Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not Such a Bad Thing...

    Back in the days when I was a lot poorer than I am today, going on a camping or fishing trip was a true adventure.  Not so much because of the great outdoors, but more so because the vehicle’s I drove had questionable ability to get there and back.  I never knew what would happen on any given trip…and I pretty well saw it all…from bad fuel and water pumps, to bad ignition points and oil clogged spark plugs, to broken timing belts and burned out starters.

    One time my canoeing and fishing partners were anticipating a wonderful weekend floating the Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma some years ago now…a long time ago some years ago.  At the time I drove an old beat up white Ford Pinto station wagon with simulated wood paneling on the sides.  Don’t laugh…it actually was a pretty good fishing rig as it had plenty of room for fishing gear and with a little jury rigging it would haul a canoe on short trips just fine…short being the operative word here.  On this trip I attempted the near impossible for that old rig as we were to drive a considerably greater distance than our local fishing holes allowed for and I was hauling two canoes, camping, canoeing, and fishing gear for two people up and down those steep backcountry hills found in that part of the country.

    That old rig did just fine running down the highway from Tulsa sputtering only slightly on some of the steeper grades, but when we hit the mountains surrounding Talihina, pronounced Tal la hay Knee in Oklahomese, I thought we’d have to get out and push a couple times to make it over the top.  Even so, we finally made it to the rendezvous point and connected up with the other two from our party. That was the highlight of the trip as the rest of the trip turned out to be pretty much a bust after the first day.  That first evening the skies opened up and Mother Nature cut loose with a fury that seemed directed specifically toward us.  We’ve often wondered about going into the drought busting business because it seemed like every time we went out something like that happened.  It may not have rained for three months, but if we planned a fishing trip, rest assured it was probably going to rain.  

    Man did it ever rain…and rain…and storm…by the next day floating or fishing was pretty much out of the question, so we ended up driving around for while looking for other potential fishing opportunities.  Before long we decided to call it quits and head on home, but first we had to get back to the other vehicles and load up.  Seemed all of the creeks were flooding and most of the back roads were flooded as a result which slowed our progress.  Eventually we reached a place where we could drive no further.  We were still a mile or two from the campsite, so my fishing partner and I decided to hike on in by wading thru the high water then over the hill and down to where his truck and my Pinto was located.  Lightning was still splitting the sky and we were rather exposed during our hike in but managed to make it without getting electicated.  We grabbed and piled all the gear into his truck and my little old Pinto Station Wagon, which was crammed full and loaded to the gills everywhere except the gas tank.  I figured I’d just top it off on the way home.

    Unfortunately, we could not drive out the same way we came in because all the little creeks had continued to flood to where even a 4x4 would have had trouble getting through.  We caravanned around those ancient hills and crumbling dirt roads for what seemed like hours and my gas tank gauge  inched ever closer to the empty line.  Eventually, the gas gauge indicator parked on the big E and would not budge, and we still we’re not out of trouble.  I don’t know how that old fishing rig made it because we must have driven another 30 miles around those old roads after that, but somehow we ended up in some little no count town in Arkansas that had only one gas station.  I didn’t hesitate to fill her up.  That gas tank normally held 10 gallons.  Can’t remember the exact amount, but I believe I pumped somewhere around 10.2 gallons of gas into that tank.

    Oddly enough, that old station wagon ended up getting ruined in a giant flood in Tulsa a few years later.  We lived in an apartment just off the notorious for flooding Mingo Creek, and Tulsa received one of those 100 year rains where 12+ inches of rain dropped in one evening.  I awoke the next morning and looked out the balcony window of our apartment to see only the tops of cars in the parking lot.  My little Pinto took the brunt of the surge as it was the first car in the row and caught all the washed down debris plus the high water.

    In time I was able to replace the Pinto with a slightly newer and venerable Chevy Luv pickup truck and a new series of grand adventures began.  I drove that old truck everywhere and some places I should not have, and it proved itself up to the task…most of the time.  I drove that thing until it had around 150,000 miles on it and it pretty well just would not run any more.  So I parked it in the gravel parking lot in front of our little apartment in Harrison, Arkansas for a few months while I decided what to do with it.  After some research and not having anything else better to do, I decided I would rebuild the engine…new piston rings, get the valves ground…new bearings…full tune up…plus a few other assorted fixes.  It took me a couple weeks of working nights and weekends, but eventually got it all put back together, and I was more surprised than anyone that it actually started.  Other than a wiring issue that ruined a fishing trip shortly thereafter…I drove that old thing for another 100,000 plus miles before finally retiring it.  

   Before its retirement, that old Luv took me on numerous grand adventures…fishing and hunting and camping…caused me numerous aggravations when it broke down…had it towed several times and cursed it more times than I care to admit to.

    Even so, because of those two old Rigs I experienced things I would never have seen had I not dared to drive them.  I saw amazing sunrises while sitting in my canoe on the placid waters of a small lake.  I witnessed amazing sunsets while floating Arkansas’s Buffalo River.  I felt the sun and wind on my face and absorbed the aroma of nature’s best offerings.  I thrilled at the sight as a flight of mallards set their wings and drop into a spread of decoys and I’ve witnessed thousands of geese explode into the sky and fill the air with their honking calls.  I’ve been startled by the sudden jerk of a big ‘ole bass as it attacked my lure from the edge of submerged grass and I’ve heard the lonesome yelp of the coyote as I warmed my hands in front of the campfire.  I’ve hiked amongst the peaks of the Colorado Rockies, and waded through the cold waters of an Ozark stream.  I’ve sat in deer camp listening to and retelling old stories with friends from years gone by.  I’ve watched the fog lift from the valley at first light and gazed across an amazing meteor streaked night sky free from the haze of city lights.  I grew experienced from having to deal with difficulties and learned that grease stained hands and fingernails will eventually come clean with a bit scrubbing, and become a reward from the satisfaction gained by making the repairs myself.  Yeah, those old rigs caused me a lot of aggravation, but they also gave me so much more in return that far outweighed the frustration of dealing with them.

    Back in 1998 I purchased my first real dream rig…an almost new Jeep Wrangler Sahara.  I still drive it today...It still runs great…but only because I’ve often had greasy hands to keep it running.  Some thirteen years later…it’s just now beginning to take on that old rig look…but you know…that’s not such a bad thing.


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