date: 18 June 2020 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
location: Mountain Park National Forest Campground
Not deterred by the Campground Full sign we asked the campground host about the first come, first served sites. He was the host for the “upper” campground and suggested we check in with the “lower” campground host because that is where those sites were. Maybe this pearl of wisdom is posted somewhere but we suddenly felt like we had inside information. We now know to ignore signs and ask questions. The host was easy to find as he was driving a golf cart. It’s all of matter of where you are; in the campground the golf cart indicates someone who can answer a question. Much to his surprise and our relief there were two sites available. Although it was over an hour before the official check-in time there was someone ahead of us who had the choice of the open sites. We could have whichever site they did not take. Their car whizzed by us as we stood talking to the host. He said, “you got the nice one, right on the river” as he shrugged his shoulders at the rear end of the other camper's car.
We took his word for it and backed into our site. The roar of the river meant some hollering at each other to guess at the distance we would need to set up our tarp. That’s one of the many things shake down trips are for; exactly how big is the tarp we bought and haven’t taken out of the bag yet?
The campground asks that you pay and hang up your tag on the post at the road within 10 minutes of arrival so everyone knows the site is occupied and for how many days. Peter was prepared with cash to pay for our two night stay but here’s another surprise, National Forest Campgrounds take checks! We’ve added checks to our list of things to bring because although we rarely camp without reservations here we were camping without reservations. It could happen again.
We have designated a notebook for notes to help us remember what works, what doesn’t, add to our lists, make note of things we need to do, and general information.
Here’s what we meticulously wrote down as we put up the tarp the first time:
- First, put up window screens-gets them out of the way!
- Next-stake down the mat (needs it’s own garbage bag to travel in)
- Then tarp
We crossed all that out and wrote: ADJUST, tarp is big, some lines are long.
Pacing it out Peter dictated: from back of Cece to pole=12 feet, add another 9 feet to stake.
We had to pull forward and move the mat. Now we put up the tarp before we do anything else.
Who is Cece you ask? Our van! The idea came from our first trip, when we rented a campervan, to see if we liked it. We were travelling over a beautiful pass full of breathtaking foliage and I kept saying “see, see?” That is how it feels to be out on the road in Colorado, something to marvel at everywhere we go. And now it’s all more accessible as we bring our kitchen and bedroom along with us.
The tarp significantly expands our living space. It also gives us a dry place to cook in the event we want something to eat and it is raining. Or hailing. You never know in the mountains. On this trip we learned the tarp can sustain small hail. We huddled under it and watched it bounce around.
I added to the list:
- Always bring a hooded sweatshirt
- Sharpen knife
- Put games in their own bag so they’re easy to pull out
- Put speaker charger with other chargers
Speaker charger? Yes! A bluetooth speaker is a nice addition to camp life. We passed the time during the storm listening to a book. For both of us to be able to hear we needed something that could rise above the sounds of the rushing river, the pouring rain, and the pelting hail.
We were listening to Sara’s book group choice, “Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland” by Patrick Radden Keefe. Keefe tells the story of Jean McConville, a young widow with 10 children. In telling us her story he enlightens us about the history of Northern Ireland. The Belfast of 1972 is mostly unrecognizable from the Belfast Peter and I visited in 2011. I was struck then by how much glass there is there now; office buildings with ceiling to floor windows, a downtown mall with a glass observation deck on the top floor, and public art shimmering near the harbor where the Titanic was built. We walked around Belfast at night, to go to the pub (which is the one place we heard “Galway Girl” live but that is a story for another time) and during the day when we could see the eyes of a sniper painted on a building follow us across a field. The fact is even then there were places it was not safe to go and it’s nearly impossible to mail a postcard. We may be arguing over removal of blue postal boxes, but in Belfast they cannot have them at all.
Keefe brings what are now known as The Troubles to life through people who lived them. Some of the names are familiar, Bobby Sands and Che Guevara among them. The face of Bobby Sands is on the side of a building right around the corner from a Carnegie Library. Che Guevara’s image dominates a section of one of the peace walls. Murals are everywhere in Northern Ireland, telling the story as one side or the other sees it, or just reminding us what someone looked like. Keefe weaves his story as if we are walking along, possibly seeing some of these people or small pieces of their lives. He leaves their story to tell us about something or someone else, we may forget about them until he brings them back into his narrative, helping us make the connections of what was being fought for and against. I learned a lot, I understand more, I am glad I listened to this book. The next week my book group had our first in person gathering in months; a socially distanced mask wearing affair in one of our member’s back yards. One thing we all agreed on was although these times are difficult we are glad to be here now and not in Belfast of the 1970’s. We hope the border with observation towers does not reappear due to Britain’s exit from the European Union and that we can all visit one day armed with better knowledge of the history and hurt that have happened there.
Back to the Wilderness:
There’s a nice hike at Mountain Park. We were tired from preparing for the trip and cold from sitting out the storm so we did a timed hike, an hour up and then turn around. The clouds were still hanging over us as we set out, making the views gothic like; the mists rolling over the hills, the clouds shifting among the peaks. But it felt good to move around and did warm us up. This was June by the way. We were lucky it didn’t snow.
I added to the list:
- Always bring a hooded sweatshirt
- Rain Poncho
- Something to protect rear cushions when cooking
- Burn off gas in line when we leave
Taking down the tarp:
- Unhook middle bungee and top straps before closing rear doors
- Unhook straps from wheels, put in pocket
- Roll tarp so mosquito net is on top
- Remember to pick up pole “feet”
- Use black straps from wheels to secure
Miraculously the tarp, complete with poles and stakes fits in a bag with two pairs of camp gloves and a hammer.
I added to the list:
- Make extra tea on travel days!
Peter had written a To Do List:
- Add hikes to CO Trails App
- Put CO roadmap in glove box
- Research humidity and warmth
- Research best position for CO meter
- Put bars in waistpack
I had a few extra notes too:
- Pillow Bag works well
- BT Speaker can travel in pillow bag
- Works well to bring fresh produce-wash at homemade
All of these notes would be added to our typed lists before we packed for our next adventure. Which we were now feeling significantly better prepared for.