MOUNTAIN LIFE - Coast Mountains | Summer 2020

52 BEYOND THE CAMPING LIFE words :: Jon Turk illustration :: Dave Barnes As a young adult, January, 1970: “I think that cruiser is following us.” “Yeah, I’ve been watching him.” “Are we clean?” “I think so. Check the glove box.” Debby and I, along with baby Nathan, were living in a surplus Korean Army tent in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. It was winter and there was snow on the ground. The lights and siren went on when we turned off the dirt road and pulled into our parking space above the tent. A police officer and a woman in street clothes got out. The officer informed us that someone had reported we were camping out in winter, with a baby. The woman was from social services and was authorized to take the baby and put him in a foster home. Quietly, Debby handed Nathan to me. I knew exactly what she was thinking. In a foot race in the dark, in terrain that was familiar to me, but not them, I could cut off to the right and drop into that narrow slot between the cliff bands. The fat cop and the lady in funny shoes wouldn’t stand a chance of catching me. And he probably wouldn’t shoot me in the back. But then what? Instead, we invited them to our home and gathered on our sleeping pad like old friends from afar. I started a fire in the sheet metal stove, brewed some tea, and turned on whatever charm we could muster. The tent swayed gently in the mountain wind, the air smelled of pine needles and wood smoke. Debby served our guests homemade bread with lots of butter and jam from berries we had picked in the mountains. They let us keep our baby. Middle age, July, 1999: Over this past half century, the sketchiest night I have spent camping, if you can call it that, was when Franz and I were washed out to sea by a storm off the coast of Siberia. We were in WindRider trimarans, 16-foot cockpit boats similar to sea kayaks. We sat up all night in our paddling clothes, desperately fighting to stay upright, as frigid waves constantly crashed over us, sucking out any feeble heat our bodies had the willpower to produce. Old geezer, March, 2020: Our new cargo van is on order and Nina and I have spent much of the winter planning the build-up to install beds, a kitchen, storage, and all the infrastructure needed to convert 60 square feet of enclosed space into home. Spring is in the air, I have a new mountain bike, and we’re getting ready to head to the desert to hang out among pink sandstone spires, canyons and mesas, watch the wildflowers come to life, feel the sun, and exhaust ourselves riding slick-rock. It seems my camping style has changed over the decades, but the pattern has been constant: spend as much time outdoors as possible, given all the other demands of twentieth and twenty-first century life. In contrast, during the past half century, most people of the world have striven relentlessly for as much indoor comfort and luxury as possible. The number