Takes a few days to recalibrate to house and home. My black Blot cat is full of purrs, and I’m still staggering with an odd tiredness. However I am indeed back from the mine.
That isn’t metaphor alone. I don’t simply mean to say I mined gold from our adventures for paintings and stories. We really did stay at an old mine in the high gold country. Slept in the 90-plus year old bunkhouse and had our friend John and his wife take us around to visit my husband’s research sites and collect mud and muck samples. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A little over two weeks ago we headed up along the coast in our old Suburban (think pre-air-conditioning… our AC consists of going 60 miles an hour and having all the windows open and when it hits over 100 degrees Farenheit, I use a plant sprayer to mist everyone. Yay evaporative cooling!) We camped out the first night in a county park that had much the same environment as home. Coastal oaks, scrub and chapparral by a lake busy with birds. Painted a sketch of the oaks with a backdrop of sunlight saturated grasses and the edge of the dark tules. Bats flitting about in the evening while we sat by the campfire and the kid toasted marshmallows. Strange to be out again after too many years trapped home by job and circumstance. Uneasy– when you move out of the home range, you lose the illusions of safety you have drawn around you over the years of habit and custom and expectations fulfilled.
We went on to the Malakoff Diggins (that’s the right spelling) up in North Bloomfield and found the park campgrounds closed. The state budget, again. However we discovered they had cabins for rent, $40 a night. Old cabins, once used by miners and relocated to within a block of Main Street, couple of mice and a bear that likes to come down and sit under the old apple trees to eat the apples on a peaceful night. Made up dinner and our beds after painting a sketch of the town.
We had the town almost entirely to ourselves. One other person, I think, but we never met him or her. In fact I went out and lay down in Main Street sometime after ten o’clock and looked up at the stars and watched some bats flit through. The asphalt was stilll warm from the long day, and there was no human sound, not even a distant highway. Only silent buildings with the moon coming up on them and the shadows of trees from another time. Stories everywhere.
The next day we took a leisurely hike and enjoyed that, but on our return found the town had been invaded by people. Generators humming, car doors slamming. Dogs barking. They were waking the place for the weekend crowd and our cabin had been double-rented for the night. However it turned out that the folk who’d rented it for their in-laws knew said in-laws couldn’t make it, so they graciously let us stay, with a smile. The park got double fees for the night and we didn’t have to run away to a motel. But having too many people around made leaving easy, and we set off for the High Sierra in the morning after a load of pancakes and bacon from our trusty Coleman. Grinding up the mountians with a touch of anxiety about just how crowded they would be. This policy of letting people reserve campsites on-line makes it hard to do anything unplanned, yet what is camping for, but the unexpected?