Where Are My Pants?

April 19, 2010

I hope you all had a lovely weekend.  Bill and I went camping at Pinnacles National Monument.  It’s our second visit to this park, and it was a tad bit more pleasant in April than in August.  Being twenty-five degrees cooler can make life more comfortable. Also, the park was in bloom and lush from all the winter and early spring rain.  And there were frogs!  Lots of ribbiting going on.

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This was definitely the best camping trip that Bill and I have taken.  It was my ideal version of how camping should be.  Lots of noise, but good noise. People having fun and laughing, children playing, frogs ribbiting, occasional yells of excitement or trying to get someone’s attention, the subtle hum of miscellaneous conversations, fires crackling, birds chirping, guitars being strummed. And most importantly, no radios.  I can tolerate almost any other noise in the outdoors except for a radio, even if it’s my kind of music.

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We bought a new tent for this trip. We call it the Taj. It is huge. In fact, we can fit our old tent inside the new tent with lots of room to spare.  Actually, our air mattress doesn’t even fit inside our old tent. Well, it might but you’d have to put it in the tent uninflated  and then once it was inflated, you’d be about a foot from the top of the tent. The photo above is my favorite from the weekend, and it shows how dorky we are. That’s us in our old tent on top of our air mattress inside the new tent.

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It was a relatively quiet and relaxing weekend.  We set up camp on Friday, made dinner, and went to bed. Boy did I sleep well, especially with a decent air mattress. The temperature did drop at night and at one point I woke up and my face was freezing!  So I flipped my sleeping back around so that my hood covered my face.  Problem solved.  It also made it very dark and I slept soundly until 8am.

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Saturday, we hiked.  We almost didn’t hike as I started to pull out my clothes and realized that I never packed my pants.  I had the pants I wore the day before and my jeans.  Ack!  There are definitely worse things I could have forgotten, and it wasn’t a big deal, just about five seconds of panic.  After breakfast, we started on our  relaxing 8.9 mile jaunt, with a 1200 foot elevation gain in the first three miles.  It kicked my butt, but it was fun.  The view was beautiful and it was nice to see a lot of green and to admire the different wildflowers.  We took our time, tried to have fun and ignore the profuse amounts of sweat, heavy breathing, burning legs and unrelenting sun.  We had a nice break for lunch around the five mile mark and gave our legs a much needed rest. Then we continued on to the caves where the “excitement” began.

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We’ve done the caves before, but it was more treacherous in the spring.  There’s water running in all the springs, and there’s a spring that runs through the caves.  Water tends to make rocks slippery.  Very slippery.  I took those sections on my butt and it still required a lot of concentration.  We were almost out of the caves when we heard this horrible crashing noise.  At the time, we didn’t realize what it was, until we saw the man sliding down the rocks.  He was able to stop himself so that Bill didn’t have to break his fall, but the man was in a lot of pain.  I’ve always wondered how I would react under pressure, and I’m pleased to report that both Bill and I were calm and efficient.  I have carried around first aid supplies for the three years I’ve been hiking and until now, I have never needed them.  We were able to give him a cold compress, clean his wounds, apply antiseptic, give him some ibuprofen, keep him company, and help him out of the cave.  It wasn’t the best first aid as there were a lot of things I didn’t do that I probably should have done, but he was ambulatory and most of his wounds appeared to be superficial. Our other “issue” was that there was no cell service, we were at least 1.5 miles from the ranger station, and his car and friends were in the opposite direction of our car.  I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him to walk back by himself, but I wasn’t sure that we could add an extra three miles to our hike.  At the trailhead where we would have parted ways, we tried to find some people that were heading back in his direction so they could keep an eye on him, but no such luck.  I was concerned about him going into shock or getting disoriented, even though the man thought he would be okay, but he was in pain.  We decided that I would wait at the trailhead with our packs, and Bill would start back with the wounded hiker and hopefully, we could find someone to take over for Bill.  If not, Bill felt confident that without his pack, he could make it all the way to the ranger station and back and still be able to make it back to our car.  My first thought  was “Damn, why did I leave my book in the tent.” As it turns out, Bill was back in twenty minutes after they had been overtaken by another couple who agreed to help. I’m sure there are plenty of things we could have or should have done differently, but I think we provided that man with some comfort in a scary situation.

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I wish I could say the rest of the trip was uneventful.  The remainder of our hike was, except for the five itty bitty snakes we saw.  The rest of the excitement came the following morning when we went to start the car and the battery was dead.  We should have realized the potential for a problem when Bill had trouble starting the car after our hike, but we were too tired to notice.  With all the opening and closing and in and out of the car that evening, that was all it took. We had been planning on another hike before heading home, but those plans changed. Thankfully, a family across from us had jumper cables and was able to help us out.  How quickly the tables can turn, from helping to needing help.

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While more “exciting” than we expected, it was a beautiful weekend.


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My Attempt to Love Camping

July 27, 2009

I really want to like camping. I camped with my parents when I was a kid, but I’m pretty sure I liked it because mom and dad told me to like it. I haven’t really camped as an adult, until last year when I decided to try it again. We went to Assateague and I got eaten alive and did not have very much fun. Bill didn’t think we would be camping again.

I read an article in Sunset Magazine about the 50 best campsites in the West with a list that were local. So I made us a reservation at Pinnacles National Monument, about 100 miles south of us. This past weekend, we went camping.

It was one of the best weekends that Bill and I spent together. Especially so because it had the potential to be horrible. We had incredibly inconsiderate neighbors, I got a a blister within the first mile of our first hike, I was really struggling at the beginning part of the hike (which was the hardest part and pretty much straight uphill), it was HOT (95 on Saturday, around 100 on Sunday), and did I mention we had incredibly inconsiderate neighbors? But it was actually great.

We did a 9.25 mile hike on Saturday. It was a loop, with the hardest part in the first 2.9 miles. After the first half mile, we hit the intersection with High Peaks Trail which basically went straight up. As I mentioned, I got a blister shortly into the hike, but it really only bothered me when we were going uphill. It was a long stretch going uphill. My lungs were on fire. For every minute we spent hiking, we rested. And took in fluids. It was hard to remember to look around to take in the view. Reaching the top felt like a major accomplishment. It was also short lived because as soon as we hit the top, we started the descent. It was nonstop switchbacks on the way down. While it was easier on the lungs, I felt it in my legs and glutes. There was a ranger station at the bottom of our descent, and it was a great spot for a rest and some lunch. We were also able to fill up our water and use the rest rooms. The rest of the hike was mainly flat, and a little bit easier (although after you’ve been out for 4 hours, easy is a relative term). The highlight of the hike was our trip through the balconies cave. This was another potential problem spot because Bill is claustrophobic. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was amazing. We had to scramble and duck and crawl and scoot and it was dark so we needed headlamps. Bill was great and actually enjoyed it.

After being on the trail for 6 hours, were were unbelievably hot and tired and dirty. You can check it out here, and those aren’t tan lines. The cool (and I mean this literally) thing was that there was a pool at the campground. We rinsed the dirt off, put on our swimsuits and took a dip. It was so refreshing. I cannot even tell you how good it felt. Plus, I got to stretch out my muscles a bit. We showered and then headed back to our campsite and had a relaxing evening.

While it was 95 during the day, in the evening it was quite comfortable. We had dinner and played cards and read and made smores. We also did some stargazing and saw a couple of shooting stars. Really beautiful. We slept very well that night. Or I did until I woke up because I think our neighbors had raccoons in their campsite all night. That’s what it sounded like; I was too tired to check. On Sunday we packed up our gear, ate breakfast, and hit the trails.

We did a shorter hike, 4.5 miles. The first part was up to an overlook and it was very pretty. What made it worthwhile is that there was a park ranger at the overlook (she actually passed by us on the trail) but we got to ask her questions and she sold us on the second half of our hike which I had considered not doing. The second half of the hike went up to a cave and then UP through the cave. Lots of stairs. This cave was somewhat developed whereas the balconies cave was natural. By developed I mean stairs and handrails. It was necessary though, because you were going up and quickly. It was neat to see. About 5 minutes past the cave, we saw the reservoir which was unexpected. It was so dry everywhere and then suddenly, this beautiful water. A perfect place to take a short break. We finished our hike, ate lunch, and headed home.

All in all, it was beautiful.

But I have to briefly vent about our horrible neighbors. Bill summed it up best when he said they made an awful lot of noise for two people. Things did not start well when they pulled up at 11pm ( we were snug as bugs in our sleeping bags) and started talking at full volume. So that we could hear every word of their conversation. Including when they talked about their cup sizes and why one sleeps in her bra… And then they turned on their radio. This is the Cliffs Notes version and may not seem that bad, but if Bill thought they were obnoxious, they were obnoxious. Bill had no problem asking them to turn the radio off because it was quiet hours. I do admit that radios in nature is my pet peeve. I hate it at the beach, I hate it while camping. When I’m in the outdoors, I want to enjoy the outdoors. Hearing the trees rustle in the wind. Hearing murmurs of conversations and occasionally bursts or noise either from laughter or kids having fun. To me, those are the sounds of camping. First thing in the morning, they had their radio on but we left for our hike. When we came back to our campsite after hiking all day to hear their radio blaring, I was really unhappy. I mean Really Unhappy. So unhappy that we came very close to going home. But maybe they heard that we were back and out of consideration they turned the radio down and it was tolerable enough. And they turned it off around 9 so I was very happy. And they learned volume control for their voices. Maybe I’m overreacting with the radio thing, but it’s how I feel.

I figured out why I don’t like camping and it’s because so much of it is out of my control. Bugs. Inconsiderate people. It’s a lot of work for an unknown result. But maybe that’s also why it’s worth it. Because even with all the potential for problems, it can be really really great.


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About Me

Welcome to my spot on the web where I talk about needlework, crafts, and [many] other random things.

A few tidbits about me: I met my husband in college, flirting over tuba letters in the Penn Band. Our dog, CJ, and our cat, Sabrina, round out our family. I'm a sewist, knitter and needlepointer, and an occasional scrapbooker. I love organizing, reading, making jewelry, and hiking. A Chicago girl at heart, I am an avid follower the Cubs, Bears, and Blackhawks.

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