Tuesday, March 24, 2009

First camping trip, part 2.

The morning after Bobby Kennedy was shot, we packed up our things again and headed toward Yosemite, which was still a very long day away, if not two. It all depended on how well the babies did with traveling, and of course how the car held up and so on.

The car actually turned out to be a problem. We pulled into a service station to get gas, the attendant checked under the hood, and then reported the dire news that we had developed a leak in the transmission line and we had no transmission fluid left. And no mechanic was on duty. But we could come back tomorrow and get it fixed.

We were worried about burning out the transmission, so we found a campground right there in Bakersfield California, and set up our tent. It wasn't the setting we had envisioned when we had set out: our ears were glued to the radio to see if Bobby Kennedy had died; we were camped on a bed of dust at the base of a major highway; and we were hardly in a place where we could go for a hike or see wildlife.

Actually, we did end up seeing a bit of wildlife: wild-colored jays kept stealing our food. The little ones took delight in it. Until one bird came out of nowhere and stole a graham cracker out of VJ's hand.

We spent a long day there, dreaming of Yosemite, still so far away.

The next morning I got up early. The ground was hard, the light bright, the temperatures warming rapidly. The babies were still asleep. Bobby Kennedy was dead...

I made oatmeal and sat in the car waiting for the others to start the day. Finally everyone was up, fed, wiped clean; the car was repacked, then the children added. Off we went to the service station.

The day crew checked the transmission fluid and the line was full. It had been an error.

So we drove to Yosemite. We made it that same day. We put up our tent and got out our stove and lantern and put the sleeping bags in the tent and blew up the air mattresses. Then we walked around just breathing the sweet air. The skies were blue, only a few clouds to the west. We gaped in awe at El Capitan and washed clothes and ate a meal in the village. And I eyed the horses that were for hire, thinking how much I had enjoyed riding one horse one time when I was about 14. Maybe, just maybe we could afford a trail ride.

John had no interest, so I volunteered for him to stay with the babies at the tent. We made the reservation for my ride for the next afternoon and I looked forward to it eagerly. Meanwhile we cooked on our little stove, took walks, and generally felt free and easy in the pleasant openness.

The next day dawned gray and threatening. When the time came for my ride, I decided to go even if it rained - I might not get another chance, since our time at Yosemite was about to end. So we drove to the corral. I was surprised to find I was the only trail-rider. I climbed on my assigned horse eager to be off, and fell in line behind the leader.

I waved goodbye to my amazed two year old and long-suffering husband, and as we rode off it started to rain. The leader put on his raincoat. I didn't have one.

We rode down a long one-horse-wide trail into the woods. The rain was getting heavier by the moment, but in the woods it was a little lighter. Except for the drips from the pines.

The ride was to last for an hour. I was getting cold and the adventure was quite different from what I had anticipated. He and I tried talking but the noise didn't carry well, so we just rode on in silence.

I was cold and chattering and wondering at my unique folly - no one else had ventured out! And I began to wonder how much longer the ride would last, at the same time feeling guilty for the thought because we had spent good money on the ride...

As we walked along, I was lulled into a peaceful state despite the wet and cold.

It was then that I saw movement up ahead and the leader pulled his horse back abruptly. A mother moose stepped out of the woods and crossed his path, followed by her baby.

The leader pulled his horse back to mine, and exclaimed in such a way that I was amazed at his obvious fear. He explained that a mother moose with a baby is dangerous even to a man on a horse, and he had never seen one before, nevermind one crossing his path a few feet from him. He felt we had been very lucky to avoid a conflict. I had just seen a lovely wild beast and she had hardly seemed dangerous. But then I was new at riding a horse in the woods.

Eventually we got back to the corral. The horse was in as much a hurry as I was. The family was waiting in the car, and John had my jacket for me. I put it on but couldn't get warm. We went back to the campsite. It was heavy gray, dark and rainy outside, but probably not much past four p.m. I crawled into my sleeping bag and shivered, while John got supper under the protection of the tent flap. I couldn't get warm. Finally it was bedtime. I fed Margo, then fell asleep. In the morning I had a horrendous cold.

It was time to head home, and then once we got there, time to pack up all our belongings and move to Massachusetts. As we drove through central California, I realized how I would miss it. I had lived there for three years, John for four. It had taken me nearly all those three years to come to grips with this strange land we had been living in: it was not the least bit New-Englandy. But I had grown to love it after all, and now we were leaving.

So it was a bit of a sad trip, but we vowed to go back. Back to Yosemite, Bridal Veil, ruggedness, woods, mooses, and camping with our kids. We had camped, we had fulfilled our dream at last, and we were ready for more.


Tessie258 said...

So have you gone back? It would be nice to go back and stay in in a camper! hahaha...I hate to sleep on the ground!

Toni said...

Just loving your stories Peg! You're such a wonderful writer!

I saw and felt what you described! I was scared for you when the mama moose & baby crossed your path... knowing how dangerous that situation could have been!

The rain... your cold!

What wonderful experiences you've had!!!