On the east slope of the Rocky Mountains, summer thunderstorms swell up in the afternoon. When a storm seems especially dark and menacing, I turn on my weather radio. Such a storm came up the second afternoon camping at Hawk Springs, and the radio told me of a damaging storm with quarter-sized hail and 60 MPH winds. This is never good, and I tried not to imagine Half Moon shredded by hail and wind. Fortunately for me, the warning area was about 25 miles to the north, over Guernsey and Ft. Laramie, and the storm was moving northeast. I did get a long, lovely rain shower but no hail or high winds. I watched the rain at first from inside the camper, but eventually had to zip up the windows. When the storm was all over (30 mins), I again threw open the windows and Tango and I walked in the fresh, clean air.
We lazed around until the sun was getting lower in the sky, leaving perhaps an hour before dark. Dusk is my favorite time to walk because animals and birds come out and the earth seems so peaceful. Tango and I take off down the beach, towards the far end of reservoir. I have read that a great blue heron rookery is tucked away down there. Earlier in the season, the water was too high to walk there.
As Tango and I amble along the beach, I watch the ground for signs of animal life, something other than dogs, kids or cows. Wet sand is perfect for spotting tracks. I have seen bobcat, snake, elk, and coyote tracks before. Here, I eventually see the tracks of a small group of deer heading to and from the water. I also see assorted dead fish bodies or heads and lots of evidence that the boisterous kids I heard earlier were having fun: sand castles, writing in the sand, and assorted flip flops that got left behind.
I alternate watching the ground with scanning along the shoreline for birds. Sure enough, I spot sandpipers. I then scan the trees for anything interesting, but nothing appears for me tonight. I have learned over the years that when I watch the sky, there is something in the trees. When I watch the trees, a rare bird flies by; I suffer often from Murphy’s Law of wild life viewing.
I hear a great blue flying overhead sending out a worried cry that sounded like, “go away you stupid human and dog, we have babies down there.” As I arrive towards the south end of the reservoir, I see a group of 9 females on the wet sand, about 10 yards from the water. They did not seem to be fishing, just standing by, as herons often do. As we neared they sounded that same, alarmed call, so I stopped and just watched them from a distance. I turned around to head back and saw three small herons flying towards the females. They looked like this year’s fledglings: I wonder, was the group of females the moms waiting for their return from a test flight? If so, that was an amazing rite of passage to witness.
As I return to my campsite, a soft breeze starts blowing again. The setting sun provides an extended show of orange and red-streaked skies. The cows move closer to the fence line; their moos and random noises let me know they are keeping watch. Tango, a cow dog, barks a few times to let them know where the boss lives. I am finally hungry for some dinner and thirsty for a beer. I eat outside, enjoying the last of the sunset. Back in the camper, Tango barks once more for the cow’s benefit, and then he dozes off on my sleeping bag and pillow. I will join him soon, if can carve out some space on the huge bed and nab a corner of the sleeping bag. This camper has two beds, maybe I can train him to sleep on the other bed.
Is it wrong to love my camper? Oops,the awning is dangling on the left side.
I drift off wondering if I can fold up the camper by myself, and get it hitched to the van again in the morning. This adventure must come to an end and I have piles of work waiting at home. I am a bit worried about the last step in closing down Half Moon—latching the clasps that keep the camper top snug. At the dealer, this is the only area where I had trouble, as it takes some strength. I have a little step stool which I am hoping will get me high enough to get better leverage. I am also worried that I won’t be able to line up the hitch with the camper. If I can accomplish those two things, then all I have left is a straight shot home on a side road, then I-25 for about 20 miles. My anxious thoughts are interrupted by another pair of motorcycles coming in to camp, around 11:30. I could tell by their voices it was two men. They clanged around for a while and then settled in.
Motorcycle guests, night two
Morning comes and the sky is beautiful, the air, clear. I have coffee and breakfast and begin the job of packing, stowing, latching, tucking, sliding, lowering, and connecting. Somehow, without much frustration, I get the job done. The final latches were easy, easy. I noticed that the tent sides were still wet from last night’s rain storm, which means I will have to open it up partially to let everything dry. The manual says that keeping it stored wet is a big no-no. I drive home, open up the camper enough for the sides to dry and get to work right on time!
Pop up camper popped down and hitched UP again, ready for the ride home
After 40 years of camping I still do not know exactly why I like it so much. Perhaps it is the engaging of the senses: the smell of the earth, the sound of birds, the light reflecting off a lake, red sunsets or the taste of a warm cup of hot chocolate around the campfire. Maybe it is the rituals that help my mind disconnect from the matters and stresses of daily life. Perhaps it is the process of watching the birds, building the campfire, nestling into my warm bed with my trusty sleeping bag unzipped like a comforter, and curling up with a good book that draws me outdoors. Whatever the reason, I think that my time in Half-Moon will be some of the best camping ever.
Tango licking out the dog food pouch and waiting patiently while I put everything away. Is it too late to get someone to wait on ME hand and foot?
- Hitched (janesjournals.wordpress.com)