{ Camp Cougar - Day 3 }

alOha Campers : ) 

You can read about day {one} and {two} of this camping trip <------ there : )

   Day 2 ended with a painful drumming in my head and with ezzie suffering an upset belly, but something that I forgot to mention about the close of that day was that we were visited one last time by that guy with the dogs.

   I was dangling in my hammock chair and reading a book, slowly turning with the breeze, when juwels noticed somebody approaching our camp. She went up the grass hill, and I heard her talking pleasantly enough.  I was still in my hammock, slowly rotating away from a view of the river, when she came back down the hill and told me that it was the guy with the dogs. He asked if the goats were still with us, which I thought was a strange question. Where else would they be?

   And then he said, "I don't want to worry you, but this is cougar country back in here, and they love goats and sheep. You guys should really think about getting a couple dogs to watch camp at night. Cats don't like dogs, even big cats."

   Juwels told him that we had a pistol, and he said that was good but that the only warning we'd have of a cougar approaching at night was from the goats, and that it would all happen pretty fast. (pleasant thing to think about while trying to sleep.)

   That night the whole family snuggled around the fire, and we kept the fire going with a few thick logs of oak just before bed. And the whole camp flickered in a nice orange light for hours to come. Most nights, I wake up periodically on my own, even at home in my comfy bed, but ezzie mez also has a habit of whining in her sleep, and since we were sleeping right next to each other, that would call me out of my dreams a bit more. 

   I slept with the pistol, wrapped in a silk scarf, under my pillow that night, and for the following.

   And tucked between me and mez, I kept my army flashlight, which has a bend at the top like a periscope. I remembered seeing an ad in a poultry magazine for a predator security system, and it worked by occasionally flashing light into the yard. They said that a night prowler's biggest fear was being spotted, so when I'd wake up in the quiet on my own, most times I'd click the light on, and without sitting up or lifting my head from the pillow, I'd extant my arm and do a slow circle once or twice around the camp.

   And all those times I was awoken by ezzie's whining and crying, I'd give her a little pat on the rump to wake her if it was just one of her bad dreams, and I'd sit up doing a two-handed version of the light trick, this time with the pointed pistol in my other hand.

   Another thing that would give me pause in the night was the sound of ezzie's digestion between her four very active stomachs. Sometimes after she'd cry, in the silence that followed, my alerted brain would hear a growl and not be able to place its nearness. The hair on my neck stood up the first time I heard this, thinking I'd heard a 200 pound cat hungrily grumbling before I realized it was ezzie's belly. 

   I haven't been around guns or hunting much since I was a boy, and it felt a little over the top working that 38 around in the darkness. But then again, we were 26 miles off the paved road, helplessly laying around in mummy bags wafting the scent of young female goats in the night air. And if she'd heard, seen or smelled a big cat on the edge of the camp, I might as well be ready rather than scrambling around under my pillow.

   I'm pretty quick to my wits at night, and I reminded myself, not to shoot into the main camp and don't shoot out the trucks tires or radiator in the night. My dreams between this, not surprisingly, were stressful, and when the sky would finally lightened up a shade, I'd think, Okay... we made it through.

   Since ezzie's poops still weren't solid, juwels would get up every time she'd drop one, and shovel it away.. Don't want them tracking that back to the bags.
   The wooden rod of the shovel lay between us for easy access, and although I was on watch duty, and she was on doody duty, I tried on a couple occasions to lazily scoop and move the piles with the shovel from a laying position, but the leverage was all off ... a bit like trying to turn off your alarm clock on the other side of the room with a canoe paddle.

   We decided that the next time we'd bring a collapsible crate for the girls, so we wouldn't have to worry about them being chased off or carried away by a lion at any second of the night.

    Somehow, through all of that, I was able to lose my headache, and ezzie got her berries back, and the new day was slated to be great : ) Were up early again that morning, brewing coffee, frying bacon and eggs and digging the charred squash and potatoes out of the dead coals of last night's fire.

The girls ate their grass, stood, circus-style, on hind legs to nibble baby oak leaves, and the hill of large red ants sent up frigid scouts who could barely move until the sun came up and into the canyon.

   On the way through camp, the girls at our sides and leashed, people came out of their tents to greet us and pet the babes. A young guy came out of the last camp and told us that he plans to hit the springs later and paint a giant rainbow over a wall that had been covered with names and initials. "Some people might get upset about this," he said, and waited a tick to see if we had any objections, but we told him we'd happily trade words four colors and thanked him for taking the initiative.

"We're not good artists," he said, "but we can paint a rainbow."

   We took the low road this time, which was a bit more difficult than the fire road, but this path had more graze for the babes, and the river bordered the whole way. We stopped and watched the bees visiting flowers and used a slingshot to skip flat rocks across the still water.

   We had the pool all to ourselves for a long while. When we were in the big pool, the babes perched on the rocks up the hill, and when we'd sneak into the small hotter pool in the room, they'd soon notice, and come crying and trampling in after us.

   We had to relocate a few toxic red paraffin candles which ezzie tried to nibble on, but then they snuggled up below the pool bench and chewed their cud.

   The rainbow painters showed up later, along with another couple, and ezzie seemed to bond with a skinny blonde girl who spent most of her time sunning topless on the pool deck. It was cute to see the goats being social with strangers, and the girl's boyfriend kept saying, "God, they're so cute. I just can't stand it."

   Which developed into a full-fledged obsession, and progressed to, "I need goats. Is there a way we could have goats in downtown San Francisco? Is there such a thing as rooftop goats?"

   The painters were very organized with their supplies as well as excitedly mapping and voicing the process, and the ambient sound of it fulfilled that silent observer's part of my brain that loves watching Bob Ross, cooking shows, or knife or blender sales pitch videos. 
   And we stayed there a long, long while watching the color go on the wall.

   While posting some Instagram pics back at camp, we caught a rare glimpse at the time, and found that we'd been gone for close to 6 hours, it now being lunch time.

   We swung back and forth, passing glass serving bowls from one hammock to the other like dance partners, eating fresh guacamole, Mediterranean quinoa, fennel salad with toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries, and when juwels came back from packing the bowls back into the cooler, she returned with the Holy Bowl of homemade caramel. Oh .. that caramel, how I loved thee.

   The rest of the trip was more of the same. Soaking, hiking, feeding, snuggle piles beside the fire and on the grassy banks of the river. Waving the gun in the night, and fending the goats off our sleeping bags. (They'd make your legs go numb if you let them.)


   Ezzie slept next to me every night. I think she could sense the protector in me. And for half of the second night, when she had returned from a 3 a.m. potty walk, chia stepped over me and flopped, with a grunt, directly between our bags, and there she spent the night snoring, cooing, and flapping her little swan neck and goat head onto the shoulder of my bag and then back onto juwels'.

   Oh, and we were also almost killed in our hammocks one evening. 
   We got a fair amount of wind cutting through the canyon, this was very pleasant at the springs, but on one particular occasion back at camp, we were in our hanging hammock chairs down by the water, and this gust came on us from down the river. The sounds of it came like a wave, throwing the trees and reeds into a physical frenzy before it even reached us.

   And we both pulled our eyes from our books to watch this thing coming. The meat of it stayed with us for a while, and then I heard those unmistakable sounds of a tree beginning to fall. That tearing sound, cracking, warning, but obscured by the sound of a million leaves flapping like tattered flags overhead.

   I jumped out of my hammock and bolted, yelling to juwels to "Run! Run! Run!"

   I had gotten four or five strides when the tearing noise of the tree got louder, and I knew it was coming down.

   It was behind me somewhere, I could tell that, but was it falling towards me?

   I paused, knowing I had to source the thing if I was going to avoid it, and I see juwels just standing there beside her hammock, book still leafed open in her hands, and staring up at a 30-foot oak with a dazed expression on her face.

   The thing snapped in half just as the wind had passed, and in the new silence, it sounded even louder still. It ripped branches from smaller trees as it fell only 15 or so feet from our chairs. 

"Oh my God," juwels called, laughing.

   After the shock wore off, I read juwels the riot act, "What were you doing just standing there???! You can't just freeze like that."

   She gulped comically ..

"I was yelling Run, Run, Run," I said,  "And demonstrating, too." 

"You did?" 


She laughed. "Well, I blew it," she said. "I failed."

"Shieet." I sighed.

   And after juwels' non-reaction to an actual tree falling from the sky, the next 45 minutes were filled, on her end, with speculation as to whether or not the long thick branch that we were hanging from in our hammock chairs was going to break as well.

   I fluffed it off, lazy in my hammock and seeing that the tree was healthy overhead, but after the first 5 minutes of her investigation into every nook and cranny of the base of its trunk, I finally resorted to scaling the tree barefoot, and jumping up and down directly above the hammock chairs to prove its stability.

   The half tree that had fallen was stretched directly across the path that we always used to reach the river and the hammock chairs. I walked over to the fallen thing and saw that it had been weakened by some kind of burrowing bug. I placed the palm of my hand on the smooth inside of the peeled back park. It was wet and cool. I rubbed the tree blood on my cheek and thought about licking it, but it was tucked back into a prickle bush, so I didn't. The pulpy heart of it was soft and spongy, and I could dig my thumb into it.

 And oddly, about an hour later, with no wind blowing at all, juwels had been talking about how crazy it was for the tree to fall like that, and just then, in mid-sentence, another large piece fell with a crash in the exact same spot.

   I have no clue where the second piece came from. The broken tree looked exactly the same, sheared off midway, matching the picture in my mind. It was the strangest thing, like a wormhole had opened up and dumped that second piece out ...

   We didn't have an exact date when we wanted to head back to society, but we figured that either the food or spring water would run out or the influx of weekend traffic would push us away, and the day we left was actually pretty unexpected. We were loafing around down in the hammocks, again, recouping from another long soak, and I was walking up to camp on a back trail (since the oak was blocking the old one) and I saw a set of big footprints in the mud with enormous nail marks slashing 
 deep into the earth.

Hmmmm ....

    I walked around and found more, right on the edge of our camp and coming up from the river, and they looked real fresh. I called juwels over, and we talked about it. We had off-and-on service on the phone, and we tried to look up the tracks, but it wasn't easy since the back of the pad was incomplete...

   This was all happening amidst one of our most favorite parts of the day .. the gloaming hour (which lasts an abnormally long time since the canyon ridge is so high on the horizon). We'd would have much rather enjoyed winding down during this magical part of the day, making a hot supper and meditating on the fire .. but due to sleeping on edge listening for mountain lions, and finding these unidentifiable tracks we talked about heading home to our hive.

 Juwels didn't really want to go, but then again, I was the one on guard duty, waving that gun around and getting covered in dirt every time the goats would come back from a potty time and feel the need to dig in the dust beside my pillow for a couple of minutes, so I finally made the call to pack up the gear, bribe the babes with corn chips to empty their bladders .. and hit the high road. 

And that's the way it all ended.

   With the four of us filthy, smelling like campfires and hot springs and safe and sound ; ) 
p&j .. & .. c&e 

      .... yes, this trip was full of many different polarities - from the warm soul melting into a pool of the earth's liquid heat, to the animated frights of mother nature in unexpected forms, but I guess that's what they call an adventure rather than a pleasure cruise with pillow mints and white towels folded like swans. (we could use one of these, too ; ) We love all that ends well, and life keeps you sharp in this way.

Oh ... and I'm not even going to mention the sticker bush that pricked the my eyelid as I was cleaning up camp to go ... or how the whole left side of the bridge of my nose swelled up and made me look like an avatar. "I'm sorry," juwels would later say, "but I can't look at you without staring at that thing. It's kind of freaking me out."

ha ha ha ..

"I know... me too."

The End ; )


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