Smarter Than The Average Camper

20120902-090619.jpg
There are black bears in Colorado. Lots of them. In many mountain towns, Aspen and Crested Butte come to mind, bear-proof trash containers are mandatory. Campgrounds post signs with proper bear etiquette and food storage information. Bear stories populate the news, and nearly anyone you meet can relate a bear tale or two. Even in our suburban neighborhood, we have watched a bear cross the divided main thoroughfare. They are ubiquitous.

Still, they scare the crap out of people. Every time I tell someone we’re heading out for a camping trip, someone will ask: “Aren’t you afraid of the bears?” I am not afraid of black bears. A mountain lion might cause me near undergarment spoilage, but a bear? Not so much. You see, I know something that most bears don’t. I have a can of bear spray.

Truth is though, even without the bear spray, I don’t have to be afraid of bears because the camping world is chock full of people who are either unable or unwilling to read posted signs. So, my camping philosophy has largely centered around this one thought: “I don’t have to outwit the bears. I just have to outwit the dummy in the camping site next to mine.” It’s the universal law of the lowest common denominator. As long as I am a more careful camper than the guy next to me, as long as my food is more securely stored, the bear will skip right past me and go visit the ignorant dude in the next site. Guaranteed.

This morning at precisely 6:38 a.m., I heard the tell-tale sound of a bear in the campground. Some numb nuts was yelling at the top of his lungs in his Papa Bear voice.

“HEY!”

Twenty second pause.

“HEY!”

Then, I heard a diesel truck engine start, followed by a prolonged horn honk. In quick succession, I heard a second blast of the horn. I shook my head. Definitely a bear sighting. Was I worried? No. Our food was properly stored in our locked car and not left outside in its cooler. Our table had been wiped clean. We don’t have to be the most immaculate campers. We just have to be more clever than the next guy.

We did see the bear. It was a young and small, perhaps 200 pounds. It crossed the camp loop road about forty feet ahead of us, nose up in the air sniffing, as it was being chased off by a man knocking some large wooden blocks together. I felt sorry for the bear, thwarted from its easy meal by the same dope who had provided it. How frustrating! Nope. I am definitely not afraid of black bears. Ignorant humans, on the other hand, scare the bejesus out of me.

All I Needed Was A Latte

20120831-122540.jpg
Over this long, holiday weekend, we decided to take our boys to see a part of Colorado they’ve not visited before. We picked them up from school, pop-up camper in tow, and headed southwest. Our destination: Durango. We arrived at Haviland Lake at 10:30 p.m. and as quietly as possible set up camp. I’d say it was a testament to the strength of our relationship that no one was maimed or murdered during camp assembly in the dark. But honestly, my husband is a saint, and that is the only reason I am still alive today.

Early this morning when the sun was just beginning its process of lighting the silent campground, Joe jumped up and begged to go “exploring.” In that moment, on six hours of fitful sleep (fitful because the dog was restless last night and her restlessness was bothering Steve and Steve’s incessant chiding of the dog was bothering me), I questioned why the hell we do this. Exactly why do we insist on loading the car with all the things we already have at home so we can sleep in a cold camper in the forest?

In desperate need of a serious attitude adjustment, at 8 a.m. we fired up the FJ and drove the 18 miles back into Durango in search of a local coffee establishment. We found Durango Joe’s small hut. Steve got a Mexican Mocha and I got the heavenly Avalanche…a white chocolate and macadamia nut flavored latte. We drove into old town Durango and were just in time to watch the narrow gauge train start its daily trek to Silverton.

By the time we got back to camp, my attitude was improving. Recently fed and freshly caffeinated, I finished setting up camp. I perched the hammock between two trees and settled in. From my spot, I watched Luke fall into the lake trying to catch minnows in a plastic cup. Joe, a child who isn’t patient enough to untie a double knot in his shoelaces, stood on shore repeatedly casting his fishing rod while in some kind of trance. A few feet away, Steve took macro shots of wildflowers. Ruby, apparently exhausted after her sleepless night, napped beside me. In the serenity of the forest, I watched an osprey circle the lake searching for a meal while my hammock swayed in the breeze and the light scent of the pine trees reminded me to be in the moment.

Then it hit me. THIS is why we do this, why we load up our belongings, drive for hours, and set up house in the woods. Camping is the one activity where we can all be together and yet enjoy different things. Out of our element, distractions gone, there is peace. There is uninterrupted family time. There is relaxation. There is only now. This is where I find my zen.

Of course, we still have latte runs and my iPhone, so that helps too.