Saturday, May 12, 2007


Over the years Geoff and I have taken the opportunity to rent small boats. I think we rented twice in Newport and toured around the small bay in OC. Twice we've rented faster boats and sped around the harbor in San Diego, where you can get a close-up look at carriers and cruise ships. I remember many years ago when my mom, bravely, took us on a sailing lesson at our local bay. She gets seasick fairly easily, so I don't think we took more than one lesson. When I was ten our family took an overnight ferry from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta, which was quite memorable. I was on a cruise to Hawaii; 100% delightful. I've been whale watching a number of times, and on harbor cruises. Geoff's prom was on a harbor cruise. I think by the time Dominic is two years old, maybe sooner, he will have logged more boating hours than my entire boating history.

Doesn't he look right at home?

The boat belongs to several families, so the responsibility and expenses are shared... good idea. I've never given any thought to what boat responsibilities might include. I do know the saying: "Buying a boat is the second happiest day of your life, and selling it is the first." I took it to mean that boat ownership is ponderous and burdensome. I suppose a larger boat would mean more work and headache, but Bill and Alison make it look manageable. They have taken such good care of the boat I assumed it had not touched water, but in truth this is the beginning of its third summer.

How many times have I seen a boat towed around and never tried to comprehend how it went from the trailer to the water? Driving backwards is the answer and slowly slipping it down the boat ramp... er... launch? We were riding in the boat from the parking lot, down the steep ramp, as Bill deftly maneuvered the lot of us in to the deep lake. (Um, if this is "Like, so obvious," please scroll down. I am sharing my learning process and it may become dull for the more experienced boaters.) Bill released the thingie that holds the boat to the trailer and then Alison began operating the boat. Gee, I never thought to ask if the boat has a name. Don't all boats have a name? Bill returned the truck to the parking lot and we picked him up from the dock.

Maria was napping and Geoff stayed with her. Wasn't he a honey to let me take first shift at playing? Actually, it was probably pretty nice to enjoy quiet, private, peaceful alone time with his book and the beautiful views. Maria cooperated by taking a very long and much needed nap.

Okay. So, after the careful backwards driving and gentle entry in to the water, comes speed. Alison eased us in to a thrilling dash across the lake. Soon we were miles from the docks and launch. Max and I sat together in front of the boat, so that our view was of our extended legs and out to the lake and the oak dotted hills, the big blue sky. We rode under two bridges that cross the lake. It was not a busy day and so we didn't pass too many other boats. By the end of the month it will be quite full of boats and revelers with coolers of beer. I'm glad we had this quiet introduction, with the pleasure of making our own waves.

Are you impressionable? I am. When I read a novel that talks about camping, I want to go camping. If I hear a discussion about ripe summer peaches, fragrant and sweet, then I will want to find those peaches and bite into them. Look at all that water. Moving water. Gallons and gallons of water. Imagine the pressure of it, the physical command of it to flow. After hours and hours of riding across the deep lake, feeling the spray of the boat's wake, possibly swimming and splashing in the endless body of free flowing water, one begins to feel a natural calling.

Did you know that lakes have porta-potties? Uh-huh, they do. So, when nature calls, there is a place, almost private, not quite secluded, where a person can answer the call. Good to know.

Bill and Alison were regaling us with tales of house-boating, and by this time we were totally sold on the whole package. We would love to spend a full week living, eating, sleeping, playing, reading, lounging, swimming, dipping, slipping, and exploring in, around and all over a house-boat. Doesn't it sound like fun? When Bill and Alison go with lots of their extended family, they explore huge lakes, which is hard to imagine, because I assumed we were on a huge lake. There are huger lakes and they can take weeks to explore and chart. And so the days of house-boating are full of expeditions, hikes, wake-boarding, tubing, laughter, naps and general water fun.

Look who woke from her nap. We picked-up Geoff and Maria and they joined the fun, watching us tube and enjoying the mild sun, the cool breeze from speeding boat. Bill had his camera out too I see. I hope he shares highlights.

How long were we out there? I didn't much think about the passing of time. My mind was content to enjoy the scenery, to absorb the pleasure of laughing and playing and sharing. I would like to go out for a week, and see the transition of the day into night, and have the luxury of slipping into the water anytime, on a whim. Swim on a whim... I like that.

Then, with more time to take it all in, I could enjoy the quiet of the lake, as much as the play and wild abandon. I could lose count of the days, reflect on the immensity of night, and begin to count stars instead of minutes.

I would pack board shorts and a rash guard, some water shoes and a hat. I would bring lots of memory for the camera, a good book and a brain-candy book, sun-block and a favorite pillow and blanket. It might be nice to have colored pencils and a sketch book, or a quilting project to dabble with or ignore.

And food. Tubing, swimming, laughing... after hours of serious play we were Hungry. Bill warned us we'd be hungry and, of course, he knew the solution was waiting for us in town, at Mike's Pizza. I could write a ten page post about long days at the beach, or camping, and the splendid appetite that comes from swimming, hiking, running, walking, leaping, body surfing, snorkeling and breathing ionized oxygen. Food is good. Food when you are truly hungry is a sumptuous blessing.

Back at the campground, Geoff and I took Maria on an early evening stroll. It was beautiful... the air, the surroundings, the company... all beautiful.

This is where I started to get into a bit of trouble. Memory trouble, because I videotaped and photographed 2 entire Giga Bytes of memory... I wanted to capture every moment, so I could bring as much of the fun home with us as possible. Then, suddenly and without warning, my camera coughed and sputtered...

... a little steam rose from the shutter button and the screen read: NO MEMORY.

I'm glad we travel with our laptop, a rather dilapidated specimen, rebuilt by Geoff and hanging on by a wire. It served us well... we were able to download and later retrieve all those many photo files I managed to collect after only 3 days into our 1 week journey. Once we were fairly confident our pictures were okay on the laptop, I deleted enough files from the camera to make room for more pictures, and I did try to be a little less zealous in my picture taking... though you would not think that was the case when you see just a handful of the Big Tree pictures I took.

Bill and Alison took Dominic home... they had to get back to their jobs. We hung back one more day and went to see the sequoias of Calaveras State Park. It never occurred to me to mention the possibility of seeing snow, though we were going up to an elevation of +4000'.

Don't snicker. It's real snow. Hard, old, dirty, plowed-up in a melting heap at the edge of the parking lot snow. Never mind the sweet fragrance of mountain pines and sky-scraping giant sequoias. The children ran to the sooty pile of winter.

They poked the snow and hit it with sticks. They followed the tunnels that seemed formed by giant snow worms and contemplated their existence. Geoff rode by on our bicycle... off to explore. He invited the children. They could not be compelled to leave their snow.

I sat with them and absorbed the scenery, inhaling the freshest air. We wondered when the last of the snow had fallen, how much longer this pile would last. The boys worked at loosening a hunk of hardened snow that hung off the main heap.

Maria studied the snow on her stick. She talked to the sparkling ice chips. She looked back at the huge quantity of "Ice-ice." She was riveted.

Then we went into the woods. We took a trail that would lead us to a sampling of the large sequoias. The day was perfect, warm and welcoming. The forest was inviting and we stepped in full of awe and wonder. Even the fallen trees are amazing. Resting giants, still holding life for the forest, still commanding reverence. Their size spans great heights, and time.

At one point I couldn't resist stretching out on the forest floor and looking up. It was dizzying, breathtaking and humbling. It was enlightening. I lost physical perspective and gained spiritual perspective. Details began to emerge, like the birds that were darting from branches. I saw squirrels walking up and down the trunks, like Sunday strollers along quiet avenues.

Besides sequoias, there were Douglas fir trees, the ones that smell like Christmas. And there were trees that were blooming pale green flowers with beaded centers. Perhaps you know what these are? They seemed to float on the branches and from a distance they looked like little lanterns in the shadowed forest.

Max and I walked through the length of an entire fallen tree... from the base of its trunk and through the top. Geoff stood in the space between these two trees. I thought of John Muir and the story of his riding out a Sierra storm in the branches of a Douglas fir. As a girl I loved to sit in trees; I think I might still love it. I'd love to try and see.

The walk in the forest was very nice. The immensity and delicacy of life there was a joy to witness.

No trip, no matter how luxurious or relaxing, no matter how spiritually uplifting, or intellectually stimulating... no trip comes without laundry.

Angels Camp playfully reminded me that we were accumulating a growing stash of dirty clothes. Sigh. There's no way to escape it... life and laundry track you down. At the end of any day, I liked looking at Maria's shirt and recalling the day: Ketchup from lunch, dirt from the gravel in the campsite, jelly from breakfast, little something or others from lying down on the forest floor. She had good days.

We hope to return to Angels Camp, to the Lake, and to see the Jumping Frogs of Calavera's County.


Tarie said...

1. I am very impressionable too!
2. I want to live on a house boat for a while too! :)
3. That picture of Maria (not in color) is postcard/poster worthy. :)

~KQ~ said...

Just discovered you! (Followed a link over from Anna Maria Horner...)
Those bright little lanterns in the forest at Big Trees are dogwood. Aren't they beautiful?!

Lucky said...

Good thing that there are Portable Toilets to answer the call of nature..