Thursday, May 30, 2013

Caribou Lakes Trail Backpacking Trip 2013, Pt. 2

My backpacking journal for day 2 of our Caribou Lakes hike begins differently than usual. I’m a very chronologically oriented person and find peace and contentment in ordering things by number, by size, by day and time. But this entry begins late that evening.

“Brown’s Meadow. Huddled in our tents a little after 9 pm. We saw our first bears while finishing our dinner in the meadow. …We made our plans and reassured each other the best we could…”

But let’s back up to that morning. We’d had some discussions about our schedule. Because Loreleigh had a time schedule to keep, we needed to arrive back at the trailhead at noon. Our driver was to meet us for pick-up at that time. When we considered how long it took us to get to the lakes, basically all day long, we knew it would be difficult and no fun to dash down the trail at break of day and skip lunch! Another factor was the snowed-in condition of the trails. Originally, we had intended to take day hikes in the area on day 2, but we saw now that we were limited in that.

Our new plan was to take a leisurely breakfast and look around these lakes, hike a little bit, come back to camp and break it down, and then pack out around noon. Our goal for the night was now to camp at Brown’s Meadow, almost halfway. I had been looking forward to not having to pitch camp more than once, but it wasn’t that big a deal with my wonderful REI Half-Dome 2 person tent. It almost feels like you just have to throw the parts down on the ground and snap your fingers and…ZOOP! It’s all ready to go.

It had showered during the night, and our tents were wet (but not inside!), but we counted on the morning sun to dry them off.

Our bear bags and the canister were unmolested, and I felt like a pro by now, pulling it down and getting breakfast out. 

I had decided that I did not want to wash any pans or utensils, so my meals were freeze-dried-add-water types. 

Today was eggs with bacon and a cup of Starbucks Via Christmas blend, left over from the holidays.

Snowslide Lake is really a lovely little lake, a carved little rock bowl, a cirque with one practically vertical rock face side. We guessed that is why it is named that, because the snow and ice must slide down to float on the lake.

 There were several rafts of snowy ice out on the lake, whereas Lower Caribou had none. Melt runoff was trickling and gushing down in half a dozen or more rivulets in the lake water. 

Further down the end of the lake, on our morning walk, we saw the outlet, a little stream pouring through a gash in the land bridge dividing the two small lakes. It looked like a giant back yard fountain, the way you put several bowls above and below each other, one pouring into the other as the water flows over the rims.

Because of the snow covering sections of the path, we had a hard time knowing just where we were really going, even though the land was not totally tree covered. We thought we might be going across the land bridge to see Lower Caribou, but finally we had to admit that the trail was headed up to the big Caribou Lake, and it was impossibly snowed in, and steep. 

 So we meandered back and found another trail that involved some boulder hopping and sheets of granite.

Even with all the snow, the rain during the night and the unsettled sky, it wasn't too cold.

There came a point where we were pretty unsure of just where we were. No real danger, since the area was limited in size where we could be. We scrambled up a snow bank and found ourselves right in our own camp. 

And just about time to pack up, too.

I had known that all that downhill descending to the lakes the previous day meant that it would be uphill ascending the next day, and sure enough, that’s the way it worked out. When I wasn’t huffing and puffing, I pondered on whether there were cool backpacking trips that involved long level walks…

We paused at the top of the lake trail, which was the intersection of the old and new trails. Melinda still had a crazy idea that we should try the old trail, but it didn’t look or sound like what I intended to do.

Melinda: “So, what about trying the Old Trail for a ways, seeing if it’s less snow covered than the New Trail?”

Me: “No.”

Melinda: “Seriously?”

Me: “That’s right. I’m not doing the Old Trail.”

Melinda: “Oh. OK.”

I think she accepted it because I’m usually pretty easy going for what people want to do, and I was adamant about this one.

We looked closer at the trail marker.

“Old Caribou Trail” (underneath someone’s carving, “IF YOUR A GOAT”)

We looked at it in silence for awhile.

Okaay! Let’s get going! And we struck off on the New Trail.

I know we were all dreading that snowfield that we would have to portage around and would have found a different way if we could. But perhaps the groups of hikers who had gone after us and before us this morning would have somehow tromped it and marked it better. We talked about whether we should take off our packs and drag them across the snow with our bear bag ropes.

We stopped for lunch on the rocky trail, taking our packs off and sitting and leaning on the granite boulders. 

I mixed up the rest of my Mountain House Chicken Salad with water. It’s nice because it only requires cold water and rehydrates almost instantly. It has a good flavor, though it looks pretty icky.

Back on with the packs and around the next corner… and there it was. Backpackers’ Bane, Melinda’s Fall-y, The Giant Slip ‘n Slide.

“I didn’t know it would be coming up so soon.” We all concurred. My plan had been to stop and have lunch in front of it, taking our time to look at it and make a good plan. But Loreleigh had called a lunch stop just a curve back, and we’d just got our packs back on and all adjusted.

Looking closer, we could see how maybe one other person had made it across the top, but the others had portaged around, even going around the tongue of snow we had crawled across the day before. 

So we picked out our route and began, leaving room in between us so we could help but not get in the other’s way.

There was rotten snow, rotten branches, air pockets, fluffy slippy soil, downed tree with sheets of bark coming off and some scrambling that required the hiking pole to dangle from the wrist and both hands to pull up on tree limbs and bushes. 

We were about two thirds across when another hiking couple arrived. They also pondered the situation briefly, then decided to portage. While we were carefully and laboriously managing the situation, poof! They were there right behind us. We crawled and pulled and helped each other up with our sticks, and then stood on the other side of the snowfield, happy and relieved it was not as bad as we’d dreaded. And, poof! The other hiking couple were there beside us. He handed me the lid from my insulated coffee cup. “Here, you lost this.” I made myself feel better by noticing how young they were and how long and lanky their legs were compared to our short little stubby legs. At least he had not taken Melinda’s advice, when I was stalled on the slope, to “push up on my butt.”

On the last significant snowfield on the trail, we were crossing, trying not to be cocky at our previous successes, since that will get you every time. 

Loreleigh was picking her way across slowly, trying not to slip, when a large hairy animal came bounding up from behind us. A futile cry of “Leave it! Leave it!” was followed by, “He’ll push you off the trail!” Not a good place to hear that. I froze. She froze. The big hairy animal was a big friendly dog, who was a “leaner.” Loreleigh planted herself as the dog wagged his tail and leaned on her.

“Nice Doggy, Good Doggy,” she said as she delicately dropped her free hand down on his head, trying not to stimulate him to any robust antics. The hiker came striding up behind us, calling his dog. Once we had secure footing, we chatted for a bit. The dog was a very nice, good doggy, just a bit enthusiastic. The man was a day hiker, very familiar with the area, who sounded like he had just bounded over all the trails, his dog pulling him up when he needed her to calm down and get a little tired. He told us that the Old Caribou Trail was completely covered with snow at the higher elevations and it was almost impossible to follow the trail, it was so hidden. Eek. That would have been an unpleasant situation!

And then, there was Brown’s Meadow, and only 2:30 pm. 

We picked a site as far back from the trail as we could, assuming that other campers would be coming in and setting up in the closer, more “camp-like” looking areas. After setting up camp, we strolled around and chatted, we set up our chairs and snacked, basking in the sunlight. I tore my Christianity Today magazine in half for Melinda. When she got tired of that, Loreleigh cut her trashy romance novel in half for her. We hung our bear bags.

On one side, Brown’s Meadow is bordered by a steep rock face that is very high. At the base rests jagged granite boulders that, over time, have fallen down.

 Our camp was set up against some trees that had grown up in these boulders. I did have the uneasy thought that if we felt an earthquake, we should abandon our camp without a second to spare.

At dinner time, even though I’d snacked away my hunger, I decided to join the other two in eating. Having lots of calories is one way to keep warm, always my biggest concern, and I did have a half bag of Mountain House Chicken a la King to get used up. Once again I got my food ready and prepared to sit in front of the show and watch re-runs of the alcohol stove show. Afterwards we poured out the last of the Zinfandel and nibbled on Loreleigh’s brownies.

Melinda: “There’s some bears.”

I didn’t quite get it at first because the tone was so level. But Loreleigh did.

Loreleigh: “Sh*t. Oh sh*t, sh*t.”

I turned, and sure enough on the grassy hillside leading down to the meadow were 2 bears standing there looking at us.

Us all: “What should we do?”

Well, my first instinct was to chug the wine, stuff the brownie in my mouth, gather up every bit of cooking and seating and reading gear in my arms that took three trips to bring down, run to the bear bags and shove it in and then go cower in my tent.

Melinda: “Bang the pots and pans!”

I banged my plastic spork against my little anodized pot, Tip! Tip! Tip! Melinda banged aluminum pot against her Fancy Feast stove. Crunch! Crunch! And Loreleigh banged her great big stainless steel pot and lid together. BLANG! BLANG! CLANG! And there was just a cloud of dust where the bears had been.

We agreed that they were probably juveniles and were already nervous about us, so were easily scared away. But the mood was over. We chugged our wine and brownies, scooped up our stuff and attended to our bear bags. Melinda decided hers was too low. I decided mine was too close to camp. Loreleigh scouted out a better place for the bear canister. As Melinda put it, “you don’t want it to roll right into camp if a bear starts messing with it!”

All this time our other hiking companion, the only one that came with sharp teeth and claws, had not noticed what all the commotion was about. OK, so the wind was blowing away from us, and OK, she’s a little deaf. But we needed to make sure she was on board about our safety here! So Melinda gave Tess a stern talking to about letting us know if a bear got close.

Melinda decided we needed a plan so that we would calmly know what to do if bears came close later that night.

We agreed that if we heard bears messing around by our bear bags that we would all get our pots that we planned on placing near our pillows and stick our heads out of the tent and bang them and yell. But Melinda wasn’t through.

Melinda: So what is the plan if they come on in to our camp?

Me: My plan is to curl up in my tent in a fetal position and shut my eyes.

Melinda: I do not plan on being a bear burrito. I think we need to run out of our tents to an agreed on meeting place, and I was thinking we could retreat over those rocks up against the mountainside.

I considered how that would work. First I would paw around for my glasses and try to get out of my mummy bag that I can hardly turn around in. Then I’d try to bend in the middle and sit up with my undershirt, shirt, down vest and polartech jacket all conspiring to keep me laid out straight. One hand would grab headlamp and multipurpose tool, the other would unzip the tent while I’m trying to shove my feet into my camp crocs. The other option was to dash out without doing all these things, and I couldn’t see how that would work.

Me: Ok.

Melinda: Hopefully, that’s not where their dens are.

We didn’t say anything more about dens.

As the evening wound down, I began to feel more confident. I’d seen bears, my big phobia, on a backpacking trip, and I wasn’t eaten! I wasn’t mauled or even traumatized! They do scare off easily! We were all reading at our tents in the fading light when I heard Melinda.

Melinda: “There’s a bear.”

Loreleigh: “Oh Sh*t. Sh*t.”

This bear was a different bear. This bear was a big glossy black hunk of a bear. He reminded me of a big gorilla knuckled down on his powerful hairy arms. And he was closer. We could see him bobbing his head as he watched us. (Ok, so he was still across the meadow, but bears can run fast!) When it started to look like he might be getting curious, we confidently banged our instruments. Tip! Tip! Crunch, Crunch! BLANG BLANG!

Uh oh. He nonchalantly leaned his head over, as if saying, What? Do I hear some pitiful little noises?

We ramped it up. Melinda was urging Tess to help us by barking ferociously. Tess finally got the picture.

Tess: “Oooooee, oooee, yodel ay ee oo!

Us: “Stop! You sound like a wounded animal!”

Since my pan wasn’t making a good contribution to the din, I decided to see what my emergency whistle would do.

Me with whistle: “weeee…eeee…”

Them: “Stop! You sound like a wounded animal!”

We tried to show Tess how a ferocious dog would bark. However, Melinda and Loreleigh have this thing where their voices get real high when they get excited.
They sounded like frantic little Chihuahuas yipping.

Me: “Stop! You sound like prey animals!”

We ended up just hopping around the tents banging pots, barking and howling, yelling and yodeling.

Finally he got tired of listening to us and sauntered away into the trees. But we didn’t want him to saunter. We wanted him to dash away in fear.

Melinda: “Ok, so, the plan. Are we still going to make noise if we hear bears messing around by our bear bags?”

Me: “No, we are going to hide in our tents, let them have it all and count it good.”

We ran around preparing our camp. We dug up every scrap of possible bear bait we had on us. Loreleigh the Bear Nazi waved her bear canister in our faces like a crazed deacon taking up the offering. She confiscated my flossers. She ferreted out a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a chapstick. We peed around the perimeter of our camp, and then we retreated inside our tents.

The longer I lay there without hearing any strange noises, the more relaxed I became, until, amazingly, I fell asleep. And shortly afterward, when I woke to the sound of steady rain on the tent fly, I felt happy. Surely no self-respecting bear would be out running around creating havoc in the rain! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Caribou Lakes Trail 2013, Pt. 1

Living here in Redding has given me a whole new set of recreational areas to look at for backpacking trips. I’d not given a serious thought about the Trinity Alps before. They were far away, and they seemed like a rugged wilderness you could get lost and into real trouble with. I think it might have had to do with the name “Alps,” also. When I thought of the Alps, I thought of Switzerland, pointy snowy peaks that people climbed with crampons, ‘biners, ropes, and guides, and less often, of Heidi, the Disneyland Matterhorn and cask-carrying St. Bernards.

But looking at the map and asking questions at the local outdoor store and consulting with my hiking partner, Melinda, we decided to do the hike up to Caribou Lake in the Trinity Alps. We invited Loreleigh to go with us and made it a threesome. Though I suppose you should really consider it a foursome with Melinda’s dog, Tess the Brittany. 

I figured on three hours to get to the trailhead. Two hours on the highway and one hour on the dirt road turnoff to Big Flat Campground where the trailhead was. We even got an unlooked for bonus, a driver!

Thankfully, both our trip there and back fell on a weekend and holiday, Memorial Day. Road work on Hwy 299 was supposed to make for long waits. And as it turned out, right after we got back, they went to 24/7 road work with one-hour delays to get the job done. Whew! Traffic was light and it seemed that we really zipped up there. Which was good, because the worst was yet to come. 

It’s hard to believe a long dirt, gravel, rutted, road in dodgy shape would be the route to a regular campground, and even harder to believe the normal looking houses we saw on the way. And some not so normal. One thing you don’t expect to see out in the middle of nowhere is a couple of old overstuffed recliners on the side of road. I didn’t look to see if there was a “free” sign on them or if they were sort of like patio furniture for the residents to enjoy the passing traffic.

Our plan was to hike up to Caribou Lake from the trailhead via the “New Trail,” spend two nights, do some day hiking the second day, and then hike, possibly on the “Old Trail,” rumored to be brutal, back down to the trailhead on the third day. The Old Trail and the new trail together look like the figure “8” on the map, with each forming its own “S” curve, intersecting just past the trailhead, at Caribou Meadows, and just before the trail down to the lakes. We all had different interpretations as to what the weather would be like. After reading one hiker’s gloomy experiences, I was convinced it would be rainy, cold and have snow around. Melinda let herself be lulled by descriptions of “July-like” conditions on the trail report update. In the end, she did decide to bring her raincoat. Wise move!

We bid our driver goodbye after we couldn’t convince him to accompany us down the trail a hundred yards to the river. 

The Salmon River was what had me worried. The guide said it must be forded. The gloomy hiker waded freezing, thigh-deep water in the dark. We ended up wading cold, mid-calf water at 10:30 am over pretty good streambed footing. And then, with our shoes back on, off we struck.

The first part of the trail is a well-enough marked single-track trail, but not especially well groomed. The hillside is steep, and the trail climbs, steadily and relentlessly. A few switchbacks aided in gaining that elevation needed without having to climb straight up. We settled into our hiking routine. Melinda and Loreleigh, the young and fit, in the lead. Me, the old(er) and less fit following up in the rear. I know my pace, and it is steady but slow. 

We knew there might be bears, so I told them to not forget about me back there, but check to see if I was still coming!

We were more than ready for lunch when we reached Caribou Meadow at 1pm. 

Now you may think it is a foolish thing to waste the pound of gear for something as indulgent as a chair, but it is one of my favorite objects to unlash from my pack when we finally stop for a meal or at the end of the day. When we hiked Pt. Reyes, my sister pulled her Crazy Creek Chair off the back of her pack and shared it. I actually took a nap in it. So this time all three of us were dragging our chairs along on the hike. And lunchtime was payoff for the effort.

Directly after leaving Caribou Meadow, the scenery just got better and better. 

The views were stunning. You could begin to see why these mountains were given the name of “Alps.” We were seeing mounds of snow in the shady places and snow up above us on the mountainsides. Sometimes what we thought was snow was really expanses of white granite flecked with black. Once, when I looked up at the mountain, I almost expected to see the track of the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Part of the trail was cut through some of this granite. Water from snowmelt was flowing across the trail in several places, and at one point a beautiful cataract was tumbling into a granite pool in the trail and then falling down the side in a swift stream. We stepped on granite rocks to get across.

The next scenic section we were expecting from reading the guidebook, but the reality was still surprising. The dead forest. 

A forest fire in 2008 left a standing grove of charred gray snags. By now, we were used to scrambling or stepping over downed trees across the trail, but the next one was impassible. It had to be gone around. 

The burned dirt was loose and gave no traction. The mountainside was very steep. Everything you could grab was covered with carbon. 

Browns Meadow provided another source of water for our Platypus and Nalgene bottles. 

This is the only reliable source of water on the trail for later in the year. Between the three of us, we had two water filters; Melinda’s was an MSR ceramic filter pump, and mine was a Katadyn Hiker Pro.

We were starting to come across small icy snowfields overlaying the trail. 

They were tricky, but doable with care and with our hiking sticks.

And then came the mother of trail-covering snowfields. There were faint tracks of one other hiker traversing it. We really should have stopped and stared at it awhile before actually attempting it. Melinda, in the lead, stepped off on to it, picking her way and trying not to slip. The angle was literally 45 degrees, I’m sure! 

Some time, between when I looked down and then looked up, she was no longer on the snowfield, but down on the lower ledge which was a tangle mess of branches, a downed tree, and bushes. I thought, “Wow, that was quick! Funny she decided to take the lower route around and not mention that!” But she had slipped, seeing her life flash in front of her eyes, I’m sure, knowing that the edge of the precipice was so near.

Loreleigh asked what she should do. Melinda advised her to do what she felt was safe. After two steps out on the snowfield, she apparently decided the horrible portage was the lesser of the two evils. After some crawling and bottom-sliding she made it half way around, and then I made my decision. I would also go around. Melinda was waiting up top to assist us across a tongue of the icy snow back on to the trail. As Loreleigh was trying to reach her, she fell backwards and turned turtle. Like a bug on its back that can’t turn over she lay there, eyes wide open. She didn’t know but that the edge was two inches away.

It was at that moment that I realized, Ah! This is how these little adventures turn into newspaper stories and Readers Digest articles about spending the night on the side of the mountain with broken legs and helicopter rescues! Happily, the downed tree blocked both her and the pack from danger, and she was able to slip out of it and get back up. Melinda helped us up, and we took one look back, shuddered, and moved on. No going back, unless what was ahead was much much worse.

There were more snowfields, and a little more slippage, but as Melinda put it, “At least if we slide off here, we’ll only get hurt, not die!”

The next section of trail ran precariously against the steep rocky mountainside. You could see it snaking along the mountain and switching back on itself. On the right you could look down, down into the deep rocky ravine that Caribou Creek poured out into.

Finally we reached the intersection with the “Old Trail” again and began the long descent to the lakes. We could see Snowslide Lake to the left and Lower Caribou to the right. The big Caribou Lake was hanging above them both, covered with ice and snow and blocked from access by the snow-covered mountainside.

We dropped our stuff in a damp little green clearing that would probably have been swarming with mosquitos a few weeks later in the summer. We were SO looking forward to dinner. We would find a camp spot afterwards.

Just like with the water filters, we each had our own system. Mine was a Brunton backpacking stove with a Jetboil canister that almost screams, “You vant hot vater? I give you hot vater, NOW!” Melinda was trying an experiment. In preparation for her ultra-light trip later this summer, she was trying out a homemade alcohol stove made from a Fancy Feast cat food tin with holes punched into it and a lot of aluminum foil to shield it. My guess is that if Loreleigh had a “hot vater, NOW!” stove of her own, she would have brought it, but since she didn’t, she experimented along with Melinda and made her own Fancy Feast stove.

It was actually quite enjoyable for me, sort of like eating your dinner in front of the TV, watching the pans resting precariously on these 2 inch cans of invisible flame surrounded by sheets of Reynolds wrap. The trouble with invisible flame is that you can’t see when it goes out, which was often. I enjoyed the scene without guilt, as I had already made the offer of a share.

After assuring the nearby campers that, no, we wouldn’t be camping there under their bear bag that happened to be overhanging, we gathered up our pots, packs, and chairs to look for our own site.

We found a lovely, level site, close to the lake and accessible for water supplies, and privacy not too far away, for any necessary trowel work that might come up. After setting up our tents, we finally got to the moment I’d been waiting for for weeks- Hanging the Bear Bag! (Link to my video)

It was not as easy as I’d hoped to find suitable branches. Conifers are just not built for the jutting limbs we needed. But when we saw the neighbor’s bear bag, 3 feet off the ground, we realized we just needed to do it better than them.

I made a few errant pitches, and stood confused and dumb with the rope and caribiner in one hand and the food bag in the other at times, but in the end, success for both Melinda and I! When I create my you tube video, I will place the link here so you can share my efforts vicariously. Loreleigh carried a bear canister, so she tucked it away in the same vicinity. Later that evening, we sat around in our chairs, enjoying the end of the day with cheesecake topped brownies and Wild Hare Lodi Zinfandel from my Platypus wine saver.

 It was not too cold, especially since, in my last minute panic to not freeze to death, I’d run up to Goodwill looking for anything down and found a Ralph Lauren down vest to pack up with me.

We enjoyed the novelty of going to bed at dark AND bedtime, not like Oholone where we went to bed at 6 pm dark! And went to sleep to the music of the little waterfalls of snowmelt falling into Snowslide Lake.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Five Memorable... Ones that got away

Regret is a sad and crippling emotion. It is something that eats away at the present. "Oh why didn't I do/buy/say that when I had the chance!" Regret bugs us; it keeps us from being satisfied with the reality we have created by our choices. It is the longing that makes us wish for a time machine, to go back and have a do-over. But time only flows in one direction. We create what our lives become. And even if we have few choices in what happens to us, we have infinite choice in how we respond.
I don't have regret over very many things. I was always aware, at least when I was an adult, that I was living life the best I knew how and making the best choices I was able to at the time. Hindsight is worth nothing, unless you use it to help guide future actions. On all of the ones that slipped away, there was that small time window that things could have gone differently. Or not. Maybe they were impossible, choice was an illusion. But that doesn't mean there is no feeling that you lost a chance, for good or ill--you'll never know.

The Painting

I think it was 1992, and it must have been in the summer time because the Yolo County fair was going on. We were living in Davis at the time because my husband was going to the university there. The fair, in Woodland, had free admission, which was wonderful because I had 3 little kids, and we were always looking for fun things to do in our budget. We did go to other county fairs when the girls were small, but I am almost sure it was this one.

I really enjoy fine art, and my daughter Bethany, was also interested in painting and art. We ended up browsing a good long while in the fine arts building, ending with the paintings. They were well done, awkward, pretty, fun, and sometimes funny. At the end, we looked in a smaller area where the paintings from the professionals were hung for the competition. And I saw my favorite painting of the day. It was on a large canvas, and the background was black, or very dark blue. The moon hung, large and luminous near the center, personalized with a face. To the left sprang a vibrant orange cat, shimmering electrically with myriad colors that created its hue. There were other objects floating in the painting that I don't recall now, 21 years later.

Oh, but I wanted that painting! It made me feel mysterious, just looking at it. We stared at it for a good long while. These paintings were for sale. Just maybe, maybe the artist didn't quite understand how wonderful the painting was. I looked at the tag. $2,000. Or was it 4? In any case, yes, she knew.
I could never have bought that painting; I had to let it go. But my feeling over it made a connection that has kept me wondering, who has it now? Where is it? What else did she paint? But since I don't remember her name, I don't think I'll ever know.

The CalGrant

When my husband started college, with a wife and 3 little kids, we scrabbled for every bit of financing we could come up with. He applied for grants, student loans, took multiple part-time jobs and cashed out the smaller life insurance policy. One of the coveted awards was the CalGrant A. One of the things they looked at was grade point average. While he was in the community college, his grades were excellent, in spite of the rigorous and demanding program.

One day we got the lovely letter. He had been awarded a CalGrant! $2,000! But it could only be used at the university level, so I tucked the letter away in my files and waited for that time to come.
Once at Davis, we waited for our financial aid packet to become available. But when it did, there was no mention of the CalGrant. I made phone calls and found out the awful truth.

When we moved to student housing in Davis, we only slowly changed over our new mailing address for bills, and many things we didn't change at all. We didn't do a forwarding order; I didn't really understand how those worked. For hanging on to our mail or sending it up, we had just counted on the relative who had taken over payments for our mobile home on the family property. We were down there often enough, and it had been agreed on.

Apparently, financial aid had sent a letter that said, basically, Do you still want the CalGrant? If so, fill out the form and mail it back before such and such a date. I have no idea what happened to that letter, but I never saw it. When I realized what had happened, I was so upset, I had to go lie down on the bed. I think that is the first time I had to take measures like that to regain composure. I tried everything to get it back. I even called Senator Alan Cranston's office, but there was nothing to be done.

It took a long time to let go of that. Years actually. Maybe even decades. But it all doesn't matter any more. Not having it didn't really change anything in the long run. So every now and then, I'll bring it up, for the story's sake, but not as regret, only as the one that got away.

The Old Mandolin

Back in Davis... The kids and I were taking a Saturday morning walk, checking out the farmers market and some nearby yard sales. Junk, mostly, of course. But there, propped up on a chair was an old "A" style mandolin. No strings were on it, and it was not pristine. But I could see nothing structurally wrong with it. And best of all, it said "The Gibson." The handwritten tag said 1920's mandolin. My clutching little heart wanted it! I had no time to put towards it. For goodness sake, I had no time to even read a book! But still...

How much? Says I.

$75, says he.

Hmm. It doesn't have strings. How do I know it even plays well?

Says he, Well, it is a Gibson!

And I couldn't argue with that. It would have had to be under 40 for me to have had a chance. So I walked away.

Later, of course, as I grew more familiar with the prices of these things, I realized what a good buy it was. But not for me. And still, I wondered. I wondered what kind of treasure it would have been if I had been able to buy it. I wondered if someone who could have afforded to fix it up right had bought it. I kicked myself for walking away, even though I knew that was my only option.

Now, I know that if I ever want one of these, I could probably buy one that would already be set up and playable. So it's ok now.

BUT, if it had been a Loar F-5... Now we're talking regret!

The Boy

Have you ever met someone that you felt an attraction to that was based on something weird and undefinable, weird because you don't even know the person? It really must be chemistry, or something else mysterious.

When I was Honey Queen, I was spending some time in a beekeeping booth in Southern California, during the county fair. There was a young security guard there, about my age. R.R. was nice looking, though definitely not dashing. A little bit stocky with a pleasant face and expression. Over the course of the day, he would spend a few minutes here and there chatting with me at the booth.

I'd gone out on a few dates with guys, who ranged from "meh" to "ok." But there was a nice easiness, and maybe shyness, with R.R. that made our short chats enjoyable and created attraction. He told me his goal was to move to Arizona and become a policeman. That's really the gist of all I remember about our conversations. On his break, he came over to the booth to see if I wanted to walk around through the building with him. We held hands.

The next day was a short one for me, but R.R. showed up, even though I think he wasn't working that day to say goodbye. And that was it. I didn't really know the guy, and I certainly don't regret that there was no attempt to stay in touch. But I every now and then, over the last 30 some odd years, I wondered just what happened to him, if he ever got to be an Arizona policeman.

The Rings

I never really owned that many pieces of jewelry. And I always managed to hang on to the ones I had, whether they were fine or costume. But two special rings slipped away from me, both my fault, of course. That's where the regret comes in. But you can bet I never was so foolish as to put a ring in my purse, strap the purse down flat on the back carrier of a bicycle rack and then ride cross country for a quarter of a mile back home and then expect to open the purse up and have my ring still there!

I had a pretty little opal ring, my birthstone, set in 10k gold with a couple of diamond chips set beside it that I had gotten from my parents for Christmas. I was in the 8th grade, I think, and it was summertime. The KOA, accessed through an orange grove, across a grassy field and down a dirt road had a pool. They allowed local kids to swim for 50 cents. While I was swimming, I was afraid the ring would come off in the pool, so I stuck it in my purse.

Later, I walked back and forth, hoping to see a golden glint in the grass, but it was hopeless.

The other ring loss actually affected me far more, even though it was just a little kiddie pink zircon birthstone band. I think I got it for Christmas from my Grandmother; I was probably in the 3rd grade. It was so beautiful! It was in the shape of a diamond, and it had a clear little stone on either side of the bigger sparkly pink one. It was adjustable, and it came in a neat white box with a slash to push the ring into.

It was my first and only ring. I adored it. I wore it whenever I could remember to put it on. I played with it too, and that was where trouble happened.

My very favorite game to play with my ring was Treasure Hunt. We used to treat the school grounds just up the lane from our house as our own special playground and park. One of the play structures was multiple boxes of sand that lay under various bars, monkey bars, pull-up bars, low bars that you could lay your sweater on, hook a knee over, and then twirl, dress a'flyin'. The sand was deep, about 6-8 inches, to cushion you from a hard fall off the bars.

The sand was cool and damp when I sat down on it to play Treasure Hunt. The story ran through my mind internally while my hands played out the motions. Perhaps it was a pirate who was going to bury the treasure. He needed to hide it from the ones who wanted it. I dug a deep hole in the moist sand with my hands, about 3 inches deep. The glistening pink and gold treasure was made shockingly beautiful juxtaposed against the dull gray sand. The pirate carefully covered it up, intending to come back later and recover it. But somehow, a little girl happened to be digging in that very same spot. And what did she come upon? After brushing off the ugly damp sand, a golden ring, with a clear pink diamond! How exciting, to uncover a treasure left by a pirate!

Until one time, when she realized that the recovery hole was deeper than the burying hole. She checked the tailings, nothing. She dug deeper, nothing. She dug off to each side, nothing. She did realize that once she moved from her place, and points of reference would be gone and finding it again would be hopeless. But finally the time came she had to go home to supper.

Over the next months of school, and even into summer, she would dig a little bit, near where she thought it might still be. Until finally, she realized that even if she found it, it would be corroded and useless by now.

I regretted that action far beyond what the value of the trinket was, though once I realized that time would have pitted it by then and I would have outgrown it, I was able to give it up.

And what did I learn though this sad story? Don't play stupid burying games with your jewelry!