I got a call from the RV repair shop this morning. My camper’s ready. Wheel bearings are packed and greased. Brakes are in good shape. Lights all work.
Well, it’s almost time.
I’ve got a few things I need to do first, and it would be nice if spring actually started springing around here, at least consistently. But, soon, I’ll be out on the desert, testing my surgically reconditioned spine (three fused vertebrae) on spring-creek trout and big-river carp.
Later, after the high snow turns to trout water, I’ll be up high, camping among the pines, overlooking willow-lined meadows.
But more importantly, I’ll have a place to lay my head at night, without having to run all the way home … or sleep on the ground.
The little camper I bought a few years ago to haul to the Arctic over a summer sabbatical still spends its winters sitting anxiously in my driveway. And it spends its summers, generally speaking, in the West’s high country, parked under evergreens within easy walking distance of a few choice trout streams.
But this year, it’s a little different. This year, I’m committed, for the most part, to staying home here in my corner of the Rockies. I don’t have any far-flung trips on the calendar yet, and, honestly, I don’t really want to venture too far, anyway. Spending 12 weeks recovering from spine surgery has made me feel somewhat mortal and completely vulnerable. I’m a spill or a tumble away from not being able to fish at all this summer and that would be crushing.
The camper, though, is the equalizer. Years ago, I could camp comfortably in a tent on a roll-up pad, hop out of bed, start the fire and get coffee going, usually before anyone else woke up. I could be on the water as early as I needed to, and back at camp, grimey and worn out, in time to boil some water to reanimate a dehydrated meal.
Lately, that idea terrifies me. I’m clearly spoiled. In my little camper, I can cook. Like … really cook.
And I can have a shower and poop inside.
There’s something to be said for comfort, and now, at 50, I can always just mutter something like, “I’m too old for that crap,” when someone suggests a backcountry pack trip. Not that I’m opposed. I’m in for a good day hike—leave early, come back late and all that. But where I live, with millions of acres of public land at my doorstep, I don’t often have to walk that far to find quality fishing, or drive very far to change the view of my front yard.
For clarity, I’m not much of a “campground” kind of camper. While I’ll occasionally hook up to water and electric when it’s necessary, the vast majority of my time is spent “dry camping,” or “boondocking,” as the die-hards call it. With a small generator to charge batteries and 30 gallons of water, I’m good for days in the mountains. I didn’t buy the camper to spend long weekends parked over a concrete pad, watching piped-in cable TV and borrowing a cup of sugar from “neighbors” in the next-door Winnie.
The camper was meant to free me from all of that, and, generally, it has. This will be its fourth “season.” It’s spent time parked over grayling streams in British Columbia, along the Denali Highway in Alaska and under the mighty cedars of the Tongass rain forest. I’ve woken up along trout streams in Montana, pike ponds in the Yukon and the froggy carp water along the mighty Snake.
And it’s almost time again to change the view. I can’t wait to get started.
Chris Hunt is the national digital director for TROUT Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.