Filed under: Campgrounds & RV Parks, Family Camping, Humor, Nature & Wildlife, Preparation & Readiness, State & National Parks, Tent Campgrounds
Sally’s Revenge and the Bear that came to Dinner – Part 1
Dateline: Late 1970’s, Shenandoah National Park, Matthew’s Arm Campground, Virginia
Although this story didn’t just happen, I thought that you might appreciate it. It came up during a story telling evening around a campfire while we were in Moab, Utah. If you’ve been camping long enough, you’ll each have stories like this to tell. If you don’t, well you’re just not trying hard enough!
BTW, since this story is a bit longer than my usual, I’ve broken it down into what will hopefully be two easy-to-absorb sections. I hope that you’ll enjoy them.
After car-pooling to work in Manhattan for nearly a year, we were, in some ways, like an old married couple; finishing each other’s sentences and familiar with every like, dislike, and mood. One thing we learned about our likes was that we both enjoyed camping.
And so Ted and I began hatching a plan to take our families camping together in the Shenandoah National Park. It all sounded great in the planning stage, but we should have worried more about the execution of our plans and whether our respective families would enjoy the trip as much as we would. It soon became apparent that they didn’t.
My fellow car-pooler’s wife was a city girl. She just didn’t get Nature or camping etiquette. Upon arriving at our first stop in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Skyline Drive; Matthews Arm Campground, she pulled a large bag of crayons out of the back of their station wagon and suggested that her two boys amuse themselves by drawing on the big boulders that were strewn about our campsite.
I remember my two older kids standing there, looking from me to her, wondering when the bomb was going to go off. It didn’t take long. You see, my kids were raised on the “leave no trace” concept of camping. If I had been the one telling them to go write, paint, or scratch something on anything at a campsite they would not have believed it; they would have thought that I was setting them up for a lengthy lesson about honoring the beauty of nature.
I tried to calmly explain to Sally (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) that graffiti was a no-no in a national park, or for that matter, any kind of park. She gave me a “you-must-be-kidding” look for several heartbeats and then chuckled, glancing over at her husband, who wisely began to sort through the eight-piece setting of silverware she insisted on bringing along. But, probably after noticing that my face was turning bright red and several blood vessels were protruding from my forehead, she said, “FINE!” and snatched the bag of crayons back from her eldest son and suggested that the kids take a hike, or something.
She was to get her revenge the very next morning and every morning thereafter that we were together. But first, as the ladies began unpacking, Ted and I decided to go out and collect firewood for that evening’s S’Mores. We quickly found out that the entire area surrounding the campsite was picked clean; not a twig could be found. The only promising area lay down a steep hill next to our site. We could see some choice fallen branches down below. I planned to have a heart-to-heart with Ted when we got out of hearing range of the women, but never got the chance.
As Ted and I scooped up armloads of that night’s kindling and firewood, we heard a blood-curdling scream coming from up the hill at our campsite. It was Sally.
Ted and I dropped everything and headed up the hill, which was much more steep going up than it had been going down. We slipped and fell, grabbed at saplings and pulled ourselves up, all the while wondering what terrible event was going on at the top of the hill. Sally was still screaming.
Looking more downward than up, we breached the top of the hill — and almost ran headfirst into a black bear, which was standing on her hind legs looking ready to maul someone. Ted peeled off to the left and I went to the right. In my peripheral vision I could see people — my family and Ted’s — running toward the cars. That’s good, I thought, but now what?
As it turned out, the she bear and her cub, which we hadn’t seen right away as we ran back into camp, were trying to escape from the very loud screams coming out of Sally’s mouth. She — the she-bear; not Sally — dropped down on all fours and quickly led her cub back down the way Ted and I had just come up.
It took Ted a little while to calm Sally down and stop the screaming — and come out of the locked car. We then learned something that Ted hadn’t thought was important to mention when he and I were planning this trip. And that was that Nature, in all its magnificence, scared the HECK out of his wife. They were city people. Sally was terrified of house cats, for pity sakes, and had never even been to a zoo!
Ted and I held a little meeting after that. He told me that he thought that everything would go smoothly; once we got into the woods. I asked him to think about that for a second and tell me how being in the middle of several thousand acres of wilderness would be “okay” to a woman who was afraid of the outdoors?
I don’t know exactly what Ted said to convince her to spend the night, but it probably involved an expensive shopping trip when they got back into civilization. One thing that I did hear though, was the decision to do the next best thing to either sleeping in their station wagon or putting both families in the same tent; we would pitch our tents face-to-face about six feet apart. Safety in numbers. Circle the wagons!
All went well that first night, but Sally starting getting her revenge the very next morning. It was still dark out when we heard Ted “knocking” on our tent door. It seemed that Sally and the kids were wide awake and wanted their breakfast, which, because they hadn’t brought a cooler, was in our cooler in our tent. No problem, we shifted things around inside our tent, trying not to wake our toddler, and carried the cooler outside.
Several hours later, both families had eaten their breakfast and stood ready to explore the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. That is, everyone except for Sally. She came out of her tent dressed like she was going to the mall for the day. Inappropriate, yes, but it wouldn’t have been that big a problem if it weren’t for what was in the big plastic bag that she pulled out of their car. Contained therein was a prodigious collection of makeup, false eye lashes, curlers, a curling iron (I still don’t know where she thought she was going to plug that in) and a huge pile of hair!
(To be continued next week in Sally’s Revenge and the Bear that came to Dinner – Part 2)
Till Next Time,