Thursday, October 5, 2017

Horseless At The Blackwell Horse Camp

The family reunion that lured me up to Michigan this time was over. I spent another day at The Brother’s getting my receiver-hitch adjusted (For 7 years the add-on hitch has driven me slightly nuts – OK, slightly more nuts – because it projected from under The Van at a slight downward angle. This was especially pronounced when the bike rack with its longish arm was mounted in the receiver. The Brother crawled up under there with wrenches, die-grinders and a welder to finally rectify that. Thanks Bro!) and then another day checking out the changes at The Sisters’ house (It’s been a long time since I was last there.) while partying-down on their patio with pizza. But now it was time to move on.

Except! You may remember that right about now hurricane Harvey swept in and barred me from getting home, inching in off the Gulf, dragging over a year’s worth of rain with it, and blasting all that water around in blinding, horizontal sheets with fierce gusts of tropical bad-breath.  Short of staying put right where I was, and frankly everybody there in Michigan, if not already tired of me, had a life of their own to get back to so I couldn’t see any upside to sticking around, my only option was to stage myself somewhere as close to home as I could to shorten the reaction time once Harvey would let me get back, but at the same time balancing that against the increasing heat of moving further south.

I did a little poking around in my Delorme Topo and decided that the Hoosier National Forest would check-off several points. It would get me closer to home. The fact that it was only 260 miles closer (Out of the 1300 I needed to cover) might not sound like much, but at the same time this had the advantage of not taking me so far south the nights would be unsleepable. Yes, at this point there was still an AC unit on top of The Van but not only were electric hookup-sites outside the budget, but I hadn’t run that AC unit in – well – a couple years and didn’t even know if it would work, in fact I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. (Mud Daubers like to get up inside there and their nests unbalance the fan to the point of shaking the whole thing to pieces!) And finally, I hadn’t been there, Hoosier NF, before and checking it out seemed like a good use of my storm-enforced exile.

(Oh Lord that's a convoluted paragraph and I should be ashamed of writing it!!)

When visiting a National Forest I haven’t been to before, horse-camps are like get-out-of-jail-free cards. Since people drive trucks with stock-trailers to them I know I can get The Van in there without having to do any scouting first;  Most NF horse-camps are no-fee;  And many are open free-for-alls with no designated sites so even if it’s crowded when I do arrive there will usually be some corner I can squeeze into. Oh, and you don’t have to have a horse along in order to stay! (When picking a spot to park at a horse camp I try to leave the best ‘horse-sites’ alone, in this particular case, the corners where it’s easy to ‘corral' the horses with truck, trailer, and a little rope.)

It just so happens that one way for me to get to Tower Ridge Rd, and the Blackwell Horse Camp would be to cross a little piece of US50 that I skipped in favor of diverting up through Nashville (Indiana) and Brown County State Park, when tracing that longest of US highways several years ago.

Back then getting through the town of Seymour was a long, slow process because there was some sort of street festival underway. This time getting through Seymour was a long, slow process because the crossing arms guarding the Louisville and Indiana RR near the interchange with CSX were down for no apparent reason and stayed that way for a lonnng time.

For a railroad nut this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing as long as there was railroady stuff to photograph, but in this case it was just us drivers staring dumbly through our windshields at each other across the empty tracks guarded by the flashing arms.

But eventually the arms got tired of the game and I made it to the horse-camp

Where I quickly set about killing the rest of the afternoon by chillin’ in the shade of the open rear doors.

I got there on a Thursday

and the place was occupied by less than 10 camps. (The Forest Service lists this place as able to handle 100 camps but I think that might be a bit optimistic!)

Come Friday night, contrary to what I expected, there were even fewer camps. Notice that the motorhome that was down in the far corner is now gone.

(The tent there in the left foreground isn’t someone crowding in on me, that’s a cheap little 4-man tent I carry to act as a placeholder so I can temporarily drive The Van off to various trailheads, which I’ll get to in other posts, but still have a place to come back to.)

Saturday night a truck-trailer combo set up down there in that far eastern corner

and a pair of truck-trailers corralled up against the fence to my west.

That was pretty much as crowded as it got.

Not actually Larry! Who wasn't really Larry anyway. (You'll have to read the text below to make any sense of this.)

But I have to admit that one event, actually a pair of events, humbled me, in fact knocked me clean off my high-horse with a hefty clout up-side the head.

One afternoon after hiking the morning away I was doing my chillin’ routine when some guy broke my solitude. This guy, let’s call him Larry, though that isn’t his real name, was a caricature of everything I try to avoid when it comes to humanity. He was a loud talking, shirtless, beer-drinkin’, cigarette smokin’, scraggly-haired, skinny-assed redneck with political and social views so far towards the other end of the scale I had to use a telescope to see them. (Well hell! Someone has to balance me out!)

Larry was tent-camping (In a tiny little two-man tent that has seen better days.) down around the corner with his girlfriend Judy. (Again, not her real name.) Judy, an EMS for the county, had taken the car and was off to some sort of first-responders fund-raising golf event for the day. Larry decided golf wasn’t his thing so stayed behind but now was getting bored and apparently I looked like an easy mark to break up the boredom with.

Unfortunately I’m not a complete ass so couldn’t just tell him to piss-off. Instead I grudgingly put my magazine down and joined Larry in the shade of a tree, both of us leaning on hitching posts arranged to protect the tree from the chewing of neurotic horses, while Larry eased his boredom with diarrhea of the mouth.

I learned more about Larry and Judy than even his therapist should know! I also learned that Larry’s idea of an ideal shopping experience is Dollar General. (All the snacks and drinks you need for a dollar a pop! And hey man! You can even get the toilet paper you’re going to need later! Ha Ha Ha.) And I learned that despite Larry’s challenging economic circumstances, his political position is dangerously close to falling clean off the right end of the spectrum.

Since it's virtually impossible to change someone's beliefs, I’m usually pretty good at keeping my political and religious views to myself in circumstances like this, so with no extra fuel from me to keep the fire going, after what felt like hours, Larry word-vomited himself out and moved on.

I sighed with relief, picked up my magazine, and tried to get back to the state of bliss I was in BL (Before Larry.)

Later on I was putting the finishing touches on some made-from-scratch rice and beans when I heard Larry calling my name. In fact pretty much the whole horse camp heard Larry calling my name.

Since pretending not to be there probably wasn’t going to work too well, I stuck my head out the open back doors to see Larry, and presumably Judy, his EMS girlfriend, coming my way.

Hey greg! You got any bread?

Well actually I used up the last of my sandwich-rounds earlier that day so I could truthfully tell him no.

That’s OK. We do. I’ll go back and get some. Hang on.

OK, this wasn’t making any more sense to me than it is to you! But before Larry could run off to ‘go get some bread’ I learned that the Tupperware container Judy was carrying was full of left-over pulled pork slow-smoked overnight for the first responders fundraiser and they were intent on giving me some!

I turned off the fire under the rice and beans, hopped down from The Van, and followed them back to their camp where Larry pulled a couple slices of bread from the makeshift kitchen in the trunk of a rusted and aging old car, which Judy then loaded up with a couple generous fork-fulls of steaming, tender, pulled pork.

After some questions about how the fundraiser went (The guy who did the pork had been drinking beer all day so they had to take the ambulance keys away from him. . .) I trundled my way back across the camp with sandwich in hand, both hands actually because you sure don't want to be dropping slow-smoked pulled pork on the ground!

It was a little heavy on the protein, but instead of my intended dinner rice and beans with a salad on the side, that night I had the rice and beans with a pulled-pork sandwich instead, courtesy of a couple of people I would normally take extra pains to avoid, but who turned out to have big ol’ generous hearts of gold.

That'll teach me and my snooty, sky-high nose to make judgments about people without all the facts.

I stayed there three nights and Blackwell Horse Camp turned out to be a very pleasant little spot in the middle of the Charles C. Deem Wilderness which is in the middle of the Brownstown Ranger District of the Hoosier National Forest.

But it hardly seemed fair for me to be enjoying weather like this while Harvey was crapping all over the homestead, and The Wife.

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