Getting back to nature

Bruce is off this week, so we offer his July 19, 2001 epistle:

The ex was right, I had to admit. It was time for me to take a summer vacation with our daughter. Just the kid and me, one on one. My assignment was a simple one: Take her some place where she could see stars, get dirty, hear frogs, avoid reality TV. Take her some place, in other words, where she could collect a big bag of fresh stories.

We pulled out of Reno on a Monday morning with tent trailer in tow, and by late afternoon had moseyed our way across the state via Interstate 80 to Battle Mountain. The day was hot, and the green canyons of 9,680-foot Mt. Lewis, just south of Battle, looked inviting. I gave her the standard pitch of The Basic Basin Head, that out here in the wide-open desert, there’s the potential for each mountain canyon to have its own beauty, to be a special little Eden unto itself, or, at the very least, to be a cool spot to set up camp for the night, grill some burgs and sleep the un-twitchy sleep of The Simple People.

She bought into it. We turned off in search of Mt. Lewis’s Little Eden. We didn’t find it, of course. We did, however, find something equally biblical.

After about 10 miles, we pulled up to a nice spacious spot near an accessible creek, a place dominated by a huge cottonwood tree. The scene seemed promising for an evening of lonely, comfy, classic Nevada camping. We got out of the truck and began walking toward the creek, unsure if, during this sub-par snow year, it was still running. After about four steps, I noticed a large dark shape on the ground, like a cigar butt. I looked closer and instantly recognized a Mormon cricket. I’d never seen one before. Quite a bug. Quite a big-ass bug. About three inches long, dark brown, with an inch-long scimitar-like blade sprouting menacingly out of its rear end. It looked like a weapon, although it’s just your standard egg-laying ovipositor. But still, the overall effect was nasty.

Just ahead on the trail was another cricket. And another. And another. And in that bush over there, about 20 of these monstrous sonsaguns were taking some shade. In the brush next to that one, another dozen. Hmmmmm. At this point, I realized two things: (1) There were a whole lot more of these suckers out here, and (2) we were going to be leaving shortly.

Realization No. 2 was quickly confirmed by the puff of smoke my daughter became as she skedaddled back to the truck. In this instance, she exhibited real excellence in skedaddling. I beamed with pride. I asked her if she was sure she wanted to pass up this rare opportunity to camp out with a plague of locusts. Her laughter did not bounce off the walls of Cricket Canyon.

Which is how we came to spend our first night on the road camping in Room 310 at Stockmen’s in Elko.