The invitation from a close family member—who shall remain undisclosed for reasons that will become obvious—was simple enough.
“Bring the kayaks, the dog, and whatever sleeping stuff you need, and we will bring the rest.”
Full Disclosure: Let me say, I am fully aware that you can’t just go recreate willy-nilly in the woods without considering where you are willy nillying.
(Look at that rock. Lay on your side. No, your other side.)
Some city folks are of the impression that the forests are free for frolicking wherever they wish, as it’s all probably public land, after all. Or, at least it looks that way to them.
(Mountain folks typically know better, but may just choose to ignore the fact.)
If you look at an ownership map of the wildlands of the western U.S., you will see a literal checkerboard ownership.
This includes federal ownership of various flavors, such as national parks, national forests, wilderness areas, and other designations, and these lands are under the control of disparate bureaucracies, including the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management (wow, they even have bureaucracy in their name), to name but a few.
Sanctioned activities range from allowing clear-cutting of entire stands of venerable old trees in certain areas, to, “if you pick up that rock we will drone you into oblivion.”
Then there are a number of state owned lands, including,
“School Lands were granted to the State of California by the federal government …and consisted of the 16th and 36th sections of land in each township (with the exceptions of lands reserved for public use, lands taken by private land claims, and lands known to be mineral in character).”
“…school lands be proactively managed and enhanced to provide for an economic base in support of the public school system.”
In other words, some of those trees may be logged to pay for the college desk you stuck you gum under (which I’m still trying to get off the knee of my pants).
This, of course, created yet another governmental bureaucracy.
(To manage those lands, not the gum on my pants.)
Back in the day, additional land grants were given to the railroads so James West and Artemus Gordon would have some place to put their fancy-schmancy train as they gamboled their way across the country .
But, when you drive up to that isolated, mountain lake that looks like the perfect place to set up your tent and build a campfire for some S’mores (made from Maker’s Mark marshmallows, premium dark chocolate, and fancy graham crackers – yes, they were fantastic), you might keep in mind that much of the forest lands are privately owned, whether in the massive holdings of Sierra Pacific Industries, or Ma and Pa Kettle with their 1 acre of prime pot-growing land.
So, I know all this.
But, our daughter our local guide said she had camped at this exact same spot just recently, and without any negative consequence—which, of course, could mean that they just didn’t get caught.
(Looks like public land to me…)
I guess the allure of the amazing spot and the dearth of signs informing us otherwise, we drove down to the lake’s edge and assumed it was probably permissible to park our camp chairs and beer-laden ice chests.
But, I must have had a premonition of the coming Calamitous Kidd Lake Campout Confrontation, as the wife-person and I decided to just spend the day and then head home for a sleeping arrangement that did not involve hard rocks, pointy pine needles, and hungry bears.
And crazy ladies.
After a picture perfect day of quiet mountain water sports, lazy shoreline lounging, and beer quaffing, we drove out on the few miles of nasty rough road to get back to the interstate.
(Wait, is this that Putin putz or a world published travel writer just sucking in his gut?)
Apparently, it was the morning after when the entertainment ensued, and by entertainment, I mean totally bizarre behavior.
While the men-folk were off fishing, the ladies were enjoying the quiet of the camp, just until some wild woman came peddling across the lake—from who knows where—on one of those hokie looking water bikes.
The story as told to me (and repeated here with a possibility of a wee bit of imprecision) was that the female interloper came into the camp screaming about trespassing and disregard for private property and lack of recognition of same (although not a single sign stating the property was private was to be found).
My…ah, close relative and her friend remained calm and apologized if an unintentional transgression had occurred, and offered to pick up and leave immediately.
All the while, crazy lady is continuing to scream and take pictures of the vehicles and license plates and claim that the gendarmes were called and were en route.
At that point, the crazy lady’s morning meds must have kicked in, as she abruptly transmogrified into the nicest, sweetest person, whose voice reduced in both decibels and displeasure, and began to hug the person she had just been yelling at.
Then, thankfully, water bike woman hopped back on her aquatic steed and went back to whatever meth lab she had taken her leave from.
Sorry I missed it.
No, I’m not.