—From EF—

We treated ourselves to a night at Salt Point State Park, one of our favorite retreats, and I planned far enough ahead to get a reservation at Site #7. (It’s the best one and is usually booked at least three months in advance.) Set way back in the trees, it feels private and secluded, and it’s also the site closest to the ocean. Sound travels differently over water, and the seal chorus sounded really close from inside the tent, closer than when actually down at the rocky water-line.

The wildlife orchestra is amazing, and this time my ears were unusually tuned in. (Maybe it’s a factor of having a piano again and listening closely to what I’m practicing.) Every time I return to Salt Point, I hear more critters. This was my first time hearing a cuckoo. The ravens caucus wildly in late evening and early morning. The aggressive blue jays read you the riot act if they think you might forget to offer them some scraps. Squirrels natter and bark. Humans vary, but this time voices were scarce, partly because of our location.

We’d finished dinner and converted the cooking coals to a regular bonfire in the sturdy big fire ring and were enjoying the sound of the pine branches and cones we’d brought from home, popping and crackling. Then, softly, a djembe, joined soon by a flute. Back in the days when we went to Starwood every summer, I loved hearing the drums all night long, and this was nice to hear. (I’ve never heard a drum at Salt Point before.)

Shortly the djembe stopped and a cello joined the flute. This is not normally native territory for a cello and I couldn’t repress my curiosity. The sound was coming from the nearest site, which was down-slope across a wide meadow about the size of a city block. “I’ll be back.”

Framed in the open side door of a camper van was a teal-blue five-string cello, being bowed softly with a gorgeous tone. I couldn’t help it, I walked closer: “I don’t want to be rude but I’d really like to know . . . who are you?” A young man, maybe early thirties, peered out and smiled. His flutist friend poked his head out from the other side of the door and smiled. So began a rather extensive animated conversation. They’re in the Bay Area and I hope to stay in touch. Good musicians. Really good.

Back to the tent, snuggling down to share a couple of nips of Jameson, wishing the guys would play some more. They didn’t. The seals seemed to sense an invitation and struck up a lively chorus of barks and whoops and grunts—and it went on all night. At one point, about 2:30, the seal-sounds briefly changed to a prolonged version of yodeling. When they started sounding like a large lady bellowing evacuation instructions through a bull-horn I couldn’t help laughing, even though I would have liked to get some sleep. It was a long night, but eventually the raven rally signaled the approach of light.

This camping trip was a keeper.


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