Giraffe hunting

It's been a while since Oldie and I have gone backpacking. In high school, it was a twice-monthly trip to Point Reyes, where he, his brother, and I would use school funding and drivers to get us to a trail where, once there, we would ditch the rest of the group and venture off with our cigars and other smoking paraphernalia to an isolated camp site away from our "chaperones." We would spend hours on the trail, shooting the shit and making a diet of beef jerkey. Since high school, though, we've only managed to get a few car camping trips in. These were usually reunion trips, where all the fellas would get together and sit around a campfire with an extensive assortment of beers and liquor and, of course, a boom-box blaring all the old-school Frisco rap songs. To say the least, the latter trips were never confused with serious, outdoor excursions into the back-country.
So, for the first time since high school, Old and I decided to go backpacking. The original plan was to hike around Mt. Hood with his brother (Dan the Polar Bear), father (Don), and a friend of his dad's (Ron). However, as the trip neared, plans changed a little, and Old's sister, Courtney, and Ron's daughter, Jacqueline were added to the list of safari goers.
Also, our destination was no longer Mt. Hood; we would instead be hiking along the Columbia Gorge through a series of canyons and waterfalls

While the scenery was nice, and most the company was enjoyable, the trip turned out much different than we had envisioned. What was initially planned as a foray into the Pacific Northwest wilderness, turned into a trek along Interstate 84, through rock slide fields and poison oak laden trails leading to campgrounds with car and RV access.The constant hum of the nearby (when we weren't actually walking on it) freeway, and the presence of RVers and car campers, took the luster out of well-intended trip. As we lost our enthusiasm for the excursion early on, we began to create our own stimuli and imagined wilderness. Equipped with our doo doo pistols, we sought to find wild giraffes and merganzer pups.

Now, merganzer pups you may not have heard of, but giraffes are, so we thought, well known for roaming the hills of the Columbia Gorge. Their loud mating cries were heard many a time, coincidentally every time a train would roll by. In fact, it could have been the trains that scared them away, thus keeping them away from our capture. But, while the giraffes remained elusive, the merganzer pups did not. We spotted them a couple of times floating on the Columbia river. I thought they were ducks, but Old kindly explained the difference to me. Apparently they are a wild breed of Cat-Bird. It became obvious what they were when they let loose their merganzer quacks.

At the end of our first day, after spotting a few merganzer pups and hearing the enk-calling Pika, we arrived at a campground full of RVs. No, not your typical back-country backpacking experience, but it was going to have to do. To help the process of making do, Ron kindly pulled out a six pack of beer from his ginormous pack, as well as margarita mix. While we all criticized his unorthodox packing style, we had no trouble sharing his alcohol. After eating dinner, we all decided to hit the sack. Because it was so nice, we decided to leave the tent at home. Unfortunately, it wasn't the weather that would necessitate a tent, rather it was the grizzly raccoons that lurked in the bushes. Just as I fell asleep by convincing myself that the freeway hum was really the Pacific ocean, I was woken by a rabid, 35 pound, small dog-sized raccoon running across my sleeping pad. As I let out a cry of fear, Old frightened quickly, too, and let out a yell of his own. Naturally, this woke everybody in the camp, and those in nearby campsites as well. As the flashlights and pocket knives were brandished, we realized that no, I wasn't being attacked by a bear or abducted by aliens, but rather a raccoon had decided to raid the box of cookies that Ron brought with his beer and liquor. I just happened to be sleeping in his path, and the damn thing was too lazy to walk around my sleeping bag.

The next day, we continued our trek along the concrete wilderness that is Interstate 84. We still had our sights set on finding a giraffe, but when we realized how slim our chances were, we decided to point out as many brown trout as we could. What's amazing about brown trout, is that they take on many different forms. They can be little floaties in the river, or some other unidentifiable creatures traversing the wilderness. While on our 12 mile hike to the second camp ground, we found a creek with a dead brown trout floating in it. As it was obviously a sign from the brown trout gods, we decided to unstrap our doo doo pistols and turn the creek into a swimming hole. As it turned out, the brown trout was more than a sign. It had mystical powers that turned all who immersed themselves in the water into Bruce Banner. Yes, the deeper one dove under water, the more they looked like the Incredible Hulk. Dan's polar bear bulk, mixed with the green murkiness of the water and Old's brilliant sound effects, aided in the transformation, but the powers of the brown trout still were undeniable.

When we went to bed that night, Old and I began to hallucinate. As the sun went down, and the trees made silhouettes against the darkening sky in the background, we started seeing things in the trees. It had nothing to do with our muscle-fatigued delirium or the Vodka Ron poured us (I'm serious, he packed enough stuff for three weeks) It was obvious the brown trout's powers were still showing it's powers. Through the trees, and beyond the campground, we were positive we saw a Chinese village along the Yang Tze river. It was amazing.

On our next day, we completely abandoned any hopes of a normal backpacking trip. Giraffes, merganzer pups, freeways, and mystical brown trouts were, yes, out of the ordinary. So, too, were the space doo doo pistols, enk-yelling Pikas, and grizzly raccoons. But, as we dined in a restaurant twice and took a ride in a BMW, day three made our wild-backcountry-excursion less than wild and backcountry. Not only did we eat lunch and dinner at restaurant, but we drank booze, smoked cloves, and watched Old's dad unintentionally prank call the 411 operator multiple times.

Our trip was definitely an adventure. We each carried 40 pounds on our backs and hiked 8 to 12 miles a day, so it technically was a backpacking trip. But the small corner store that Ron carried on his back, as well as the giraffe hunts, omnipresence of the brown trout, fine-dining, and raccoon attacks, made this trip more than just a backcountry excursion. It was part backpacking, part car camping, and part imaginative safari. While our blistered feet can attest to the fact that we went backpacking, the reality is we walked around the hills by the freeway a little, slept outside, and let our minds wander a bit.

1 comment:

Oldie said...

You forgot to include Mike Biver.
Bye Biv,
Biver Out.
The one and only BIV.