Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Camp Tales XIII: Day Camping: "Wait, wait, don't shoot me!"

Back in the old newspaper days with Gaylord, we invented a new kind of camping we coined "Day Camping." It's when, after a wicked work week, and limited "free" time, you go to the lake, hills, trails, whatever, and mimic camping without actually having to lug all the gear and stay overnight. It frees up extra time to squeeze in other fun crap on your two days off, OR one "token" day off if you're stuck on nights at the paper.

Only camping in eastern Nebraska SUCKED, as you already know, especially during hunting season particularly IF you are NOT a hunter.

The Seduction of a Quiet Piece of Land

Driving in the country, we found a public area that shockingly didn't have any RV's, braying campers or screaming children. It was even pretty, in a flat-n-sticker-bush sort of way, the only sounds of a few meadowlarks. We thought we'd hit paydirt.

Only one thing sort of confused us. There were no BBQ pits, nor picnic tables which was VERY odd for a picnicing site.

Not to worry, (we thought) because we were away from annoying campers, yay!

"What was that alarming noise?" Gaylord asked as he flipped a burger on the portable grill we lugged next to Yahoo Lake (there really is a town in Nebraska called Yahoo--or Wahoo what's the diff?-- aptly named by local yahoos).

"Folks, it sounds alarmingly like we're getting shot at," I announced into the hand-held microphone of a cassette player. We were making a tape of our adventure for Dooder back in Minneapolis.

"Preposterous," Gaylord snorted, in his best Ignatious-voice (Confederacy of Dunces). "This is public land! I pay taxes!! We're at a recreational area!"

"Ping, pop," went a few bullets whizzing over our heads.

"ARRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh," we screamed in unison.

"I think we need to get outta here. I think it's hunting season," I said pointing to a sign we amazingly neglected to read. It read, "No LEAD AREA. Public Walk In."

"Doesn't that mean, WE walk in and BBQ?" Gaylord sniffed in indignation.

"I think it means, they shoot, and we crawl outta here."

"But I haven't finished grilling the burgers," Gaylord lamented salting the raw hamburger.

"Ping, pop," sung a few bullets over our head.

"Aaarrrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," we screamed again.

The next ten minutes were a mixture of us imitating infantry soldiers, complete with bullets zinging merrily over our heads as we performed an amazingly complicated dance, hunching over while carrying rucksacks with gear falling out, dumping coals and partially cooked burgers on the ground, and dragging the necessities with us out of the war zone: hammocks, books and beer.

"YIKES! Dooder! They're shooting at us. Enemy fire has opened on our camp!" I shriek into the microphone as we hunch/crawled to the car feeling like something out of Full Metal Jacket.

"Operation fucked up evac. Over and out," I say to Dooder in the mike.

Needless to say, we didn't "Day camp" at Lake Yahoo again anytime soon. Amazingly, when recently asked, Dooder says she doesn't remember listening to our "War Sounds" cassette----sigh. All that exciting journalism for naught.

Years later, I found out there's a nifty thing you can buy called a gazetteer that shows you exactly where the HUNTING public areas are vs. the picnicing areas.

So remember folks. Next time you're day camping, make sure to check out that nifty spot in the gazeteer you think is so cute and secluded before you end up fodder for another Cormac McCarthy sequel to No Country For Old Men.

Don't worry. I'm lookin' out for us all.