campfire tales Nanook's Campfire Tales
The Free Campsite

I'd like to tell a tale of a camping experience my wife and I had in Oregon one past August. I know we weren't canoeing, not in New Brunswick either, but we were camping by a river, so close enough.

We were planning on staying in a campground at the mouth of the Deschutes River, where it met the Columbia River. I had read a lot about this great stream, and was looking forward to tenting by its banks that night.

We arrived just as the sun was ready to set, and were told that the campground was full. However, the manager told us about a Corps of Engineers site a few miles back, right on the banks of the mighty Columbia. And it was free, with a grassy lawn and full toilet facilities. But it might be a bit noisy, he added, as we pulled out and headed off.

freight train
The freight trains sounded their airhorns in a triple blare just behind our tent.

It looked great, just off the highway, behind the train tracks and in a few yards past a native community. We began to set up our gear by the river, close but not too close to the trees, when a friendly RVer warned us about the rattlesnakes that were native to the area. He said they preferred the higher grass, much like our preferred spot.

So we relocated to a shady spot on the lawn near a tree with nice spreading branches. Yeah, the interstate was noisy, and the odd freight train rumbled past, but we figured the traffic would die down later at night.

We were sorely mistaken. The night belonged to the diesels, huge tandem rigs carrying lumber and all sorts of freight destined for Portland and its docks in a steady stream. And the trains ... every ten minutes a two-hundred-car freightliner would announce its approach with rumbling engine and throbbing wheels, then sound its airhorn in a deafening triple blare as it thundered over the crossing just behind our tent.

We were almost used to this assault on our eardrums and managing a fitful sleep when the sprinklers came on at two a.m. One sprinkler behind our tent sprayed its heavy jet on our tent every twenty seconds or so for at least two hours, an unrelenting torture. No wonder the lawn was so lush and green in this arid semi-desert climate. At least our tent was waterproof, so we stayed dry.

That was one experience I'm glad I've done just once. It might have been "free," but I wouldn't call it fun.

campfire tales    We all know it's important to wear a life-jacket. Pete tells us a story about his friend John.
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