First World Camping Problems, USDA Tyranny, a Fish Story, and Some Epic Snapshots

First World Camping Problems, USDA Tyranny, a Fish Story, and Some Epic Snapshots.


I went on a 50 mile hike in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (Montana) the week before last. The trail is called “the Beaten Path”. That doesn’t really mean much. It wasn’t rock climbing or cliff scaling, but it wasn’t far removed at times. Or at least it seemed that way with our heavy backpacks and the average of ten miles we covered each day. Two good friends (from Cheyenne, Wyoming) and I camped below the mountains on Saturday night (August 3rd). A $9 fee and the roads on the way there were still super-crappy. What gives? Wasn’t that supposed to be one of the things governments were good at?

Add to that my $26 fishing license (right in the middle of the year-long season, and just past the height of that season) and we’ve already been taken for 35 Federal Reserve Notes. I understand the need for wise management, but does licensing really solve it (to say nothing of the natural right to catch fish)? I’m not so sure. Charging everybody the same fees for what end up being different costs imposed by them can’t be anything but inefficient. In my case, it incentivizes me to go out and fish more than I otherwise would, imposing more costs, just to make it worth getting the license. Considering that I never catch anything, I have a lot of fishing to squeeze between now and the season’s end.

Just how bad is my fishing? I brought a nice little pole that comes with a cast reel and a fly reel. I stimulated the local economy by purchasing several fancy new lures (having temporarily misplaced my other good ones). What could go wrong? Well, within the first five casts my lure got snagged on a rock at about 6 feet depth. I had to wade out to three feet of depth and alternately jerk and loosen my line from several positions to get it unstuck. Nothing I hadn’t had to do before.

I should have quit while I was ahead. Maybe another five casts later I outdid myself. If it weren’t for the fact that my reel had become loosened from the rod I know it would have been my farthest cast yet. Instead, the entire reel went flying out into the lake and the rest of the line hung up on the rod. Not wanting to lose my reel, I panicked and dove in after it. I figured, “8 feet? This will be a cinch!” After going head first to the bottom (the sun was behind the clouds and I was stirring up the mud, so I couldn’t see it) four or five times I decided it would be best to pull on the line until it was completely unraveled and hope that it was tied to the reel. Luckily it was. I was happy to recover all my gear, but I was soaking wet and the sun wasn’t out. Luckily no one witnessed my floundering. No doubt my friends would have gotten a kick out of it.


On my way back to camp, dripping, shivering, holding my tangled line and my dismembered pole I was stopped by some ranger chick (the US Forest Service is an agency of the US Department of Agriculture). Just what I needed. She detained me for about five minutes to ask me where I was from, where I was going, how far away our campfire was from the lake, whether we knew not to burn our soup cans, etc. She was at least nice about it (heck, she didn’t even mention the Glock 40 belonging to my friends’ brother, strapped to my belt, or ask to see my fishing license) and eventually realized how uncomfortable I was and said she would come to our campsite later to finish her lecture. Which, of course, she did. She had no problem telling us that we were her worst demographic, three young men. Can you imagine a police officer saying that to a black teenager in a large urban area? I’d say that’s profiling, but I digress. She told us she was going to be off for the next two days but when she came back she would be checking up on us. Add to the profiling some harassment. We had yet to be told or to admit that we had broken any “rules” (which, of course, we had). Luckily we managed to evade her the rest of the hike, but we made sure not to have any extra fun lest we incur her wrath.

So I was basically done fishing on the first day unless I wanted to fly-fish or untangle my other line. I did try a little fly-fishing at one lake a few days later but didn’t catch anything. Luckily, four or five gentleman from Chicago (with thick former-Soviet bloc accents) whom we camped near saw I had no luck and offered us some of their surplus. Five fresh trout. Of course, we had to gut them ourselves, but it was worth it. I wrapped them in aluminum foil and seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, dill, black pepper, red pepper, and salt. Then I put them on our grill over our camp fire for 20 minutes. If I swallowed any bones, I didn’t notice. As a courtesy, in the morning we gave them a package of noodles we would have otherwise eaten the night before. Does that qualify more as reciprocal gifting or as barter? I hope for their sake those boys had their Montana fishing licenses (better yet, that they didn’t have them but managed to dodge the rangers), though as out-of-staters it would have cost them an arm and a leg.


We camped again the night we got back down. Another $9. 46 FRNs total. Roads were still pretty bad. No hand sanitizer or lights in the bathroom facilities. Almost no good firewood other than some dead, dried pine boughs and a giant old stump which we put set aflame around 7:30 PM. It took two of us to drag it to the fire and all three of us to lift it into the fire. A lot of the weight came from the few large stones that the root system had wrapped itself around. It was 3:30 AM before I decided to douse the fire. The stump was still there. It was a lot smaller, and in two pieces, but still could have burned another hour or two on its own. My one friend had turned in around 11, the other one was up with me until about 2. I knew if I went to bed as early as they I would be awake, tossing and turning after only a couple hours’ rest. Plus, being a night owl, I couldn’t help it.

I’m not sure what our backpacks weighed, and we got back more than a week ago (August 9th), but my shoulders are still a little stiff and my right knee aches when I straighten my leg out. Even with all this, I had a great time.


9 thoughts on “First World Camping Problems, USDA Tyranny, a Fish Story, and Some Epic Snapshots

  1. Pingback: First World Camping Problems, USDA Tyranny, a Fish Story, and Some Epic Snapshots | Notes On Liberty

  2. Fun adventure! I went on my first backpacking trip this summer in New Hampshire. It was only one night and a mere 7-8 miles round trip up. It could have been a day trip, but I enjoyed camping overnight on the mountain.

    • Yeah, this was my first really long hiking trip. It was rough to be away from almost all of civilization’s amenities for that long, but plenty of fun and well-worth it. I still more enjoy doing day trips or just one night of camping.

      • “it was rough to be away from civilizations amenities for that long”
        Good god you’re soft. I bet you brought a crate of off spray too.

        • Todd, I don’t know about you, but I was born and raised on a ranch, and I’ve been hiking since before I went to school. By rough I more mean BORING AS HELL than I do hard on my body. A guy can only take so many trees and lakes and mountains before they all start to look the same. I brought one can of Off, and used it maybe three times. Fact is, when you’re moving, the bugs can’t really land on you. When you’re not moving its either because its too hot, even for the bugs, or its time to set up camp, in which case there’s a fire and the smoke keeps ’em away. The only times I regretted not having the bug spray were when I was fishing and using the bathroom. Soft, eh? You wanna arm wrestle?

  3. I’m sorry, i’m sure you would have been much happier had you paid $23 for the same quality roads from some shitty inefficient redneck private company. Also lol at thinking that wilderness trails are supposed to be roads, you don’t get out much do you.

    • I’ll be back to reply to this one soon, asshole, but I’ve got a rare steak to go chew on. One of civilizations amenities. Way better than rehydrated cajun style macaroni.

    • Todd, you played your hand and it was lousy. Even-suited with some phone numbers. If you could take your head out of your ass for just a second you would be able to detect the mild self-deprecating humor scattered throughout this article. You are probably used to bawdy jokes that you laugh at whether you get them or not. But hey, everyone else is laughing, so it must be funny.

      All kidding aside, Todd, what I was referring to in the article were indeed roads. You are a typical statist, pretending to have perfect knowledge about things of which you have no experience. Tell, me Todd, have you been to this place I am talking about? Are you sure? You didn’t happen to notice the green street signs or the posted speed limits or the 30 foot width or all the cars driving on these “wilderness trails”, did you Todd? Well, I sure did. I also went on the hiking trail. These were no walk in the park so to speak, but i have no complaints. Maybe the forrest service put them there. Maybe a private company put them there. Don’t know, don’t care.

      Too bad instead of having a legitimate criticism you decided to jump the gun and make a complete idiot of yourself (granted, that probably comes naturally to you). From your comments it should be clear to anyone that you have almost zero reading comprehension (where did I say $23, for example?) and a tendency to speak before you think. Any future conversations I have with you will be conducted in light of these unfortunate facts.

      Back to your amazing and oh so original point about shitty redneck companies building roads. Well guess what, Todd?

      That’s already who is building them! You don’t get out much, do you? (Todd, that’s a question, by the way. See the question mark?)

      Do you want to know why its shitty redneck companies that are building roads, Todd? Its because the government hires whoever it is most expedient for them to hire, whether that company can efficiently build a “quality” road or not.

      In other words, you’ve got it exactly backwards.

      In the future, if you want your comments not only to stand, but you want to avoid being verbally abused (as it is, this is no doubt better than a lout like you even deserves), please learn how to spell, learn how to read, and learn how to argue. And, one more thing — sorry to bring this up, it’s a peeve of mine — stop waving your tiny dick around! Not only is it rude, obnoxious, and living proof of how shallow and pathetic you are, but everyone and their grandmother is doing it. The internet is full of losers like you. A dime a dozen. Perhaps I should say your routine is getting old, but to be perfectly honest, it provides hours of entertainment, though little else.

      Below are a couple more sites for you to comment on (I won’t put any really heavy hitters down there, as you clearly prefer to troll us little guys) if you feel I haven’t thoroughly wrung you out. I hope they don’t ignore you. Most people are not as patient or considerate as I:

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