No axe-murderers need apply

I was lying in my sleeping bag in my illegal campsite when I heard a twig go “snap.”

I was instantaneously awake, my heartbeat going 200 bpm. All of my senses strained as I awaited the follow-up sound of another footstep.

But except for the wind blowing through the treetops and the sound of the muffled breakers on the rocks far below there was naught but total silence.

I was super glad that if I were going to get murdered in my tent, it wouldn’t be in Baby Seal’s posh down sleeping bag. He’d said he would consider lending it out but only if there was no “freaky sex” performed in it. I felt sure that a sleeping bag that had housed a decapitated body would have been even worse than returning it with a panoply of Rorschach blots formed from the exchange of bodily fluids.

Tensely I waited for the sound of a long knife being unsheathed, or for the rip-cord start of a chain saw, or for the release of a safety.

Crickets. Not even real ones.

Shortly before bedding down I had walked up the trail and out into the parking lot that abutted my illegal camp site, looking for a tent stake that I thought I had dropped there. As I combed the gravel parking area, a beat-up Dodge pickup cruised into the lot.

A shaggy man with a creased face that screamed “axe murderer” rolled down his window.

“Hey,” he said.

I looked at him, a bit on the shaggy side myself. “Hey,” I said.

“Where’s your car?” he asked.

I instinctively knew not to tell him a) that I was alone and b) that I was illegally camped out. “A buddy dropped me off for the day and he’s on his way back to pick me up. Why?”

Shaggy Axe Murderer looked at me with hollow, axe-murdering eyes. “No reason. Just kind of a lonely place to be alone without a car, long ways from town and everything.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I like being outdoors alone just me and my Glock. Makes me feel like a frontiersman.”

“You got a Glock?”

“Never go anywhere without it. What are you carrying?”

“Smith & Wesson .357.”

“That’s solid,” I said approvingly.

He stared at me with hollow axe murderer eyes, reversed, and drove away.

Now I was in my tent wishing I had a Glock, even though I wasn’t sure what one was, as I’d picked up the lingo after hearing Sherri Foxworthy talk about jogging with hers when she lived in West L.A. For all I knew it was a sports bra.

Like a series of rifle shots the twigs all began crackling as they would from footsteps. Somebody was fumbling around in the trees. It couldn’t be the axe murderer. He’d no idea I was in a tent or where it was and I had hidden it really well, ensconced between two large bushes that were beneath a series of giant trees. The tent was also staked to the edge of a steep ledge, so Axe Murderer would have to fall to his death before he could climb up and around to drag me out of my tent.

Still, I waited, sweating like an atheist at a Baptist revival.

Nothing.

I thought about what I wanted my obituary to say. “Died in a redwood tree stump twenty feet underground and then murdered in a tent.”

Or, “He died doing what he loved, camping illegally because, cheap.”

Or, “May You Find The Sock You Were Looking For.”

Eventually everything was still again and I drifted off to sleep, swearing I’d never again bushwhack just to save a few bucks.

The next morning I rode 80 miles, from Brooking to Bandon. There were lots of campgrounds, even a posh KOA with tent sites for $11.50. Up the road I spied a thicket with a little path that led to an open space under the trees. “NO CAMPING ANYTIME,” it said.

Perfect.

END


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9 thoughts on “No axe-murderers need apply”

  1. A high school classmate was killed by an axe murderer in the 1970’s sleeping on the beach in Santa Monica. You should be very worried and afraid … of Santa Monica.

  2. Tim Joe Comstock

    “Glock” is short for “glockenspiel.” I carried one on my bikepacking tour of Gofartin in ’68. The children were delighted by my playing and singing in the villages at night.

    Not sure what it would do against an axe murder. And man, it has got to be tough to jog with one…but hey, to each his own.

    Hope this helps.

    1. TJ, I’d forgotten how funny you can be, sir! Thanks.

      And Seth, keep it coming. I’m following your trip and living it vicariously thru your missives.

  3. I think the name of the game when it comes to backwoods camping is that word “Backwoods”. If you are just off the road, I guess that opens the door to possibilities that just don’t exist when it comes to wilderness camping experiences. I guess also the homeless issue that has ballooned since the Reagan days when vital social services began being cut, and the disparity between the rich and the poor began to divide at exponential growth, has brought the real problem of people whose homes are a tent, and they look for any place to setup their home. No Camping usually means “If you are homeless then keep moving”, however here you are, a bikepacker, who happens also to be homeless, but only needs to setup for the night.

    I have spent many nights camped in the wilderness, some of those times alone, and the woods have a funny way of amplifying every sound in the forest. I think my favorite locations are near a babbling brook, so that the sound of the water drowns out all those incidental sounds.

  4. Chainsaws start with a pull-cord. At least the stupid gas ones do. Parachutes start with a rip-cord.

    This information may one day save your life when parachuting, so listen up.

  5. I really enjoyed this your story and I picked a thing from it. Who knows if he had ill intentions and mentioning your friend and glock discouraged him? It’s a great safety tip and I think I’ll try it if I’m ever in your situation.
    Please, never go camping in illegal sites again.

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