Saturday, December 30, 2006


I'm feeling a little blue. We left the ocean and headed inland, where we thought evenings might be warmer, better for camping. They're not. A trip to the grocery store found us stumbling into surburban hell. The cars, the Walmart... Thankfully (painfully?), they're surrounded by miles of agricultural land- a hundred vineyards and wineries, and some of the best olives imaginable.

If we were home, I'd be looking forward to the New Year's Eve labyrinth walk at St. Mark's. Instead, I'm anxious to head back to the ocean, welcoming the new year without the maze of highways and strip malls. Whew.


Thursday, December 28, 2006


We’re not in Texas. The holiday we’d planned, spending time at a citrus orchard just this side of the border, called for revision. The van “issues” set us back, but we were prepared to rush, even brave Disneyland at high season. When Reena from the orchard wrote that she didn’t remember us ever having spoken, we cursed, then opted to take California at a more relaxed pace. Leisurely, except our complete lack of plan or accommodation for Christmas/New Year’s.

“So, convince me you’re trustworthy,” Chris said over the phone. I'd sent an email to Anne, a woman I don’t know, and she had forwarded it. Chris was on his way to LA for a week, so we might never meet. Maybe he'd just leave the key for us with a neighbor. The key to a remarkable 13-acre camp with 10 cabins, a lodge, commercial kitchen, office, shop, craft room, nature meeting room, and assorted other buildings. Nervously, I joked, wondering if it was possible for me to act as a reference for myself. “I think you’ll have a good time here,” he said. I hung up, awed by the kindness of strangers.

We worked from a list, planting a small patch of amaryllis bulbs on Christmas day and lining a new trail with recently downed oak and pine the day after. For much of the week, we’ve made it our mission to defend the young oak from gopher, deer and woodpeckers. The trees haven’t yet learned their proper form; they sprout limbs horizontal to the ground, baby branches criss-crossing their would-be trunks. We do our best with roll after roll of chicken wire, breaking a dozen steaks and shredding our fingers along the way. In a second Christmas miracle, we trained and sheltered 40+ immature oak. We can't offer protection from the pines swaying fourty-feet above.

Yesterday’s windstorm brought a tree down next to the archery range, 10 feet from where we were netting a coffee berry bush. We abandon our forestry projects and did what all sensible persons do in a windstorm, headed for the beach. Laughing, racing and climbing, one afternoon in the life of a kite. Unlike eight pines at camp, we lived to tell the tale.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Elephant Seals

Driving south on Hwy 1 yesterday, I saw something from the corner of my eye. Something huge, lying on the beach. Moving. At 60 miles an hour, I couldn't make out the details. Around the corner a mile down, we see them, hundrends of seals lying in the sand.

Sue, a volunteer with Central Coast Friends of the Elephant Seal gave us a brief lesson in marine biology. The seals first claimed this beach just north of Cambria in 1991. Last year, 3,800 seal pups were born on this 1/4 mile strech of sand, the largest breeding ground on the mainland. The pups weigh about 70 pounds at birth and gain 10 pounds a day for the month that their mothers care for them. It will be another couple months before the pups take to the sea and teach themselves to swim. The males won't develop their "elephant" noses until age 4.

As if standing close enough to observe that seals scratch themselves with their knuckles wasn't enough... Two miles down the road the cattle were grazing along side zebra. Really.

We made it to Camp Ocean Pines, our home for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Confessions of an agnostic

We left the Meditation Center yesterday and headed right into a parallel universe- Arden Faire Mall in downtown Sacramento. 10:30 Monday morning and already, no parking. Through Macy’s cosmetics department, past the Disney store and just before the Cinnabon/Orange Julius, we found the Apple store. It’s a three-hour wait to ask the guys at the genius bar about the random shutdown syndrome our laptop has developed.

Four stairs seems like an appropriate buffer zone between the women and packages ahead of us on the escalator. Ukiah whispered, “Sometimes I wonder if all these people are real. If they can be real.” We descended into the crowd; hundreds of purple and turquoise ribbons pinch the enormous fir tree behind Santa’s village. Back at the Meditation Center, I had plenty of questions about their teaching of the “illusion” of this “material world” and considerable reservations about the “demonic” people who don’t “know” or care. Inhaling mall air under artificial light, it starts to make sense. I miss the chanting.

Santa Cruz brings redemption. The Surfer’s Museum is closed, but a handfull of guys in wetsuits paddle into the morning waves. Santa Cruz Roasting Company brews organic, fair trade coffee. There’s an independent bookstore down the block from a music store we can’t recognize by logo. There’s no fee to park and walk along the beach. The taco stand offers vegetarian and vegan burritos. The sun is shining and not everyone walking, biking and skating downtown is weighted with shopping bags.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sacramento Valley School

On Thursday we visited another Sudbury school, the Sacramento Valley School. Aslin and I felt comfortable and made friends there within minutes. I think we fit in because we’re used to the system. The kids and staff were really friendly and welcoming too.

They had a “white elephant” gift exchange which I’d never heard of until now. The idea is that everyone playing the white elephant game brought a present, wrapped it, and put it under the Christmas tree at school. They drew numbers from a santa hat. The numbers determined what order everyone chose a present to open. You also had 3 steals, so on your turn, you could take another person’s gift, then they have to open a new one. The presents ranged from a jester hat, to a poly-pocket doll, to candles, to a roll of toilet paper.

What a great idea, it looked like so much fun… Although some people got stuck with less satisfying gifts, such as the toilet paper roll. See where that ended up?


Friday, December 15, 2006


This is Serabi and Rama. Serabi limps because a racoon bit her. She got sick and almost died. Now she's ok but she still doesn't like to use her left back leg- unless she's trying to get close so you will pet her. Rama is stong and sweet. They both like to chase squirrels.

Once a day they get fed tofu, rice and dogfood. They get fed leftovers from parties too, but they don't like to eat salad.

It's my job to walk the dogs every day. We walk to the first stop sign and back. They try to cross the street but I don't let them. Once, when I was walking Serabi, Rama followed us without a leash, so I had to hold him by the collar.

Every Tuesday Jen takes the dogs to her house so they won't go digging in the neighbors garbage. Usually at night Rama gets locked up in the old barn because he likes to go around and do his nighttime mischief.

I love those dogs.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


In a closet under the stairs, the remains of this year’s pumpkin harvest are stacked in a lopsided pyramid. I flip the switch, but the light shines only at the top of the stairs, the entrance to the meditation room. In the dark, I choose three. The pile doesn't tumble.

After a half-hour of steaming, and an hour of cooling, the pumpkin is ready to serve its purpose. Pumpkin bread. With a touch of molasses, plenty of clove and cinnamon and an unmeasured mix of baking soda, baking powder and applesauce as an egg replacer, we bake two Big loaves. Enough for desert tonight, breakfast tomorrow.

Here, the communal kitchen means there's always an assortment of quick and tasty stuff for lunch. It also means the bread is gone by the morning. I check both refrigerators, the freezer and a row of lower cupboards, hoping to find some baked breakfast goodness. Nothing. Except that foil covered pie plate in the corner of the counter. Across the top is written…

“This is not for you.
It’s for Krishna.
No peaking. Please.”

Another breakfast of rice and apple.

The contents of the pie plate aren’t the only secret here.

I can't tell you about using the back door to enter a European embassy in the Middle East. Or about crawling under a truck to hide and not openly offend Allah while drinking. I’m not sure if I can tell you about curing cancer with silica, guru "shopping" at age 18, teaching yoga at Folsom prison or working for TV Guide. Brad and I signed confidentiality agreements.

I can tell you that it’s been raining for days, that we’re in a flood plane here, that a flash flood could carry our van away- so we should keep the keys on us, in case we need to move it in a hurry.

The broccoli is harvested, fig tree pruned, compost turned- and now, 35 rose bushes need pruning. In the rain I thought about Alice in Wonderland, counted leaves and sang, “We’re painting the roses red, painting the roses red…Don’t tell the Queen what you have seen…” I’m sure the glowing review I just read for Frank Beddor’s ‘The Looking Glass Wars’ (a new retelling of the classic) prompted my song. I kept humming for hours, stopping occasionally to curse a thorn. “Painting the roses red…” My own little mantra at this Bhakti Yoga center.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dance Party

This is not the same as the squirrels and their disco ball.

Today Nora and I did African dance class which had some yoga too. Most of the dances we learned were from Guinea – with a style that is kind of low to the ground, with strong legs. The teacher, April, was so “there”- you could follow her rhythm and learn easily.

We wore sarongs for fun and to get us in the dance mood. Most of the dances had really fast foot movements and your hands and arms had to work hard to keep up. One dance was a greeting dance, to say “hello” to friends. We danced in a circle and people take turns in the center. You cheer them on. The dances had different parts for women and men, but you can exchange them if you want to.

For yoga, we did the elements- earth, water, fire, air and ether. You invent your own motion for each one. Earth was kind of slow, moving low to the ground or even leaving your feet planted, just moving a little. Air was lightweight with lots of spinning and arms and legs waving.

It was just one class, but a think is should be more than two hours. Even though you sweat a lot.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Thanks to slow methodical care of Jack and the crew at Wolfsburg, the van ran strong and trouble-free over Grant’s pass and along Mt. Shasta, delivering us, with confidence, to two acres of a Sacramento suburb. And that’s when I had my moment of concern. Maybe it was only apprehension.

We made brief introductions with some of the staff here at the Meditation Center, toured the gardens and imagined how inviting the pool would be if the weather were warmer. The yoga studio is a converted barn with heavy exposed beams and lush wool carpet. A mural of Krishna and his brother (?) standing in a garden of Eden covers one wall. The air is citrus-spiced but fresh. A tapestry is centered on the south wall.
“Om Hari Om
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna…”

In the kitchen, persimmons crackle in the dehydrator. Vidjapatie offers potato salad, “really more of a vegetable salad with peas and carrot, celery, and the good mayonnaise- not with egg.” The salad has chives and apple, no onion. “Onion has too much passion.”

Andrei, a middle age polish man, melts butter at the stove. He has walnuts soaking in a shallow bowl. “You should always buy nuts at the Russian store. At health food store, like $8 a pound. Russian store, maybe $2.” With carpenter hands, he rolls balls of dough through shredded coconut. His cd skips. The Krisha chants and bells repeat more than usual.

I went to bed last night wondering what to expect in our stay with the Hare Krishnas. I woke this morning to singing, chanting, bells and three bellows of a conch shell. They meditate every morning. If we’re up at 6:00, we’re welcome to join in. For an hour, my dreams rose and fell with their enchanting songs.

We fed the goats, made breakfast and Brad and I spoke silently about how best to navigate this spiritual world. Uddhava brought us the “WWOOF information“ book, a series of notes for volunteers. "It's almost like a transcendental hostel here, " she said as we talked about the day's chores- picking beets, turning compost, walking the injured dog.

“…You’ll find that we like to chant the Hare Krishna maha mantra here, but do know that we are not Hare Krishnas!!” Paragraph 5 of our book raises as many questions as it answers.

65 degrees is short sleeve weather. We thinned turnip and bok choy seedlings, cleared beds of dead corn and lettuce, thought about climbing the neighbors persimmon tree, and caught a frog Ukiah named Putt-Putt.

Tomorrow we’ll visit lamas at the Rudolph Steiner College farm. I wonder if the kids will bring their GameBoys.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Book List

Phase two of our trip, time to clear space for an updated profile.

The friendly folks at Blogger encourage us to share our "favorites". Unfortunately, their space in limited. Maybe we can list 15 books. Divided by the four of us that's 3.7 titles each. And at least one of us struggles with identifing fixed favorites. Instead, we've been recording books, music, movies and other current interests. We reccomend the books that fueled the first leg of our travels…


Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great; Judy Blume
Love Ruby Lavender; Deborah Wiles
The Sisters Grimm; Michael Buckley
Azu Manga Daiho volumes 1-4;

Mortal Engines; Philip Reeve
The Merlin Conspiracy; Diana Wynne Jones
Death Note, volumes 1-5; Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
Collin's Japanese Phrase Book; Hulmut Morsback & Kazu Kurebyashi

Cloud Atlas; David Mitchell
City of Glass: Paul Auster
In a Sunburned Country; Bill Bryson
The Watchman; Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Anansai Boys; Neil Gaiman
Criminal issues 1-2; Ed Brubaker


Cloud Atlas (Yep, that makes for a double recomendation!)
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man; John Perkins
Home from the Vinyl Cafe & Vinyl Cafe Diaries; Stuart McLean
Bliss & other stories; Katherine Mansfield
Black Clock #5; Cal Arts MFA program
Sex Wars; Marge Piercy
The Imposter; Paula Sharp
The Tea Ceremony, the uncollected writings of Gina Berriault
Milkweed; Jerry Spinelli

Road Trip USA; Jamie Jensen
Volunteer Vacations; Bill McMillon…

Sunday, December 03, 2006

On the road again...

Just can't wait to get on the road again...

Any minute now. Just as soon as we get the sleeping bags packed. And a dozen other little things we're likely to almost overlook. Like the power cord for the van. And our toothbrushes.

We're headed for Carmichael, California and a week at the Lotus Garden Meditation Center and Yoga Studio. We'll be helping with their 2 acres of medicinal and culinary herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, flower gardens, dairy goats... The Center, just outside of Sacramento, is working towards urban self-sufficiency. Likely an interesting contrast our second California stop- Disneyland.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sled Review

The Wham-O sled is big and blue. It is double seated and made from foam. It's shiny and tough.
We have another sled that is small and floppy. The Wham-O sled is better. We sled down a big hill where the road was frozen, "Weee"
I also reccomend the card game Bella Sara. It's all about horses and how you can take care of them.
And the chocolates that Caitlin's mom makes are really good too.

WHAM-O "Blade Runner" Sled
It's snowing! The streets are frozen! Perfect for sledding! Why waste this moment? Use a sled that works, like this one! We have two other sleds, both failed us... but the Wham-O sled saved the day! We cruised down the biggest hill in the neighborhood and the sled was barely dented. (Beat that Disneyland.) This sled has room for two people- although it is safer with just one. After a little practice it is easy to steer with you feet. (safety tip)
I highly recomend it.
Five (count 'em) stars!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The end of the garlic

1 yellow onion
1 bell pepper
5+ stalks celery
1/4 head red cabbage
1 small bunch green chard

basil, celery seed, sea salt
lime juice, tamari, sesame oil
5+ cloves garlic

1 lb rice noodles

Saute onion with salt, herbs until near translucent. Add remaining vegetables, saute until soft. Toss with lime, tamari, oil and fresh, finely minced, raw garlic. Serve over rice noodles.

And that's dinner.
And that's the last of the garlic from Farmhouse Herbs, Deadman's Valley, BC.
And, if we ever get our van back, we can consider returning to the farm next summer to harvest the garlic we helped plant last month.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Snow, too

If we'd spent today at Disneyland, we'd have missed the snow too. Not that we need an excuse for hot chocolate with breakfast, but it is really cold.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

In Bloom

All last year, it sat in the kitchen window. Once a week, for an hour or so, I'd put the plant to rest in a deep bowl of water. Laura's instructions when we adopted this little orchid. If we were in southern California right now, I'd have missed this bloom.

The van's still in the shop. The attic seems to be squirrel-free. Tomorrow we'll check the situation of both.

Monday, November 20, 2006


We hung a strobe light in the attic today. Three little disco balls too. I might have hung more if it weren’t for Amanda’s warning. "At some point you might have to worry that they'll just come in to party."

"They." The squirrels. We’ve patched the holes, tried the live traps, and still they want to share our home. All my online research and conversations with “pest control” persons didn’t offer much reassurance. "Once they're established in a nest, they're hard to get rid of. " But, with the van still in the shop, we’ve got time to experiment with new methods. If the pulsing light and mirrored reflections aren’t enough to make the squirrels uncomfortable, the seven little bottles of fox urine we hung and generous sprinklings or pepper crystals should put a damper on their party. We're not shy about trying the ultra-sonic sound devices either.

Other often overlooked household care enabled by the van’s cylinder mishap?

• Cleaning the gutters
• Pruning the trees and thinning bamboo
• Plumbing repair
• Mulching, weeding, gardening
• Moss removal from roof
• Furnace cleaning

Tomorrow we move the washer and dryer. With any luck, we’ll be off before we find time to paint.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


We brought the van to the mechanic today. The third time in just over a week. Our plan to "swing through" home on our way south has been extended.
"At least you were home."
"At least you didn't break down in the middle of nowhere."
Everywhere we go, we're reminded of our good fortune. The master cylinder sprung a leak on the way to visit the family in Tacoma, not in the Badlands of Alberta or 20 miles into Deadman's Valley, BC.
I'm holding my optimism, in spite of Jack's parting words. We tried the quick and inexpensive fix twice with no luck. With a gentle voice, he prepared us for the worst. "Well, once we take off the head, we'll just have to see what kind of shape the cylinders are in..." Third try. A charm?

Fingers crossed. The appeal of sleeping in the garage (despite it's lovely garden surroundings- thanks Kailin!) is beginning to wear thin.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


So, I went to the dentist on Tuesday and they told me what they were going to do. They put a gas mask (whatever that mask is called) on me. It was vanilla gas, to make sure you breathe in the smell. They took small metal pliers and grabed hold of my tooth and say they'll count to three. Then, wiggle, wiggle and pull them out. That's how it happened. My canines were pulled out.

The gas made me feel floaty and my lip stayed numb for a while. Also, I was tired and couldn't talk right. I had to only eat soft foods like soup, yogurt. No pizza or nachos. I couldn't have my favorite bread, the crusty kind.

Now I have my wire for my top teeth. I can't chew gum, can't chew carmel, even some of my Halloween candy. I'm pretty excited since we're making Thanksgiving dinner foods tonight. I can eat stuffing, tofurky, potatoes, green beans, roasted almonds, and apple cider. ~ Aslin

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Every day is a story, maybe an entire collection. Travels and new adventures aside, some of ours are worth telling, others not. Sometimes it’s difficult to know the difference.

Not yet discussed (discussed enough)…
• Draft root beer
• Infinity Solstice
• Dirty tomatoes
• Vacation Ownership
• Roadside signs for artisan broom makers
• Mulch- weed barrier or mouse habitat?
• Horse castration
• Ghosts
• Libraries
• Root cellars
• Family dynamics
• Guns-n-Roses
• The difference between organic and sustainable/ethical
• Cuba
• The olive tree incident
• Celebrity first-aid videos
• Fire
• Bears
• Mountain Pine Beetle
• Sin taxes
• George Bush’s claim of possible WMDs in the candy pile, his subsequent invasion of the pile and the uprising of a resistance movement fronted by Aslin the witch, Ukiah the young politician and other freedom fighters.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Looking forward to...

We're wrapping up the first leg of our adventure on the road, plannning to swing through the homeland before we head south for winter. We'll vote, the van could use an oil change, Aslin's got a dentist appointment, we're out of organic rice and we lost our wool blanket. Along with all the practical "to-dos", we're looking forward to...

Ukiah- I want to relax, get my japanese book, pick up my new game, visit Clearwater, spend time with Shell and Cutie. Actually, there's a lot I want to do.

Aslin- I want to hang out with my friends, see the relatives, visit our pets and change my ear rings.

Brad- Seeing family tops my list, especially lil' Grace, who's birthday we missed. Visiting friends, changing the wiper blades on the van, and having a really good cup of coffee (Vivaci?) are on the list too. I've been wearing the same four shirts for months, so I'm looking forward to changing my gear. It'll be good to catch my breath, take a moment to reflect on where we've been, what we've done, and what's next.

Nora- Aside from spending time with everyone I love and miss, I'm thinking about food. La Libela, Moonlight Cafe, El Gallito, Hi-Spot, Elysian pumpking beer, and delivering a pizza to Joe. I'm also curious to check in on my own garden- did the kale do well? Any tomatoes still hanging on? And books. Dawn, thanks for letting me borrow CoaEM (the best most poorly written book ever). We read everything we brought with us, plus a few 30 cent selections from the library in Kaslo, so I'm planning trips to Elliot Bay, 3rd Place and Left Bank. It could take days.

See you soon?

(Special thanks to Bunny and Lonny for hosting the pumpkin carving festival and photos!)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Good Carrot, Bad Carrot

Deadman's Valley, BC
October 7-20

The day can’t really begin with out tea. Green tea and some of Mendel’s freshly milled hot cereal. And sometimes yoga.

We met up with Paula and Mendel at the farmer’s market in Kamloops. Their stand was packed. We couldn’t find an opening to introduce ourselves, so we went for coffee. The market ended at noon, and at a quarter after 12, we pushed through the customers. “Great!” Paula welcomed us, four (unexpected) days ahead of schedule.

18 kilometers into Deadman’s Valley their driveway twists into the cliffs. Homesteaders drained the lake nearly a century ago, and now, on 6 acres of organic garden they grow 2,000+ pounds of carrots here.

Our first full day at the farm we built a shelter and lay sunflowers across the top. A few dozen friends came to celebrate Sukkot at the farm. After food, wine, blessings, and horseback riding, Mendel called from the house. “Hey, we’re gonna watch Bruce Springsteen...”

The next morning we picked 500 pounds of carrots, shifting sun umbrellas to give shade as we top and sort in the field, all before Thanksgiving dinner. Every day was a variation on the theme- farming, food, family, friends, music and occasionally, an episode of “Deal or no Deal”.

Mosquito netting isn’t fine enough. The little bastards made their way through. Rust Fly. It’s not easily seen until the carrots are washed. The little brown rings and tiny polka dot holes, Mendel shakes his head, cursing. Next year will be different. Next year the fence will be up too. Then the deer won’t come in and eat the tops of the carrots. They don’t stop at the greens, no. Right into the perfect orange tops- even in the beds without the fly.

“Get him, Mugsy!” The deer are bold. Or hungry. They’ve given up waiting for dark to launch their invasion. From up at the green house we watch them avoid the leeks and head straight for the cabbage. We shout, lending moral support to the dog as she barks and jumps. The deer look up at us, leap over the dog and head back through the fields, to the red hills they share with the bears and pack rats.

“It ain’t farming if you’re not doing everything twice,” says Saul. And so we sort the carrots. First in the filed- large, small, strong tops, split/rotten. Again after the wash- small, pounders, rust fly, deer eaten, rotten. We bag the beautiful carrots, trim the eaten and separate the split carrots- juice or horse carrot? Ukiah and Aslin finish the 2-pound bags and return to their hay-stack kingdoms.

Mark washes the beets, Brad pulls the last of the celery root and I'm almost through with the chard. Up in the shop, herbs hang drying. We'll have more anise hyssop for tea tomorrow. In the distance, a truck rumbles. "Who's that?" Brad asks. Saul starts up the hill, to tell the hunters they've made a wrong turn. He runs back for his red jacket. Strangers drinking rye in a truck full of guns, looking for one of the lakes. Mendel always directs them back to the highway. Eli holds onto his red-neck streak "for survival." Paula made hummus, chapattis, tzatziki, a greek freast for lunch. Enough for Ukiah to have thirds.

We took a day away from the fields, traveling up the valley, past the home of this year’s Calgary stampede winner. We visited the place it all began- the home and garden the family first built 35 years ago. The bridge across the creek washed out in ’91 but the root cellar still stands. Up here, the terrain changes every mile, and with it a new micro-climate. Lakes, swamps and past the scrub and sage, nested in the evergreens is Deadman Falls. A sheer drop, which the government of British Columbia would like to remind us, is “undeveloped” and should be approached with “CAUTION.” The fog starts to roll in, and we still have firewood to collect.

I don’t quite have the geometry of wood stacking figured out. Saul had to rebuild the pile of fir I loaded. It wouldn’t be farming otherwise.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Columbia River Wildlife

I think the person:golf course ratio in Canada is about 3:1. Not including mini or "fun" golf. Walking up hwy 95 I listened to the water. I found it, a small stream rushing under a cheerful little bridge, dividing a rolling green lawn. A golf course.

After a georgous day in the warm and diving pools at Fairmont hotsprings, we hiked up to find the source of the creek. Interpurtive signs told of blue heron and osprey. Aslin spotted a woodpecker. Here, in the foothills of the Rockies, we dipped our toes in a miniture Columbia River.

The next morning we walked three miles for cinnamon rolls. I pointed out a pair of black-eared deer and Brad pointed at me, “Your eyes are puffy,” he said.

I didn’t get much sleep the night before. Brad woke me just before midnight. “Something’s going through our stuff.” We have three Rubbermaid boxes- one with tools and two with clothes- that we tuck under the van at night, making space for the fold out bed.

I pointed my flashlight out the window.

A ‘thud’ and rustling.

“Do you think it’s a bear?” he whispered. I thought no, probably an evil squirrel. Like the one that ran laps around the living room, and jumped onto Kim’s leg when Aslin was a baby. I did not want a squirrel tossing our clothes around.

I pulled the curtain further back, my light illuminated nothing. Except our cooler, upside down beside the picnic table, 10-feet from the van. Shit. We’d forgotten to bring the cooler into the van. It was one of those moments, when you wish like anything you could go back in time- even just a few hours. Brad’s light found eyes. The brown eyes of a black bear.

I heard eggshells crunching.

Brad assured the kids, “we’re safe, the bear isn’t interested in us. It can’t get into the van."

I was less sure. The doors of the Volkswagen are thin. The rubber around the windows is quite worn in some places. If a bear could smell rice milk in a closed cooler, maybe it could smell granola in the compartment under the bed. On it's rear legs, a bear could tear through the canvas top to get the grahm crackers. Maybe Scott and Mercedes left bells hanging from the pop-top frame for just this purpose. Or maybe the ringing would only annoy the bear. Brad slept holding the car keys and I reminded my self how to use the fire extinguisher. Just in case.

I tried to think happy forest thoughts. Only the Blair Witch Project came to mind.

I fell asleep, dreaming a ranger came to check on us in the morning, to tell us how irresponsible we were. I woke when the bear came back. Or maybe it was a new bear. Do they ever travel in packs? The horn on the van doesn’t work.

I thought of Yogi Bear and almost smiled.

Daylight came. “Who knew bears liked tofu?” Ukiah noted. The bear also enjoyed our cheese, chocolate, butter and mustard. He sat on the tomatoes.

“He comes around every night,” the campground attendant told us. “They had to chase him off the golf course down at the resort this morning.” Now we know.

We packed lunch and headed for another day at the springs and the river. Here the Columbia is small but persuasive, accepting every loose rock invitation to change course. It jumps four feet west, only to redirect itself after a crowd of fallen trees. We hiked for hours, crossing the mighty Columbia (in single jumps) a dozen times per mile.

After dinner Aslin sniffed the van, “I love that soup smell.” I lit a candle, crossing my fingers that bears aren’t attracted to citronella.