Ramblin’ Road: On taking a week off from civilization

by Phyllis McCrossin

Kitchen creek spring with mountain

It is Sunday, March 14, as I write this. We are at one of our favorite campgrounds – Cibbets Flats. It is located deep in the Cleveland National Forest. I think there may be 24 sites. No electric, no sewer, just an occasional water spigot dispersed throughout the campground. It’s $14 a night, with our National Park Senior Pass, it is $7 a night.

The campground is located in a valley. We are literally surrounded by mountains on all sides. No wifi. No phone signal. However, King did discover he can pull in a satellite signal with his satellite dish. If there is a way to use satellite to reach the Internet, I don’t know how, and I truly have no desire to do so.

This is a week with no connection to the outside world — with the exception of driving to the nearest gas station 20 miles away to check in with the kids. They like to know we are still alive. Or maybe they just want to know if it’s time to cash in our life insurance policies.

We left our modern campground, Sweetwater Summit Regional Park yesterday morning and traveled east on the California 8 (in California all highways are call The 8, The 805, The 15, etc. It kind of reminds me of THE Ohio State University – I once worked at a newspaper in Ohio. THE Ohio State University gets drilled into your head – forever).

Anyway, we left the campground around 9 or 10 in the morning, stopped to stock up with groceries and continued on our way. The electronic signs along the highway heading into the mountains warned of “Wintery Weather Ahead.” It got cold (around 40) and rained, but King and I didn’t experience anything we would consider “Wintery Weather.” Perhaps further up in the mountains it was “wintery.” The campground is at about 4000 feet, so we are not “way up” in the mountains.

By the time we got to the campground – about five miles off The Eight – the rain had turned white, but again, I would not say it was snowing.

King and I have a routine when we get to campgrounds. I walk the dog while he parks the trailer. It saves a lot of bickering. I am probably (or at one point was) better at backing a trailer but when we travel the only time I’m allowed behind the wheel is when I back the truck to the hitch or when I run to the grocery store.

So while King backed into our favorite spot at our favorite campground, I took DK for a walk. There were a few patches of snow in the shade and I introduced DK to his first snow. He was not impressed. He reminded me of a horse – braced his feet, shook his head and rolled his eyes. I could have pulled him through the snow, but I didn’t see any point.

It rained and occasionally sleeted throughout the day. Nothing stuck to the ground. But by time the sun set it was cold. Really cold. For some reason the trailer battery will not work (yes it is charged) unless it’s plugged into the truck. The generator would not start. We ran the truck for a while to get the furnace to kick in, then piled on the sleeping bag , turned the truck off and went to bed. About 3 a.m. DK crawled into bed, shivering. I wrapped him in a blanket, he groaned with pleasure and we all snuggled.

Monday, March 15:

We made the 60-mile round-trip to El Cajon to get oil for the generator and a Mr. Heater Little Buddy. We don’t run the generator all night. There are two other campers here, it would be pretty rude to keep that thing going past sundown. So we will crack the window and run the propane heater through the night.

The rest of the day was spent sitting by the fire and enjoying the sun. It’s still cold (California cold, not Michigan cold), but wrapped in a blanket with my face turned toward the sun was heavenly.

Wednesday, March 17:

Today is our 45th wedding anniversary. We celebrated by driving back to El Cajon to get DK some probiotics. He has an upset tummy. I also stimulated the economy with my stimulus check by buying a new shower curtain. I am certainly the last of the big-time spenders.

We eventually did see snow. Monday night the temperature dropped and the rain turned to snow. We woke Tuesday morning to about two inches of snow covering the campground. It was gone by 11 a.m. and King and I hiked the trail to our favorite spot – a cold water spring that feeds Kitchen Creek.

There have been times, after a winter with a lot of snow, the water forms a natural pool. We’ve only seen it once in the four years we’ve been coming here. It’s still a pretty spot even without the pool. I’ve yet to get a decent photo of the spring, pool or creek. I think it’s one of those places one needs to see for oneself to appreciate it.

It was warm enough this afternoon to sit in the sun in a long-sleeved shirt. I think it is supposed to be warmer tomorrow and then cool off again Friday.

Thursday, March 18:

King and I drove the “Sunrise Highway” today. We have driven past the exit many, many times over the years and today we decided to get off The Eight and check out the highway. It did not disappoint. We drove up into the mountains for some spectacular views… and there was snow — actual, go sledding down the hill, snow. King and I pulled over to the side of the road and watched families, dressed in their snowsuits, enjoy the hillside fun.

I had on a long sleeved shirt, jeans and tennis shoes and was quite comfortable. In fact, were we in Michigan the weather was warm enough that some hardy Michigan residents would probably been found in Wal-Mart wearing cutoff-jeans and flip-flops.

Friday, March 19:

We are back to civilization. I must admit, it was nice to be able to take a shower. I suppose I could have taken one while we were in the mountains, but that would use up a lot of water and fill our grey tank, so I went without.

We arrived at Lake Jennings Campground around noon and after setting up camp, I drove to the grocery store to get supplies. I hadn’t driven in quite some time and discovered King had placed a piece of black tape over the “check tire pressure” light. We’ve had the truck in several times for the light, which goes on because the senor on the right front tire is bad. Every mechanic who has looked at it says the same thing, “Let it go.”

Apparently King got tired of the light and covered it. Unfortunately it also covered the “check engine” light, which of course is burning brightly. Heaven knows how long it has been on. I will be the first to admit we’ve driven months and months with a “check engine” light on in the past, but for some reason this time King is quite concerned. So we will have it checked out this week. To be honest, between the truck and the trailer (the trailer brakes STILL are not working correctly) I will be glad to be back in Michigan next month.

Even when you take your home with you wherever you roam, there is something to be said for the familiarity of your home turf.

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