Sunday, March 30, 2008

Return to the Refuge

This weekend Shana and I went to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge for the first time this year. The weather was not expected to be ideal, but chances for rain were low and I was eager to get out for the weekend.

It started out a little inauspiciously. I stopped at the gate and asked if my choice of campsites was available, and the ranger told me it was, as far as she knew. I paid for two nights and a bundle of firewood, and told her that if 70 was occupied I'd take 68, but I would come back to tell her. When I got to the campsite there was no one in residence, and there was a dirty old crockpot box with a decrepit-looking string of outdoor lights in it at the far end of the parking slot. People will occasionally leave something, but it is my practice to clear out whatever trash is left on the site when I dispose of my own. I moved the trash under a bush, with the intention of taking it down to the dumpster when I next went that way. I proceeded to unload the car, secured the bicycles to a tree, set up our tent and camp kitchen, and walked down to the pump to fill up our water container. I scrounged around for firewood and kindling (coming upon a small group of does), then made myself up a little fire and settled down to knit while I waited for Shana to arrive. As I was enjoying the quiet, a couple with a dog came by and told me, unpleasantly, that the box of trash I had intended to take to the dumpster was theirs, and they had meant to reserve the spot by leaving it there. I apologized and volunteered that I had no idea that was meant to reserve the space without adding any detail - I could hardly tell them I thought their valuable place holder was an old box of trash! They were irritated, and I felt bad, but not bad enough to volunteer to take down my tent and move. Turns out they were RV campers and wanted the space for some people coming in later. They chose a space closer to the RV area and I think we all still had a good weekend. I truly am aware that people reserve a spot by leaving things at the site, but usually it is something obvious, like a tent or a cooler.

It was a cool and cloudy weekend, but we still had a great visit. Shana and I bought some hickory hiking staffs in Medicine Park and we liked them very much. I thought I might be able to use mine to keep people from crossing streams like Little John and Robin Hood but the opportunity did not come up. Before setting out for the day we asked one of the guys at the Refuge visitor center to recommend an easy three mile hike (Shana is still getting used to her new focus after eye surgery and wanted to avoid clambering over rocks) and we thought a short hike would be best. He sent us to a trail that IS short, but all uphill - more like a mile and a half of stairs than a walk. It was a nice walk with beautiful views but my legs are singing today.

After a night featuring a raccoon fight outside our tent the morning was drizzly and damp so we broke camp and headed back to the city. We had a few delays caused by my losing my keys (Yes, losing keys is my personal superpower. I think I would prefer X-ray vision, but you get what you get). After examining everything in our campsite twice or three times we pulled out without them and I left my card everywhere we had stopped the day before in hopes that they would turn up later. Shana was a Very Good Sport. I even indulged in a moment of paranoia and considered whether the cranky campers down the road might have taken them for spite. (this actually almost never happens. In general campers would NEVER take anything from another campsite) Turns out they were buried inside a towel in a bag I emptied at least three times during the search. Shana found them when we got home and were sorting out the clean things from those headed for the wash. The weather was clear and warm at home, and we had arrived back in town in time for a couple of laps around the lake and a snack at Jim's Diner with some of our group.

Jennifer sent me some new pictures of Logan resting after an all-evening fussy fit and I've posted them over at my Flickr Gallery. Too cute.

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