Call us crazy, but this year we decided to combine two of our favorite things, backpacking, and the Lion’s Club Dandelion Days event, into one glorious 22-hour excursion into the wild. So we made our reservation at the National Hotel for Saturday night (thanks, Serbian crab feed silent auction winners and generous people, my parents!).
When the big day arrived, we kissed our kids, packed our backpacks, and set off. The grueling one-mile hike downhill to basecamp was mostly uneventful, save for the treacherous crossing of Highway 49/88 in front of the library. Upon arrival, after the final push up the Hillary, I mean, Lukowicz Steps, we set up camp in one of the front balcony rooms overlooking Main St. And what a spectacular view it was!
Due north, up the trail we entered on, stretched the long line of white tents, flapping like prayer flags in the spring breeze and housing priceless wares and valuable trinkets the traders had brought to exchange with the locals for paper money. To the northeast stretched the pristine Fargo Wilderness, where we’d probably lose at pool later; due west, the Lion’s beer & wine garden sat locked and loaded. Long a favorite destination for thirsty trekkers, the flat, nicely paved terrain of the beer garden has been known to chew up ankles and spit them out, with many a uniformed Sherpa arriving on scene over the years to haul out unfortunate victims.
(Other, more hearty hikers are able to navigate with not one, but two beers and a baby in their arms.) And due south, on the banks of the mighty Jackson Creek, the oft-visited Lion’s Club Pancake Breakfast would supply slabs of ham, griddle cakes and eggs for hungry hikers.
I spent a fair amount of cash on important provisions this year, like tequila-lime pistachios, salt-and-pepper cashews (thanks, Mokelumne Hill Nut Company), a silver and seashell (“Shiva’s eye”) necklace, a spicy Italian sausage sandwich from the Motherlode Market, some beef jerky, and a corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich. (As a side note, I didn’t come here to judge, but the organization that sells the corned beef sandwiches needs to step up their game or I’m afraid I’ll have to double down on the Indian fry bread and nachos next year.)
What we really love to do is to people watch. You just never know what you might see, like a member of the Scottish Recycling Team. Since our kids are way too old to do anything but stroll around looking cool, we passed on all the crap we were compelled to buy them in past years, like the frilly garland head bands, stuffed snakes that start leaking their birdseed stuffing a week later, PVC-pipe marshmallow shooters, and of course, marijuana-leaf decorated knick-knacks. I remember fondly, nine years ago, to be exact, when one of my children, whose name rhymes with “Jackson,” showed up at the end of the day with a cool new necklace. Dangling from the manly-looking rawhide strap around his neck was a small, silver pot leaf. My husband and I looked at each other, then back at our son, who was in the fourth grade.
“So…what is that?”
“It’s a palm tree.”
“No, it’s not.”
“But the guy said so.”
Five minutes later, we had our money back, and “the guy” had an earful.
Now that the kids are older, we hand them a little cash and they venture out on their own and make good choices, like the live bamboo plant one of them brought home, which really was bamboo.
On Sunday morning, we were delighted to wake up to the sounds of a certain Lion’s Club member, over the loudspeaker, directing the early visitors to the pancake breakfast—every fifteen minutes—which after four or five reminders turned into a song about Dandelion Days. Luckily, we’re survivalists, and we came prepared for such shenanigans. After rifling through our first aid kit, we shared our remaining handful of ibuprofen.
While more of the details cannot be disclosed here, suffice to say that another Dandelion Days street fair-and-people-watching-extravaganza has come and gone, and with it, a bunch of brain cells, but not my dignity. Of course, I did see a few other dignities staggering around looking for their people, but alas, mine was not one of them.
Breaking camp, we shouldered our packs and slowly traversed the northern route toward home. As luck would have it, we spotted our kin, in a car. Dandelion Days 2016 was behind us in the rear view mirror and we couldn’t be happier.