A bit of camping in Cottonwood

Months ago, Kathryn and I made reservations for tent camping this weekend at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, where we are right now. We’ve been camping here in all four seasons, so the prospect of low temperatures slightly below freezing didn’t daunt us.

Until this weekend, we hadn’t been camping for quite some time. We usually put the gear away in good shape for the next trip, but you just never know until you set it up. The smart thing would have been to inspect it all sometime in the last few weeks, but we decided just to go with it. So far nothing has let us down. In fact, the tent we bought for $80 countless years ago — we told ourselves it was a stopgap until we found something we liked better — has held up surprisingly well.

This tent owes us exactly nothing.

After arriving here last night and spending about an hour setting up our site, we decided to venture into town for dinner. Our bellies full, we returned to settle in with a bottle of cheap wine in front of the campfire — actually a propane fire, but who cares? — and then turned in not long after dark.

A few hours later, I heard some rustling outside the tent. It’s pretty normal to hear strange sounds when camping, but these were stranger than usual. I decided one of the stays from the tent fly had come loose and was hitting the pole in the light breeze. It could wait until morning, so I tried to go back to sleep.

The noise started getting louder, and eventually I became convinced that my first conclusion was wrong. This time I opened the tent screen to have a look at the situation.

At that time I discovered the rain fly we’d set up over the picnic table had collapsed on one side. Apparently I’d put one of its stakes in ground that was too soft and it worked itself loose in the breeze. Nothing was damaged, and since it was held down with five other stakes, it wasn’t going anywhere. However, I knew that the noise was going to drive me crazy if I didn’t fix it, so I pulled my clothes on and wrestled with the thing in the dark.

Rain fly when it hasn’t collapsed.

Eventually Kathryn came out of the tent, and I thought I was going to get some help. Instead, she turned the other direction and wandered off somewhere to pee. With the wind blowing and no help, I seriously considered saying “fuck it,” taking the fly down, and throwing it in the trunk of the car until morning. But as soon as I almost had everything under control, she offered to help. It did shorten the work somewhat, but I wished she’d helped me first and peed later.

When we got up this morning just after first light, our tent was covered in light frost. We decided we weren’t even going to try making coffee. Instead, we pulled on our clothes, hopped in the car — after scraping the frost off of it too — and drove to a nearby diner for an enormous breakfast.

Chicken fried steak, scrambled eggs, and home fries — the real breakfast of champions.

After breakfast, we did some walking, some shopping, and some day drinking, and we have had an otherwise enjoyable time. I’m hoping tonight will be somewhat less eventful.