My new Girlfriend has been offering me the ability to expand my physical activity from couch potato to worldwide explorer. Hmm! Given that she has visited every continent, hiking most of them, climbed mountains, slept out doors at Burning Man, and camped on a calving ice flow in the Antarctic, I ask you, how will I keep up with a woman with this experience? I play pickleball three times a week, I can walk several miles – with frequent breaks. Haven’t ridden a bicycle in 45 years. Running is an activity that I employ only to escape vicious snails and mobile trees.
A month ago Girlfriend says let’s go camping! Uh, in a cabin? No, in a tent. Oh. A big tent? No, a four man tent. Immediately, visions of bears tearing the campsite apart, drooling on my face with massive fangs about to send me to the void, or snarling diamond back rattlesnakes drawing into the sleeping bag intent on striking my private parts and injecting a quart of venom, flashed in my less than supple brain. I anticipated hoisting a backpack weighing hundreds of pounds, with the tin cooking and eating utensils clanging on my hip advertising my presence and offering my body up for their gustatorial pleasure. I was convinced we would enter an environment that would rival that of the forest of Hogwarts.
Despite my fear and trepidations, I quietly agreed to camping, privately hoping that the event would be immediately accessible to a paved road and bathroom, and maybe a shower. One could hope.
AS time approached the C(amping) date it became apparent that this wouldn’t be the same as the campouts in the backyard in Ft. Thomas when we would put up dad’s old Army tent as best we could, stretched out on the old Army blankets, talking, reading by flashlight, sneaking into the house and confiscating snacks and Cokes. We would watch the horizon for heat lightening strikes worried that they might portend rain much to the ruin of our night out. Eventually we would, in turn, need to go to the bathroom and with Mom’s admonition ringing in our ears “Remember if you come in the house you must stay in the house.” She was frequently a wet blanket. But by the time all the snacks and soft drinks were finished and the strange night noises started, each of us, in his turn, would slink into the house for the security of our beds. So much for camping out!
I understood eventually that we would be sleeping on the ground albeit in sleeping bags. Girlfriend picked the place of our new adventure – Mount Diablo, a 3,800 ft mountain visible from the Bay Area, Delta, Central Valley, and even, on a good day Yosemite. She made a reservation for a camping spot that faced the Pacific Ocean to enjoy the sunset and sunrise that would be visible. I packed enough clothes to see me through a blizzard for a month, I had no desire to be cold.
As we drove up the mountain we encountered numerous bicyclists going both ways, fools like they were. All the way up the mountain, signs admonished me not to pass on blind curves. Interesting that there were nothing but blind curves. That is curves that were made blind by the numerous bicyclists at the curves. We stopped at several areas to enjoy the view. I have to admit it was pretty. Several of the areas required me to climb up a steep embankments where I came close to face planting or slipping down to where we started. Such fun!!
Near the top of the mountain someone built an observatory. A rather inconvenient location. The road up to the building was blocked by a chain suspended between 2 posts with a sign telling us that the road was blocked. Not to be sardonic, but what else were we to think? It was an invite to a limbo contest? So we discovered a path leading up the hill to the observatory. Not a road but a dirt path. And here I was without climbing shoes. Shoes had a slick sole without any semblance of cleats. I would have give money for baseball or golf shoes, anything that would provide traction. Yet, it’s time to travel upward toward the summit. Girlfriend is leading the way, I am falling behind with each slipping step giving solid evidence to the term “trail”. She picks up the pace, I begin utilizing my knees to maintain my advance until I find my nose digging furrows in the dirt trying to avoid rocks, stones, and insects.
Finally, we reach the edifice parking lot. Climb 35 stairs to reach the main doors. CLOSED.
It’s interesting that two competing and compelling emotions can exist at the same time, yet that was what I felt at the time: Fall on your knees thanking god it’s over relief; Absolute enmity towards whomever developed this park in the first place.
Back in the car. It’s time to search out our camping spot. We approach the kiosk with the terribly bored-looking civil servant sits. We produce the internet receipt showing that our spot is paid for, in return we receive a paper to hang on our window and a sort of ticket one would receive for the drawing of a prize at a birthday party. Off we go looking for Juniper Campgrounds space #8. While we are looking for our spot, we discover that we both need to pee, so we begin searching. We quickly find two buildings with the stick figures for male and female on the doors. Alas, both building indicate that the bathrooms are closed. Instructions are given to locate an open potty. Back in the car. Eventually we find the open bathroom, however, to our dismay it is comprised of two portable potties. Since both of us have our teeth singing “Anchors Away”, we reluctantly use the facility. Done with our activity we try to wash our hands like the animated health videos suggest. Surprise!! No water. After checking 15 water spigots, the realization dawns on us. There is no water in the park!! Back to the ranger kiosk to inform him that there is no water and ask where we can find some. In response to our water inquiry he intones in the same unhurried bucolic voice as before, “Water’s shut off. Need to go to town.” Off we go.
It’s 30 minutes on the way, 60 total from park to town. We buy three gallons of water and head back to set up tent and cook dinner.
Arrived at the tent space about 5pm, 2 hours after we intended to be there. The view from across the road is spectacular. One can see the pacific ocean, San Francisco, Marin County, among other areas. We begin to set up the tent, not a difficult task. Tent is up, we walk down to an overlook. Then we notice that the wind is beginning to increase, back to the space to cook dinner. Girlfriend’s task is to prep the food, mine is to cook. Wind is increasing making it difficult to start the fire. Matches go out as quickly as they are lit, running out of paper to start fire, wind increasing, some panic, don’t want to eat cold sausages. Finally, fire started, wind worse, looked on iPhone for weather, 60 mile per hour wind predicted, higher on mountain. No poop!! It took 10 minutes to cook 30 minute sausages the fire became so hot. We took dinner to a sitting area to watch the sunset. Nice sunset. We were finishing our Betty Crocker Instant Potatoes (actually not bad) when the wind really made itself felt. Back to the space, cleaned up the space, sat in the car for 30 minutes to escape the wind.
Need to pee.
Back in the car. Drove to the Porta Potties too far to walk in the wind. Entered the Porta Potty, difficult to pee, wind is moving the porta around so it’s difficult to stand up. Girlfriend is sliding on the seat. Peeing is another matter for both.
When done back in the car for drive to space #8.
Wind is becoming vicious. Crawl into the tent. Clamber into the sleeping bag (two person bag), zip up, and hold on tight to each other. OPPS! Tent peg pops loose, front of the tent sags. Clamber back out of the sleeping bag but not without doing a face plant into the dirt and pine needles. Peg reinserted, clamber back into the tent, back into the sleeping bag. The noise from the wind makes it difficult to sleep and difficult to hear each other but we do ok. We snuggle close to protect each other from the howling wild. Soon we begin to hear cracking and falling limbs in the woods behind the tent, but we feel safe snug in the sleeping bag.
In an attempt to extract some well deserved sleep from the increasingly hostile environment, we tried some relaxation techniques, which barely worked. Sleep came in drips and drabs with the wind increasing in intensity over time. The more intense the wind, the more the tent moved. I was sleeping with my head in the back corner of the tent and my feet near the opening. Again I had to pee. I disengaged from the sleeping bag and crawled my way to the opening only to trip on the tent entry and fall face down in the dirt and pine needles…again.
The wind was not abating. I had two choices: 1) get in the car and go see if the Porta Potty is still upright or 2) find a place near the tent to release my water. Simple decision. Since the urge to go was nearing painful, finding a local watering place necessary. I spent little time searching for an appropriate location. I found a nice space about 20 feet from the tent near a little grove of scrub. I looked around to see if anyone was watching. But who the hell, at 2:32 am on a Wednesday night, in the middle of a 65 mile per hour wind would be looking around to catch a glimpse of a 74 year old man urinating? Anyway, the issue was how to pee with the wind not into it. Yet with the wind swirling, it was difficult to aim since the wind changed rapidly. I managed to avoid taking a bath.
Again, back into the tent and sleeping bag, tripping over the lip of the tent opening with another face plant, this time into the sleeping bag, thank Zeus.
I am back in the tent and in the sleeping bag, cuddling with Girlfriend. I am on my back.
Suddenly, I feel something hit me in the face. WHAM!! I had just begun to fall asleep. Did a tree fall on the tent? Is there a bear attempting to attack us? Finally, it dawns on me. The tent assaulted my head. I screamed “The tent attacked me.” Girlfriend starts to laugh. “It’s not funny, damn tent hit me.” More laughter. WHACK, tent assaults me again. More cursing, more laughter. Wind has loosened the tent flap. WHAP!! WHAP!! WHAP!! Laughter becomes hysterical. More protestations of “Not funny!!” Much more laughter. WHAP!! WHAP!! WHAP!! WHAP!! WHAP!! Tent is increasing its assault. Wind has pulled several anchors rendering my side of the tent loose. I raise my arms to ward off the assault, Girlfriend exits the tent and pounds the anchors to decrease the tent’s assault. She has not stopped laughing and still laughs heartily today.
Morals of the story: Don’t sleep on a mountain top with 65 mile an hour winds blowing. If you don’t want to be assaulted by the tent sleep in the open.