Monthly Archives: May 2015

Cleaning Fire Rings and Picking Up Trash

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The last couple of days, I have been cleaning fire rings and picking up trash. I don’t mind either of these chores.

Cleaning fire rings is physical in an I’m toughening up sort of way, but not in an I’m going to die sort of way. I do not like physical activities that make me think of death. Also, I can clean the fire rings at my own pace. I would like it less if I had to hurry.

Picking up trash is ok too, especially since I started thinking of it as going on a hike with a trash bag. Actually picking up trash is kind of fun. I feel like I’m on an Easter egg hunt, but instead of finding yummy treats, I’m finding…trash. At least picking up trash puts my OCD tendencies (thanks, Mom) to good use.

I’ve been picking up what is called micro trash or pocket trash. This is the little stuff. Sure, I’ve found a couple of rusty metal cans (which, were I in New Mexico, I’d be compelled to whip into what The Lady of the House and I refer to as Tetanus Art); a plastic grocery store sack; six empty, new-looking Keystone Light cans; and some ripped up newspaper, but mostly I’m picking up small stuff.

Here’s a list of what I have been finding (most to least)

metal bottle caps (most are from beer bottles; Corona seems to be the brand of choice around here)

plastic lids from individual size water bottles

other small bits of plastic ranging from unidentifiable to the covers that come on small propane bottles

broken glass in various sizes (some of it melted in campfires)

the type of thin plastic that wraps everything from granola bars to cigarettes to candy to toothpicks

those flat plastic things that close bread bags

bits of metal ranging from aluminum cans melted in a campfire to old school pop tops that come completely off a soda or beer can

bits of paper

tiny round plastic bb’s in a variety of colors

bandaids (ewwwwww, gross!)

cigarette butts (surprisingly few, most of them in fire rings)

bits of Styrofoam

shredded fibers from tarps

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Here’s a photo I took of a sample of the trash I found. There’s no glass in this sample because I didn’t want to put glass in my pocket for a later photo shoot.

I did find some treasures while picking up trash. The best is the race care, but the googly eye is cool too. I also found the quarter and the two pennies shown here. After I took this photo, I found another quarter and a dime.

I did find some treasures while picking up trash. The best is the race car, but the googly eye is cool too. I also found the quarter and the two pennies shown here. After I took this photo, I found another quarter and a dime.

I don’t understand how so many metal bottle caps and plastic caps from water bottles get on the ground. Are people purposely dropping them? Do these folks have living rooms knee deep in bottle caps because they can’t ever be bothered to throw the caps in the trash? Or is it because they are on vacation and so relaxed that they can’t throw away the bottle caps? Ok, so maybe someone is sitting down and they don’t want to stand up to walk over to their trash bag, but couldn’t they just hold the cap until they stand up later?

The thing that really gets me about the trash on the ground is that there are trash cans all over this campground. I’ve been to campgrounds before (usually free ones) where there are no trash cans. Folks are supposed to pack out what they packed in. Not everyone wants to do that, so people try to burn their trash. Or, with the thought that it will be easier for whomever cleans the campground to pick up trash all in one spot, people will leave their trash in the fire rings. I would understand what was happening if there were no trash cans around here, but that’s not the case.

I guess I should think of it as job security for me, but it irks me to think of people littering in such a beautiful place.

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but folks, put your trash in trash cans! If you are out somewhere with no trash cans, pack out what you packed in. And if you want to be a true good citizen, pick up other people’s trash too. Woodsy Owl will thank you.

 

Luci Light

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I first heard about the Luci light at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR).

(To read more about my experiences at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/21/the-rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-1-2/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/24/rubber-tramp-rendezvous-week-2-2/.)

Someone brought one to the gadgets workshop, a kind of show and tell of devices helpful to van dwellers. I didn’t attend that workshop, but someone (maybe Miss M) who was there told me about a really cool, inflatable solar light that had been shared with the group. Later during the RTR, I met a  couple of women who had Luci lights and raved about them. The lights  sounded great, and I wanted one for sure, but I didn’t get around to buying one until I was just about on my way out of the city.

I’ve been living at a campground with no electricity for nearly a week, and I love my Luci light.

When I bought my Luci, it was flat, like in this photo I took. (It was a little bit neater when I bought it; the edges were lined up.)

When I bought my Luci, it was flat, like in this photo I took. (It was a little bit neater when I bought it; the edges were lined up.)

The Luci starts out flat, and is easily inflated by blowing into the valve.

Inflating Luci. (Self portrait)

Inflating Luci. (Self portrait)

Luci's almost full of air. (Another self portrait.)

Luci’s almost full of air. (Another self portrait.)

Here's Luci fully inflated.

Here’s Luci fully inflated. (I took this photo too.)

Because Luci is full of air, it is very lightweight and easy to carry. There is a loop for hanging on each end, and the Luci light floats. (I haven’t tested the floating part.) It’s also waterproof and designed to withstand extreme temperatures and wind.

If I am sitting outside reading after dark, I use a clothespin to attach Luci (with LEDs up) to my shirt near my shoulder, and I have plenty of light to see the words in my book.

The other night Luci was pinned to my shirt while I was reading. I got up to do a few little chores around the campsite and simply left Luci attached. I had plenty of light to see what I needed to see to do what I needed to do. I probably didn’t have enough light to do brain surgery (not that I’d do brain surgery anywhere, much less in the woods in the dark), but to lock my doors and fold up my chair, it worked great!

This photo I took shows Luci lighting up my van.

This photo I took shows Luci lighting up my van.

It’s difficult to tell in the above photo, but Luci lights up the van well. It works as well as either of the two battery operated lanterns I have. Actually compared to how those lanterns work after the batteries have been used for a few hours, Luci works much better to light up the van. The battery operated lights fade after just a few hours of use.

Luci illuminates the whole van enough for me to see to dress, undress, put things away, or cook a meal. If I want to read or do any kind of close-up work, I have position Luci so it shines directly onto what I want to see. It generates plenty of light for reading, although I usually have to move it around to find a good  position so shadows don’t block what I’m trying to see.

Because Luci is powered by the sun, I don’t need batteries for it. That saves me money and saves resources used to produce batteries, as well as keeping dead batteries out of the landfill.

These are the Luci's solar panels. (Yes, yes, I took this photo too.)

These are the Luci’s solar panels. (Yes, yes, I took this photo too.) The orange dot in the middle is the on/off switch.

The company that makes Luci says that 8 hours of solar charging (in direct sunlight) will produce 12 hours of light from Luci. (According to the FAQs at https://www.mpowerd.com/frequently-asked-questions-and-information-booklets, “[w]hen Luci is set on Bright [lowest light setting] she provides light for up to 12 hours after a full charge.”) I’ve read reviews where people have shared different experiences with how long Luci’s light lasts. I usually use my Luci less than four hours a night, so I can’t really speak to whether or not it shines for 12 hours at a time. In other reviews I’ve read, people have said that they have multiple Luci lights and some hold a charge and provide light better than others do. Again, I can’t speak to that issue.

Luci has three settings: bright, brighter, and flashing. So far, I’ve only used the bright setting, which has been adequate for my needs, although maybe I wouldn’t have to have the lantern so close to my book if I used the brighter setting. I guess the flashing setting would be helpful in an emergency (including an emergency dance party).

My friend suggested that I get two Luci lights so I could be sure to always have one charged and ready to go. When I left the city, I really didn’t have the money for that, so I just bought one. So far I’ve been good about putting it out in the sun to charge every couple of days, and so far, Luci has shined for as long as I’ve needed light. If I do find myself in a position where Luci is not fully charged when I need light, I have my two battery powered lanterns as backup.

One woman I met at the RTR told me that she’s had two Luci lights, the switch in both of which broke after repeated use. Both times she contacted the company that makes the lights, and they sent her a new one. This information has motivated me to be very careful with the switch on my Luci. The switch works with a push. One push turns it on. To turn it off, I have to push it again, which takes it to the brighter setting. I then have to push it another time, which takes it to the flashing setting. I push it one final time to turn it off. I could see how doing this multiple times each night could wear out the switch.

The company’s FAQ (at https://www.mpowerd.com/frequently-asked-questions-and-information-booklets) says,

Luci has 300-500 cycles of full charge, so the length of time she lasts depends on frequency of use. If you fully charge and fully discharge every single day, Luci lasts approximately 2 years. If used less frequently, she will last for many years.

The Luci light is made by MPOWERD. You can find out more about the company at www.mpowered.com. (I took this kind of crappy picture.)

The Luci light is made by MPOWERD. You can find out more about the company at www.mpowerd.com. (I’m not sure why this photo turned out kind of crappy.)

This is what MPOWERD says about itself on the website (https://www.mpowerd.com/our-story):

We Stand for Solar Justice

MPOWERD aspires to empower people everywhere with innovative and affordable personal clean energy products. Inspired by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that left millions without power, MPOWERD was founded by a group of like-minded individuals in 2012 who wanted to “do good by doing well.”

Headquartered in New York City, MPOWERD is a fast growing consumer products company that develops and manufactures brilliant, transformative clean energy products and solutions for people living and playing on and off the grid.

There are several styles of Luci Lights available. They can all be ordered directly from the MPOWERD website (https://www.mpowerd.com/products). Amazon.com also has some varieties available. If you live in or visit a city, Luci lights are also available at Big 5 Sporting Goods stores.

I recommend Luci lights for folks who ever find themselves in the dark and wanting light, even if that’s during a power outage. They store in such a small space, and according to the MPOWERD website (https://www.mpowerd.com/frequently-asked-questions-and-information-booklets), “When not in use, Luci holds a full charge for about three months. After that, she retains up to 50% of her charge for two years.”

MPOWERD Luci - The Original Inflatable Solar Light, Clear Finish

Update: It Snowed Again

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Wednesday (May 13) was my day off, so I headed to Babylon (population 55,000). In one shopping area there is a Stuff-Mart, a grocery store, a Denny’s, a Taco Bell, a Starbucks, an Office Depot, and a bunch of small stores. Directly across the street is a Target, a McDonald’s, a Panera, a Dollar Tree, a Big 5 Sporting Goods, a Kohl’s, a Little Caesar’s, one of those mega pet stores (can’t remember the name), an Auto Zone, a couple of restaurants, and several other shopping possibilities. Just down the road is a movie theater, a gym, a Burger King, a Goodwill, a laudromat, another grocery store, a couple of gas stations, a donut shop, and many other small stores. Pretty much anything I wanted to buy was available in a couple of blocks. (Except Shoe Goo. I couldn’t find any Shoe Goo.)

On Wednesday I did a bunch of shopping, then made a bunch of phone calls, then hunkered down with the internet at Panera for several hours. At an appropriate hour, I drove over to the Stuff-Mart and settled down for the night. I got up at 5:30 on Thursday, and headed over to the laundromat. While I was waiting for it to open, I went to the donut shop in the same row of the strip mall and got myself a giant, greasy, delicious apple fritter.

Laundry done, I went back to Panera for a couple more hours of internet. After that I filled up the gas tank, did a quick stop at the Goodwill, and got on the road.

I got back to the campground ten minutes before the snow. I’d been hearing there was a storm coming, so I purposefully left Babylon early. I didn’t want to get caught in the snow.

About twenty minutes after the snow started, the ground was covered and the tree limbs were dusted.The temperature dropped pretty fast too. I fired up Mr. Buddy and spent the afternoon putting away my clean laundry and reading.

When I woke up Friday (May 15), there was still snow everywhere, and the fog had set in. The sun tried to peek out a couple of times, but never made it through the fog. The whole day was grey and cold and snowy.

My supervisor came by pretty early in the morning. She told me I didn’t have to work in such nasty weather. I was glad she said that because I really didn’t want to leave the van. I did go out in the morning and make my rounds, but I was glad I had paperwork I could do inside, next to the heater.

My supervisor also told me that I would report to my own campground on Tuesday. I am excited to get there and settle in.

Around three o’clock, I decided to go out and sweep the restrooms. I was starting to feel like a pretzel after being folded up on myself in the van all day.

The fog was really spooky. It made me feel really nervous. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were from London or San Francisco, but I’ve never lived with fog, so it makes me antsy.

I’d swept the two women’s restrooms near the front of the campground and was walking around the side of the building to sweep the men’s rooms. I looked across the little concrete porch in front of the doors and saw a…creature. I was so surprised, I screamed. I didn’t know if the creature was a bear or an Ewok. It was actually a dog. A big dog. A big grey dog with a big fluffy head. He was friendly and wanted to play, so I was embarrassed that I’d screamed. Part of the reason I was startled was because I didn’t know where he’d come from. I didn’t realize any people were in the campground.

The dog’s person walked up about then. She and her guy had just pulled in about ten minutes before, she said, although they already had their tent up. I asked about the dog, and she said he was husky and his father was part timber wolf. He looked a lot like a wolf.

Then the woman told me that she and her guy live about 25 miles from the campground, and they’d decided to come camping because it was their anniversary. If It were my anniversary, I would not want to spend the night in a tent in the fog and the cold. On my anniversary, I’d want to spend the night in a big comfy bed in a warm room. I guess people are different.

The dog was running around, wanting to play, chasing the golf cart as I drove it. He was totally wet, from running through the fog and the wet grass. So not only were the couple spending their anniversary in a tent in the cold and the fog, they were sharing that tent with a big wet dog. Not what I would want to do on my anniversary. Not one bit.

Saturday was not as cold, all the snow melted, the fog dissipated, and the sun came out. I spent most of my work day cleaning fire rings and picking up small trash from campsites. It was good to be outside in the sunshine.

And I’m happy I bought four bottles of propane at Stuff-Mart.

Self-Portrait in Dorothy Mae Feldman’s Tombstone

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I visited the Old Kernville Cemetery in Wofford Heights, California. (To read about my visit, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/05/29/old-kernville-cemetery/.)

At the edge of the cemetery farthest from the entrance, almost up against the boundary fence (which you can see in this photo, just past the tombstone), I happened upon the grave of Dorothy Mae Feldman. The inscription on the tombstone, as well as the reflective surface of the stone, caught my attention. Wow! That Dorothy Mae must have been some woman! I wish I could have known her. I hope people have such warm and kind feelings about me when I am gone. (And by “gone,” I mean “dead,” not just in another geographic location. Although it would be nice if people think well of me when I’m out of state, too.)

I stooped down to take a photo of the tombstone, with that lovely portrait of Dorothy Mae and that loving inscription, and realized I could see myself as well as if I were in front of a mirror. For a moment, Dorothy Mae and I were part of the same world.

BookMooch

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BookMooch is a gift economy website that helps people give and receive books. I’ve been a member since 2007.

Here’s how BookMooch works:

I set up an inventory of books I want to give away. Most books are already in the BookMooch database and are easy to add to the inventory. I earn 1/10 of a point for each book I add. I can take a book out of my inventory at any time, for any reason, but when I do, 1/10 of a point is deducted from my point total.

BookMooch members can see my inventory. If any member wants a book in my inventory, s/he can mooch it from me. I’m sent an email notice that someone wants one of my books. I respond to that notice by accepting or rejecting the request. It’s in my best interest to accept the request because I get a point each time I accept a request. (I only send books within the United States, so I get one point per book. Books sent internationally earn 3 points.) I then send the book to the person who asked for it. I pay postage for books I send.

Once I acquire points, I can choose books that I want to mooch from the inventories of other members. When I ask for a book, BookMooch sends a message to the book owner asking if s/he is willing to send it. The sender pays the postage on books sent to me. I use one point for each book I mooch within the United States. I never mooch books from folks in other countries, but I could if I wanted to. Books mooched internationally cost 3 points.

Folks have to send out one book for every two received. If a member doesn’t keep up the 2:1 ration of received to sent, s/he is not allowed to mooch any more books (even if s/he still has points) until s/he improves that ratio.

In seven years, I’ve given away 282 books and received 192 books.

The condition of listed books varies widely. Members can add condition notes when they list their books. I try to describe my books accurately, although a couple of times I’ve been in a hurry and left out information and the receiver of the book has complained. Some people are looking for a specific edition of a book or specifically want hardcover. Also, people with allergies might not want books that have been in the same room as cigarette smoke or pet fur. I just want to read whatever book I am mooching, so I’m not usually picky about the condition of the books I receive.

Some books listed are old and seemingly unpopular, but I have found many relevant books to read on BookMooch. This is not a website where people are just trying to get rid of their junk.

Go here: http://bookmooch.com/ to learn more about and/or sign up for BookMooch.

The Question

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Today my new boss asked me the question. She asked it hesitantly. I could tell she did not want to offend me, but she did want to know.

Why do you live in your van?

I gave her the most basic answer first, the one that is most honest, but that tends to make people uncomfortable and stops conversation.

I was homeless, so living in a van was a step up.

Should I not say that to people, even though it’s true, because they don’t know how to respond? Should I not tell my new boss that I used to be homeless? Should I be ashamed that I was homeless? Should I be ashamed to live in a van?

I went on to tell her the other reasons I live in my van, the ones most van dwellers and rubber tramps give. I like to travel. I don’t like paying rent. The van is enough for me. I don’t need a big RV because I am by myself. I told her, I don’t have any kids. I don’t have a man. Or a woman. (Did I come out as bisexual to my new boss? Is that more or less risky than admitting I used to be homeless?)

She seemed to understand that van living might be an ok way to live for a person who likes to travel. I told her I sometimes wish I had more space, but I’d probably just fill more space with junk I don’t really need. She seemed to understand that part too.

Then the conversation turned (as it so often does) to being a woman traveling alone and safety and being brave.

I told her I pay attention to what’s going on, I stay alert. I told her I don’t drink or party or use illegal drugs (good information to work into a conversation with a new boss) so I can be aware of what’s happening around me. I told her if sketchy people start doing sketchy things, I put the key in the ignition and drive away.

I told her, I’ve had shit (should I have not said “shit” to my new boss?) happen to me in my own home (and by own home, I actually meant other vans, cheap motel rooms, and under bridges) with someone I loved. Bad things can happen anywhere.

The other woman in the conversation piped in with Yeah, something bad could happen to you walking out of Vonn’s (the local supermarket).

When I was in college in New Orleans, I worked in the French Quarter. I didn’t have a car, and I couldn’t always get a ride, so often I’d take a bus home at midnight. There was no other way home. (A $10 cab ride? Give me a break!) I needed to work to support myself, so I stood at a bus stop in the French Quarter in the dark, and I walked from where the bus dropped me off to my house in the dark. One day I realized if I could be out at night because of work, I could be out at night to have fun.

What I’m saying is if my own loved one caused me harm, why should I be scared of strangers? Are stranger scarier than what I’ve already been through? I’m sure some of them are, but I try not to be an easy mark for people with bad things on their minds. Besides, someone could just as easily break into an apartment in a city and “get me,” as break into my van in the woods. (The one better chance I might have in a city is that maybe people would hear me scream and maybe those people would try to help.)

I don’t think what I do is so much braver than what millions of women do every day all over the world. Is traveling alone braver than walking miles to haul water and firewood, cooking and cleaning and having too many babies? Is traveling alone braver than living through war, seeing your loved ones die, having your home destroyed by bombs? Is traveling alone braver than taking a beating so your kids or your siblings won’t get hit? Is traveling alone braver than carrying on after being raped by soldiers or sold into a life of sex slavery? Is traveling alone braver than living in a city among poverty and violence, worrying that you or someone you love is going to be killed by a cop or a gang member with a gun?

When I look at it that way, my life seems good, and I seem really safe.

If I’ve done anything brave, it’s not living alone in a van, traveling, working as a camp host in a forest. If I’ve ever done anything brave, it was finally walking away from a bad situation (even if by walking away, I really mean sneaking off in the night) when I thought I had no friends or family to help me, when I was convinced I was a bad person and the universe was going to deal with me accordingly.

I’m just like so many other women in the world, doing what I do to survive, to help others, to find a little beauty in my life.

Kids and Bears

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I was walking towards the restrooms when I saw what looked like a medium-size bus pull in. I figured some folks had converted it into their traveling vehicle, but was a little miffed when they drove past my wave.

After I finished my…business…in the restroom, I hopped in the golf cart and drove over to see what the folks were up to.

A man and two little boys (twins, I think) were outside the bus when I pulled up. I said good morning and asked the man if they planned to camp. He said no, they’d hoped to camp in the area the night before, but hadn’t made it far enough. He said he just wanted to get some water and check the motor, that they’d probably be gone in about an hour. I told him they should make themselves at home, but before I left, I asked him if his RV was a converted city bus. He said it had been the shuttle bus at a VA complex (he called it a “putt-putt bus”). He’d bought it at auction for $5,000, and it only had 4,500 miles on it.

The boys (who were probably about six years old) were running around and came up and told me hi. The dad told me one was named for the mountains, (Cody, as in Cody, Wyoming) and the other was named for the ocean (Kai).

This is the little buildings with restrooms I was cleaning when the boys asked me if I wanted to see the bear tracks. The tracks were in the snow visible on the left of this photo
The tracks were right there, in the snow.

I went about my chores dusting and sweeping restrooms, starting in the front and working my way back. As I was just starting on the restrooms right across from where the bus/RV was parked, Cody and Kai ran up to me.

We found bear tracks, one of them told me.

That’s cool, I said. Did you see any bear poop? I thought a mention of poop would get me at least a giggle, but these kids were serious. No, they had not seen any bear poop. They had not seen the bear either, just the tracks.

Then they asked if I wanted to see the bear tracks.

Yes! I said. (I was on my best work behavior, and I did not use any expletives to express my excitement.)

I thought we were going to make some big trek back into the trees, but they took me right around the corner, next to the little building housing the restrooms.

The tracks were right there, in the snow.

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The snow had melted by the time I got this photo, so the print on the left isn’t as perfect as when I first saw it.

There were two prints. They looked just like the prints one sees on those charts of wild animal tracks. They were so perfect; at first I thought maybe those kids were fucking with me. Did they have some sort of bear print outline toy in the bus/RV? Had they made the bear prints in the snow? But I didn’t get the feeling they were trying to mess with me.

The prints went that way, one of the boys told me, as he pointed off to the left.

Where do you think the bear was going? I asked.

One boy shook his head, as if he had no idea, but his brother piped in with He was looking for people to eat!

I didn’t like the sound of that, as I was the only people in that campground the night before. If that bear had been looking for people to eat, that bear had been looking for me.

Do you think bears just go around killing people? I asked, and they both solemnly said yes. I told them bears would only hurt people if they felt threatened, and one of the boys asked what “threatened” meant.

As I was explaining what might happen if one scared a bear, one of the boys asked, What about a wolverine? Then one of them pointed out a chipmunk, and they both took off after it.

Here's my footprint next to the bear print, for comparison.

Here’s my footprint next to the bear print, for comparison.

I swept two restrooms, all the while wishing I had my camera to take a photo of the bear tracks. I wasn’t sure how long it would take for the snow to melt, so I jumped in the golf cart, zoomed to the van, grabbed my camera, zoomed back to the tracks, and got a few photos.

When the dad walked over to the restroom area to get water from the nearby spigot, I told him his boys had shown me the bear tracks. He said he thought it was just a small bear, and I said I wanted to see one from a distance, not too close. He told me a bear had once jumped on him.

I looked at him like he was crazy, and said, What did you do?

He said, I froze!

He told me that when he was 11 or 12, he tried to hand feed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a bear. He said he’d grown up in the mountains and had never been taught to fear wild animals. So he tried to feed a sandwich to a bear and the bear jumped him.

Was the whole family fucking with me?

The Bear Tracker website says,

Black bears are the smallest American bears, and the most common. They are the only bears found in the wild in California. Although the grizzly bear is the state mammal, it has been extinct in California since 1922.

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All photos taken by me.

Hey Everybody! It Snowed!

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This isn’t exactly what I was expecting when I signed on for summer work in California, but in the mountains, summer comes late.

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I’d heard earlier in the week that a storm was supposed to roll in Thursday (May 7) afternoon. Thursday was my day off, and I headed down the road to the Lodge to eat some food and use the internet. I left the campground around 11:45, and it was chilly, but the sun was out.

I watched the weather change all afternoon through the Lodge’s large windows and sent friends email weather updates. First the sky got cloudy, and there were snow flurries. Then the sun came out, and there were snow flurries. Then the flurries stopped. The sun came and went, as did the snow. Sometimes the flakes were big and fat and poured from the sky. Sometimes the flakes were tiny and came down in sheets. Sometimes wind blew the snow around. In any case, the snow didn’t seem to be sticking.

I left the Lodge around 6pm and headed to my campground. I was surprised to see a frosting of snow covering the ground, rocks, and logs. The road was clear, but everything else looked as if it had been dusted with powdered sugar.

Back at my campground, I did a drive-through in my van, just to make sure no one was camped out in a tent. The campground was empty.

I’d left my folding chair and a table outside, both of which had quite a bit of snow on them. As I knocked off the snow, I heard thunder in the distance, which scared me. No, I wasn’t scared by the surprise of a loud noise. I was worried about what it might mean to hear thunder while it was snowing. (I guess it doesn’t mean the end of the world; a local told me thunder and snow happen together frequently up here.) At that point, I climbed in the van and fired up my Mr. Buddy heater and worked on staying warm.

Over the next hour or so, until it got too dark to see out of my windows, I watched the snow change. When I got in the van, the snow had begun to fall again, in the form of little pellets of ice. They fell harder until I could hear them hit the roof of the van. The next time I looked out, the snow had changed to big, silent flakes; later, ice pellets fell again. At one point, I looked out the window and saw fog rolling in. I literally saw the fog moving. When I got into bed, I didn’t hear ice pellets hitting my roof, but there must have been more silent snow in the night, because the trees and the ground had a fluffy white coating when I woke up the next morning (Friday, May 8).

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Trees with a fluffy white coating.

After drinking the tea I made with hot water I’d put in my Stanley bottle the night before and getting dressed in the warmth from Mr. Buddy, I swept the snow from the golf cart and took it out for a spin around the campground. The ponderosa pines sure looked pretty with snow dusting their branches! Most of the water spigots were frozen, but I found two with water still flowing.

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Snow on the roof of the storage shed.

The snow looks perfect on the roof of one of the new yurts.

The snow looks perfect on the roof of one of the new yurts.

Around 8:15, I was back at my camp making breakfast when the sun peeked out of the grey sky. The sun always encourages me, so I was glad to see it.

Between 8:30 and 9:00, my boss stopped by to see how I was doing. She told me the campground closest to where I will spend most of my summer had gotten a lot of snow.

By 9:15 I could see a patch of blue sky above the trees, and by 9:20 the sun was lighting up the snowy trees and restoring my faith that I’d get through the cold snap.

At 10:15, the heat of the sun on the wet earth and logs caused steam (or maybe it was fog) to rise up. It looked like the storm had passed, and I got to work sweeping restrooms and cleaning fire pits.

These are the logs I saw steam (fog?) rising from.

These are the logs I saw steam (fog?) rising from.

While I was working, the sky turned grey and the sun disappeared. There weren’t clouds so much as uniform greyness of sky. I started to see fog engulfing the tops of trees; the fog crept lower and lower. By the time my boss checked on me on her way back through in the mid-afternoon, I felt as if I were standing in a cloud. I could see what was around me, but everything in the (not very far away) distance was wrapped in white mystery.

This photo gives a vague idea of what the fog looked/felt like.

This photo gives a vague idea of what the fog looked/felt like.

Little ice pellets were falling from the sky when the boss found me cleaning the fire ring on site 16.

You don’t have to work in this, you know, she told me.

I’m not offended by this snow, I answered.

She said she was offended by it and left after I promised her I’d be done outside as soon as I finished with the fire ring.

The rest of the day was cold, foggy, wet, and muddy. I did my paperwork in the office/garage, but it was too cold to hang out there as I had planned. (The office/garage has electricity, so I can use my laptop there without running its battery down.) I spent most of the evening in the van, huddled next to Mr. Buddy, reading Eva Luna by Isabel Allende.

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I took all of the photos shown in this post.