Saturday, August 5, 2017

Camping in California

by Fae Rowen

Every summer our family vacation consisted of camping. Tent camping in a state or national park in California. I've been to them all. This is a picture of Vernal Falls. My dad, sister and I hiked to the top. Not until I was in elementary school, though.

The first trip I remember was before I was in school. My mom and dad hadn't bought their own equipment yet, so they'd borrowed a tent that was only big enough for two sleeping bags. They borrowed a cheap trailer (four two-foot high, wooden sides, no top) to carry all the gear. I played while my mom, my dad, and my older sister (she was fourteen) set up the camp. I didn't care about the dirt, the bugs, or the hike to the restroom.

There was something about food cooked on that two-burner Coleman stove that made everything taste great, even to a picky eater. I saw my mom boil water to wash the dishes, but I didn't think about how much extra work camping was for her. I played while she washed dishes. That night, by the light of a Coleman lantern, we played cards. Not real cards, because I didn't know about suits or adult card games. But my mom had my Old Maid deck and my Crazy Eights deck. We made so much noise (I screamed when I won and I screamed when I got the Old Maid) that the ranger stopped by our campsite and told us we had to be quiet.

So it was light's out. My sister and I slept in the now-empty trailer in our sleeping bags. But there were BEARS, so my dad threatened us with our lives, literally, about not having any food-not even a stick of gum-in the trailer. When he was satisfied my sister was telling the truth (I tended to be truthful in those days) he put a tarp over the top of the trailer and lashed it down with rope. He told us not to try to get out during the night because of the bears. We got the whole, "Be very quiet if you hear a bear huffing and scratching around the trailer." I wasn't scared. I wanted to see a bear.

I woke up. I don't know how long I'd been asleep. It was totally dark in that trailer. My sister was snoring. I've always been a morning person. When I wake up, I'm ready to get out of bed and go. I pushed at the tarp and it didn't budge. (My dad had been the sergeant of the motor pool in the army. He knew how to lash stuff to any vehicle.) I was ready to get up, so I screamed at the top of my lungs, "Get me out of here! Get me out of here!" until my dad got to the trailer. (He probably slept in his clothes and shoes after that.)

Flashlight under his arm, he unlashed just enough of my side to pull me out. He thought I needed to go to the bathroom, so he found my shoes, put them on me and told me to be quiet. We walked to the rest room and I went in. He stayed outside, standing guard. Soon he was huffing and scuffing his shoes on the rocks outside. "Stay in there!" he said in a loud whisper.

Turns out, a bear wandered by and faced off my dad, armed only with a flashlight. When the bear finally ambled away, my dad came inside, picked me up and carried me back to the trailer. While he was lashing the tarp, he whispered as sternly as anyone can whisper, "The next time you wake up, just wait until I come and get you."

"But how will you know I'm awake?"

"Just wait for me."

"What if I need to go to the bathroom?"

"Just go in your sleeping bag."

I had no more midnight adventures that trip. I never saw a bear. But the next morning I did see the bear paw prints all around our trailer. It had to have been a giant bear. I must have woken up when it was sniffing around the trailer.

Good thing bratty little girl wasn't on its menu that night.

Do you have memories, fond or not-so-fond, of childhood vacations? 

If you'd like to read about one of my more recent trips, here's a link to my very different camping experience on the Serengeti. Here's a link to what I learned about writing on my trip to the Galapagos Islands. And here's a link for my DIY trip to Dubai.


Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction story of survival, betrayal, deceit, lies, and love, available for pre-order October 2, 2017.
When she’s not hanging out at YA Outside the Lines, you can visit Fae at  or


  1. I made the mistake of diving into Moosehead Lake in June, thinking it would be like Sennebec, the lake we lived on. BIG mistake. Sennebec was shallow and 2 miles long. Moosehead was deep, 40 miles long and 100 miles further north. I hit water that was about 38 degrees and darn near walked across it to get to shore.

  2. I've been fishing and motorcycling in Mammoth many times. We carried a whistle, and when we ran into a black bear (and we ran into them a lot) we'd blow the whistle, and they'd head the other way.

    Nah, it's spiders that scare me (and yes, I know that makes no logical sense).

    1. In your defense, most bears can't crawl into your ear canal.