Camping with the elk

by Ken Carpenter

Mankind has been ill suited for sleeping on the ground ever since their fur bearing ancestors inadvertently bred themselves into the bare skin look. Every time I go camping I find myself wistfully dreaming of the tailor made carpet the cave-Carpenters used to sport.
They could curl up on a pile of rocks and be comfortable. I admit I still wonder about some of my relatives, many of whom have so much body hair that their arm skin is just a distant memory. I shouldn’t talk I guess, I have had chimps try to fire up a conversation with me in the zoo.
Regardless, my old bones do not like camping, no matter how many layers there are between the tent floor and me. The funny thing is, when you get older you almost always begin to sprout more flab here and there. Previously bony hips flare out into bulbous mounds. Semi-muscled shoulders develop a fatty layer that gives you the rounded off gorilla appearance.
Guess what though? All that accumulative blubber doesn’t help a bit when you crawl into a sleeping bag. Unless you are packing a queen-size mattress around to put on your tent floor, every pressure point on your body will become enflamed.
I know, I just took my first camping trip in several years and the lard-coated joints I expected to protect me became as sharp as a pile of Chili’s gnawed rib bones after seven hours in a tent. After the first night, when I woke up for the 15th time at 7:00 AM, I creaked and groaned my clothes on and stumbled outside.
My body needed, no, it demanded, one of the biggest stretches in history. I spread my arms wide, placed my feet at shoulder’s width apart, and proceeded to try to push out all the aches and pains I had absorbed during the night.
Things went remarkably well to begin with, it was a stretch for the ages and I grunted appreciably the longer it continued. Suddenly, startlingly, I was mortified to hear an enormous blast of air escape me. Let me put it this way, it was not from my mouth, and it echoed through the Pacific beach air like an avalanche cannon.
I froze, humiliated at this unexpected turn of events, and prayed that nobody else was up. No such luck.
“Did I hear an elk bugle?” my snickering and smart-mouthed wife piped up from the tent.
An instant later an answering blast came from the next campsite, for I had unwittingly mailed out a mating call that someone else could not resist. Shortly after that I am almost sure I heard another bugle come from one of the other neighboring campsites, and I began to feel my spirits lift. Not everybody can start an early morning fart contest in an isolated campground.
I don’t know if it went any farther, my hearing is notoriously poor, but my wife soon grew tired of my smug demeanor and declared that the tent smelled like a herd of bean-eating goats had spent the night in it. I professed innocence, but I knew that camp food could be notoriously gassy so I had to take at least half the blame. Well, maybe a bit more than half.
I hope I don’t give the impression that I go around serenading the general populace with my own version of the toot toot boogie. I reserve my performances for the home troops, you might say, except for unexpected attacks brought on by stressful stretches.
Well, except for those two errors in placement, which shall remain secret.
Tents are not the perfect abode, but when camping on a budget you don’t have any other option. I suppose your choice of tent partner has a great deal to do with your eventual enjoyment or disgust, so I suggest that all tent patrons try to control their judgmental side.
Do you hear that dear?
Eventually we made our way around the Olympic Peninsula, gurgling all the way, and a few things besides the early morning “behind duel” remain stuck in our heads. One was a $75000 Hummer with a $20 dinghy on top of it that I would not have taken out on a duck pond. What the heck? This is the ocean, dude.
Another was a 25-cent per minute shower that blasted out a 1/8th inch stream of scalp-scouring water at about 120 pounds of pressure. Believe me, I kept that powerful beam of water well away from my mid-section. Eunuch is not a term that appeals to me.
The memorably corrupt, three-toothed proprietor of the flatulent campground was so pleased when we told him we would tell our Idaho neighbors about his dilapidated resort that he cackled, “Yeah, tell both of them.”
He came to mind when we got home late at night and, after semi-unpacking, I turned on an episode of “The Outer Limits”. We were soon treated to the unexpected remark of a murderous undercover alien declaring, “I just pulled in from Bonners Ferry.” Really, and most likely he arrived there by way of the Tidelands Resort.
All the moss covered trees, shrubs, rocks, logs and ground in the rain forest will be hard to forget. Moss has a funny way of soothing the savage breast, and my hairy one is no different.
Gee, I’m still so soothed I think I need a nap.
Not in a tent though, not anytime soon.