FROM THE WEST SACRAMENT NEWS-LEDGER — AUG 22, 2012 –
Editor’s note: Daryl is off this week. Below is one of his favorite columns from the past.
This past week I spent three days and nights camping in the beautiful redwoods, near the Avenue of the Giants, which is located about 100 miles south of the Oregon border near little Northern California towns with colorful names like Weott and Miranda and Myers Flat. More specifically, my brother’s family, my daughter’s family, and my wife and youngest son and I reserved two adjoining campsites in Burlington Campground, which is one of three camping areas in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It took five tents to house everyone, but once we had set up camp everything was going along swimmingly until my daughter made the mistake of reading the little flyer which our friendly forest ranger had passed out to each of us when we first entered the campground.
“Dad,” she informed me with emphasis, “you never said anything about bears being up here!”
“What are you talking about?” I asked her.
“It says right here in this brochure that Burlington Campground is located in bear country and that all campers are responsible for properly storing their food so that bears won’t come in here in the middle of the night and start eating everything in sight – including people!”
“Now where does it say that?” I asked, grabbing the brochure from her.
“Well,” she answered, “maybe it doesn’t exactly say that, but it does say that this is bear country and you know how I feel about bears!”
“Hey,” I said, “I’m not the one who told you to watch that movie a dozen times about that crazy guy who thought he was a bear and ended up getting himself and his girlfriend eaten by grizzly bears, am I? Plus there are no grizzly bears up here. If there are any bears at all, they’re brown or black bears and they’re usually not as aggressive as grizzly bears.”
“Dad, a bear is a bear is a bear!”
“What are you two shouting about?” suddenly asked my wife as she strolled up to us. “Don’t you know that your voice carries for miles in a place like this?”
“Mom, did you know that this area is crawling with bears?”
“What?” asked my obviously surprised wife, quickly looking around to see if her grandchildren were safely in sight.
That’s all we need, I thought to myself, knowing that my wife (who has hated camping since her father used to drag her and her siblings to isolated areas where there were no showers and more mosquitoes than human blood to go around) was already on the lookout for potential reasons to cut our little trip short.
“Look,” I said to my wife and daughter, “according to Greg (my brother, who has camped near The Avenue of the Giants numerous times), there are indeed a few bears up here, but they’re higher up in the mountains and there hasn’t been a sighting of one in this campground for years. Plus our two campsites are near the back of the campground so if one did happen to stroll in here he’d have to eat about a hundred other campers first before he ever got to us, so let’s just all chill out about bears and have ourselves a good time.”
And so we did – until the next afternoon when my daughter and I and her three-year old son, Riley, went for a lengthy walk all the way down to the Eel River, which meanders alongside the southern edge of much of the Avenue of the Giants. With not much rainfall anywhere in California this year, the Eel River turned out to have only about a third of its normal flow and we were able to get right down into the river bed which was covered with thousands of small rocks that Riley enjoyed picking up and tossing into what little water that was still there. I also pointed out to my daughter that there weren’t any bear tracks for as far as the eye could see.
“But did you hear that?” my daughter suddenly asked me as I was bending down to pick up a few flat rocks which looked like they would be perfect for throwing and skipping along the water.
“Hear what?” I asked matter-of-factly.
“You don’t hear that rattling noise?”
“But how can you not hear it – it’s loud!”
“A rattling noise?” I asked, straining my ears to try and hear it.
“That’s right – a rattling noise – and you gotta be deaf if you can’t hear it!”
“Sorry, but I don’t hear a thing.”
“Are there rattlesnakes hiding out here in these rocks?” my daughter demanded to know.
“I don’t think so,” I said, looking all around us.
“First bears, and now rattlesnakes!”
“But I don’t see or hear any rattlesnakes.”
“Riley, stop throwing those rocks and get back here!” shouted my daughter at her young son.
With Riley safely back at my daughter’s side, she quickly positioned me between him and where she was sure the rattlesnake sounds were coming from.
“So,” I said with a smile, “if there is a rattlesnake out here, you plan on it biting your poor father first before it can get anywhere close to Riley?”
“That’s right,” she said, returning my smile. “You’re an old man now and you’ve already lived your life.”
On our way back to the campground, no rattlesnakes – or bears – crossed our paths, but my daughter and I did have an interesting little conversation, which started with her saying, “How did you and mom ever do it?”
“Raise four kids without worrying yourself sick? I mean, I wouldn’t really mind being up here with bears and rattlesnakes if I didn’t have two little boys to constantly worry about.”
“Welcome to parenthood.”
“Does it ever get any better?”
“Not even when your kids are all grown up?”
“Not even then. In fact, in some ways, it actually gets worse.”
“You mean you still worry about me?”
“That’s right. And like all parents, I’m sure I will until the day I die — unless of course a bear eats you in the next few days.”
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Copyright News-Ledger 2012