sharing my adventures both big and small

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Midnight Trespassers

See I told you all I suck at keeping a blog, here we are over a month and a half later.

Here is an interesting fact about me. I have only been lost in the woods a couple of times, where I was unsure of where the trail was for about an hour, but was able to find it again. I am comfortable in the woods, to me the lay of the land makes sense to me, I understand the direction of creeks, valleys and mountains. Perhaps me being a photographer, I have a good eye for finding details and noticing funky tree branches, odd shaped boulders and so forth, things that I will remember I saw if I got turned around. I feel safe in the woods, I know what it takes for basic survival, I have read too many books, watched shows, have taken numerous classes and camps on wilderness survival and edibles that if I was in a situation I could be alright.
However, on the contrary if you blindfolded me put me in a car and dropped me off in the middle of a city like Boston or LA for example, I would never find my way out. With hundreds of metallic and brick buildings rising high and scraping the sky, tangled masses of freeways and under/overpasses knotting up the horizon, I can't follow the lay of the land. Everything is complicated, there are bridges and tunnels underground, one way streets, exits that are not consecutive in numbers or letters... I am just not made to handle finding my own way around a city. This is still true to this day even where I live in Albany. Just last night a trip to Wal*mart almost was a trip up the Northway, thanks Rachel for paying attention ;-)

A few years ago, I got the opportunity to take a bunch of time off of work and travel with my girlfriend Rachel across the country. We had planned our summer vacation around visiting the national parks of the southwest, from Utah, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. With an atlas and a detailed map of the Four Corners and Map Quest directions printed out, we set out on the open road in my Subaru Outback, "Big Red" driving westward where the rocks turned red and the cacti grow tall.

When we take road trips and have a destination in mind, we will not stop driving. Well we do stop for gasoline because that is a necessity, but we sort of drive straight through, not stopping at landmarks and taking long breaks. We once drove from Ohio to Nebraska in one day, about 1200 miles or so. We wake up at the crack of dawn, breakdown our tent and don't stop until we need gas, then repeat this until about 8pm and start looking for a campsite. We made it to Utah in 2 1/2 days of driving from NY, pretty good driving, which means more time for vacationing. Once you get out in the open roads of Iowa and Nebraska, where its flat or the hills are rolling and it literally corn fields and wind farms as far as your eye can see, it is easy to speed your way through it. When you are in that last stretch of driving from Nebraska to Denver and you see those mountains ahead you get really excited. Driving on I-70 following the Colorado River winding its way through the Rockies and through tunnels and bending around giant rock outcroppings, its an amazingly intoxicating drive from your previous 10-12 hours of corn fields.

I don't know why this is the case but in NY, when you are driving along a highway or the thruway, and you see a sign for a campground and take the exit almost every time there is another sign pointing in the direction of the campground. That would make sense right? For some reason still unknown to me, maybe they just hate tourists, once you get off an exit from I-70 in Colorado following the sign of the campground, there is NEVER a second sign. Well you can either turn right or left and drive about 15 miles in either direction in search of "said" campground. We had been driving all day long, as per usual and we are getting tired and cranky from "car-cabin fever" and need to pitch a tent and call it a night. Its about 8pm, we see a sign for a campground, pull off the road, and what do you know, no further signs. We drive in both directions, so an additional 30 miles, to find nothing. No sign, even the locals at the gas stations haven't a clue, or just point, "yeah somewhere down there, I think could be a campground. We have a Motel just over there though instead." Thanks but no thanks. We tent. We sleep in the dirt. No money in the budget for hotels.

So we continue to do this, about 3 more times, to the point that its about 1am and we have been driving for 18 hours and need to fucking camp. And we could always sleep in the car, but we have been in the car all day, we really need to stretch the hell out and sleep laying flat. Then suddenly as if a camping fairy heard our plea for mercy....

We see a camp sign, by this time, I am not even sure who was driving, it might have been me, or it was Rachel who had more patience for driving at the wee hours of the morning. We pull off I-70 and there is ANOTHER sign, pointing in the direction left! We take the left and continue to drive, then we see ANOTHER sign pointing left again over a one-way bridge over the Colorado River. As we slowly inch the car forward we flick our bright lights on and can see a big sign overhead called "Camp Mountain Goat" or something like that. We pull in and drive past little cabins, the place was pitch dark, and we didn't see any tents anywhere. We continued to drive through the campground in search of the office, where we would leave our $20 deposit in the box and check out later in the AM. No sign of an office, what the heck, Colorado campgrounds are very bizarre. As we pull onto a dirt road, lined with tall evergreen trees on both sides we go about a mile or so, and pull off into a clearing. Its a giant field, and there is no other campers in sight. Odd. So we spun the car around hiding along the fence of trees and leave our headlights on so we can setup our tent. We quickly had it put up in a matter of moments, unrolled the sleeping pads and threw in our sleeping bags.

The sky was bright because it was lit up by one of the most beautiful full moons I have ever seen. Sort of like when the moon is soo big and bright and close to Earth it almost looks like a kids drawing. We had to pee, and since the campground clearly didn't have an office we wouldn't dream of an outhouse, so we walked about 30 yards away from our tent dropped our pants and peed. It was the best pee ever, because not a single mosquito was out, the sky was bright, we could hear the Colorado River, and there was this tall rock cliff ahead of us, and the moon just lit it up. It was so beautiful, and it might have been so beautiful because I was super delirious and sleep deprived and that pee was long over due.

We jump into the tent, its about 1:30am and pass out in was the best sleep I had ever had, until....

About 3:15am, I slightly awake to the sound of a truck driving down that dirt road. I think nothing of it, its probably campers or hunters up early for something. Nope. I was wrong. The truck sound got closer and closer, then all of the sudden there are bright ass head lights about 10 yards away shinning directly at the tent. The truck is then stops and sits there idol. I rubbed my eyes and woke up Rachel, who was pissed for me waking her up. "What is it?"
"Some truck is shinning its beams at our tent, what the hell?!" I said pissed off. I unzip the tent and poke my head out the door, my eyes are blinded by the headlights then are able to focus as a squirrely redneck man wearing tatered carharts, shaggy hair and beard with a trucker hat climbs down from his gigantic truck.

"Who are you?" he says. Then I realize there is another man in the passenger seat too. My heart rate goes through the roof, oh fuck, we shouldn't be here. I think to myself, about those magazine stories about stupid girls that go off on spring break and get raped and killed because they are partying on private property, and there bodies are never found again. I thought, well, nobody knows where we are, two big guys with a truck and probably a gun and two sleepy girls in a tent without a clue to where we were sleeping. Could spell disaster or make front headline news.
Rach gets up. I put my pants on and teva sandals and unzip the tent and get out.

I answer "I am Jane, and this is Amy, we are just camping we saw the sign campground and have been driving all night, we are from NY."

"You can't camp here. You are trespassing." he answers firmly from a distance.

"This is a camp for disabled children and I need you to leave."

I think, oh shit we are going to be killed, as Rachel says "Sure no problem we can pack up right now!" So there a couple of things going through my head, first was we were going to be killed by some hillbillies for trespassing, second we are lesbians and if they hate gays... oh man this could be really bad. And lastly how creepy do we appear, grown adults camped outside of disabled kids cabins after trespassing onto the campground? Sounds bad.
Then the man climbed back into his truck and sat and waited and watched us break down the entire tent, and throw our sleeping bags into the car and climb into our car quickly. I get behind the wheel, or Rachel does, either way I am nervous and tired. We pull out of the field and drive back through the campground and out the front entrance way, and the truck follows us. They followed us for a few miles making sure we didn't turn around...fucking creepy.

We couldn't believe it, and I was so pissed off for being interuppted from the best sleep of my life. We pulled into a parking lot, some carpet cleaner place in this little town, and turn the engine off and pass out. At 6am I am awakened by a loud knock on my window scaring the shit out of me and Rachel, by a man motioning to roll down the window. "You guys can't park here, in about 20 minutes my whole staff will be here and we use every single parking spot, so I am going to ask if you can leave in a few minutes."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Fuck it all, we left, and we stopped for coffee and started our drive through the rest of the state into Utah, which was our destination. Once arriving at Zion National Park in Southwest Utah, we set up our tent in a NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUND and crawled into our sleeping bags and passed out, it was 3pm. :-)