WE often camped in the Laguna Mountains of San Diego County as well as in the deserts, but Larry and I loved Cuyamaca State Park in the local mountains more than any other campground.
We didn't go frequently, probably because the costs were higher. But those costs paid for certain advantages, such as flushing toilets.Laguna boasted only outhouses. As much as we loved any camping trip, the outhouses were practically enough to dampen our enthusiasm. A stuffy little room with a tin-covered toilet seat covering a noisome dark hole, these bathrooms cast a pall over the entire trip.Woe to the child who needed to use the bathroom at night! Mama might accompany me, but more often than not, off I went, by myself, into the dark and frightening woods with a flashlight to guide me toward the smelly enclosure. The walk took only seconds during the day; at night, that same walk across snapping twigs and bushes shaped liked bears lasted hours to my 8 year-old mind.
On one trip, I managed to knock the toilet paper roll down into the outhouse hole, leaving me with nothing to wipe my butt. I was mortified. I sat in the stinking gloom for several minutes debating how to rescue myself. There was no hope. I had to totter back to the trailer stiff-legged and covered with poop, much to the dismay of my mom and my father.
Regardless of these hazards, Laguna held its charms. Larry and I got dirty beyond belief from all the mountain dust, with dust encrusting every inch of exposed skin. Even if we had not been tanned from the beach, which we were, we would have looked brown. When we took off our socks, our white feet accentuated the brown of our legs and ankles.We set up our cots around the campsite and a hammock between trees. We climbed, hiked and explored, collecting rocks and wood. The sharp evergreen scent of the forest and the wind whooshing through the towering pine trees offset, to some degree, the terror of the toilets.
Sometimes Larry got to go shooting with the men while I read on my cot under the slatted sunlight of the trees. The highlight of each day, we walked a mile each way to the General Store where we could choose either an ice cream or a Coke.
Compared to Laguna, a trip to the mountains at Cuyamaca was the height of luxury. Real bathrooms with real toilets matched in pleasure that of a 4-star resort and hotel today. Best of all, Cuyamaca had a swimming hole.
About a mile from where we camped, a little creek flowed over rocks in mini-rapids. The water was cold enough to make our teeth and toes ache, but nothing would keep us from going in. The rocks were as slippery as newly polished linoleum.
Since the water was so shallow, we could slide down the incline of the waterfalls from wading pool to wading pool, a water ride before anyone had ever heard of a commercial water park.My aunt was only a few years older than I was. Linda and I rode the waterfalls so frequently, before the time I went home, I had worn a hole in the seat of my swimsuit. I had to wear it with my skin showing on the final day of our trip.
When it came to a choice between modesty and no swimming, modesty was just a word in the dictionary.
The adults gathered around the main swim hole below the flat area where we played on our water slides. Footing was treacherous in climbing down to the hole as the glass-like rocks felt like polished mirrors underfoot.The swimming hole's water shone a dark, deep, clear green. The water was even colder here because of the depth.
Many of the adults chose not to swim, but in dove Mama in her Indian braids and silver swimming suit. She loved water; I don't believe she ever saw a river, a lake, an ocean, or a swimming hole that she didn't test.She became a hero on the day an unwary hiker blithely stepped onto the rocks and immediately slid straight into the deep water. Stunned by the cold, the hiker began sinking.
All the adults yelled at the swimmer to reach out, resulting in even more people cascading into the water as feet could not find purchase against the slick surface of the rocky edges.Mama jumped in to pull the flailing swimmer to safety while the others struggled to climb out on their own. We laughed later at the greenhorns and their comedy of errors, hoping gleefully that they would not return