With the summer’s end about to be kissed by winter’s idea of foreplay, fall, and work slow, I chose to take a week plus some leave of civilization and head to the mountains to hike and camp out. In my opinion there are four types of camping: firstly, the lake with a tent or trailer, which is around a twenty percentile level for my camping, forays. Secondly is the quasi-camp, where you spend the day at the lake or other recreational area then go spend the night at a hotel, which would be for me at the fifteen percentile range. The third type of camping is the incidental camping, which runs for me around eighty-four percent of the time, where you go out for a night of fun and end up waking up under a tree, garbage can, top of a water tower or somewhere equally unplanned and unexpected. The final type of camping is the bare bones camping; the hikes with the back pack carries everything you have deemed you need to survive to the place of your intended stay. This one percent type of experience was of my intention for ten days. (Writers are not mathematicians please do not hassle me about the percentages not adding up)
Most people who hike tend to view it as either communing with nature or conquering nature. For me, nature is like the biggest guy sitting in the bar at three in the morning and you calling out to him, “come on mother fucker, you’re just a big fucking pansy….I bet I drop you as quickly as your mother dropped her pants last night” – it’s not about winning, it’s about not being killed. This is a different mindset to have as it prepares you for the worst at all times so that the little victories of not twisting an ankle or being mauled by a rabid squirrel hell bent on discovering where the rumored nut cache that human males are always talking about are can be celebrated.
I am by no means one of those healthy living nut jobs; I drink, fornicate and smoke like a proper person of French descent should. You know what bothers me about smoking today – and no, it is not the non-smokers; I find flicking hot ash into their retinas and helpfully stomping on their faces to put out their pupils usually cuts their little tirades of hypocritical clap trap short. Really, come on folks, obesity is one of the major ‘illnesses’ of North America today but do I see anyone berating a person eating a ‘Big Mac’? Nope, why? Because those people like ‘Big Macs’ too. The problem I see with smoking today is the packaging. In Canada it is required by Health Canada that the manufacturers put warning labels with cute little pictures of deteriorated lungs, pregnant women, eroded gums, etc, just to remind smokers of what the non-smokers rolling around on the ground trying to stick their eye sockets into the sprinkler’s spout were attempting to do before they were cut off. The one particular warning that gets my goat is that of a three quarter gone cigarette with the ash hanging limply off to one side with the warning, “Tobacco use may make you impotent – cigarettes may cause sexual impotence due to the decreased blood flow to the penis. This can prevent you from having an erection”. You’re thinking to yourself, “Well, if he’s worried that he can’t perform his manly duty, then he should quit smoking”. That’s not what my beef is that if you’re going to claim that it may cause something, then by all that’s unholy, I better get a limp noodle at some point. In all the years I’ve smoked never has this affliction caused me any concern though after more than several mornings of waking up and seeing what’s beside me in bed, it damn well should have. It’s bad enough that some women are cock teases, but is it really necessary for Health Canada to be to? Where’s my out of “Well, I guess we can’t do anything because the cannon ain’t aiming high tonight – damn if I wasn’t a smoker I’d be all over you in a hot flash”?
Like a conscientious camper I checked the long range weather forecast. The television channel assured me that my seven days of solitude were going to be hot with perhaps a forty percent chance of a drizzle on the Saturday. I figured that, as with most times the weather channel has mentioned forty percent, that at most I would see a light fluffy cloud that that would be a little dark but as menacing as a pimped out ‘smart car’ driven by health food store owner. I further reasoned that if by some miracle that the forty percent would fall upon the actual rain drop meter that it was all the better. Rain, though the bane of most campers, means nothing to me; I’ve camped in minus forty weather when you can utilize the snot that has frozen from the tip of your nose down to your boots into items such as ski poles, and if you happen to have a sneezing fit, the splatter pattern can make enough snow shoes for a boy scout troop.
That early Tuesday morning I headed west towards the mountains, tuning off onto a gravel road that led me a large cattle range just into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I drove until I ran out of road, looked for a farm house and talked to the owner to park in his field. I have an aversion to well marked trails, preferring the rigors of pushing through the uncut wilderness. It could be that I feel a kinship with the uncircumcised wood surrounding me but it could be all the more likely that I’m a cheap bastard who refuses to pay fifty bucks for my vehicle to be vandalized by some local teenagers living in the tourist traps that litter the mountains bored out of their skulls. It is much easier for me to pay some farmer ten bucks not to trash the truck as it sits in the ruts of his field and begin hiking from there.
It took me most of the day to reach my camp site on the north eastern face of the mountain. It’s a nice secluded area nestled about 1400 meters up and resembles a giant’s mouth that had been turned to stone in mid-sneeze. It makes me wonder if somewhere, sometime there is going to be some group of quantum physics students who develop a time machine in hopes that the myth of Medusa is real. I can see it now; a group of frat boys sitting around when one of them who was talking on the phone hangs up and turns to the group with a big smile on his face. They ask him what’s so funny and he responds, “Oh those nerds, they think they can get into one of our parties by sucking up to us. Those geeks actually think that offering to send us to some Medusa chick’s house to get stoned is going to butter us up.” For lack of a better word, this grotto is secluded enough that a person taking the trail that runs half a kilometer south of it would not see it unless they knew of its existence. Not far from the small space that one can climb up to it with little difficulty, which is important to me- there’s only thing that I believe should be hard when it pertains to me, as well as a small creek that runs not far from the base that if deep enough for some fishing opportunities, water supply and bathing.
The place I like to camp not very deep, only a few meters though its breadth could hold a cocktail party for twenty people easily. The slight cascade of run off just a few meters north of it on the steep face makes it idea as it a water supply that doesn’t welcome the casual bear or cougar lounging about. I discovered this spot about 16 years ago after having a few good times with this one particular woman she gave me the ultimatum, “look, either we take this to the next level or you can just go jump off a mountain.”
On these types of trips I am a minimalist in my supplies, partially for the lightness of the back pack and partially for the sharpening of the skills of living off what is around the area. The back pack contained my one man tent, a horse blanket, my buck knife, bio-degradable toilet paper, a small hand shovel to dig out a latrine, cigarettes, a couple of garbage bags, fishing line, a canteen, 10 bags of trail mix and eight cans of baked beans. I don’t mind the taste of cold beans so it is an easy selection for me to bring along in case there is a large amount of rain that makes it impossible to start a fire or as it turned out for my trip this time, the dryness of the area making having a fire potentially dangerous. This minimalistic supply cache also means it takes little time to set up leaving me with the time to do what I do when I take these trips: absolutely nothing. I could say that I pack my days with exploration, discovery and deep contemplation of life and my place in it; however the only thing that concerns me is just how deep my ass can imprint into the dirt. I realize that it is not the greatest goal to have in outdoors but perhaps some future archaeologist will come across a fossilized ass print and spend the rest of their lives formulating theories on what kind of creature that ass print was. Hell, far as I know, they may think it is some impression of a pair of mutant lima beans, so really I am creating work for future generations.
Tuesday to Friday night it was cruelly hot; I spent the majority of the time in the shade rather than taking the chance that my sparsely hair covering my crown would simply pull a Moses and part letting the sun blaze a tattoo into my scalp. I made few trips down from the campsite to gather choke cherries and highbush cranberries instead just opening up a can of beans for my evening repasts. Saturday morning and the early afternoon were the same, hot but with a touch of humidity to the air that made beads of sweat dance anytime I moved. It was around two that afternoon, I would imagine, that the clouds turned from white to dark grey, swirling around as it began to toss strong gusts of winds into my little niche along with large rain drops. It felt good for a while but as the wind picked up speed I thought that perhaps it was time to go into the tent. What I should have done was start down to the base and just lay low but as I have stated, vacation for me is all about doing the least in the most amount of time possible. The tent was taking a beating. It was moving around quicker than a belly dancer on caffeine pills.
In times of peril some people panic; some people attempt to think of ways to contravene the impending doom – me, I take off my glasses, put them in their case and slip them into my breast pocket. Over the years of first being an amateur then turning into a professional klutz, I have learned that pain is very impatient; trying to circumvent it only pisses it off. A large dose of pain in the short term is far better than a small dose of pain over a long period, which is probably why dating is preferable to marriage, so I let pain hit me then it moves off. In this case I thought that the worst thing that could happen is that the tent would collapse and the tent poles would bonk my head or bop the glasses case in an attempt to shear off my left nipple.
What I did not take into consideration was the shape of my little rock shelter; to the winds, which I found out a few days later were around 140 km/hr, my camping spot was like a luge slide turn. It also turned out that I may have not secured the tent pegs as well as I should of. The result of these two factors was the sensation one gets when taking the elevator down – your gut goes into your throat. It is interesting fact that tents, while making excellent hackneyed sails do not make a substitute parachute. Something else that I discovered was that though as a child I loved rolling down large hills, as an adult, rolling down a mountain wrapped inside a tent did not give me that kind of joy.
To Be Continued…