Camping/boating 'ethics' question - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-13-2009   #1
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2007
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Camping/boating 'ethics' question

I had a bad experience this weekend with a boater (part of a larger group), and I want some input.

we ran down to the Ark on Friday, and found one of the free public camp spots along the river. there were several small groups of boaters already there, with their tents up, everyone was cool.

there was a very large area about 80 feet long with no tents. I saw one stove on a bench and a chair near a fire pit. otherwise, no tents, no indication anyone was camping there. I thought maybe someone had camped there and packed up but left some gear for cooking after boating, or maybe they were coming back and wanted to set up a tent. but the chair was set literally in the PATH leading into the area, not in a tent area.

We scouted the whole area and decided that there was room for at least ten tents. So we set up a tent in the area.

As we were preparing dinner for my 7 and 9 year old kids, a lady and her 'significant other' (a guy, I don't know if they are married or just friends, whatever) arrived. She let her dog run without a leash (the sign says dogs should be leashed, and my border collie was chained up). Her dog ran over to my dog, who snarled at the dog and snapped at it. I didn't see that she had a dog, or I would have warned her, but she just let it run wild. My dog won't hurt another dog, but being leashed up, she feels protective of the children.

The lady went berzerk. I understood that she was upset about the dog incident, but she started yelling and cursing at us for having set up in "her area". I told her I hadn't seen any indication that the particular spot was taken, and she said the WHOLE CAMP AREA was theirs, she had put a chair there to mark that the entire camp was taken.

She called me a number of explitives, scaring my kids to the point they were crying, and actually threw my camp stove onto the ground, then threw our bag of food down.

I remained calm and tried to introduce myself, her friends seemed genuinely shocked by her behavior. She continued to scream insults, even addressed my children to tell them what "assholes" they have as parents, until her friend grabbed her by the arm, walked her away and shook her hard to get her to calm down. Eventually she did, and its a good thing, my wife was so infuriated by her attitude, she literally had her hand on a pistol (she always open-carries when I leave her alone in the camps, just in case we meet a violent nutter). I don't think the woman knew that if she'd continued her violent behavior and had assaulted me, she might have had a gun pulled on her. (when I realized my wife was so freaked out, I sent her a distance away, but I was really worried about what would have happened if she'd attacked my wife when I wasn't there...she might have been shot)

So, my question is about the "ethics" of "reserving" a campground. Obviously, if she had had a tent up, we never would have intruded in her spot, or even if she'd put some gear into a spot, but in my mind, a single chair in a path, or a stove on a table, doesn't mean the whole ground is reserved. There were enough spots for 10 tents, and in all of our camping experiences, campers share fire grills, tables, etc peacefully because there is limited space.

What's more, if she'd just have been reasonable, we would have worked something out, even moved, but the fact that she flaunted the rules with the dog, and then attacked us verbally and damaged our gear violently pissed me off to the point I wasn't willing to let her bully us.

In the end, her "large group" showed up with RVs and they only put up a couple of tents, there was a LOT of extra space, and none of the other boaters seemed put out...they were even a bit apologetic.


my first conclusion: I'm definitely glad my wife is packing for her own protection.

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Old 07-13-2009   #2
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Sorry to hear you and your family had such a bad experience camping! If what you say is really how it occured, sounds like this lady is nuts! I'm glad her friends weren't quite as crazy and had some sense to pull her away.

Who knows, if she'd really gone ballistic, she might be the exact reason your wife has the gun in the first place.
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Old 07-14-2009   #3
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
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Best part=in front of and addressing the children, WOW people are truly amazing. Glad to hear your wife was packing, enjoy it while it lasts.
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Old 07-14-2009   #4
Thronton, Colorado
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I would have thrown her in the river...
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Old 07-14-2009   #5
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Sounds like she's a bit of a whackjob. To respond directly to your question, I've always felt like a vehicle or a tent obviously claims a campsite. If they had a bunch of other gear, like a stove, some firewood, a group of chairs around a fire ring, etc., that would be enough as well, but this falls short.
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Old 07-14-2009   #6
Louisville, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Wow, all that over one tent and dogs being dogs? And you left the table to her group? I would have not used the table since it had a stove.
Sounds like she was having a extra bad day, I would try not to judge based one day's behavior as you have know idea what kind of trauma she is going through. That is what I would tell the kids for sure. Sometimes humans behave irrationally at times of great stress.
I don't think watching mommy escalate by drawing a gun would help the situation either. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti gun- I have a couple, but I think in almost every situation they are best left out of the equation. Sounds like the aggressive woman's friends recognized she was going off the deep end and reeled her back in, which was the best solution. Sorry your night camping was soured.
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Old 07-14-2009   #7
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Little Village, Colorado
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Personally, I would have taken the stove and chair as someone "reserving" the spot. Sadly for you, the person "reserving" the spot was crazed. Glad it didn't end up any crazier than it did.
Uh, I'm just gonna go find a cash machine.
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Old 07-14-2009   #8
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Lakewood, Colorado
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In my experience, it's best to just let them rant. At the same time, get the kids away while it happens, and speak as little as possible. Eventually they'll typically (though not always) run out of steam if there's only one in the group being aggressive. As you saw, most belligerent people will eventually go away.

If I'm not mistaken, most conceal an carry laws stipulate that you must feel that your life is threatened, not just annoyed. If your wife pulls that gun and doesn't use it or, you're wife could be charged with assault rather than self protection. I'm not judging your decision to carry, just informing.
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Old 07-14-2009   #9
Crested Butte, Colorado
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I like privacy while camping and would have assumed from the left gear that the spot "may" have been occuppied or saved and would not have moved in so that no potential crowding or an incident like the one you had would happen. Regardless, the woman's behavior was too extreme as it would have been if your wife's gun had come out. After all its just camping.
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Old 07-14-2009   #10
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Huson, Montana
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1. Fire a warning shot
2. Keep the gear and the spot
3. Taunt her at the top of my voice all night
Thats how I have fun in that type of situation
"You're gonna be doin a lot of doobie rolling when youre LIVIN IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER"
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