Sunday, December 12, 2004

Hide the Food and Zip Up the Door!


Saturday morning was the big day. For a month Craig and I had been planning a campout in the Wichita Mountains. We would be staying in a campground called Camp Doris, which sits low in a valley between two mountains, near a small lake. I spent three days planning and packing to make sure I had everything I needed. We had a group of four going... myself, Craig, his girlfriend Becci and Brotha James. We would be making the three hour drive North to South Central Oklahoma for this short adventure.

Although we were supposed to meet up at 9am sharp, Craig and Becci were almost an hour late getting to the meeting point. I knew this would make things tight since it gets dark so early and we had so much to do still. But once they got there, we were on our way. Two hours later, we were in Wichita Falls Texas to pick up Brotha James. He rode in my car and we communicated with walkie-talkies between cars.

We arrived in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge around 1:30pm. We stopped at Mt. Scott for a quick tour and some photo Op's, then it was off to Camp Doris to claim a camping spot. Four miles down the road we rolled into the front gate and found a camp site towards the back of the campgrounds near a small lake. It was perfect; no one around us, a lake infront of our tents and clear skies overhead. We quickly had our tents set up and began collecting firewood for our firepit. This was our first obstacle. The campground had almost been picked clean of anything worth burning. So Craig and I jumped into his Jeep and took a drive around to see what we could find. We quickly hit the gold mine! We came across an empty campsite where someone had left a pile of neatly stacked and cute logs. Large ones too! We loaded up all we could in his Jeep and headed back. Around 5:30pm we started the fire and began cooking our food. Diner was rather simple, we cooked hotdogs and had chips and juice on the side. Becci brought pears and they were juicy and delicious! After dinner, Brotha James broke out graham crackers, marshmellows and chocolate bars to make Smores with. That was a great dessert!

The rest of the night we spent gathering some more firewood and hanging out at the fire telling stories and talking. Occationally we would hear people yelling and talking. This was coming from another campsite about 200 yards from ours. A group of boyscouts had set camp and were getting rowdy as it got dark. A bit later we start to hear loud "ku-plunks" out in the water. We figure its the kids throwing large, bowling ball sized rocks into the lake. So we thought.

Around 10pm the fire was dying down and we all decided to call it a night and head to our tents. This is where the night began to get interesting. First off, on a funny note, I had seen the forecasts and seen that the temperature was going to drop into the upper 30's later that night. I came prepaired with warm clothes, thick sleeping bag and an extra blanket. My tent mate, Brotha James, did not. James being a person who stands 6'5", brought a sleeping bag made for a child. Once in it, it barely came up past his shoulders! HAHA! He also forgot to bring his pillow and didn't bring any other warm clothes. I instructed him on how to make a pillow by stuffing a shirt with extra clothes and tieing it off at both ends. This seemed to be working for him as he began to dose off. I sat up with the lantern on, reading a magazine until I got sleepy. About 20 minutes later I turned off the light and layed my head down to drift off. I could feel the cold air moving in off the lake and the temps begining to drop. I got in my sleeping bag and pulled the blanket over the top of it to help insulate me. I turned off the light and lay quietly listening to the wind in the trees. Thats when I hears a high pitched chattering noise. I quickly recognized this as the sound racoons make when talking to eachother. But its not a loud sound, which means they are close to our camp site! I wasnt worried because we had made a special effort to hide all trash and food from dinner. The chattering noise stops and I began to hear leaves crunching, clearly something walking thru them from the left of our campsite. So I knew the racoons were getting braver now that the fire was gone and we were out of site. Suddenly I hear those loud "ka-plunks" again in the lake. But this time its over at the shore where our camp borders! I knew this wasnt kids playing this time. And it wasnt a fish jumping, this was something heavy hitting the water hard. A few minutes later, our group is awoken by a large pack of yelping coyotes chasing something just across the lake cove we are at. It was loud and clear and they were close! I really liked that because it was exciting to hear them do their nightly routines with us out there. These noises continues all night. I woke up a couple times to the sound of brush crunching and limbs snapping just outside our tent. But surprisingly, I wasnt a bit worried. Its just the little night animals doing their thing. My only concern was a larger animal like a deer or buffalo getting spooked and accidentally running into our tents. But odds are thin that would actually happen.

By midnight it was really feeling cold. I was so glad I had brought the clothes I did. I was now sunk down into my sleeping bag, with the blanket pulled up over my head and tucked into my pillow on top. I had created a warm cocoon. Brotha James on the other hand wasnt fairing so well. I kept hearing him say things like, "I cant feel my toes!", or "Im so cold, my nose is frozen!" I would just respond with, "Man, Im sweating over here." LOL He wasnt amused. As morning came, Craig and Becci had an intersting event happen. They are just laying there when they hear a rather larger animal sniffing around the edge of their tent. Becci was a little un-nerved, but stayed cool. Most likely it was a couple curious coyotes.

Everyone got up and we had a light breakfast, then packed up the camp. After all our stuff was up, we went for a hike climbing a nearby mountain. There was no actual trail up the mountain, so we just made our own. The mountain was mostly granite rock also. The only problem was the wind was blowing at gusts of 40mph! This was the strongest wind id ever been in up there. As we got higher on the mountain, the wind became so strong merely standing up straight was almost impossible. When we got to the last ledge before the top of the mountain, the wind was so strong that Becci and James decided to find a crevase to take shelter in while Craig and I climbed the last leg to the summit. I stepped up on to the highest rock and was almost blown off my feet. I wish I knew the exact speed of the wind because Id guess it was close to 60mph.

After the hike, we came back, got cleaned up and went to the famous Meers restaraunt for burgars and onion rings. Meers has been open since 1901 and is built into the side of a hill. It defines "rustic". After lunch we headed back down to Wichita Falls to drop off James and make our way back home. Three hours later I was back home and getting cleaned up. It was an exciting, fun and exhausting trip. I cant wait till the next one! I took lots of pictures and hope to have them up on thorpeland.com soon! Hopefully next time Emily can go. She had to work that day which kept her from going. :( So now that gives me a reason to plan another trip. hehe
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