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Hiccups in Paradise

14 July 04

Above Gothic, Colorado

We moved here today.

We've been camped at Lake San Cristobal for a couple of weeks, and you've heard me admire the place ad nauseam. Well, there's been a few hiccups in paradise.

Just as well. You can get too used to things going right. The brilliant sunsets begin to look a little ragged after a while, the mild weather boring, the geese annoying as they fly around. Lean against the shady scented pines, and there's apt to be a little sap on both sides of your clothes. We've shopped and hiked, explored and partied. I've eaten as well as an ex-fireman ought to.

Time to move on.

Of course, there's more to it than that. I have discovered another platitude to add to my continuing list of the Grand Universal Rules of Camping. Ahem, and to wit:

"There is no place so perfect that a few more people can't ruin it."

We've been lucky, really. Half the time we had the whole place to ourselves. But a couple of days ago we drove up from exploring the jeep roads to find a 4 wheeler and a tent parked in our site. Right next to the picnic table.

"Well, that won't do," I said to Jan, and went over there to ask the fella what he thought he was doing.

"We just wanted to get into the shade. It ain't hurting anything there."

"Yes it is. You've got your own campsite. Use it. The line runs from the post right along here..." As it happened, all the trees were my side of the line. Which is why I picked that place. There were 4 adults and 3 teenagers in this group, along with 4 ATVs. Hell on wide wheels. Two large tents. The other tent was crowding the line, but largely on their side.

Another guy spoke up. "Mister, you're not using that space. There's no need to be petty about it."

"Petty?" I was amazed. "You've set up a tent and parked a vehicle 10 feet from where I'm gonna try to eat in a little while. And have a campfire afterwards. And you're right in the middle of the campsite I paid for. Hey, I've been here 10 days, and you're the first party that couldn't tell where the line was..."

"That guy, the camp host, he said it was okay. We already had to move from over there." I looked. It was the Handicapped site. "He said anywhere over here."

"Wait a minute." I looked him right in the eye. "The camp host said you could park in my site? That ain't right."

"That's what he said."

"Well, then, I'll go get him and we'll see." So I drove off, and sure enough he wasn't in. I left an intemperate message with his wife, and went back.

Lo and behold, in that short period of time, they had moved both tent and toy. About 15 minutes later the camp host came by, clutching his radio, but I told him to forget about it.

These guys were pushy, but they had one thing going for them, as neighbors. They were gone all day, and went to bed early. That same day, on the other side, somebody arrived from Dallas with a 3 axle toy hauler full of Harleys. These guys were at least interesting to talk to, and had some shiny machines to admire. Like the others, they made a lot of noise getting away, but they didn't hang around.

Maybe this stuff is cumulative. But it seems to me the absolute worst neighbor we had was the motorhome that arrived yesterday. They didn't make much noise. In fact, they spent almost all of their time inside. What did they do that was so heinous?

Light. Searing light. All night long.

They had a couple of small propane tanks. The sort that comes with BBQ pits. Screwed into the top were a couple of omnidirectional propane lanterns. They put out a hissing light, easily visible in broad day, that completely ruined the peace of the campfire. Stark shadows of trees were painted on the walls of the trailer. One look in that direction and you were blinded. We had to sit with our backs to it and try to have a fire. It felt like our necks were getting sunburned. It lit up the inside of the trailer.

Pretty quickly we gave up, let down the blinds, and went to bed. I hope the guy that invented that thing is barking in hell.

Thing is, they didn't even use 'em. They went inside. These searchlights were still buzzing away the next morning. When we hooked up and left for Crested Butte, around 11 o'clock, the people still hadn't come outside. I decided not to say anything.

Perhaps it will be left to them to discover if the obverse of my recently minted Rule is also true:

"Any campsite can be improved if a couple of neighbors leave."

Okay, that's the rant. Oh. Well, there were the mice.

Ever since I got here, little white and gray field mice with round ears have been scampering up unseen from somewhere, and nibbling their way through the bottom cabinets. I'd heard a little rustling, but one day an oblivious rodent actually ran across my feet while I was reading on the couch.

That does it.

I bought a rat trap and three mouse traps at the hardware store in town. I sacrificed a little peanut butter for bait. And ever since, every night, I've caught an average of two mice. Eight and counting. It's scandalous, I know, but when I hear that little "clack" in the night, I just smile softly and go back to sleep with all the practiced ease of the pure in heart.

I don't know how they all got in. I'm not using the electric cord but an hour a day or so. There's no holes in the bottom of the trailer, except where drain pipes come through, and I've taped around those.

One of the ladies at the laundramat suggested Downy softener sheets, so I bought some and wadded them up in the hole where the electrical umbilical comes out. The next day there were little shreds of downy on the ground. I think they ate the rest.

I do have a bad habit of leaving the door open, which is how what is known as a "least chipmunk" came to number among the litter of bodies by the big tree.

It's getting to Janice, I think. I heard her refer yesterday to the place where we eat and sleep as "the trailer of terror and death." She mostly reads outside.

Really. Like I said, it's probably time to hitch up the Karma and move on. Besides, these little vermin have finally figured out how to lick off the peanut butter without invoking the "clack". Maybe I'll try cheese. See how that works.

Hahahahhahahahahahahhhhhhh. You can run but you can't hide. Well, okay, you can hide. But you better not eat.

Unfortunately for my peace of mind, I'm an eclectic reader. Somewhere I picked up the idea that Buddhists have these little windwheels. They write out their prayers, attach them to the vanes, and, as the wind blows, they believe it sends their heartfelt orisons wafting up to heaven in an endless stream.

I wonder if they hear the "clack" up there?

I could be in trouble.


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