Labor Day is kind of an unofficial signal for the “end of summer” for many of us. Among the big changes this summer has been the stampede of “campers” into the Bighorn Mountains. 

Many set up semi-permanent residencies on Forest Service, BLM and other public lands.

The Bench Sitters keep hearing population counts of mountain campers to be as much as three times the census of Johnson County. Of course, a lot of local residents are among those summer mountain residents.

It was the first camping experience for some of these people. And for a few it turned out to be weeks packed with a steep learning curve.

One of the Bench Sitters showed up this week with a letter from a nephew who lives in a Chicago suburb. He had lost his job, but had a healthy nest egg built up to handle a couple of years of unemployment if needed.

After about six weeks cooped up in an apartment with two teenage boys, he started texting and calling about the idea of “camping in the Bighorns for the summer.”

All that led to the purchase of two large tents and around $10,000 in associated gear when he visited one of those mega-sports stores. 

There he told an aggressive salesman about plans to “camp in Wyoming for a couple of months.” The guy must have been working on commission basis.

The letter read as follows —

Dear favorite uncle,

I wanted you to know we just arrived back home on Thursday. The orthopedic doctor says I will need some surgery. First on my right shoulder, and then in a month or two he will see about my knee. 

The burns on Barbara’s hand and arm are healing quickly and she has avoided any kind of infection.

Both the boys are happy to be home. This really surprises us because they were so tired of the apartment before we left.

Being lost in the timber for a day and a night probably had a lot to do with them losing the glamour of mountain tent living. The psychologist believes they will both make full recoveries and should soon be able to sleep without the light and television on.

Barbara still blames me for the accident with the camp stove. But I sure don’t remember failing to tighten the gas supply line when I changed the tank.

Her eyebrows are starting to grow back and most of the scabs on her face are gone. 

It left her with a very rosy complexion . . . even if it is a little splotchy. 

I still can’t believe I carried a 16-inch log back to camp with a bad tear of a rotator-cuff tendon. The boys said I was too old and weak to lift that thing, but I showed them I still have what it takes.

When you told me it takes a special kind of shoe to rock hop in a stream I didn’t believe you. Guess my full weight must have been on the left leg when my foot shot off that boulder in the creek. 

The half-mile walk (crawl) back to the truck only took two and a half hours. Some guy came by with one of those side-by-sides when I only had 500 yards to go. 

“Need a lift,” he said. And I told him . . . “No, I always crawl home from fishing when I don’t catch anything.”

I may have had too much sarcasm in my voice because he just drove off and left me sitting in the dirt rubbing my knee.

Overall it was a nice experience. We did learn a lot about the portable toilet we purchased. We should have spent more money for the best model they had. 

And two cans of mosquito spray are roughly 23 cans short of what is needed for that kind of an extended outing. SPF 120 sunscreen is also a must.

Air mattresses look good in the brochure, but they failed to mention how easy they can develop leaks. A generator, electric air pump and refrigerator are on the list for any future camping events. 

When 40% of your meals are Mac-‘n-cheese or “just add water” for the main course, you learn the word “constipation” can take on a whole new meaning.

Well, that’s about all for right now. I’m working on a book titled “Common Mistakes in Camping.” It’s at 300 pages and growing.

Thanks again for agreeing to sell the tents and other stuff for me. We probably won’t be back next summer.

Your loving nephew

P.S. The guy who hands out camping violation tickets knows me by my first name. Nice fellow.

And that’s all we have to report this week.



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