Monthly Archives: September 2016

Happy Campers


My shift at the parking lot was almost over when the small and shiny Jeep SUV pulled in. I approached the vehicle and found white folks inside. There were only two of them, an older couple, both speaking with accents my lazy ear could only identify as “European.” They were asking about campgrounds, so I sent them next door to ask about availability there. They soon returned to the parking lot, asking if I were the camp host next door. I told them I wasn’t, explained I was the host at the campground two miles down the road. They said it looked as if all the sites next door were reserved but said they hadn’t seen the camp hosts to speak to them. I thought they wanted to camp next door so they could walk to the trail from their campsite, so I sent them back to talk to the camp hosts. I also told them to come to my campground if things didn’t work out for them next door. Every site in my campground was open.

I packed my chair, water bottle, and backpack, then walked down to the restrooms to restock toilet paper. It didn’t take me long, and I was soon on my way back to my campground.

When I pulled in, I saw the same small Jeep SUV already parked on site #6. After getting the van backed into my spot, I walked over to site #6 where the woman exclaimed, Now this is a campground!

The other campground was just too busy, she said. Too many people. She wasn’t happy with the yurts, either. Talking about them made her shudder, although she called them by some cute name I wish I could remember.

When I checked them in, I found out they were from Austria. They had so recently arrived in the U.S., they were still suffering from jet lag.

They asked me if the my campground was likely to stay quiet all night. They said they’d had experienced campgrounds where people were partying and loud. I told them I couldn’t guarantee people wouldn’t show up and be loud, but I said they could let me know if anyone bothered them, and I would put a stop to the disturbance.

Only one other vehicle pulled into the campground that evening. A young couple and a wolfy dog were in the white SUV. They were looking for a camping spot, they said, but is there anywhere that doesn’t cost $21? the young woman asked me after I’d run through the campground info. I told them about the nearest free campground and dispersed camping. They said they’d go check out the free campground and maybe come back, but they never did.

The campground was empty all night, save for me and the Austrians. I got into my van around 7pm and didn’t hear a noise outside until morning.

The next morning, the Austrian man approached the restrooms moments after I’d finished cleaning the first one.

How was your night? I asked. Did you enjoy the quiet?

The man stretched out his arms and declared, This is better than a five-star hotel!

He asked if he could use one of the restrooms. I pointed to the one I’d just finished, and said, That one’s clean.

He gestured to the one I hadn’t started on yet and said, That one’s spotless too.

A little before 9:30, as I’d suggested to them in order to beat the crowd at the trail, the Austrian couple left the campground. When I arrived at the parking lot at 10am, I saw their rental car parked near the front. It was after one o’clock when the couple emerged from the trail. They told me they’d enjoyed seeing the trees and thanked me for my advice to arrive early. They said they’d decided to stay another night at my campground.

When I got back to the campground, I found the Austrian couple eating a late lunch. I collected that night’s camping fee from them and got the man’s signature on the camping permit. When I returned to my van, I saw the free travel booklets my boss had dumped on me that day. The booklets contain information about the National Forest and a couple of National Parks. I knew the Austrians were headed to a National Park, so I thought the booklet might be useful to them.

I brought one over, saying I’m sorry to bother you again, then explaining I thought the information in the booklet might help them. They were quite grateful and the woman said, You are the best camp host we have ever had!

It’s nice to be appreciated, but it’s even nicer to know I’ve made my campers happy.

Pack It In, Pack It Out


It was the Friday after Labor Day, and business was slow in the parking lot. My coworker had gone, and I was sitting in my chair, working on a scarf. A Forest Service Crew was on the trail felling hazard trees, and only a few visitors were parked in the lot.

I heard a vehicle coming down the road, and when I looked up, I saw it was a Forest Service SUV marked “Law Enforcement” on the side. I thought the vehicle might hold the two L-E-Os who’d pulled me over to hassle me about the cracks in my windshield, so I was glad to see it pass the parking lot’s gate.

The driver must not have gone far before turning around, because I don’t think three minutes passed before the SUV was pulling into the parking lot. I decided I wasn’t getting out of my chair to chitchat with tree cops. The SUV came in the wrong way on the one-way loop and stopped near me. At that point I got up after all to find out why the L-E-O was there.

As I approached the SUV, I looked into the open passenger side window and saw an L-E-O I’d never seen before. This guy was young too, whiskerless, blond, slight, and almost too clean and pretty to be a cop, even in a forest.

He looked at me and said, I’m here for the urn.

Surely that’s not what he said, I thought as I looked at him blankly.

I’m here for the urn, he said again. The human remains? I got a call about an urn found on the trail.

I continued to look at him blankly, and he asked, You didn’t hear about it?

I told him I hadn’t heard about it, and the L-E-O said he was surprised. I told him the Forest Service crew working on the trail had probably found the urn and used a walkie-talkie to call in and hadn’t bothered to tell me. (The Forest Service is responsible for the trail and the company I work for is responsible for the parking lot, so I understand why someone from the work crew didn’t come over and tell me about the urn.)

The L-E-O said he had to go out on the trail to retrieve the urn.

By that time, I had the giggles and put my hand over my mouth in hopes of keeping my inappropriate laughter inside. How could someone forget an urn full of human remains on an interpretive trail in a National Forest? This situation sounded like the premise of a slapstick comedy.

What are you going to do with it?  I asked. I don’t normally converse freely with cops of any sort, but I was fascinated by the abandoned urn.

Keep it in the office until someone calls to say they forgot Grandpa, was his response.

I had to cover my mouth again in an attempt to keep in my giggles.

I guess the urn’s in a Crown Royal bag, the L-E-O told me. Grandma must have had a drink…

A Crown Royal bag? That was too much! A hand over my mouth was not hiding my laughter.

The L-E-O parked the SUV and headed out on the trail. He was gone a good 40 minutes before returning to the parking lot holding a purple bag. It wasn’t a Crown Royal bag after all; this bag was purple, but bigger and made from fake velvet. He didn’t show me the urn, but told me it was a case of dumping.

Dumping? I asked, confused again.

He’d opened the urn, he told me, and it was empty. Whoever had brought the urn on the trail must have scattered the ashes, then abandoned the urn and the bag that held it.

Pack it in, pack it out! I exclaimed.

Yes, the L-E-O agreed, even in the case of Grandpa’s ashes, people need to take their trash out with them.



The big fire was still burning, but word was the smaller fire—started by a lightning strike—was under control. Word was the one route back up the mountain was open again, although the road I found the quickest and easiest way from civilization to my campground (although not exactly quick and easy) was still closed.

I began the slow, curvy drive up the mountain late in the afternoon.

When I got to the area where the lightning had struck and started the fire, I didn’t see any flames and very little smoke. What I did see were firefighters. The firefighters who weren’t actively fighting whatever fire was still burning were milling about on the road’s narrow shoulders, eating sandwiches, drinking water, catching a little rest. I reduced the van’s speed even further. I don’t ever want to hit anyone with my large motor vehicle, but I particularly did not want to be the asshole who hit somebody working to save the forest.

As I got through the main congestion of firefighters, I noticed a truck was behind me. At the next turnout, I pulled off the road so the truck could pass me, which it did. I noticed it was a Forest Service truck, which didn’t concern me. I’d just passed at least a dozen Forest Service vehicles and wasn’t surprised to see one on the road with me.

I hadn’t gone far when I saw the same Forest Service truck parked in another turnout.

That’s weird, I thought. What kind of game is the driver playing?

I passed the truck and it pulled out behind me.

It’s just going to have to go slow while it follows me, I thought, because I’m not pulling off for it to pass me again.

I slowly made my way through the mountain road’s curves while the truck followed behind. Just as I approached a large turnout, I saw the truck had lights on its roof, and those lights were flashing.

What the fuck? I thought, as I realized the truck was carrying at least one L-E-O.

“L-E-O” stands for “Law Enforcement Officer.” L-E-Os work for the Forest Service and carry guns. They’re tree cops and I think of them the way I think of any cops: don’t trust ‘em—don’t like ‘em.

Immediately after maneuvering the van into the turnout, I fumbled around to silence the podcast playing on my phone. I was listening to Risk, and I didn’t want a bawdy story or salty language making the upcoming interaction unnecessarily awkward. I also didn’t want to have to shout to be heard.

The second thing I did was put my hands on the steering wheel. I didn’t want to get shot because a tree cop thought I was reaching for a weapon.

There were two L-E-Os, actually. One came to my driver’s side window. He was probably in his early 30s, tall, with dark hair and beard both clipped short. He would have been handsome but for his chosen profession.

I told him through the small triangular window on my side of the van that the main window on that side doesn’t roll down. He said he’d go around to the passenger side, where the window goes down halfway.

Right off, he asked me if I were alone in the van. I told him I was.

He said, Because I can’t see in there. I don’t know if someone’s in there pointing a gun at me.

I thought, If I had a job that made me constantly worried about being shot, I’d get a new job. I succeeded in keeping the thought to myself. Instead, I repeated that I was alone in the van, and I told him I had no guns. Then I told him I was a camp host heading back to my campground.

I thought I’d probably been pulled over because there were so few people headed up the mountain. Maybe I looked suspicious by virtue of being on a road currently barely traveled. I thought when I said I was a camp host, I’d immediately be sent on my way, but no.

First, the L-E-O wanted to know what campground I was the host at. Fair enough, so I told him. Then he wanted to know the location of the campground. He was new to the area, he said, and he didn’t know his way around. Riiiiight. I know when my story’s being checked out. But I went ahead and explained the campground’s location.

I suppose he had to justify his reason for hassling me, because he told me he’d pulled me over because of the cracks in my windshield.


Those cracks have been in my windshield since I bought the van. They do not obstruct my view. No city or county or state cop in New Mexico or Arizona or Nevada or California had pulled me over because of the cracks in the windshield, but suddenly a tree cop was worried about it? Is a cracked windshield really a federal issue?

I was both annoyed and trying not to laugh at this guy. I told him I was working as a camp host so I could get the windshield replaced as soon as I returned to my home state. (I didn’t bother to tell him I’d planned to get it replaced last year but the $500 of transmission work, the four new tires, and the installation of a new fuel pump had blown my windshield budget.)

The entire time I was talking to L-E-O #1, L-E-O #2 (a young, short, bald guy) was walking around the van, looking underneath it, trying to peer into all my windows.

Then L-E-O #1 asked if he could see my driver’s license, if I had it handy. (I wonder what he would have said had I told him in fact it wasn’t handy.) It was in my bag next to my seat, so I fished it out and handed it to him. He walked off with it; I think it’s a good bet he took it to his truck to call in my name and license number. Surely L-E-O #2 had already called in the number on my license plate.

When he returned my license to me, L-E-O #1 said that while having a cracked windshield was a ticketable offense, he wasn’t going to give me a ticket since that doesn’t seem to be what you need right now.

(Does anyone jump into her or his vehicle and think, What I need right now is to get a ticket because I have a cracked windshield I haven’t been able to afford to replace?)

Then L-E-O #1 thanked me for driving carefully around all the firefighters. To me this meant he and his little tree cop buddy had to make up a reason to pull me over since they hadn’t seen me violate any traffic laws.

When I got back on the road, the L-E-Os followed me for about a quarter of a mile. I thought they might follow me all the way back to my campground, but they must have gotten bored with my slow and careful driving, because they turned around and headed back toward the firefighters.

No one else has had anything to say about the cracks in my windshield since that afternoon. Getting the windshield replaced is as the top of my list of things to do, just as soon as I get out of super expensive California.



You Need a Booth


Strangers in the parking lot often think they know exactly what I need, and they don’t stand behind the door to tell me.

One afternoon, the trail had hardly any visitors. Only one car was parked in the entire lot. I was getting ready to leave for the day when the family that belonged to the car exited the trail.

The family consisted of three people. I think it was a mom, a dad, and their grown (or nearly so) daughter.

Looking at me sitting in my folding chair in the shade, You need a booth! Dad declared in his East coast accent.

That would cost money, I countered.

Of all the things the National Forest needs, I’m sure a booth for a parking lot attendant is pretty far down on the list. The man probably didn’t consider the permits and permissions necessary to build something on federal land. And who would pay for it? The company I work for or the Forest Service? Obviously this man had given little thought to the implementation of his booth plan.

It could be ten by ten, Dad went on, as if a small booth wouldn’t cost money. Maybe he thought no one would mind something so little.

It would get hot in a booth, I continued my naysaying.

Oh! You’d have an air conditioner, ever optimistic Dad came back with immediately.

Suddenly we’d gone from a cheap shack to one with amenities.

This was getting ridiculous!

There’s no electricity out here, I told them.

You could get a generator! Daughter said brightly.

I kept shaking my head, and I’m sure I was making a face of displeasure too.

I no longer wanted to participate in the conversation (which hadn’t been my idea in the first place). No matter what objections I raised, these people were going to have an answer. I suppose it’s nice to be optimistic, but they saw a need that wasn’t there and didn’t ask me what I could use to make my life better. Instead they told me what I needed, offered no suggestions on how to fund the project, and kept adding “comforts” to solve problems they were creating. Is this how civilization grew out of control?

I guess it might be nice to sit surrounded by these trees, the daughter conceded.

Yes, it is nice to sit in the shade among the trees. I don’t want to be cooped up in a booth. I don’t want to need an air conditioner because I’m stuck in a tiny room with no air flow. I don’t want to listen to a loud generator for hours at a time.

I also don’t want to converse with strangers who think they know what I need when actually they have no idea, but that’s one of the hazards of my job.

August 2016 Spending Report


I apologize for being so tardy with this month’s spending report. As I’ve said before, I’m tired of this game and disappointed by the amount I am spending each month. However, I still think this exercise is a beneficial one. I continue to believe it is good to know how much I am actually spending, although it is rather depressing. I thought I was living on just a few hundred dollars a month. HA!

(If you are new to this blog, you can read about how this spending report project started here: You can also find the spending reports from previous months by typing “spending report” in the search bar.)

8-1-16 I was in civilization today. It was the anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s birth. I ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream for breakfast in celebration. Total spent: $134.35

$5.59 to grocery store for ice cram and tortilla chips

$8.68 to Dollar Tree for batteries for my small fan

$43.14 for gas

$23.43 for groceries

$8 to Panera for breakfast, lunch, and internet access

$4.50 for laundry

$34.99 autopayment on phone

$6.02 to Little Caesar’s for a pizza

8-2-16 All I bought today was ice. Total spent: $2.69

8-3 through 8-8-16 I stayed out of civilization. Nothing spent

8-9-16 I picked up my mail today and sent off some items. Total spent: $10.01

8-15-16 Today I was back in civilization. Total spent: $152.06

$5.25 to Etsy shop for pendants to use in gifts

$2.17 to Taco Bell for breakfast

$7.50 for laundry

$8.71 to Panera for coffee, lunch, and internet access

$3.36 for groceries

$100 for dept repayment

$.70 to Wal-Mart for money order

$11.43 to Dollar Tree for supplies

$12.94 to Wal-Mart for laundry detergent (huge savings over buying those little boxes of detergent at the laundromat) and hair scissors (so I can trim my own bangs)

8-16-16 Today I finished my errands in town and did some more work on the blog. Total spent: $88.65

$31.17 for groceries

$51.04 for gas

$3.21 to the post office

$3.23 to Panera for coffee, a bagel, and internet access

(You will notice I successfully avoided buying a pizza during this trip to Babylon.)

8-17 through 8-21-16 On the mountain for five days and Nothing spent.

8-22-16 It was back to civilization today, and I succumbed to the siren song of the Asian buffet. Total spent: $34.73

$14 for buffet and tip (Believe me, I ate all I could.)

$11.23 for groceries

$9.50 for laundry

8-23-16 Today was another day in civilization. Total spent: $82.10

$13.14 for groceries

$43.92 for gas

$2.05 to Panera for coffee and internet access

$22.99 oil change

8-24-16 I spent an extra day in civilization due to fire on the mountain. I stupidly left my rug in the dryer on Monday night, so I went to the thrift store today to replace it. (I paid $6 for the rug last summer, plus I’d just spent money to wash and dry it. Grrrr!!!) Total spent: $12.39

$8.50 to thrift store for new rug ($4), necklace for a gift ($1), greeting cards (30 for $2.50), and four magazines ($1)

$2.70 for groceries (I bought hummus and cracker and yogurt at discount grocery store instead of eating lunch at a restaurant)

$1.19 to Panera for coffee and internet (Price reflects $1 discount I got using my loyalty card.)

8-25 through 8-27-16 I stayed on the mountain. Nothing spent

8-28-16 I prepared for the next day’s trip to a National Park. Total spent: $51.06

$42.89 for gas

$2.15 for ice

$6.02 to Little Caesar’s for a pizza

9-29-16 Today I visited a National Park, where I successfully spent no money. I did spend some money while I in civilization before and after. Total spent: $14.29

$1.62 to gas station for coffee

$2.62 to thrift store for yarn (I’ve been on a yarn bender.)

$10.05 for groceries, including food for dinner instead of eating out and $4.29 for calcium supplements, since I woke up with a leg cramp last night.

9-30-19 Today I cooked and ate breakfast in the park instead of eating at a restaurant. I also sent a big package to a friend before I went back up the mountain. Total spent: $27.35

$2.19 to Panera for drink and internet use

$2.92 for ice (I spent 12 cents per pound more on ice in the shopping center where I already was so I wouldn’t have to drive across town where ice is cheaper. Did I save or waste money by doing this? I have no idea. I did save time and aggravation. )

$22.24 to post office to send a package priority mail (including tracking and insurance) with four infinity scarves (gifts), plus ten bracelets and nine hats for my friend to sell. I ran out of tape as I was sealing the package, and apparently this post office doesn’t offer free priority mail tape any longer. I ended up paying the USPS $3.49 for a roll of tape. Ripoff! But again, I saved time and aggravation by not leaving the post office to make a special trip to Dollar Tree.

Total spent for the month: $609.68









Survey Says


One Saturday morning, I arrived at the parking lot and saw a sign which read Traffic Survey Ahead. When I asked my coworker what was going on, he pointed to a man wearing an  fluorescent orange vest and a large straw hat. The man had set up a car counter across the entrance to the parking lot. He was supposed to survey people after they walked the trail. My coworker was unclear on who this guy was working for, but the man had assured my coworker that the results would go all the way to Congress.

Before the lot got busy Survey Guy tried to chat with me and my coworker. After all the hours he’d spent in the library working on his master’s degree in history, he was excited to have an outdoor job for the summer, he told us. I think he was trying to impress us, but he failed miserably. I just don’t think being in grad school necessarily means a person’s smart. This guy cam across as a big, bumbling loser. He was trying too hard, and he didn’t say anything witty or intelligent or thought-provoking.

Survey Guy thought he’d have an easy day surveying the few people who came through the parking lot, enjoy the cool mountain air. He seemed really surprised when we got slammed and the lot filled with cars and the cars kept coming. No way was this guy going to be able to interview all the trail visitors who parked in the lot.

I watched Survey Guy all day, even after my coworker went home for the day. I only saw Survey Guy talk to white folks. Maybe he’s talking to other people when I can’t see him, I thought, but I doubted it when I saw him walk right past a young Latino family without even asking if they had time to answer some questions.

The next day when my coworker and I rehashed Survey Guy’s visit, I said, He only talked to white people! My coworker said he’d noticed the same thing. We agreed that only surveying white people would not give an accurate representation of the variety of tourists who actually visit the trail. We also agreed we were glad Survey Guy was gone.

Of course, he came back a few weeks later. We figured he’d gotten hot at home and wanted to spend the day in the (relatively) cool mountain air. Also, My wife’s been acting really weird! he announced, then told us he’d figured out that the next day was her birthday, I gave my coworker a knowing look. In addition to the cool mountain air theory, I’d predicted his appearance at the parking lot was related to wanting to get away from his wife on a Saturday afternoon.

Survey Guy got his folding chair and put it in between my coworker’s perch on the metal trash can and the iron ranger where my coworker sets his clipboard. Every time a car pulled into the parking lot, my coworker had to reach over Survey Guy to get the clipboard holding his day passes.

When my coworker left for the day, I moved my chair into the shade next to the iron ranger. I moved Survey Guy’s chair as far from mine as possible, which put him right next to the trash can. I didn’t even feel bad.

I told myself I wasn’t going to engage with Survey Guy. I wasn’t going to speak to him, I wasn’t going to acknowledge him. I was going to do my job and let him do his, and there would be no interaction.

However, after seeing him interview another white family, I could no longer hold my tongue. When he plopped down in his chair, I asked him, Is this just a white people survey? Because I’ve noticed you’re only talking to white people.

He told me I didn’t realize how hard he’d been working. Since he didn’t speak Hispanic, he could only survey people who spoke English. He tried to listen to Asians and Hispanics talking before he approached them. If he didn’t hear folks he perceived as non-English speakers actually speaking English, he didn’t even try to talk to them. Apparently Survey Guy did not understand that some people are bilingual.

About that time, my boss drove into the parking lot, and I had to remove my attention from Survey Guy. However, during my conversation with my boss, I looked over and saw Survey Guy interviewing a Latino family. About time! They seemed to be communicating just fine.

My shift ended, and I left the parking lot before Survey Guy.

When I arrived for my shift on Sunday, the car counter was still stretched across the parking lot’s entrance and chained to the gate. My coworker and I wondered if Survey Guy had forgotten to take the car counter with him when he’d gone home the day before or if he’d left it on purpose to pad his results since he’d arrived so late the day before.

We’re not going to see him today, I told my coworker. It’s his wife’s birthday.

I was wrong. He showed up later in the morning. He’d served his wife breakfast in bed, which seemed to have been enough of a birthday present for her. (She probably had really low expectations.)

Survey Guy packed up the car-counting equipment, but before he left, he approached my co-worker.

I cost you about $20 yesterday, he said.

Oh? my coworker said.

I took this photo of the iron ranger labeled "Pay Here."

I took this photo of the iron ranger labeled “Pay Here.”I didn’t think that thing worked anymore, he said, pointing to the iron ranger, which is clearly labeled “Pay Here.”

I thought it was broken, Survey Guy said.

(Why would a broken iron ranger be left in a fee area? Why would a broken iron ranger be labeled “Pay Here”? In what way could an iron ranger be broken?)

Some people wanted to pay me, Survey Guy said. I told them I didn’t work here. Then I told them the iron ranger was broken. I didn’t realize it wasn’t broken until the other woman [the camp host at the campground next door] came over and opened it. So I probably cost you about $20.

My coworker held out his hand. You can pay me now, he said.

Unfortunately, Survey Guy took it as a joke.

I can’t stand it when people get over-involved in something that isn’t their business. All Survey Guy had to say was, I don’t work here collecting money. From there, people would have either figured it our or not. He didn’t  have to tell people anything was broken.

Survey Guy left. We haven’t seen him again. I hope it stays that way.








Diesel: A Cautionary Tale


The family of four (Mom, Dad, and two tween boys) approached me at the front of the parking lot.

Where’s the closest gas station? the man asked me.

We get this question a lot in the parking lot, so I knew the answer.

The closest gas station is twenty-five miles that way, I said, pointing. If you’re going that way, I said, pointing in the opposite direction, the closest gas station is about thirty-five miles.

I’m not going to make it thirty-five miles, the man said.

Well, you’ll have to go that way, I said, pointing again. I explained where he’d have to turn and told him about the one pump behind the community’s general store.

So they have diesel? the man asked me.

Diesel? Who’d said anything about diesel?

blur, dusk, eveningI suppose when the man said gas station, he’d been envisioning a full-service, multi-pump establishment with a convenience store and restrooms, where, of course, diesel would be available. I was telling him about what was actually there: one gas pump behind a little store selling ice and a few food items.

I don’t think they have diesel, I said. I think they only have regular unleaded.

Should we call Triple A? the woman asked the man. Will they even come out here?

I think Triple A will go anywhere on pavement, I told them. The nearest pay phone is about eight miles away.

The woman lifted her cell phone and showed it to me while slightly smirking, as if I were an idiot.

Most people don’t get cell service out here, I said.

Do you have a signal? the man asked her hopefully.

The woman deflated like a balloon the morning after a birthday party. I don’t know, she said.

She determined she had no signal.

What should we do? they asked each other.

I had no more information to offer. I’d told them where the nearest gas was. (Unfortunately, they didn’t need gas.)  I’d told them where to find the nearest pay phone. There was nothing more I could do.

You’re already here, I told them. It’s early in the day. You might as well walk the trail.

A truck was approaching the parking lot’s exit. The driver of the truck spoke to the main in need of diesel. The man in need explained his predicament. He asked the driver of the truck if he had a full fuel tank. He told the driver he had a siphon. The driver agreed to let the man in need siphon some diesel from his tank.

Oh thank God! the woman exclaimed, but she sounded more like someone who wanted attention than like someone who was grateful for the blessing the Lord had sent.

The man in need walked back to his truck. The driver followed in the truck with the tank full of diesel.

The woman and the kids stayed up front near me.

He’s camped next to us, the woman told me. We don’t even know him.

The woman really wanted my attention.

It’s kind of him, I said flatly. I was tired and didn’t want to chitchat.

The woman and kids crossed the road to walk the trail.

The siphoning must have gone well, because later I saw the family drive away in their truck.

They must have been city people. City people are accustomed to finding a gas station every few blocks. It’s not like that in these mountains. People around here live in communities with no gas (and/or diesel) available for purchase. The nearest gas station may be twenty-five, thirty, forty miles away.

I once read a book aimed at solo women travelers. One suggestion the book gave was to never let the fuel in one’s vehicle to go below a quarter of a tank. It’s good advice that I take to heart. I also recommend folks not take off into remote areas without knowing how much fuel they have, how far that fuel can take them, and the distance to the next place where they can buy fuel. There’s not always going to be a Good Samaritan in the parking lot or a multi-pump gas station just down the road.

Photo courtesy of