Below Mt. Whitney
Tuttle Creek Campground
Lone Pine, Calif.
April 25-26, 2003
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What a good find this campground was, not
even listed in our guide, and only a few miles off
395 near Lone Pine. From the distance, it looked like
picnic tables among scrub, but up close, we found a
rushing creek of chilly Sierra water, shade trees,
immaculate campsites, and awesome views of Mt. Whitney
to the west and the dry white bed that was once Owens Lake
to the east. And all for no charge (donations accepted).
Best of all, we were pleasantly surprised to see the
very first campsite labeled "Campground Host," occupied
by a large trailer with satellite TV dish nearby. We
chose our perfect spot only two picnic tables away from
the hosts, set up our chairs, and waited. What would the
official greeting entail? Would there be brownies, or
was it more of a wine and cheese affair?
When no one emerged, we set to building our fire, and
sent the girls out to scan the
perimeter for rattlers while we opened our
own cabernet sauvignon to let it breathe -- in anticipation
of our hosts' arrival.
As the sun dipped down into the
Whitney Portal and our fire grew to a warm roar,
we succombed to temptation and helped ourselves to
maybe just a bit of our red wine -- they probably
wouldn't mind, we thought. From our site, we could
see the blue glow of TV filling the host trailer.
Surely it would snap off at the half hour, and out
would come our hosts.
But the half hour passed, and then the hour. And
finally it grew dark, and we began to run out of
wood. Should we knock? Maybe they didn't notice
our arrival. Now the kids were demanding food
Had we offended them? Was it the Eurovan? Where
they environmentalists, repelled by the Eurovan's
20 m.p.g. highway rating? Or the other thing:
patriots annoyed at Germany for its recent
recalcitrance, and seeing us as, somehow, fellow
Well, never mind, I thought, helping myself to
another sierra cupful of cabernet, and kicking
at the embers with the toe of my Timberlands.
It's certainly not my problem. No doubt, it's
something Jen did. Or the kids.
Dejected, we climbed into the camper, played
a round of kings in the corners, and fell
promptly asleep. I dreamed I was at a high
school party at Tod Clark's house, and kept
trying and failing to get his attention.
In the morning, as we sipped our coffee around
the fire pit, our hosts drove past in their
Wrangler, and offered a tight little wave.
Too little, too late. We waved back, but
didn't offer any of our brownies.