Aubrey Goes Camping

My annual family picnic is generally a two day affair.  Day one:  arrive in whatever city was chosen:  Ventura, Lompoc, Solvang, etc.  Check into hotel room.  That afternoon at the picnic, eat enough to starve a continent.  Claim that your old war wound prevents you from taking part in the reindeer games that follow.  That night, meet up again and eat some more.  Day two:  Eat breakfast.  Say good-bye.  Go home. 

This year was different.  There was no chosen city.  Instead a forest was chosen:  The Sequoia National Forest.  The hotel was a lodge.  Hikes, instead of rest, were arranged.  A campsite was reserved.  There would be two days of cookouts and three nights of camping.  Aubrey was going camping.

Father, Boyfriend and I went.  So, Thursday AM we set off, after I had made sure that Boyfrirend had brought liquid bug spray, aerosol bug spray and anti-bug wipes.  After initially getting lost in the heartland of central California, we began our 5,000 foot ascent into the Alpine range of the Sierras.

When the trees began to straighten, with limbs stretching high enough to challenge the horizon, when thickets and glades began to appear, when mellow redwoods begain to outnumber the delicate pines and firs – silvery in the clear sunlight – when the trees cast shadows across the afternoon road in a natural noir, I began to forget my misgivings.  The air was thin, cool and smelt of wood and greenery.  It was impossibly lovely.

Now, father was staying at the lodge.  But an extra room was reserved for Boyfriend and myself, just in case we wanted to pamper ourselves.  With screen windows.  With a mattress.  Witih a flushing toilet.  That sort of thing.

However, Boyfriend and I went straight to the campground to set up our tent.  Our chosen site was somewhat removed from everyone else.  It was right next to, as one of my cousins said, 'bear highway'.  There are stories of how one tore a sedan apart like a croissant to get at a Big Mac.

Now, alot of my cousins are career campers.  Let me tell you something.  Staying in an RV is not roughing it.  Nor is staying in one of your posh tents that you blow up with a tire pump.  This, friends, is Roughing It:

Still, that night we slept at the lodge.  It had, after all, been a long trip.  We didn't feel that it was too bourgeois of us.

Friday AM I pulled my back out – as if things weren't interesting enough.

We were taken to see the world's largest known single organism by volume:  the 'General Sherman' tree.  Over 2,000 years old, this noble tree was located in a grove of equally noble brothers, but none so voluminous.  Many were scored with burns at their base where lightening had pierced them.  The resulting injury created a cavern that one could stand in:

None could be photographed in their entirety in one shot: 




A word about the weather:  HOT.  Two words about bugs:  numerous.  Flying.  Boyfriend and I annointed ourselves with bug spray religiously.  All day long you felt random stings, itches; heard constant buzzings…I thought I would start twitching like a horse in the mid-day sun.

That evening we walked to the campground and did the usual things.  We sat around the campfire.  I looked up into the night and saw a dark blue, star-sequined sky watching us from its circle formed by the far-reaching pines.  Eventually we departed for our tent.

Now, I'm not saying that it was comfortable.  Far from it.  And because of my back, getting into my sleeping bag took me a good 30 seconds.  But it was snug.  And the closeness made one feel so curiously safe.

Around 6AM, I woke to the sound of galloping hooves.  I remember thinking what an odd time it was to go horseback riding.  When we finally emerged we found the camp talking about the mule deer which had come visiting the previous evening.  I again thought of those hooves and imagined the flick of the deer's black-tipped tail before it vanished into the whispering green.

Saturday we went hiking up the High Sierra Trail.  There were some very fine outlooks to see before we decided that the Trail had gone High enough and turned back.

We saw Crescent Meadow, deep and marvelous, shining like a golden pool.

After this, we drove a corkscrew trail to the Crystal Cave, a marble cave set deep within the forest.  Its breath was cold and in its heart were natural galleries, passages and domes.  Through it all you could hear the streams which cut the patterns into the wall and drenched them with color.  Marble formations – blue, green and white – formed the bed of these streams, like the bath of a Roman emperor.  Stalacmites grew up from the ground, while stalactites dripped from the cavernous ceilings.  It was too dark for photographs, so I looked to the Internet for an image:

The 1/2 mile vertical walk back to the parking lot was perfectly diabolical, leavened only by some pretty sights:

That evening there was another barbeque, and another congenial campfire, under a full moon.

While last night the children – of which there were myriad – seemed to outnumber the adults, this time it was the elders who gathered around the bonfire.  A bottle of Jim Beam was passed around – I ignored it, hoping that a martini would somehow materialize – but Boyfriend stopped its circulation more than once.

We camped out once more.  For awhile I was kept awake by the drunken revelry still going on, by my aching back, by the clicks of insects with poor sonar bumping into our tent, by the light of the moon.

We started for home late next morning.  Now, there was a lot wrong with this weekend, but there was a lot that was right and good about it too.  And thinking of it as a memory makes me feel oddly sad.

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18 responses to “Aubrey Goes Camping

  1. Oh, it sounds (and looks!) wonderful! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. ah dear – that made me laugh Aubrey. It all looks beautiful but there was something else there that had the potential of a Carry On movie.

  3. What an amazing trip. I long to see the Giant Redwoods – one day, one day.

  4. [this is fabulous] Right that is it, Aubrey, Kate and I need to go on a lady camping holiday. With all mod cons, like gin and hair irons.

  5. You survived, well done! I especially like the General Sherman shots.

  6. I miss camping. I'd love to see the Giant Redwoods some day.

  7. What fantastic imagery! I love camping and I love going home from camping!What a spectacular place to BE camping!! Thanks for the wonderful glimpse into your weekend!!! I wanna be there!!

  8. Oh thank you, thank you! I miss the sequoias. When I was there last it was winter and we went snowshoe-ing, my first time. Snowshoeing through those giant trees — amazing. Your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for taking us with you.

  9. Awesome! And even camping you look so glam! 🙂

  10. Your writing is extremely enjoyable, even when you are talking about your weekend. I enjoyed the post. I went to Hoh National Rainforest last summer and Rialto Beach. I'd love to go South and see some of the bigger redwoods.

  11. How cool! I can imagine the wonder of camping in the middle of such ancient and venerable trees.

  12. I admire your ability to "rough it"! I'm one of those who can only camp in a cabin. =)

  13. You are changing my mind about the family camping trip in two weeks, I no longer dread it! Thanks! I now can't wait to get into the woods and see what the forest has to offer!

  14. It sounds like the most wonderful trip ever. Here's wishing you many more family picnics like this one (sans the mosquitoes, maybe).

  15. Fatcat – wonderful but tiring!
    Cat – never doubt, it did have its potential for goofiness.
    Kate/Bobble – (claps hands) Lady camping!!! Even the phrase makes me happy.
    Doug – my camera behaved very well on this its very first camping trip. Not traumatized at all.
    Suga' – everyone should see those sentinels. Where have you gone camping?
    Lauri – there were discomforts, mind, but the trees just make one feel so forgiving.
    IG – oh, my poor photos! Thank you though. The snow must have been magnificent. Ummm…no bugs, right?
    DKN – well, a girl has to try, right?
    Lucy – a had to do a quick search on Hoh and Rialto; they are so different, yet so tempting. I've gone beach camping once, and it was pretty difficult, but at the same time so, so soothing.
    Alex – you've imagined it exactly. It's hard to visualize something over 2,000 years old that still breathes.
    eliz. s. – well, after two days, even Boyfriend was thinking longingly about our room in the lodge!
    Lavender – it will be marvelous. I want to read about it so we can compare notes!
    Firefly – I hope you go soon, with a little Firefly in tow! (there were many little ones at the campsite)
    Purplesque – as a matter of fact, next year's reunion is already being discussed, and it looks like another camping venture – Pismo Beach and Catalina Island were some of the places being considered.

  16. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos. You've *almost* convinced me camping could be fun.

  17. Wow, who'd a thunk? I was proud of myself when I went to a remote surf camp with a now-ex BF. Toilet (a real one) in the open (I didn't like that much), shower (an actual shower) in the open in the midst of jungle (that was okay), sleeping in a tent on the third story of an open-walled palapa with the sound of the surf next to a man I loved (Heaven).
    Also, I once took a class at San Diego State called Leisure and Wilderness Experience. Yeah. Big auditorium classroom where we were separted into 'Kiva' groups by our astrological signs. One of the requirements of passing the class was to take a weekend trip with your group. We went backpacking in a dry riverbed somewhere in the desert. I thought I was going to die–hardest thing I've ever done. At night, it was pitch black, and wussy me says, "uh…what's that noise?". The rest of the group was a bit irritated, but agreed to bring out the flashlights. It was wild cows fighting. Um, I love animals, but I'm not fond of horns about my head. I went and slept in the cab of the truck. That's camping a la prissy.

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