Nothing Special, Really

Monday, June 23, 2008

No Lions Or Tigers, But...

This weekend, I realized I would really suck at being a caveman.

I spent this past weekend with my girlfriend & five others on a camping trip for our friend Simon's birthday. What better way to start Summer off then a trip deep into the North Cascades for two days & nights of drinking, hiking, and Toss & Cuss (I'll explain in a moment).

Simon and I got a head start Friday morning while the rest were planning to catch up later that day or sometime on Saturday. After about 2 & 1\2 hours of driving, we arrived at the Mineral Park campsite, an isolated camp just south of North Cascades National Park. Although Simon had reserved a site elsewhere in the camp, there was only one other campsite taken, so we scouted the area & instead chose a site that was close to the Cascade river as well as big enough for two tents. I've been camping many times before, mostly with my parents when I was younger, and I don't ever recall staying at a more beautiful campsite:

After the obligatory PBR to kick off the day, we set up our tents and camping gear, then headed off to scout out the rest of the camp. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, a regrettable decision as we stumbled upon a deer lying near the outhouse at the other end of camp. Simon got probably within 10 feet of it before it took off into the woods.

We headed back to our campsite to start the fire for dinner. The second wave of our camping crew - our respective girlfriends and Simon's friend James - right as the fire was just about ready.

Whoops, this story is getting too long. Let me wrap up Friday night. We ate barbecue chicken, I passed out by the campfire shortly after the sun went down, woke up for a bit then passed out in the tent way early. Lame, I know. On to Saturday...

After a very diabetic-friendly breakfast of a single donut, we headed out around 10am to go on a hike. The five of us drove up into the North Cascades National Park until the road was closed. Months ago, the road was shut down because it was blocked by avalanches. Most of the snow had melted but there was still a lot of debris blocking it, enough to prevent your standard automobile but not enough to keep away five fleet footed adventurers.

A short ways into the hike, the road had collapsed, and the ranger service set up some log bridges to help hikers cross the river or creek or however you define the running water. We kept going up the hill, into the park, and encountered some of the most breath-taking views I've ever seen. Like postcard views, only I'm seeing them with my own eyes:

But the amazingness didn't stop there. As we headed further up the road, we all came to a halt when James yelled out "Bears!"

"Over there, in the snow!"

Sure enough, in the distance, were two bears, wrestling in the snow. They tackled each other, rolling around, a lot like our cats wrestle in the apartment. Being able to witness wildlife, in its natural environment, playing like this..easily one of the coolest things I've experienced in my life.

We kept trucking along, squeezing between fallen trees, climbing over mountains of packed snow & debris, when the road looked like it wasn't going to be getting any easier. We took a short timeout for Simon & James to climb some giant moss-covered rock, gave Simon time to relieve himself, then headed back down the road to the car.

We got maybe 100-200 feet from the avalanched snow when James shouted out "Bear!" again.

"In the road."


OK, I have to backtrack a bit.

Up to this point, there were several occasions on the trip where I drifted off into my own thoughts. Being so far removed from society, so deep in the wilderness, I found myself thinking a lot about how domesticated we've become as human beings over the past couple hundred, even thousand years. Especially in industrialized nations, we don't have to worry about things like hunting or gathering our own food, building our own shelter, or making our own clothes (although I'd probably just run around naked). How quickly would we fall apart if we were forced to do these things on our own? How many of us have the necessary survival skills to last even a week stranded somewhere?

So these thoughts were permeating the back of my mind when we end up running into a bear in the middle of the road. Immediately, I let out a panicked "Oh fuck!" and started thinking every worse case possible scenario. What do we do if he starts heading this way? Should we go back up the road and wait it out? What if he doesn't leave for a while, how long are we going to be up here? I don't want to die from a fucking bear attack. What if he attacks us, how do we defend ourselves?

I never made it through Boy Scouts, or even Cub Scouts, and the Mesa Public Schools district didn't offer any kind of Bear Survival courses, so I was completely retarded when faced with the thought of a bear in the road. So while Molly (Simon's GF) and I panicked, Simon & James told us to stay back, while James wandered TOWARDS THE BEAR! The bear spotted us pretty quickly, and James told us to be quiet. I wondered out loud "Maybe we should head back the other way", and the panic in my voice was embarassingly noticeable. Luckily, we didn't have to wait much longer; the bear scurried into the woods shortly thereafter. We waited a couple minutes in case there were others, grabbed some thick tree branches to defend ourselves if needed, and walked gently pass the bear poop that was left behind.

Suffice it to say, I lack the proper survival skills needed to last even a few days in the middle of nowhere. I wish I had a badass story of how we survived a bear attack, or how I killed a bear using only my hands, but sadly, this is just a story about how I froze up like a little chicken-shit at the sight of a bear down the road.

We headed back to the campsite & proceeded to get sufficiently drunk. Simon, James & I took turns playing Toss & Cuss, a game Molly's dad created for them. Basically, you take turns throwing bolas made of rope & golf balls at a structure made of PVC pipe. That's the "Toss" part. The "Cuss" part is what you do when your bola spins around the tube then falls off. We kept drinking & started thinking of inventive ways to throw the bolas; under the legs, high into the air, all three at once. I guess you could make the argument that, at that point, playing drunken Toss & Cuss was probably more dangerous than the bear in the road earlier.

The final two campers, J-Razz & Chris, showed up during the T&C marathon and joined us. In an epic battle, the rookies took down James & I on the final round, when between Chris & I, we wrapped 5 of our 6 bolas around the pipes. Chris's final wrap broke the tie, and the newbies were victorious on their first try:

After that, it was time for dinner, which meant time for Simon's glorious Foil Dinners. I think these originated from his fire fighting days, or maybe his Boy Scout days, I can't remember which. Basically, it's just meat, potatoes & veggies steamed over the campfire with Johnny's Salt, but it's so moist & delicious, it's just incredible. We finished the night by playing a couple of rounds of Uno, then sitting by one of the biggest, hottest campfires ever (seriously, we were melting beer bottles in that thing), and listen to Simon play his guitar, singing drunken songs about hanging with deer in the Deer Lounge, and a fight between Godzilla & Sasquatch.

Luckily for us, we didn't encounter either of them on the road at any point on the trip.


Just a quick update for those interested. I'm still jobless. I got conned into an interview this upcoming Tuesday. Ever since I put my resume out on Monster, I get email like every other week from insurance companies, basically spamming me with interview offers. They're probably shit jobs, and I have no interest in selling insurance. Well, I got a call yesterday from someone wanting to bring me in for an interview. We talked about my background for a bit & they were very interested, but I had no idea what job they wanted to interview me for because they failed to mention it. She even said something along the lines of "I can't really discuss too much over the phone, but we'll have more information for you at the interview". A job opportunity should never feel like a scam. I asked them what positions they had available and she said "Oh, you know, sales managers, human resources, marketing, lots of positions" but when asked to explain what kind of HR jobs, she couldn't explain. I asked her to send me a job description, and she said that the jobs were posted on their website (untrue). Just to get her off the phone, I told her I would look over their job postings (that don't exist) and tentatively agreed to an interview on Tuesday, which I will definitely be canceling on Monday.

Other than that, it's been a lot of hanging out at the coffee shop or playing online poker. Just living the dream.


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