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What they do for fun in Eastern Washington when no livestock are present

The plan was to leave for the trailhead at ten o’clock, the location of which was left entirely up to Marta’s slightly-less-than-reliable friend Rosie, who was planning the trip and would be joining us. Marta called me at 9:45 that morning to tell me that Rosie had just called her and cancelled. We reluctantly browsed camping guides online for a half hour or so, then decided to stop wasting daylight and just drive.

We headed east on I-90 with no real purpose, and once we cleared the mountains started investigating state parks and national forests. I didn’t have a preference as to where we stayed, so long as it was green, had a body of water, and was free of the group of individuals I refer to collectively as “yahoos,” optionally with a hard ‘a’. Yahoos spring up like pock marks in camp sites accessible by car across the nation; they drive pick-up trucks with oversized aluminum cans hitched to the back and know little of camping outside of their narrow, technologically dependent definition; they drink beer out of cans; they swear constantly if young and not at all if old; they are often obese, always noisy, and carry screaming children to places they don’t belong. Yahoos were my father’s greatest enemy and his reason for pushing his family ever farther into the backcountry on trips. I inherited a strong distaste, not quite a hatred, for the same folks, and while I’ll camp next door to them if necessary, I’d prefer not to.

The place we found is a state park just outside Easton, on a lake whose name we never learned, and was beautiful. They even had two separate campgrounds – one for RVs and one for tents – to fuel my elitism. We wasted little time in exploring the circumference of the lake, hiking with great difficulty along the cliffs bordering it without realizing a well-groomed trail lay not fifty yards away. We reached the fork where the river – we think the Cle Elum – vaults silently into the calm water, and saw on the furthest upstream of four bridges a couple high school boys standing in swimsuits. They were jumping off the bridge into the river and letting it carry them lazily downstream, an activity I’m never willing to let pass me by without a fight. Marta and I jumped a couple times, and it was great – the current was strong enough to push us bodily downstream, but weak enough to swim against if we felt like it. We dove down to the river bottom and let the water propel us, skimming over the rocks and sticks, arms outstretched and effortless. The second time the overpass was crowded with yahoos-in-training, their pickups parked not far away. I guess if I lived in Eastern Washington, that would probably be my favorite pastime too.

I always forget how important it is to turn in early when camping. Waking after the sun climbs into the sky isn’t an option, since the forest comes to life around you and the tent heats up faster than you expect. We didn’t even start dinner until ten; we’d eaten giant sandwiches in a meadow on the far side of the lake around four, and then I lost track of time teaching Marta to tie knots in the tent (no, that’s not a euphemism for anything – in fact, she learned almost every one after I’d shown her just once, and would have made a great Boy Scout if not for her sex). We drank the wine too quickly, burned the stew badly, fumbled cleaning in the dark, and didn’t roll into bed until after midnight. Of course I slept poorly – waking up hungry, waking up to pee, waking up from a strange noise – and was exhausted in the morning. But we had to be out of the site by one pm, so it was probably for the best.

We stopped for lunch in an out-of-season resort parking lot, wandering into the woods and spreading the blanket mere inches from a hornet nest. We never saw where they were coming from, but they flocked in terrifying numbers to our sandwiches. We actually had to sprint a few dozen yards away in order to avoid biting into one of them. We stood in the shadows of the trees, watching while the insects terrorized our little clearing, feeling like fugitives while we gulped down our lunch. When we returned to clean up, we saw that about eight hornets had crawled into the empty lunchmeat bag and were too stupid to get out. “What do you want to do with that?” Marta asked. “We can’t just leave trash.” “Do you want to carry a bag full of angry yellow jackets to the car? Do you want to drive those yellow jackets to a trash can?” I asked back. We looked at each other in silent understanding, then she backed a few paces away and I whipped our makeshift tablecloth out from underneath the trash. We took off running and didn’t look back.

Much to my surprise, Ashley read my latest complaint against her. She was not amused; hell hath no fury like a Latina scorned. She leaves tomorrow morning for graduate school in sunny Santa Barbara, but until then she plans to destroy as much of my fragile sanity as possible by taking out her aggression on the remainder of my pre-packaged foodstuffs. If you’re reading this, caborona: bring it!

Posted in Musings.

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