Saturday, May 28, 2011

Why we camp, can't, shouldn't...

I can see the pioneers of old looking down on us in wonder when we set off to go camp in the domesticated wildernesses of America.

"Sweet Joseph and Mary, why do they leave the comforts of their fluffy homes with all their magical devices and freezers with ice? If it were me I'd never take another step outside."

Or...they might just be looking down on us and smiling, thinking, "Oh, those darling folks. They do try, don't they?"
This sounds more likely what hushed down from the heavens as we trekked out into the Coronado National Forest this weekend.

In summary, we left with supplies for two days, plans for hours of hikes, and blankets so thick we couldn't see out that back of the car. We had knives, saws, matches, first-aid kits, and toilet paper. We were going to rough it on hot dogs, manly beans, and marshmallows, all over a roaring fire hot enough to singe my beard. We were going to gaze off a peak at the sunset and be back up with the sunrise, hunting down a black bear sighting. In the end, we hiked 45 minutes, saw the sunset, shivered back to the car, ate half a raw hot dog, cried into a can of cold beans and drove home. I was no Kit Carson. Anna was no Calamity Jane. But we couldn't have had a better time realizing we weren't born pioneers.

The camping trip started out promising. Our hands floated out the car window as we drove up the mountain. We watched the temperature drop from 106 in the valley to 70 by the time we reached Ski Valley. As we made it to our trail head we loaded up with supplies for a hike off into the forest. We planned for four hours. You know how long we made it.

Instead of hiking, we ended up on the ground with our backs against a fallen pine. The forest, four years past a fire, looked young, scarred, and fresh. Off to the left we could see forever with the sky islands opening up over Tucson. To the right we watched the sun descend into the Ponderosa. Smoke from fires on the border gave a purple/pinkish haze to the late afternoon. And we talked. And held hands. Who cares for four hour hikes when you have that?

Then we shivered. We stood up, dusted off, and headed back up the trail. We were passing through some meadows of green grass, ferns, and pine when we looked west though the trees and smokey haze to see a blood orange sun, setting. We ran to the edge of the mountain to see it set. The dramatic violin music from the new Jane Eyre movie was playing through my mind as we ran...until Anna tripped over a root and face-planted. Then it was all laughs for the rest of the sunset.

Then we hungered. We had learned upon entering the forest we could not have fires. So we bundled up in the car, opened our beans, and sat with a lighter heating up our hot dogs. If you've never done this, don't, it will infuse a butane-like aroma into your hot dog leaving your ready to pitch anything you might have eaten all week. At this point I couldn't tell if I should be laughing at Anna's recent face plant or the state of our dinner. We couldn't imagine a better trip, so we threw the rest of our hot dogs away, gathered all our stuff, and abandoned our two-day plans in the mountain for McDonald's in Tucson and a night in front of our TV watching The Man from Snowy River. Now there's a man and a woman of note!

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