In addition to exploring my as-yet untapped theatrical talents (I mean, aside from acting interested when someone’s yapping my ear off or calm while stifling my desire to throttle some jerk who desperately has it coming) as a means to cope until the 2020 election sets us free, The Cutest Man in the World (aka my husband, if you’ve been paying attention) have been giving camping a try.
Now, sure, we’d done some medieval reenactment camping a couple years back at the Pennsic Wars in Pennsylvania, but actual camping is nothing like that. For one thing, we’re not enduring the 100 percent tropical humidity of a suffocating Pennsylvania summer or laughably attempting to stay dry as never-ending sheets of rain pour from the sky in August (Hey PA – hook up with California for more info on “summer”).
For another, we aren’t attempting to do all that is required of camping, from set-up to take down, dressed in full hot, stuffy, itchy 15th Century garb more appropriate for a chilly English winter.
Ever try to keep a tent from flying away like a kite in the driving wind and pouring rain while wearing a tight bodice, several skirts and a snood? Does “futile” set the tone? Thank God/dess the mead flows freely when you’re done. Mitigation is a good thing.
Since TCMITW relocated to California, we haven’t done any camping since our Pennsic days, until this year, when I got the itch to give it a try. I don’t have much camping experience, barring a handful of outings with my parents when I was very young before my dad’s post-WWII PTSD kicked in hard, and then once (yes, once) with my starter husband, and wasn’t that an utter disaster (and again, if you’ve been with me long enough, you may remember that fiasco).
My pal Sarah put the bug in my ear that camping is a great way to relax and avoid people (numbers two and three on my list of favorite things to do, right after spending every waking moment with my horse), and because she’s never steered me wrong (homicidal lesbian bunny notwithstanding; see column archives or “Cats, Dogs and Other Things That Poop in the Yard”), I decided to give it a try.
My husband grumbled a little, because he’d mostly just rather stay home and chill, and if we do go somewhere, he says a hotel room is way less hassle. And sure, he’s absolutely right, of course, but we needed an activity we can do together, because he’s not a fan of horseback riding and I don’t like flying in airplanes, in particular that tiny little thing he recently acquired. We’re both happier staying on the ground and merely observing the other take part in life-threatening activities, thank you very much.
A little minor grumbling aside, Joe and I now have two camping weekends under our belts, and if I do say so myself, they were complete successes, albeit brief. But… baby steps, right?
Our first excursion was to Hendy Woods in the Navarro Forest, on the recommendation of a friend. Great recommendation! For those who want to get out in nature, sit by a campfire and expend as little energy as possible other than lifting a wine glass, this is the spot. It is family friendly, every site has water, and the bathrooms are clean. In other words, it ain’t exactly “roughing it” at Hendy Woods.
We did encounter threatening wildlife there, however: a big black beetle the size of a torpedo was standing guard at the door to the bathrooms. We remained calm and backed away slowly before it attacked.
Fun little side note about Hendy Woods – it’s literally on the same street that runs through Winters: Highway 128. Fun little side note to the side note: Right nearby in Philo, there are two wonderful little wine tasting stops: Baxter Winery and Witching Stick. Because what good is a campfire without good wine in bad glasses?
Our second excursion was led by our camping muse Sarah, to Salt Point State Park, just above Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast. This campsite didn’t have as many amenities as Hendy Woods, but this was mitigated by more quiet and privacy. My particular badge of honor was that we took the approximate one-mile hilly hike to Gerstle Cove and didn’t break or tear anything.
Seriously. I’ve tripped over air more than once, torn ligaments just standing, and sprained ankles? Too many to count. Since my last major knee injury last summer, this was the first time I’ve attempted hiking, and succeeded. I’ve avoided it for fear that I’d get all the way out on a trail, twist something, and not be able to get back. I know my husband loves me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that carting me out on his shoulders is probably not an option, lest we both require a helicopter lift to get home.
All in all, camping gets two dirty thumbs up. I was worried my Princess gene would kick in and I’d detest the dirt and grime and discomfort, but no. Having a horse has re-desensitized me to getting filthy. And good thing too, because the Salt Point campground didn’t have showers.
How dirty was I? Well, I kept expecting flies to start circling over me. Or buzzards. Thankfully, Joe and Sarah similarly ripe, and we apparently just blew out each other’s olfactory glands, and doesn’t that come in handy in certain situations.
Bottom line, I’m IN on this camping gig. But I need suggestions: I want to know about your favorite camping spots, but they need to be within about a two-hour radius of Winters, because my husband’s work schedule is rigidly unforgiving. For now, three-day events are all we can tackle.
And, a programming note: I can take campsites without showers, but they must have bathrooms or my inner Princess will veto the whole thing and demand to be delivered to the nearest Hampton Inn forthwith.