Camping and kayaking:
I have been going camping and enjoying the public park systems for more than 30 years and have come across many interesting people, park officials, and situations, some of which will make you, my readers, howl with laughter. This particular story will revolve around the same individual and the same park over the course of two days. So, what is the purpose of camping? Why does one go camping? Everyone has a reason, but for me it is the time away from electronics, sleeping under the stars around a fire, listening to the wildlife scurrying around, and, the opportunity to kayak or play in the water if water is nearby.
Every location is different as are the fees involved. So, depending on the park, a night of camping could cost anywhere between $22 to $25, and what you would expect would be a quiet, peaceful time, because that is one of the reasons why you go camping. In most areas the park charging a fee understands the camping concept. The trip in question was an interesting one immediately upon arrival at the campsite. So, before the tent is even set up, we were welcomed by a friendly visit by the park attendant with probing questions and a self-inserting attitude expressing this is my park. We politely replied to each question, overlooked the attendant’s unprofessionalism, and wished him a good day. We pre-set the food, grill, and campfire so that we could eat upon our return from kayaking, and launched (into the water) from our campsite.
So, this particular camping trip was for my buddy to see wildlife up close and personal. So we hit the water and as we are kayaking my buddy notices that the park vehicle that had previously been at our camp site was progressing along the tree line following us around the waterway. I tell him to ignore it. He does, and we continue on our way down the river creek. Thirty minutes later he says the same thing and again, I recommend the same thing, “Ignore it.” He is becoming increasingly vexed that the park attendant was literally following us from the shoreline; having camped in this location before, I was familiar with the routine. Eventually, our kayaks reached a bend, and we moved out of the line of sight of the park attendant.
This particular bend is the nesting place for many bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, and egrets, all of which intrigued my out-of-state kayaking buddy since he had never seen these birds other than via books or the internet. After observing the wildlife, we return to our campsite to grab a bite to eat before we do a night launch.
I was already laughing because I had already seen the park vehicle; my buddy becomes vexed again, asking me whether we are being stalked by the park attendant. My buddy was not letting it go this time, so he paddles towards land to confront the park attendant but the vehicle leaves before he gets there. Me, I’m just cruising along the water watching this unfold. It was like a scene from a movie unfolding before my eyes. Suffice to say I was highly amused.
We make it back to the site and light our grill because we were going back on the water and did not want to leave a burning fire as we were gone. We have an array of food and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. As soon as we begin eating, who comes around the corner? I almost choked on my food from laughter. My buddy had no idea what I was laughing about, but he starts laughing anyway; then he saw the vehicle and it was the same attendant. My buddy’s face contorted with irritation. It was exactly like watching a movie. The vehicle stops and the same attendant, along with another person, gets out and walks right up to our campsite, literally making themselves right at home in our paid site. My buddy was incensed, but I just kept sitting where I was, eating my food and politely replying to all of the questions. I even asked both attendants to have a seat and offered them food and drink. I found their actions highly entertaining, so I figured, why not? This was quickly becoming a comedy show. The park officials both turned down the meal and again I politely replied to all of the questions and wished them a good day.
We finished eating, and hit the water again. In our individual kayaks, we paddled around 18 miles that night, and it was clear and beautiful. When we returned our neighbors from a few sites down were in full blown party mode. Now, this was off-season, temperatures were around the 30’s and 40’s, so it was us and another group in this entire park. What are the chances that the party crowd would end up, literally, two campsites over from our campsite? There were quite a few campsites in this park, and yet, party central was only two campsites away. Again, it was like a scene from a movie. This particular bunch who paid to camp were, quite literally, ripping tree limbs off the tree with their truck, falling into the fire, falling and tripping everywhere, trying to chop the branches with a hammer, crowbar, and a buck knife, breaking the limbs using their truck bumper between two trees. My buddy and I just sat at the fire pit on our campsite watching these people bouncing around like squirrels on crack. It was late, so the park attendant wasn’t creeping about. Too bad; it would have been interesting to see his reaction….A few of the squirrel campers came up to us a few times, offering stuff and encouraging us to hang out, but we nipped that very quickly. These characters said a few things to one another about harming us in our sleep that put me on alert as I was settling in my tent, but I paid them no mind and went to sleep. I’m telling you squirrels on crack. Day one complete.
Day two: It’s around 0500 and I crawl out of my tent. I light the fire, and make some coffee. It’s still dark out, so it is hard to see actually what’s around. Once the fire starts blazing I am amused by what I am witnessing first thing in the morning. The crack squirrels are passed out on the ground, in the back of their truck, and two in a tent that was falling over. A couple hours pass by and my buddy is still sleeping in his tent. Its 0730 and I can hear something making a lot of noise. Guess what? Suddenly, a park vehicle and tractor containing a load of stones appeared. Where did they decide to start working? Yep – right in front of our campsite. They were dumping stones into the potholes on the dirt road, then attempting to use the tractor to grade the surface. I was laughing my ass off at what I was witnessing; our friendly park attendant decided to greet the morning right next to our campsite. I continued sitting there next to the campfire drinking my coffee, watching all of this unfold.
Hearing the commotion, my buddy steps out of his tent; his facial expression was priceless. We ate breakfast, packed up the campsite, and left. We kayaked for much of the day, and then he left to return home. So, readers, what do you think my buddy thought of this parks employee in this particular location? The park itself is a beautiful and a great place to camp and would recommend camping there to anyone if they asked. Scenarios such as the above are indicative of the reality that one can find humor in certain situations when others are trying so hard to exert authority, particularly when in return what they receive is an open invitation for hospitality. This is one of those experiences that I will remember for a long time and be able share around a campfire while camping in other parks for many, many, many years to come….
See you in the next post!