Monday, August 17, 2009

Campground Characters

You don’t notice them at first, then you start piecing together pieces of the puzzle. I had noticed the first campground character a few weeks ago, when we stayed here as paying guests before we started hosting. He lives out of a beat-up black van, the kind with no windows. He drapes a camouflage tarp over the van and puts out a well used chaise lounge under the tarp, making a den out of his campsite, with the hill or big rocks behind him. Turns out the rangers and the park staff know him (let’s call him Roger) and his relationship with alcohol well, since he’s here every 10 days for 10 days. He alternates between Larrabee and Birch Bay, the state park north of Bellingham. Later I find out that he’s the guy that filled Lynne in with all the tips about living here in the winter. He’s been roaming between the two state parks for 5 years. He has a friend in town who makes reservations for him. His advice about the winter included: pick a site next to the host and across from the one restroom that is left open, use the water tap on the side of that restroom, pay only $6 per night for full hookups once you are 62, and then even less if your income is less than $35,000 a year. He described how beautiful the park is in snow. I can picture the fresh snow at the base of the towering Western Red Cedar and the Douglas fir trees, whiting out the park roads and signs. Despite Lynne’s enthusiasm for $6 a night, I cannot picture following in his footsteps…

Yesterday, Peter (one of the three rangers) and Red (one of the park aids) noted the return of the “hugger.” I have had lots of long conversations with him. We’ll call him Luke and he is here to read the Word, and apparently, to spread God’s love to all of us through his hugs. He and his wife had an unfortunate first night here in the park. The man in the adjacent site had had a taxi drop him and a case of beer off at the campsite. Luke and his wife were awake much of the night listening to a chorus of voices emanating from his tent—a woman, a child, a man, and someone who growled a lot. He kept up the antics throughout the day, even after Scott, the head ranger, spoke with him. When we returned to the park after our day off, we noticed two sheriff cars in the parking lot. Turns out they took about an hour to talk this guy into leaving the park, with his options being a detox center, the hospital, or the local vet center. Luke and Mary, his wife prayed for him but needed some prayers for themselves, as Mary was terrified by the camper. The weather had turned bad, so after their disturbed and disturbing neighbor left, Luke and Mary had to contend with rain and cold, which also distracted Luke from his study of the Word. I met them during this period, and had long conversations in which Luke tried to test my knowledge of the Lord and I diverted his lasso. He did get his hug in. Peter and Red have also gotten the hugs—Peter’s in the men’s restroom, much to his alarm. The staff has been warned about his inappropriate hugging. Here I thought I was special. Luke did tell me I had a beautiful heart.

Amber, the ranger who works most of the 3 – 11pm shifts, wins my hero award for the year. Here’s a list of deeds that I know of, and I do know that the list is much longer: rescued some hikers who were caught up on Chuckanut Mountain in the dark without a flashlight one Saturday night at 11 pm, drove a young guy from Seattle into town to the bus station after he waited all day in the day use area for a friend who was supposed to pick him up, administered first aid to a bicyclist who crashed up on the Interurban trail and hit her head, then drove her into the hospital, talked to countless campers who are still partying after the 10 pm quiet hour, found a woman with suicide plans at a trail head and talked her into going to the hospital as well. Amber’s academic background is in psychology, and as a park ranger, and I witness her using these skills on a daily basis. Amber is level headed and friendly, even though some unhappy campers whose party had been thwarted by her called her Ranger DingDong.

Oh yes, then there’s the curly headed woman from Kentucky with cigarette butts and candy wrappers in her hands who coaxes her reluctant dog to the beach every morning at 6:15…oh yeah, that’s me. We had a great dinner last night cooked over the fire except the baked potatoes (cooked in the microwave.) We had planned to get our furniture moved into our house tomorrow, but the floor guy is not done and so the new day is Friday. Yesterday was another spectacular blue day where the view distracts you from what you were supposed to be doing. My mood definitely dips in bad weather, perhaps because we are camping and the cold and rain impacts us more than it would if we were living in a house.

Lynne is now gainfully employed as a home health nurse, although we’re not sure of the start date. Thank you all for your great emails. I love hearing from you and we think of you often.



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