Catherine LaFleur

Adventures in Camp Prisoney Land: Good Advice About Bears (Part One), by Catherine LaFleur

I had my first serious romance in college. After George graduated, he moved back to Arizona. Neither of us wanted a long distance relationship and we broke up. Except we just couldn’t stop emailing and calling. After a particularly large phone bill, George invited me to visit on my summer break and to consider moving there after graduation. He promised the full Monty tourist package and reminded me of my long unfulfilled desire to visit Yellowstone National Park.
This is somewhat true, however, I really just had a fixation with the cartoon character Yogi Bear. One year I persuaded George, who is not a costume person, to don a Yogi suit and attend a Halloween party. I dressed as Cindy, Yogi’s girlfriend. Jellystone Park, a thinly veiled alias for Yellowstone, is Yogi’s home.
George offered to plan a camping trip. I screamed “Fabulous! We can rent one of those motor homes.” There was a significant pause before George informed me in a very earnest voice that ‘real’ camping requires tents. Apparently, Yellowstone and the surrounding area is full of natural wonders and great beauty which cannot be enjoyed while inside a motor home. Since I’m always game for adventure, I screamed “Tent camping, great! I can hardly wait!” Thus, I sounded more enthusiastic than was plausible for anyone who knows me well.
I am not outdoorsy. True, I order from the L.L. Bean. I love the idea of nature, birdwatching, wild things, the photographs of Ansell Adams, etc. The problem is I don’t have a lot unsupervised experience in the rough. My parents did all of their glamping in a fully loaded Winnebago and my grand parents owned a luxurious cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The biggest nature experience I had was Mildred, the bear. She suffered injuries and could not survive in the wild.
The wild life rehabilitation center featured Mildred, her twin cubs and two other orphans. Mildred was taught to sit on her haunches and nurse the babies for the entertainment of the tourists. The cubs made a loud happy motor boat purr as they suckled. For a small fee visitors could feed baggies of chow to Mildred and her kids through little trays inset in the glass partition separating humans from ursines. I spent most of my weekly allowance on admission fees and bear chow.
So when George suggested camping near Yellowstone, we were coming from opposite ends of the spectrum in experience with the Great Outdoors. George picked me up from the airport, he was driving a gigantic 4-door International Travel-all, a sort of forerunner to an SUV. It was filled with everything we could possibly need for our camping adventure, even stuff he claimed not to need such as mosquito repellant and toilet paper. Briefly I wondered how George could not need toilet paper.
The question was soon answered once we got to the sattelite camp ground. There were lots of signs at the camper registration shack. One warned against feeding wildlife while another specified Do Not Feed The Bears, with a little silhouette drawing of a bear. At the turn-off to our campsite a sign was imprinted with the words “primitive camping”. I asked George what that meant. Primitive means no shower facilities and most important no toilets. I realized with dawning horror why George would not need toilet paper. Furthermore, I could not bring myself to contemplate what I was going to do once I used the toilet paper George had so thoughtfully provided. George noted the expression on my face and quickly diverted my attention by inviting me to help set up camp and assemble the tent.

Catherine LaFleur DOC #J14175
Homestead Correctional Institution
19000 S.W. 377th Street, Suite 200
Florida City, Florida 33034

or Jpay email

Categories: Catherine LaFleur

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