The Caraher’s Go-a-Campin’

With fall approaching it’s time to call it a ‘wrap’ on the camping season. We took our camper out twice this summer, for a grand total of three nights. I keep insisting to my husband, David, that this is good! – verses his preference, which is more akin to not going camping and say we did.

“But heck!” (I tell David to excite him about going.) “We pay $300.00 a year just to store the thing. We save a night’s motel (okay, flea bag motel) every night we stay in our camper! Camping for three or four nights a year makes up for the cost of storage!”

We hit the mark this year, camping for three nights, and that’s what’s important here.

photo(16)Here you see a picture of our camper where it is parked about 360 days a year. It is a 1973 Bell, a 16-foot beauty, wait till you see its lime-green interior! We bought it three years ago at my insistence as a quantum leap up from camping out of the back of David’s truck. Megan, the dog, and I, would bed down in the back of the truck, while David got the ground, and a tarp to cover himself in case of rain. In the morning we all crawled out as if from under rocks, piled back into the truck and drove somewhere to find food and a bathroom to squat in to clean ourselves up, at which juncture Megan and I were usually thoroughly spent and pleading to go home.

So I spotted this totally retro 16′ camper with its divine lime green interior and just had to have it. For a mere 1,500 bucks! Good buy! We could afford it! And do some REAL camping! Albeit it doesn’t have a bathroom or hot water and the ice box runs on, uh, block ice. Of course, as soon as we wrote a check for the thing and hauled it into our driveway we learned the roof leaked like a sieve, the plumbing had to be replaced and the field mice had a veritable field day chewing on the upholstery. “Sorry, dear!” But, “Cha-ching!” Oh well, what’s another 1,500 bucks for the trailer’s restoration? We will certainly get $3,000.00 worth of fun out of our precious lime-green retro camper in the long run! We only have to camp in it, say, every summer for the next 10-15 years to make the return on our investment.

We do go camping, about 3-4 days a year. Except we have our own special requirements. First of all, we never camp in campsites with hook-ups. No way! We like to rough it! Haul the camper off-road to some wilderness area, hopefully next to a stream, so we can fish. We build a humongous campfire, feed it dead tree limbs past midnight, and stand around it belting out our own unique renditions of old Bee-Gees’ songs, complete with ‘harmony.’ (This activity involves camping with my younger brother, Eric, who knows the wilderness areas like his back yard, knows almost every word of every Bee-Gee song ever made, and belts out a unique, um, falsetto … It also involves making sure we don’t have neighbors within 500 yards.)

Unless we just don’t want to bother with a campfire or cooking and all that. Then we do what we did camping overnight during Labor Day weekend: Park close to a restaurant so we can eat there and squat in their bathroom (since we don’t have a bathroom in our camper, as I said. We do, however, have a corner closet which houses a porta-potty, which, why would we use it if we don’t have to?).

Another plus about camping near a restaurant is that you are also then probably in, or near, a town where you might have cell phone coverage so your daughter, who is twenty and was unenthusiastically dragged along on the trip in the first place, can text her friends.

So we went camping Sunday night into Labor Day. My brother with the falsetto voice invited us to join him in Island Park, Idaho – a mere 90-minute drive from our house. Eric was running a booth at an Antique show in front of Pond’s Lodge (which is actually just a restaurant now). He had parked his camper behind the restaurant in an area that used to house campsites and rental cabins, but was now, under new ownership, transitioning into small private lots sporting $300,000.00 log homes. There was a spot back there beside his camper, Eric told us, where we could camp, and there were no other campers around on account of all the construction. There was cell phone coverage, too! We were totally ‘there!’

We pulled in behind Pond’s lodge about 3PM Sunday – parked our camper back there next to Eric’s camper. Then we did an outsy-doorsy thing, afterall, we were camping. Drove the 4-Runner up to the top of Sawtelle mountain:

Picture us standing at the very top!

Picture us standing at the very top!

It lies just a few miles outside of Island Park and yes, you can drive clear to the top of it. Here’s a photo I took of Megan on top of Sawtelle … She handled it okay:

Yes!  There is cell phone coverage!

Yes! There is cell phone coverage!

However, the wind was blowing about forty miles an hour and we didn't linger long. Here is our dog, Rudy, enjoying the view while trying to keep his footing:

photo(11)

We quickly jumped back in the truck and switch-backed our way down the mountain to return to our ‘campsite.’ It was just too windy to think of being outside and too early for dinner so we decided to hang out in the camper. Go ‘lime green!’

Who's got the lime?

Who's got the lime?

It was then that we paused to take in the view out our camper door…

What's with the cabin?  Tornado?

What's with the cabin? Tornado?

How did that cabin get turned on its, uh, would that be … ‘nose?’

Notice the legs and white tennies. Those belong to Megan. I didn’t ask her to position her legs in the scene just to enhance my photo. She is very busy here, mind you, absorbed with focused singularity in her camping experience, unaffectedly battered by high winds as she resolutely …

photo(15)

… texts her friends. Hey, no problem if the cell phone (surrounded by so much metal I guess) doesn’t work in the camper. Eric’s camper (pictured in the first photo with the apparent tornado) is similar in size to ours, except fully equipped and, you will notice, his back window is cracked … (for extra ventilation perhaps? Nice touch.).

Soon it was dinnertime and we walked the 200 yards to the restaurant. My brother, Eric, joined us and so did my sister, Lisa, (otherwise known as ‘Twitch’) and her husband, Tom. They were camping in Island Park as well, only they really were ‘roughing it’ in a campsite 15 miles away off a dirt road. There was a ‘Bear Box’ pre-installed at their campsite along with an 18-foot-high horizontal pole from which to levitate their food stuffs so as to have no excuse if they ended up mauled by bears.

After a comfortable ‘green’ night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at Pond’s Lodge Restaurant, all six of us embarked on a 2 1/2-mile hike up to Blair Lake:

Blair Lake

Blair Lake

The trail head was about a 20-mile drive from our campsite. We fished and picnicked by the lake and it didn’t matter at all about cell phone coverage, particularly since Megan’s cell phone was long since dead by now.

On the hike back from the lake I was remembering all the reasons why I want to go camping.

photo(19)

How can you get any closer to nature than this? I know David and Megan (and our dog Rudy!) felt as I did. How lucky we were! – and blessed! – to be here, all of us together, hiking in the Idaho wild, living this unforgettable experience!

My sister, Lisa, told me later that a black bear had run across the road in front of them as they were driving away from their remote campsite 15 miles from where we camped. Hey, our campsite worked out just fine! Eric explained that the owner of Pond’s Lodge was trying to find the quickest way to demolish the old cabins to clear the lots behind his restaurant. He tried just lifting them up with heavy machinery and dropping them on their sides to see if they would collapse on themselves. Maybe he should set that cabin that was near our camper upright again and just use it – it’s so sturdy!

Lastly, here is a photo of our corner camper closet, you know, the one with the porta-potty…

"Keep the lid shut!"

… staring up at you with it’s two eyeballs as if to issue a warning:

Raise the lid at your own risk!

I don’t know why I took this photo. Nothing in it is even green.

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