Sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way -- and sometimes the hard way is the most painful way. I think that we were much wiser after this weekend, having learned Lesson #2: "Sunscreen is a good thing."
We had gone up to the Mogollon Rim to scatter the ashes of John's grandfather, who had passed away in March. John and I arrived Friday night after work and met his parents off of FR 218. They had already selected a secluded camping site for us across the road - the perfect place to use our new tent and camping equipment for the first time. After we set up camp, we joined his parents in the motor home and ate pizza with them. They told us that the others would be arriving in the morning; John explained to me that I would be meeting more members of his family that weekend. They, too, would be coming to the Rim for the ash scattering.
That evening, John and I learned about the importance of motor oil when camping. Since it had rained most of the day on the Mogollon Rim, all of the firewood was wet and would not burn, so we had a difficult time getting our campfire started. Bill showed us that a little 10W30 motor oil would make the wood hot enough to burn despite the moisture. Eventually, we had a good campfire going.
The next day, John and I awoke to the sound of elk and cows. After we got dressed, John suggested that we take a walk through the forest to look for wildlife (more specifically, the elk). All that we found were cows - lots and lots of cows. Some of them were even nice enough to pose for us while we took their pictures, but I don't think they found our McDonald's jokes funny.
Once we had eaten breakfast, we walked across the road to his parents' campsite, where we discovered that John's aunts Karen and Joanie had arrived. I was introduced to them - and Uncle Stan, in his charming way, asked me, "So where ya from, doll?" Doll? Though I was not offended, John apologized profusely for that remark.
By ten o'clock, we were ready to go canoeing (which was our other purpose for going camping that weekend). John had chosen Blue Ridge Reservoir - a horseshoe shaped lake that looked like a river - for our canoeing trip. From the boat ramp, it was four miles to the end of the lake (a total of eight miles round trip). After unloading the canoe, John instructed me to sit at the front and that I would be in charge of steering; he then gave me a crash course on paddling the boat. Then we shoved off; and a few yards from shore (and a mile from the parking lot), John asked me, "Are you wearing sunscreen?"
Shit! I had left the sunscreen in the car.
Instead of turning back, we continued onwards, stopping first at the dam and then at a hill of boulders. John climbed out of the canoe and up the hill, where he took pictures of me. (None of the pictures turned out, though, because the back of the camera came open!)
A bit later, as the day got hotter and hotter, John removed his shirt, stating that he wanted to get some color. By that time, I noticed that my legs were getting very hot, but since they didn't seem to be red, I didn't pay anymore attention to them.
We paddled on. Towards noon, we reached the end of the lake; the water there became too shallow for our canoe, so we had no choice but to turn around and start back towards the boat ramp. By that time, we were also getting hungry; I suggested that we find a picnic spot where we could take a refreshing swim. John also wanted to find a place to capsize the canoe because no boating trip would be complete without water in the bottom of the boat.
We found a small cove surrounded by flat boulders along the shoreline; the water there was deep enough - and clean enough - for us to swim. After the sandwiches were served, John began pulling our things out of the canoe, saying that it was time to go swimming. Huh? "Get in the boat," he said. Reluctantly, I did so. I knew that he was planning to capsize the canoe, but with my back to him, I was caught off guard when he actually did it. As I surfaced, I heard him laughing hysterically at me: he had gotten me good, so he was proud of himself.
We swam in the lake for a while; John turned over the canoe so that we could swim underneath it and kiss in the air pocket. Then, he filled the canoe with water and sat in it. We were having a wonderful time...until we realized that it was monsoon season.
Grey clouds were beginning to roll in, and we could hear thunder in the distance. Quickly, we loaded our supplies back into the canoe and began to paddle furiously back to the boat ramp, which was four miles away. It had taken us two hours to paddle the first four miles; so we were certain that it would take another two hours to return...and by that time, the storm would have already hit us. It was going to get ugly really fast.
The clouds drew closer and closer to the lake; the thunder grew louder and louder, and we could see lightning off in the distance. "Keep paddling," John ordered. "We don't want to be on the water when that storm hits." Despite the fatigue in my arms and the sunburn on my legs, I kept paddling...
...And we made it back to the boat ramp in just one hour. Miraculously, as we loaded the canoe onto the car, the storm blew away. Unbelievable!
By the time we returned to camp, we began to realize that we were both sunburned - badly sunburned. John had gotten the worst of it because he had taken off his T-shirt; his back was bright red. Exhausted and in a tremendous amount of pain, we sat down in the shade and began drinking.
At sunset, the funeral procession began. John and I jumped into the bed of Danny's truck; we had with us a bottle of Malort, which had been his grandfather's favorite drink. John used to drink it with him many years ago; and now, he would have one last round with him before scattering the ashes. However, before we had even reached the site, John was drunk (or at least pleasantly buzzed), and he decided to moon the "funeral profession." He then passed the bottle around to the rest of us; it was perhaps the nastiest stuff I had ever tasted. It was worse than turpentine!
The ashes were scattered at Dickinson Flat, near Milk Ranch Point, in a very solemn ceremony. As it ended, John dumped the rest of the Malort on the site (and everyone prayed that it wouldn't kill the trees).
After the sun set that evening, it became very cold. I huddled, shivering, next to the campfire, wishing that I had remembered the sunscreen. Not even South Park could cheer me up enough to forget the pain of my sunburn. John, however, had drunk so much that he felt no pain, but he was going to pass out at any moment. We turned in early that evening, telling each other, "Ouch! Don't touch me!" as we crawled into our sleeping bags.
We had been planning to take a hike the next morning, but we were in so much pain that every movement hurt. John and I decided to drive into Clint's Well to pick up some burn cream in hopes that it we could find some sort of temporary relief from the pain. Fortunately, the Unical station there sold Aloe Vera Gel, a green ointment that was rumored to be the best stuff on the market for sunburns. It felt wonderful to rub that cool gel into my fried skin; I no longer had to pray for death. We kept the Aloe Vera Gel in the ice chest to keep it cold, and periodically during the day, we rubbed it on each other to relieve the pain.
We left the Mogollon Rim early that day. Cranky and miserable, we drove back to Phoenix. After dropping off the canoe at the Verley's house, John and I went home to take care of our injuries and to plan for our next adventure...
Return to Naked in the Woods.
|This site maintained by John and Heather Verley, © 2001-2010.|