Monday, May 28, 2007

Nude Camping and Guard Duty

Catching the afternoon rays on a stony outcropping

Many of you know that I'm involved with bringing Scenic Hot Springs back into legal use, and I take that responsibility seriously. One of the problems we have at Scenic are those who wait until the owner leaves his property for the day for a chance to sneak on up to the springs to party. Night time partying has been our bane because of the litter, illegal fires, alcohol and general disrespect for the hot springs. Holiday weekends are the worst and we've taken to allowing a volunteer to campout overnight in the lower portions to intersect and turn around people heading on up to the springs under cover of darkness. Last year it was the Naked Gourmet who parked his van right in front of the gate and let his German Shepard roam on a very long leash. Those turning in off the highway suddenly got the message loud and clear in the form of a bright spotlight and a very loud dog. This year I did the guard duty and I was not interested in spending the night in my car under the towering trees further down. I like open spaces.

The nice thing is that once had I re-posted the property once again I pretty much had the property all to myself to wander around nude . . . hot springs are, after all, nude-friendly and expected. From where I perched high atop an outcropping of bedrock in the BPA clearcut I could easily spot any attempted approach long before any trespassers knew I was there to discourage them.

Not my normal backpacking tent but I'm
car-camping and enjoying the luxury

I was car camping, so I brought my North Face 22 tent. Normally when I backpack in I carry a small bivuoac tent that is extremely light and barely big enough to fit a sleeping bag and the pack. There is certainly no room to sit up. But when you backpack you retire early and you retire hard . . . exhausted. Not so car camping. So the North Face . . . arguably my favorite tent because I can set a candle lantern from a lanyard inside and sit up for as long as I want reading. There is no desire or need to go to sleep the moment you make camp. To round out the arrangements, I have a ThermoRest mattress and a down mummy bag to guarantee a toasty warm sleep. The combination serves me well even in subzero snow temperatures.

I should have brought my propane grill . . . I certainly had the room in the car . . . but I waffled to test out a new butane expedition burner that, with tank, weighed in around four ounces. The unit performed well and cooked my chilli, refilled my thermos with coffee and repeated the process the following morning with breakfast . . . scrambled eggs (the real ones) and toast. Also served to heat up the water for me to freshen up the next morning. I'm impressed, especially since the tank seemed to still have a lot of butant left in it. However, it will never replace the multi-fuel stove I've had for years. Butane does not perform very well at altitude. The multi will burn cheap, reliable kerosene, gasoline, lighter fuid . . . what not.

A camp chair was pure decadence. Very comfortable, though. I brought the coleman lantern, of course. For casting the glow of reassuring warm light around your campsite, nothing beats a kerosene burning coleman lantern. Except maybe a fire.

The dark does close in around you and a campfire feels good,
keeps you warm, and dispels the evening bugs

At one point as the sun went down, I briefly pulled out mosquito netting from my pack and draped it over the chair. Bugs . . . the nipping, biting sort of no-see-ems that make life miserable for nudists seem to come out in force at twilight. I hate bug spray . . . spray that Deet onto your skin and you can feel the organophosphate poisons tingling through. But a smoky fire works great. There is an old firering near my tent and plenty of deadwood laying about. I'm probably the worst firemaker ever . . . worrying the fire to death with my impatience. Firestarts are the only way to go. They will light and fuel even the most recalcitrant of green wood. Which is good because left on my own I couldn't get a book of matches to burn. Well, maybe not that bad.

Standing near a campfire also warms you appreciably as the evening turns nippy. Absolutely clear sky above, stars pinpoint sharp. A cold night, especially so in the mountains. The camp chair set close to a cheery fire, a few requisite marshmallows toasted on the flames and eaten with relish releases the pressures and stresses of life. Clients and customers can wait. While my cell phone will work here . . . with a little bit of aligning and finding the sweet spot . . . it's only purpose now is to alarm for seven o'clock in the morning. I try to take up reading a book I had put off for a long time but the stars continually pull me away. So much different out here.

Despite the fact that I usually don't go to bed very early, there is something magical about the crystal clear night skies in the mountains, totally devoid of light pollution. It mesmerizes you into a very relaxed state. I bank the remaining coals of my fire and let it burn down. Inside my tent it's into the sleeping bag, zip up the door and stare at the night sky through the mesh panels for awhile before falling into a deep sleep.

From the inside of my tent the following morning,
watching a bear scratch out its' morning meal
less than a 100 feet away

I beat my alarm clock awake the following morning . . . fully recharged and rested. Thinking about getting out of the sleeping bag into the chilly morning, I just sit there and stare out. Something moving catches my eyes. I realize it is a bear less than a hundred feet away doing the same thing I was thinking of doing . . . getting breakfast.

The bear is paying me no attention . . . intent on slowly pulling apart this old tree stump and licking up bugs and such. He . . . or she . . . is in no hurry and after steadying my initial surprise I just sit there and watch the bear. I will admit that I did calculate how much time it would take for me to sprint naked to where my car was parked. I figured the bear, if so inclined, would beat me there first. So I watched instead.

The bear did hear me turn my camera on . . . stared directly at me in my tent for half a minute. He knew I was there . . . just wasn't in the least bit interested. I snapped a few pictures. Eventually the bear wandered higher up onto the slopes and into the thick forest canopy. I got up and judiciously did my morning cooking near my car least I had a re-interested bear join me for breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast.

I kept camp for the rest of the day and took side excursion hikes over the property. A great two-day break from the city.

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