The Trek to Oyster Doom

“There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness; that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” -Theodore Roosevelt

**********

A friend of mine, let’s call her “Dawn”, often spoke of the wonders of a certain hike.  Dawn and I even had plans to travel the route with a group of our coworkers.  But as these things often go, plans fell apart.  A year or two passed without me ever seeing this mysterious Oyster Dome.  All I knew of this mysterious land was that Dawn and several other friends spoke of the plentiful joys that this scenic escape had to offer.

Now, given those accolades and emotional urgings to explore said land, what could I do?  Early this week I finally made the trip out to Oyster Dome.  However, after my adventure I have found a more appropriate name.  I choose to call that most “exciting” of places, Oyster Doom.

The warning signs were plentiful; I just chose to ignore them.  Caution flag number one was the drive there.  I tend to be a little frightened by detours.  I am sure that the folks who place those imposing and unyielding orange signs know what they are doing.  However I like my roads to run in a straight line.  Therefore, I had some trepidation about driving down a stretch of freeway where there existed an infamous gap in the road.  Oy.  I have issues driving where chunks of the road is missing.  Sure, it worked for Speed, but I was alone.  Sandra Bullock was not behind the driver’s wheel encouraging and coaxing me on to victory.  (A point which I happen to think is a cruel injustice.)

Oops.  But it's getting better?

Oops. But it’s getting better?

To be fair, the detour was just fine.  Personally I think a few more signs would have been helpful.  But when in doubt, follow the semi-trucks; works every time.  Thanks to those multi-wheeled behemoths, I was able to get back on the highway with no problems and two exits later I was cruising down a quiet little paved road looking for a place for the trailhead.

The guide book claimed that there would be parking along the side of the road.  The book and I disagree on the term “parking”.  When I think of parking, I like to have bold white lines spray painted on the ground.  Ideally, there are concrete blocks on the ground or some sort of barrier to ensure that one’s car doesn’t go out of bounds.

The “parking” here was a strip of gravel.  On the edge of a cliff.  With a speed limit of 55.  I’m sorry, what?  In every story I’ve ever heard of a car parking along the side of a lonely road, it tends to end up with some guy carrying an axe and chasing them into the uninhabited woods.  (Showing their courteous side, the planners of the park even gave the crazed woodsman a way to hide the evidence; simply shove the innocent hiker’s car off the road.  No railings to get in the way, just a nice steep drop and tall trees to cover it up for ya.)

You're a lumberjack?  Okay, but explain the mask...

You’re a lumberjack? Okay, but explain the mask…

Now, folks that know me will attest that I am a might stubborn.  I had already driven out to the park.  It was broad daylight.  And I had managed to find the tiny little path of dirt that was to be the start of my expedition.  I figured I’d roll the dice and take my chances.  That was when I came upon the next sign of impending danger, which was an actual sign.

The short version:  "Dangerously dangerous danger!"

The short version:
“Dangerously dangerous danger!”

After reading the entire notice I realized that I had no intention of hiking along the closed route.  Why would I add wet rocks, another cliff, and the threat of angering thousands of bats to the already treacherous day?  Still, the words, “close this area” effectively concerned me.

Having considered and dismissed all warnings, I hit the trail.  It hit back, hard.  I am a tall fellow, but those hills are not for the faint of heart.  Or knees.  Or ankles.  Or lumbar.  Uphill the path led and uphill I went.  As I crested the first ascent, I was greeted by another mighty mound of dirt.  Things tend to happen in threes and so another hill presented itself.  Of course, the more the merrier, right?  Bring another order of steep earth to table one!  Apparently Oyster Dome is one big block party and the hills are only too happy to RSVP.

To the park’s credit, there were plenty of trails.  At least, I think they were trails.  The first few miles were dotted with white splotches on trees.  I can only assume that those white blobs were meant to identify the route as correct and safe.  Of course, those markers were utilized when there was a massive hill or glacier rock on one side, and a steep cliff on the other.  It was much like walking down the grocery aisle and having a staff person ask that you refrain from taking your squeaky-wheeled shopping cart and leaping and bounding over the high shelves.  Further into the woods; when

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

For all I know, it was just bird poop.

the trails started to get confusing?  That’s when the white splotches conveniently disappeared.  (I maintain that the mystery guy from the horror movie is to blame, but I haven’t yet figured out how.)

With or without markers, the routes appeared regardless of my desire for them to c ease.  There was the aforementioned closed trail that didn’t need the professionally-made signs to ward me off.  I think there was a glacial view trail, but the word “glacier” invokes two mental thoughts to me; slippery and sharp.  Needless to say, I declined the invitation.  And then there were the little paths that sure looked like trails.  A patch of dirt here, a wide expanse of forest there; my fear of getting lost only increased the higher up I journeyed.  I prefer not to take the Lord’s name in vain, so I did my best not to mutter, “Dear God I’m going to die”, “Dear God this is terrifying”, and “What in God’s name were these people thinking?”  However, I assure you that statements very similar in tone to curses ran around in my head as I looked at each intersection with concern.

In the end, I did the only logical thing I could think of.  I followed the slugs.  Come on, what animal looks like it prefers the safest path possible?  Slugs, that’s what.  A cougar, a bear; even snakes would have been wildlife that might have sent me packing.  But I am a Washingtonian.  Slugs are our friends.  If a path of dirt is deemed a suitable strolling area by a slug, then I am going to follow along.  Scoff if you must, but much of the success I had in getting up to that summit was from a slug pointing the way with its antennae and sage wisdom.  (And yes, a trail of slimy goo.)

At the end, I would say that I would make this trek again.  It really is not all that far from where I live and now that I know that the terrain’s grade is equivalent to trying to climb out of a well, I am prepared for the climb.  I have an idea of which trails will not lead me to my demise.

Also, I firmly believe that the view is worth it.  Or rather, I choose to believe that what should be the view is majestic.  I could not say myself.  When I got up to the top; when I finally broke free of the tree line?  I was met by a 180-degree view of clouds.  Add in a smattering of trees, some clouds, and then really smother that sucker with another layer of clouds; that is the sort of “picturesque” moment I experienced.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike.  If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

Obligatory scenic photo from early in the hike. If somebody lugged a bench up that trail, you -must- take a photo there.

I shall try again.  I was almost attacked by a non-existent axe-murderer, my knees are still sore, and I have never been so afraid of being lost in the woods as I was that day.  The moral in all this is that hiking buddies are highly underrated.  Take someone with you to take in all that nature has to offer; even if it kills you.  Because of Dawn’s recommendation, I have just the person in mind.  What better way to thank her than by taking her along?  No good deed goes unpunished, y’know.

Letters from Camp

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Letters from Camp

Prisoners of Camp Gitchee Goommee Noonee Wa-Wa, you have been beaten, tortured, starved, maimed, und whipped. Und now… ze picnic is OVER!” –Get Smart

 

Week 1

Dear Mom,

You just dropped me off and already I’m eager to come home.  You were kidding about throwing away my boxes of comics, right.  That was a joke, right?  Ha ha?

Apparently the kid that shows up the latest gets last pick of the bunks.  There’s something weird on the bed here.  I don’t know what it is, but remember the time that Rover knocked my birthday cake on the kitchen floor and you chased him around while he plodded through the cake until it was just one ugly smear?  It kinda looks like that.  Except purpler.

My counselor’s name is Mr. Coo.  I don’t know if that’s supposed to be like a bird noise or like people who say cool and leave off the last letter because they think it sounds better that way.  I heard him once admit that his first name’s Horace.  I’d probably go by Coo too if that was my first name.

Thanks for naming me Bill, and thanks for not throwing out my comics (pleasepleaseplease)

-Your Son

 

Week 2

Dear Mom,

I don’t suppose you’re going to mail me any cookies, are you?  The food here is kinda lame.  I used to like hot dogs, but they’ve fed them to us every meal.  Some nights they give us ketchup and a condiment, and sometimes they give us mustard.  Oh, and for breakfast we have oatmeal.  But for both snacks, lunch, and dinner, hot dogs are all we get.  We’re all starting to smell funny.  I don’t know if that’s because the showers don’t work or because of all the hot dogs.  Some kids are starting to sweat a lot too.  It was cool, but now it’s just gross.

The guy on the bunk on top of mine won’t stop snoring.  At first I thought it was a cougar.  Nope, it’s some kid that snores.  Remember how grandpa sounded when gargling water and then he’d cough because he was choking on it?  It’s like that but slower.  And backwards.  I don’t like bunking underneath him but Mr. Coo says that he is special just like me and that we have to respect each other’s differences.  I just think Mr. Coo is scared of him because the kid’s even bigger than he is.

We were supposed to go kayaking but there’s a hole in the kayak.  There’s only one kayak and fifty kids.  Plus there’s only one paddle.  Mr. Coo thought he had it fixed with duct tape.  He put two kids in the boat (one was supposed to act as a lookout?), and they both ended up soaking wet as the boat sank.  At least the lunches that they were supposed to be rowing to the island didn’t get wet.  I’m not sure those hot dogs would’ve tasted any better in lake water.

Y’know what would make this summer more fun?  Comics.  I wasn’t kidding about those in last week’s letter.  If you can’t send me any new ones, I’d sure like to read the old ones when I come home in a month and a half.  Please?

-Your Son who’s a little sleepy from the snoring

 

Week 3

Dear Dad,

Help.  I don’t know if Mom has gotten my letters that I sent over the last two weeks, but I’m dying out here.  I was having trouble sleeping, but now I’m having trouble not sleeping.  At the end of the day, the heat, the hot dogs, and the smelly campers around me are too much.  Most of the campers start passing out around three in the afternoon.  I heard some other guys asking Mr. Coo if we had some sort of fan or air conditioning system.  He just laughed at them and said something about a “truly authentic outdoor experience”.  Mr. Coo wanted them to do FDR proud, or something like that.  What does that mean?

Please make sure Mom hasn’t thrown out my comics.  You like comics, right?  I mean, we went to see all those movies that Mom didn’t want to.  You understand, right?  Mom’s a girl.  If she were here with no showers and no cookies, she’d want to go home too.  Did I do something wrong?  Is that why I’m being punished like this?  I know you said something about developing caricature before I left.  Mr. Coo says that’s some sort of a weird, mutated drawing.  Why do I need more caricature?  I don’t get it.

Speaking of mutating, Mr. Coo keeps waking up every morning and looking really hairy.  I mean, really hairy.  Remember that time that I found a dead raccoon and put it on my face and pretended I was a furr-monster?  He looks like that.  His face is all scratched up and he has dirt all over.  Then he spends an hour shaving.  Plus he has weird teeth.  Is that part of puberty?  I didn’t know you get fangs with puberty.  That’ll be neat.  But I don’t wanna be that hairy.  I don’t remember you being that hairy.  It has been three weeks though.  Maybe if you let me come home we can talk about it in person.  Mom isn’t being reasonable.  Help?

-Your Son who fears for his life

 

Week 4

Dear Mom,

Okay, so it’s been a month now and I’m still stuck here.  Dad says that there’s nothing to worry about and that if I try to adjust to the great outdoors that I’ll be a character.  Or, get a character.  Something.  Does this mean I get to watch cartoons when I get back?  Those are characters, right?

Also, Dad says I should be more respectful to you.  He says that girls are just as tough as boys and that if I’d spent seventeen hours in labor then I’d appreciate what you go through.  He didn’t tell me what labor was, though.  Is that something mom’s do in early September?  How does a seventeen hour chore get celebrated with a long weekend before school?  Dad doesn’t explain stuff so good.

Dad also said I shouldn’t make fun of hairy people.  He says there are some very funny comedians that make enough money to buy our house with their paychecks and that I should only wish I was that funny.  I think Dad’s a little grouchy because he doesn’t have much hair left up top.  Is that mean?  I’m still a little loopy.

The hot dogs have been replaced by sloppy joes.  We were all really excited about it until we realized that the sloppy joes are just the hot dogs cut up really small.  They ran out of buns and the bread was cheaper in hamburger shape?  I dunno.

Henry stuck a flaming bag of poo on Mr. Coo’s door step.  He even wrote on it, “Here’s some POO for You Coo!”  I thought it was pretty funny.  Mr. Coo stepped on it with his bare foot.  Well, it wasn’t that bare because he has all that furr and hair on them.  Plus his toes are getting gross.  Remember when we saw that fossil of a T-Rex and the museum?  And then I talked about how it’d be so cool if we could have those for fingers?  Well Mr. Coo is growing those for toes.  It’s weird.  I don’t like it.

Y’know, after all this weirdness at camp, I’m not sure I want to read comics anymore.  I think there’re enough mutants here already.  And if you’d been eating radioactive, gamma-infused sloppy joes, you’d be worried about mutating too.  Come get me soon, okay?  Or if you can’t do that for some reason?  If they have blackmail about you because you’re undercover agents that are really protecting government secrets?  Can you send me some sort of weapon to defend myself?  Maybe a python with an extra strong grip?  Or a LASER?

-Your Son, who fears for his life, his health, and his comics

 

Week 5

Dear Mom,

I figured it out.  Mr. Coo is a werewolf.  Can’t write more now.  He might see this and eat me.

-Your Son who is in big danger.  (Seriously, what kind of parents are you?)

 

Week 6

Dear Mom,

I was totally right.  Mr. Coo is a werewolf.  But he claims he wasn’t hiding anything.  He says he made jokes about his “condition” and shaved his hair all the time because he didn’t want us to be scared.  But it turns out that the hot dogs were made up of werewolf grower.  He says he added some sort fertilizer to make us lupine-creatures because he didn’t want to get in trouble for biting us.  He wants us to be his cubs, or something like that.  A club of cubs?  I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it sounds like the kind of lame-o name he’d come up with.  Remember when our pastor told us that when we pray, “We’d better look down or we would see a frown?”  That kind stupid phrase?  That’s what Mr. Coo’s sayings are like.  Except now he growls when he says them.

I think you will be relieved to know that I have not turned into a werewolf.  Don’t tell Mr. Coo, but I have been sleeping in a tree down by the lake.  Mr. Coo has been taking the campers on more and more “night treks”, which really just means they run around camp during the dark instead of when the light is out.  He claims it heightens their senses.  I just took my superhero bedsheets and sleeping bag and snuck out one night.  One of the kids who were only partially a werewolf said he would mail these letters for me.  He says he doesn’t know how much long Mr. Coo will keep mailing these things, but supposedly he wants to keep up appearances.  I know I’m not supposed to make fun of people, but Mr. Coo is a freak.  You’d believe me if you saw.  But no.  You won’t come see.

I figured out what you’re doing.  You’re reading my comics, aren’t you?  I keep telling you how they’re really good.  You finally wanted them all to yourself and that’s why you won’t let me come home.  I told you it takes a long time to read them all.  Don’t bend the corners.  If I ever make it out of here alive, I don’t want my comics ruined.

I’ve been living off of fish and berries.  I found out that some berries really don’t taste good.  I threw up.  It was gross.  But I’m getting really good at catching fish.  I know I’m better than dad is.  I’d show him… if you let me come home!

-Your Son the wilderness expert

 

Week 7

Dear Mom,

It’s official.  The entire camp except for me is now made up of werewolves.  I’m doomed.  They’re gonna eat me for sure.

I know I’m smarter than them because they spend half of their stupid “night treks” chasing their tails.  Literally.  I know you always tell dad not to get any ideas about chasing tail, and now I know why.  It’s just stupid.  They run in little circles and yip.  Do you remember all those little girls that lived next door and liked to play tea?  It’s like that.  They just act all smiley and happy when they aren’t even doing anything.  They aren’t playing cowboys, they aren’t reading comics; they’re just being lame.  I’m not friends with them anymore.  I don’t want any of the cub clubs to hang out with me.  They have fleas.  I haven’t actually seen their fleas, but the way they smell like old garbage and dead meat, they have to have fleas.  You don’t want me to eat any diseased fleas, do you?  Then you should really really really really really let me come home.  This time I really mean it.

Do you want your only son, who really hasn’t done anything all that bad, to be turned into a monster that you can never really love?  Do you want me to be mauled by all these other guys?  You shouldn’t, and therefore you should let me come home.

They’ve found my fishing hole and have taken to swimming in it.  Every once in a great while they might catch a fish, but they’re mostly scaring them away so I can’t have any.  At least they’re too stupid to look up and find me in this tree.  So I’m still alive for now.  (Be sure to thank dad for buying me a sleeping bag that is bright orange.  I really appreciate the way it’s easy to see from far away.  I’m not at all terrified for my life because I have to keep throwing mud and tree branches on my sleeping bag to keep it camouflaged.  No, I mean it. Thanks Dad.  Thanks heaps.)

I’m going to leave this in the camp’s mailbox and see if anybody picks it up.  I hope they haven’t gotten the mailman.  Not only is he my only hope of this letter getting out, but he’s the only one I could still talk to.  It gets kinda lonely when everyone else is howling and biting each other.  I don’t have the vocal cords to howl, and their teeth are sharper.  They would totally beat me at a biting match.  Jerks.

Y’know, if I had my comics with me I could at least entertain them until they fell asleep so I could run away.  But no.  You wouldn’t let me bring any comics because you’re probably reading them instead of this letter.  All I have are my wits.  Wits only keep you alive for so long, y’know.

-Your Son who is really starting to wonder how much you love him if you still haven’t rescued him

 

Week 8

Dear Mom and Dad,

That’s it, I’m outta here.  I know you’re supposed to come get me in like three days, but I’m going to risk it on the road and walk home.  I think I know which direction to go.  I made a mad dash for Mr. Coo’s car and stole his roadmap when they were all sleeping off a big raccoon they caught.  I know, a raccoon doesn’t sound like it would be a meal for a bunch of werewolves.  But man, you shoulda seen this guy.  He must have been living off of every scrap of garbage the camp has ever thrown out.  That racoon was huge.  I would say it’s the second creepiest thing I’ve come across here, taking a back seat to, well, every other thing that has happened so far.

I wish getting the bottom bunk was still the worst of my problems.  Hey Mom, remember that time you thought I should go camping?  Hey Dad, remember how you said it would build caricature?  Well I got caricature growing out my ears now, which if you had your way, would be sharp and fury.  When I get home, if you find me in time, I expect a raise in my allowance.  A big one.  Dad told me about this thing called, “hazard pay”.  I want that.  Lots of it.  In comics.

The thought of coming home to a big stack of comics and cookies will be what gets me through my walk home.  Don’t worry; I’ve got the one kayak paddle for protection.  And besides, after what I’ve lived through I really don’t think there’s anything too scary out there in the world.

Oh, and in case you think I should hide at the camp or try to stick around?  Yeah, they set the cabin on fire last night.  I guess they were tired of raw meat and felt like a big ol’ barbeque would really bring out the flavor.  Werewolves apparently don’t chop wood into small pieces of firewood, they just go right to the big pile of wood that’s already there and set that sucker on fire.  I’ll bet you didn’t learn that on the nature channel while I was away.

If you find this letter before you see me, turn back.  I was that ratty looking kid with the red t-shirt tied over his hair like a hat.  I’m gonna make it home and then I’m never going to another camp ever again.

Wait.  Do they still have Space Camp?  ‘cause you guys owe me.  Like, a lot.  Yeah, on top of the extra comics and cookies, I want to go to Space Camp next year.  Unless they have alien werewolves.  I don’t think they do.  I sure hope not.  I’ll double check my comics for information when I get back.

-Your Son who has learned much more than he ever wanted to from this stupid place

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