Camp Chronicles (1): Rain, Snow, Hail, and the Surf Beat!

When some of us were young and before the internet and smart phones, we wrote letters from camp.  They were handwritten -- usually in our best cursive.  We wanted to make sure that the recipient could read the fruit of our labors.  The letters even might include a crude primitive drawing.  Digital cameras were not invented, and Polaroid cameras (huh?) were too high tech, fragile, and expensive for young campers.

As evidenced by the ongoing woes of the Postal Service, handwritten (or even typed) letters are becoming passe.  Except to a generation of keyboard-impaired folks, letters may be relics of the past like the cassette player or boom box.  Why compose when you can text, Skype, instant message, Facebook, Tweet, etc.?  When did all of those words become verbs?

Without the cursive -- as we get older it gets less legible -- this is in effect our first letter from the Sierra Surf Music Camp.  Because the Donner Mine Camp has no internet connectivity, you will not read this until camp is done.

Thursday evening, the weather took a turn from the sunny mid-80s where it seemed to be stuck.  The wind kicked up.  Clouds started to drift in.  The 6:00 news opened with a teaser:  “Weekend weather, what you’ll need.”  Later, the “meteorologist” advised that temperatures would be dropping 10 to 15 degrees on the Sacramento Valley floor and that snow was expected at elevations above 6,000 feet.  One “reporter” appeared live from Emigrant Gap in a parka to warn of the impending storm.  He interviewed a CalTrans worker who said that chain controls might be put into effect.

Emigrant Gap is directly up the hill from the Donner Mine Camp.  The name “Emigrant Gap” derives from the place where the settlers coming west lowered their wagons from the mountainous terrain of the Sierras to the Bear Valley.  Once on the floor of the Bear Valley, they were pretty much assured a safe and uneventful journey into the mines of the Mother Lode or new lives in Sacramento and San Francisco.

Snow?  Chain controls?  That did not sound too surfy (or California culture).  As she watched the weather report, Becky said, “I packed capris and short sleeves.”  She then asked, “Is he right?”  She opened her iPad.  “What is near the camp?” 

She checked the weather for Emigrant Gap (directly above) and Nevada City.   Stormy.  37 low.  48 high.  Showers.  38 low.  48 high.  The National Weather Service confirmed what she just had heard. 

Re-pack.  Corduroy pants replaced capris.  Sleeveless out; flannel in.

As we headed east from Sacramento on Friday morning, black clouds hung over the Sierras.  Climbing out of Auburn, the skies darkened more.  Rain at Emigrant Gap.  Two more miles and we hit snow.  As we dropped into the Bear Valley, more snow.  On the valley floor, the snow started bouncing off the hood and windshield.  Hail!  We turned on the dirt road into the Donner Mine Camp.  Snow.  Rain.

After what seemed to be “forever,” we arrived at the Sierra Surf Music Camp.  Undeterred by the weather, Camp Director Paul the Pyronaut was standing outside the Lodge and greeted us.  “People are jamming already.  Put your stuff away and join us.” 

A little rain, snow, hail, or cold weather was not going to stop the surf beat.  Yes, the surf beat goes on!

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