Thursday, June 11, 2015

First Summer Camping Trip - Part 1

Life has been crazy busy for the past far-too-many weeks.
We are redoing a camper - stripping it down, reinforcing where there is rot, replacing where there is complete rot, wanting to cut it down and make it smaller.
After a storm a couple of weeks ago we spent one long and tiring day helping our neighbors clear downed tree limbs from their yard and cutting away half-downed limbs.
After some time and aggravation (much more than was needed) we finally (finally) got our Tahoe air conditioner fixed, and right after the vehicle started blowing cold air I noticed fluid pouring out the bottom and draining onto the gravel in the driveway.
The radiator.
There is a lady who is deeply embedded in pathetic helplessness who lives in this town.  
She is an alcoholic and prescription pill head.
Her husband was working out of state but lost his job because he is also an alcoholic and prescription pill head.   He continues to live out of state and the woman needed help trying to charge batteries for trucks and lawn mowers.
After trying to charge them we found they were both dead, and so her lawn is now knee deep.
A week ago she called to ask if we would screw wood to the inside walls where rats had chewed through.
We did.  And gross.
And finally an elderly lady who lost her husband in January while they were wintering in Arizona, wanted to have a tool sale.
Her husband had been a general contractor and had three garage bays full of tools.
Cleaning, sorting, organizing, dusting, testing, advertising and pricing over the course of a couple of weeks, and then help for two straight days while she held a huge tool yard sale.
Tree limbs are gone.  Camper is in shambles.  Rats are kept at bay.  The air conditioner has been fixed and so has the radiator.  Still no working batteries or lawn mowed.  And a lot of tools sold and a lot of money made.
Stick a fork in both LC and in me.
We are done.
We did a lot of helpful things for a number of people, and no more.  
We need to care for each other and be left alone, and so we will begin
With a VA appointment scheduled at the clinic in Salmon (about 3 1/2 hours up the Big Lost River Valley) and two tired individuals, we blew out of town a few days ago desperate to relax, to enjoy the scenery, to test out the fishing boat, and to get away from all the needy people who have overwhelmed us recently in Atomic City.
Tossing camper cushions, sleeping bags, pillows, a cook stove and a change of underwear each into the Tahoe, we hooked up the boat and blew out of town stressed out and in need of getting away.
The refrigerator at the house was bare and so were the cupboards.  
I tossed a few cans of beans into a box before leaving, but the rest of the groceries we would need for a few days away, we could pick up in Challis or Salmon.....................
It was late in the afternoon on Sunday by the time we reached the same campground that we had found on a trip to Salmon about this same time last year.
The campground was small - maybe eight sites in total.  But it was cheap, next to the fast flowing and freezing cold Salmon River, convenient to town, and convenient to the clinic where LC needed to go mid-morning on Monday.
As we pulled in, both my Mountain Boy and I were still wound far too tight.
We just needed some quiet.................
As LC got the Tahoe and boat squared away at the camp site, and then paid the $2.50 fee to the on-site caretaker, Kory and I wandered.
She was ready to move after being stuck in the back of the truck for a few hours, and (still feeling stressed out and overburdened) I needed to move as well.
Too much energy to stay in one place, and so we quietly wandered while I power-snapped quick pictures.
I was breathing too fast.  My heart was racing too fast.  And I couldn't seem to calm either................
Still absently wandering, we found our way up to the two lane highway, and then crossed over the highway intending to go see the cows that Kory was suddenly so excited to investigate.
OK Baby - lead the way.
I was content to quietly follow my dog, and we picked our way through the long grass and walked as close to the fence as we could get.
It was a very beautiful day.
Very warm.
The next day was forecasted to be 91 degrees in Salmon, but we had plans to head to Stanley after LC's VA appointment and Stanley was only supposed to get up to 79 degrees.
But on this late afternoon it was warm and we were surrounded by beautiful scenery and my brain was still moving way too fast to really enjoy any of it.
Dial it back Karin. 
Dial it back.
I couldn't dial it back...................
The Salmon campground turned out to not be a quiet place that evening after all.
I had noticed an older man walking around the campground wearing only a straw hat, shorts and one flip flop.
He was very heavy, very red and sunburned, and appeared initially to be a little........out of sorts.
LC thought he was drunk and certainly I thought it was possible as well.
Not long before dark I made the mistake of walking close to his camper as Kory and I headed for the boat ramp.
The man stepped out of his camper just as we walked by, and suddenly I found myself in the middle of a conversation that I could not get out of.
Or rather..........he was talking and I was pretending to listen.
The details are all blurry but he had a blood clot, the doctors at the hospital wanted to amputate his leg but he talked them out of it.  Or something.
He had a severe back injury.  He told me in great detail how he had injured his back and how it now impacted his quality of life, but I don't remember any of those details.
He also told me that he was traveling around the state, working here and there, and there were some kind of goals involved in the trek, but I cannot tell you what those goals were.
As with all the needy people in our town, it is always about them.
We're doing fine.  Thank you for asking.
Only........nobody asked.  Or asks..............

Later that evening the man in the campsite next to ours joined LC and I as we were sitting at a picnic table.
And then the camp host joined us.
And I listened quietly for a couple of hours as testosterone ruled.
Guns.  War.  The state of the country.  Who had lived the hardest life and shed the most blood and caused the most blood shed.
Our neighboring camper wore an Oath Keepers t-shirt and shared with us in great detail about his "prepping" and by the time we called it a night my brain was exhausted.................

Only there was little sleep.
Both LC and I had wondered how well we would sleep in the back of the Tahoe, and I was pleased with both the space we had and the comfort of the cushions.
This was going to work just fine.
Only.............trucks with noisy mufflers continually drove into the campground and then quickly out of the campground.
Some people were blowing through the campground to use the restrooms.  Others?  I had no idea why, but as I lay there I found myself wondering if a new muffler shop had opened up since we last stayed in this mountain town.
A whole lot of bombed out mufflers.
And then LC could not sleep, and he alternated sleeping and getting up for short periods.
A trend that reigned throughout the entire night.
At 8 the next morning we both climbed out of the Tahoe tired, cranky, and headache-y.
Hell of a night..................
While LC went to the clinic, I wandered the few blocks around the clinic with my pup.
I was uninspired, unmotived, tired, stressed out, in need of some peace and quiet with both my guy and my pup.
They were the only two beings that I wanted to see and wanted to talk to.
LC was at the clinic for a seemingly long time, and I quickly tired of walking.
Sitting under a tree for a few minutes I looked around me, enjoying the shade in this increasingly warm day.
There were green hills directly in front of me, and off in the distance to my right I could see snow-capped jagged peaks.
We had left Atomic City 18 hours before and I was still feeling stressed out and unable to feel the beauty that was surrounding me.
So was LC.
I was already done with Salmon.  Ready to head for Stanley.  
Still searching for elusive peace and quiet.
When Kory and I returned to the clinic I headed towards a picnic table, stood on the seat (as I am apt to do) and then turned and sat on the table portion.
I had not noticed it when I first sat down, but as I absently looked around me and fought the impatience of waiting for LC, I found this plaque................
Some quick burgers after leaving the Salmon VA Clinic and we were on our way to Stanley.
Heading back down the valley to Challis, we turned at the Yankee Fork Visitors Center and picked up one more winding and two lane highway.
The scenery gradually began to change, moving from rocky hills and sage brush to high and then higher mountains filled with pine trees that valiantly reached towards the sky.
The Salmon River gushed quickly to our left the entire trip.
About 30 minutes after we began to quickly drive this road, in the middle of the mountains and in the middle of nowhere, we passed a very young, blond girl with her thumb sticking hopefully into the air.
LC and I looked at each other in surprise.
She was young.  Blond.  Very pretty.  Wearing big sunglasses and the quick drying shorts so commonly worn by white water rafting guides.
A student working a summer job in central Idaho, no doubt.
Almost simultaneously we both agreed to turn around and head back towards her.
She had been standing on the opposite side of the road from a truck emblazoned with the logo of a rafting company.  Maybe she had broken down.  Maybe she couldn't get cell phone reception in the mountains.
But whatever this pretty little girls' problem was, she was better off being picked up by us than by some of the other options that were potentially out there.
For the next forty five minutes this young girl sat on a gear box in the back of the Tahoe with our dog, while we heard her young-life-story.
She had just graduated with a degree in Anatomy/Physiology in Colorado and was indeed a guide with one of the rafting companies based in Stanley.
She hitch hiked often.  The deal was that she dropped off a van at a take-out and hitch hiked back to town.
Sometimes she was picked up by another outfitter.
Sometimes she was picked up by people like us.
Either way, it was a terrible arrangement, and when we spoke of the dangers involved in what she was doing she good naturedly brushed it off in that way young people have when they still believe that they are invincible.
Regardless, we dropped her off in Stanley and headed towards the lake.
There was one 20 mile lake that we had planned to visit, and our young hitch hiker advised against it.  
At this time of year the lake was crowded from top to bottom, and every camp site at every campground around the lake was already booked solid every day throughout the summer.
Stanley Lake was smaller but quieter, and so after dropping the young girl off we headed towards Stanley Lake.
As we pulled into the one campground that serviced this area my heart sank.  
It was seemingly filled with brand new, shiny campers (complete with the necessary slide outs).
After speaking with the camp hosts, we were directed to another section of the campground that was located closer to the boat ramp.
Reassuringly we were told that this area of the grounds was quieter.
Hoping for the best we headed down a rutted out dirt and gravel road, in search of the camping area.
God, it was beautiful here.
Stanley is so beautiful.  
You pay very big dollars to live in this kind of beautiful, but hopefully we could enjoy the taste of this kind of beautiful for a short while.....................
We pulled into a camp spot, climbed out and looked out over the lake.
It was a beautiful spot.
The odd mosquito immediately began to hungrily bite at my legs and I absently swatted them away.
We were in a low lying area -  a little boggy but I gave it little thought.
I was just pleased to have made it to Stanley.  Pleased to be camping at a campground where the lake was right behind us.  Pleased to have an opportunity to finally test out LC's boat.  Pleased to be surrounded by beautiful mountains.
I could see people fishing in the sand along the shore the next cove over.  Could hear dogs barking and people talking, but I was determined to ignore them.
We had talked about going camping for weeks but had held off because an old widow needed help selling off her husbands' endless collection of tools.
We were camping now, and I wanted to be here..................

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