Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Life on the Diablo, Part IV

When I left you last, I was sitting on a picnic table, waiting for the verdict about whether or not we'd keep paddling or head home. 

8-3-12 late afternoon on Thunder Point

I'm sitting on the end of the dock, my feet in the cold water, my head cooking in the sun.  Mike said that he read that the temperature of this lake was a constant fifty degrees.  I wonder how it stays that warm in the winter?  There are two other families here now.  They're friendly and everyone has at least one dog but I wish we were alone here again.  There's even another boy, a friendly boy, but Nick didn't connect.  There's no explaining why.

Tabby, the neighbor's dog, came down to visit me.  She is a sweet short haired pointer.  I should go up and leave the dock to our neighbors for a while.  It's a nice place to hang out, but we have to share.

After Mike and Nick got up this morning, we had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and dried fruit before we took down the tent and loaded the boats in the water again.  Nick wasn't sure about going back out.

"What if I have another night like I did?" he asked.

"You had a good night last night," Mike said. "Why don't we just paddle out to the camp and see if we can even pick the campsite we like.  I don't want to stay if we can't have that nice one."  There were three sites at Thunder Point.  On Wednesday night we were alone.  On a Friday, we were going to have to share. 

It seemed like a ploy to get Nick to go back out, but I actually believed Mike when he said he only wanted to camp in that one site.  The other ones weren't as nice.  I wouldn't have cared, but I knew he did.  Well, okay.  We paddled again. 

It was a gorgeous clear day.  The air was calm, the water like glass.  Mike kept telling Nick it was a good day for him to paddle the kayak.  We wanted some time in the boat together, but Nick chose the canoe.

"I'm in love with both boats," Nick said. "I love the canoe and I love the kayak just a little less.  Like the canoe would be a thirteen out of thirteen and the kayak would only be a ten."  I get it.  I just wanted a turn with Mike, but at least Nick was excited about being out there.  That wasn't the problem.  The problem was at night, when Nick was a little tired, when the homesickness set in.  His ailments ranged from a bruise, to a stomach ache, to his sunburn, to his cough.  Yes, he had had a stomach ache, but it was gone.  The sunburn, above and below a hand print where he had 'done a good job putting on sunscreen' was going to hurt wherever he went so he might as well be doing something fun.  The bruise was just a little bruise.  The cough was probably his asthma kicking in from the dust he was kicking up.  The cough worried us a bit, but didn't seem too bad. 

This time, it was simple to get to camp.  Remember we'd traversed this span twice before.  I didn't care.  We were on the water.  So what we were zigzagging back and forth from the boat launch to Thunder Point.  It was beautiful out.  The paddle seemed too short, but we could always go day-tripping after we checked out the campsite.

There was already one group there when we arrived.  They'd chosen the spot further down the shore.  Perfect for them, perfect for us.  As we were unloading our gear, laying claim to our spot, another group arrived.  When they asked us how long we'd been here, I knew they'd been here before and hoped to get our spot.  They missed out by about ten minutes.  They got the camp up the steep hill and surrounded by deadfall.  They looked so disappointed, I almost told them we weren't staying because Nick wasn't feeling well.  I managed to keep my mouth shut.

After the tent went up - oh, it's an easy tent to pitch - we all gathered at our dock to swim, two boys, two women, three men, and four dogs.  The rest of them stood thigh-deep in the water, but I knew I'd never get in past my knees if I did that.  I took the leap, as everybody watched, from the end of the dock.  I expected that familiar shock as the cold water crashed in around me, but I never expected to need so badly to gasp at the cold while I was still deep in the water.  It felt as though I wasn't as buoyant as usual.  I thought I could drown.  I fought for the surface. 

When I broke into the air, the gasp came.  I couldn't talk.  It was hard to move my legs to swim to shallower water.  I tried to catch my breath, but couldn't.  I had never plunged into water this cold.  Finally, I found footing and stood thigh deep with everybody else, water still streaming into my eyes.  My ankles began to ache.  My skin on my back and shoulders prickled in the sun as it warmed.  Everybody laughed and talked.  I pretended I did this all the time.  I was glad we hadn't swamped the canoe the day before.  That kind of a shock and cold can be dangerous.  Everything I loved had been in that boat.  It was still with me, that desperate and grateful feeling.  Even my plunge off the dock had felt that way.  What I didn't notice, as I mostly dried off and chatted with our neighbors was that Nick had positioned himself away from everyone with Mike between them.  He didn't like that the woman was smoking in front of him.  Can it be that my boy, my nearly twelve year old boy, has never been around someone who smoked?  Later, when we were all in our respective campsites, Nick raged that this woman had no right to smoke near him.

"We're outdoors, Nick," Mike said. "What's the big deal?"

"I could get second-hand smoke," he railed.  This boy is just so naive sometimes. 

"She has no right," he said. "I want to go home.  I want to go home now!"  Here we go again. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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