An Overnighter — Flashback 1955


The return from Big Sur on that breathtaking Nacimiento-Fergusson Road brought relief once we cleared the sharp drop-offs and one-car-at-a-time curves. The road follows Nacimiento Creek and the US Forestry Service has a few beautiful campgrounds that beckoned me back four-weeks later.

Jesus, it was freaking hot! A triple digit day driving up 101 out of Paso Robles. So hot, that Gilda ceased providing cool air.  Don’t panic. Don’t let Spouse know that I’m concerned–again.

“Just open the window,” he said with nary a glimmer of concern. “It will get cooler the higher we climb.”

It did cool down. It was 97 degrees beneath the canopy of oaks, pines and other native species where that brown and tan sign denoted Nacimiento Creek Campaground. (Note to self: Order tree identification book.) The campground was void of campers. It was mine. All mine! Well, it was mid-week and hot, and not on a well-traveled road — AKA my idea of paradise (heat excluded).


I hate to admit this, but before Gilda was packed for this overnighter (a 90 minute drive from home) I read a Yelp review that warned, “This site is nice with the creek nearby.  Picturesque.  Salamanders for the kids to catch. That’s it.  The FLIES are ridiculous.  You pretty much have 10 buzzing around your face constantly…” So I packed my super-duper, Deet-free, organic bug repellant and tossed in a citronella candle. Seriously, not worried. After all, I once lived next to a river in northern New Mexico and the summer bugs could be nasty. I could handle it. I know how. Experienced! No worries.

Sites 7 and 8 were open. Gilda rolled right into Site 7 next to the picturesque gurgling creek. The heat squeezed oils from the canopy above and scented the air with pine and all kinds of green-leafy joys. Meanwhile, Spouse decided to check out why Gilda ceased producing cool air. It was a burned out connection.  He fixed it.

Camp setup and sweat dribbling down my back, I took Oly, a glass of chilled white wine and I found a butt-perfect boulder in the middle of the creek. 150 frames later, the golden hour began. This was all I needed for the moment. It was magic.

It brought me back to a moment in my challenged childhood when my father took me to a family picnic in 1955 along a creek in Bouquet Canyon north of Los Angeles. It was a special moment because I rarely saw my father. You see, after my mother died in 1951 when I was 2 1/2 he literally dropped me off at the home of an older, childless couple whom I never met before. We lived in the Mojave Desert where triple-digit heat was the norm in the summer. This outing where I was allowed to run free in the cool waters of  Bouquet Canyon Creek brought relief from the heat, and connected me to the sensation of free running water jostling about rocks and boulders — much like my life at the time.

Interrupting that childhood moment was the first vehicle to pull in to the campground — Gilda’s cousin, a Westy with a young couple aboard. We waved. They found their quiet spot at the top of the campground and, like us, kept to themselves.

So what about those flies? They were there, but bugged off in repelled disgust from the citronella on skin and in smoke.

The creek sang through dinner and the night.

Sunrise. Time to rise and cook that sausage and toast. Coffee brewed in the stainless steel old-fashioned coffee pot.  I slapped a few bugs that landed on my arm. My plan was to write beneath the trees and sip coffee as the sun rose. “Honey, would you mind grabbing that bug spray and the citronella candle?” I asked in full confidence that these early morning fliers would move on. Uh, but apparently by slapping a few flies to their end was a wage of war. Like a cloud of black debris, an army of gnats, flies and all sorts of nasty, bitting, pissed-off bugs went in for the counter attack.

No worries.  My flesh glimmered in the morning sun with bug repellant, and I would write another nature inspired contemplation on this gorgeous morning.

Slap! Whack! Whoosh!

It sounded like the background noise in a novelty tune by Spike Jones.

The bug army went for the eyes, the ears, the mouth, and there was no end to them. They reveled in the smell of citronella. It empowered them.Spouse’s language went from educated to groveling cursing-machine.

The Yelp review lied! More than a 100 flies buzzed around my face at a time.

We broke camp in less than 15 minutes and Gilda was on her way back to Cambria.





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