Brenna and I drive to the recently opened Trinity Recreation Area to camp along Big Trinity Lake and feed the mosquitoes. She swims, makes me a flower salad and map while I prepare the hotdogs and marshmallows. After a restless night we leave to the sunrise reflecting fire off placid waters.
“I got ready for nothing!” she wailed with a disappointment bordering on despair.
I always expected we would leave the next day, Saturday, but Brenna had it in her head we could get our chores done and leave sooner. Even after dark she was still expecting we’d leave soon. “You can turn on the headlights,” she reasoned.
Since Hunter and I camped a few weeks ago¹ she has been eager to do the same. With their mom visiting family back east, I promised a trip to the mountains. By the time I told her we’d need to leave the next day, close to midnight, she had three bags of clothes and a pile of blankets and games ready by the front door.
Have you noticed the dust caked to the back of your car after a drive down a dirt or gravel road? It turns out Wranglers have no magic to prevent that dust from settling on everything inside when the top is off. The best time to go topless, ironically, is during rain, snow or city driving.
Brenna managed to survive until Saturday. With word that the Trinity Recreation Area was opening for the first time after last fall’s big fire,¹ it seemed a nice high altitude choice for getting out of the recent heat wave.
“This is a really good spot, isn’t it dad?” Brenna remarked more than once. Since she planned to swim we looked for easy water access. She was very pleased with the result.
We found a nice campsite with a tiny beach along Big Trinity Lake. I was concerned when I saw so many bugs on the water. As we got closer I was relieved to discover they were thousands upon thousands of harmless damselflies.
After her swim, warm-up and snack, we decided to strike out for “adventure.”
Brenna and I walked through the trees and across a shaded creek making quiet song over smooth, mossy stones. Then up a hill of flower festooned outcrops where she crouched below the stone faced mountain to prepare a lunch for me.
“Sit there, dad” she insisted. Obviously I complied.
A couple arrived in a pickup and began fishing from our small beach. “It isn’t nice to splash where people are fishing,” I had to explain to Brenna.
“I guess we don’t get dinner,” I heard the guy say when he lost a bite. Brenna had a nice time asking about bobbers, hooks and worms. Finally they caught one and she watched intently as they pulled it in and gutted it.
“It was cool,” Brenna told me, “and gross.”
While I prepared our fire and food, Brenna pulled pens from her mountain of camping supplies and began making a map for our safe return home.
Brenna proudly presented the map when she was done, pointing out the down trees we’d need to avoid. “Can you use it when we go home?” she pled.
“Sure,” I answered.
“Just pretend,” she acknowledged. She’s been keen about “real” versus “pretend” these last months.
“What does that mean?” Brenna asked when I used the word “nincompoop” (I think a muttered self-reference about my marshmallow toasting).
“Someone whose brain doesn’t work right,” I explained.
Later when she heard me complain about whoever on the other side of the lake was running a generator non-stop she asked, “do their brains not work right?”
I liked the connection. “I don’t think so, bub.”
After dinner I thought it would be nice to walk around the lake and perhaps glance condescendingly at the folks who needed to run a generator all afternoon among the otherwise quiet mountains.
It may have been coincidence that the racket stopped shortly after Brenna and I found the offenders, looked a moment at their generator and then took their picture. But I like to think it was the power of passive aggression.
Unfortunately, we found no kind of aggression sufficient to ward off the mosquitoes. They were brutal. That camping-in-the-open-air idea took a turn for the worse. I expected the mosquitoes to quit when it got dark and cooled off but they buzzed around my face all night until daybreak when they redoubled their efforts and numbers.
We couldn’t sleep any more and even with a fire started we were no better than mosquito meatsicles. We’d had fun. I quickly tossed everything in the Jeep and we left.
There is everywhere evidence of last year’s big fire but great beauty remains, plenty to dazzle a five-year-old and her dad.
Oh, and I did consult Brenna’s map repeatedly as we drove home. She would unfold it and hand it to me without a word. “Ah, looks like there’s a turn coming up,” I might say before handing it back. It brought us safely home.