Anyway, we had originally planned to stay four nights and five days, but we decided to go home one day early because Boston had peed on the sleeping bags and we didn't want to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. And I would like to avoid encountering that problem on any future camping trips.
We encountered several other problems as well, including running out of drinking water and getting stuck on a dirt road with speed bumps on it that were so high that they were completely impassable at any speed in my Nissan Sentra. But solving problems together is an important relationship-building experience, right? So, we solved our problems and emerged just fine, and also had a wonderful time. We hiked to Rock Lake and Gold Lake, went swimming in Gold Lake, drove to Snake Lake, and drove to the town of Quincy to buy more drinking water. And we took lots and lots and lots of pictures.
Running out of drinking water was actually semi-planned. It isn't easy to pack two adult humans, one medium-sized dog, and five days' worth of camping gear into a Nissan Sentra, and my Nissan Sentra doesn't even have a roof rack for extra space. Barry has a pickup truck that might have fit our stuff much better, but it has no back seat for Boston, so we squeezed everything into my Sentra instead. But we scrimped a bit on drinking-water space because the campground is not far at all from the town of Quincy, so I knew we could easily buy more water there if we ran out.
Anyway, we packed everything into my car and set out early Wednesday, September 7, with a bunch of Barry's and my CDs to listen to along the way, and we arrived at the campground in early afternoon. We parked in campsite 1 and got out and walked through the rest of the campground on foot to decide which campsite we wanted. There are 8 campsites in the campground, with sites 6 to 8 closest to the lake shore, and a large gap between sites 5 and 6. Last year I stayed in campsite 2 because sites 1 to 5 were all empty, and I wanted to be far away from the numerous people who were at the other end of the campground. This year there was only one other person there when we arrived, and that person was in campsite 7. We selected campsite 6 for ourselves, because there was an adequate distance between campsites 6 and 7 for us to still feel isolated, and there was no other campsite any nearer that anyone could move into later.
This is Silver Lake. We camped alongside it - across a dirt road from the shore at the far right.
This is the dirt road between our campsite and the lake. The boulder at the left edge of this photo was in our campsite (you can sort of see our tent: a pale grey dome shape at the foot of the tree next to the boulder), and the horizontal line of dirt at the right edge of this photo is the same shore of the lake as at the right edge of the photo above.
Here is the entrance to our campsite.
And here is my car in our campsite. My little car that we squeezed five days' worth of stuff into.
I suspect that campsite 6 predates the rest of the campground, because it contained the ruins of some concrete structures not present in the other campsites. For example, this appeared to have at some point been a grill for cooking over.
At the entrance to our campsite, a narrow foot path forked off from the main driveway. At the juncture, there was a thing that looked like a tree stump, until I looked more closely. Do you see it?
After several days of thinking it was a tree stump, I suddenly realized that it was made of concrete.
Campsite 6 was quite large and featured two picnic tables, as well as two spots that would have worked well for setting up tents. But we had the whole place to ourselves.
First we set up the tent. This is Barry's tent, and it's much larger than mine. Boston had practically a whole separate room of her own, in the vestibule off to the right, with the shorter roof and a smaller door than the main one. She didn't really use it, though; she always wanted to be on the air mattress with us.
Next, I inflated my queen-size air mattress and zipped together my sleeping bags, and we brought our clothes and books and stuff into the tent.
Then I set out to collect sticks for firewood from around the campground, while Barry set about sawing logs that were already in our campsite for firewood.
Then we went for a relatively short walk around a portion of the shore of Silver Lake, much the same as I did last year, except that this year I knew in advance that the trail wasn't going to lead all the way around the lake.
And then, back in our campsite, we built a fire! (Okay, so this picture is from one of the other days; you can tell because Barry is wearing different clothes. But we did build a fire the first day too, even though I don't have pictorial evidence of it.)
Another interesting feature of our campsite was that someone had stacked rocks to make cairns on top of one of the boulders there.
Barry did pretty much all of the cooking. I did the retrieving food from the bearproof metal container. I had packed all the food, in the ice chest and in cardboard boxes, so I was best able to find it again. I also did the cutting open packages of food for Barry to cook. But he pretty much did the cooking. We split the dishwashing about equally.
The one significant drawback of the location was that there was a very large population of yellow jackets during daylight hours, and cooking dinner always made the problem even worse. We could not eat anything without having yellow jackets land on our plates and on us. I don't remember any comparable problem last summer. Some people on a native plant gardening mailing list I belong to have reported that yellow jacket populations are huge this year throughout much of California because last winter was not cold enough for the yellow jacket queens to die of cold as they usually do. Global warming is giving us a yellow jacket population explosion. Anyway, I took to eating dinner standing up and walking around, because although the yellow jackets followed me wherever I went, remaining in motion generally prevented them from actually landing on me or on my plate. And occasionally I was able to lose them for two or three minutes and sit down for a few bites before they found me again. But it never lasted long, and unfortunately, even when we had no food in our hands, the yellow jackets still had a tendency to follow us around and land on us. The only time they completely went away was after dark.
Barry was much less bothered by the yellow jackets than I was. I think this is because he has much less experience of being stung than I have. He's not certain he's ever been stung by any insect at all; he has a vague memory of having been stung by a bee, but it's a memory from such a young age that he's not quite sure whether it really happened. So he said, at one point, when I asked why he didn't seem more bothered by the yellow jackets, "Well, they'll only sting us if we make them feel threatened." Whereas I've been stung on various occasions by several honey bees, a bumble bee, and a gall wasp - though not, so far, by a yellow jacket - and it's typically been because I stepped on them or squished them by putting my hand on top of them, but always when I didn't realize there was a bee or a wasp where I was putting my hand or my foot. So I was very distressed about being in close proximity to so many of them. I will say, however, that we didn't have any mosquitoes, and if it's a choice between yellow jackets and mosquitoes, I'll take the yellow jackets.
Anyway, here are a few more campsite photos.
And one of Barry cooking.
The yellow jackets did go away when the sun went down. Then I lit my propane lantern, and we read books! I read Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard (interestingly surreal, but a bit too overtly religious for me), and then South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami (mildly upsetting for much of the book's duration because the narrator was being a jerk and the book didn't seem to adequately condemn him, but the ending finally gave the wife he'd been cheating on a chance to have her say, and this went quite some way toward redeeming the book), and then Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai (a novel about a boy growing up gay and a member of the Tamil ethnic group in Sri Lanka: the title focuses on being gay, but the book seemed to focus about equally on being Tamil, and it was a very worthwhile read), and then The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (which I haven't finished yet, but so far it's an extremely good novel about a Jewish man who loses just about everything in the Holocaust and the later generations of Jewish Americans who are influenced by a book he wrote). Barry read a Terry Pratchett novel (The Weird Sisters), a magazine about video games (Kill Screen), and part of a textbook about video games (Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter). Also we did the second chapter of the book 201 Relationship Questions: The Couple's Guide to Building Trust and Intimacy, which is to say that we read questions aloud from the book and answered them. Mostly the result seemed to just confirm that we're getting along fine and communicating well, and we're both pretty happy with each other.
On Thursday morning we set out on a hike. First we crossed the dirt road to Silver Lake and walked a little way around it, in the opposite direction from the day before. Here are some pictures of Silver Lake.
And here is me taking the panorama picture from the beginning of this entry.
We set out from the same trailhead that I hiked from last summer. There's just one trail in the beginning, but it forks at various points along the way. We didn't quite decide which fork we were going to take until we reached it. We had a vague plan to hike to Rock Lake one day and to Gold Lake a different day.
Barry and Boston took the lead while I generally trailed behind. Barry's hydration pack held neither as much water nor as much of anything else as mine did (though he's since bought a larger one that will change that), so I was carrying more weight than he was. I could keep up pretty well on the downhills, which are harder for Barry but easier for me. On the uphills, though, I always fell behind.
We could see Silver Lake here and there from along the trail. Here's a glimpse of it through a small area of burnt trees.
The area we hiked through generally looked like this.
In the distance in the picture above, you may notice a meadow or pond of sorts. I zoomed in on it in the picture below. I remembered seeing it last year and pointed it out to Barry. I don't know how to get to it up close (there's no road and no evident trail), but the name of it is Jacks Meadow Pond, and the water in it is connected to the water in Gold Lake via Jacks Meadow Creek.
The first fork we came to was this one. Gold Lake to the left, Rock Lake and Granite Gap to the right. I let Barry pick which way to go. He decided to go to the right.
I paused to photograph a few plants. This is Sierra stonecrop (Sedum obtusatum).
This is some type of buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.), perhaps sulfur buckwheat.
The next sign said Rock Lake to the left, Granite Gap and Pacific Coast Trail to the right. We took the left fork here.
When looking at satellite imagery in advance, I'd seen that another lake, called Mud Lake, was also in the area, and closer to the start of the trail than Rock Lake, so I thought taking the fork to Rock Lake would take us to both.
Soon, we arrived at a lake! This was our initial view of it. Boston jumped right in.
We weren't sure whether this was Mud Lake or Rock Lake, since it was both muddy and rocky, and since the signs had only mentioned Rock Lake but Mud Lake should have been closer. We decided to walk along the shoreline at the left edge of this photo, beyond the large rock outcropping, and see whether the trail continued any farther.
You can see more of the rock outcropping in this photo that Barry took.
He also took this one of me arriving at the lake.
Beyond the rock outcropping, the lake shore was rockier and less muddy. Boston again jumped right in.
I photographed Barry.
And Barry photographed me.
I also took a panoramic photograph of this portion of the lake.
But we did not find any more trail. The trail ended at the lake. We figured out later that this was Rock Lake, and there wasn't any trail to Mud Lake. The trail must have passed very near to Mud Lake, but for some reason there wasn't a fork of the trail leading to Mud Lake.
We had come prepared to swim, but we decided that Rock Lake was a little too muddy for our swimming tastes. Instead, I suggested that we climb up on that large rock outcropping and take photographs from there. We got great panoramas from up there.
And some other good views, too.
We turned and headed back the way we had come. But because it was still early in the day, and we still wanted to go swimming - and wash our hair - we decided to hike to Gold Lake next, rather than returning to the campsite.
On the way back to the Gold Lake fork of the trail, I noticed this low-growing shrub. It had acorns on it. It was a huckleberry oak shrub (Quercus vacciniifolia).
Soon we were back at the fork for Gold Lake. This time, we went left.
Eventually, we arrived at Gold Lake. I was lagging behind again. Here I am, arriving.
And there's Barry, descending toward the lake ahead of me.
Barry took a photo sphere of Gold Lake with his cell phone. It's a 360-degree circle that produces a virtual reality-like 3D image when viewed through special lenses that allow you to look at it from very close to the image.
I did not take a panoramic photograph of Gold Lake this year, but I took three regular photographs of different parts of it. Just as when I arrived at Gold Lake last year, no one else was there.
And this is where we finally got into the water. There was a bit of a problem with that, though: the water turned out to be very, very cold.
I acclimated a little bit better than Barry did, but neither of us ended up actually being able to do anything that could properly be called "swimming." Barry scooped some water up in his hands and poured it over his head, along with some shampoo, to wash his hair. I, however, have enough hair that getting my hair properly wet in freezing water was a bit more intimidating. I took quite a while to work up my nerve to dip my head in the water. Eventually I managed it, but as soon as my hair was adequately rinsed, I scrambled out of the water and put my regular clothes back on to try to warm up again.
And that is why there are no photos of me in the water. I took a few of Barry in the water after I'd gotten out of the water.
Boston, meanwhile, did much the same thing as last year: she barked her head off, trying to demand that we throw rocks for her. And her barking echoed loudly off the rock walls, until finally she tired herself out and sat down on the shore and was quiet.
We ate the lunch we had brought with us and then hiked back to our campsite. Here is Boston pausing to rest along the trail.
The next day, Friday, Barry mentioned that we were running low on drinking water, so we drove to Quincy and bought five more gallons of it. Then we drove to nearby Snake Lake Campground, because I had camped there before and liked the place and wanted to show it to Barry.
At Snake Lake, Barry noticed that Boston had peed in the back seat of my car. We decided to just hope she wouldn't do any more of this. We set around the perimeter of the lake. I told Barry that the trail would dead-end before very long, but that I'd managed to find my way all the way around the lake on each of two previous visits, so I figured we could do it again. We started out along the lake shore.
Much of my love for Snake Lake is rooted in the unusual plants I've seen there. At the start of the trail I noticed this fruit on a Pacific mountain dogwood (Cornus nuttallii). I wouldn't have known what it was if I hadn't seen this exact same plant in bloom during previous years.
I also noticed three plants in the aster family, all of them very close to the dogwood. This is sticktight (Bidens frondosa), a native weedy plant named for the way its seeds can stick to people.
This is a goldenrod, probably West Coast Canadian goldenrod (Solidago elongata). Despite being called "Canadian," it's native here as well as in Canada.
And this is an aster, probably Western mountain aster (Symphyotrichum spathulatum).
In the beginning, there was a clearly visible trail around the lake.
Creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis) was everywhere in this section of the trail. This is a plant I've tried to grow in my garden, but it can't take the heat of the Central Valley, so eventually I planted a related, taller-growing species of snowberry instead. The berries are edible, but I've read that they taste like soap. I tried one of the snowberries from my plant at home and found that it did not taste very good, but it tasted less awful than the description "like soap" had led me to expect. I also tried one on the trail. The one on the trail tasted worse than the one at home. Both species of snowberry have a bitter aftertaste.
Anyway, the trail soon ended, just as it had done in past years. We tried to continue around the lakeshore as I had done in past years, but it seemed to be more severely overgrown than I remembered it being in the past. We were trying to find our way through thick brush.
finally Barry said, "We need to turn back or else I'll die. I'm severely dehydrated." We had left all our drinking water in my car. I never brought water with me when I walked around Snake Lake in past years either - it never struck me as being the sort of hike it's important to bring water on. But this year it was suddenly more difficult, so we turned back. I remarked that I supposed encountering problems like this was a relationship-building experience.
We had another relationship-building experience when we tried to drive away from Snake Lake. There was a dirt road marked "one way" leading through the campground to an exit at the other end from where we had come in. But this dirt road required us to drive over three huge speed bumps that were very, very high for my car. I got over the first two, scraping the bottom of my car a bit, but when I got to the third one, the bottom of my car scraped so much even when I was going as slow as I possibly could that I was afraid to go over at all. Barry got out of the car and looked at the speed bump, examining the problem, but the solution we ended up settling on was simply to put the car in reverse and return to the entrance (driving the wrong way on a one-way road, albeit a totally empty, dirt one-way road). Barry stood outside guiding me while I reversed the car back to a point where Barry said we could turn the car around. By this point I was feeling quite stressed out from all the obstacles on the road, so I asked Barry to please take the wheel and turn the car around if he thought he could do it. He did, and he got the car back to the entrance to Snake Lake campground, where I took the wheel again.
On our drive back to Silver Lake, we stopped at a small convenience store to buy ice. Ice there turned out to be cheaper than ice at the Safeway in Quincy where I had bought drinking water. That was nice.
Back at Silver Lake, I took Boston wandering up the road from our campsite. She was limping in the aftermath of the hike, so Barry and I both kept examining her paws in case there was something visibly wrong with them, but we couldn't find anything wrong. Anyway, I felt about about making her walk much, and it was difficult to walk anywhere myself without her feeling compelled to follow me, so I just went to the other side of a large boulder in our own campsite. Here's the exit to our campsite.
I also took my camera with me.
That boulder in the distance, where the road curves out of site, is as far as I went. I just climbed up on that boulder with Boston.
Then I called to Barry to come join me. Barry was in our campsite, on the other side of this boulder. You can see our tent here.
Barry came over and took pictures of me on the boulder.
Then I took pictures of him on the boulder.
Then he climbed up on a different boulder.
I decided not to try to climb up on that one. Instead, Barry photographed me while he was on it, while I was still on the ground.
I approached the boulder and took photos of him from up close.
I took pictures of him on that one too.
He took photos of me in return.
He also took this panoramic photo of the lake as seen from on top of the boulder.
We returned to our campsite, and I took some photos of the plants there. This is Douglas' steeplebush (Spiraea douglasii) at the entrance to our campsite.
This is a closer view of one of the flowers on it. With bumblebee!
This is elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) growing near our tent.
And this is narrowleaf deerweed (Hosackia oblongifolia), growing next to a small pool of water across the road from our campsite.
This is me, taking pictures of everything.
The last thing I did Friday evening was to explore a bit of the woodsy area behind our campsite. I noticed a fallen tree leaning over in the distance beyond our tent, and I walked toward it. Here it is.
Under the leaning tree was a little boggy area. I went back and brought Barry with me to see it.
Barry said it would be known as my spot, because I discovered it. Hooray!
On Friday evening, we discussed the possibility of going home a day early, because we'd already hiked on Thursday to both of the places we had planned to hike to, and Boston didn't seem to be up to any further hiking, and there wasn't anything else we really needed to do. But mostly we ended up still planning to stay until Sunday.
Then, on Saturday morning, we woke up to find that Boston had peed on the foot of the sleeping bags. We decided to go home on Saturday after all, so we wouldn't have to sleep in dog-pee-soaked sleeping bags. First, though, we took a few hours to just enjoy sitting around the campsite and eating breakfast.
During this time, I asked Barry, "If we move in together someday, do you have any thoughts about which house we'll live in?" He said, "I've been thinking about that, but I haven't mentioned it because it seemed too early to mention it. Of course, I have an obvious bias toward my house because it's nearer to the people I know and the places I want to go, but I've also thought that we could live in your house or buy a new house." I said I could probably be happy in his house for a few years, but eventually I would want a larger yard. My house has a wonderful 0.29-acre lot, and Barry's lot is considerably smaller. Barry expressed concern that it might be difficult to find a large lot in his neighborhood. It wasn't that easy to find one in my neighborhood either, really. But you can find a lot of things if you prioritize and wait.
Anyway, it was the first time we had discussed that issue. I think we both realized early on that we both had a bias toward living in our own houses, so we both decided simply not to bring up the topic because there was no sense in arguing about it when we didn't need to settle it anytime soon. Over time, though, I started feeling more reconciled to Barry's house. Selling either of our houses will be a big, time-consuming project requiring a lot of preparation, so it seemed like a good idea to me to have some idea at least of which house we might be more likely to sell first. So I brought it up, and we talked about it, and now we have that. We don't have any timeline in mind for this, and I don't particularly want to have a timeline in mind anytime soon, but it's still nice to have slightly more of a picture of what a potential future together might look like.
And then we stuffed everything back into my car again and went home.