The term “staycation” is often utilized for time-bereft people looking to eke out a few days of sanity in their stressful version of this world. We were recently blessed with our second baby girl and decided to take the two-year old and the two-month old on a camping trip to Plaskett Creek- in winter.
I’ve visited here for bachelor parties and man-cations, backpacking treks and weddings, impromptu dates and solitary stare-off-in-ennui-searching-the-horizon trips.
Big Sur is a world famous landmark, as if we could own and pinpoint such a vast natural universe. I am lucky to call it my backyard, one I hop into like Europeans weekend in Rome or Paris whenever they wish due to the proximity of their countries.
As I aged I have learned to morph with malleable time and shape it into my own rainbow glaze no matter where my travels take me, even if it means shorter distances and staying local.
Having a young family is not the end of all things. Being married with kids is not a sacrifice but a shifting of gears, a speeding up if you part the fog of fear trying to arise and muffle you. We’re just getting started.
Overseas or in my mind, in the turning pages of a book or the quiet respiration of a sleeping babe, I step over the messy, cluttered house and into any fantasy I choose because we make it real- my wife and I together. Big Sur reinvigorates us.
We had made this same tent camping trip with our first baby and she banshee shrieked the entire night, every hour, like frat party voices disturbing the tranquil wind, a harsh motorcycle barreling down Highway One or the constant crash of pounding waves from Sand Dollar Beach.
But she was even louder and higher pitched.
The weather didn’t forecast rain but we prepared for a frigid nighttime temperature drop and piled blankets, comforters and firewood. The prior experience did not weigh too heavily on our minds, the same way a traveler tries to displace and detach themselves from the squalls of an infant on a long airplane flight. We’ve all been there and handled it with honor, sympathy, shushing or a (hopefully) quiet rage.
We needed to get out of the house and erupt our dormant routine, strike our static doldrums in a volcanic cascade of embers and ash. At naptime we made the two-hour drive, quickly stopping at Ragged Point and Gorda for sandwiches, beer and the not so secret ingredients for S’mores, a must have for any outdoor adventure.
The children remained quiet and regal as redwoods.
The campground was in off-season mode so we had our pick of the choicest sites. The hosts and a few scattered neighbors were jolly and welcoming, if not surprised to see the tiny baby, toddler and golden retriever running dark circles around their parent’s tired eyes.
We made burritos, rode tricycles, played ball and hiked to the beach. There were books but no electronics. It was busy and fretful, the setting up and activities, but in a sore and fatigued after a good workout sort of way.
We befriended a foreign couple that spoke in charmingly broken English. They happily played with our dog and oldest daughter. They were from Norway and were driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway. They joined us at the fire for a while as the light ebbed to scented shadow, swapping travel stories and learning how to craft the perfect S’more, an obviously American invention.
That night my wife retired early in cuddled warmth with the baby. My two-year old and I stared in wonder at the fire and recapped the highlights of a perfect day in giggles and charades. She fell asleep in my arms, watching the flames lap, spark, smolder and recede into the unquenchable glow of memory.
I have treaded the antique cobblestones in Lisbon learning the romantic Portuguese language, reflected in the ruins of Machu Picchu and summited the magical glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro.
But I would rather be here, in Big Sur, alongside my family on a “staycation” then anywhere else in the world.
Oh, and both kids, burrowed next to their ecstatic parents, slept peacefully throughout the crystalline night.
About the Author: Joe Amaral is a paramedic who spends most his time spelunking around the California Central Coast. His poetry and short stories have been published worldwide in many awesome journals and anthologies in print and online.
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