Friday, July 06, 2007

I Heart Camping

No. I am not saying I buy all of my equipment at REI, that I slept in a mummy bag on the side of a cliff or ate only what I hunted. I didn't make a 7 mile trek to a remote corner of a National Park, or start a fire by rubbing two sticks together.

I made advance reservations. The first night our tent was pitched for us... also in advance. We did cook over open flames and hike through actual wilderness. I heated water to wash our pie pan plates. We read by lantern light. We encountered wild animals. We had a wonderful time and we can't wait to camp again, this time with Geoff, so he too can know the thrill of sleeping beneath the stars and nylon, and eating nitrate free hot dogs from Trader Joe's.

Maybe we aren't ready for the hardcore camping that purists insist on, but we had a ton of fun, roughing it in our own fashion. Our first night was at a sort of Yuppy camping paradise, called El Capitan Canyon, where the camp store stocks wine, s'mores kits and they make gourmet pizzas to order. I am glad we got in before the summer rates went up. We recommend it for convenience in nature. Real mattresses are an undeniable pleasure.

It's beautiful there and we enjoyed our long walks, swimming, running in the sprinklers and meeting the squirrels. This one actually freaked me out. I never would have considered myself squirrelphobic, until this little guy came around. He kept circling our legs as we sat at the picnic table. He was... Squirrely. He was after chip crumbs, and true we were in his neighborhood, so he was entitled. I just felt vulnerable and skittish with him scampering around our feet and eyeing us with his hungry, beady rodent eyes. I was laughing and shuddering at the same time.

We were powerless under his gaze!

We also stayed at El Cap on the way home, which is a sensible way to finish a long trip. We were able to relax, take hot showers, reorganize the gear and take in more of the sights. By this time, Maria was really into camping and helping out with things, like cooking. She washed onions in the spigot water and chopped bell peppers... it was her idea to add oak leaves to her rustic stew.

Camping has an inherent element of danger, what with the wild animals, and open flames. Maria kept returning to our table candle to cook her peppers and onions.

It's hard to admonish a cook that can improvise.

This is Max's tree. He sat in it for days long enough that we'd wonder where he'd gone. He was very happy perched in this amazing spot, where he could watch the world walk by, eat his grapes and reflect on the bliss of summer.

The woodpeckers seemed to prefer our picnic table.

Our favorite place is further north on the Coast Highway, at Limekiln State Park. Don't tell anyone. We want to keep it our secret. Shh!

I should not mention that this spot is on the beach, where a creek that begins in the redwoods meets the ocean. I shouldn't write about the Rivendalesque forest where campers and nature meet in a harmonious scene that is profoundly soothing and affirming.

We so want to go back there and stay for many days, so we can take the second trail; the one we skipped in favor of the falls trail. We want to camp there again so we can lose track of the days and make believe we know the homes of fairies and elves, so we can learn the names of wild flowers and take naps on the banks of the creek.

This is the place and time where and when we became unschooled. We stepped off the path and threw caution to the wind. We dared to cross the creek, hop rocks, touch trees, find bugs, listen to birds, follow the flow of the hillsides and water, let the dappled light hold our thoughts. It's possible to fall if you climb. It's possible to get wet near water. It's possible to fall behind, if you don't watch the time. It's possible to get dirty if you sit on the ground, or climb a fallen tree. We did everything possible and enjoyed all the consequences and discoveries. It was delightful.

We got lost, in our thoughts.

We laughed and tested our confidence. We found new truths about what's safe, right, good, normal, fun.

We slowed down long enough to remember how very little we need to make life meaningful and worthwhile.

We want to go back and sleep in our tent and wake-up with bedhead. We want to watch day turn into night and back again, and not care what we are missing in the other world.

I really do love camping. It's messy and sometimes too cold, or too far from the bathrooms. Hey, at least I didn't have to deal with my landlord dropping by unannounced... ugh!

I like surprising the kids with natural wonders, like crayfish in the creek, meadows of clover, the blue moon dipping in to the Pacific. I like amusing them with Camping Only treats, like a bowl of Lucky Charms and making s'mores.

1 comment:

Tarie said...

Man, I need to get out of the metropolis more often. O_O I usually only get to be in nature every Christmas break when I visit my mother's hometown: General Santos City. That's where the family farms and ranches are.