I decided it was just too hot to sleep in my van in Babylon. Even with the back windows open and my little fan blowing on me, the heat kept me from taking my rest. I didn’t want to spend another night off the mountain.
The complicating factor was that the post office where I pick up my mail is only open from 8am to noon. If I left my campground before 5am on my first day off in order to get to the laundromat shortly after it opened at 6am, then left Babylon an hour or so before dark, I missed the post office completely. If I left Babylon before dark and drove all the way back to my campground on my first day off, I was looking at a 30 mile round trip to retrieve my mail on my second day off.
What to do?
I decided I needed to find a place in the National Forest not too far from the post office, a place where I could pull in around dark, spend the night, and hang out until the post office opened and I could get my mail.
As I drove between my campground and the post office, I paid attention to Forest Service roads, turn outs, and pull-offs. There was a place where I sometimes saw camper trailers parked that looked promising.
I also asked my co-worker for his advice. He’s lived in the area for many years and knows a lot of cool spots.
I described the sort of place I was looking for, and after thinking on it, he described the very spot I’d been scoping out. To sweeten the deal, he told me there was a creek (not visible from the road) beyond where the camper trailers parked and even pools of water. He said he thought I’d really enjoy myself there.
The next day, I was talking to one of my campers, and he told me he and his friends had gone to the same area the day before. He said it was really nice there.
It seemed the Universe was telling me to get my ass to the creek.
On my day off, I went to Babylon, did my laundry, used the internet for several hours, bought groceries and ice and gasoline, and headed back up the mountain.
I got to my new spot just before dark and was pleased to find it empty. Once I parked, I threw open the van’s side doors to let the cool evening air rush in while I ate my cold pizza dinner. I was delighted to hear the sound of the creek burbling by just a few feet away. Not since I parked next to the Rio Hondo in New Mexico had I been lulled to sleep by the sound of rushing water.
I walked over to the creek and looked around a bit. In the last of the light, I could see boulders on the edge of the creek, large rocks within. While there weren’t exactly waterfalls, in many places the water tumbled over and off rocks. I was excited for the warmth of the next day, when I would want to get wet.
After the interior of the van had cooled a bit, I got inside, closed and locked the doors, and hung my curtain. The mountain air coming through the open back windows was just chilly enough for me to want to snuggle under my down comforter. I slept well.
Once I’d picked up my mail in the morning, I was in no hurry to get back to my campground, so I went back to the creek.
There are a couple of reasons I don’t like to stay at my campground on my days off.
The first reason is my boss. He has no qualms about coming into my campground when he knows it’s my day off, parking his truck on my campsite, and talking to me about work-related issues or whatever dumb shit is on his mind. I have little enough patience to listen to him when I’m getting paid for it. Having to listen to him on my day off is an insult. I figure I’m better off avoiding him if possible.
The second reason I want to steer clear of my campground when I’m not working is visitors show up and want to chitchat after I tell them it’s my day off. I don’t mind answering questions if I’m there anyway. I realize people with information are few and far between in the forest, so if there’s a question to be asked, folks are going to ask it of whomever they see. However, I don’t feel as if I should have to listen to complaints about the condition of the road after I’ve said I’m the camp host, but I’m on my day off right now. (True story.) Again, I’m better off staying away and avoiding the annoyance.
Other than trash strewn on the ground and a couple of piles of human waste (all of which I cleaned up as my own little public service), the creek was a lovely place. The water rushed by and tumbled over rocks. There were no mosquitoes or other annoying bugs. The creek was surrounded by trees, so only dappled light came through, giving my pale skin plenty of shade.
There were pools of water too, not very deep, but if I had stretched out, I probably could have submerged my whole body. However, the water was cold (at least to my standards), and I didn’t want to get all wet. I did shimmy out of my skirt and sit on a flatish rock wearing underpants and a tank top. I shrieked when my butt slipped off the not-as-flat-a-I-thought rock and my nether regions splashed into the refrigerator-cold water.
I sat in the creek for a couple of hours, mostly keeping only my legs and feet in the water. When I realized some people were parked next to my van, I rapidly splashed over to where I’d left my skirt. Of course, I slipped and sunk to my waist. Thankfully, I sustained no injuries. After pulling my skirt on, I waited until the people walked past me (I’m not sure they saw me sitting on a rock, reading a book), then left the creek and drove away.
I spent another couple of hours at the creek after an early morning run to town and stop at the post office. This time I rolled my jeans up past my knees and stayed in the shallows. I found a very flat rock in the middle of the creek and sat there to read my mail while dangling my feet in the water. Soaking my feet cooled my whole body. Hearing and feeling the water rush by lifted my spirits.
That creek is a sanctuary, a place to spend the night, a place to cool down when I’m hot, a place to go when I need more solitude than my campground can provide.
I won’t mention it to a single tourist.
I took all the photos in this post.