A Busy Weekend
One thing that had conveniently skipped my mind is that although the Overland Expo is great, the following weekend may have a team roping competition to watch, but it also brings hordes of holiday campers to Mormon Lake.
The lower area where I was pretty much filled up, and a parade of fifth-wheel toyhaulers began making their way up the mountain on early Friday. That was okay, so I went for a walk to look at my immediate area, a slope filled with pines.
It wasn’t long before a parade of ATVs began roaring up and down the access trail, FS219. The parades led to town and back, which didn’t make logistical sense to me because except for bags of ice, everything in the sole Country Store that’s part of the Mormon Lake Inn is priced nearly double the usual rip-off costs that you’ll find in your typical gas station convenience store. I’d have to guess that the call of civilization was irresistible, since the main drag became a long row of large ATVs parked with owners just hanging out, proudly displaying their hardware to each other.
The trail beside the Intrepid also quickly became a race track. Most of the ATVs sounded like their mufflers had been punched out with screwdrivers, and the drivers invariably throttled up as if wanting to hear The Sound of Power even on the way downhill. Some had radios at full blast in order to be heard over the roar of the engine. Up hill, the drone carried for well over a quarter mile, and I could also hear them roaring along the main drag, which I’m sure the local residents appreciated. It sounded a lot like Rockford Speedway from a distance.
I’m not exaggerating too much on the racetrack thing, since a couple of smaller ATVs simply went up and down the trail as fast as they could, using the Intrepid’s “driveway” as the turnaround point to turn around and head back up, throwing dirt as they spun around. A couple of dirt bike riders in full regalia went all the way to the highway before turning a round for the run up the hill. The constant quantity of ATVs passing by was unbelievable, frankly, and it was as though all these people had a ton of pent-up energy that the Memorial Day weekend was their cure for. Been there, done that, and yet now, it all seemed as frenetic and foreign to me as suddenly finding myself in another country.
That night remained just as interesting. The parades tapered down but did continue after dark, oversized campfires lit up all over and, after 10 o’clock, one sub-cluster of ATVers about a hundred yards further up began hooting and screaming into the woods just to hear the echos. Welcome to Memorial Day weekend. Well after I’d turned in for the night, a minivan pulled into my campsite, but they were pretty quiet, except for the repeated sliding of rollers on the van’s side door as they compulsively opened and shut it for each item they unpacked. The gentle glow of a new campfire flickered faintly through the Intrepid’s windows, and except for that distant hooting, the only other sounds after that point were the distant roar of a cheap generator running overnight until it ran out of gas at 4 AM, and the vehicle alarm of the minivan going off three times early on. Each of us communes with nature in our own way, I suppose.
I went for a walk late the next morning, and as I headed for a part of the woods closed to vehicles with barbed wire, the walk down past other campsites was slightly unsettling. It was similar to an urban area where a Neighborhood Watch program was in force, and I had the feeling that campers along the way were trying to decide whether the semi-codger strolling past, using a photographic monopod as a walking stick, posed a threat to kin and kind. It was clear to me that, unless I wanted to enjoy several further days and nights of holiday revelry, I was going to have to explore for a more isolated campsite in addition to my hope of seeing the rodeo just north of town. I dismounted the Evelo e-bike from its carrier and headed in.
I arrived at the roping arena just as the static roping contest began, and they had children divided into three age groups: under 5, 6-8, and 9-12. As I found out later during the normal steer roping, once they’re much over 12, they are on a horse competing just like anyone else.
After I’d watched the roping for awhile, I had to leave myself time to scout the only other nearby trail. So I hopped back on the Evelo and used the MVUM map on my cellphone to loop several miles back to my existing campsite. Then all that remained was to break camp and pilot the Mighty Furd back up the trail at a slow walk, due to the many areas that were either rocky or eroded.