The Bit of a Camping Conundrum

Pinecrest Lake!

Recently, I faced a pretty big decision about continuing a relationship.  Not one with a person – but with a place.

See, last summer my lovely friend Suszi invited me to spend a week with her and her crew at the Lair of the Bear.  It’s a camp for UC Berkeley grads near Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest, and I had a fine time hanging out with them in a part of the world that has long been dear to my heart!

The Lair!

Even so, when it came time to re-up for this summer, I found myself thinking, thinking more, and then rethinking about what to do.  Because when it comes to decision-making, that’s kind of my thing.

And the thing here is, my relationship with Pinecrest almost goes way back – except it doesn’t.  Dad, who was a Cal plant pathology professor, studied forests in the region every field season, and the whole family made many a refreshing getaway from city life to play, camp and backpack in the awe-inspiring Sierras and their foothills.

Mum and Dad even had the opportunity to own a cabin along Pinecrest Lake.  It could have been a good investment both for their funds and for the family memories we’d create in an area we already adored.

Around Pinecrest Lake.

But, after careful consideration (guess it runs in the family), they opted not to tie up Dad’s modest means in one venture which would effectively tie us down to just one spot to vacation.  So, instead of committing to Pinecrest, we spent our summers gallivanting all around the country, and even around a bit of the world!

Years later, four of the five of us did meet up at Pinecrest to camp with friends and get a taste of what might have been.  We had a very agreeable time, but I still have no regrets about the family’s choice.  In relationship terms, it’s not like we “played the field” – we just kept our options open, you know?

Jack and Mum at our campsite.

The Dad abides.

What that means is Pinecrest and I have flirted a little but never gone steady.  It also means I don’t have the kind of ease and familiarity with the place that I would if we had a history.  So, while I definitely felt an attraction last summer, we did have some awkward moments.

Like I got lost once walking from the lake even though I’d already been back and forth a few times.  When someone instructed me to meet up by the “head”, I didn’t know that meant by the bathroom or I wouldn’t have asked:  “The head of what?”  And I got a major crick in my neck standing in this field marveling at a night sky filled with more stars than I could ever, ever count since I wasn’t about to lie down in the grass without a blanket or something because, ew, bugs.

Now my friend Suszi?  None of that would have happened to her because she has the history!  Suz has been a Lair camper since kid-hood and was a staffer in her college days.  And she’s continued to rendezvous with the Lair the same week every summer – so those two are tight for sure.

The place does seem to hold some irresistible magic for lots of the campers I met there – and they were willing to share that magic with me.  But I think I’ve always been – hm – kind of deliberate in my efforts to get to know people.  It’s a process that takes a while, you know what I mean?  (Please refer to “thinking, thinking more, and then rethinking” above…)  So I’ve had to consider whether I’m even up to the task of trying to build relationships when I only have one shot a year.  (Just my luck – my very own Brigadoon…)

Plus, I’m forever in love with the Great Outdoors – but I’ve been hurt by it too.  When I tried fly fishing on a pack trip, the only thing I hooked was the back of my neck (nope – not kidding).  I’ve been scared half to death listening to the grating and gashing claws of a back-country beast that rampaged through our camp one night.  It turned out to be a porcupine but that’s not really the point.

And I will state right now that the experience of being caught in a mountain thunderstorm that soaked me all the way through a tent and a sleeping bag and right down to my soul did not make me a stronger person – it was just super, super not pleasant.

Anyhow, I’ve had all these factors to weigh.  And I know I had some good times at the Lair last year – but that’s no guarantee I will again.  Right?  And I mean, I’m sorry, but I can’t forget that while my sleeping bag didn’t keep me quite warm enough at night, my tent cabin actually got too hot to hang in during the day.  (What is up with that?!)  I’ve also had concerns about running into woodland creatures that don’t have my safety or best interests at heart.  And, if I’m honest, I’ve been worried about resorting to the habit of keeping my social distance even in the most genial of situations.

Seriously, any one of these potentially painful scenarios could come to pass.  Or hey – they even all might at once!  I could be alone in my cabin, snuggling down into my not-quite-warm-enough bag and be bitten on the foot by some slithering sidewinder that followed me back from the lake (one of the times I didn’t get lost) because how do I know a snake wouldn’t do that if it felt like it?

It could happen!

Alright, look.  It was a pleasant and friendly and nice little fling last year, but the bottom line is I don’t owe Pinecrest a thing.  If I walked away today with a phone call or a text, that would be totally fair play in my book.  Because if I just went and skipped on across that relationship bridge instead, I really don’t know what would happen!

I don’t know what dangers might be lurking in the weeds.

See? See?!

I don’t know what’s waiting for me around the bend – and perhaps I just don’t want to risk finding out.

Then again…

If I ended things now, it would also be fair to say I’d have a few regrets.

Like I’d miss hiking around the lake again to see what’s changed – and ohhh would I miss getting another look at all those twinkling stars!

I’d miss finding out what the Lair serves for breakfast because I only got up early enough for it once.  I’d miss singing around the campfire and then discovering that pungent yet pleasing camp-y/fire-y aroma all up in my clothes when I got home.

I’d miss lingering just one minute more in the pretty places and the peaceful places.

I’d miss wandering up the hill for a kindly offered margarita and the swipe of a chip into the biggest trough of fresh-made guacamole I’ve ever seen.  And I’d miss attending a cocktail party among the pines where guests are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry while clad in one of the exquisitely tacky 70’s outfits available to borrow in case folks neglected to pack their own.

I’d miss laughing until my stomach hurt.  And I’d miss spending more amiable, moonlit evenings shooting the dusty breeze around a circle of eclectic and engaging fellow campers.

(Deep sigh…)  It’s been a big decision.  And some might judge that I’ve been over thinking it all.  However I, for one, believe I’m simply being thorough.

In the end?  In the end, I’ve decided to take a chance and say “yes” to another year!

Well – “yes” with a good warm blanket (which I’ll set aside now even though it’s barely spring).  And “yes” with a little electric fan for the daytime (I’ll probably need an extension cord – mustn’t forget one).  And “yes” with a pair of capri pants that don’t make me look so hippy (or maybe they’re not even a good look for me, I really have no idea).  And “yes” wi…

Ohhh, okay.

The whole “over thinking” thing?  Kind of seeing it now.  I mean, I’ve been sticking with the “thorough” idea, but maybe there’s a slightly more healthy way to go.

Yeah, you know, I am definitely going to give that some thought.



  1. Nice metaphorical posty!

    1. Thank you! My pictures sort of took me in that direction and (for good or bad), I just kinda went with it!

  2. Aaaah, I can see why you’ve chosen (after much deliberation, of course!) to head back for another go… It really looks lovely. And who knows, this time it could turn into something beautiful 😀

    1. Yes, it’s a gorgeous place – and with a bit more gear and a little less angst, I’m betting it will indeed be a beautiful experience! Thanks for reading!

  3. Reblogged this on greenygrey3 and commented:
    great greenYgreying: especially with the golden bear lair!

    1. Many many thanks!!!

  4. Sometimes it’s ‘better the devil you know’ rather than face something new. Is there an opportunity next year to do both? Happy camping! Don’t try fly fishing again though! Great photos.

    1. Good thoughts and advice – especially with respect to the fly fishing! Thanks for reading!

  5. nice post!

    1. Thank you!!!

  6. Nothing wrong with keeping your options open! Good luck finding a pair of capris…then again, hippy chic might be all the rage this camping season. 😉

    1. Many thanks – and fingers crossed on the ‘hippy chic’!

  7. This made me smile and laugh. And I totally understand the hesitation to re-up since you don’t have the history that makes some of us go back again and again because … it’s not summer without the Lair.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! And having been there now, I sure get what you mean – just takes some of us a little more time to commit! 😉. Thanks for reading!

  8. swissmisssusie · · Reply

    Don’t worry about that snake! I think it’s just a common garter snake, which I even saw in El Cerrito when we were kids. And Yay for your decision- as someone who lives relatively close to there, I can tell you that life in the semi-rural woods is certainly fun. I am enjoying the footprints of all the critters who have wandered through my yard.

    1. Whew! Well that’s good to know! 😃 I’m generally okay with critters as long as they don’t surprise me. Or move fast. Or move toward me. Or move at all… Glad you’re enjoying your neighborhood – and so glad for your comment! All the best!

  9. Beautiful post. Love it. I had a long and dear relationship with a place and it ended in heartbreak. It took me 12 years to go back. I know I would be someone else and maybe even with someone else if it hadn’t ended the way it ended. But going back was a good decision too. We met old friends, reconnected (although on a more superficial level) and it was interesting to hear stories about my past self. I always had both in my – how did you put it – kidhood. I had the abovementioned place which we visited 3-4 times a year (my grandparents had their holiday home there) and we travelled to other parts in Europe (usually 2 weeks in the summer in France or Italy). We did lots of short stays in the Netherlands, Belgium or Denmark, skiing in Austria etc etc My hubby and I decided to pick up tenting. It is the best way to explore Scotland (you can do wild camping everywhere) and it is the best option if you’re travelling with dogs. I am a bit squeamish when it comes to the outdoors as well but Scotland is ok, Finland still gives me the creeps (wolves, bears and elks – can never make up my mind which animal is the most dangerous). tata

    1. Thanks very much! There are those places that become such touchstones for us, aren’t there? I’ll see if Pinecrest does for me. So nice you did all that traveling! And sleeping in a tent isn’t for everyone but I enjoy it too. Although some nights are less sleeping and more wondering what creature just snapped that twig on the ground outside… But what a way to see Scotland – would love to give that a try! Thanks again for reading, and especially for sharing your story!

      1. You’re welcome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. very enlightening. Cheers

  10. […] I wrote of my angst over whether I’d care To go back and camp at the Lair of the Bear. […]

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