The Painted Hills

The Worst Camping Trip – Part 2

I left off in my story about the worst camping trip ever…how someone shot at us. Or so we thought. It’s a funny story after the fact. It was scary when it was happening, and then when we realized what really happened it was quite embarrassing.

We were camping in Eastern Oregon for the weekend near John Day, Oregon. It was a cool place to see. The Painted Hills were amazing to see in person. The colors were vibrant and none of the photos do it justice.

We were camping at a very remote (and nearly empty) campground near the Painted Hills. On our second day there we had the “shooting” drama. It was a Saturday in June, 2009.

Since our bike ride had come to startling end, we headed back to our campground and ate dinner. I don’t remember what we grilled up. But we were done eating, hanging out at the campfire when we decided to go for a bike ride since the earlier attempted was thwarted.

It was probably around 6 or 7pm by the time we decided to attempt a bike ride. It was still really light out. My mountain bike tires were the ones that exploded on me (I didn’t have a road bike yet). Michael had his road bike and he brought his old hybrid bike too so that’s what I used.

We headed out from our campsite. It was a quiet camp ground and the surrounding areas were quiet too. We biked down the lonely highway a few miles and then turned off onto a paved logging road.

There was no traffic to be seen, just the two of us on bikes. Then it happened. Michael was a little ways ahead of me on the road when I saw him fall. I don’t remember what happened exactly, but he went down hard. I shouted his name and started pumping the pedals as hard as I could to catch up to him.

He got up from the ground, shaky, and blood was dripping down one of his arms. His elbow was scratched and his right palm was bleeding from a road rash. His left elbow was hurt. I asked if he was okay and he said he thought he was okay–but that he couldn’t bike back to the campground with his bloody hand.

I left and biked back to the campground to get the car (with the bike rack). It was uphill to get back and I was biking as hard and as fast as I could (I was a new cyclist so this was a struggle for me). My heart was racing. My mind was racing even faster–thinking of every possible scenario. Where were we? Was there a hospital nearby? Would he need stitches? Did he break a bone? I had no idea.

I got back to the campground, tossed the bike on the ground and hopped in the car. I sped down the highway and picked up Michael, who was stubbornly trying to bike back with one hand. I loaded his bike on the rack and drove us back to the campground. By this time it was pitch black out.

Night was falling, temperatures were dropping. I grabbed my first aid kit and my headlamp and I proceeded to clean out his wound on his palm. I washed it, put wound ointment on it and bandaged it the best I could.

“Did you hit your head?” I asked.


We are both helmet wearers, too. I asked him if he felt dizzy or nauseated? Did he feel sleepy? Headache? No, no. Anything else on his body hurt? His left elbow hurt but he thought he was okay. I fashioned a sling for his left arm out of a shirt I had. I had a small amount of pain medication in my first aid kit–random stuff like Advil, allergy medicine and a few leftover Oxys from a surgery I had. They made me sick so I stopped taking them but I saved them in my first aid kit. I gave Michael one and we went to bed.

I can’t say I slept well that night. It was colder than the first night we camped. I was worried about Michael. Worried about a lot of things. Dawn broke. I was slowly waking up because I had to pee but was too cold to get out of my sleeping bag to get up.

“Are you awake?”

“Yeah?” I said. I took off my eye mask.

“I’m going to say some things and I want you to listen and not freak out.”

Okay I am freaking out already. Don’t you hate it when people say that preamble? Of course I’m gonna freak out! I was wide awake now.

Michael said calmly, “I think my arm is broken. I need you to pack up the campsite and drive me back to Portland.”

I said okay and got up immediately. I loaded him into the front seat of the car and packed up the campsite in 10 minutes. We hit the road. It wasn’t even 5am yet. I had to drive us back to Portland, 4.5 hours away. This included driving over Mount Hood.

The drive home was stressful. I hadn’t really driven Michael’s car at all and that added to the stress. The bikes weren’t loaded properly on the rack and I had to stop a dozen times during the drive home to readjust them and tighten them on the rack.

There was limited cell service. Michael tried to relax as I drove us home but he was in pain. He was also calling his mom (who lives in Portland) and his dad (who lives in Texas) to tell them what happened and keep them posted. I breathed a sigh of relief when we got back to Portland.

It wasn’t smooth sailings though. Michael had to find his insurance and medical information and had to call to find out where he could go to Urgent Care. He found one nearby and I drove him there. We sat in Urgent Care for several hours.

The verdict: fractured elbow. It was wrapped (too tightly, the doctor there was a total idiot and it ended up causing Michael nerve damage in his fingers). We weren’t living together at the time. I think we’d only been dating for a few months in fact. His roommate Shoe helped a bit. Michael’s mom came over during the day when I had to go to work. Him and his mom watched the first season of Breaking Bad. πŸ™‚

I don’t remember how long he was in the cast–at least a few weeks. He healed and didn’t need surgery or anything and a month later he was out of the cast:

July 30, 2009

It was not what I would call the best camping experience I’ve ever had. In fact, I think we’re both traumatized by the whole experience and probably wouldn’t camp or visit that area ever again. πŸ˜›

QUESTION: What is your worst camping experience ever? Have you ever broken a bone?


The Worst Camping Trip Ever

(Reposted from last year)

aka Someone Shot At Us!

The best stories are the ones that you can continue to tell over and over again and still laugh….in spite of everything. With summer ending, I’m reminiscing on some really great…and some not so great…summer memories.

Last summer, Michael and I went on a camping trip over in Eastern Oregon in a place called John Day, Oregon. Neither of us had ever been there before but the photos of The Painted Hills we saw online looked so amazing we had to go.

Yes, those are the real colors.

We set up the campsite about 20 minutes away from the Painted Hills in a very remote campground.

We set up camp and enjoyed the site that first night. Beer, hammocks, a campfire…the best time!

We grilled up some salmon and fresh asparagus. I think that’s pretty good eatin’ for camping.

We had a great night camping and woke up the next day ready for a full day of hiking and a bike ride.

As you can see it’s a pretty remote area. Right before we went for our bike ride, we stopped in a town similar to the movie Deliverance. I am not even kidding you. I wish I had taken more photos of that creepy one-street town because it will make your skin crawl.

We went for a hike and explored the Painted Hills first.

It was so cool in person. Not quite as big as the photos make it look, but still awesome. There was a boardwalk through the middle of the Hills.

It was not a strenuous hike at all…more of just a stroll. Afterward we went out to lunch in the nearest town and then came back to go for a bike ride.

We intended on parking our car on the side of a road.Β Β Similar to this picture:

The plan was to park the car and then ride the remote road several miles to the Painted Hills and then back to the car. We estimated the ride would be about 15 miles round trip.

We were in the process of getting ready to head out when it happened.

Someone shot at us!

Michael had unloaded the bikes and we were closing up the car when it happened.

The sound of a gun shot echoed through the valley we were in. There was an explosion feet from us…My bike tire had exploded and the gravel around it sprayed.

“What the f*ck was that?” I yelled.

Michael yelled back, “Someone is shooting at us!”

He ducked behind the car where I had been discreetly trying to put on my bike shorts (yay spandex).

I grabbed my phone–no service. I tried to look around at the hills across the road from us. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to see but I didn’t see a person with a shotgun or anything.

We were both freaking out by this time. What do we do?? We’re in the middle of nowhere with no cell service. We’re in a valley with no where to really hide.

I suggested that we get in the car and speed away. Michael refused to leave my bike (noble…but stupid because it was a 15 year old rusted mountain bike). I was freaking out and said I didn’t care about the bikes–I care about our heads being blown off!

There were no more gun shots but I was worried. We were sitting ducks. We crouched on the protected side of the car while we discussed our options.

Was it some redneck hillbilly? Some kids playing a game? Some psycho??

I saw a VW Jetta with a couple driving onto the road we were on. I decided to risk it and run out there to flag them down. We’d been waiting for like 15 minutes already, trying to decide what to do.

I flagged the driver down and said “Um, do you mind driving to the Ranger Station down the road and telling them we need help?” I told her that someone was up on the hill shooting at us. She agreed and they drove off.

More waiting.

No ranger came. Like 30 minutes had gone by.Β Michael decided it was enough waiting and ran around the car and grabbed my bike. We realized my back tire was flat and totally shredded. Luckily his (very expensive) bike was still on the bike rack.

Michael crawled across the car to the driver’s side and started the car. Β He didn’t want to waste time out in the open trying to put my bike onto the rack. I sat in the passenger side with the door open holding my bike as he drove slowly a few feet to a spot that was protected.

He got my bike on the rack and the ranger drove up. We explained what happened and he told us to drive to the Ranger Station and wait for him to meet us. We happily sped away.

We waited at the Ranger station, getting some cold water and analyzing my bike tire.

Then Michael said, “You know…um, I’ve heard of bike tires exploding from heat…”



“You’re kidding me, right?”

He analyzed the bike tire and said he couldn’t see a bullet hole or a bullet. “There would be a hole if it was shot. This looks like it exploded.”

I started laughing hysterically because the idea was so ridiculous. We looked at each other and all the adrenaline that had been racing through our bodies diminished.

“I don’t think anyone was shooting at us.” Michael said.


Our harrowing adventure in the wilderness where we were shot at…was most likely a bike tire exploding from the intense heat.

The Ranger returned and said he didn’t see anyone on the hill. Michael calmly pointed to the tire and suggested that maybe it just exploded. We slinked away as quickly as possible–dying from embarrassment. Once we were back to the campsite we were able to start laughing about the whole thing.

That’s not the end of the story, either. We still wanted to go for a bike ride. We rode out from our campsite and then Michael crashed on his bike and broke his arm.

Ah, camping memories…

The End.