Roughing It

I was going to tell you Lynn had abandoned us, but because I am a slacker I didn’t get around to it in time, thus taking all the drama out of my melodrama and leaving me with the mellow: Lynn did abandon us, but she came back, because her camping trip was only for one night.

Months ago, Lynn picked out a vacation week — sometime in September, much too far away for me to concern myself with yet — and decided she wanted to go to Antelope Canyon, part of the Navajo Nation. She is going to go hiking and camping, and since she has done neither of those things pretty much the entirety of our 20-year duration, she decided to practice in the interim.

She has this week off — some day when I have loads of blogging time I will make a feeble attempt to explain the US Postal Service to you — she decided to spend Monday and some of Tuesday hiking and camping closer to home, where we theoretically have an abundance of such opportunities. But we these days also have an abundance of people taking advantage of these opportunities.

She managed, online, to find one camping site at one campground that was available for reservation, which is not how it worked around here when I was a kid but apparently is the only way you can do it in this newfangled world of backcountry overlove. I don’t remember how much her overnight campsite cost — $18? — but the fee to reserve it was almost as much. I just hope the money is going to some good cause.

Sunday, then, Lynn broke out all the camping equipment she has spent hours purchasing through her computer, plus her shopping spree to Gene Taylor’s here in Gunnison, set it up, broke it down, packed it into box after box after box, then spent a good hour or more Monday morning loading it into her car and trying to decide what to wear — more layers-wise and pant-length-wise than fashion — and pointed her car north toward Oh Be Joyful up Washington Gulch above Crested Butte. Abandoning us.

Marrakesh did give some small thought to tagging along, hopping into the car during the lengthy loading process. But he was more interested in wandering around the back of the car than actually going anyplace. Bear, who might perhaps enjoy camping and hiking, was not invited (no room in the inn) and didn’t seem terribly sad about being left behind. And Na Ki’o and me? We wished Lynn well, but had no interest in tagging along.

Ki’o . . . well, he’s a cat, one without much invested in the Great Outdoors. There’s cat mint in the front garden, and stalks of grass just off the back deck, but he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and that’s the inside. Me? I’ve been there, done that, and when we boil it all down, I just don’t recall it that fondly.

After my family moved to Gunnison, we dutifully did the local thing, sort of, and bought a tent trailer. This was not a tent like the Barils owned, but it got us out into the woods, often in the company of the Barils and other family friends.

Here are the memories of all those trips I have carried with me into adulthood: Me kicking a rock loose while scrambling up a hill outside of Creede and nearly beaning my sister Terri. My sneaker soles bubbling because I set them too close to the fire, with my feet in them. The back of my windbreaker melting because I was standing outside the tent trailer in front of some vent where either the emergent air was too hot or my jacket too flammable.

Terri, Kristi Baril and I in our saggy little Army Surplus two-person raft with the plastic paddles, being battered by the wind toward the dam end of Needle Creek Reservoir, and Charley Lorimer, to his great disgust, having to wade in after us to pull us to safety. Me breaking out my pocket knife to whittle and slicing my knuckle clear down to the bone, ending our trip before my dad even got the tent trailer popped up. Good times.

Lynn, on the other hand, must remember the good parts. She, owner of all the Little House and Foxfire books, got into the family station wagon numerous times to get hauled from Wisconsin to national parks such as Glacier and Rocky Mountain in her youth. She did campy stuff with her Girl Scout troop, and at one point on the cusp of adulthood wanted to live in a fire watchtower in some remote location.

So she set up her trip to Antelope Canyon and the rocky environs of Utah for later this year and started shopping for camping supplies for this one-week event. A tent. A “stove” that looks like a Transformer toy. A piece of collapsible silicone that somehow serves as a coffee pot. A battery-operated fan/light combination. Meals that come in a self-heating pouch. Eight hundred boxes worth of camping supplies, all of them crying out for a preliminary test. Oh Be Joyful or bust!

[News flash: to no one’s surprise, WordPress once again ate a large chunk of my post. But this time I took screen shots. I will eventually triumph over this awful excuse that somehow alleges to power about a third of the world’s websites.]

Lynn’s first text message sounded promising. Because she couldn’t access her campsite until 2 p.m. (here’s to reservations), she headed to Gothic, a mining-town-turned-world-class-biology-research-center, and hiked to Judd Falls, which she pronounced just the right length and degree of difficulty for an out-of-practice outdoorswoman. But there were a lot of deer flies.

The second (and final) text, which reported tenuous cell service, said it was sprinkling, but she didn’t expect to get too wet. Before that even finished sending I got, “Well, I was wrong about that. I’d just gotten the tent unrolled when the sprinkle turned into a shower which turned into some heavy rain.” The tent was abandoned in favor of the car, where it turned out her instant meal was almost too bland to tolerate and the sleeping was “scrunchy.” But, in the true spirit of the wilderness, her iPad worked just fine and she spent the rainy evening watching a movie.

The sun returned the next morning, allowing her to test out her stove and coffeepot. She then set out to hike to Oh Be Joyful Falls (I should have entitled this “Falling for Camping”) under blue skies that somewhere along the way turned sullen and damp. And then wet. She returned home in the middle of yesterday, initially “cured” of her desire to go camping but perhaps growing more enthused about how it went as she dried out.

Will Lynn go camping again? (Besides her already planned and reserved trip to a probably drier part of the country in a drier month.) I don’t know. Has her report changed my perspective on the practice? Well, no.

It’s reinforced it, actually. Not that sitting in the front seat of a car eating unpalatable food and retiring to the scrunchy rear to sleep among 800 boxes of camping equipment doesn’t sound like a delight well worth waiting in a reservation queue for. Followed by a soggy hike. Or even a dry hike filled with deer flies.

I’m sure some of you are thinking to yourself that I am missing some greater point here, and perhaps that’s true. But it’s also true that like Lynn, I spent Monday night watching a movie. However, I stayed dry, ate good food and slept on a full mattress in unscrunched fashion. Perhaps I should feel bad for that, but somehow I just don’t.

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