We Went Off: Cold Campsites and Raging Rivers (#5)

If you missed the beginning of this tale, you may want to start with part one, part two, part three, and part four.

IMG_7973Standing in the nearby trees was an elk, watching us while he grazed.

The small people watched back for a while, and then my younger son announced, “I want to ride him.”

IMG_7978IMG_7980Presumably because he overheard my son, the elk moved on through the campsite away from us. With the show now over, we made our fire, cooked our dinner, and told campfire stories until dark.

IMG_7986Y’all, it was really, really cold up there. I was ready to go inside the Winnie long before dark; even the small people quickly donned layers and huddled near the fire. Next to us were two young women camping in a pup tent. “Why, why?” I kept asking them in my head as I saw them setting up camp. Honestly, I just don’t have many women in my repertoire of friends who are up for living on the edge of hypothermia just so they can go camping. It’s just not what we do.

Now that I think about it, I tend to surround myself with people who are much more into activities like glamping and not freezing to death. I’m not really sure what that says about me.

Or them.

Then there was the guy a few sites over dressed in a cowboy hat and a ribbed tank, clearly trying to impress the surrounding ladies with his many hours spent at CrossFit. I had to turn my chair away so I could stop fighting the urge to run over there and throw a coat on him. Although it’s almost too bad; if I had run over there and interrupted a large group of partying twenty-somethings to offer outerwear to a gym-crazed cowboy looking for love, I imagine I’d have walked away with a great story to tell.

IMG_8010IMG_8019The next day, we drove through more of Yellowstone and exited through the south entrance, driving through or by various landmarks like the Grand Tetons and Jackson Lake on our way back down to Colorado.

IMG_8026IMG_8027The drive, while long, was beautiful.

We had one night left in the Winnie, so I suppose our hopes were unfairly high as we pulled into our campground in Colorado on the Big Thompson River that evening. I was a little surprised, however, as we approached our site. LCB had shown me pictures with, well, lots of trees and greenery and private decks overlooking the river. When we got there, however, all the riverfront sites, at least in that part of the campground, were more brown than green and, well, deckless. The sites consisted of picnic tables, hook-ups, a fire pit, a few trees right at the river’s edge, and lots and lots and lots of dirt.

IMG_8035In fact, it felt like we were camped on a giant dirt lot; there was no ground vegetation anywhere in our section.

IMG_8030In order to reach our hook-ups, LCB had to back the Winnie pretty close to the river’s edge. When I stepped out, I noticed it appeared as if part of the river bank had been washed away, taking sections of vegetation with it.

IMG_8034The river was so loud, y’all. And I knew that river levels were high at that point in the year, so the raging waters just beyond the Winnie were unsettling. I found out later the campground had unfortunately been flooded the previous fall, flooding they were still trying to recover from. Knowing what I know now, it seems they were doing their best to rebuild the area; in fact, in the morning as we left, bulldozers began work around us.

But I didn’t know about the flooding that night; the management had already left before we arrived and there were no campers near us, so all I had to go on was what I could see and my river expertise, which doesn’t exist. I wondered if the riverbank had just recently given way due to the high water levels and if more land could be in jeopardy as water levels were expected to continue to rise. LCB was mildly concerned, and disappointed that the site didn’t look like what he had thought it would when he booked it, but in typical man-like fashion, he busied himself with the grill and the bounty it would soon hold.

For a while, I distracted myself with the evening activities, but as we got ready for bed, I started thinking about the river again. And when I sat down on our bed, at the back of the Winnie and thus in the closest part of the Winnie to the river, it got worse. I sat there and pictured the riverbank giving way, sending the back wheels of the RV plunging into the river. No matter what else I tried to concentrate on, the sound of the river kept reminding me of our position.

I could just see the next day’s headlines in my mind: “Riverbank Collapses, Sending Dumb Carolina Family Plunging into the Thompson.” They’d interview other campers wise enough to have chosen sites away from the river who say things like, “We tried to figure out why they parked their Winnie on that side of the campground when the rest of us knew enough to play it safe. Earl almost went over there to see if they were all right in the head, but then his gout started acting up again and he figured he’d wait ‘til morning.”

I couldn’t do it. I had to get as far away from the sound as possible. I got up and moved my pillow to the kitchen table near the front of the Winnie. Baby-girl, while talking to the boys, had crashed out in a corner of the bed over the cab, so I spread out on one side of the table and hunkered down for the night.

It was a long night listening to the river and the snores of LCB other people. LCB even awoke at one point long enough to ask what I was doing, but promptly fell asleep again as I began answering.

2 Replies to “We Went Off: Cold Campsites and Raging Rivers (#5)”

  1. What beautiful pictures of the rocks, cliffs, and mountains! They bring back some great memories of our trip out west., many years ago. The elk, the bison, and thank goodness, no bears. Glad you didn’t get washed out into the river! 🙂

    1. Thanks! We missed the bears as well, much to the small people’s disappointment and my thankfulness.;)

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