San Luis Creek

8am Wednesday. The automatic light sensors think it is still nighttime. Distance Learning goes ahead anyway. Friday the power went out.

This is camping determination at the edge of reason here. There is so much to process, way too much. I won’t lie, I’m down deep in the Pit of Despair and I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt less hopeful about the future. I’m sure we are all here at varying levels and periods of time these days. And just as the fires in the west are increasing in frequency and scale, so are the feelings of grief and dread for so many of us. Much has been lost, some of it won’t return in any recognizable form. And under the weight of all of it, even the gentle reassurance of the natural constants in life, like that the sky is blue, the Bay Area woke to a disorienting Mars-like atmosphere this week. Still, we went to work because, well, what else are you going to do? But the words of apocalypse and end days are getting bandied about in less funny ways, as though we all know it’s not quite a joke anymore.

So, the question of ‘do we go camping this weekend’ is followed by an assessment that goes something like this: 1. Is the campground currently on fire? 2. Is the area under evacuation? 3. Are there fires nearby? How near? 4. Are there active fires along the route? 5. Would we be in the way of first responders and/or evacuees? 6. Are there escape routes out of the campground, should it catch fire? 7. What is the AQI forecast for the area? What is the weather forecast? Any lightning or firenadoes predicted? Assuming the destination passes through all of those checkpoints without hitting a dead stop, we will still consider going out because that’s how bad we need it. And note that the question that used to carry the most weight (“Well how hot?”) isn’t even on the list anymore as a show stopper. No, we don’t yet have a replacement for the AC, so we increased our 12v fan collection by one and headed out into the smoke Friday afternoon.

Really, I’m sure this would be nice in normal circumstances.

Admittedly, this campground is not getting a fair chance in terms of our impression of it. After our last stay in the Basalt campground with 100º weather, we specifically reserved the side of the recreation area that had hookups so that we could try a do-over with AC, and maybe get my boat in the water. Neither of those things happened. With an AQI in the 150-170 range and ash collecting on everything outside, neither biking nor boating seemed like a sane idea. Instead, we did the only reasonable thing when living in a state of despair: we got in the car, with lovely AC and air filtration, and drove a hundred miles to the coast so that I could see an otter.

They’re like little pharmaceutical grade antidepressants.

We chose the one place on earth where it was pretty damn likely I’d get to see at least one: Moss Landing. It wasn’t that the air quality was going to be that much better at the ocean, there is hardly any area on the west coast that is not under a cloud of smoke right now, but it sure felt better. The temperature dropped a full thirty degrees and you could sort of convince your eyes that all of the wispy stuff was fog.

Ahhh. Trees and forests that still exist.

And yes, I got my otter fix, like a life raft. In case of existential emergency, get to an otter. And it wasn’t the otters alone that pulled me up, though the bang banging of rocks on tummy goes pretty far in mood lifting. It was also the drive. We went a pretty way, along highway 152, through not-yet-burned forests. There, the smoke is hardly visible and the color green soothes the nervous system with the reminder that not everything is dead. And it was also the time to talk, and cry, and just bring out all of the dark thoughts. There may not be answers or soothing platitudes to make any of it go away, but it feels more real and rational than going about your daily business when the world has turned orange. And yes, I mean that in more ways than one.

See? There’s a favorite restaurant that has not burned down.

We got take out from my favorite place and had an amazing ginger cake that was probably soaked in rum. I recommend that highly. And then, after watching the pelicans and otters for a while, we drove a hundred miles or so back to the campground. It was hot and smoky, but not so bad that I couldn’t cook outside. Richard did a short and low exertion scouting pedal, over to check out the access to the California Aquaduct Bike Trail, which he still wants to do on some future visit. We had a wonderful Blue Apron dinner, paired with a thoughtfully gifted bottle of Rombauer, followed by a couple episodes of “The Mandalorian.” And honestly? It was a great weekend.

I’m not under the impression things don’t suck, and are likely to get worse. I don’t have answers for how to process all of that. But I do know that otters help. It’s all about little breaks from the despair. Maybe that’s it. And maybe that’s enough.

Total Miles: 106.5, 2 hours 54 min, 18.0 mpg, site 22 hookups. Great dump. Bacteria problem in water seems to have been solved. LTE for ATT, but not good 3g for Verizon. To my consternation, campfires were allowed, even in these terrible air quality conditions.

8 thoughts on “San Luis Creek

  1. Alissa – another great piece and it so perfectly speaks to the place many of us are in – smack between despair and hope. Here’s hoping that the fires cease and the rebuilding/restoration cans begin. Thank you for your wisdom and beautiful photos!

  2. Long, long walks and hearing only nature sounds works well for me. If you can get away from car and airplanes noise all the better. Breathe deep my friend.

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