Category Archives: Work Camping

A Kindness of Brownies

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It was my first weekend back in the parking lot.

Later in the summer, I would work in the Mercantile as a clerk. That was the job I’d been hired for. In the meantime, The Man and I were getting campgrounds ready for the season. Now it was Saturday, and I’d told The Big Boss Man I’d work at the parking lot collecting access fees and answering questions.

The people with the big white dog parked to my left. They got out of their car and headed to the trail. I noticed them because their dog was not only beautiful, but also very vocal.

When they returned to the parking lot, they spread out a blanket next to their car for the dog to lie on. The dog was a rescue, the woman told me. She hadn’t had the dog very long. He was great with people, but too aggressive when he introduced himself to other dogs. I’m working with him, the woman said to me.

While the dog reclined on his blanket, the humans had one of those picnics that consists of standing at the car’s open hatchback and snacking on chips and fruit.

Pile of Baked Chocolate BreadsMaybe I looked hungry, or maybe she just appreciated me listening to her talk about her dog, but the result was the same. Do you want a brownie? she called out to me.

You know I do! I answered excitedly. Brownies just happen to be my favorite food group.

She had a big plastic storage bag half full of homemade brownies. She offered the bag to me, but I said I didn’t want to contaminate the whole bag with my dirty hands. She laughed, handed me a napkin, then pulled out not one, but two brownies for me.

It’s like you know me! I joked.

I gobbled down one of the delicious chocolate squares and wrapped the other in the napkin and tucked it into my backpack’s small front pocket. I would give that one to The Man when I saw him later.

Any day including a gift of brownies is a good day for me. What a yummy way to start my work season!

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/pile-of-baked-chocolate-breads-887853/.

Doug

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Hi, I’m Doug, he said, extending his hand.

We were at the trail’s parking lot. It was early—still morning—and the lot was mostly empty.

I was confused. Who was this guy introducing himself to me? Why did he want to shake my hand? The Big Boss Man hadn’t warned me of a visit from a company or Forest Service bigwig.

Doug had thick, well-maintained dark hair. His face was shaven, and he looked wholesome in a nondescript way. He wasn’t ugly or exceptionally handsome, but he had good teeth in a big smile. He was dressed in what I think of as “golf course casual”—khakis and a knit shirt with a collar. He was maybe a little older than I am—early 50s, probably.

I reached out my hand to meet his, and we shook. I told him my name.

Are you the docent? I asked. It was the only reason I could image for him to not only introduce himself to me but to also offer his hand.

The what? he asked, startled.

The docent, I repeated, even though I was pretty sure he’d heard me, just had no idea what in the hell I was talking about.

He gave his head a little shake and asked, What’s that?

How to explain “docent,” I wondered.

I thought maybe you’d go out on the trail and answer questions, I said.

This notion made him chuckle. No, he couldn’t answer any questions, he said. He’d just come to see the trees.

You introduced yourself, I tried to explain, but let my sentence trail off. Never before had a visitor walked up with a handshake and an introduction, so he’d really confused me. I didn’t want to offend him though. He’s only done something confusing, not anything weird or creepy.

You were sitting her alone, he shrugged. I thought I should introduce myself.

I was beginning to think Doug was an extrovert. I suspect only an extrovert would walk up to a stranger sitting along and offer a handshake and an introduction. It seemed so natural to him. He didn’t seem to be experiencing any anxiety or inner turmoil. He saw me sitting alone, so he stuck out his hand and told me his name.

Where are you visiting from? I asked him. It was my standard make-chitchat-with-tourists question.

He’d come from Las Vegas, he said. He’d woken up at 2am, he said, and couldn’t get back to sleep, so he’d decided to go on a road trip.

His mother lived in Yosemite, he went on. He was going to go there soon, he said, to help her get ready. He had to get the boat ready.

Is this even possible? Do old ladies life in Yosemite? Is there a lake in Yosemite were old ladies and other people boat? I didn’t ask any questions. I was beginning to wonder if Doug’s extrovert personality was perhaps enhanced by some chemical. (Caffeine? Cocaine? Methamphetamine? Who knows?) Insomnia; impromptu road trip; babbling about boat, mother, lake, and Yosemite; talking to strangers could be signs of drug use or an exuberant personality—or an exuberant personality on drugs.

He didn’t really seem high—no twitching or jerking or obvious paranoia—and I didn’t really care if he was, but I was ready to get back to my book. (I am not an extrovert.) I steered the conversation to the trees and the trail, and Doug decided he was ready for the walk for which he’d traveled through the dark desert night. He crossed the street, and I never saw him again.

 

 

Sloth?

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The cars in a caravan of about 15 parked in the overflow lot in front of the Mercantile. I don’t know if the people in the cars were a family or friends or what, but the folks from the group who visited the Mercantile ranged in age from babes-in-arms to senior citizens. Of course, the children who came inside ooohhed and ahhhhed over all the things they wanted but their parents weren’t going to buy.

A little boy who was maybe five walked right over to the wagon full of stuffed animals and pulled out a monkey.

Wait? What? A monkey? On a mountain in North America? Why in the world were we trying to sell a stuffed money? Those were the questions I wanted answered.

The plush toy in question is not visible in this photo.

I’d just pulled the monkey out of our plush toy back stock earlier in the day. Why are we selling a monkey? I’d asked the other store clerks. Neither of them had any idea. I tossed the monkey into the big wagon with the stuffed bears and raccoons and other woodland creatures. Maybe we’d sell it eventually.

The boy honed in on the monkey, picked it up, and carried it over to his older sister who seemed to be about nine. Look, a sloth! he said as he handed the plush toy to her.

The sister looked as confused as I felt. A sloth? Really? While selling a stuffed sloth in the middle of a North American forest on top of a mountain made about as much sense as selling a toy monkey in that location, I didn’t think what we had was a sloth. It didn’t look a bit like a sloth to me.

The sister was scrutinizing the tag attached to the toy’s ear, trying to find an indication of its species, I presume. I sidled up to her and said, I think it’s a monkey. She looked startled. Maybe she was surprised to find an adult getting involved.

My brother said it’s a sloth, she told me.

I know, I acknowledged, but I think it’s a monkey. I walked away from the girl then. I didn’t want to creep her out by hanging around.

A few minutes later, a man who turned out to be the dad of the two kids came into the Mercantile. He looked around at the goods for sale and found himself in front of the wagon full of stuffed animals. His daughter must have returned the monkey to the wagon because there it was, looking up at him. I’ll be damned if he didn’t exclaim, Look! A sloth!

The father had an accent that led me to believe English was not his first language. Had he somehow gotten confused in his study of animal names and thought the critters English speakers call “monkeys” are called “sloths”? Had he taught his son the names of animals, thus passing down the monkey/sloth confusion? Had the girl child learned the proper animal names in school, but the boy child hadn’t gotten to that lesson yet? Or could it simply be that what looked like a monkey to me looked like a sloth to others?

A few weeks later, a different little boy solved the mystery.

He was probably seven or eight and made a beeline to the big wagon filled with stuffed animals. A Sasquatch! he exclaimed as he plucked the monkey/sloth from away from its furry companions.

A Sasquatch?  I pondered. This kid might be on to something.

Is this a Sasquatch? the kid asked the adult who seemed to be his father.

I don’t know, the father said. Why don’t you ask? he said, gesturing to the other clerks standing behind the counter.

The boy marched up to the counter with the monkey/sloth/Sasquatch in tow. Is this a Sasquatch? he asked one of the other clerks.

I have no idea, she told him.

I took a good look at the plush toy. Yes. I could see how it was possibly, maybe, perhaps supposed to be a Sasquatch.

I want the Sasquatch, the boy told his father,

You only get one thing, the father told his son. He mentioned a half dozen other things the boy might want from the Mercantile, but the boy stood strong. He wanted the Sasquatch.

Just before the other clerk rang up the purchase, I ran over behind the counter. Let me see that! I demanded, grabbing the plush toy and finding the tag attached to its ear. Yep, there on the tag with the barcode and item number, in tiny letters it said, “Bigfoot.” Mystery solved. Why hadn’t I just looked there in the first place?

I took a photo of the stuffed animal in question and planned to share it here, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. It probably actidentally ended up in the wrong folder and I’d never renamed it, so itsname is just a bunch of random numbers. Sigh. Blogger fail.

I took the photo in this post.

Wad of Cash

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It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-June and the Mercantile was busy. A group of tween Girl Scouts and their families were scooping up souvenirs throughout the store. I was working the floor, helping people find sizes and doing my best to watch out for shoplifting.

I asked two young adult women standing by the shelf of t-shirts for kids if they needed any help. One of the woman asked if I had anything in XXXL. I told her I had one design in that size and led her over to where those shirts were stacked on a shelf. I reached to the bottom of a pile and pulled out the XXXL shirt.

The woman had a handful of stuff, mostly brochures for tourist attractions from what I could tell. She set all the stuff she’d been holding on the shelf between two stacks of t-shirts so she could take the shirt I was holding. She held the shirt at arm’s length and cast a critical eye upon it. I think this will fit my husband, she said. I’ll take it.

Rolled 20 U.s Dollar BillShe draped the shirt over her arm, grabbed her stack of stuff from the shelf and turned away from me. I glanced at the shelf, and lying where her tourist attraction brochures had been was a wad of cash. It must have been on the bottom of her stack and was smaller than everything else, so when she picked up her stack, the money was left behind.

Sometimes we have time to deliberate over our moral dilemmas and sometimes we make our moral decisions in an instant.

I reached out and grabbed the wad of cash. It would have only taken me an instant to slip it into one of the pockets of my apron. When the woman realized it was gone, she probably wouldn’t remember setting it on the shelf. If she did remember where she’d last had it, well, there were a lot of people in the store and any of them could have picked up a wad of cash found sitting on a shelf.

Instead of putting the money in my pocket, I called out, Ma’am? Ma’am? Man Holds 10 U.s Dollar Banknote

The woman turned around, and I held up the wad of cash. You forgot this, I said to her.

She looked sheepish and said, I won’t be able to buy anything without that.

I reached out and returned her money.

It was the right thing to do.

 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/rolled-20-u-s-dollar-bill-164527/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holds-10-u-s-dollar-banknote-928201/.

Saving Lives

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One Saturday afternoon, I saved three lives. Well, ok, I don’t know I saved those lives. Maybe the people would have been fine without me, but they also could have died had I not been there.

It was the last Saturday I would work the parking lot before the start of the 2018 camping season. The box truck with new merchandise for the mercantile would arrive later that afternoon, and my coworkers and I would spend the next few days setting up the store for the opening later in the week. I’d be working retail, but that Saturday I was selling access passes and answering questions about the trail.

The first people I saved were a lady and her toddler. Judging by her accent, the woman was German, but I can’t be sure of her nationality. She arrived in a vehicle with a license plate that read “consul,” following a car with a license plate sporting the same label. The first car was driven by a woman who was alone in the vehicle. A man was driving the second car. The woman in the first car asked where they could have a picnic, then paid the access fee for both vehicles before they disappeared into the parking lot.

The next time I saw the group, it had expanded to include—in addition to the two drivers and one passenger I’d seen in the front seats of the cars—four little kids who all seemed to be under seven years old and who all belonged to the couple from the second vehicle.

The woman who’d been the passenger in the second car looked to be in her early 50s. She and the middle-age man who’d been driving the second car seemed to be the caregivers of the four little kids, but whether they were the biological parents, grandparents, foster parents or adoptive parents, I could not tell.

When I first saw the woman, she was carrying the littlest kid—a toddler new to walking—and strolling through the parking lot.

White Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup TruckA man in a giant pickup truck had just pulled through the parking lot and was preparing to park in one of the spaces on the asphalt in the front. I could tell by the way he pulled in front of the space that he was going to back into it. The woman holding the toddler must have thought he was going to drive the truck forward and out of the lot because she stepped behind the truck like it wasn’t even there.

I don’t know if the guy driving the giant truck saw the woman with the toddler behind him. I knew he was about to back up, and I knew the woman was directly in his path. If she was in a blind spot and the guy started moving his truck in reverse, there was going to be a catastrophe.

Ma’am! I shouted in her direction. Watch out! That truck is backing up!

Oh? She said, completely oblivious. It’s backing up?

She stepped out of the truck’s path and the disaster was averted.

Later that afternoon, a fellow arrived in the parking lot with two little kids under the age of five. He parked the sports car he was driving in the dirt of the first curve through the lot. I didn’t realize the car wasn’t completely off the road until it was too late; if I had noticed sooner how he had parked, I would have had him move the car completely off of the asphalt.

I saw the fellow and the kids as they walked toward the trail. The boy child was small enough to sit in one of those Man Walking on Top of Mountain Under Blue Skykid-carrying packs the guy had on his back. The girl child with them wasn’t much bigger than the boy, but since the guy had no more room on his back, she had to walk.

The little family wasn’t gone long. I noticed them again when they came back. I watched them idly as the fellow opened the back passenger door (which faced away from the road) and loaded the boy into the car. There must have been a car seat involved, because the adult had his head and upper body in the car for quite some time. While he was distracted by his efforts in the car, the little girl walked around to the driver’s side of the car and disappeared from my view. Her caretaker didn’t seem to notice that she was no longer by his side.

About that time, a new arrival pulled into the parking lot. The Man was working with me that day, and he approached the car that had just come in. I looked back to the fellow with the two tiny kids. He still had his head in the back seat, and the little girl was still standing on the asphalt on the driver’s side of the car. I imagined the newly-arrived car taking the curve a little too fast or the little girl stepping out into its path…I shuddered inwardly.

The Man had taken the driver’s money and handed her a day pass. The car was about to roll.

At the last moment, I stepped up to the car and said, Ma’am?

The driver looked at me attentively.

Please go around this curve slowly and carefully. There’s a very small person on the side of that car (I pointed to the car in question) who’s not being supervised very well. I wanted to let you know she’s there.

The driver, a middle-age mom type, thanked me for telling her about the kid standing next to the car. She maneuvered the car slowing and carefully around the curve. As the car went by, it seemed to remind the caregiver to pay attention to the little girl, or maybe he’d just finished strapping in the boy child. In any case, he walked to the other side of the car, took the girl by the hand, brought her to the passenger side, and put her in the car too. Another disaster was averted.

I’m often surprised by how little attention some parents pay their kids in the parking lot. They don’t see the dangerous situations I witness every day I work in the lot—people driving too fast, people driving the wrong way on the one-way loop, people who are oblivious and/or distracted—or they would hold their children close. Of all the danger I’ve seen, this day stood out as the worst. I was glad I was there to make the parking lot a little safer.

Photos courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/4k-wallpaper-4×4-auto-automobile-1149058/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-walking-on-top-of-mountain-under-blue-sky-1157386/.

There Should Be a Sign

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The campground wasn’t open yet, but people kept coming in. Some were the usual lookie-loos who just wanted to see what was at the end of the dirt road, but some folks were looking for a place to camp. The Big Boss Man told The Man that as camp host, he could choose to let people camp for free, or he could explain the campground was closed and send them on their way. The Man has a kind heart, so he let most of the would-be campers stay even though he was trying to get the campground ready for the opening of the season.

This photo shows the big tree that fell and crushed one half of the gate at the front of the campground. Notice the arm of the gate on the ground.

It was easier to keep folks out of other campgrounds that were closed because other campgrounds had big metal gates at their entrances that could be chained shut. The campground where The Man was the host only had a gate. Sometime before I’d ever been to the area, a huge tree fell and crushed half the gate. One arm of the gate would still swing shut, but the other arm was on the ground.

The Man swung the one arm of the gate shut one day, and that cut down on lookie-loos a bit, but folks continued to come in looking for a place to camp. It was easy enough to squeeze in between the closed half of the gate and the crushed metal and fallen tree on the edge of the driveway. Some people would even get out of their vehicles, open the closed portion of the gate, get back into their vehicles and drive into the campground. People who swung the gate open generally didn’t bother to swing the gate closed.

This photo taken in 2015 shows the Forest Service sign on the standing gate. “Road Closed to Motorized Vehicles,” it says. In 2018, the sign was no longer on the gate.

Two seasons before, when I had been the camp host at the campground in question, there was a Forest Service sign on the standing arm of the gate, visible when the gate swung shut. The signs said the road was closed to motorized vehicles but non-motorized travel was welcome. However, when I checked for the sign after The Man swung the arm shut, I realized it was gone. I think someone must have stolen it during the winter. Perhaps a sign would have kept people from driving down the road when half a closed gate didn’t deter them, but I doubt it.

The Man did let some people who bypassed the partially closed gate camp. After talking for a while, he invited a nice couple to stay the night. I think the woman was pregnant, he confided in me. We agreed a pregnant person should have access to at least a pit toilet.

That couple left the gate open, we discovered later, and a single European man drove into the campground that afternoon. I let him stay, The Man told me after going over to talk to the guy. He didn’t speak a word of English. I suppose it was easier to let him stay than it would have been to try to pantomime campground closed and explain to him where to find dispersed camping.

The next morning when I returned from my night babysitting the yurts, I saw the European man making his exit. He’d driven his car to the edge of the dirt road and found half of the gated closed. Instead of driving out on the side of the road with no gate, he had opened the closed arm. When I approached, he was still outside his car. He knew I’d caught him immediately after the act of opening the closed gate, and he looked hella guilty. Instead of getting in his car and driving away, he did some nervous pacing in circles, as if he was unsure of what to do.

The road into the campground is only wide enough for one car, so I waited patiently on the main road for the European man to pull out before I pulled in. He finally got into his little white sports car and drove away. After I entered the campground, I got out of my van and closed the gate behind me.

About a week and a half before the campground officially opened, The Man discovered someone had stolen the heavy steel fire ring from site #1. He decided he didn’t want anyone coming into the campground while we were down in the valley, so he came up with a plan as we were leaving. Once I pulled the van past the gate, he got out and not only swung closed the half of the gate still standing, he dragged the downed arm across the rest of the entrance. The blocked road should let people know the campground was closed, we agreed.

We spent one night in town, returning late the next afternoon. The blocked driveway was a slight pain in the neck when I left in the evenings to spend the night with the yurts, but it was worth it to have a day off in peace in the still-closed campground.

After our two days off, it was back to work for us. The Big Boss Man asked The Man to get the group campground ready for campers, so that’s what he spent most of the day doing. I sat in the van and reconciled the money I’d collected from the iron ranger over the last several days.

We got back to our campground early in the afternoon. When we pulled up to the gate, we saw the large piece of metal The Man had used to block the entrance was pulled to the side. Someone had moved his barrier!

As I drove down the narrow dirt road, a white pickup truck came flying from the depths of the campground like a bat-out-of-hell. I pulled off the road as far as I could so the truck could (hopefully) get past my van, but then the truck pulled off the road too. So I pulled back onto the road, then drove up next to the white pickup truck.

The driver rolled down his window. He was a young guy, probably no more than 30. The woman in the passenger seat was young too and wore a ball cap with a ponytail passed through the opening in the back. She kept her face turned toward the window facing the meadow, acting as if she were very interested in examining its every detail. Never once did she look in my direction.

The campground’s closed, I told the driver. It won’t be open until Memorial Day Weekend.

Are you the host? he asked me.

He is, I said, gesturing to The Man sitting next to me.

We saw your camp, the driver said.

The campground’s closed, I repeated.

There should be a sign! the young man said, probably to distract me from the fact that he’d not just crossed a barrier so he could enter a closed campground, but had in fact moved the barrier in question.

There used to be a sign, I explained, but now it’s gone. I think it was stolen. That’s why we had the gate closed.

The woman in the passenger seat continued to study what must have been the most interesting meadow in the world.

After wishing the people in the truck a good day, I drove the van deeper into the campground. The driver of the trucked pulled it out onto the highway.

A sign, huh? A 150 pound piece of metal didn’t discourage him from entering the campground, but he wanted me to believe a sign would have done the trick?

I took the photos in this post.

 

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

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It was early in the season, before any of the campgrounds on our side of the mountain opened. The Man and I were already at work preparing campgrounds and making sure no one walked off with any yurt components.

Although it was officially my day off, I’d told The Big Boss Man I’d empty the iron ranger in the parking lot and make sure the restrooms there had toilet paper on my way to babysit the yurts at night. Babysitting the yurts simply meant sleeping in my van in the campground where they were located, and dropping off toilet paper and emptying the iron ranger only took a few minutes, so I didn’t mind helping out.

I’d been cleaning up an unfortunate honey spill in the big food tub in my van, so I got a late start heading to the parking lot. It was about 6:30 in the evening when I got there, and while it wasn’t dark, the sun was no longer shining brightly on the mountain.

I stopped at the restroom first and found there was still toilet paper on the holders. The rolls were less than half full, but I figured few people would be arriving so late in the day and the tissue would last through the night. I decided I’d stop at the parking lot again in the morning to make sure everything was ok, and I’d put out new rolls then.

As I drove around the road that looped through the parking area, I saw a full-blown campfire in one of the picnic areas. I pulled my van over and got out to talk to the two young men standing near the fire. They looked hella nervous as I approached.

Hello! I said. Are y’all just hanging out?

They planned to camp here, the one with the long hair admitted. He had a strong French accent, but spoke English well.

I explained they were in a day use area where camping was not allowed.

They said the woman at the Forest Service office had said they could camp at the campground next door. They seemed hopeful about the possibility of camping there.

No, I’m sorry, I told them. All the campgrounds around here are closed.

(I obviously don’t know what the lady at the Forest Service office told them, but it seems a little strange that a Forest Service employee would say they could camp in a facility not scheduled to open for over two weeks.)

I told the young men about nearby dispersed camping areas and then told them the fire had to be completely out when they left. Do y’all have water? I asked.

Oh yes, the one with the long hair said while the one with glasses pointed to a half-full one-gallon container sitting next to the fire. I was thinking a half gallon of water wasn’t going to put out a campfire when the one with long hair said they had three such containers. I figured at least two of them must be full and 2½ gallons of water could put the fire out if they were smart about how they used it.

I didn’t really like the idea of them having the fire in the parking area, but I didn’t think there was a rule against it. They said they had a fire permit, and having a fire in the parking area didn’t seem all that different from having a fire in a dispersed camping area. I stressed again the need to put the fire completely out before they left, and they assured me they would. I walked over to the iron ranger.

As I sat on the ground unlocking the padlock hidden within the iron ranger, a car pulled into the parking lot, ignored the yellow arrow on the road pointing in the opposite direction, and drove the wrong way to a parking space. A very young couple emerged from the car and began to walk toward the trail. I was standing by then, a pile of self-pay envelopes in my hand. I greeted the couple, and I guessed from the fellow’s accent when he responded to me that they were not Americans.

You can put your $5 access fee in a self-pay envelope, I said, gesturing to the empty self-pay envelopes in the holder, and drop the envelope into the iron ranger. At that point in my monologue, I gestured to the iron ranger.

The fellow and the woman both looked uncomfortable. Maybe they didn’t have $5. If they had told me they had no money, I would have told them no problem and invited them to enjoy the trail. Instead the fellow said they would be there one minute to make a picture.

I’m getting ready to leave, I told them. Let your conscience be your guide.

They both looked hella guilty and uncomfortable, but they moved toward the trail without taking an envelope, much less putting $5 in one and dropping it into the iron ranger. I got in van and left. I’d done all I could to get a payment out of them.

 

Treachery

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It was the morning of the first day of training for my seasonal job. About a dozen of us workers sat in the small conference room of a shabby Best Western, learning the ins and outs of our jobs on the mountain.

We were wrapping up from a short break when The Big Boss Man said for all to hear, Blaize, it’s a picture of your van!

He was looking at his phone, so I thought a visitor had posted on some review site a photo that included my van. The real story was much more complicated than that.

The message my boss received came from the Forest Service. A visitor to the trail had taken a photo of my van in the parking lot and sent the photo with a message to someone in the Forest Service, but whether the message went to some national email address or directly to someone local, I have no idea.

This is the iron ranger The Man and I were accused of robbing.

This is the (paraphrased) story the visitor told in the message to the Forest Service: The visitor was in the parking lot and saw a van pull up to the iron ranger and two people who didn’t look like they belonged there retrieved the money from the iron ranger. The people seemed to be “under the influence.” After taking the envelopes from the iron ranger, the two shady people stayed in the area, probably to hit other locations.

I don’t know what day or time the reported incident occurred. The Man and I had gone together to empty the iron ranger a few times in the six days we’d been on the mountain before we received this report. Depending on what day the visitor saw us empty the iron ranger, the circumstances were slightly different. The Man thinks the incident probably happened the day he opened the ranger and 35 or 40 envelopes fell into his lap, causing him to yell exuberantly to me, Honey! Honey! Get a bag! Get a bag! I think the incident happened the day I emptied the iron ranger, then The Man and I stayed in the area (parking lot, campground, trail, highway) picking up trash. In any case, please allow me to separate the fact from the fiction in the visitor’s tale.

FACT: The company I work for does not provide me with a vehicle to drive between campgrounds, so I drive my van to the parking lot when I go there to retrieve money from the iron ranger. My van sports no decals or magnets with the company logo. So, yes, the visitor did see my hippie van with out-of-state plates in the parking lot. There is no disputing that the van in the photo is indeed my van.

FICTION: Two people who didn’t belong there retrieved the money from the iron ranger.

FACT:  The Man and I very much belonged there. We were on the company payroll, with instructions to empty the iron ranger.

It seems to me that seeing us emptying the iron ranger in broad daylight would have been a clue we belonged there. It seems to me the fact that we had a key to unlock the padlock protecting the money would have been a clue we were authorized to retrieve the envelopes.

FACT: To be fair, we weren’t in regulation uniforms. I had not been issued uniform pants, so I was wearing a uniform shirt, my uniform jacket, and my nametag from last season along with a pair of tan Carhartt-type pants. The Man was wearing a uniform shirt and uniform jacket with grey sweatpants because he was on his way to paint and didn’t want to ruin his uniform pants before the season even began.

So maybe our attire did not scream professional, but if the concerned citizen had spoken to us, even casually, we could have explained who we were and what we were doing there.

FICTION: We were “under the influence” (presumably of some illicit chemical substance).

FACT: We were certainly not under the influence of any illicit chemical substance. I don’t know where the visitor got that idea. Maybe because we were laughing and joking? Maybe the visitor thinks only people who are chemically altered can have a good time at work?

FACT: Yes, we stayed in the area after we emptied the iron ranger. We either went next door to the campground to work there, or we spent the next couple of hours picking up trash.

Honestly, I’m not upset my boss was contacted, although I have to admit I’m a bit miffed about that “under the influence” part. I know The Man and I were doing nothing wrong. However, why can’t people just talk to each other? If the concerned citizen had only spoken to me or The Man, we could have cleared everything up.

 

 

I Saw Something New

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It happened again. Just when I thought I’d seen it all, I saw something new.

It was the beginning of my fourth season on the mountain. The Big Boss Man had asked me and The Man to come up the mountain early to make sure nothing bad happened to the precious yurts in the time between when they were put up and when the hosts of the campground arrived. The Man and I needed money, so The Big Boss Man put us to work immediately. We were preparing campgrounds for campers, collecting access fees at the parking lot on weekends, and picking up the self-pay envelopes stuffed with money visitors were dropping in the iron ranger during the week.

The first weekend we were back, I worked the parking lot on Saturday and Sunday while The Man raked and cleaned fire rings. I was surprised by how busy the parking lot was on both days that weekend. I parked nearly 100 cars on each day, and the season hadn’t even officially started.

With cars came people, and I had a lot of folks to talk with. The most popular question of the weekend was about the most recent fire on the trail. Later in the week when I walked the trail, I saw why people didn’t want to believe they were seeing the aftermath of a prescribed burn. The fire had left a large portion of the downed trees along the trail looking really ugly. It was difficult to believe humans would create such an eyesore on purpose.

The new thing I saw happened on Sunday.

Throughout the weekend, I’d noticed several instances of two young women in a car together, probably on an epic lady road trip. Some of the pairs seemed to be American and some seemed to be European.

On Sunday, a pair of young European women arrived. I could tell they weren’t American because only one (the passenger) spoke while the driver looked past me with a glassy stare of complete lack of comprehension. The talker used choppy sentence with an unusual syntax, but she made herself understood.

I had the young women park right in front, near where I was stationed with my dilapidated chair and my purple backpack. The lot was busy, and it was easier to put them up front rather than send them into the depths of the parking lot and hope they’d find a spot.

It took the women a long time to prepare for their stroll through the trees. I was busy, so I wasn’t watching their every move, but I noticed they didn’t hop out of the car and head immediately towards the trail like most people do.

Finally, I noticed the driver heading across the street. She had her blond hair pulled up into a high ponytail, and she was wearing a close-fitting black jacket and black hiking tights. She managed to appear hip, fit, and sexy all at the same time. Then I noticed her butt, or rather what she had strapped across her butt. It was a thick foam rectangle, the sort of thing a gardener might kneel on to protect the knees from the hard ground. The pad covered both of her butt cheeks; a strap circling her middle held it on.

Of the thousands of visitors I’ve seen cross the road to the trail, this woman was the first I’d ever seen with a cushion strapped to her bottom. I don’t think it was simply a fashion accessory; it seemed too drab and utilitarian to be mere decoration. If the woman had been walking into a sports stadium, I would have guessed the pad was to provide some comfort while sitting on hard seats, but she was going out on a trail. Was she afraid of falling and bruising her tailbone? Maybe. Did she plan to sit for a long time on the cold, hard ground looking up at the trees? Maybe.

I didn’t try to ask her about her butt pad. I don’t know if she would have understood my question or if I would have understood her answer. Besides, if a perspm wants to strap on a butt cushion, it’s not really my place to question her.

 

Nearest Bar

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It was around eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. I was performing some camp host duties to help out. The folks on site #1 hadn’t gotten checked in the night before, so I was walking over to have them sign their permit.

A slow-moving car approached me from behind. The only other people on the far side of the campground were the young folks who had sites #6 and #7. One of the young women in the group had come over while I was cooking breakfast to ask me now far the campground was from a body of water. Not much later I heard a car leave site #6. I thought they’d taken off for a day on the river, but now I heard a car behind me that could only belong to part of that group. I figured some of the young folks had gotten a late start and were just leaving now.

When the car pulled up next to me, it stopped.

Excuse me, a feminine voice said, and I turned to look.

Two young women were in the car. Both were looking at me expectantly.

Do you know where’s the nearest bar? the driver asked me

I was stunned. I involuntarily glanced at my watch. It was well before 8:30. I try not to judge, but I’m pretty sure anyone inquiring about the location of a bar before noon while on a camping trip has a problem.

The nearest bar? I echoed slowly.

It turned out these gals did have a problem.

Their friends had left with all the food. These young women thought the friends had gone to a bar to watch a soccer game, since that’s what the friends had done the day before. I suppose these young women wanted to track down the friends and get ingredients for breakfast.

I told them about the small community 15 miles away. There’s a restaurant, bar, and general store there, I said, but added it wasn’t much of a soccer kind of place. It’s under new ownership, I remembered aloud. Maybe they’ll have the soccer game on.

I told them about the larger (although by no means large) town 35 miles away. There’s a brewery there, I told them. Maybe the soccer game will be on there. It was only later that I wondered if the brewery would open at eight on a Saturday morning so customers could watch soccer on television. I suspect a brewery doesn’t serve breakfast and would normally open around 11am for lunch.

Where should we go? the driver asked me.

I didn’t know how to help. I certainly didn’t know where their friends had gone. I ended up suggesting they go to the closer place first. At least they could get breakfast there, The Big Boss Man said later when I related to story to him.

I assume the friends found each other. I was at work at the Mercantile all day, then headed down the mountain to get gasoline and propane and a giant ice cream cone. It was dark when I got back to the campground. People were in the tent on site #7, and they didn’t run over to tell me their friends were missing, so I figured everything must have worked out ok.

(The people in the tent didn’t realize their voices carried in the forest. We’re drunk and you’re high! I heard a feminine voice exclaim clearly. Soon another feminine voice was relating the story of the time she got roofied.  Oh Lord! I thought. They’re going to be up all night, but thankfully they piped down shortly after 10pm.)

There are lessons to be learned from this tale.

#1 Don’t pack all the food in one vehicle.

#2 If all the food is in one vehicle, don’t drive that vehicle out of the campground while your friends are sleeping.

#3 Communicate with friends before bedtime about who’s leaving the next morning, where they’re going, when they’re leaving, and what time they’ll be back.

#4 For goodness sake, don’t schedule a camping trip for the weekend of the most important soccer tournament of the year.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/sport-game-football-the-ball-52504/.