Working Smarter

Wilderness Ranger Eric Giebelstein

Wilderness Ranger Eric Giebelstein

by Eric Giebelstein, Wilderness Ranger

I was recently tasked with finding an elusive abandoned campsite in the Saint Mary’s Wilderness. It has existed for nearly a decade and although many groups had volunteered to remove it, none had succeeded.

Gazing over thick laurel growth.

Gazing over thick laurel growth.

I was armed with the latitude and longitude of the camp and a general description with photographs.  “No problem,” I thought. I plugged the coordinates into a GPS unit and charged down the trail. When I was within 600 feet of the camp, I dove off the trail into the laurel. I crossed Saint Mary’s River and began to ascend the hillside adjacent to the river.

To give you an idea of the landscape, imagine the densest laurel thicket you’ve seen, throw in loads of greenbrier, and add a smattering of downed trees and you’re beginning to see where I was. I was climbing over, crawling under, and crashing through at a rate of one step per minute.  I saw a sunny spot ahead that I thought could be a clearing. However, when I arrived at the coordinates, I was still swimming in laurel.  Exhausted, poked, prodded, and deflated, I did my best to trundle down the hill, eventually stretching and crawling among the rhododendron to the riverside.

St. Mary's River

St. Mary’s River

Once I arrived at the river, I rejoiced and waded my way downstream to the trail.  I retread the description of the location of the camp: “Just down from the last crossing of the river.”  I realized that down meant downstream, so I waded downstream 200 feet and found the camp, still there in its disgusting glory.

On occasions like this, I’m reminded of the tired adage “work smarter, not harder.”  I blindly relied on the GPS to take me to my destination, when all I had to do was insert the word “stream” into the description and I would have saved myself an hour and a half of bushwhacking and pain.

St. Mary's Abandoned Campsite

St. Mary’s Abandoned Campsite

I’ll be removing this camp as soon as possible so that no further blood, sweat or tears are shed for this monstrosity.