Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Camp Tales VII: "We're Almost There!"

Now that I'm starting to get old, I'm really noticing gravity. Not only do my boobs happily bounce down to my knees when freed from my boulder-holder, but I find I like LOWER elevations as well, my arches aching to sit or get in a recumbent position, preferably with a cold beverage in hand and laying in a hammock.

But tell that to my camping partner, Doooder, Olympic National Triathalon Finalist and contender to be the next woman to shoot up in outer space.

"Dude, you're gonna love this 'little' hike I have planned for us," she says as I notice her put something into her backpack.

"Little hike?" I begin to worry. "What's that in your backpack?"

"It's just a mini tank of oxygen," she says. Note: Dooder does not have asthma or any lung conditions.

"And why do we need oxygen on our hike?" Well, if you need an answer, scroll back up to look at said mountain and said elevation, which was something ridiculous like close to 10,000 feet.

This photo was taken as I was in near throes of death: gasping, lying on the ground trying to breathe, (faint, distant dreams of beers at the campsite dancing in my head) yet somehow nobly photographing the view on my deathbed as serving for a good martyr.

As soon as we left the car, we began a near verticle ascent up only the service road. After easily ascending 2,000 feet, about two miles, I was ready to turn back for the car.

"No, no, dude. We've not even got on the trail yet," she eagerly tells me. My feet are starting to swell; my shirt is already soaked, and my hair is glued to my head in a sheen of sweat.

We press on, up another thousand feet. But at least we were in shade. However, now there are roots growing up at alarming angles along the trail and boulders sticking up out of the dirt, threatening to break one of my ankles. I cannot notice the wonderful view, for fear of tripping and taking a header down the mountain.

"Are . . . We . . . There . . . Yet?" I gasp after about an hour an a half of not "hiking" but basically climbing a rock ladder, known as the Catamount Trail. Probably about the same drill the Marines use in basic training. Only I'm not getting paid.

"Hang in there, Dude," Dooder happily chirps. "Try this." She hands me the oxygen. I feel euphoric for approximately 15 seconds then feel like shit again. "Come on, we're almost there."

By then after about ten "We're almost there's," I realize that "Almost there," is somewhat relative state of mind. Were the Donner Party members "almost there"? before they hit Donner Lake?

45 minutes later, I stumble to my knees, willing, and in fact, quite happy to offer myself up as a snack for a bear or mountain lion.

"I . . . Cannnot. . . Go. . . On . . ." I feel like weeping, but I've sweat out all body fluids.

"No probs. I'll just jog to the top," Dooder says as I lie flat on my back, legs splayed, in the middle of the trail anticipating beers, big, glorious, fat, vats of it. Better still, swimming in a vat of beer while drinking beer.

I don't remember descending that mountain. All I remember was Dooder prompting me, looking over her shoulder every 15 min. "We're almost back to the car," she'd happily say as I lurched forward, arms in front of me, white faced and rigid like a zombie.

One hour later, I was perched on a stool of a biker bar, 32 oz. of almost frozen beer parked front of me.

It was heaven.

Bad note: Today, Dooder tells me, "I picked up another canister of oxygen for our trip."

God have pity on me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Camp Tales VI: The Pringles Incident

The Pringles Incident, or What to do with Empty Pringles Cans

Ahhhh, to recall early camping days. The glory, the scatological humor and imbecile pranks. You have to remember, that camping in NEBRASKA is an endeavor into foppery of the highest kind, Tom Foolery, and junior high humor. Why? Because camping in eastern Nebraska sucks: no mountains, no privacy, tons of RV's, high impact, buggy, ticky, and WORST OF ALL, a "no booze in state parks" state ruling.

Neato. My jail sentence went from 1992-1998, 7 years of camping hell until I fled screaming into the Black Hills, grateful for camping sanity. HOWEVER, I had the best camping mate a camper could ask for from the newspaper: He wishes to remain anonymous (as if I were a famous author along the lines of say, Stephen King, which is rather gay, so I'll refer to him from now on as "Gaylord.") With an insane personality bordering on Einstein and a sense of humor only a comedian could truly appreciate, he made our adventures totally off the hook.

The biggest challenge of course was disgusing our beers as to not get ticketed or thrown out of the parks. We would do ANYTHING to try and find a remote place to camp. Towards the end, we had a canoe, which greatly helped getting away from the majority of campers.

After copious beers, some things would be fair game. And we had a lot of games we'd make up. Mostly dares. "I dare you to(something outrageous) or else (major consequence.)" Nothing was sacred either. Streak through campsite? Sure. Shoot bottle rockets at annoying teenagers across lake? Absolutely.

After a time, we'd run out of outrageous things to do. Til one day.

"Dare me to be the most disgusting bastard you've ever known?" Gaylord asked one Saturday afternoon as we were camping on the edge of Conestoga State Park.

"Yeah, right. I've seen it all," I replied, cracking a beer.

"If this doesn't constitute as the most outrageous thing you've ever seen, then I'll buy us pizza and beer at Piezano's when we get back to Lincoln," Gaylord said, polishing off the can of Pringles--this was no inexpensive feat, as Piezano's pizzas were a good $25 and up for a medium pie, let alone a couple pitchers of good beer.

I looked at him for a moment. What could that be? We've done about everything that two people could pull off while camping without getting thrown in jail. What was left?

"You're on," I said.

Gaylord proceeded to drop his pants, take the empty Pringle can and appear to take a dump in it.

Tears springing from my eyes, I jumped up from the rock and started to dry heave. "You are a sick mother fucker!" I managed to yell and started to run away.

"If you leave, no pizza and beer," he called. I closed my eyes and pulled my shirt up over my head.

An hour later, as we were packing up to break camp and head back to Lincoln, Gaylord says, "I'll throw in an extra pitcher of beer if you carry the Pringles can back to the car."

"Fuck you."

Well you know the drill, folks. "Pack it in, pack it out." But does that apply to Pringles' cans full of shit?

BTW, that pizza was stellar.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Camp Tales V: The Perfect Storm

Camp Tales
V: Inclement Weather, or "Hey, dude, a cold beer sounds like shit."

Back when I first started camping in the Black Hills National Forest, I had no idea what mountain weather was like and didn't realize that in the Black Hills, it can vacillate between winter and summer for as long as two months.

We'd booked a camping spot at Sylvan Lake, pulled in, got out our tent when things starting going south.

First it began to rain.
No probs, we just set up a tarp. It was just a mist. Of course, we didn't have a very large tarp, so we were uncomfortably hunched in a tight area.

Then it started to rain sideways, like a storm ripped from the pages of the bible.
Our gear started being knocked over by the winds. Beer cans tipping over, potato chip bags flying like parachutes. My friend starts a fire, but the rain keeps putting it out. Tension level rises from a 3.1 to a 7.5.

Then the temperature dropped.
I don't mean a few degrees. I mean about 30 degrees in half and hour. It soon dropped to 40 degrees with about a -10 wind chill thrown in for grins. Clad in shorts and a wind breaker, I frantically dug in my bag and pulled on a sweater and sweats and coat. But I neglected to bring a winter coat. After all, this was late April. It's supposed to be spring, right?

The conversation fades to zip, each of us not wanting to say "FUCK IT. THIS SUCKS!" Tension level= 8.6. Cussing enuses. All jokes grind to a halt.

In cold, rainy weather, ever notice that cold beer tastes like shit?

So I made some Russian tea, only it was so cold, because the fire kept burning out, that it turned into lukewarm dishwater in no time. Thoughts of Jack London's "To Build a Fire" flicker in my head.

Then the tea got spilled all over the camping gear, leaving things a sticky mess. Teeth chattering, I decide that I might be better off crawling into my sleeping bag.

Sleeping on a mattress of ice--

Only I only had summer gear: a sleeping bag rated at 60 degrees, and a blow up air mattress. What that meant was the cold seeped up through the ground into my mattress and sleeping bag.

My buddy calls out, "It'll blow over soon," but there's very little conviction in his voice.

Miserable, I pull the sleeping bag over my head and feel like endulging in a moment of self-pity and crying.

After about 2 hours of this, finally it starts to sleet sideways.

My partner had, had enough. Tension level=9.9

"FUCK IT. WE ARE SO FUCKING OUT OF HERE!!!!! Fuck this SHIT!!!!," he yelled pulling up campstakes. 45 min. later we were parked outside of a small motel in Rapid, taking turns at a long, long, long, hot shower and watching the forecast call for snow, with all our summer gear spread out around the motel room, drying, sticky orange Russian tea over everything.

Years, later, when Dooder and I discovered Leadville, CO, I remembered that awful camping trip and brought polypropelenes, a winter coat, hat, mittens and a sleeping bag rated to 0, wool socks, and assorted tarps and ropes.

Oh, and one other thing, never forget to pack: brandy, a big flask of it, and cards. You never know what the weather will bring, but you might as well be buzzed and happy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Camp Tales--Pt. IIII, Don't forget the Party Goods

In all my Crazy Partying Camp Tales, there's usually a certain amount of inebriation. Pick your potion: in Colorado, weed's legal with a permit (just sayin', ahem, cough, cough), a box of wine, or good ol' fashioned Fat Tire Ale.

A couple years ago, Dooder and I found this GREAT, completely isolated place to camp in northern New Mexico. In case you're going to camp there soon, let me give you some advice.

Unlike Colorado, where every camp host practically is holding up a sign saying, "Howdy! Come camp here, pard!" New Mexico couldn't be farther from that. It almost seems they're holding a sign that says, "Get the hell outta here."

After finding some rather alarming sites, littered with gang graffiti, broken glass and suspicious carcasses and bones laying around (hello, Ted Bundy), we finally found what appeared like a safe, clean place to camp out in the middle of nowhere. BUT, we were prepared, for we remembered to bring a case of beer. You have to get your priorities straight, folks. New Mexico is dry hot as in, imagine yourself in solitary confinement in a 9'x9' black box under the broiling sun. That's New Mexico=extremely thirsty.

Before 9:00 p.m., we'd polished off half a case. It started to get dark.

"Dooder, watch out for the . . ." I called out to Dooder (Skyvee is "dooder" and I am just "dude") as she tripped over the fire ring.

Then slightly later,
"Dooder, my head lamp is broke," I lamented in my husky-buzz voice.
"Bummer, Dude," Dooder mumbled, the delighful aroma of cannibus in the vicinity (NOT us, of course).
"I mean, it's REALLY broken," I lamented. "I've had this same headlamp for 15 years," I said, feeling dramatic.
"You got it on upside down, Dude," Dooder says.

Ah, yes, the campsite buzz, firelight euphoria that only a good trippy can bring.

Only, don't forget the beer. We didn't this time, but the year after we did.

We were in Leadville, CO, my favorite place. We'd driven all day, and were parched. We finally find a liquor store, go in, buy a 12 pack, some ice. We get out to the car, spend copious time spreading out the ice meticulously in our coolers, then drive off, leaving said 12-pack sitting on the curb.

Until we realize this four hours later.

"Doooder, where's the beer!? We're OUT OF BEER!!!!!" I cry in alarm back at the campsite.
"Why it's in the cooler," Dooder says in disbelief.
"No. NO, NO, NO, it isn't!!!!!!!"

A beer emergency.

Then back in the car we go, white-knuckling it to the liquor store at 9:00 p.m. and praying the beer is still there, which it isn't.

Some hobo had a great night that evening, prayers answered and a free 12-pack.

So my advice is: don't drive off and leave your beer on the curb, especially when "town" is a good 10 minute drive from your campsite.

Camp Tales Pt. III--Unfortunate BM's, pt. II

Camp Tales, Pt. III

Irritable Bowl Movements, pt. II--The Ketchup Packet Story.

Yes, yes, I know I already did one on this, but honestly, this is a different story. Sadly, it was back when I was younger, in my early 30's and should have had a gut made of iron. It serves as a cautionary tale for us all, so shut up and listen.

Ketchup Packets were invented in 1955 by two men, Kaplan and Ross. They're pretty nifty, don'tcha think? What's even more nifty, rather than dragging along a big squirt bottle of ketchup when you're camping, why not just bring along a few of these lightweight puppies, right?

It sounded like a good idea at the time.

ONLY that the ketchup packets were in my friend's glove box, and he didn't have any idea how old they were. It went like this:

"Oh, no, dude. We forgot the ketchup. We can't have brats without ketchup."
"No problem, dude," my friend says. "I know I have some old ketchup packets in my car somewhere."

And he did. But the question remains: how old were they?

They tasted good. I slathered about three of them on my brat, popped open a couple of brews and enjoyed the campfire.

Until about 3:00 a.m. when the most alarming pain ripped through my gut. I sat straight up in my sleeping bag. Another lightning bolt of pain. Oh, man, I gotta get out of this tent, I thought. Of course, the tent flap was stuck.

Naturally, my friend had to wake up.
"What's wrong?"
"I'm sick. I need OUT OF THIS TENT. Fucking, NOW." The flap finally came unstuck, and I started to run blindly when I realized I'd forgotten my head lamp. Nevertheless, In the distance I could barely make out a Boy Scout campfire, so I could sort of see, a little. Another lightning bolt of pain. Then I realized two things: 1. I had NO idea where the header was. 2. I had about 4 seconds to find a bathroom.

Writhing in agony, I whipped down my bibs and humiliated myself accompanied by a chorus of unpleasant loud noises that seemed to take at least five minutes.

Suddenly I heard giggling. The damned Boy Scouts were listening to my orchestra of butt-trumpets. Then I realized that I'd taken a dumper in a clearing, not in the woods. Everyone would see come morning. Uh-oh. Oh, well.

Filled with shame, I pulled up my bibs. You'd think this scenario was over, right? Wrong. For the next hour and half, this scenario was repeated every ten minutes until my friend finally said,

"Let's pack it up, drive into town, and get you some Pepto Bismol."

I don't know what was worse, to have to do what I did so shamefully, or to be laughed at for getting caught with my bibs down, practically shitting myself.

I hope one of them stepped in it.

Moral? Ketchup packets = not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Camp Tales: Part II, "Dude, what was that?"

Pull up a chair. It's time for more camp tales. This one I'll call, "Dude, what was that?"

Bears around the campsite:

You always HEAR about this. But most of the time, it's never anyone you know. Nevertheless, you scratch your chin and try to figure out what you'd do in that situation. Some would say, "Why, I'd get out my trusty bear spray that I always have clipped to my belt." (really?) OR, "Run to the car, roll up the windows and pray (assuming you're awake when this happens)."

Last summer we had a bear incident at this very site. My tent is the tent right next to the woods. Ivy's tent was the one closer (safer) to the camp area. Cheyenne State Campground is so close to Colorado Springs, that when one of park hosts said he'd seen a bear a few nights before, we just smiled, and nodded politely. I mean it's 10 min. from the interstate, not exactly the foot of Denali.

So our first night in, we're exhausted, cook up a meal of pasta, then proceed to drink copious amounts of boxed wine in front of the cheery warm fire. Usually, I have a nice campfire buzz going by 10, so when I stumble into the sack, I'm out like a light til my stomach acts up hours later (see last blog), and this night was no exception. There I lie, snoring, dreaming I'm sleeping next to George Clooney, when for NO REASON, I suddenly wake up.

What was that? My eyes fly open.
I reach for my flashlight but can't find it.

Ever wonder what a bear sounds like when it's pitch black out?
It sounds like a giant, drunken, obese guy, stumbling around in the woods, looking for his car keys. Yup. I sat up in my tent, listening. It's a tremendously LOUD sound--Crunch, swack, crumble, crunch, swack, crumble, SNAP!

"Dude," I whisper loudly towards Ivy's tent, afraid that opening my tent door might be inviting the bear to our whereabouts.
"ZZzzzzzzzz, snore."
"Dude!" I say a bit louder this time.
"Zzzzz, snore."
"Dude, damnit, wake up," I try again.

The irony here is that I AM the one who usually sleeps through things, especially with a gut full of booze and pasta.

Suddenly, I realize I need to pee then remember that the header is about a 15 hike through the woods, along an unlit, uneven trail.

So what noble act of courage do I do?

I lay back down and listen. Slowly, the noises move farther up the mountain, eventually disappearing. I do not fall asleep until almost dawn.

Now here's the crazy thing. It's not the BEARS you need to be afraid of. It's the other campers.

As we were getting ready to haul out the next day, we saw that the campsite below us were getting a reprimand from a park ranger for having a large bag of food and trash hanging from a tree limb about 3 feet off the ground. We overheard the ranger explain that having bacon remains in the trash, and a bag of cookies and candies hanging next to it wasn't exactly a wise idea. Ivy and I just looked at each other. Bacon remains in the fucking trash? Cookies and candy? Are you shitting me? We copiously follow the rules about cooking, keeping food out of camp, changing clothes, hauling away trash, etc. I imagined how the scenario could have gone the night before: the bear using the bacon as a sort of crudites/appetizer, lolling about to OUR campsite for the main course.

So remember, it's not the BEARS you got to fear when you're camping, it's the damned hayseeds camping next to you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Camp Tales

It has occurred to me that I have many camp tales, as many as Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. Hell, I have enough to fill a book--like the time Aaron took a dumper in a Pringles can. I'll get back to that. In fact, I'm going to blog about them all in due time, one by one.

But for now, I'd like to bring up a fly or two in the ointment known as "Camping."

Campsite Irritable Bowl Movements--

OK, no one likes to talk about this, but as you grow older, no shit, you start noticing weird rumbles down there that you never had in your 20's. 15 years ago, I could eat 3 brats-n-onions, drink a six pack, eat a large pile of candy corn then sleep like a rock on the ground and be up and running in tip-top shape the next day. Not so much anymore.

Does this situation sound pitifully familiar?:

You're laying in your tent, about 4:00 a.m. when your stomach starts rumbling. "I shouldn't have had 3 s'mores with that six pack," you chastise yourself. Suddenly, you sit straight up in your tent only to realize you have to take a dumper. NOW. As in RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. But there's all these complicated zippers on your mummy sleeping bag. You pull desperately and only proceed to catch the lining of your mummy in one of the zippers. "Shit!" you mumble, quite literally, as the grumbling in your stomach grows louder. Finally, you rip yourself out of your sleeping bag. The stabbing pains are coming faster now, but now you find the zipper on your tent door is stuck. Finally, you rip it open. You grab the toilet paper and pray you don't shit yourself, crawl out of the tent, the gravel digging into your kneecaps, then hoist yourself up to remember that the header is a block hike through the woods and sticker bushes, and what was that? A twig breaking in the distance? You remember the park ranger's warning about bears. Frantically, you realize you don't have enough time to safely make it to the header. Waddling in pain as fast as you can, you barely make it about 20 feet from your tent door and end up in a less than attractive position and praying that you won't forget where you did this shameful act and end up walking in it.

Ahhhhh, yes. Getting old.

There's more later. You can count on that. This is one OLD, seasoned camper.

Hitting the Road, Baby!

Our annual "City Slickers" trip is back on. Every year, Doooder and I do up a big camping/hiking/cultural expedition of the West. This year it was canceled due to Doooder having conflicts, but NOW it's back on--whhoooeee! Frantically, we pondered where we'll go. Utah? Idaho? The Pacific Northwest? Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona?

But now we've nailed it: Provo, Utah; Green River, WY; and Steamboast Springs, CO.

She plans the hikes/camps, and I plan the cultural end (museums, pubs and dive bars!). That's so me, fill the brain with a museum, buy a book, then hike and sweat, then have a brewski!

I researched 7 small and quaint museums, 2 dive taverns, and one pizzeria voted the best in Utah.

Ya gotta love Yelp! That's how I roll. I'm there under Nate W's, the Groovy One, yelping and reviewing places and you can learn a boatload on there.

So I'll let everyone know how it all goes! Yeeeehaw!

Colorado is my favorite place by FAR! Ironically, we're driving right by that pinhead who used to write me and lives in Kremmling, CO. You'd have to go back to last summer (or was it the summer before) to those blogs to find out whom he was.

Ahhhhhh, campside fires, reading, coffee, brewskis. Who can ask for more?

Colorado, here I come. "Rocky Mountain High!"