By Pia Kraus Aitken
It seemed so logical at the time. We had awakened in our snug mountaineer tent to the placid sound of rain on our canvas roof. Cozy. A great time to go back to sleep and wait, but a day of adventures in the Ozarks of Missouri awaited us and it was already 8:30. I stuck my head out on to the little porch provided by a canvas flap. Rain was falling in sheets. I could barely see the trees 100 feet away. The campsites near us had been vacated. Had they packed up before it started raining?
“Everybody’s gone,” I announced to my husband. “I didn’t hear a thing.”
“Confirming your history of being able to sleep through tornadoes,” he said drolly.
“Well, you didn’t either,” I answered, not wanting to make it my fault that we were about to have a serious moisture problem, one way or another.
Our options were limited. If followed our usual procedure, putting on our clothes, deflating our air mattress and rolling it up with our double-sleeping bag on the tailgate of our station wagon we, along with all our gear, would be soaked. And taking down the tent, normally a 15-minute procedure, in this downpour? Right.
“Nobody’s around,” I offered. “Why don’t we just roll up our air mattress inside here, and you make a mad dash for the car, naked, and throw it in while I roll up the sleeping bag and I’ll follow. Then we can take down the tent as fast as we can, throw it into the car, get in, dry ourselves off, and put on our clothes. Who’s gonna know?”
Having always been a bit shy about running around naked outdoors, he submitted an alternative.
“Okay,” he said tentatively, “but you go first. The air mattress is smaller and will be easier for you to carry.”
“Fine, I’ll go first. Give me the car keys.” No clickers for opening doors then, it was keys only.
We rolled it up. I crawled out and made a mad, muddy dash dressed only in my Birkenstock sandals, for the car. Key in trunk. Check. Throw open. Check. Throw in mattress roll. Check. Race back to tent. Check. Soaked, water running off my head like I’m in the shower. Drop to the little porch area.
“Here, maybe you better take the sleeping bag too,” my husband’s voice said through the sounds of the storm, “if you come in here you’ll soak everything, including our clothes. I’ll follow and bring the clothes.”
“Better idea,” I said, “Hand me the clothes. They are lighter. You bring the sleeping bag.”
Clothes in hand, I looked at my husband’s face as he stuck his head out and contemplated what he was about to do. A smile spread across my face. He was not amused.
I sprinted across the 50 feet to the car, threw the clothes in as he dropped the sleeping bag into the back seat, and we both headed back for the tent.
“This is kinda fun,” I said a couple of minutes later, fully into the spirit of being drenched and alone in the wilds of a mountain forest as we started pulling up the tent stakes. “I’m going to remember how good this feels.”
He managed a somewhat timid grin. I could see that the pleasure of feeling the warm rain pouring over his naked body as we worked together pulling down our tent was beginning to grow on him.
Right up until the moment when the Ranger’s truck came around the corner, driving very slowly, about ten feet above our campsite.
I stopped breathing.
“Oh, crap,” my husband said, putting the tent between his genitals and the Ranger’s view.
I was full view, front on, no place to hide, holding tent stakes.
Before either of us had time to think what to do, the Ranger called out cheerily, “You folks okay?”
“Yes,” I yelled back. “Wet, but okay.”
“Good,” he hollered. “Just checking.” And he drove off ve-e-e-r-r-y-y slowly.
I started laughing. “That guy got his thrill for the day, didn’t he?”
All my husband said as we threw the dripping remains of our tent into the back of our wagon, not folded, not put into its neat little 18” x 4” carrier case, just heaved in, “And if he’s half a man, he’s going to go around the circle and drive back here to get a second view. Let’s go.”
We’ll never know whether he did or not. We dried off, put on our clothes and headed for breakfast someplace in our future. But I was right. We never did forget that day.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com