I was planning to take the first weekend of April to make this trip, as the kids expressed no interest in 20 hours of driving for a one-night stay. However, plans changed, and my weekend ‘off’ was moved up. Despite forecasts for rain & snow the whole way, the painful thought of the drive, and general laziness, I took the opportunity. It was that or deep-clean the house… so in the end it was an easy decision
Made possible by the mileage of my new car, I decided to take the ‘fast’ route (according to Mapquest & Google) that I had avoided previously. The drive time was estimated at 9 hrs 25 minutes, HA! It ended up being over 11 hours with gas/food/bathroom breaks. I guess the algorithm doesn’t compute winding mountain/canyon areas.
Instead of preparing dinner over a fire at my campsite, I pulled in at dusk. The road was too muddy to drive in all the way, so I hiked in. I had my ‘get-home’ bag, sleeping bag, cooler, & a little propane space heater I had recently acquired. It was difficult to see in the twilight, as my eyes were playing tricks on me. I started getting nervous when I happened upon a large area scattered with miscellaneous bones. The only thing keeping me calm at this point was the Smith & Wesson on my hip. I started singing in a deep voice (to warn predators of my presence) and headed blindly in the direction of my camp. At this point it was a guess, as my GPS no longer had the coordinates after all.
Relief flooded over me, as I discovered our newly constructed ‘road’ which I was able to follow to my shelter for the night. At this point I was hot & sweaty, and ready for bed. I was glad to see that the BBQ, propane tank, picnic tables, and yard tools were all where we left them. You can imagine my surprise, then, as I neared the camper and found the door ajar. Inside was a void where many of our other treasures had been stored. Whatever, I just wanted some rest, inventorying could wait until morning.
I setup my little heater and welcomed the warmth it brought to my home for the night. However, I couldn’t setup my sleeping bag yet, as someone had stolen my mattress. Really!? I improvised using the dinette cushions, and setup for bed as it started to rain, pausing just long enough to send a text message status update to my brother. I awoke around 2 AM to coldness, the heater was out of propane. I guess a full bottle is only good for about 5 hours, full. Great! I wasn’t about to hike 2 miles in the black to retrieve a half-full cylinder, so I trusted in my bag, and forced myself back to sleep.
The plan was to awake at dawn and cook breakfast over an open fire. However, with the long drive the day previous, I was anxious to leave camp at a decent hour, and it was already 7am. Since it had rained, frozen, then snowed on top, the prospect of a fire seemed further away than the car, so I opted for the latter. I took inventory and found some curiosities.
The thieves had taken the paper plates, but not their holders or the rolls of tin foil. The hot chocolate, but not the coffee. The clothes-washing plunger, but not the bucket it was in. One shovel, but not the rake, pick, other shovel, splitting maul, or fence-post digger… They took the solar lights & 7 tiki torches, but left the other 5? They took the mattress & broom, but not the other camp chairs. They left the garbage bags, zip locks, pots, & cutting board, but took the pans. They took the fence stretcher, T-posts, and 2×6’s, but not the BBQ or 100-lb propane tank. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason behind what they took or left.
Fully depressed, I was just grateful the camper wasn’t vandalized. I grabbed my stuff and went to check out the rest of camp. Shower, toilet, & tarps? All present. The wheelbarrow was gone, but the sink & plumbing remained. However, the biggest bummer of all was our water tank. My brother had invested in a 300-gallon tank, which we dutifully hid 30 yards into the brush from the nearest part of camp. Whomever took it would need two able-bodied men and a pickup to retrieve it, but they did, dashing our hopes of building our camping utopia year after year.
That was the point of this trip, to see if we could invest, to see what we had to work with. The answer is nothing, trust no one. We have lots of thinking and planning to do now, knowing that leaving anything of value is no longer an option for us. The alternative of hauling stuff 1,200-3,000 miles each year seems too high a price.
Run down, cold, and depressed, I hopped in my car and drove home. Fortunately, I took my favorite route home and arrived in just over 10 hours. Fortunately, I was able to find solace in my mileage, maintaining a 42 mpg average on most of my return, despite snow and mountains. What does the future hold for our annual rendezvous location? Who knows, but at least now we won’t throw good money after bad. Any investment I make now will need to return that investment 1 year at a time.
So that’s the news, folks! Now we can adjust our priorities, and prepare for the next event!