I emailed my personnel chief the other day to find out how many vacation days I had left for 2013 and was shocked to discover there were weeks and weeks I could take off.
Now, I could take the full boat at once, and just hang in my hammock with a good stock of Scotch, or I could take a few days off here and there and fix fences and plant flowers.
But I opted for a week off in May, yet to be determined by my work schedule for Western Farmer-Stockman. As you read this, I may already be sleeping in mornings.
I have been to Paris, Rome and Seville and most of the great cities of the U.S., along with Vancouver, Canada, and Juarez, Mexico.
But of all the beds and breakfasts, road trips, great destinations I have done, my vacation of the heart will always be camping.
I'm a tent camper. It takes about 3 hours to set up our campground with dining fly, 9x12 Coleman tent, utensils, food, ice chests and firewood. Then, I can sit and look up at the tops of the Ponderosa pines swaying in the high air and smell the aroma of someone cooking steaks.
That is when I am happiest, and never want to come back to "reality."
When the tent is finally taken down, I'm an unhappy camper. I feel I am removing something within me that loves to team up with nature. Going back to the city on the Interstate is always a traumatic moment or many.
Of all the camping trips I have ever taken, it was when I hiked 11 miles above Yosemite Valley beyond the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Ah, the memories. It was a primitive campground, meaning they had no amenities.
We walked through the snow to the high granite peaks that glowed in the moonlight so bright you could read by their light. The fishing was good enough for trout at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We treed our packs, but still the bears climbed up and tried to snag them. Critters ran randomly into our sleeping bags at night, and the howls of coyotes chorused through our sweet dreams in deep slumber.
We were high above the sounds of traffic and phones, well out of reach of electronic interruptions, and at one with the wind and sun.
When that trip ended, and we trekked back down the switchbacks to the parking lot, it was as if something were torn from our natural essence. I remember a moment up there when I decided I would not go back.
Of course, thoughts of Sierra winter helped drive me back.
So, whenever I pop up the tent in any campground now, I revisit my Yosemite experience. Just being out there among the woods near a stream rekindles my fondest memory of resting in nature's solitude.
Somewhere today, high in Yosemite, others camp and renew their spirits in the same spot right now.
I wish it were me.