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The great outdoors


August 10, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

When I was a little kid I wanted to be Davey Crockett.

Yes, on the days I didn't think about being Roger Staubach, I yearned to wear a coonskin cap and trek through the wilds of Tennessee. I wanted to kill bears (or "bars" as Davey called them), drink whiskey and ultimately die at the Alamo.

I was a strange kid.

Ironically, this brings me to my recent vacation. After spending five days traveling up the coast, we decided to take a trip to Sequoia for a few days of camping, and man, I can assure you the excitement that stirred in me was not enough to power a lightning bug.

It's not that I don't like the wilderness. No, I enjoy looking at the pretty scenery as I drive past it on my way to some beach destination or metropolitan area as much as the next guy. It's just the thought of spending a long period of time out in the wild is hardly something that appeals to me.


This does not mean I don't have camping roots. No, my father (who was much closer to being Ol' Jim Bridger than I'll ever be) took our family camping every year for the first 13 years of my life. Thus I do know how to pitch a tent, chop wood and build a fire and cook over it. The fact of the matter is that I just don't want to.

So, when my nature-loving wife asked if we could spend some time in the mountains, I grudgingly obliged. After all, I had my fun in the bars of San Francisco, so I had to let her have her fun, too.

We arrived at our campsite at Dorst Creek in the Sequoia National Park late in the afternoon. As we checked in we were informed by a ranger that this particular campsite was home to many black bears who were frequent visitors to the area in search of food. As he spoke I thought of the hatchet I had bought earlier that week at Sears and wondered if this might not be my golden opportunity to finally kill that bar.

Once our ranger was done lecturing us, we took the trip down to the campsite where I quickly went to work setting up the tent. (The tent has a story all its own, as it is the same tent with which my father used to take us camping, which makes it about 20 years old. While it was hardly the best-looking tent at the campground, it certainly was the oldest and probably the wisest.)

The work didn't take long and soon we had a functioning campsite. After setting up the tent I took a walk into the forest to look for wood for my soon-to-be bonfire. This didn't take long, either, and after an hour's worth of work I had officially run out of things to do. And it was only 6 p.m.

I guess that's my problem with camping. It just gets to be so boring. We spent the remainder of that day sitting around the fire, watching it burn. We cooked some food. I showed my wife that you can cook beans in the can they come in. Yes, despite her years of outdoor experience she had no idea that this was the way true mountain men do it. (It's probably just the way truly lazy mountain men do it.)

The next day we went on a mini-tour of the park. We saw plenty of big trees and did a lot of hiking, which was not all that easy after having spent the past night sleeping on a much too-hard ground. By the time 3 p.m. rolled around we were again wondering just what we were going to do to entertain ourselves. That night we chose a hot shower for $2 each and a show about bears. The show was fine and the shower just made me want to go home, so I'm not sure if it was the wisest decision.

By the time our third day in the great outdoors arrived we were both ready to get out of there and after one final hike (to a waterfall that roared as much as a dripping faucet) we headed down the mountain and returned to our beloved Imperial Valley.

Ultimately, we never saw any bars — although we did hear some people trying to scare them off on our second night there. We did have quite the encounter with a family of mule deer, though. They took nightly walks through our campsite and it occurred to me that I might want to take my trusty hatchet to one of them. But that didn't seem like anything Davey Crockett would do. And the line, "He killed him a deer by the time he was 30," hardly seems apropos for any kids' songs.

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