Rifle Mountain Park has 30 campsites spread through three camping areas, Sawmill Gulch, Huffman Gulch and Rifle Creek. Between Huffman and Rifle Creek there are two prized sites next to the creek as it meanders through old beaver dams before rushing through the narrows. All of these 30 sites are placed along a 1 mile stretch of the park. I was returning from a change-giving mission to site 20 in Rifle Creek and as I was just passing the two prized sites I spotted a tent. 'You have got to be kidding me!' No where near a campsite was a tent perched next to the creek and almost out of site from the road. I slowed enough to determine that getting to the tent required at least one creek crossing (there are several S curves in the creek). Since I was wearing my running shoes I returned to the trailer to buckle on the Chacos and go investigate.
I parked in site 16 and started the trek through grass, reeds and two creek crossings. As I approached the tent I noticed it didn't look too secure. Curious. I called out announcing myself secretly afraid of what (or who) I might find. When I got opposite the tent and readied to use a log to cross the creek it was obvious that this tent was not erected in this location but had been transported by pranksters from a campsite! Inside the tent was a huge air mattress that filled most of the volume in the cheap Coleman tent. Also inside was a pillow and two sleeping bags. I was stumped. How did this get here? Why is it here. And then I laughed because this was apparently someones practical joke on their friends. Oh, what a good one!
I decided I couldn't move the tent myself so headed back to the truck. I made it across the log and one creek crossing before deciding that I had better go back and dismantle the tent. Tony had gone to town, we were between rain storms and dusk was rapidly approaching. I had visions of campers returning from climbing to not find their tent and wandering the park in the dark looking for their tent. Though I really wanted to watch it unfold, the responsible camp host inside of me determined it would be best to get the tent. The first trip I carried the sleeping bags, pillow and tent fly. The second trip I carried the tent and poles. The third and final trip I carried the now deflated air mattress.
Upon returning to our cabin I laid the sleeping bags out on the parking barriers to dry. The tent had been set at an angle and because the tiny tent fly didn't cover the whole tent so rain had gotten inside. Then I sat waiting for a frantic camper. It started raining again so I had to quickly grab the bags and return them to the truck cab. Then I had to heave the air mattress and tent out of the truck bed and lug them into the cabin. Still no campers. A week earlier we had taken two tents down that had spent a day in an unpaid site and they were still unclaimed. Could this tent also fall to the same fate of life in the lost and found?
About 8:30 I noticed a vehicle go by and thought 'ah, there go my campers'. Sure enough within minutes they came racing back in a panic. I sauntered out and they immediate said 'Our tent is missing!'
'Is it by chance a gray and orange Coleman?'
'Yes! Do you have it?'
'Yes. I found it between your site and site 16.'
They looked around frantically 'Do you have it?!'
'Yes. It is in the cabin.'
They didn't care about the tent, wet bags or deflated air mattress. They were most concerned about a pair of prescription glasses. The glasses were still inside the tent and unharmed, much to the relief of both. Turns out the only person who knew where they were camped was their buddy who had been with them all day. Could it be a case of mistaken identify? Or a case of a mischievous unknown party? We will never know.
There are still two unclaimed tents in the lost and found.