Camping on the South Yuba
You know that jetlag thing where you wake up after a good night’s sleep, all refreshed and bright-eyed, to discover you’ve been out for 23 minutes? And then it happens again at 4 o’clock in the morning? And both times, you sit there thinking “Y’know, I really should be sleeping right now” and it’s mildly stressful?
That stress is gone when you open your eyes to look up through pine trees at an array of stars so cosmically tremendous it feels like childhood rose up inside you to layer optimism and unselfconscious gratitude on the backs of your eyes. At moments like that, jetlag’s alarm clock is a blessing that lets you sneak in one extra moment of beauty.
I like camping.
After three weeks of asphalt and buses, getting among the trees was exactly what I needed. And after standing in my apartment again, seeing only the places where my lady’s stuff used to be, and realizing every single g’dang thing has memories of her attached, some time in the trees was even more necessary. I took of dose of my new reality, choked it down, then took a last break from it, in the company of one old friend and two brand-spankin’ new ones.
I’d never been to the South Yuba River, whose warm clear water gathers in blue and green pools, between sunsoaked stones that dry your feet with their earthy breath, and whose swaying trees are a consoling hug that heals the knowledge that this area was once annihilated and abused by ruthless mining practices.
If those trees and hillsides can heal…
So gather around the campfire as the wood pops, the dishes are “camping clean” and the avocados are ripe for tomorrow’s breakfast. Now that there’s some good camping. And it’s almost bedtime. And everything will be alright. Somehow.
Ever since we were kids, I’ve preferred sleeping outside the tent. Open air, soft pineneedle wind, and the buzz of bees in the morning. The effortlessness of waking up with dawn when your body is reading all of it without interference. Or maybe it was just because someone threw up on the tent in the back of the family minivan all those years ago.
Truth be told I don’t even remember which brother that was. I’m 83% sure it wasn’t me.
That love of sleeping outside is still in me, so no need to bring a tent, I stretched my bag on a thin mat and watched the night sky pop up through the intermittence of my jetlag.
I think it was the third time I woke up that I registered two things in quick succession. First was the daylight. Second was the black bear looking me in the eyes from about 15 feet away.
Good morning big fella.
He went his way and I went mine. Friends, river swimming, and an ursine alarm clock. Every weekend should be this good.