This an account of one of my favorite camping trips. It holds a special place in my heart, because I consider it the renaissance of camping in our lives. I say that because this trip ushered in a flood of new equipment and trips. I do not use the word "flood" lightly after this trip, however. For, everyone should know, that my adoration of this trip came only after a few years of nostalgic daydreaming and idealizing of my youth.
I really couldn't tell you what possessed us to drive to Arkansas that weekend. I suppose that back then, just having access to a vehicle that could get there would have been a sufficient excuse to head out. Of course, if the truth were to be spoken, the entire trip was more than likely an attempt to recapture one of the passions of our youth. This attempt, in my estimation, was very successful.
We were prepared in spirit and determination, but not really equipment. The only nice piece of equipment involved in the whole trip was my dad's truck, which was of little use to us when we left it behind upon entering the woods. David has resurrected an old back-pack from our youth. I had sold mine in a garage sale years before. Luckily, I found one that was equally worn down and neglected at a used sporting goods store in Denton. As a matter of fact, it costs what I had gotten for mine almost to the penny. One could almost say that I got all the use out of these back-packs without ever having to store them.
The blaze orange back-pack I had purchased was missing
a waist belt. David and I cannibalized an adorable little contraption
that his mother had used to carry him on her back when David was tiny.
The belt was used and promptly returned. Of course, the ugly back-pack
had two strong points in its defense. First, I was sure to not be
accidentally shot. Unfortunately, this was of little comfort to me
since I had always worried much more about being intentionally shot.
Second, it matched the safety orange color of the tent we were using.
There really was no telling who had initially purchased that tent. For a bunch of conservative young patriots, we were complete Socialists when it came to camping gear. To this day I don't feel like I own any of the equipment in my closet. I am just storing some of "our" equipment until "we" use it again. This tent was one of the traditional two man dome tents, of which, we had collectively used up roughly half-a-dozen. These tents were mansions to us in our youth, but now we pay more for a new cartridge for our water filter. I am sad to say, that this trip proved to be the swan song for this home away from home.
The trip up to Arkansas went very smoothly. David, even before he was Merchant Marine Academy graduate, could really use a map. He actually had all of these hyper-precise gadgets with him in this carrying case. It sort of reminded me of a pool shark's case for his best stick. As we approached these intersections, he would navigate me through these turns with incredible precision. It was actually almost comical. It seemed liked we could have driven there blindfolded, using only a speedometer and a stopwatch, like we were on a submarine.
Our arrival was after sunset, which is not a good time to pick a campsite. As a matter of fact, any greenhorn will tell you that picking a site in the dark is one the premier faux pas of camping. We had no choice, because we were determined to not sleep in a manufactured camp-site. These are ubiquitous in state parks and are recognizable by W.P.A. era concrete tables and steel fire rings. Despite all of this, we had good night's rest and didn't realize how pathetic our view was until the next morning.
We rose early, checked in with the administrator of sorts, and hit the trail into the mountains. As any hiker will tell you, one of the most annoying facets of hiking is that you don't get to visit with your buddies. A 60 pound pack rubbing against your head makes too much noise, turning around gets disorienting, and yelling is fatiguing. Being the real MacGyver, David brought along a set of voice operated head-sets that facilitated relaxed conversation while very far apart. If we didn't generally camp in groups greater than a pair, I would always use those things.
The site that we chose was on a respectably steep ridge about 3 miles into the woods. The environs were heavily wooded and green. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a source of water, so we were dependent on what we had brought. We thought that the ridge would make sure that any precipitation would flow away from us. Theoretically, this makes great sense. In practice, we were sorely mistaken.
After getting settled, we decided to explore around. This excursion ended up taking us all the way around the mountain (I know, it wasn't really a mountain). It was already drizzling when we left, so we bundled up well. By the time we got back, it was absolutely pouring. We had lost the tent for a while, so we were properly soaked by the time we found our humble shelter. After stripping down our less damp layers, David decided to find to persevere with our intended dining.
I want the world to know that this was the most incredible display of camping cuisine that I have ever witnessed. Using only an antiquated one burner stove and the lid of its case as a skillet, David whipped up salmon croquettes. This point cannot be understated: we were inside a tiny tent with this stove on and all of our stuff scooted to the perimeter of the tent. He was impeccably prepared. Nothing was forgotten to him. His back-pack gave forth butter, oils, seasonings, and even the correct utensils. I don't remember what I did to assist during all of this. I'm sure that it wasn't much, because all of my memories consist only of watching in amazement.
After dinner, it was time to attempt some degree of slumber. Water had gradually made itself omnipresent throughout our temporary home. I can see how water dug the Grand Canyon. I can think of no better adjective for it than persistent. A considerable pool had formed in the lower end of the tent. David did the only thing that could be done. He made a small incision in the tent to drain off the water. Unfortunately, my sleeping bag, or more accurately, my dad's sleeping bag, had become soaked at the bottom. The only way that I could evade the water was to shove all of my remaining dry clothes to the foot of my bag to soak up the water and keep my feet out of the wet sections. I don't know how David managed. These little improvisations are not really discussed in a tent under such conditions, as they would only lower moral even further. Whatever he did to endure the water worked, because we awoke the next day unexpectedly well rested, even if extremely wet.
Hiking out went fine. Our gear was extra heavy from the water weight, but this was minimized by the loss of the water we had drank and the food that we had eaten. Our exit was brisk and youthful. Personally, I was proud of myself. We had been through some harsh storms before, but never with such questionable gear. Also, we had pulled the whole thing off without our spirits getting too low. There wasn't really any complaining, just the necessary observations. Most importantly, this trip served as a catalyst for a new era of camping.
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