Camping in the Southern Sierra: What Day is It?

We just got back from a couple of weeks of camping in Sequoia National Forest. The trip was a transverse of summer and fall – that is the first official day of fall occurred in the middle of our trip. Mother Nature ignored the transverse timing. I ignored it too because time; minutes, hours, days, months and years are man-made tick marks. Since I retired these points in time are irrelevant. I get up with the sun and go to bed at night when I become sleepy. I sleep for as many hours as my body demands, which is now at least 8 hours and sometimes 10 hours. No need for alarm clocks or even a clock.


The Melting Watch
by Salvador Dali

The days are all the same – they are all equal – no day of the week is superior to any other. The idea of a week is now a foreign concept: it isn’t needed. I no longer know, track or care what day it is. Each day begins with the expectation that it will be a great day, productive and rewarding. Plus, I get to define productive and rewarding. Given all of this, there is one compromise: when at home my iPhone reminds me every Wednesday afternoon to take out the trash… otherwise the trash would never get picked up. When camping or backpacking the iPhone is turned off and left in the SUV.

“The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

– Albert Einstein

Some philosophers and physicists spend a lifetime trying to figure out what time is and we have all sorts of theories; four dimensional spacetime continuum, the arrow of time, etc. But Mother Nature doesn’t care. Time has always existed and will never cease to exist. The problem is we cannot truly comprehend the concept. What does matter is what each of us does with the finite amount of time we have to live and the dilemma that we don’t know when our personal time runs out. The best approach, in my opinion, is to bank your inventory of time  and use it wisely. Then there are those who want to steal our time; companies who want their workers to be connected 24/7; social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. who want you to waste your time on their sites; entertainment companies who want you to watch mindless programming; people who want you to be constantly texting them or talking to them on the phone – these are the time thieves – those who want you to waste your time: time that disappears into some bizarre time black hole.

Joyce is no longer working, but she hasn’t gotten to this “point in time” where she realizes her time is hers. She is still attuned to “what time is it” or “what day is it?”

So we began this camping trip in the summertime. Better yet, we started it after the “unofficial” end of summer after the Labor Day weekend and after school had begun its annual “new” year. This “time” of year really means, at least to me, that campgrounds are nearly empty and the weather is still nice. Here we were, nearly alone, camped near a great river. 54 campsites and 51 of them empty.


For years we have had a semi-tradition of Friday night pizza. At home it is usually a frozen pie that Joyce doctors and enhances with additional cheese and pepperoni. Sometimes we go to the local Shakey’s Pizza Parlor – a once famous and plentiful chain of restaurants that “time” has almost forgotten. Often on camping trips Joyce will make Baby Q Pizza from scratch, usually on a Friday night, but it tastes just as good when it is made on a Saturday or any night of the week.

During our first week of this camping trip we had Baby Q Pizza on Friday night. We were not counting or tracking the days – the campground began to fill to about 50% occupancy – ah, it must be Friday night and the weekend campers were arriving to share our Shangri-La. Might as well acknowledge Friday and celebrate with it with pizza.

Two nights later we were back to normal post Labor Day camping with 50 empty campsites.

Processes & Procedures

Back in the days when I needed to know what time it was and what day it was, I worked as a business consultant. My responsibility was to improve the profitability of my clients’ businesses. Along with improved productivity and efficiency to gain profits, a key success factor was (and always will be) customer satisfaction to gain and retain customers. Whenever I reviewed an existing process or procedure, I would ask, “Why do we do it this way; and if your answer is it is convenient for us – that is the wrong answer, because successful companies, if they want to be successful in the long-term, must develop their processes and procedures for the benefit of the customer.”

Like so many USFS campgrounds these days, ours is operated by a contractor. Apparently they operate under the processes that are convenient for them – not their customers – the campers.

We were without a doubt sure when the next Friday arrived because the campground occupancy swelled to almost 100% occupancy. Seems those in charge of operating the campgrounds close many of them on the last day of summer, a “time” this year calculated to be September 21st, even though the day time highs were 85F and lows in the 50’s. Ostensibly the contractor (or maybe the Forest Service) finds it more convenient for them to close several campgrounds and force all those who want to camp in a favorite spot to camp somewhere else. But the campers were all good folks, things remained quiet and peaceful and we celebrated another Friday with Pizza.

Tip for Weekend Campers

We’ve done a lot of weekend camping trips over the years. Often folks will drive 2-4 hours on Friday night to get to the campground. Since most require campers to leave by noon on the day of departure, I’ve noticed a lot of people packing up early Sunday and leaving by 9 or 10 am. If we stay at a pay campground, we just pay for an extra night and leave after 5 pm, often times we’ll leave at 8 pm.


In mid-September it can get cold in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada. It can snow. Cold and snow is not our thing. So we camped in the upper reaches of the Lower Kern River to avoid cold weather and to escape the 100F plus temperatures at home. Juxtaposed to a couple who camped near us who came to camp to get away from cold weather where they live. But weather is a funny thing, especially in the mountains.

When we arrived at our campsite around 3 pm it was 94F. At 5 pm an afternoon storm dumped rain and hail on us. What a change!

For a few minutes it hailed so hard that most of the area under our awning started to accumulate hail on the patio mat.

Corky wanted to be outside, and he waits patiently for the weather to clear.

About 30 minutes later it stopped and was pretty nice for the next two plus weeks… except for one day.


Sometime in the middle of our trip we woke to gray skies and cool weather. I truly can’t tell you what day it was because I don’t know. We decided not to go up into the high country, as we had been doing every day, but to stay around the campground. For me it was an excellent opportunity to invest a few hours cloud- watching.

I am sure that cloud-watching was invented by children. Only children, before our society and sorry educational system stymie their creative imagination, can go outside and spend hours watching clouds and make out shapes… such as floating ships and imaginary figures. If there is a God, then I’d guess he hung clouds up in the sky for children.

Imagination and Creative Use of Time

Don’t know who did this, and it isn’t art. But it sure was enjoyable to view someone’s handiwork and creativity. Probably kids or the rare adult who is a kid at heart.

The High Country

We spent a lot of time up in the higher elevations during the day. Caught some trout up there too.


The only type of fishing I enjoy or partake in is fishing for trout in mountain streams, rivers, and lakes. I will admit that I am a superlative fisherman. Many would argue that point, pointing out that I don’t catch a lot of fish. Of course those folks would assume that I fish to catch fish. That would be a bad premise, thus invalidating the conclusion. I fish to sit beside scenic waters observe the currents and eddies, watch the insects on the water, aspens shimming like Sister Kate, tree shadows playing on the water, and all the other things one can enjoy by investing time fishing.

I don’t have any fancy equipment, just an old spinning reel and rod. I use cheap salmon eggs for bait. I might not catch much, but I have wonderful time fishing. On this trip, the smallest trout we caught was 13 inches, the largest 16.



This batch we are baking before creating trout tacos (gotta remember to bring taco sauce next time)


Something we rarely do… fires cut you off from the night. On this trip we had two campfires, which is really unusual for us. Of course, we always roast marshmallows when we build a fire, it’s the kid in us. And Corky seems to enjoy the fire too.

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