Camping Season

The Elk Hunter and I headed up into the mountains last weekend

By Rob Breeding

The Elk Hunter and I headed up into the mountains last weekend for a little camping to beat the heat. It was just a brief, overnight trip. Nothing too elaborate.

We almost stayed in a popular developed campground, but as we considered the best spot for our tent in the last remaining site, a pair of four-wheelers noisily accelerated up a nearby road. We realized if we stayed we’d be listening to traffic on that busy forest thoroughfare well into the night, and decided to camp elsewhere.

We found a good spot along a small stream. There was another group camped nearby, but they were a good 100 yards off, so it seemed everyone had enough elbow room.

It was about noon when we picked the spot, and spent the next couple hours setting up camp. The Elk Hunter brought along a pop-up tent she had just purchased online, and it turned out to be surprisingly effective. Once removed from the bag, flexible circular poles popped the tent into shape in an instant. All we had to do was pound stakes in the corners and clip on the rain fly. Five minutes later the tent was ready to go.

While the advertising on the tent’s easy setup was correct, I think they got it wrong on capacity. The tent manufacturer claimed it was a four-person model, but it seemed pretty full with just the two of us. Tent designers must be a skinny lot.

Once we got camp arranged and gathered enough firewood to get us through morning we set out to fish the stream, which was filled with small brookies. I know that because the Elk Hunter caught plenty while drifting worms through likely looking holes. She’s old-school like that, preferring worms over lures. But since she uses circle hooks — which are ingeniously designed to keep fish from being hooked deeply in the gut or gills — she releases her fish unharmed.

I suspect the circle hook mortality rate isn’t significantly different than it is for flies. Even careful fly fishers occasionally hook trout in the gills, which usually means the fish is dead even if it swims away.

With the water a little high and still off color from runoff, my drifted nymphs were far less effective. I’m blaming the conditions, but being out-fished was probably just a matter of skill, or in my case, lack thereof.

Once back in camp we were pleased with our quiet spot in the woods, but things changed that evening as we settled into a camp around the glow of a bonfire. At about 8 p.m. another group of campers arrived. Behind their heavily modified diesel pickup (i.e. it was loud and burned plenty of fuel) was a 30-foot fifth wheel sporting a half dozen slide outs.

Fifteen minutes later another trailer squeezed into the remaining space along the stream. Our dreams of a quiet night were replaced by fears of being kept awake by late-night music, generators droning into the wee hours, and the expected too-early alarm clock in the form of revving four wheelers.

I have nothing against big trailers, four wheelers and any other form of outdoor recreation so long as users respect the place they are playing, and the people around them. If it had been the Elk Hunter and I who rolled in just before dark, the intrusion might have been ours.

But this story has a happy ending. It turns out hot-rodded diesel pickups and over-the-top fifth wheelers do not guarantee bad manners. In fact, our campmates were perfectly fine neighbors. There was a bit of generator action, but it was just a quick recharge after dark.

We were the early risers of the group. We broke camp and headed back to the stream long before the others woke, so we never heard the ATVs. I got out-fished again of course.