The Bit About the Baggage

(On the road again!)

Woohooooo!!! What a feeling!!

After two and a half years of staying put, I finally got away on a trip!

Before Covid hit, I was in the midst of forming a happy habit of meeting friends each summer at a camp near Pinecrest Lake in Northern California. And how sweet it was to take up that tradition again!

After the necessary hiatus, my love for travel returned just as strongly as ever – as too, for the record, did my general boredom with packing for a trip. For some reason, and despite years of practice, I still don’t always pack wisely or well – and I definitely pack too much!

Packing carefully? It’s just not my thing. I have no idea anymore how I managed to pull off two college-aged, vagabond treks around Europe where I crammed everything I needed for two months into a backpack. My current packing style is more like the time I promised Dad I’d limit my luggage for a pilgrimage to Finland. This was because Dad, Mum, myself and all our stuff had to fit in a rental car – which we did manage to do. Even so, I’ve kinda come to realize there’s understanding the assignment and – you know – understanding the assignment:

(“I know, Dad – but I’m a woman of many moods!”)

Not far from where I just camped is the remote and beautiful Emigrant Wilderness where Dad used to take me and my friends backpacking – and I sure recall what a tough planning puzzle that was! Once we left civilization, I knew popping over to a mini-mall for an item I’d left out of my pack would not be an option. Then again, if I brought too much, I was stuck hefting it all around for four or five days. At high altitude. Up mountains. Those early experiences did demonstrate the value of prudent packing – but whatever bags the lessons were stowed in got lost somewhere in transit…

(Pinecrest Lake and my favorite wilderness beyond – oh, and geese this year!)

But this annual camping trip (aka “9th Week” in Lair of the Bear speak) is a different ballgame anyway. For one thing, I head up in my car so there isn’t much need to pack lightly.

And. I. Don’t.

Also, I’ve had four prior trips to refine (aka “add to”) a list of absolutely essential items for my tent cabin, which list now includes: a thicker sleeping bag for cold nights; a little electric fan for hot days; two camp chairs (even though I have just the one posterior); a folding nightstand on which to put the glasses I need for moonlight trips to the head (aka the “restroom”); and a mirror for judging if my face is getting tanned or just caked with dirt.

(My home away from home!)

Despite being out of practice, I actually remembered to pack all these items! Okay – all except the glasses. I wear contacts by day so it wasn’t a huge deal – just a lesson that in dark circumstances, readers are no substitute and shrubs can look an awful lot like bears. But most other kinds of packing problems are fixable up there. I can backtrack to the big stores not too far away, I can hit the general store near the lake, or I can raid the little hut with sundries right at camp where they have my credit card on file – which means the sodas, frappuccinos and ice cream bars I picked up there almost daily were pretty much free.

And did I ever benefit from the packing job other folks did!

Like friends brought their equipment (as well as their enthusiasm and expertise) to introduce people to the burgeoning sport of pickleball! It’s sort of a hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton where players knock a whiffle-y kind of ball over a net with plastic paddles. I hadn’t played it before – but with hand-eye coordination honed over years of dabbling in those other sports, I was able to jump right into pickleball, cover the court and completely miss contacting that ball in all kinds of spectacular ways!

After one spirited pickleball session, a couple of players broke out all the ingredients they’d packed for a concoction called a “pickleback” – and I was invited to try one. I did ask several times for confirmation that, yes, I was meant to down a shot of whisky followed immediately by a shot of pickle juice. And I can now confirm in turn that the combination is surprisingly tasty!

Outside of these new activities as well as my usual Pinecrest pastimes like hiking around the lake, catching up on reading, and literally diving into water aerobics at the pool, a very special part of the day was to kick back and catch up with my fellow campers! The first time I joined this group a few years ago, their main hub for relaxing and hanging out looked very pleasant, indeed:

(Lounging Lair style!)

Afraid I don’t have a picture of this year’s set-up to share (maybe for the “being in the moment” reasons outlined in my last post). But imagine, if you will, a little open space among straight and stately pines, its dusty and chair-tippingly uneven terrain part of the natural charm. Now add two canopy tents, more chairs, strings of white lights that give off a cheery and welcoming glow, a table with a constantly replenishing supply of food, beverages and games – and a sofa. A whole, cushy sofa! Night after night, this proved the perfect haven for setting aside a couple years’ worth of cares and going with a happy ebb and flow of meditation, libation and lively conversation!

I can’t quite set aside the notion that only woodland fairies or elves could have had skill enough to assemble such a magical forest retreat – which they then had to turn around and pack away at week’s end! But I know it’s really the work of the good people with whom I spent some memorable evenings – and the effort is much appreciated!

I also have a notion about why I used to be able to travel before with quite a bit less. Back in my immortal youth, I didn’t dwell as much on all the things in life that might go wrong. Now, just like with my packing, my worries seem to expand into whatever space is available, and I end up foreseeing all kinds of disasters. This time, I packed Covid concerns along with my usual baggage and, regrettably, it colored some of my experiences on this trip – although not at all to the point of ruin.

Not by a long shot.

(My outdoorsy bed and bedside-table-thingy!)

Packing really can be a tricky thing for me. I mean, in fairness, some of my paranoid preparation did come in handy. I dispensed ointment to one fellow camper for a bug bite, and ice packs to another for a wound sustained in the glorious winning of a softball game. And my raincoat and huge “just in case” plastic tarp finally got put to use when a heavy rain fell on the camp during my very last hours there – and it seeped right through my cabin’s tenting!

I decided to take that rain as a sort of parting benediction on a long awaited, much needed and wholly rejuvenating week – one spent with generous people who buoyed me through my worries and shared with me the best of times!

Yup. It was great to get on the road again. As so often happens there – and regardless of what I’ve brought along – I ended up with wonderful memories to take back home. I’m already looking forward to packing up my gear and heading back next year – hopefully with my glasses! Because hey, practice makes perfect, right?

Cheers and best wishes for similarly Happy Trails!

(Also, many thanks to Ms. Suz for starting an old friend on a grand new tradition!)

22 comments

  1. Sometimes leaving it all behind means taking it all with you. We are all afraid of not having that one thing we really need. I do recall my backpack trip and wishing I had a few things, but my back thanked me for not bringing them. Not sure I am ready to jump into trying the pickle back though. Hope all is well Amy. Allan

    1. Hello Allan! Yes, I truly do find packing a challenge! Got to the end of this and realized I can’t offer solid tips or solutions on the subject, just my experiences – and I’m definitely a work in progress… And this surprised me too, but I wouldn’t rule out the pickleback! 🥃 Thanks for stopping by!

  2. How good to hear you are traveling again. I’m just getting back into it and I am pretty rusty too, but practice makes perfect!

    1. So glad to hear it! Best wishes on getting lots and lots of practice!

  3. Sounds like a fabulous time! And having traveled a bit this summer – wasn’t it just great??? ❤️

    1. Hey there, Carol! Yes it sure was – and so glad to hear you got out there too!

  4. Howdy. There can be a lot of comfort and pleasure in returning to a vacation spot multiple times. You’ve found a place that resonates with you. Neil S.

    1. You’re so right! That’s been a real surprise for me as I didn’t grow up doing that – and yes, it’s become a real pleasure. Thanks for reading!

  5. This was a good read for me, as I too, have done backpacking trips. Although, I was much younger and the accommodations were just a tent on the ground in some far-off area around 9,000 ft elevation. But the memories grow sweeter as each gray hair follicle disappears! My wife and I spread the love of the outdoors to our three sons and each of them love to get out to nature! Best wishes fellow BG. Greg

    1. Glad that brought to mind some good memories, Greg – and it’s nice that you passed that love for nature on to your boys! And yeah, I don’t see myself heading into the wilderness again with a 30- to 40-pound pack on my back – but I sure do cherish the memories! Thanks for reading!

  6. Nice post. Sounds like you had a fun adventure. Here’s to having many more.

    When I traveled regularly I had a checklist of items to pack and to carry-on. After a while these items became grab-bags to go & my actual packing list was very small. It was such a relief to not have to think about packing … it can be so stressful thinking about “all the things that can go wrong!”

    1. Thank you, Sandy – that’s very good thinking! It was kind of sad – I used to have a couple of “grab and go” type bags with stuff for travel handy, but they got replaced on the shelves over the last couple years by masks and sanitizer… But now that I’m getting out there again, I could certainly make my life easier with a proper list like yours! Thanks again for reading – and for the advice!

  7. What a wonderful time! So glad you finally got to travel again. Your camping trip must’ve been such a thrilling, yet rejuvenating experience, and here’s hoping you can do more of them in due course! Have happy (and safe) travels!

    1. Aw, thank you very, very much! Travel was something I’ve really missed and, yes, it was so refreshing to get out there again! Thanks for reading – and best wishes to you!

  8. Mike Bonomo · · Reply

    Hi Amy!
    I think I have exhausted my amusing Pinecrest memories (mentholatum sunburn bath, Poseidon Adventure)after your earlier blog on the subject. However, your tent photo did remind me of my family’s first and only tent camping experience back in 1971.
    I think Camp Sierra was a summer getaway for members of the old Co-Op in Berkeley. Remember that market on Shattuck? Anyway, we stayed a week in the mountain camp east of Fresno. The only other landmark I remember is Shaver Lake, where I taught myself to swim. Our tent looked like yours: Heavy canvas draped over a raised wooden platform. If Mom wasn’t so carsick, dad would have driven us back home that night. The tent was at the bottom of a little ridge in the pines. As my brothers and I ran down the path we created a dust cloud that descended upon the tent like the blood sucking gas monster in Star Trek’s Obsession episode. My poor mother’s much needed nap was rudely interrupted. She emerged coughing and furious. Things got better over the week. I got to eat that prohibited sugary cereal in little boxes every day. And I got over my dislike for apple juice and realized I loved it (after being given no choice on a hiking trip). I had just finished 2nd grade in June. Everyone could swim in the family except me despite several sessions of lessons at the El Cerrito pool. I think Mom traumatized me by first trying to teach me to back float. Everytime she swore she wouldn’t let go, she would let go and I clearly remember that sensation of chopsticks up my nose. Needless to say, I learned to float on my stomach first! There at Shaver Lake without anybody pushing me I waded out to waist deep water, turned back to shore, pushed off and floated until the sandy bottom scraped my belly. I stood up to hear Dad yelling “look at Mikey!” and everybody cheering. It doesn’t get any better than that for a kid. I did it myself!

    1. Always a pleasure to read these great reminiscences, Mike! I’ve heard of Shaver Lake but I don’t think I ever went there. Delightful to hear about your beginnings as a swimmer and to know you became so comfy with water that you’d ride a bike into it! Thanks so much for reading and for sharing your stories! (Have to go prepare now for an interphase! 🖖)

  9. That all sounds lovely. And who schlepped a comfy sofa? Having been obsessed with Pickleball since I started playing in December, I gotta try the “Pickleback” very soon!

    1. Ha! I didn’t even mention the kegerator – I’m telling you, these people do not fool around! Didn’t know you play pickleball – maybe we need to arrange a pickleball game and pickleback tasting! (And Mum says hi – we’ve missed ya!)

  10. Another humorous post. Ah, Pinecrest! I haven’t been there since I was a kid. My aunt had a cabin. Loved paddling around the lake. I don’t remember ever packing my bags for those trips. I’m sure my mom did it for us. I’m happy that you were able to make the trip this year. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! When I hike by those cabins, I like to imagine how nice it’d be to have cup of coffee on a porch that overlooks the lake! Bet that was lovely! Thanks for sharing the memory!

      1. I’d love to go back and see it now. Road trip!

  11. So happy you are traveling. Camping is so amazing.

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