Tag Archives: trail

People Want to Walk That Trail



As I established earlier, when my work season started, the trail was closed. Forest Service employees were back there removing hazard trees, and they didn’t want civilians wandering near falling trees and chainsaws. That’s why the Forest Service threatened people caught on the trail with a $5,000 fine and up to six months in prison. But some tourists didn’t want to take no trail for an answer.

My boss told me my job is one of advising and not enforcement. Fair enough. I don’t want to be some kind of enforcer anyway. But I was not shy about advising people of the possible fine and prison sentence.

My first weekend at the campground near the trail was the one before Memorial Day. Many people, upon  seeing the gate to the parking lot closed, turned into the next driveway with an open gate. That driveway belongs to the campground where I was the temporary host. My weekend (mostly on Saturday, but some on Sunday too) consisted of me repeating the following information: The trail is closed…Hazard trees…Forest Service is serious…Fine…Prison. I invited people to park in the campground and have a look at the giant sequoias (probably at least a dozen) growing in it. I told people about a scenic overlook ten miles down the road and another sequoia grove twenty miles down the road. I was polite. I was helpful. In other words, I was a camp host super hero.

Most visitors were disappointed, but understanding. Several carloads of folks did spend time in the campground. Several picnic lunches were eaten.

I think talking to someone ostensibly in authority, made people feel accountable. I guess it’s difficult for someone to say s/he didn’t see the sign when a real live person said out loud the trail is closed.

Some people managed to slip in when I was at the back of the campground cleaning restrooms. As I walked to the front of the campground, I saw a whole extended family exiting the trail. There were even more people back there, but they slipped into the trees when I hollered over, Hey! Didn’t y’all see the trail is closed?

They told me they didn’t know, as they crossed the yellow caution tape stretched across the exit. They siad there wasn’t a sign at the other entrance. (I’m 98% sure they were lying.) Well, if those other people are in your group, you might want to tell them about the possible $5,000 fine and six months prison sentence, I said as they hustled to wherever they’d left their vehicle. I’m going to tell them right now, one woman said. I didn’t ask how she planned to do that while the others were hiding in the woods.


Trees felled by the forest service.

Late in the afternoon, I saw some young folks hesitating on the legal side of the barricade. I saw them read the flyer that spelled out $5,000 and prison. I think they were just about to cross over when I called out, Excuse me. The trail is closed. One guy said he identified hazard trees for a living, implying it would be ok for him (and his friends) to go on the trail because he knew what dangers to look for. I told them I was simply advising them of the situation. They told me they were from the area, so I said they should come back later in the summer when the trail reopened. They were relieved to hear the trail would be reopened. They thought the trail had been closed for good. I assured them they would be able to visit the trees later in the summer, and if they weren’t happy when they left, they at least didn’t seem pissed off.

Early Wednesday morning, as I walked up to check the front restrooms, I saw a huge, older motor home pull into the campground’s driveway. The motor home was towing a big trailer, upon which was painted a lot of words. I couldn’t read the words because of the angle of the trailer, but the cross painted on the motor home and my previous experience led me to suspect those words were biblical scripture.

As I approached the motor home, the driver left his seat and exited the motor home through the side door. He was a clean-cut, with short hair, a totally normal looking middle-age guy. I asked him if he were looking for a camping spot. Although I didn’t know if any of the sites could accommodate such a big motor home and trailer, I figured if he wanted to camp, I’d let him look for a spot that might work.

He said he didn’t want to camp, he just wanted to walk on the trail.

I didn’t get much more than closed and hazard trees out of my mouth before he said, They can’t do that! He seemed to think because the trail is on public land, it can never be closed to the public. I didn’t want to argue with the guy, but I’m pretty sure public land can be closed to the public when there’s a safety issue.

I just gave him what had become my standard line of Well, the Forest Service is pretty serious about people staying off the trail because there’s a possible $5,000 fine or six months in prison for anyone caught out there.

They can’t do that either! the man exclaimed. My grandfather fought in a war!

My wackadoodle sensors went off. Trotting out a veteran in the family two generations in the past or equating the Forest Service cutting down hazard trees with Nazis (which I think is where he was heading) did not seem like valid arguments to me. Even if he had made a valid argument , I wouldn’t have told him he could go out there. So I just said, Sir, I’m only advising you of the situation. If you want to park your motor home, the best place to try will be in the overflow lot down the road.

I don’t know which part of what I said turned the tide, but he smiled and thanked me, got back in his motor home and drove away. Disaster averted.

My last encounter with someone who really wanted to walk the trail happened a few hours before the trail reopened. Of course, I didn’t know the trail would reopen that afternoon, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

A crew of about a dozen Forest Service guys were out on the trail, their chainsaws buzzing, when the white car pulled into the campground. I walked up, said Good morning, asked if they were looking for a campsite.

The driver was a woman in her early 50s. In the passenger seat sprawled a girl about eight years old.

The driver said she wasn’t looking for a campsite, that she wanted to park so they could walk the trail.

I told her the trail was closed, had maybe said hazard trees when someone in the backseat poked her head up from behind the driver’s seat. She was wearing big sunglasses and a big, floppy, fashionable hat.

Do you work for the Forest Service? she asked me.

No, I said, but before I could explain private company and concession from the Forest Service, she  said, Yeah, well, we’re going to go on the trail anyway. She spoke in the most spoiled rich girl tone of voice I have ever encountered.

I said, Well, Forest Service guys are out there working right now, and if they see you on the trail, they might opt to give you a $5,000 fine or six months in prison.

Ms. Prissy Pants deflated. I could practically hear the waa wa wa waaaaa of a losing contestant on a 1970s game show.

I suggested another trail they could go to and see giant sequoias, but Ms. Prissy Pants said they would probably go to a different grove, which she called by name to make sure I knew she was an insider.

I said, Great! Have a nice day!

The driver asked if the campground restrooms were open, and I said they were. I walked away as she was parking, I didn’t want to have any more interaction with Ms. Prissy Pants or the people stuck with her on a road trip.

I took the photos in this post.



If the World Ends Right Now…


The other day, a long-time friend of mine, an author, updated her Facebook status to read,

Googled “if the world ends right now, I hope I die in your ample bosom,” looking for plagiarism in a second-hand memory.

Her second-hand memory sparked the smallest of recollections in my brain, but I didn’t exactly know what she was talking about until she followed up with

Blaize Sun, this is one of my favorite lines from a story I didn’t witness. It runs through my head sometimes, and it just struck me that maybe it was from a book. I don’t think so!

At that point I remembered I was privy to that “ample bosom” quote. I wrote

No! It was NOT from a book. It was from a state park camp-out in Texas in 2000. It was not my ample bosom in question. I was sleeping on a picnic table (dumb idea!) and the owner of the ample bosom and the admirer of the ample bosom were sleeping nearby. Can’t remember if they were in a tent and just loud or if they were camped out sans tent on the base of the picnic table. I don’t know if that was the exact quote but definitely the general sentiment.

What’s really funny to me is that while I witnessed the event (at least in an auditory fashion), I only think about this when you–and  I think Lou–mention it.

I will not name names in this public fashion since I never know who’s a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend and might see this. But I attest to the fact it that it really happened.

My friend the writer came back with

I remember that it was from one xxxxx, but I wondered if he’d read it or come up with it on the spot, bc [because]  that is some quick, brilliant thinking!

It is such a funny story. I think of it all the time. I’m glad I wasn’t there to witness first-hand, bc [because] I think your retelling definitely enhances it!

At that point Lou sent me a personal message that started like this:

Wait…who said what?!? Why is my memory fuzzy on this?

And I answered,

Oh, I thought you remembered this story. It must just be [our mutual friend] who remembers.

Lou said,

I remember the quote but not the who, what, when, where, why.

I asked,

Remember that trip to New Mexico I went on with AmeriCorps in 2000? The one [your boss] (boo! hiss!) wouldn’t let you go on?
Then Lou said,
Oh!! Now I remember more. It makes sense because I wasn’t there.

I was in AmeriCorps in 2000, and I got to go on a trip to New Mexico to break trail in the Gila National Forest. Half of the folks on the trip were part of an AmeriCorps program that mostly did trail building and maintenance, but a few folks from the (related) program I was in went on the trip too. One of the other people from my program who was allowed to go on the trip was a guy named Dee.

The non-AmeriCorps folks on the trip were part of a group I referred to as the

mostly old people who worked on trails.

While I was the oldest person in my AmeriCorps program (seven years older than my boss), the people in the trail group were even older than I was. Some of them were downright elderly, as in, in their 70s. But these elderly people were active and fit and proved to be as hardworking as any of the 20-somethings on the trip. Also, the older people had money. They provided the vans we rode in and the gas to power them, as well as all of the food we ate.

There was a woman in that group I’ll call Sally (to protect her identity and because I no longer have the faintest idea of what her name actually was). Although Sally was older than my 29 years, she was the absolute baby of the mostly old people group. I think she was about 36 and pretty, with long dark hair. As the only people on the trip in our age group, Sally and I became buddies for the duration. I would soon find out that I was not the only one who had grown to enjoy Sally’s…er…company.

I don’t know if Sally and Dee had hooked up while we were camping in the Gila National Forest. I don’t know if they had been sitting together, making eyes at each other on the van ride back to Texas. What I do know is that on our last night away from home, we camped at a state park.

At that point, I was tired of setting up my tent at night and breaking it down in the morning, so I decided to sleep on top of a picnic table. All I can say is that it seemed like a good idea at the time…I spent the night tossing and turning on the hard surface, trying not to fall off. To make matters worse, Sally and Dee had parked their budding romance just a little too close to me.

I can’t remember now if they were in a nearby tent or on the ground at the edge of the picnic table. (Lou says,

Probably in a tent. I feel like I’ve had that problem before when inside a tent you forget that your tent doesn’t have real walls and everyone can hear you. It feels so enclosed and private!)

In any case, I heard every breathless word they spoke to each other, and at some point Dee dropped the cringe-worthy line my writer friend has remembered all these years:

if the world ends right now, I hope I die in your ample bosom

or at least words of boob appreciation along those lines. And well, yeah, I repeated his words way back then, and I seem to be repeating them again today.

 Many thanks to Kel for this memory and to Kel and Lou for their words which are included in this story.