Sunday, August 12, 2007
The ADA (and other camping hazards)
We decided to take a break from our quest to have a relaxing weekend in Chugiach State Park with Gustaf and Ginger. Gustaf was keen on climbing a moutain. The smallest one we could find was one "Goat's Head Mountain," 5000 some feet. Now, it should be clear that sitting in a car for a month eating doritos and reading Harry Potter does not condition you for moutain climbing. We weren't even halfway before Ginger was skipping up ahead and Gustaf was all but dragging me to keep up. Toby and I, both creatures that see the value in a nap over exercise, would have been content to have a sit and wait for the rest of the group to notch their belt with this "accomplishment." But, good sports that we are, we hauled ourselves the 3 miles of ridiculous uphill and were rewarded with beautiful views and loads of blueberries. (Toby proved the more efficient blueberry picker.) Gustaf and I flew his kite in the breeze.
We spent and hour or so catching our breath, and with a Nalgene full of bluberries, headed down to camp and dinner. One third of the way down, we came upon a pudgy man carrying his pudgy dog that made Toby and I look like Olympians. The man's dog, Dixie had collapsed and the owner was alternating between carrying his dog and carrying his pack, shuttling up and down the hill for each, on the verge of cardiac arrest. I grabbed the pack, and Wes took turns carrying the dog (estimated at 100-lbs of sweat and smell and fur) the last two miles of downhill.
Dixie and owner safely returned to their family, we returned to our campsite and threw ourselves into dinner. Wes and Ginger were making ice cream, Gustaf was stoking the fire, and I was chopping vegetables, when a ranger walked up and told us we were in a handicapped camping site. After talking with the ranger, we discovered that though it wasn't obvious, if you had a doctorate in encryption, you may have been able to DaVinci Code-out that this was, in fact, a handicapped reserved camping slot. No, the ranger explained, no one needed the site YET (it was 9:30pm), but we needed to move to the one other open campsite in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. OK, we'll move.
But actually, we already have our fire lit, our tents up, our dinner half-ready, and we've been here for two days without incident. Would it be ok if we stayed in the site, (leaving the empty site available for another group) and if anyone came who needed the site (it's now 10pm), we would pack up straight-away and drive back to Anchorage... even if it's 3am? At this point in negotiations, the "camp hosts" (old people who live in an RV for free all summer in exchange for selling firewood and watching the campground) drove up, claimed they had been "looking for us all day", and accused us of "conveniently overlooking" the handicapped sign (which there wasn't one). Well, they poked the wrong bear: Ginger's mom has MS, Gustaf and I have a blind parent each, and Wes' best friend is a quadriplegic: accusing this group of intentionally taking advantage of the disabled just wouldn't sell. Wes pointed this out, said that was an unfair accusation, and explained that WE had been looking for the camphosts this morning, perhaps THEY need to be at their posts more frequently. The ranger, offended at any suggestions of change in HIS campground adminstration, skipped over strikes 1 and 2 and sent us packing. He saved the other open campsite until 11pm, waiting for us to apologize. Then he came over, yelled at us again, and shut down his "full" campground with two open sites and our $10 camping fee in his pocket. We rolled back into Gustaf and Ginger's in Anchorage at 12:30am.