Tuesday, 28 May 2002
I used to camp more, especially when I lived in Utah and California. I went back to Utah for camping trips twice after I moved to Illinois, and camped a couple of times here and in Indiana, but less and less over the past few years. In fact, Jackie and I had only gone camping once since we got married, until this weekend.
Camping in the desert is different. For one thing, it's more quiet. In adventure novels when city people sleep out in the forest or the jungle, it often mentions how the noise of the animals keeps them awake, and I understand that a bit better now. It was loud! The whippoorwills started calling about 8:20 in the evening. In the distance we could hear dogs (and later, I'm told coyotes, but I must have gone to sleep by then). The bullfrogs called all night, as did another kind of frog I didn't recognize. Once I heard a wild turkey. It was loud enough, interesting enough, and varied enough that I had trouble sleeping. Lying on the ground didn't help, but the noise was a big factor. It's not like that in the desert.
We camped on some land my aunt and uncle own. There's a good-sized pond with bluegill, bass, and catfish. There's a little cabin with some sleeping space, but other relatives were going to be using it, so Jackie and I had brought our tent.
Many relatives were there. My mom and all her siblings, some cousins, and two neat little kids I hadn't met before who would be cousins twice removed, I think. Vast quantities of food were served (including some wonderful freshly caught fish). Most of the time was spent sitting in the shade and talking and watching the birds.
After a bluebird catches something to feed to its babies, it doesn't fly straight to the nest. Instead, it flies to a branch nearby and looks around for a few seconds before flying to the nest.
Besides the bluebirds, we saw red-headed woodpeckers (also with a nest), a downy woodpecker, and a baltimore oriole. We went for a walk with a dog named Dragon, exchanged family stories, and sat up late around the fire. Jackie and I got tired and turned in a bit earlier than everyone else.
Sometime after I had fallen asleep, Jackie dragged her pad and sleeping bag out of the tent so that she could see the sky. When I woke up I could see her in the moonlight, her head covered by the hood of her sweatshirt, wrapped up snugly in her sleeping bag, her Thermarest pad nestled in the dewy grass. It was close to dawn and I didn't fall asleep again. After a while Jackie woke up and we quietly got out juice and cereal and walked down to the pond with our books and had an early breakfast while we waited for other people to wake up.