, often riding bikes over the bridge and on the trail and bringing Quinn along for the ride using a Burley Bee, or a small covered trailer that can be attached to the back of a bike.

“It will be … an exciting evening,” Becky said.

Shawn Kendrick, who brought his children Dempsey, 6, Felix, 5, and Catalina, 4, said he heard about the event shortly after Dempsey took part in the High Bridge 5K earlier in June.

Giggling and donning brightly-colored pajamas, Felix, Catalina and Dempsey were excited to take part in the event.

Shawn said the family has gone camping before, but that this event was a unique opportunity.