THE FAMILY CIRCUS: Rookies, Robbers & Commandments

You can always tell a camping rookie. Especially if they’re camping at Mount Rainier National Park.

Camping rookies  assume that weather in one part of the park is standard throughout. Not! It may 75 degrees at Ohanapecosh, where blue puffs of benign breezes muss hemlock hair. But Ohana’s elevation is 1,870 feet–significantly lower than most of the park.


In fact, Ohana is where “clueless rookies” are lured into donning shorts, sandals and tank tops for a day trip through the park. A thirty minute drive up the serpentine coils of Stevens Canyon Road to Reflection Lakes, and those duds aren’t quite as chic as they were 3,000 feet ago. Especially if you left your jacket and brains at your campsite.

Reflection Lakes.

Another sure-fire way to peg a Rainier rookie is watching them with “camp robbers.”  Plump, dark-beaked and gray-feathered, these brazen bandits will make off with your entire campsite if you let them. Hence their ubiquitous nickname.

Perched overhead on a hemlock bough, these insatiable free loaders  survey their domain with the covert craftiness of a stealth bomber, scanning the environs for their next target.

Gray Jay. Wikimedia commons.

Rookie campers toss bread crumbs or lunch leftovers to “the pretty gray birds.”  The next thing you know, every gray jay on the planet swoops out of the trees, dive bombing the hapless picnickers like a squadron of B-24s.  It’s a scene right out of Hitchcock.

That’s why Do Not Feed the Animals ranks right up there with the Ten Commandments.  These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Thou shalt brush thy teeth and wash thy hands and face every morning and evening even if it kills you
  2. If basic hygiene standards are not attempted on a daily basis and you expire as a consequence, that’s one less s’more to singe over tonight’s campfire
  3. Thou shalt eat what is put in front of thee or traipse into the forest and kill thine own victuals
  4. Road kill is not an acceptable source of animal protein
  5. Thou shalt stay behind Dad on all trail hikes
  6. If thou dost not remain behind Dad on all trail hikes, thy chances of becoming lunch for any wild creatures lurking about increase exponentially by the distance we are from the nearest help
  7. Thou shalt not scatter to the four winds the moment the van’s engine is shut off and unloading is about to commence
  8. Backpacks shall be carted all over creation by kids, NOT Mom
  9. Thou art responsible for maintaining and monitoring thine own snack and water consumption on any hike; miscalculations do not entitle thee to sponge off thy wiser brother’s stash
  10. Moms have first dibs on the shower upon arrival home.  Violate this commandment and thy life span shall be significantly shortened.


Are we having fun yet?


Our next installment of The Family Circus will feature Camp Cookery!

Be still my heart.


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