outdoors

Snow Camping

After multiple fits and starts, years after the initial idea crept into my brain with the perseverance of syphillis, I finally headed up into the mountains and camp in the great white, frigid tundra of the Sierra Nevada, facing harrowing white-out conditions, a la Jack London lightsabering open his Tauntaun, relying on only my MacGyver wits and those innate survival skills harkening back to caveman days.

Okay, a couple slight misrepresentations there. Jack London had no lightsaber. Other than that, it’s all legit.

Plus the fact that I was in Yosemite Valley, where there are park rangers every other square foot. Not to mention grocery stores. And bars, in case I forgot to pack enough beer, the ultimate survival sin.

Oh, and the weekend in question, the temperature was only a few degrees cooler than down in the flatlands.

This was my second planned glorious freezefest marred by temperate conditions. Two years ago, my outdoor curling bonspiel, held at one of the coldest spots in the lower 48 states, resulted in a high in the mid thirties and a low in the twenties. Don’t get me wrong, that’s cold and all, but that same competition this year had highs in the single digits.

Yosemite camping, in comparison, was closer to what I assumed it would be. Yeah, that high temperature wasn’t substantially lower than back home, but the high temperature doesn’t tell the whole story. In the valley, you probably get three to four hours a day near the high. In Yosemite, if you walk into a shadow, you’re losing ten degrees. The only time I felt truly miserable was 2:00 pm, returning to campsite after hiking to the Vernal Falls bridge, only to find said campsite completely shaded, and realizing that sweat cools very quickly. The sun teased us way up on the mountains, but it was gone for good from down below. Even though the temperature dropped another twenty degrees by nighttime, we were acclimated by then.

Actually, the most miserable I felt was when 28,000 steps at elevation combined with carnitas and beer. The bus that takes you into Yosemite is called YART, for Yosemite Area Rapid Transit. Yart is also what I did inside my tent.

Speaking of which, the shuttle busses are back! After two years of destroying the environment in order to stop the sniffles, they finally decided to let our feet and exhaust pipes rest. The only weird thing about the busses was the time and date posted inside were wrong. We rode around Saturday afternoon, but the busses through it was Sunday morning. We thought maybe if we rode the busses long enough, we could find out who won the Super Boal and make a bet on it. Alas, at 5:00 pm Saturday, it was still only reading 8:00 am Sunday, and I don’t think the shuttles ran at midnight when we could listen to the game. Damn you, time travel paradoxes!

Sorry, that had nothing to do with snow camping, just a Yosemite/Covid aside. 

As for the temperature thing, it did get pretty chilly overnight. Somewhere in the mid-twenties, I’d surmise, although one of the wives saw a report of 18. Nothing that a tent, sleeping bag, and about five layers of clothes. 

Oddly enough, my feet kept getting cold around 3:00 am. I’d think my feet would be the warmest, buried deep in my sleeping bag. But I suppose they’re also closest to the edge of the tent. Plus the whole distance-from-heart thing and only one layer of socks. On night two, I threw a hand warmer down there, but it had burned out by the time I needed it. I opened a second one, but I don’t know if I didn’t shake it right or if it was a dud or whatever, but it never seemed to warm up and I was too fucking tired to reassess. 

Yes, I’m talking about those little iron oxide packets. As I said, roughing it like our forebears. 

But dammit, there WAS snow on the ground, so I’m claiming victory over snow camping.

Honestly, I was a little worried. We had huge storms in December, but the last four weeks have been dry, and I wasn’t sure what impact a month of fifty-degree days might have on tobogganing conditions. I knew there’d still be snow up on the mountains, but the valley only sits around 4,000 feet elevation. Fortunately, there was plenty of snow to go around. Considering our campsite was in full shade from 2:00 pm on, I think the snow will stay there well past the equinox.

At least it wasn’t last year. We originally booked our snow camping for last January, but Yosemite canceled it due to the first, or maybe second, Covid surge. Back before we started naming variants, because they didn’t start naming variants until after got vaccinated and weren’t living in fear of plain ol’ vanilla Covid.

While I complained about Yosemite shutting down, because it’s not like we were going to be exchanging lots of saliva with strangers while outdoors in January, perhaps it was a blessing. Our first (and only) storms of the 2020-21 winter didn’t arrive until two weeks after our reservations. Without snow, it isn’t really snow camping. It’s just cold camping, which doesn’t sound nearly as fun.

Aside from the length of time it’s near the high, want to know the other difference between forty degrees at home and forty degrees camping? The latter doesn’t have central heating.

I figured forty was no big deal. I regularly walk to my classroom in shorts when it’s sub-40 in the morning, and half the times I’m wearing shorts because it’ll be 65 by the time I walk out. Except on the way to my classroom, I’m only outside for 500 paces or so. When it’s forty degrees at a campsite, you better be sitting your ass by the fire. Then your front. Then your ass again, like a goddamn rotisserie chicken.

I’m mostly exaggerating. Weatherwise, it was more or less what I was looking for. Cold and crisp, enough to require layers and bundling, but nothing bone-biting. Not sure I would’ve wanted to run around naked at midnight, but nothing a fire in the morning and evening, and a little walking around during the day, couldn’t accommodate. 

Although we did a hell of a lot more than “a little” walking around. In addition to those 28,000 steps, my Fitbit clocked me at 130 floors on Saturday. We did Mirror Lake AND Lower Yosemite Falls AND the Vernal Falls footbridge. I’ve become so used to camping out in the middle of nowhere where the biggest exertion comes from sitting by a lake and playing cornhole, that I forgot camping can include some rather aerobic exercises.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve done Vernal Falls twenty times in my life, I still fall for that sign at the beginning every damn time. “Vernal Falls Footbridge,” it reads, “0.8 miles.” How hard can a trail be if it’s less than a mile? 

Except for the fact that it’s 0.8 miles straight the fuck up a mountain. I tried to explain this to the two Yosemite noobs with me on this trip. We’d done Mirror Lake already and it was getting close to lunchtime. I really only wanted to see if Happy Isles was open. I didn’t need to prove anything.

But it’s less than a mile, they said. There ain’t no pain in the world we can’t withstand for one measly mile. Twenty minutes up, twenty minutes down, and we’ll be right and ready for lunch. 

Then I suddenly forgot a lifetime of experience. I’m older now than I used to be, I reasoned. My legs are longer. An hour car ride used to be straight torture, and now I do it on a daily basis. Based on that logic, the NFL would be filled with fifty-year-olds. 

Holy shit, Vernal Falls is a brutal fucking hike!

There’s one stretch, only fifty yards or so, that appears to cross the surface of the sun at something like a seventy percent grade. No, I don’t care if that can’t exist. This entire stretch stands only as a reminder, after hiking ninety percent of the way under a beautiful tree canopy, that nature is an asshole. On a summer hike, you rest beforehand, drink your body weight in water directly afterward, and then become a druid so you can fuck the nearest tree. 

I thought maybe it would be a pleasant respite in the middle of winter, but nope. Because when you’re hiking in forty-five degree shade, you’ve got layers. I contemplated stripping off my flannel and sweatshirt in order to cross the threshold in my skivvies, but that would’ve taken way too much effort.

When we returned to the campsite, now with no sunlight, my friends remarked it was a deceptive 4/5 of a mile. I felt like reminding them I tried to talk them out of it. But instead I only shivered while cold wind buffeted my sweaty undergarments.

The Mirror Lake trek was more pleasant. The only drawback to that slow, paved incline was some slippery-as-shit batches of ice. Not so bad on the way up as the way down. My curling skills came in handy. Walk like a penguin, low center of gravity. My friends didn’t do quite as well. Four tumbles between the two of them. 

Speaking of ice, I was surprised the actual lake was iced over. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me. Ice and snow don’t form the same way, and if it’s regularly dropping into the twenties and teens at night, it doesn’t matter if it’s been a month without a cloud in the sky. But still, Mirror Lake is pretty shallow. Not really a lake at all so much as a slight egress, a Thanksgiving belt unbuckling, of a fast-moving stream. In fact, the pool just beneath Mirror Lake, which I always considered more or less a part of Mirror Lake, didn’t have a speck of ice despite only a fifty foot elevation change. 

And yeah, I totally wanted to curl on that shit.

The Yosemite Falls hike was pretty much the same as it is in the middle of summer. Almost as crowded, too. For the most part, the park was serene and, from the perspective of a regular summer day, sparse, but the Lower Yosemite Falls bridge was still ass-to-elbow.

The only other place that felt crowded was, ironically enough, the campgrounds. Only one of the seven or eight valley campsites is open in the winter, and it’s only half open, all of us jammed into a hundred or so campsites. So even with decreased demand, we’re still right on top of each other, especially for guys used to camping somewhere remote enough for home run derby and throwing butter at trees. Maybe Yosemite knew what it was doing when it canceled my reservations last January. I thought there was no way we could spread Covid to strangers while outside in January. Turns out it’s about as private as a cultish orgy.

They didn’t, however, close Yosemite Falls last January. I assume that’s what caused every single surge and variant of the past twelve months.

Even the village store was a ghost town. I didn’t even know it was possible for the parking lot to only house a handful of cars. On a summer day, you’re idling for ten minutes until one of the two hundred cars leaves. In January, they don’t even bother plowing half the parking lot. 

Or maybe it was just that people bought their shit during the day, not wanting to drive over icy roads in the dark like a couple dumbass city slickers rolling into town twenty minutes before the store closes.

Which leads to the biggest issue with my snow camping adventure, the biggest switcheroo from my comfort zone of summer camping. 

Did you know that the days are shorter in February than in June? Who woulda guessed?

I knew there was no way in hell we’d make it there before the sun went down, but couldn’t fight that niggling hope at the base of my spine that I wouldn’t be blindly groping in the frozen dark like a freshman trying to unclasp Elsa’s bra. We discussed grabbing dinner on the way into the park, but didn’t want to lose time. So no stopping at the Pizza Factory or inviting brewery in Groveland. Because… well, I’m not sure why. It’s not like 8:00 would’ve been darker than 7:00. Once you hit nighttime, you’re setting up camp blind. The only difference is sloppiness caused by hunger pangs.

In the end, after fumbling around with some persnickety poles that seem to go together perfectly fine when I don’t have to worry about my fat ass blocking the lantern light, we finally boiled some water and had ramen for dinner that first night. It was almost PB & J sandwiches, but the other guy realized he threw some packs into his camping gear back in the Bush administration and that stuff can withstand a nuclear winter. Or a Yosemite winter. 

Not as good as the brewery or pizza in Groveland. Then again, had we stopped for dinner, the store might’ve been closed when we got there, meaning we could only burn the wood we brought with us. Ramen and fire beats pizza and no fire.

Who says I’m irresponsible while camping?

Next year, Polar Bear Challenge!

Camptathalon 2020

Seeing as I posted about our aborted attempt at snow camping, now seems a good time to finally post the journal from last year’s oft-canceled, nearly-aborted Camptathalon trip. After a number of false starts and offside penalties, four of the five regulars were able to escape the shitshow of 2020 long enough to make an abbreviated attempt at a bona fide Camptathalon. So sorry if it’s a little light this year. 

As per usual, we logged what occurred. Everything here is 100% accurate. 

Taken 90% out of context. 

Friday.

3:10 Stop at Snowshoe Brewery in Arnold, CA to fill growlers, might as well stay for a pint. They don’t even require food to purchase booze in this county. It’s the wild west!
3:15 “Is it too early to put my mouth on your beer cup?”
3:40 “Sucking Daniel Craig’s dick would be just like kissing Rachel Weisz”
4:20 First two arrivals at campsite.
4:35 Last two arrivals at campsite. That was quick.
4:37 Chris opens first beer. Rick follows.
4:46 Oops. Packed tent but not poles. Fucking 2020.
4:55 “Why is there a tea bag in my tent?”

5:11 “I’ve decided to make a Camptathalon T-shirt contest. Since none of you knew, I win this year.”

5:37 “How spicy do you like your chili?”
   “Like my women. Hot, brown, and full of meat.”
5:44 Sparky is all-time leader in Loser Libations, the shitty alcohol the first person out of poker is required to drink.

5:57 Official Opening Toast

5:59 First baseball card of Camptathalon 2020 – Chet Lemon

6:27 Hey, has anyone seen Rick?

6:35 Is it proper chili without beans?
   (Grabbing Crotch) “I got your proper beans right here and if you give me five minutes, I’ll make some sour cream for you.”
   “Dude, you need five minutes?”
6:46 Sparky recalls being invited to a loose girl’s house in high school, watching Kent Mercker’s no-hitter on her TV. “So she pitched a no-hitter, too?”
7:10 First party foul. Spilled beer while grabbing cookies.
7:21 First Event: Friday Night Poker
7:41 Loser Libation Preview: It hasn’t been iced.
7:51 “It’s from that movie called… What the fuck is that movie called? It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer making out some other chick.”
    “Oh, that’s Cruel Intentions!”
7:52 Wait, who the hell dealt this hand? Check, check, check.
7:56 Put your dick on the table. One red chip dick.

8:17 With the first all-in, Loser Libation is revealed as Franzia Sunset Blush

8:19 All-in won. Live to see another day.
8:23 Can we please put that on ice now?
8:25 “No. Fuck you guys. Tell the story. Tell the story right now.”
8:34 Chris out on a double full house.

8:38 [redacted]

8:42 “I have a 4.”
8:50 “Loser Lube-ation.”
8:53 Sparky keeps dropping cards. Tony invokes Jon Lovitz as Dukakis. “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy!”
8:58 Two growlers down.
9:00 “Are you taking this stick or do I need to wrap up these sticks?”
9:11 Loser Libation is finito.
9:17 Another card dropped through the table crack by the crack whore.
9:23 “As happy as I am that you can do math, I cordially invite you to suck my cock.”
9:33 “Gunslinger Rick puts out his second opponent of the night.”
    “I put out all the time.”
9:34 “It’s been quite a while since I’ve had a pok’er.”
9:43 “How is this guy still in it? He was up against it twice and I had to fucking drink the hole fucking Franzia all in one night.”
9:49 Sparky down for the count
9:58 Standings after one event: Rick 5, Tony 3, Sparky 1, Chris 0
10:01 I think we can leave the baseball cards out. I’m not worried about bears eating cards.
10:37 Savory in your mouth
10:57 Rick retires
11:11 Tony & Chris out.

Saturday

6:57 Upon further reflection, those last two beers, and the entire bottle of Makers Mark, might not have been entirely necessary last night.
6:59 “I evacuated the Loser Libation last night.”
7:24 “Where the hell did you find Franzia?”
    “You can find it behind the tree over there right now.”
7:57 Guess it’s time to go read the constitution

8:07 Butter removed from ice

8:23 Chipmunk jumps in the fire

9:10 Same stupid chipmunk jumps in the bocce ball box.

9:25 Trip to store unsuccessful in locating Miller Genuine Draft. Thank God.
9:27 First beer of the morning.
10:00 Cribbage.
10:42 “I’m ready for some cornholing.”
   “That’s all you, buddy.”
10:47 It’s probably too early to start drinking heavily
10:59 Rick cornholes Tony in Round 1 with a score of 21-2
11:02 “I need to get better. I’m going to ask my wife for a cornhole for Christmas.”
11:09 Another cornholing as Sparky beats Chris 21-8
11:40 Lunch: A couple of hot Hawaiians
12:10 Round two of cornhole
12:19 Chris wins third place.
12:22 “What’s a devil’s three-way?”
   “Do you need me to draw you a diagram?”
12:31 “You keep tickling the cornhole, but not going in.”
12:39 Sparky powers back from 15-3, wins 21-20.
  Cornhole results: Sparky 5, Rick 3, Chris 1, Tony 0
  After two events: Rick 8, Mark 6, Tony 3, Chris 1

12:51 Too close to call, Rick and Sparky must toss-off to make the final round against Chris.
12:53 Butter Toss results: Chris 5, Rick 3, Sparky 1, Tony 0
    After three events: Rick 11, Sparky 7, Chris 6, Tony 3
12:57 Homerun Derby
1:07 Round 1: Chris 8, Sparky 4, Rick 3* (7 outs left), Tony 2
1:13 Round 2: Chris 2 (8 outs left), Rick 2 (7 outs left), Sparky 1
1:18 Rick and Chris headed to a 5-out jack-off, tied 7-7 in finals.
1:24 Rick 2, Chris hits 3rd with four outs left, flips bat, runs around gimpy and pumping arms like Kirk Gibson
   After four events: Rick 14, Chris 11, Sparky 8, Tony 3
2:00 Chipmunk in bear locker. Bear’s going to be pissed.
3:16 “I’m going to take a leak. Then change clothes. And then I’m going to have a beer. Not that you all needed the play-by-play.”
3:40 Exhibition event. Welcome to… New Las Vegas “board” game.

5:43 Adventure Bocce results: Chris 5, Sparky 3, Tony 1, Rick 0
   With one event left: Chris 16, Rick 14, Sparky 11, Tony 4
6:01 Tri-tip sammiches
6:25 Rick putting cooler back in car. Quitters never prosper!
  “Fuck you. I’m out of beer in that cooler!”

6:31 “Like a 14-year-old groping around on prom night.”

6:47 Final event: Cards Against Humanity
7:17 Rick wins on “A romantic candlelit dinner would be incomplete without… calculating every mannerism so as not to suggest homosexuality.” If Chris comes in second, we’ll have a tie atop the standings.
7:26 Tony finishes second with “What helps Obama unwind? Out of this world bazongas.”

7:32 Final Camptathalon standings: Rick 19, Chris 16, Sparky 12, Tony 7

7:37 Draft: Action Movies
Order: Sparky, Chris, Rick, Tony
Rd. 1: The Rock, Terminator, Die Hard, Missing in Action
Rd. 2: Top Gun, Red Dawn, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Red
Rd. 3: The Fast & the Furious, First Blood, Aliens, Gone in 60 Seconds
Rd. 4: Bourne Identity, Tango & Cash, 300, The Goonies
(Ed. Note: Drafts are snake-style, so Tony took Missing in Action with pick 4, then Red with pick 5)

8:09 Draft: Holidays
Chris, Rick, Tony, Sparky
Rd. 1: Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Independence Day
Rd. 2: Father’s Day, New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day
Rd. 3: Constitution Day, Veteran’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day
Rd. 4: Easter, Super Bowl Sunday, Opening Day, MLK Day
Rd. 5: Fishmas, Cesar Chavez Day, Canada Day, 21st Amendment Day

8:31 “Now that the sun is down, I can pee openly.”

8:35 Draft: Candy
Rick, Tony, Sparky, Chris
Rd. 1: Pay Day, Peanut M&Ms, Twix, Whatchamacallit
Rd. 2 Snickers, Reese’s Pieces, Peese’s PB Cup, Hershey w/ Almond
Rd. 3: Mr. Goodbar, Almond Joy, Gummy Bears, Kit Kat
Rd. 4: Butterfinger, 100 Grand, Caramels, Nestle Crunch
Rd. 5: Twizzler, Goobers, Starburst, Swedish Fish
Rd. 6: Lifesavers, Bueno Bar, Orange Slices, Black Licorice
Honorable mentions: Junior Mints, Heath/Skor, Hershey’s Kisses w/ almonds

8:47 Ladies across the way already went to sleep. Fuck them. Quiet hours aren’t until 10:00
8:58 “Is it 9:00 yet?”
  “You must stay up until 10:00. First person who falls asleep, we’re dipping your hand in warm water and shaving your eyebrows.”
  “Without warm water or a razor?”
9:32 “I can blow well.”
9:44 “On that note…”
“It’s not 10:00 yet, bitch.”
10:01 “And on that note…”

Sunday
6:34 Shushed by karens next door for packing up too loud.
6:37 Every time that flag’s refurled…
6:52 That smoke in the sky is new. And ash on the cars. Looks like we barely beat the fire this year.
7:43 Westbound and down.

Camptathalon 2019

Veering away from the ‘Rona Madness to finally get around to posting the Camptathalon results from last year.

Unlike 2018, no natural disasters ruined our festivities. Unless you count “snow in May” as a natural disaster, because that did put a little hitch in our giddyup this time around. Our campsite was set to open on the Friday of our camping weekend, three to four weeks later than usual. We had reservations for that night. But a couple of us headed up a night early, figuring if the snow wasn’t going to be a problem Friday, how bad could Thursday be? Turns out the campsite needed the official blessing of the Forest Service to be opened. And we all know that nothing expedites a process like a federal bureaucracy.

But hey, I got to see a tree fall in a forest. It makes sound.

For those of you reading your first Camptathalon Blog, we keep a running log of things said and did. Most are intentionally out of context.

What is Camptathalon? Find out here.

Enjoy.

Thursday.
1:00 Campsite closed. Fuck you.
20190614_094949.jpg
1:15 Find some random remote spot. Free. That’s $24 the Forest Service will never see.
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2:49 First sighting of other human beings since we arrived at spot – PG & E Truck
3:20 Water’s fucking cold. Add Polar Bear Competition to Camptathalon? Sparky lasted 37 seconds.
5:30 Relocate to a second site because it has a picnic table and a shitter.
5:50 We fixed your fire pit for you, Forest Service. Is that worth $24?
20190613_181853.jpg6:20 Dinner: Burger & Chips
7:45 “Probably shouldn’t pee in front of that camera.”
“That’s not a camera.”
“What is it, then?”
“I don’t know.”
“We should totally zipline that motherfucker.”
20190613_194628.jpg

Friday
6:45 “I brought the coffee grinder because last year you brought good beans and we couldn’t grind them.”
“Oh, I brought ground coffee, because last year I brought good beans and we couldn’t grind them.”
7:40 Shitter’s closed. But the picnic table is nice.
7:50 “I just did something I haven’t done in twenty years.”
“Did you just dig a hole?”
“Nope. I didn’t have a shovel.”
8:40 Pack up camp again. Moving to third site in last twenty hours
9:00 Campsite’s still closed. But the “Road Closed” sign’s moved to the side. Hope?
9:12 Ranger: “It’s still going to be a few hours. I need to look at each campsite. Hopefully I’m done by noon. Please move your cars so I don’t have to come out and explain this to others.
9:22 Filling up ice chests with snow. Saving money left and right.
9:50 Setting up chairs across the street from campsite, like Black Friday shoppers.
9:59 Camp host drives by. “You guys waiting to get in?”
“What gave you that idea?”
10:05 “Hey, Mr. Forest Guy, I’ll give you a Dirty Wookie if you open this place.”
“Which kind of Dirty Wookie?”
(Transcriber’s Note: Dirty Wookie is the name of a beer. On Urban Dictionary, it has a rather different definition. I’ll politely not provide a link.)
10:15 Host and Forest Guy are talking loudly just to fuck with those assholes sitting across the street.
10:22 Host and Forest Guy leave. Sign’s still up.
10:40 Tree chopper arrives.
10:42 “It’s still going to be a while. You guys want to go fish or swim or something?”
“We got nowhere to be, and this is what we’d be doing if we were in our campsite. Except with beer instead of soda.”
10:49 Rick arrives. Now there’s three camp chairs sitting patiently across the street.
10:58 “I won’t reveal the Loser Libation yet, but it is much worse than Bud Ice.”
11:08 Rick has to move his car because it’s in the fall zone. Then they ask him to just block the road.
20190614_110910.jpg11:09 We’re helping. That’s worth more than a Dirty Wookie.
11:12 “You can stop blocking the road now.”
“No way. Now I’ve had the taste of power.”
11:15 Any way we can turn tree chopping into a Camptathalon event?
11:16 Camp Host takes “Road Closed” sign out to road, singing “Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs. Do you know what that means? Get the FUCK out of my road!”
(Transcriber’s Note: Camp Host is a late-60’s female hippie, looks like a grandma)
11:21 Did I hear that right? “We’re Open?”
11:31 I must not have heard that right.
11:41 Rick busts out the Fireball on the side of the road.
11:50 Fuck this. Let’s go have lunch at the resort.
12:42 “I’ve heard in religious places like Utah, it’s not good to be a ‘stone’s throw’ from anything.”
12:51 Campsite is OPEN! The watched pot thing came true.
1:24 First beer of the weekend cracked open. Not counting the ten or so last night.
1:52 Cocks flag is up. Wisconsin Lunchbox is hung.
20190614_135346.jpg
2:01 Rick christened the campsite. With urine.
2:45 It’s a quarter to three and I’m drinking whiskey.
3:13 “I’ll warm up your chili for you.”
3:42 Eternal point-distribution debate. 4, 3, 2, 0? 4, 2, 1, 0? 5, 3, 2, 0? Rick says “it’s easy,” wants 2nd and 3rd place to get 3.5 and 2.5. Fuck half points.
3:47 First Score 1989 Baseball Card Pack opened by Sparky. Best Player: Bobby Thigpen, Relief Pitcher, Chicago White Sox
3:48 People move in next door. Hope they’re cool. Confidence is high.
3:52 C-17 Starlifter buzzes the camp.
4:01 Reading 1940 Baseball review. Hank Greenberg. “I believe he was a Jew.”
5:29 Chris arrives.
5:41 “I’m going to pitch a tent. Then maybe I’ll put up where I’m sleeping tonight.”
5:50 The Pube Mixe and the cheese Balls. Still undefeated after three years.
20190614_175048.jpg
6:09 Concerned that Chris is the favorite for the poker tournament because he hasn’t been drinking since 2:00.
6:10 Official Opening Toast

6:17 “That’s the best Dirty Wookie I’ve ever had.”
6:21 “I would give Bea Arthur a Dirty Wookie.”
6:26 Chili dinner is served. With beans this time, so it’s proper chili.
7:07 Preparations for poker.
7:15 Chris casts deciding vote to not to reward winner. First place will receive 4 points, second place: 3, third place: 2, loser: 0.
7:20 Loser Libation is…. 32 oz. Coors Banquet Beer.
7:21 Debate over which is worse Coors vs. Bud Ice.
7:22 Toast of Fireball to commemorate fire winning Camptathalon 2018.
7:42 Neighbors left. Couldn’t handle the heat. Or the stink. Buh Bye.
7:43 Blinds raise. An intermission reading from Rimmer.
(Transcriber’s Note: We bought a signed copy of a smut book by Christine Rimmer many years ago for 50 cents. It has no rimmers.)
7:55 The Cheese Balls and Pube Mixe have been open for two hours. Do your fucking job!
8:30 Rick: “I have nothing to live for.” Wins next hand.
8:43 Sparky “wins” the Loser Libation.
9:05 How can I not be betting after the flop? I’m dealing!
9:09 Things have devolved.
9:20 Rick too tossed to play better.
9:30 Rick escorted to bed, still in poker game.
9:31 Sparky: “At least he didn’t do the Loser Libation.”
9:35 First Camptathalon disqualification ever. Does DQ drop to fourth place or still get third place?
9:47 WORST. POKER GAME. EVER.
9:50 Have we ever even raised the blinds?
10:46 Sparky didn’t finish Loser Libation. Party Foul! But he did play Rick’s hands after DQ. Party win?
11:07 Tony bets big and loses.
11:16 Standings after one event: Chris 4, Tony 3, Rick 2, Sparky 0
1:31 Chris and Tony still awake. Sparky stumbles out of his hammock to take a piss. Can’t get back in.
1:34 “You okay, Sparky?” “Yeah, I’m fine.”
1:35 Sparky goes to sleep in back of truck.
1:41 Nighty Night.

Saturday
6:15 Tony: First vomit of the weekend? No. Sparky did last night.
6:16 Black vomit. That’s a new one.
6:30 Sparky jumps in the lake.
7:46 Rick attempts to read what happened last night. WTF is all this??
8:28 Hangover competition: Tony, Chris, Rick, Sparky.
8:40 Chris reveals he’s never seen any Friday the 13th or Halloween movies. His Camptathalon Pass is now provisional.
8:42 Not even 9:00 AM and we’re already talking about jizz.
9:08 Oregon Trail
9:33 Our Oregon Trail names are: Brigham, Ezekiel, Hiram, and Doug.
9:34 First beer of the day.
9:55 Chris dies on 49th card. Outskirts of Willamette and some douchebag hipster probably could’ve helped him but his oxen weren’t organic enough.
10:10 Fuck you.
10:45 Cribbage!
11:00 Travel to the Big Fucking Rock.
12:27 Back from BFR. Growler open.
12:30 “I played with your slingshot while you were gone.”

12:35 Preparation for the Jonny Goudreau Memorial Butter Toss. We forgot a target, so it’ll be Little Debbie’s face on the Nutty Buddy box.
12:45 Sparky butters directly onto Little Debbie’s face.

12:46 Standings after second event: Tony with 6 points, everyone else in a 3-way at 4 points.
12:52 We forgot the golf clubs and bocce balls, too, so this might be a very abbreviated Camptathalon.
12:55 Event three: Home Run Derby.
20190615_130456.jpg1:12 Round One: Tony 3, Chris 2, Sparky 6, Rick 2. Rick and Chris headed to a jack-off.
1:17 First jack-off tied 2-2. They have to jack-off again, just minutes after the first.
1:21 Rick wins 3-2 to advance to second round.
1:29 Second round: Rick 0, Tony 0, Sparky 1 (retired after second out). Rick was tired after two consecutive jack-offs. Not sure Tony’s excuse.
1:31 Sparky explaining the rules of a jack-off while his dick’s in his hand. (Peeing).
1:35 Tony wins jack-off 4-1.
1:41 Sparky wins H.R. Derby 3-2 (with four outs left)
1:42 After three events: Tony 9, Sparky 8, Rick 6, Chris 4
2:04 “Can I mustard you?”
2:22 Draft 80s & 90s hotties:
Draft Order: Rick, Sparky, Tony, Chris
1st rd.  Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Anniston, Bo Derek, Denise Richards
2nd rd.  Rose McGowan, Jessica Biel, Alicia Silverston, Kathy Ireland
3rd rd.  Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Heather Graham, Catherine Zeta Jones
4th rd.  Joan Jett, Christina Applegate, Mia Sara, Selma Hayek
5th rd. Debbie Gibson, Lucy Diekens, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mila Kunis
2:34 “Is Bea Arthur taken yet?”
“It’s the 1980s, not the 1880s.”
2:41 Potential draft topics: Overrated bands, Greatest Sports Seasons (team), cocktails, Fast Food/Fast Casual, Comedies
2:55 Attempting to add Coop to Camptathalon as first-ever team competition. Winners get 4 pts, losers 2 pts.
3:22 Rick and Chris win, tightening standings. Going into final event: Tony 11, Sparky 10, Rick 10, Chris 8
3:38 Comedies Draft
Draft Order: Chris, Tony, Mark, Rick
1st Rd.  Idiocracy, Airplane!, Real Genius, Animal House
2nd Rd.  Office Space, There’s Something About Mary, Police Academy, Caddyshack
3rd Rd.  Mony Python & Holy Grail, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Young Frankenstein
4th Rd.   UHF, Fletch, Major League, Blazing Saddles
5th Rd.  Team America, PCU, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Beverly Hills Cop
3:55 Discussion of honorable mentions: all Vacation movies, American Pie, South Park Movie, Blues Brothers, Waiting
4:07 Final Event: Cards Against Humanity
4:08 But first, another reading from Rimmer
4:52 Chris wins event with “The shambling corpse of Larry King.”
4:53 Chris complains that he won three events, won’t win Camptathalon. Is reminded that he voted to not give an extra point to event winner.
5:03 Tony takes second place in Cards Against Humanity with “Not Wearing Pants.” Wins Camptathalon despite never winning an event.
5:04 Final Standings: Tony 14, Chris 12, Sparky 11, Rick 11
20190615_170844.jpg
5:56 Tri-tip dinner
9:00 Rick is the unofficial Fartathalon winner.
9:30 Made it past sunset. Calling it an early night.

Sunday
6:21 The flag comes down.
6:27 The Cheese Balls used to mock us when they emerged victorious. Now they just pity us.
20190616_063613.jpg7:27 Leave campsite behind.
8:00 Greasy spoon diner has WiFi!
Fin

***No Wookies were dirtied in the course of this Camptathalon***

 

 

Camptathalon 2015

Last week, I described what Camptathalon is. This year, instead of trying to summarize (and remember) everything that happened after the fact, I decided to bring along a notebook and write down things as they happened. What follows is a transcript. I shall not provide any context. Although I will say that there was no pulled pork. Not sure what the 8:17 comment was in reference to, but we felt it was important enough to write down.

Friday:

2:00 (via walkie talkie between cars): “I forgot the cigars, let’s get some when we get ice.”

2:22 Hell no, we are NOT getting Swisher Sweets.

3:15 (via walkie talkie) “This 5-Hour Energy tastes like Chapstick on an Asshole.”

4:00ish – First campsite full. On to backup site.

4:30ish – Second campsite full. On to super-secret secluded campsite.

5:15 (via walkie talkie): “A virgin would lose her damned hymen on this road.”

5:30ish – Finally arrive at campsite.

5:58 – First missing beer.

6:01 – Beer found in the cab of the truck.

6:25 – Opening ceremony. Toast of Innis & Gunn, unveiling of Camptathalon trophy.

6:56 – Rick asks to borrow Tony’s finger.

7:05 – Breathalyzer instructions: In 30 seconds, put it into your mouth and blow.

7:07 – “You don’t have to blow so hard.”

7:34 – “Just blew a .29. Either the breathalyzer is wrong or I’m clinically dead.”

8:15 – Poker cards flying through the air.

8:17 – “There can never be enough pulled pork.”

9:04 – Premature Mickey’s action. Rick opened the bottle after all in but before the hand was over, still in the game.

9:16 – Rick must now drink the Mickey’s.

9:43 – Rick has ZERO fucks to give.

9:47 – Rick predicted his Blood Alcohol Content correctly. Is still drinking the Mickey’s.

9:51 – An Ace/King is called an Anna Kournikova – it looks really good, but never wins.

9:53 Fartathalon begins with Chris farting in Tony’s face.

9:54 – Stale Oreos are still pretty good.

9:59 – “Cocknose!”

10:00 – Three Rules of Engagement: 1. If she smokes, she fucks. 2. If she’s not up to your standards, lower your standards. 3. No girl is ugly with your balls on her chin.”

10:04 – Should Rule 1 be changed to “If she has a tattoo, she fucks?”

10:11 – Sparky places third in poker.

10:13 – Tony is winning the Fartathalon by leaps and bounds.

10:20 – “The beginning of the Mickey’s was much better than the end of it.”

10:54 – The chip bag is overinflated because of altitude.

10:55 – “Grab it gently. Can I take some chips out of the back door?”

11:15 – Night One over.

Saturday

7:52 – Rick reveals Official Camptathalon socks: Black with gold “BEER” on side)

8:01 – Chris reveals Official Camptathalon T-Shirt (White with red “SHIT” on front)

8:11 – Rick says he needs Tony’s tool (Bottle opener)

8:15 – Rick is glad he didn’t have leakage.

8:16 – First beer of Day Two is cracked open.

8:20 – Breakfast Burritos served

8:56 – Radio turned on. Only station that can be found is playing “Dukes of Hazzard” theme.

10:00 – 2nd Honorary Toast, opening Day Two. Event #2, Slingshot.

10:02 – “I’m feeling tipsy at ten A.M.”

10:30 – Multiple jokes about hitting the can (with the slingshot).

“You hit the can on the bottom.”

“My finger hurts.” “That’s because you’re gripping it too tight.” “That’s not what you said last night.”

10:42 – “It takes every inch of you.”

10:51 – “Let’s play Liar’s Dice to see who gets bottm.”

10:54 – That last fart was a 3.5 on the Shart Potential Scale.

11:00 – Standings after two events: Tony – 6, Chris – 4, Sparky – 1, Rick – 1

12:23 – “Oh, you have salami? I LOVE salami.”

1:00 – Frisbee Golf will replace Chipping because Rick brought his golf club, but no golf balls. Can we chip wiffle balls instead?

1:28 – “I’ll be Nolan Ryan. You can be Robin Ventura.”

2:00 – After Frisbee Golf, Chris – 7, Tony – 7, Sparky – 2, Rick – 1

2:05 – First round of breathalyzer of Day Two

2:30 – Sparky finally enters the Fartathalon.

2:50 – After Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby, Chris – 10, Tony – 8, Sparky – 4, Rick – 1

3:00 – Risk. A non-sanctioned/exhibition Camptathalon event.

3:07 – Bust open the Reese’s peanut butter cup Chips Ahoy cookies.

3:10 – “These cookies are gonna last as long as a virgin on prom night.”

3:23 – Cookies are gone

3:44 – “Did you go swimming in the mountain lake at 8,500 feet?” “Yeah, it’s brisk.”

4:26 – “Three 1’s when attacking Alaska from Kamchatka? Fuck you, Sarah Palin!”

4:50 – Sparky just blew a .00. “Get this man a beer, stat!”

4:54 – Mom jokes are okay, wife jokes are not.

5:26 – Triple aces again, this time Egypt attacking Southern Europe.

5:27 – Just checked the timestamp, we’ve been playing Risk for two and a half hours.

7:30 – After changing/lowering the point target five times, horseshoes are FINALLY over. Standings: Chris – 11, Tony – 8, Sparky – 4, Rick – 2

7:35 – Tri-tip for dinner.

7:50 – Final event is Farkle – if Chris places anywhere other than last, he wins his first Camptathalon.

7:56 – “Touche, asshole.”

7:58 – Wussification imminent.

8:30 – A Sparky Farkle secures a third place Farkle finish for Chris, securing his first Camptathalon victory.

8:31 – Congratulations Chris. Now we can stop recording and timestamping everything.

10:45 – “Hashtag Black Marshmallows Matter.”

Camptathalon

Back in January, I made reference to something called Camptathalon, and said I would re-visit this phenomenon in April. Of course, April rolled around and there was no Camptathalon post. Part of that omission was due to teaching an AP class fourth quarter, which is a tad bit brutal. But the other reason was that Camptathalon itself was pushed back from its original April date to later in the summer.

You see, Camptathalon moves around the calendar each year, much like other hallowed holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas.

(Okay, I’m being told that Christmas falls on the same day every year, so strike that last reference.)

But whereas Easter takes place on the Sunday following the first full moon of Spring, Camptathalon falls on a much more logical weekend – whenever our wives let us out/want us out of the house for the whole weekend.

I imagine the original Easter weekend went the same way.

“Oh gosh, Jesus, you want to do the Last Supper this Thursday? I mean, I’d love to go, but if I don’t get this camel shit shoveled, the old lady’s gonna crucify me… Hey, where are you going, Jesus? Was it something I said?”

Camptathalon officially began three years ago. While there had always been camping trips, some were just the men, some included significant others and/or children. But three years ago, one of my friends had a baby on the way, and the showering of said baby seemed like a perfect time for just the malefolk to get the hell out of Dodge.

Unfortunately, the father-to-be was unable to attend that year, because his wife decided that the father should be attend the baby shower. I’m not sure on which planet someone with a penis should be playing any “guess the poopy” games. But I do know that on this planet, if your third-trimester pregnant wife tells you to come to the baby shower, you come to the fucking baby shower.

And your asshole friends go on the designated camping trip without you. Hey, at least we had the decency to “pour one out for our missing homey.” I’ve also had a friend cancel own his bachelor party in Reno once. Too bad. He missed a great time.

So three years ago, four city slickers met up at a Quick-E-Mart on the way to the foothills. We loaded up on the vital nutritional elements and four basic food groups of any camping trip. You know, chips, jerky, and beer. Wait, that’s only three? Okay, double the beer.

One guy, who swears he’s been camping since the sixties, showed up with only three items: a pillow, a bow and arrow, and a bottle of vodka.

And, lo, Camptathalon was born.

As the name implies, Camptathalon includes some competitive elements. A series of events, running the gamut from moderately athletic all the way to quasi-intellectual.  Each year, there are between 3-7 events, depending on the amount of time or sobriety available. The lineup of events changes slightly from year to year, based on factors like who remembered to bring what sporting good or if the goddamn camp host will let us shoot the goddamn bow and arrow.

Some events take a year or two off, then return. Frisbee golf has made it in twice. The golf club was left at home one year, making chipping difficult. Same story with horseshoes. Totaling our gambling winnings requires the campsite to be within driving distance of Nevada (one Camptathalon was held on Kentucky Derby weekend, another during the Belmont Stakes). Whiffle Ball Home Run Derby almost missed a year, but fortunately, it was one of the years we had to go into Nevada to bet on horses, so we were able to buy a new bat (cheaper than a new golf club).

One event, the pine cone toss for distance, was tried once and will never see the light of Camptathalon day again, after we all tore our hands up. Turns out a pine cone isn’t as smooth and aerodynamic as a football. Did I mention we drink beer?

But a few staple events are always included, year in and year out. On Friday night, after making camp, we unravel the Camptathalon trophy and open and toast the honorary first beer (not the actual first beer, but the honorary one). After this, we engage in a $10 Texas Hold ‘em tournament. This is the Iowa Caucus of Camptathalon weekend. Unlike the Caucus, the loser of the poker tourney doesn’t have to remove himself from the Camptathalon running. However, we have implemented an even harsher punishment than giving up on your dreams of the White House. The loser must consume some horrific alcoholic libation. Last year it was pocket whiskey from a pouch. This year it will be a 40 oz. of Mickey’s left over from my 40th birthday party.

Home run derby has always been included, but as I referenced before, its run has been tenuous, what with the difficult requirement of us remembering both a bat and a ball.

But the one event that always must occur, the one requirement to make an officially sanctioned Camptathalon Trip, is the Butter Toss. What is the Butter Toss, you ask? Well, you see, we take some butter, and… follow me, now… we toss it. For accuracy, not distance, because tossing butter for distance would just be silly. Think of darts, except replace the darts with tablespoon slices of stick butter.

We’re not sure how melty the butter is supposed to be. The originator of the Butter Toss brought only a pillow and vodka to the trip. Much like The Greatest American Hero, he must’ve lost the Butter Toss instruction book. What we do know is that the first time we did it, we purchased the butter on the way to the casino. By the time the gambling was done and we were back at the campsite, the butter had been sitting in a car trunk under the beautiful Nevada summer sky for a few hours. What we removed from the trunk was effectively butter soup. We tried to solidify the slough in the icechest, but the globules we ended up heaving at the front cover of The Economist were still somewhere south of solid.

Ever since Year One, we have intentionally softened the butter. It’s never been as messy as the first time (the type of phrase that might pop up at a Camptathalon), but if a sizeable percentage of the butter isn’t still clinging to your hand and dripping between your fingers after the toss, you ain’t doin’ it right.

Points are awarded for placing in each event (5 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd, etc.) We keep a running total of the scores as the weekend progresses. Last year, we had a tie at the end, so we played a sudden death cribbage match. Yours truly came from behind with back-to-back 20+-point hands.

The trophy sits in front of the scoreboard for the entire weekend, then goes home with the winner. It is a pine cone that might or might not have been used in Year One’s ill-fated pine cone toss. The wives have bedazzled it a bit over the years, such that it now features ribbons with beer bottle caps that we can write our name on when we win it. Just like the Stanley Cup. When not on display, it now rests in a Wisconsin Lunchbox. Not the drink or the sexual position (look it up if you dare), but an actual lunchbox sporting the Wisconsin Badgers logo. That was my contribution.

My reign as Camptathalon is almost at an end. I bucked one trend by being the first champion to make it through the weekend without puking. Might I make history again by becoming the first repeat champion? And what will be the motto of this year’s Camptathalon?

In a few years, when this event is covered on ESPN and Network TV, this is the point where the sportscaster will say… “We’ll find out. That’s why they play the game.”