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This was originally posted on the Campmor Blog. I hope you enjoy it.
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Chicken Dave and I are on a 3 day backpacking trip. We have already gotten off course (you might call it lost), caught illegally swimming in a lake by a ranger and endured his subsequent tongue lashing for our misdeed. He also suspects that we may have camped in an illegal spot (he is correct) but we are too smart for him. We answer all his tricky questions satisfactorily and he begrudgingly lets us go without a citation. Chastised but unrepentant, we move on, vowing to camp wherever we want. Being outlaws seems to make the trip more exciting.
We did not set out to camp illegally. We left after work and got to the woods late, heading to a campsite that one of us had only been to once before. And so, in the descending twilight, we took a wrong turn on a relatively new fire road and were soon somewhere other than where we had intended to be. In the near dark, we found a flat spot, cooked dinner, and just laid out our bags and went to sleep. No fire and no tent. Truly a Leave No Trace (LNT) campsite, but still technically not allowed. After a long and tedious verbal spanking by the ranger, which gave us ample opportunity to be truly sorry for our horrendous misdeed, we resolved to be outlaws for the rest of the trip and camp anywhere we wanted and away from the prying eyes of the MAN.
Later that afternoon, after walking many miles to get away from the ranger’s territory, we found the perfect camping spot by a stream, but were reluctant to set up the tent in daylight, just in case the ranger should happen by. We wait until dark to set it up, correctly figuring that no ranger would be roaming the woods at night. To lessen our chances of being discovered, we do not build a fire. It is at this beautiful streamside campsite that we conduct the 1st ever Freeze Dried Chili Contest. All I can say, is that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
We both worked at the Campmor Retail store, in the world renowned Tent department, and we noticed that Campmor had recently gotten a new brand of freeze dried food, and that this brand had chili. That meant that Campmor now had 3 varieties of freeze dried chili. So, the bright idea of a freeze dried chili cook-off was born. And this became the main purpose of this trip.
After a swim, we cooked and ate the first chili. It was good. We then prepared the second batch of chili. And it was good too. So we began prepping the third bag of freeze dried chili. When it was done, we began to eat. Surprisingly this one was good too. In fact, after much discussion, we decided that we had enjoyed all three chilies and we did not have a favorite, or least favorite for that matter. We could readily recommend any one of the three with confidence. At no time did we discuss or even contemplate the potential dire consequences of consuming mass quantities of freeze dried chili. Live and learn.
Satisfied and satiated, we tidied the camp, set up the tent and prepared for bed. We both had the next day off and were planning to sleep late and head home at our leisure. As we lay in the tent, talking before sleep, we discussed the various chilies and what we thought of them. Most of what we had to say was positive in nature. That would change soon enough.
As I mentioned, we had walked a good distance that day and had gone swimming a few times, even after we were caught, and so we were tired. The outlaw life is invigorating. Sleep soon overtook us and I barely noticed when it began to rain sometime in the night. It was dark and still lightly raining when I awoke in the very early morning. The first thing I noticed was a terrible smell. It smelled like raw sewage and chili, and it was very potent. In fact it was a heavy, thick disgusting aroma, clinging to the trapped humidity in the tent. It was the smell of human re-processed freeze dried chili. I do not think there is anything in the world to which it could be compared. This is a good thing.
My first thought is to escape the confines of the tent, but it is dark and raining. I resolve to ignore the powerful odors seemingly emanating from Chicken Dave. That proves impossible as a fresh cloud seems to ooze out from Dave’s bag. I remember thinking “Dave is a PIG.” In a futile bid for clean air I try to press my nose to the mesh on the side of the tent, but it does not offer much relief, and after a brief time draws mosquitoes to the other side of the mesh. Soon I am panting for lack of fresh air and trying not to be bitten on the nose, as the mosquitoes home in on my exhalations. Oddly, the horrible smells coming from the tent do not seem to discourage the mosquitos. In desperation, I pull the sleeping bag over my head, hoping to get away from the stench, which by the way is extraordinarily pungent and sickening. I am beginning to hate Dave with a passion.
Safely ensconced deep in my bag, the first thing I notice is that it is very hot and humid in a sleeping bag with it pulled up over your head. The second thing I notice is that perhaps Dave is not alone in creating the pungent odors permeating the tent. The smells emanating from MY sleeping bag are truly frightening. In fact they are downright noxious. Soon I have my head out of the bag and am gasping for air. Dave is awake now and tells me that I am disgusting. Same to you buddy! We crack a few feeble jokes but it soon becomes apparent that we are both not going back to sleep, and that staying in the tent is no longer an option.
It is 5AM and raining when we decide we cannot take it anymore. We get up, pack up in the rain, and make the soggy walk to the car. The entire walk to the car, we took turns berating each other for the sorry smells that filled the tent. And during the walk to the car, we each try to stay ahead of the other, because walking behind the other guy was like walking near an overflowing septic tank. Whenever we could, we walked side by side. The drive home was done with the windows cracked for air.