(PHOTO BY LYZ)
Saturday morning has a routine. The fire is rebuilt and campers start to collect around it, waking up before igniting grills to cook breakfast. Traci and Marty are the standouts as professional campers – up early, attaching a mobile shower to a tree (it looks like a giant black colostomy bag with a tube coming out of it), and then they whip up a pristine looking, vegetarian spread on Marty’s antique camp grill while the rest of us, still groggy from the night before (and rather ironically with breakfast beers in hand), busy ourselves with scraping spilled bits of eggs and pancake from the rungs of the grill, although this year’s cholesterol content didn’t appear to be as high. The whole meat consumption thing sort of reached it’s peak with last year’s various Meat Explosions, and where else can you go from there, but downhill. Then everyone sort of sits around waiting to determine a plan of action. Phil and I followed suit, sans breakfast beers, before deciding to break away for a walk. We wound up wandering into the field across the road where, the year before we bounced around the parachute. A little further on, there was a sign marked for a fishing pond, but it looked more like a small, square-shaped man-made retention pond with no possibility of fish coming from anywhere except to be dropped in by people, as if anyone might want to eat the fish they’d catch in its dirty waters. Aside from Fake Lake, the view from the field is pretty spectacular, looking out at the horizon of blue mountains. The grass had gotten pretty high with all the rain and small brown birds had taken to hiding in it, surprising Phil with every few steps that he took, when they would dart out from the grass unexpectedly. We figured they were traveling in a pack and he must have angered one of them because one of the birds circled him from above wherever we went and it cut the walk short.
Compton comes a day early to welcome weekend visitors to Ohiopyle and give them a tour.
(PHOTO BY COMPTON’S FRIEND?)
Just as much of the Ohiopyle-Johneroo routine is the Saturday morning drive into town to get a look at those dern waterslides. In the first year we spent at Ohiopyle, also known as Johneroo III, we were fiercely whipped by our own foolishness as we mindlessly charged into the head-high waters only to realize it wasn’t like we saw on YouTube! I was in my tent getting ready when I heard Beth telling everyone about the look of sheer terror on my face that day as I came around the bend and looked up at the group as I was passing by. It’s no bullshit. My motivation for actually going on the waterslides were two-fold: 1) it looked like fun, and 2) I wanted to be the ballsy girl who gave it a shot (I was the first girl to try it out and the third to go, only because the Other AC had less of a problem crossing the icy current). But of course, reality soon hit each of us, and with waters overhead that made it both difficult to breathe and see where we were going. I was pretty sure things were going to end badly. Much worse than they actually did. Everyone ate it, even repeat challenger The Other AC, but McD really took a beating.
Last year was pathetic. Stu dropped by on that Friday night to say that someone had broken their arm from the intensity of the rapids earlier that day. I don’t know that he witnessed it, but by Saturday morning, when we showed up only to see little kids riding down the slides, did I wonder if we’d been duped. The Other AC took a few rides down that day, but with the water being so shallow, he barely had any kind of force behind him to push him the entire way down the slide. It cost him a bathing suit, which in turn led to one of the best Johneroo photos by McD and also inspired this year’s slogan for The Other AC’s shirt: “If swimsuit is damaged, please notify the owner of this shirt.”
This year, the water was cold, and the party rather weary that we were due for more rain. Phil and I piled in Rosa Sanchez II (McD’s car) along with Elizabeth and Awesome Ned to check out the rapids and “cruise the town,” as the kids say. There was almost no one even swimming except a family of three, the father/husband of which I call The Frenchmen. He had started out with his small daughter diving from the rocks at end of the waterslide. That’d always been something that made us nervous because you have to dive rather precisely, straight down where the water is the deepest. Anywhere else is quite shallow and, needless to say, can make a mess of you. When the rest of the group came out, we took interest in two trout that got washed up against the rock by the waterslides and kept trying to fight the current to get back upstream. How they didn’t kill from the exhaustion I don’t know. We were pretty settled on not getting in that waterslide at all this year. “Just hearing the crashing water makes my knees hurt,” I told Steph when I arrived. The Frenchman looked like he was going to give it a go, but he would only get about a quarter of the ways down, just before the first sort of drop and turn, before he’d manage to catch something and pull himself out. His daughter did too, but her father pulled her out since she couldn’t jump out on her own. By this time, we’d started to leave, and I kept looking back to see if he wasn’t going to be able to catch her. She screamed every time she passed by, fearing he’d do just that, it seemed.
The rest of the time in town was fairly uneventful. We ran into various clusters of the group as we went to the Firefly Grille for lunch, the General Store for snacks, to walk down by the bridge, and wander by the water where we realized that a shirtless man sunbathing wasn’t a topless woman, where two girls wandered pretty far from their shoes to sift for baby fish, and where a teenage girl with a prom-styled bob and her friend stood together in the frigid waters with looks on their faces like this couldn’t possibly be the place to meet boys like they heard it was.
Well… back to camp!
Activities are essential. It’s like mulching. You gotta mulch. You gotta! Last year, we were well stocked for things to keep us occupied. Cornhole. Slingshots. Parachutes. Shock therapy. The Midwest tradition of Euchre. And some foam donut/frisbee thing. This year… we had a football. OK, so all that really means is finding something to do requires a little creativity. And Mrs. C., having taken that initiative earned her Activities Director title by having created a rock toss game inspired by Cornhole, which we were familiar with, and that age old game of marbles (or tops!), which none of us had played since the Japanese never thought to make a video game of it when we were wee kids. And no, Marble Madness doesn’t count! It took a few minutes to set this game up: a small post stuck into the center of a circle perfectly etched into the mud.
Oh, then came more rain!
Now, back to the game.
We have several athletic competitors among our ranks, and it seems this year’s champ was The Other AC. Of course, I had to gather all this from the sidelines of a game that didn’t hold on until Phil and I finished eating our burger dinner (what gives?!). Although to be fair, the primary distraction at this point was the yelps of what sounded like a bear coming from the campground behind us, separated by an embankment and some woods, which may or may not could have been what would’ve given us a running chance. I kept my balled up red Lifeguard slicker at my side just in case I had to open it up over my head and pretend to make myself much larger than I actually am. You know, to chase off some bears the way TV taught me to!
So far, most of the wildlife seen at Johneroo couldn’t even fill a petting zoo. One or two roadside deer. A beaver. All kinds of bugs. And those wascally raccoons that have gone digging into the leftovers. But a bear?
Where a bear?!!
Not there, because Smokey kindly left us alone and the men came back to with their limbs in tact.
The campgrounds were once again pulverized by more rain that evening and we attempted to squeeze in the whole camping party under some canopies, although even those eventually couldn’t hold back all of the water. Mother Nature, this is just getting ridiculous! And to boot, the National Weather Service declared a Flash Flood warning in effect until the next evening.
You know… a bear isn’t looking so bad at this point.
Lyz kept us constantly updated with Smart Phone Doppler Radar, although once you’re caught in the rain, everything else about tracking the storm seems to be a moot point, which reminds me of that line from Mean Girls, “I can tell when it’s raining.” I just wanted it to stop raining as quickly as possible so we can enjoy just at least one evening by the fire uninterrupted.
Phones are sort of a faux pas. Camping is sort of a toxic cleansing. Well, not of food and drink because… well, we’re only human for god sakes! But, there’s sort of an understood abandon of those addictive connections to the outside world — personal electronics — when it comes to camping. Ironically, while we haul all manner of convenience to a campsight for a few short days, turning off our phones strangely becomes the way we become “One With Nature.” Well, with the exception of emergency calls to find out why the hell Marty and Tracy hadn’t gotten back to camp yet!
Wait a minute… where are those guys?!!
But, they didn’t go far. They were in a bar. And now, here they are!
We slowly collected around the fire once more as the night settled in. The bachelor party next door competed for volume, and what was either cannon fire from a distant civil war reenactment or fireworks raged on in the background. The group split for a bit, some just to wander amid the twinkling lights of fireflies.
Summer is here.
Can I get an AMEN?!