Roughing It Was Disastrous

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Illustration By Wayne Stroot
A couple use the car window to help them create a makeshift tent on their family camping trip.

At the age of 22, my husband, Leo, and I impulsively decided to take a family trip and go camping. We didn’t have a tent, but we borrowed a couple of tarps and set off one Friday evening after work. We took food and coffee, along with several bottles of milk, baby food and diapers for our 15-month-old daughter, Laurel.

Roughing It

We found an isolated spot in the mountains near a small pond sheltered by tall pine trees. As soon as I saw it, I cried, “This is it!” At my outburst, Leo pulled in. We hopped out to inspect our campsite, and we decided it was perfect.

We ate our supper and drank our coffee as we watched the sun sink low. Dusk set in early, and we realized we didn’t have anything we needed to get a campfire going. Just then a forest ranger drove into our spot. He noticed we didn’t have a fire and asked if we needed help getting one started, telling us that camping in Colorado can be pretty chilly after dark. We accepted his gracious offer and sheepishly admitted that we had forgotten to bring a hatchet and matches.

In no time, the ranger had a blazing campfire going. He placed a large log on the fire and piled up some extra kindling to get us through the night. We thanked him and waved goodbye as he drove away.

Suddenly everything became still, and the darkness seemed to creep out of the forest. I inched closer to Leo and, trying to stay calm, suggested we get Laurel ready for bed and get our makeshift tent set up. He agreed.

We settled Laurel on the back seat of the car, nestled in warm blankets, and then we sat by the fire as we drank the last of the coffee. We put more wood on the fire, and then we climbed into the blankets that were laid out on top of one tarp. The other tarp was held tight in the front window of the car, with a rock holding the other end.

We gradually drifted off to sleep, with me about three feet from the back tire, and Leo right beside me. I had barely dozed off when I heard stealthy footsteps nearby, moving in our direction. “Leo, I hear footsteps!” I whispered, as I nudged him. He peeked outside and then softly said, “Don’t move. It’s a porcupine.” I froze, stiff as a board, as that critter walked between me and the tire. Then he was gone.

Sleep came at last, and then in the dark early morning hours, a haunting laugh jerked me upright. “Leo, there’s somebody in the woods. I hear him laughing.” He listened to the eerie sound, then told me it was just a loon. I didn’t dare go back to sleep, though.

As Laurel was waking up, Leo noticed that one of the back tires on the car was flat. When he went to get the jack, he realized it wasn’t in the trunk. “What next?” I groaned. Making do with what we had, Leo used a log to jack up the car so he could change the tire.

Finally, we headed home — tired, dirty and hungry.

Hesston, Kansas

Read more stories about summer activities in Camping Adventures.