It has been two years since I have been camping. Four years since I have been up in the woods to pick huckleberries. What has the world come to that I no longer go out on weekends to sleep on a hard bed, cuddled up to my one-and-only through a dark (and usually cold) night? Our relationship was founded on our mutual love for being outdoors, isolated from other human beings, discovering plants, flowers, bugs, reptiles, rocks, and critters.
Somehow, over the past four years, my life has eroded to work, commute, and rush through the weekend. I was not inclined to go camping this weekend, either, because I am trying to get ready to leave town for a week. So much to do; so little time.
The weather has been wonderful and dry, so I was surprised when my husband told me that he’d checked on the huckleberries and they were ripe – and there were plenty of them. I thought the dry summer would wither the berries. The combination was tempting: three day weekend (two to spend camping, one to spend getting ready for my flight next weekend), slightly cooler weather with a slight chance of showers, and an English Setter who was feeling much better than he did two weeks ago.
The last time I took Harvey camping was in 2010. It was awful. He only wanted to run away or bark. There was no containing his energy, except to use a tether. I tried the radio collar, but I was always a basket case because Harvey just took off and reining him back in was not pleasurable. I was afraid I’d lose sight of him in the brush, and he had no sense of us being his Forever Home.
HE seems mellower now, and he definitely has a sense of a Forever Home in us. So I charged up his radio collar and tossed in both of the long leads for tethering him while in camp. For good measure, I added the bark collar just in case.
Don loaded up the VW Van and I tossed in a few items into my car. We decided to take two rigs because I wanted to come home on Sunday and because we were taking both dogs.
Saturday morning dawned misty. It had rained in the night, but that was all that was predicted and sun breaks were expected later on. The mist turned to
steady occasional rain as we drove over the hills and through the woods. My windshield wipers went from “use only when the road mist is obnoxiously blinding” to “steady on”.
We drove out along the Clackamas River, out across the Barton Bridge, through Estacada, past the old Ripplebrook RS, and left onto the paved road to Timothy Lake. We turned left toward High Rocks and Hideaway Lake, and took the left hand option at the Y. I told Harvey that the road would get bad now as we were on gravel, and the wash-board is terrible going up to Hideaway Lake. Ahead, I watched the right tail light on the van blink on and off and made a mental note to tell Don he had a short in his taillights. The washboard tossed my little car around, so I slowed down and lost sight of Don’s taillights.
Hy-uck. Hy-uck. Hy-
I glanced back at Harvey just in time to see him lose his entire breakfast on the hard plastic back of the seat I had down. Thank God it’s not the fabric! Stop. Find a rag I keep in the car, attempt to soak up the disgusting yellow slime mixed with undigested – Oh, nevermind! Gross!
Harvey needed to get out and stretch his queasy legs. I remembered that I’d forgotten to spray my windbreaker with waterproofing. Harvey didn’t want to get back into the car. We walked a little more and I convinced him it really was in his best interest to get back into the car and finish the trip. I opened the back windows a hair to let in fresh, cool, air. And rain.
I met Don coming back down the road, looking for me. He thought I’d had car problems. No, I said, I had a dog problem.
I followed him onto the Jeep Trail to our camp site. My KIA has lower clearance than the Van and I dropped it into 4-wheel drive after slipping through a mud puddle. Don stopped on the rise. Ahead of us, a large, deep, slicker-than-wet-clay, puddle blocked our path. He was pretty sure he could make it, but the water would be over my low-clearance bumper. Even if we did make it, how much deeper would the puddle get overnight?
We turned around and back-tracked a mile to the gravel pit. The rain turned to RAIN. Harvey stood out in it, reveling at the end of the longest tether: I’m Free! I’m free!
Murphy climbed into the back seat of my car (I put both back seats up now) and shivered. We had to drag Harvey back into the car.
All the windows fogged up. Once every half hour, we’d run the windshield wipers to see if it was still raining or not. Yep, still raining.
Finally! A break! We hurried out of the car, put Harvey on the tether, and started setting up camp. Murphy won’t run off; it’s the Harve-Meister we have to worry about. He just starts following his nose.
Half-way through putting up the tarp, a pickup truck rolled in. Two people and their tiny, hackle-raised, Chihuahua jumped out. Don grabbed a lunging Murphy with his one free hand. Harvey ran to the end of his leash.
“Hi! I’ve been camping here for ten years, Hope you don’t mind some company!”
Control of Murphy was handed over to me so Don could finish setting up the tarp. I pulled the straining ninety-pounder back to my car and shut him in. Harvey barked excitedly at the growling and prancing Chihuahua. I grabbed the bark collar and put it on my dog. We finished setting up camp.
Meanwhile, our uninvited guests stashed their dog in the cab of the truck and headed out with berry cans. We breathed a short sigh of relief: what were these people thinking when they opened the door and let their squirrel-sized dog out in front of two nearly one-hundred pound bird dogs, one of which was off- leash??? Oy vey.
The rain held off long enough for us to take our dogs for a long stroll on the gravel road. We didn’t want to pick berries in the rain, but we wanted the boys to stretch their legs.
The rain returned. The berry pickers returned, ate lunch on their tail-gate, and seemed to debate setting up their camp there. They changed their minds eventually and left.
Note to the berry pickers: we really are nice people. We probably would have come out and talked to you and perhaps become friends, except that we are guardians of dogs that will probably eat your dog, mistaking it for a squirrel. Our dogs didn’t come out all aggression, with hackles-raised, but yours did. You didn’t even bother to consider whether to ask us if our dogs might be OK with a little dog. People with big dogs at least expect there to be some growling and establishing of dominance when an interloper is introduced. We decided that in the grander scheme of things, we didn’t want to get sued if one of our bird dogs accidentally ate your rodent-sized dog.
The sun set at 8. We crawled into bed by 9: Don and I on the big bed, Murphy in the front seat on his pad, and Harvey on the floor boards with a blanket tossed over him.
Sometime in the night, Murphy climbed over the top of us and settled down on my feet. My feet cramped. My calves cramped. Murphy edged his way between us. Lack of water intake took its toll on me: my head split open from my neck around the cranium and through my eyes. My feet and calves cramped. Murphy stretched out on my feet again. Murphy crawled up and sat on Don’s chest at 6:30AM. Harvey began to whine.
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET!!!???
Somehow, we made it to 8AM. I think I slept a total of six hours. The rain was done, a cool breeze was blowing, and we put the dogs out. I changed my clothes: my flannel pajama bottoms tucked into my socks, with my jeans pulled up over them. My tee-shirt under my long-sleeved shirt, under my denim vest, under my Carhart™ coat. I tucked my dirty hair up under my ball cap. Harvey curled up on the gravel and shivered.
Don apparently decided not to spend another night. We broke camp around ten and drove the mile or two down to “our” spot. The rain had soaked all the shrubbery, the creek where we pick (always a bit marshy) was down-right swampy, and the dogs were not thrilled about the wet brush.
I kept Harvey on a shorter tether, but he still had about eight feet of freedom while I picked berries. I was worried that he might yank me backwards off the side of the hill, but he was a gentleman. I filled half my quart can before both dogs were bored, wet, and insisted on being allowed to stay in my car while I finished picking. I cracked the windows, blocked the front seats, and covered the back seat. They didn’t even bark.
We saw no one.
We were soaked to the skin, our boots were soggy, and my windbreaker was barely keeping the moisture off of my camera – but it was warm!
Camping, how I have missed it.
Note to self: next time I go, sleep in my own car. To heck with trying to sleep with Murphy!