Gluttons for punishment

-- by Barbara Gould

Adventuresome Senior Recreation I call it. In other words, 'we are poor folks that do things the hard way!' That is great because we make do and feel like it really develops character! I am not putting down people with less than moderate income; there is a lot of us out here and money is not what life is all about now is it? I was told by a farm woman once that if you had a good family and were of reasonable health you were far from poor!

We decided to get some stuff together and try camping in the rough. By rough, I mean, an army pup tent, sleeping bags, a great air mattress, cooler full of food, STERNO stove and hit the road to the Pioneer Mountains.

All went fine till the middle of the night when I had to get up to make a nature run and tried to get out of that dad-blasted pup tent. Tell you right now, I am an old dog, not a pup! I rolled around trying to keep from knocking the little center pole down, trying to get into my shoes, my knees up to my chin and I couldn't stand up to save my soul, so I had to roll right out in the dirt and then get on my feet. By then my knees were shaking and the forest looked darker than the inside of a cow, I don't like the dark to begin with but in the forest all I could think of was bears. Morning couldn't come fast enough for me.

Before we returned home on Sunday afternoon the decision had been made that we would purchase a new tent! We called the local hardware and got some prices and dashed in before they closed.

They did not have a big supply but we got an eight by seven foot Cabin Tent by Remington and it was thirty percent off so fit our budget nicely. We were thrilled. Got it home and put it up in the back yard. Lots of room and we could stand up! No more camping in that contortionists delight!

So another weekend on hand and we loaded up and tried it again, same place, in fact the same site! We were so thrilled, the sun was shining and we were going to have a a blast. The tent went up, on a tarp quick as could be, everything was ready, the work done time to sit back and enjoy a cold drink.

Conversation drifted to how lucky we are to have each other, this beautiful area we live in and the means to just relax and enjoy the weekend. About then over the big timbered mountain came the black, threatening clouds, gust of wind and a rain drop or two that turned into a torrential cloudburst in less time than it takes me to tell you about it. Of course we were surrounded by Seniors in big fifth wheel trailers and shiny pickups.

We barely got the dry food containers and canvas chairs into the car and get the little dog and our bodies into the tent before it broke loose. Randy covered our leather bike saddles with grocery bags and we were set to wait it out.

Water lay on the ground, it ran under the tarp and tent and about three square feet of tent was afloat. The lightening flashed rapidly and close. Thunder sounded like rushing freight trains on all sides. The wind was driving a mist into the tent through the rain cover on the top. When it eased up a bit Randy made a dash for the car, got his poncho and a tarp and covered the rain cover anchoring it with bungee cords. It worked but of course by then there was a big dampness throughout the tent.

Next came driving, cranberry size hail that pelted us very hard. Seemed like it went on forever. The violence of the storm and being closed in the tent made me so claustrophobic. Very unpleasant feeling. Knowing that there were steep timber covered mountains on all sides of us I couldn't help but think back to the summer of 1959, the night the mountain fell and made a lake just out of West Yellowstone, Montana, killing people who were camped in the area. I worked as a long distance telephone operator for Mountain Bell at Livingston that summer and I will never in this lifetime forget the trauma of that disaster.

After the storm subsided Randy bungee'd the little pet carrier to his rear bike rack, we slipped the little Lhasa into it and rode the campground. The hail was still in evidence under the trees but had melted rapidly. We only rode the campground loop as this was the little dog's first experience on a bike ride. Upon return to camp we got our evening meal of pork and beans, potato salad and cheese/chicken wraps that had been frozen ahead of time for the occasion. The clouds were appearing again and we knew that if we got hungry later we could get into the car, as we had a lot of dry food for snacks.

NO FOOD IN THE TENT! Not even toothpaste or a breath mint. Nothing that might tempt a bear. There had been no bear reports or scares in these camps but then there is always a first time and that was what bothered me. I had worked at Glacier National Park one summer, we lived just a few miles south of the West Glacier Entrance and the bears made a real impression on me!

It was inevitable that a new storm would be along soon so we re-arranged the tent to enhance our comfort for the long haul. The rather soft but constant snap and crackle of raindrops against the tent was rather a soothing sound especially after the deluge that we had endured. I felt disappointment that the clouds would cover the beauty of the full moon; I had looked forward to viewing it in the trees. (Later that night I did see it in all its glory as the sky cleared and storms ceased).

Morning dawned bright and beautiful. Randy rose first and I could hear him bustling around, setting up the STERNO stove and assembling the coffee pot. I couldn't go back to sleep so I got up and he had the muffins out, the table set in an attempt to surprise me. He is a most considerate husband. We ate, broke camp, watched a baby camp robber scurry about, no fear of us or the dog, looking for any morsel we might have let drop. Between him and the squirrels it was a busy camp.

We hiked a bit, hung wet items on a improvised line to dry before we loaded the car. Walked across the Boulder River bridge, and up a trail. The day would be hot!

Had our lunch then loaded the bikes and headed for home. The torment of the storm would not be forgotten but neither would the coziness of the tent, the pine odors or the freshness after the rain!

The big fancy campers and trailers were also readying for departure for distances both near and far. We arrived home with a giant sized sense of great accomplishment and satisfaction.

.@2001 Barbara Gould

Barbara writes articles dealing with life and issues of Senior Citizens. She has published a poetry book, written a column and been published in many areas. She had a mid-life career in Early Childhood Education and Development then closing her Daycare Center/preschool she volunteered for five years for the Senior Companion Program. A few years ago Barb married a man much younger than herself and officially retired the first of this year. Her days are filled with writing, gardening and homemaking..



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