Inhaling dawn on the river of life.
Baritone choir of bullfrogs at dusk.
Piercing high pitched sound shatters the darkness after midnight:
Bad high pitched violin scraping sounds. Braying burros.
Clip– clop, Clip– clop...
Echo of hoof prints just outside your tent.
Gosh, that’s a flimsy fence.
We camp by a historic goldmine dating back to the days of 49ers panning for river gold. Feral ghost burros leave scat around the campground and bray at the moon but never show their long, fuzzy faces by day. They made it here on their own long after the miners died.
Kaleidoscope of sunrise.
Dusk - coyote swims by, as you zig jag turns through river glass, reflecting earth and man and sky.
River bamboo swallows your wake - as if nothing ever happened.
River still life.
Secret spot. Shhh! Don't tell.... Picacho State Recreation Area on the Colorado River.
Where we camp and ski, it’s so remote only ducks and donkeys and fisherman, gnarly four-wheelers and water skiers roam.
There’s nothing like waking up in a tent watching a billion stars illuminate the sky until too many sore muscles and not enough beer-30’s with old friends and fireside chats, take you away.
We are river rats.
We smell the river, taste adventure, crave the rush of sparkling dawn runs and hypnotic sunsets. We revel in this majestic desolate getaway.
Quiet sky, stillness and fireside chatter.
Beach sand in toes.
Scorch of sun so bright you can fry yourself for breakfast if you’re not careful enough with sunscreen.
The Colorado River calls from deep inside a water skier. Heading east to where California and Arizona marry, you venture into riverfront bamboo forests. But first, you beat the heck out of your car to find the secret spot of skiing.
It’s nearly impassable this year - that 45-minute hellish dirt road from Yuma to our riverfront dock. Deep sand, hairpin turns and washboard roads will beat your car, bury your wheels and throw flats faster than any road I know - except perhaps my old Baja secret spot.
Bad roads keep secret spots secret. Amen to that.
It’s the last of the Colorado River before she heads off to Mexico, slinking past dinky, dusty Arizona towns.
Most River Rats stay in fancy riverfront houses or rent shanties in her more popular parts – Imperial Dam, Fisher’s Landing, Martinez Lake, Senator Wash.
The secret spot we head to isn’t like that, where loud flashy river boats bounce up and down, throwing big spray, shouting “LOOK AT MEEEEEEE” into a sparkling desert sky.
Natural born river rats
I remember camping and skiing here on The River as a kid with my family and later, with high school friends.
Then I found my tribe - Convair waterski club, a non-profit club where engineers, ski dogs, wake boarders and campers getaway from city life.
We’re mostly boomers looking for life we remember, growing up on a lake or a river or a dead end road or a small town somewhere in between.
Oh yes we do – it was all my dog’s idea, really. Howdy Doody, my first basset hound and surf dog, started riding tandem with me behind a ski boat on The River with Convair in 1991. I’ve been skiing Convair's secret spot with my dog kids ever since. Even after I moved away from California.
Each year, we fly in from Oregon to our old San Diego hometown, then drive three hours to Arizona, before beating up our car on the dirt road to surf dog paradise.
Growing up a So Cal boomer
If you are a boomer like me and you grew up in what used to be a small town, you grew up in nature – with wildlife, wild places. You watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights with the dogs and cats and birds and family, all scarfing popcorn together on the couch, all fascinated by TV species and scenery.
We lived on a dead end road in San Diego with horny toads in the yard, and crawdads and tadpoles in our creek.
My brother and I rode horses, stingray bikes with banana seats and hand-me-down motorcycles along dusty trails. Exploring hundreds of acres of open land and hills and bamboo creeks kept our spirits wild and free.
Here, only Japanese farmers’ cornrows and an occasional paved road fenced us in.
Momma was an Annie Oakley type and I grew up a tomboy. Naturally, we camped in our back yard creek bed with a shotgun to protect our flock of birds from coyotes, skunks and possums.
Didn’t every girl?
Didn't every girl turn into a woman who surfs with dogs, even now, closing in on 60?
I grew up in the 60’s, and our family waterskied Mission Bay every weekend. The sense of anticipation was alive as our cab-over camper towed our old Glasspar ski boat toward the Pacific Ocean.
I-8 was a two-lane highway back then – weaving through a cow farm where the San Diego River roamed wild and free.
Back then, farmlands shrink wrapped Mission Valley as densely as condos, freeway clover leafs, shopping malls and Qualcomm stadium does today.
Secret spots and dead end roads
In my hometown where my folks still live, the road isn’t dead anymore. That’s why I moved away.
It wasn’t horse country, or dirt bike, or horny toad or crawdad country either. It had become “every other house looks the same” country.