Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Camping With Friends

"It takes a long time to make old friends," the old saying goes and they are rare, for me anyways. I have known Wayne and Naida for more than 50 some years. We have history, so when they called last week to say they would be at Whitehorse Provincial Park located near Cadomin, Alberta, we jumped at the opportunity to join them to make a few more memories. Wayne is a cowboy and was camped in the mountains for a horse back ride. Naida goes with him but she keeps the campfire burning while she relaxes with a good book. They live in a combo horse trailer with small living quarters. It is the perfect outfit for them.
We don't have a trailer or a big enough vehicle to tow one so we decided to pull out the old tent. I had not set it up for about 7 or 8 years so we did check it for damage and parts. All was proclaimed looking good by Wifey. Next a quick trip to Canadian Tire for a pie burner and we also decided to splurge on a foot inflating double sized air mattress, complete with cup holder. Wifey spent Friday packing food, gear clothing enough for an army. We left after work heading west toward Hinton, the turn off spot into the wilderness, where we took the last hotel room available in town. Cheap it wasn't but it was comfortable as thunder and lightning ripped through the country toward our mountainous destination.

Along the way from Sherwood Park to Hinton we spotted a black bear struggling to cross the busy 4 lane highway. I managed to stop and get a few pictures to remind all of us to be wary of wildlife unexpectedly crossing roads. This bear made it but we see evidence on every trip of wildlife that don't.
Wildlife and Vehicles

We arrived at our friends campsite after spotting some Rocky Mountain Sheep Rams sporting tremendous full curl, broomed off horns. These rams were grazing on protected coal mining leases that have been fully or partially rehabilitated. We also managed to spot a "moose, no a pig, no it's a WOLF!" A very large, black timber wolf stood calmly about 50 meters away gazing at us with penetrating amber eyes as if judging our heritage and current intentions. What an immense pleasure that is to me to see.
Timber Wolf

After a hearty greeting from our friends and an exploratory sniff from a skulking camp dog, Wayne impressed upon us that a grizzly bear had been wandering around and through the campsite for the past week or so. The authorities had considered closing this campsite but everything seems to be okay now. There is a trail closed just up the path because of another grizzly dining on a fresh horse carcass.

After a quick lunch we took off for a walk. We just ambled along admiring the spectacular scenery, the profusion of wildflowers and the freshness of the air. After getting back to camp a few hours later Wifey and I decided to set up our tent. With memories of past tent erections that did not go as the instructions stated, a bit of trepidation and dread she followed to my chosen site. There was only one rock embedded firmly into the ground but I thought the new air mattress should cover that okay. It was a choice of a lump or a hole to sleep in. I didn't mention to her the two choices or I would have had to find a backhoe to remove the lump. Surprisingly, the tent went up very well with only a few parts left over. Even the fly almost fit right. The air mattress went pretty well too, after getting the knack and the pump timing figured out. Soon Fay had the bed made, sleeping bag lofting and pillows fluffed, ready for dark. She did notice parts of the tent that I never did. Loops on the inside for hanging clothes as well as stringing a clothesline. Flashlight was found to have a good battery and there was a handy pocket in which to store my bear spray, just in case. After a delicious barbecued steak supper, the cooking aroma of which wafted far and wide throughout grizzly country we sat around telling bear tales, camping stories and reminiscing of the good old days. Darkness slowly settled into the valley so we decided to retire for the night. 
It took a while to get settled, what with the cold zipper touching my naked back unexpectedly, the bear spray canister whacking my head if I moved wrong and me trying to fit my 5'11 frame into an optimistically advertised 6' square nylon tent, I soon dozed off.

My eyes popped open suddenly on high alert. It didn't help as it was pitch black. There was a soft cough just outside of those thin nylon walls. Something was sniffing, something large, it wasn't Wifey. I listened intently, then felt the tent wall move. A large nose pushed that cold nylon against my naked back. Instant attention, I swatted it. That nose seemed pretty heavy. I grabbed the bear spray and sprang to my feet. The tent was not 5'11 tall. It was 4'11, maybe. I somehow found my pants and hopped one footed on the, by now, half inflated air mattress but managed to get them up and belt buckled. I was bent over in a very unnatural position trying to pull my zipper up. I jerked it up right into Bobby's foreskin. By this time I had almost hung myself on Wifey's clothes line, had the safety off the bear spray canister and now Bobby was securely hooked and bleeding. I knew I had it to do but surely didn't want to; I jerked the zipper back down freeing badly wounded and bleeding little Bobby. Through all the bouncing and she said wailing, I had managed to rouse Wifey from a dead sleep so I passed her the bear spray, forgetting to inform her that I had already released the safety. I reached for the tent door zipper and managed to get it caught in itself as well. I got my head out the bottom of the door peering around looking for that offencive nose. Somehow, in passing the baton like bear spray back to me, she, I think, set it off. Now neither of us could see through tear filled eyes or breathe. Wifey was also now trying to get through the same door hole I had already occupied and we did not fit . I was getting pummelled from behind and above as my head was outside getting slobbered on by the lonely camp dog wondering what was going on.
This possible event is a summation of the conversation we enjoyed as we sat around the fire with a glass of wine, full bellies and the love and companionship of old friends. I can see it all happening.

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