Since Mom and I didn’t need to panhandle for gas money yesterday, we decided to drive up deep into the mountains and hide out a spot we knew, where I could swim and Mom could pretend that there weren’t other humans in the world. We knew this spot because it was where we parked the last time we were in the mountains. Six miles below, where the dirt road left the pavement, there were no signs telling people that there was camping. You had to drive up, up, up the mountain on a dusty dirt road to find the secret camp ground, and we didn’t think anyone else would find it but us. Last time we were there, the guys from inside the only other truck had taken their pea pod boat into the middle of the lake to make a moat between themselves and us. This was our kind of place.
But someone must have spilled the beans because when we arrived yesterday afternoon there were people and cars in all the nooks and crannies, making noise, shouting to each other, and leaving their engines growling. The people puppies were running back and forth in that way that makes me excited and barky, and stresses Mom out because when I bark at people puppies I “scare people.” After a quick swim to cool off and make Mom’s shorts less stinko (since she couldn’t change them with all the people around), we sat in the parking lot watching 3 cars pull up. Then all the people shouted to each other from their windows about parking. Then they drove in all sorts of funny, distracting, and dog-squashing shapes in their big cars. Then they got out of their big cars and one of the people puppies asked every single other human the same question 3 times, while the full grown ones forgot things and went back to their cars. Then they each had to decide one by one whether they needed to go to the bathroom. Mom and I had wanted to take a nap in the Covered Wagon, but with all the commotion it wasn’t relaxing enough… and anyway, the Covered Wagon was like an oven sitting in the sun. “Let’s get out of here,” Mom said, once all those people had finally started hiking and we could move freely without having to bark or get squashed.
We drove about a mile back downhill, and Mom found a perfect napping nook for us. It was shady and had a little brook flowing by for me to drink from, and for Mom to throw her sweatshirt in when she spilled tea all over it. That’s the great thing about our Covered Wagon. We don’t need a tent or a permit or a plan. We can make home wherever we want to. Sometimes it doesn’t work out so great because we find that we’ve stopped in a place with moose-skeeters or one that’s haunted with howling fantods, but usually it’s a good thing.
When Mom and I woke up the next morning, we were feeling much more refreshed, and ready to have a great adventure. We went back to the not-so-secret spot, where most of the people were gone. Just like the secret of having a car-house, another one of our secrets to keeping the world to ourselves is the Early Morning. Almost no one knows the Early Morning is there, and because we are the only ones that know about it, we often have the world to ourselves.
Well… mostly to ourselves. We were running through the skirt of the mountain, where the boulders and bushes fight to see who can win the trail, when I came around the corner and saw a turtle-person right in front of me. “What are you doing here? Let me see your early morning permit!” I barked. She looked suitably scared of me, so when Mom called my name, I figured it was okay to leave the turtle-person, go get Mom and show her. When I came back with Mom, the turtle-person held out her hand, and I was about to bark instructions for how to scratch my butt when Mom grabbed my collar and gave me one of those leg hugs that holds me in place. Since I couldn’t reach her anymore, I had no choice but to use my voice to ask the turtle person if she was cool. “Hey,” I said. “Are you cool?”
“He’s a good boy, he just barks a lot,” Mom explained. The turtle-person looked scared again, and scuttled on by. I guess she wasn’t cool after all.
“Why did you do that, Mom?” I asked. “You scared her.”
“No, Oscar, you scared her.”
“She was about to make friends with me,” I told Mom. “But then you grabbed me like I was dangerous or something.”
“Well I wanted to show that you were under control.”
“What’s to control?! Potato beasts are loud and friendly creatures.”
Soon the boulders won the fight over whose mountain it was, and Mom and I were each climbing over the rocks at our own pace. This part of the mountain was so steep that Mom had to decide between having control over me, or controlling her own position on the mountain. Since Mom is a slow rock conquerer, that left me plenty of time to find the best spots at the edge of inner space to stick my nose in the middle of the air current and smell all of Eastern California blowing by.
One fun thing about this trail is that when you reach the top of the hill, you get to keep running along the edge of the world. To one side there is forest, and to the other just sky and all the world below us. We ran for two miles along the edge of the world, which was covered in wild flowers. There were lots of kinds of wild flowers, but they were all the kinds that look better on wallpaper or the Lands End summer collection than at the center of a photo all their own. Finally we reached the bow of the top of the world, and I stood on the edge of it like a drop of sweat hanging off of Mom’s nose. I could see all the way to Mt. Shasta in one direction, and all the way back to where there was reliable Witch service in the other.
“Hey, Mom,” I said. “Remember when I learned about responsibility, and we found that secret trail with the bat cave over yonder? And then remember that time when I won Second Dog in the half marathong down over there? And that time when you taught me about the longest trail that you can walk the same distance in either direction, and depending on which direction you chose you would land in Mexico or Canada after the same number of miles? And remember that time when we were trying to hike over there, but the road was blocked so we drove for a whole day, and the road was blocked in the other direction too, so we ran all the way to the trail to find it was covered in white dirt? And remember how we’ve walked up this mountain before, both from the front and the back?”
“Yeah…” Mom said.
“And now we’re looking at all of it from the sky, like a cloud would.”
“That’s true,” Mom said.
“And remember how you used to get sad because you couldn’t climb all the mountains?”
“Sure,” Mom said.
“Isn’t that kind of what we’re doing?” I asked. “We have memories on so many of these mountains already. It’s kind of like they’re all ours.”
“I guess you’re right…” Mom said.
“So… You can relax now?” I asked. This was a very important life coaching moment that I had been waiting for a long time to teach her.
“Yes, Oscar. I think I can relax now. At least for today…”
-Oscar the Life Coach