One time I was camping with coworkers near Kelly Lake in North Park, CO when we became so drunk that we ate all of our supplies and got lost. I’ve complained about thirst before, but never felt it so much as when we were forced to drink the river water that would eventually give me giardia. (I did have a glass bottle of Seagrams mixed with 7up but it exploded in my pants. True story.) It was late on the second day that we finally discovered a county road. We were able to get some signal with our walkie talkies and radio to base that we needed some assistance. At the time I was working with the Colorado State Parks and the managerial staff was becoming increasingly concerned as to our whereabouts. This would turn out to be a good thing as it lessened their anger once they found us. Several things happened as a result of this trip. And there was one thing that did not. The thing that didn’t happen was the trail to Kelly Lake was not cleared of debris. Kelly Lake is a body of water in an old volcano that’s home to a type of trout not found anywhere else in the world. It's amazing. It's also long-ass way from anything so the trail doesn’t get a lot of love. When it does not get love, the few people who take the time to trek it get pretty frustrated that the path to their mountain retreat is crappy. It’s significant that that’s the one thing that did not happen because it was the sole reason for the trip. The only tax-funded purpose for the journey was to maintain a trail to mountain magic land.
The things that did happen include one more tax-funded trip to find wherever in the hell we’d camped and left most of our stuff, including an ATV that, whilst drunk, I’d run into tree. The other thing that happened had longer, more personal repercussions in that I was a 17-year-old high school grad set to enjoy the most amazing summer ever. One thing that giardia enjoys more than anything, is ensuring you’re not enjoying anything. It’s weird. The little parasite has immaculate timing. You’d be fine—albeit slightly scarred from your intestinal undoing—and gather enough confidence to leave your home. Every step you took was another victory until you’d find yourself at a bar or maybe even on a stroll with some lovely paragon of femininity, when everything would change. Giardia have little trumpets. And they are kind enough to blast frightening noises to warn you and the surrounding environment that shit’s about to get real. I once told a woman that what she’d heard was distant thunder and I hated storms and I needed to leave immediately. It was known throughout our small community that at any moment Jared might burst into your home like the Kool Aid Man and it was best if questions were not asked.
Another thing that happened was Kieth. Keith could be the villain in every movie. He’s that guy that, say, Meg Ryan would marry instead of Tom Hanks and the whole movie would be how Keith was an asshole and she should dump him for Tom Hanks. Anyway, Keith was a fresh forestry management graduate who had not endeared himself to the local kids. And for a long time we (the local kids) had the upper hand. We’d abandon him whenever possible and his complaints fell on the weary ears of superiors that knew Keith was an asshole. But botching the Kelly Lake trip made us targets. And Keith, like giardia, was the Dark Side of good times. He jokingly endorsed our crew for more, longer day trips and made sure to let me know it was because I was “spraying through a screen door at thirty paces.” His words, not mine. He gained advantage all over the place even suggesting that I might not be suitable for camper contact, a job that often meant college girls and being regaled by city folk eager for some kind of country advantage. I was reduced to TnT, Toilets and Trash, a modern-day leper of the West…an outcast in my own town. And he didn’t let anyone forget that either me or the rest of my party would be responsible for explaining the condition of the trail to Kelly Lake.
I would add that Kelly Lake is worth it no matter the condition of the trail. Just don’t drink the water, no matter how pristine it may seem.