Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Below the Wind

Below the Wind

The eastern valley sun is hot, the west wind out of the Sierra is cold. I have settled into campsite #44, it has a cottonwood's shade over a weathered pine slab picnic table not yet slathered over in brick-red goo by the volunteer table painters. Here the common stones seem wonderfully shaped and colored, the surrounding brush hourly more revealed as greener, redder, more tawny, more sea-glass hued. Pebble sand, tan Tacoma, table top and hillside bring repose to my eyes.

I had often imagined spending time here at Horton Creek, perhaps I sensed how quiet it would be. Campsites are spaced out along one slow road; folks park RVs or pitch tents, then take off for daily destinations elsewhere. There's only the green secret creek in its cottonwood and willow tunnel, the wind, birds. No traffic, no maintenance, no fun things to do. I have seen neighbors reading, walking a dog. Folks will chat with you, or not, as you wish. I watch the cloud channel and nap. When the weather is too rough, I am learning to sit in my crate and write or draw on a clipboard on a pillow desk. It's a little like being at the beach, without the ocean; there is a road in Rovana named "Ocean View," so perhaps my feeling is shared.

Update on Clown tent

Texsport made good on its warranty and replaced the downed clown tent. Clown II stays in the box as winds continue to shred tents in Horton Creek Campground -- up to 75 mph blasts -- I counted four tents down this 21st May, and another storm on the way, with snow. I am grateful for the shelter of my aluminum alloy crate; the Fair Weather Tent must wait for fair weather.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Goat Herd for a Day

I was relaxing in my campsite after a water-and-WIFI run into Bishop, watching a spectacular cloud show, when odd noises behing me made me jump up and spin around; three nanny goats nibbling weeds in "my" campsite. Wary of their horns, I followed them up the road with my camera. As I walked back to my campsite, they followed me. I think that by following them, I became a "goat herd," and, for lack of any other, "their" goatherd. They followed me baa-ing and nibbling my pockets, down Pot Hole Trail to Duane's site, where I could ask, "So, what's with the goats?"

Duane had adopted them earlier in the day, in spite of his old black Lab dog who barked at, but was too arthritic to chase, the goats, who stood to face their challenger with lowered horns but essentially did not flinch. Adjacent LTVA vehicle campers clustered around and I met my neighbors Ray from Redondo, Doug on a dirtbike, Mike, and Alice whose chicken was taking too long to cook. Ray agreed with me that the goats behaved like pets, not range animals, but Duane was indignant, saying they were free-range goats. While we were discussing the goats, my neighbors kindly shared information with me: where I could load water from a single public spigot, get cheap or free meals, boxed dry goods handouts, and a free shower; "The Ropes," said Duane, of the BLM camping lifestyle. Meanwhile, the goats ate his garbage and started in on his towels.

I walked back up Pot Hole Lane to my campsite, and the awfully cute and very affectionate goats followed me again, baa-ing, then dispersed into the chaparral. Goats are a little like cats, they "follow" by criss-crossing in front of you and getting tangled up in your ankles. Since it was too late and too windy to cook, I was pouring granola into a bowl for supper when I was cereal-jacked by three table-climbing goats in a feeding frenzy. I abandoned my supper and opened my truck cab door to get my cell phone and call someone, anyone, about lost and hungry goats. Right behind me, they tried to climb into the Tacoma and ransack the front seat for anything chewable. One sucked up my AAA map and started munching, so I grabbed her horns and twisted her cute little head out of my bag before she could eat my wallet. They milled around, looking puzzled.

So I drove my truck back down Pothole Hill Drive to Duane's site, followed by three trotting, jumping, baa-ing goats. I had thought to drive to a nearby ranch house and ask if they knew anything about missing goats, but Duane became upset. He lectured me, beer in hand, about being a city girl with no understanding of animals roaming free, while Doug, shaking his head, calmly walked downhill with the goats following him; the wild, free-spirited goats who were obviously in need of a real goatherd and a scoop apiece from a 50 lb. bag of Goat Kibble. I rumbled back uphill to my scraps of granola.

No sign of goats this morning. Guess I'll find out sometime if a local Dad in a pickup with his third grade 4-H Club kid came around to collect her prize pet goats.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Clown is Down!

On Mothers Day, after watching the break dance whapping of my Clown tent, I finally conceded it had gone beyond agile expression and passed into a state of grand mal convulsion, and began to take it down. A succession of gales howled it off its stakes and two feet ripped out of their tent floor corners. I wrassled it into a dusty bundle, squashed it and all its former contents into my Crate and rolled out of Horton Creek Campground on Pothole Island road in a smashed-tent retreat. Along the way I saw several abandoned tents, polyester cottages shredded to rags with poles sticking out, or intact but bouncing down the sagebrush. No escape from the big wind, all around big trees down and big rigs sidelined. I ended up recovering in a Big Pine motel with WIFI for the night, and awoke determined to tough it out.

I visited the UPS Store in Bishop that hosts my mailbox to stuff my thrashed Harlequin into a cardboard box and ship it back to Texsport to repair or replace. May the Saints protect Kathy at the UPS Store and lead her to happiness of every kind, for she is kindly to the distressed and helpful to the befuddled.

Back at Horton Creek I set up at a different campsite and stashed my stuff under a slab-solid six-inch thick wooden picnic table. I lined the cavity of my camper shell with comforter, pillows, sleeping bags and fleece. By evening, the storm lowered from the mountains and slammed my truck all night with rain and sleet, but I slept snug and dry in the Rocking Tacoma Crate.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Settling Into Camping Life

I share this site with a lizard, who I discovered this morning on a big rock under my pillows sunning and airing after a night's sleep in my Crate. It moved from pillows to the stone pile fire ring. My truck doors flap my comforter and sleeping bag in the wind. My Clown Tent, stable this morning before the winds started slamming it around again. I spent more time on arranging where I will sleep (the Crate), where I will change, bathe, write and paint (the Tent).
I cook at the camp table, and spend a lot of time fetching things from one station to the other. The tent has screened "windows" on three sides, and unzipping them makes the tent a pleasant if breezy studio with views. It is too windy to paint and too bright to view a computer screen without shelter. The great envelope of sunlight makes me feel that some kind of interior mold or mildew is drying out within myself, it will be swept out by the wind into the sands.

Still have too much stuff, need to jettison more baggage. Simplification proceeding!

Arrival in Horton Creek Campsite

The Clown Tent now staked to the sand at a campsite in Horton Creek Recreational Site, Bureau of Land Management. For only five bucks a night, you get a parking place, a table, access to a brick potty house, and spectacular views: the pastures of Rovana, volcanic table land and Owens River Gorge, the Sierra peaks on one side, the White Mountains on the other. Sagebrush, wild flowers, and the long sweeps of the alluvial plain. A little cottonwood planted for shade, and a hand-built desert wash stone fire ring. The photos shows the view from my campsite. For a mere 300 bucks, you can have all of this plus a camping spot, any time one is available, at Horton and three other BLM campsites in the area, from March through October of 2010. Long Term Visitors pass -- so now my rent is paid at a BLM campsite for five and a half months. Desert Ratdom Paid Up until November 1st!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Inna Tenting 395 in 2010

The Great Departure

I wrote this, sitting in my truck, camping high on an alluvial plain in the Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra, California. I am posting it from the Looney Bean Cafe in Bishop, where there are coffee drinks, bakery, friendly people and free WIFI. May the saints in heaven bless, preserve, and promote the prosperity of the Looney Bean cafe.

Since I am not yet sure why I have moved to the desert and what may constellate as my purpose here, I will begin simply with a diary of events on the way to this hillside:

Last week of April 2010 -- My landlady and I agreed that it would be better if I moved out early with a refund of the week's rent so she could set her contractor loose on plumbing issues before her new tenant arrives, without disturbing my already fragile composure. I hurriedly tossed way too much stuff into my Tacoma camper back (henceforth to be known as "he Crate", since it kinda looks like a giant white dog crate on the back of my pickup) and rolled over Richmond Bridge into the Olema Ranch RV Campground in West Marin.

I did not take it seriously when the weatherpersons predicted "showers" Monday and Tuesday. It stormed, I woke up in a bog. I had left the Crate sliding glass side window open, and I had put a too-large tarp under my new cheap nine-foot square nylon tent. Result: lakes formed under my tent floor and inside my Crate. A learning experience. The good news is that my tent's walls and roof did not leak. I spent the next few days getting everything washed, dried, re- sorted, re-packed.

This began the Saga of Stuff that is the physical expression of the psychic discombobulation of a big change in lifestyle, location, and circumstances.

My last night in the East Bay was spent in my dear friend Barbara's house, where she hosted a farewell dinner meeting of our writing group, The Silver Scriptors, who were extravagantly generous to me, buying paintings and copies of my hot off the press slim volume of poems, Holy Moly Poetry.

I was ruthless at the self-storage compound on my way over the mountains. I trimmed my Crate contents substantially, dumped them on top of all my household possessions already stashed there and slammed the door. Driving I-80 over the Sierra Nevada through Donner Pass area I followed dim red taillights through blowing snow, dropping out of mountain turbulence into Reno, and headed south on Highway 395. Spent the night cozy and lazy in a Super 8 Lodge in Nevada, got a room with a view of Topaz Lake and breakfast at the Topaz Lodge Casino that looks like the inside of a Vegas pinball machine mixed up with Trapper MGee's old timey bear hunter cabin; in my motel room there is a table lamp made of intertwined deer antlers. The skies have been spectacular all afternoon, great hanging drapes and boxcars of white and grey and deeper grey, night dark shadows and dazzling splashes of sunshine, glass green sage and always on my right, the Sierra escarpment.

May Day, Mary's Day -- Camping at Baker Creek Campground, east of Big Pine. Creekside in foxtails and stickery weeds. Big Gusty Winds have been blowing from the northeast. The first time I saw one wall of my tent bow to the ground inside (literally down on top of me in my sleeping bag on the floor) I was afraid it would crack all its poles and collapse, but it boinged upright again, like one of those punch-me inflated clown toys with the convex weighted bottom. My new cheap splashy imaginary camouflage pattern tent is proving to be fairly sturdy; in its first week of use it has survived a downpour in a redwood forest and held up against travel advisory gusts in the high desert.

I am disorganized and clumsy; when I tried to take a bucket bath in the dancing tent, I had to zip myself in and out of it several times before I had assembled all the necessary bits such as washcloth, clean underwear, soap, a towel, and warm water in the bucket.

Sunday I stuffed my Clown Tent with all the heavy objects in my truck, and left it to hold its ground as roamed around in my car and visited other towns and campgrounds in the area.

First week in May I checked into Browns Town RV Campground to spend some quality coin time at the showers for myself and my truck. Just south of Bishop and set between a golf course and a cow pasture. Both the golf course and the RV park setting require watering and power mowing every day, the cows bellow, the roads roar with SUVs and country-size work trucks -- and I get it: RV parks are nice places to park, not to hang out. However, residents and campers all very friendly, and again I emptied and re-loaded my Crate, tossing more stuff. I got a UPS mailbox in Bishop and found the Looney Bean.

More later ...