Co-camping among the Manzanitas

Imagine that a friend, whom you haven’t seen in two years, pulls up to your remote campsite.

Imagine that she pulls out of her car: a bottle of champagne, a dinner kit of salmon and veggies (prepped and ready for the stove), and a bag of limes.

Now, imagine that she also pulls out a tent so she can spend the night next to us—so we can talk late into the evening under the stars, then share a sunrise walk and morning breakfast.

Can you imagine anything better?

I don’t have to imagine it, because our friend Lola graced us with all these treats, plus her companionship, interest, and patience with my exuberance to see a friend again. And was I exuberant.

Manzanitas and Pines

Lola lives in San Diego (when she’s not in D.C. or Madrid), so she’s why we headed south from Temecula, up in the mountains, where I’m not sure how to explain our exact location. In the Laguna Mountains, about a hour east of San Diego, let’s say.

The ecosystem here is unusual because the air carries moisture from the coast; we have hillsides of lovely manzanitas, plus tall Coulter pines with the largest cones we’ve ever seen.

Hiking/biking trails criss cross around us like we’re a built-in pitstop, but we’re really just parked at a pull-off among the manzanitas on BLM land, in a perfect spot to share.

[Except, until just about the minute when Lola arrived, I’d been sicker than I’d ever felt—after my Pfizer booster. Two days and two nights of fever, aches, general misery. Here I am on the sofa inside in the middle of a beautiful day (Tracy’s planning our next route), staring into space like a zombie.]

All I needed was those 48 hours to recover though, for when Lola pulled up, we shared champagne and salmon and Tracy’s famous margaritas, and of course stories of the pandemic and families and plans, nonstop, the way friends do when we know we have a few hours to catch up on a couple of years of news.

Lola and Tracy have been talking about fulltime travel in Airstreams, plus retirement from their jobs with the federal government since they met (before I met either one of them), and although Lola isn’t ready to hit the road yet, she has plenty of ideas swirling around in her deep-thinking and lovely, auburn-haired head. And I wasn’t left out; Lola’s graciousness extended to listening to me play ukulele and sing under the stars. What a good friend.

She loves this ecosystem and showed us on a map some of her favorite places.

Thank you, Lola, for all of the above, but mostly for being the kind of friend with whom you can continue your conversation while one of you is on the sofa and the other is peeing in the bathroom. I tell you what, that’s an affirmation right there that Tracy and I are not drawing farther and farther from our friends; they’re still here with us … wherever that might be.

Re: Manzanitas and Pines

I have these words stuck in my head because “B” was the musical letter Tracy and I were on while driving here, which means we listened to Blue Line Highway, a good (former) band and friends of mine. A line from the song, “River Canyon” goes, “Way down under the manzanitas, way down under the pines.” It’s on an early album of theirs, but it’s a damned good song. If you have Spotify, you can hear it here.

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