The Great Outdoors

A couple of years ago I worked on a local program called The Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra. Tom is a true outdoorsman who channels his passion for hiking, fishing, and, well, the great outdoors, into a column for the SF Chronicle. Each episode would feature Tom traipsing through a state park in California to view spectacular waterfalls, kayak down rain-swollen rivers, or take in the view at a scenic overlook. And while Tom and the production crew would dutifully hike, bike, and horseback ride all around California, I would sit in a cozy edit suite putting together the footage of their travels all while never having to deal with a single mosquito.

All of that changes today, as I’m loading up the car and we’re heading up to Big Trees in Calaveras County to take in a little car camping. Now, I’ve roughed it before, heck I’ve even come face to face with a bear while sleeping in a campsite preparing for a trek up Yosemite’s Half Dome. But over the years the camping urge has slowly left me. Instead of reveling in stories of hikers taking a break to swim in crystal clear mountain lakes, I dwell on the disasters. Bear attacks, mountain lions dragging small children off, hikers getting lost in the wilderness-those kinds of stories keep me firmly confined within the city limits. It’s dangerous out there. Even that poor soul on the Clif Bar wrapper is in trouble. Oh, sure he looks carefree tackling that rock face if you hold the package up properly. But turn that sucker upside down, and it looks as if that climber is plunging to his doom. Scary.

Despite all of this were tossing the tent and lantern and air mattress and comforter and corkscrew into the car and venturing into the great outdoors. For about 24 hours. After all we have social engagements to attend to on Sunday.


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