The Flood: The Campground

The flood of 2013 was one year ago this week. Commemoration events are happening in Lyons and Boulder County. As my own commemoration, I am posting part of my flood story each day. This is the fourth post of the series, here are the first,  second, and third posts. I’m hoping to share some of the feelings I experienced. Down, up, and sideways. Posts aren’t in chronological order; these posts are about remembering. 

This is my story, but it is not one of significant difficulty or hardship. People are still experiencing extreme difficulty and hardship because of the flood. Please consider helping through a donation to Lyons Community Foundation.

Site #38: Adult camper on the right, kids camper on the left.

Site #38: Adult camper on the right, kids camper on the left.

“The campsite was to the flood what the Ewok Village was to Return of the Jedi.”  -Chris


We are scrambling to find a place to camp. All of northern Colorado’s scenic campgrounds are next to creeks or lakes and are now contaminated with sewage, silt, grit, rocks, cars, propane tanks . . . whatever the river washed down. I’ve placed messages on Craigslist and in the Lyons Recorder: displaced family of five with three dogs, looking for a place to put a camper, ideally with an electrical hookup, but with no response. We call everyone we know. There has to be a place we can camp.

At a school gathering, we learn that people are camping at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, in the middle of Longmont. We drive straight there to see if we can get a spot.

“You are evacuees, right?”

The woman behind the window is incredibly nice, so nice that I immediately want to hug her.

“Yes.” What a strange word to identify with. Should I try to explain in a longer sentence? “I have a house but I can’t get there because the roads are gone?” No, I am an evacuee, I tell myself. We are evacuees. I feel like I’m lying, as if I’m being fraudulent  but I’m not, I remind myself, I am an evacuee. We aren’t allowed to go home. We had to leave. That makes us evacuees.

Jarring to my sense of reality.

“How long is your rig?” A perfectly reasonable question, but I don’t know the answer. I look at Chris.

“Probably about thirteen feet,” he answers.

“Okay, site number thirty-eight.” We give her our license plate numbers and she gives us tags for our cars, the code for the bathroom and shower building, and the rules of the campground: dogs on leash, quiet hours from ten to six.

“Where do you live?” I realize in a rush that I haven’t asked her anything about herself or her situation. Her house might be gone and here I am worrying about where we are going to put a camper. I would learn in the coming days to ask this question early.

“I live in Longmont,” she says. “I had a little water in the basement, but my house is fine.”

“Oh good,” I say, genuinely happy for her but also thankful that I’m not in the situation of thinking only of myself when talking with someone in a much worse situation.

Our small camper is the adult and dogs camper, while a larger, borrowed camper is the kids camper. Site number thirty-eight is our new anchor. Each kid has an assigned space to keep her things, an idealistic approach that is only vaguely successful. I piece together walking trails with the dogs and watch hang-gliders in the sky above the mountains. Chris sits at the picnic table and watches the beginnings of football season on his phone. Squirrels run along the fence near the camper and taunt the dogs. The campground host drives up in her golf cart and offers us fresh eggs from chickens, who, also displaced by the flood, are living at the fairgrounds.

We meet other Lyons families, all evacuees. One couple in their seventies isn’t sure if they will rebuild. We have coffee and banana bread at the camper across the way from us. “Don’t cut yourself,” the stern ER-doc Mom tells our youngest. “I don’t want to have to pull out my tools.” Another Lyons family plans to rent an apartment in a few weeks, anticipating not being able to go home for two solid months.

“I don’t even want to take furniture with us,” she says, and I understand.

The fairgrounds lets us use their giant grill pavillion, and the families cook a feast: salmon, steaks, potatoes, roasted garlic, banana bread, and share with each other. The kids run among the trees, playing in the grassy field across the street from Target and Hobby Lobby.

Nothing is figured out; Chris is moving his work, my drive to work has quadrupled, the kids are going to school in a new town, and our town is still in shambles. But we have an anchor, a space with the lightness of the Ewok Village, surrounded by all the doom and gloom. We’re meeting people, making friends, and sharing food. The roots are tenuous, but we are temporarily connected.

One Response to "The Flood: The Campground"

  • Your blog is called ‘ordinary contradictions’ and this series is so full of contradictions: having a house but being an evacuee, camping across from Target and Hobby Lobby, a fair ground as a place for establishing some sort of routine. I once spent a week in a refugee camp, helping a friend who was volunteering. I think one of the things that struck me then, which your post reminds me of, is the extraordinary generousity and hospitality of people who have lost something or been displaced themselves.

    1 Melissa said this (2.22.2011 at 23:58)