Crab Creek is an old acquaintance I get along well with, but haven't seen in years.
Chris says he will camp near the bridge over the creek. "Sure - I know where that is," I told him. But I arrive in the dark and suddenly remember there are multiple bridges over the creek - two of which we have camped next to in the past. Each parked vehicle becomes a mystery: Chris's car?
Not convinced of any, I choose to camp next to the farthest bridge - the last checked and the most likely. There are people around, but not where I park and none that I recognize. I do not know the people joining Chris and I am shy to disturb strangers in the quiet, dark night. I go for a walk and in the darkness rely on my ears as much as my eyes - am surprised on the bridge when after walking past I hear a noise. I turn and can make out two darker figures if I don't look directly at them. They say "hello" and we move on.
Fortunately the night is warm, though windy. I don't want to set my tarp tent up in the dark and decide instead to lay out in the back of my truck - tarp pulled tight around my sleeping bag, holding my warmth against the wind. It is a restless way to sleep, every hour or two waking up to a chill, or an aching body part. Re-adjusting myself and my tarp, I check on the stars that show the gaps in the clouds, then I am back asleep. It's a great way to wake in the morning. Too uncomfortable to be lazy, too beautiful to be sad about that.
I wrap my sleeping bag around me as the horizon brightens and I walk out to get reacquainted. It is a landscape of subtle color. This season's wildflowers are vibrant up close but at a distance and in the early dawn, shades of grey, brown, and pale green predominate. As the sun's gradual appearance adds color to the scene I see Chris across the creek and we join our explorations. Small dunes spotted with sage brush stretch along the creek. We wander through looking for tracks and sign, catching up on the months since we've seen each other as we catch up on what has been happening in the previous hours and days of life along the creek.
After an hour or two, we head back to the bustle of camp as people prepare breakfasts, kids run about, and the last stragglers rise from bed. It is good to be back.