When I was just a young boy my parents would take the family camping every year up into the High Sierras just outside of Bishop, California. This was back in the mid 50's and into the early 60's. When I was very young I remember hearing my parents packing for the different trips. They would put me to bed and then early in the dark hours of the morning my Dad would come in and gently pick me up out of bed and carry me out to the car where my Mom had made a real comfortable bed out of the back seat for me and my 2 brothers.
I remember hearing the car start and I would soon fall back to sleep as the car began to move. Sometime later I would wake up and feel the wonderful warm air of the Mojave desert flowing through the open windows. It would still be dark so when I opened my eyes I could see all the millions of stars in the desert sky. With the sound of the motor and the gentle rolling of the car down the road, I was once again fast asleep, dreaming of the wild adventures ahead.
The next time I awoke we were pulling into the small town of Bishop California to our favorite restaurant, Jack's Pancake House, which I hear after all these years is still there. I remember looking up on the walls of the place and seeing all these cool looking trophy fish and dreaming of maybe catching a big one myself.
After a hardy breakfast we would pile back into the car with all the excitement of heading up to our favorite campsite in the Sierras. In those days there was just a narrow one lane dirt road and gravel road, just wide enough for one car. Every once in a while there would be a turn out so if two cars needed to pass each other, they could. The uphill car coming had the right away and the downhill traveling car had to pull over. So while traveling on these steep narrow mountain roads, not being able to see around the corners, both cars coming to blind curves traveling at very slow speeds would honk their horns to let possible oncoming cars know there was a car coming. This would give the car coming downhill a chance to pull over before it was too late so the uphill car coming could pass without having to stop, for in those days cars were known for over heating and vapor lock. The roads in some places were so narrow I thought for sure we would go over the edge. So as a little kid I was scared to look out the window until we got to our campsite. My Mom and Dad would also get a little concerned.
Once we were out of the car and at our campsite I would head for the streams and trees and go exploring. My parents were really cool about letting me just go off into the wilderness. I felt like Davey Crockett or Daniel Boone, the whole wide open place was mine to explore. Back then it was safe as a kid from any freaks especially up there in the Sierras. Folks back in those days had respect for each other and we would leave our food in a cooler in the cold stream and no one would bother it. There was usually only one or two camps around. Sometimes I would grab my fishing pole and go off fishing by myself or with my Dad or sometimes with my brother. We'd catch grasshoppers for bait, they worked the best. There would be times when we would get up real early in the dark and cold of the morning and take the car to the upper lakes. There Dad would rent a boat and we would fish all over these cool looking lakes, with high jagged mountains all around with fresh water streams that you could drink out of. There were water falls that would pour down in places from the snow melt from up high.
My Dad would bring his own motor for the boat. I remember that old motor giving him problems quite a few times. Sometimes it wouldn't want to start up and we would be someplace way across the lake and I remember him yanking on that starter cord for 5 to 10 minutes all the while getting madder and madder and working up a sweat till I thought maybe he was going to throw that old motor into the lake and row back across the lake. But finally it started and we kept fishing.
Back at camp I remember the smell of that old army surplus tent we had and sleeping on those old army sleeping cots. The nights would get really cold and we spent the night sleeping in our thermals and wool socks. Waking up in the morning and the smell of pancakes, bacon and eggs that Mom had going for breakfast. Everything smelled and tasted so good in those high mountains. The sound of the stream and wind through the pine trees was the only music we listened to.
Then at night sitting around the campfire and looking up into the starlit sky. Back then high in the mountains you could see so many stars in that clear air it was amazing. To this day I can remember all the details of every trip. If I am sitting by a campfire in Baja I can bring all these great memories back as if it was happening to this day. A change of weather or a certain smell in the air can trigger a memory of my younger days up there in those high mountains.
I am forever grateful to my parents for having taken me to the high mountains and taught me how special the outdoors are and living in the wild.