Sunday, July 3, 2016

30 Days of Blogging, Day 3: Suburban Lesbians and Camping Theory

I know some bad-ass campers. I know a person who will go into the wilderness by herself for weeks. I have friends who have a tent with an actual foyer. They have wonderful memories and experiences. They enjoy things like hiking, kayaking, and other wilderness activities, like tree-climbing and probably eating pine cones or whatever.

I've always been a novice camper. To be honest, growing up my family, camping trips always had an element of disaster; like golf ball sized hail or snow in July. The first time I went camping without my family was with a group of friends from high school. My tent was riddled with mildew and was nearly lit on fire by a cigarette, then one of the guys compared me to a pork byproduct. So the first summer my ex and I moved here why didn't I follow the signs? The signs that clearly read Summer + Camping = This Will End in Tears? 

The decision to go camping was very last minute. As in, "It's Thursday before 4th of July weekend and on the commute home we had the bright idea to go camping, but we don't have a place to go, we don't have a park pass, we don't have fishing supplies or licenses, oh and we had literally no supplies". To Big 5 Sporting Goods!

We needed everything. Tent, sleeping bags, chairs, camping grill, fishing poles (and licenses), cooler, cooking supplies; everything. 

"Where are we going to camp? Everything is already booked!" 

"Leave it to me babe. I know a guy." 

I don't think that's exactly what I said, but for the sake of story and to increase the significance of being brought down by my own hubris, let's say that's what I said.

The next day I talked to my boss at work. He was the king of camping and pretty punk rock about it. I asked for ideas of where we could get reservations so last minute. 

"Reservations? Ha!", he probably said.  

We pulled up Google Maps and he pointed at an exit on I-90. He told me to get off at that exit, take a left, take the third right, drive for awhile, and then just set up camp at the nearest clearing. Sounds easy, right?

That Friday night after work we packed all of our new camping gear, our dogs Xena (a young and wild Lab), and Maddy, (and old Pug who was the reincarnation of Sophia from The Golden Girls), and we headed east. We packed enough food and beer to feed Coachella and we were finally on the road by 7:00 pm.

You know, an hour and a half before sunset?

Going to a place we've never been. 

We followed my boss's directions and it was remarkably easy to find a spot. A little too easy...

We pulled over on the dirt road and were in awe at our luck. It was a gorgeous clearing across what appeared to be an easy to traverse ravine, right next a a beautiful roaring river, and an already built in fire pit. Dusk on Friday night on a holiday weekend and nobody has claimed this spot? Fools!

It was not that easy to get to. We had to hike down a steep and narrow trail. Once we got to the bottom of the trail we had to cross a generous portion of a river pool on dubiously placed rocks. Imagine trying to balance a cooler filled with way too much food and a very cranky pug under one arm while trying not to fall into freezing cold winter run-off. 

After crossing the river it's a short hike back up hill and there we were -- our perfect little clearing.

"There's still more stuff in the car?? Are you kidding me? You get it, I'll stay with the dogs."

Did I mention I'm a terrible camping companion?

After my camping partner kindly fetched the remainder of our supplies (with tags still attached), we quickly set up our tent and started building a camp fire.

Did you know that in order to start a fire, you need fire starting supplies? Like wood. Kindling. Matches.

At this point it was so dark and we were exhausted and starving. We were also cold because camping next to a river filed to the brim with winter run-off is freezing.

We were left with no choice but to hike back up to the car and drive to the nearest gas station about 20 minutes away where we stocked up on fire building supplies and lighter fluid, just for good measure. We did this completely forgetting that we had an actual gas grill that we could have used for cooking and warmth. 

Fire was achieved and we were finally sitting in our brand new fold out chairs and roasting wieners. We stuffed ourselves silly and finally started to relax with our beers and forest ambiance. 

After lulling ourselves into a false sense of comfort, we saw a large pick up truck drive by and slow down, we assumed because they were looking for people they were supposed to join. We went back to drinking beer and relaxing by the fire when what appeared to be the same truck cruised by again. 

I didn't start getting really nervous until it cruised by again, this time slowing down even more. We wondered who they could be. Are they lost? Do they think there are more camping spots down here? Are they murderers? 

Of course that's where our minds went. 

Shortly the truck appeared again, and this time they stopped, right behind our car. 

We could see a dome light inside the truck turn on. The door opened. We could see the light of a flashlight go around our car.

The idea of going up there was brought up and immediate dismissed as asinine, because they are probably waiting for us to go up there to chop us into bits with an axe. 

Haven't you heard of the slew of axe murders in the campgrounds of western Washington?

Yeah me neither, but there's no such thing as rational thinking in the middle of the night in the woods while facing a strange truck person. 

We stood and watched. Eventually the flashlight disappeared, the dome light in the truck went off and we could hear the door to the truck close barely over the sound of the rushing river. 

They weren't leaving. We weren't even sure they were in the truck. 

The woods that surrounded us quickly started to look so much more dark and dangerous, like black walls being lit up by the fading campfire that could at any moment be penetrated by an axe wielding murderer.

In my mind we stood and stared at that truck sitting in darkness for an hour while in reality it was probably only 30 seconds. In that space of eternity I imagined what I would do if a monstrous axe man leapt at us from the darkness. Could I push them in the fire? Grab my partner and run? Push her down and run--no definitely shouldn't do that...

The truck started up again, reversed and pulled away. I could breath again. I wouldn't have to sacrifice my partner so that I could live.

We decided to go to bed, but we were still freaked out.

What if they came back?

What if they were waiting for us to go to sleep?

I actually called 911 asking if there were any reports of suspicious activity area in the area. The operator said there was nothing and to call back if anything happened. I agreed, but in my head I thought to myself that I wasn't going to be able to call if there was an ax sticking out of my, well...head. 

We got in our sleeping bags and kept the cover off the top of the tent, so we could see the stars. It should have been romantic, but as I lay there staring at the sky all I could imagine was waking up with a blood-stained hockey mask staring back at me. Every time I would doze of I would jerk myself awake again. I know my partner didn't sleep either, because the dogs were restless and she was equally freaked out.

With sunrise came safety. We miraculously survived the night. We were very tired and very cranky. She went to work on breakfast while I broke down the tent. As we ate breakfast we made plans to go fishing while not being at all excited about it. Our lack of sleep combined with still being disturbed about who was stalking our car in the middle of the night made us want to abandon our trip early.

As I continued to stuff my face my partner contemplated starting a new campfire then like a warlock a park ranger appeared at the top of the ravine by our camp.

Apparently that's who was stalking our car last night: a park ranger.

Apparently we were not supposed to be burning fires at this site.

Apparently this is a hiking route, not a campsite.

We promised we were leaving.

We attempted to fish before hitting the road. We were not expert fisher-persons. The dogs wouldn't relax, and the river was too full and too fast.

The best part of our 4th of July camping trip, hands down, was the hot shower and snuggling on our couch watching the fireworks on TV. Like normal people.


Kathryn said...

After years of camping torture I've decided to turn a new leaf. From now on we will rent a semi nice hotel room in a scenic area and do outdoorsy things during the day and take showers and eat at restaurants.

Summer said...

You've made a very wise decision.