Sunday, May 1, 2011

Can't wait for camping!

Especially on a day like today.  It's cloudy and cold, and has attempted to snow several times.  And after mowing the lawn and doing laundry, my daughters and I went grocery shopping and got to talking about camping.

Youngest brought up the camping trip she and I took last summer when she was about 7 months pregnant.

We had gone up to our new favorite place back between Paonia and Crested Butte.  Not many people go there, mostly cattle ranchers.  The camping areas aren't even marked on any maps as camping areas, just horse unloading areas.  The road is all dirt, and as you pass the bridge to cross to the forest service side, there is a big sign that warns that the road narrows to one lane in several places.

Those several place are on the edge of several cliffs.  God forbid if there is a truck pulling a full horse trailer coming the other way.  Especially since at one point the cliff is eroding away at an alarming rate.

Well, we rushed to jam everything for camping, food, her, me, and two large dogs into my Outback, which, by the way, has only half trunk space due to the large subwoofer box I have back there.  I think both dogs had to sit in one seat and hang their heads out the same window just to fit.

We left, and noticed large thunderheads building just to the south and west of where we were going.  Our conversation was something like this:

Me: "Maybe it'll stay south of the camping area."
Youngest: "Yeah, but if we get up there really fast and get the tent set up, if it rains we can just hang in the tent."
Me: (way optimistic) "Yeah, probably, well, we can give it a try."

So we went up there.  When we got to the camp area it was raining cats and dogs, even though 1000 feet down the road it was dry.  We sat in the car for half an hour looking at this:

The mountain across from us

It poured so hard that we watched rivers form instantly

Conversation in car?

Me:"Well, maybe the rain will stop soon."
Youngest: (2 minutes later) "When it stops raining everything will be too wet to set up."
Me: "Well, maybe we should go home....?"
Youngest:  "Probably....?"

Still, we waited for 30 full minutes before turning up the road to head back home.  That's when we found out the storm didn't move any further north than that campground.

Everyone needs to understand that even though there are 2 campgrounds at the end of this death-defying road, people have come up and made their own campgrounds along the side of the river where the road runs along it.  Soon our conversation went like this:

Me: "You know that spot where someone drove off the side of the hill before that second cliff on the road?  We should go check that out."
Youngest: "Do you think your car will make it down that?"
Me: "Sure it will!  I used to take my Honda down roads worse than this!  And now I have an Outback, it has a higher ride high."
Youngest: "I don't know mom....what if we get stuck?"
Me: "We'll try it, and if it starts looking bad, we'll just go back up!"

So, we went to check this out.  There are two ways to get down this road to the camp area by the river- one way was obviously made by jacked up four wheeling vehicles, the other way looked like an easy route to the bottom.

So, we took the easy way- easy at first.  When we turned the first corner and started down the part that we couldn't see from the top, the wheel ruts were so deep that I had to try to ride my car up the side of a hill so my tires would be on the middle of the rut spots, and the hill.  That worked for a minute, then I accidentaly slid into the too deep ruts.  That's when I hit a rock with my drive shaft cover and drove it into the drive shaft.  The result of this, for anyone who doesn't know, is a metal on metal squeal that echoed off the surrounding mountains.

To back up to two days before this trip, I'd just like to say that I was warned by my mechanic that my struts desperately needed repaired, and not to drive any more than needed until they were fixed... (oops)

We squealed our way all the way down to the bottom where we were met by the two men with their sons who were the only other campers down at that site.  They looked a little chagrined about the noisy neighbors moving in suddenly.  But, they were nice enough to help bend the drive shaft cover off the drive shaft for us damsels in distress.  And we were distressed after listening to that noise for 5 minutes!

Bear with my long story dear reader, because this camping trip gets a lot funner.

We set up camp and had dinner and turned in for the night with out further incident, and when we woke in the morning, the sun was out, and the day was fine.  We loitered playing rummy, and the dogs played in the river:

Check out that belly!

We even took a little hike, and gathered firewood for later.  Good thing too.

Our previous neighbors had left first thing in the morning, and a new set came down the hill- with a camper in tow!  The husband of the couple even came over to say hi, and to exclaim about how we got an Outback down the hill.

Then it started raining.  It rained all night long.

At first we were having fun in the tent playing rummy and keeping the dogs off our sleeping bags.  Then it got cold, and the dogs needed to go pee, and I realized we had to figure out how to cook our hot dogs in the rain.  But don't worry all, I'm a genius.

I put our Coleman stove in our entryway to the tent, which is all enclosed, but not actually in the tent.  We studiously scraped the ground bare of flammable objects.  And I cooked dinner.  It was kinda cool actually.

The next morning when we woke, everything was muddy and soaked.  I started a feeble fire to get us warm, and that's when Youngest said:

"How are we going to get your car up that hill with it all muddy?"

Good question.  We decided that the sooner the better, in case we had to walk for help. So, we broke camp and drove the car to the bottom of the hill.

Our neighbors appeared to be out of their camp for whatever reason.  We were on our own.

Now, no one who's been reading me knows that I am a pussy about driving when the roads are slick.  I hate that sliding sideways feeling.  I hate driving on snow or ice.  And I know mud is slippery.  I drive a stick for maximum control.  That's how it is.

I told Youngest to take the dogs and wait for me to call her to start up the hill.

Then I put the car into second gear.  And I gunned it.

I slid and slipped, and fought the car to stay out of the ruts.  And on the first turn, where on the way down I slipped into the ruts, I slipped into the ruts.  Hill on my right, large drop off to the left.  And me, gunning it and turning the wheel to the hill.

And suddenly, I broke free, went fishtailing out of the ruts and up the side of a mountain!

It was exhilarating!  It was a total rush!  I got all the way to the top, stopped the car, jumped out and let out a huge war cry.  I was laughing and whooping as I ran down the hill to Youngest and the dogs, who were are barky and excited because I was yelling.

We got home with my car covered in mud, inside and out.  Inside because I left the windows down so I could hear what my car was doing when we were getting out.

I told Husband what had happened, laughing the whole time, and he just looked at me and said:

"You take your cars into the most inappropriate places."

Three weeks later my car had a new engine splashguard and rear differential guard made out of aircraft aluminum.

Remember, it's just a ride.  (that time I did Bill, lol)


  1. Awesome adventure! I miss camping in CO so much it isn't even funny. And it's not a good trip unless you damn near fall off the side of a mountain. My favorite spot is Black Canyon in Gunnison. Did some great hiking there. Cheers!

  2. @ Shower- Dude I live so close to the Black Canyon it's not even funny!

  3. I remember that.. oh boy do I