Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Finest Hour

After paying our camping fee and setting up our tent, Austin and I headed off into town to get some errands done. We returned late in the evening and wanted to get a little hike in before our big 16-miler the next day, so Austin walked down through the sagebrush to the sandy hollow where we had left our tarp and tent. I stayed behind at the car, trying to pick a suitably fashionable hiking ensemble: would it be the sky-blue tennis shoes and the black top with coordinating detail, or the faux leather sandals and deep navy gym shorts? Or possibly some daring combination of all four? While I was pondering these questions, Austin came back from around the sagebrush. "Don't bother going to the tent to change," he said with admirable sangfroid. "It isn't there."

The approximate scene of the crime

At first I reeled back, shocked and astonished, but drawing on my immeasurable reserves of pluck, I resolved to solve the Mystery of the Missing Tent. Actually, I thought it would be quite easy--Austin probably just overlooked our tent somehow, or maybe some freak wind in the dead heat of the desert had blown it a few sagebrush over. As Austin and I wandered in circles around our campsite searching for it, we found out later that we were both contemplating the same questions:  What do we do if we can't find our tent? Do we sleep on the tarp amidst the ants and next to the creepy holes in the ground, or squished in the back of the car? Who would want to steal our crappy little tent? What color is our tent anyway?

I seemed to recall that it was blue. I also started examining the tracks around the tent-site, (greatly missing my trusty magnifying glass, of course) and deduced quite easily that the culprits had dragged our tent down into the little gully next to our camp, quickly disassembled it, and then left the area. In possession of this vital information, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do next, so I went over to the campsite down the road to talk to the two ladies hanging out there. You know those conversation openers that sound better in your mind then when you actually say them? Like, "Hey, I'm from the next campsite over. We're missing our tent. Have you seen it anywhere?" However, instead of the blank stares I expected after that came out of my mouth, our camping neighbors practically ran each other over conversationally with their enthusiastic responses. "Oh, so you're the ones with the missing tent! Etc., etc." They were very nice, but I easily deduced what they were thinking: Poor young fools. Who loses their tent? Well, at least something interesting is finally happening around here. They pointed up the road to a campsite and said that some people had found a tent blowing around and were going to talk to a park ranger about it, so they may or may not still have our tent.

I think our kind but bored neighbors deliberately directed us to the wrong campsite, because we invaded some old man's privacy in his trailer, (Conversation opener: "Hey, we heard you have our tent!" Blank stare.) prowled around the deserted campsite next to him, (entertaining thoughts of looking in the lone tent to see if our tent was stashed in there) and had a nice conversation with an ex-Hippie, ("Sorry, man. I hope you find your tent.") before we walked past a campsite with a green tent pitched off to the side. I nudged Austin. "Hey, isn't that our tent?"  Austin:  "Nah. Besides you said our tent was blue, this one's green." We sidled closer to the tent, trying to look like friendly neighbors on a carefree walk to the loo, not creepy creepers trying to case out their campsite.

Some teenage girl looked over at us eyeing their campsite. "Are you guys looking for your tent?" We established that the green tent was in fact ours and her dad came over. "Yeah, we found it blowing around in a gully over there. You must have used those flimsy metal stakes, they come out real easy." We nodded, not wanting to tell him that we hadn't actually staked our tent down at all. (The ground was as hard as adobe brick! There was no wind when we left! There was no wind when we came back! In fact, I'm inclined to think that this so-called "wind" and subsequent "blown away tent" was merely a cruel practical joke on the part of the entire campground!)  He went on. "We put a few rocks in your tent so it wouldn't blow away." We glanced around us at the stone-still desert air then into the tent containing three huge, dirty boulders, a host of flies and gnats, and a grubby three-year-old child. "Thank you!" we said.

After ejecting as many unwelcome tenants as we could, we walked the Walk of Shame back to our campsite bearing our tent upon our shoulders. It's a little embarrassing to lose your vital shelter due to your own incompetence, and we didn't really want to talk about it with anyone.We took the back way to avoid meeting all the people we had met earlier, but we did have to pass the ex-Hippie. "You found your tent! That's awesome, man." He showed an inclination to chat about the whole debacle, but we fake smiled with him then quickly slunk away. (As much as one can slink with a two man tent hoisted above one's head.) I was glad that my earlier deductions were wrong, and our campground didn't contain a tent thief, but that being said, it was not our finest hour.


Anna Marie said...

Oh my goodness, Anona, that was hilarious!

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