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River tribe

May 23, 2011

When Col began tap-tap-tapping a nail into the seams of our wooden dining room table with a metal water bottle, it seemed lucky that we were leaving that day to go camping.

We met up with our dear friends Kristi and Glenn and their two daughters on the banks of the Dolores River, in an insanely gorgeous and steep canyon splitting flat bean fields and hay pastures like a secret gash.



We’ve known Kristi and Glenn longer than we’ve had e-mail addresses. And even though we’re all posing as responsible adults these days, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was 23 years old, “renting” the hallway of Kristi’s tiny studio apartment, while cute boys came over daily to counsel her on dreadlock-care. Dan and Glenn couldn’t even remember how they met, though “The Hocker House,” was a likely suspect (a rental house of revolving roommates circa mid-nineties, at which Dan and I used to meditate in his backyard carrot patch by day and shack up in his single bed by night). But what is important is this: Dan can hand Glenn a topographical map, point to some craggy, aspen-choked slope and say “meet me on the back side of this mountain at the spring in 2 hours.” And two hours later they’re sharing trail mix and sipping sweet spring water together.

~Kristi is so grown up these days she even has her own business selling the most amazing silver jewelry, which is the only jewelry I wear. Check it out here.~

Every ten minutes or so, under the influence of a western tanager-sighting or the bluest sky floating past orange rock, an adult would muse all dreamily and satisfied, “it’s so amazing here.” Meanwhile, the kids, bless their kid-ness, just lived it – building box elder bug habitats, making river-mud birthday cakes for their stuffed animals, dipping in the frigid snowmelty waters of the Dolores river.

Western tanager

Box elder bug habitat

Dan led the wood-splitting trials for the 6 and under set, coaching them to “put the ax right through the wood.” Col got it completely, snapping board after board down the middle with one whack.


A half day into the trip Col started referring to our camp as home, and a full 24 hours passed before I realized that despite the slim pickings on toys (frisbee, hammer, coffee percolator, bucket, shovel) not a single sibling squabble had erupted in the canyon.

Something about the sky, the river babble, the campfires, the lack of cell phone service, the, er, whiskey, rewired Dan’s neural pathways too. We were tossing the frisbee in the box elder grove when he said, “I just don’t see why we’re offering the kids this awesome alternative education, but we’re still going to work. This could be our new artist’s retreat. We could spend the summer here, writing, painting, conducting nature studies, while the kids go completely wild.”

Box elder frisbee grove

Anyone know a mortgage lending co. that’ll trade for salad greens?

Before we even packed our tents up, we vowed to come back, to camp as much as possible this summer, to meet our tribe by the river, in the aspen grove, under the steep, green mountains while the kids go completely wild.

29 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2011 7:04 am

    That sounds glorious. I love friendships and adventures like that.

  2. Kathy Smith permalink
    May 25, 2011 7:05 am

    You can just imagine how much I enjoyed seeing this! It makes me sad we gave up camping for hotel accomodations on our road trips. Maybe we will see you as we “road-trip” west this fall.

  3. May 25, 2011 8:29 am

    ah, the pics and the story was making my heart ache and yearn in just the very best way and THEN there was the quote from dan. i may have stopped breathing for a few seconds there. indeed…we gift our children with a world the way it “could” be, and as adults we keep playing the game. the hows and whys of that deserve consideration, yet i have been considering it all of my adult life and haven’t figured out how to squiggle away. it’s the mortgages that get you, or in my case, the student loan. thanks for reminding me of the spacious magic of returning to the wild, i can’t wait to hear about your further adventures.

  4. May 25, 2011 8:32 am

    you cannot under any circumstances reveal the location of this secret canyon! ;) we had so much fun with you guys, looking forward to many more trips this summer, m’dear!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 25, 2011 12:27 pm


      (Good thing Col and Rose slept all the way home, and can’t really read signs, so they’ll never leak it)

  5. May 25, 2011 8:36 am

    Um, does that summer retreat offer scholarships? I can do work exchange…

    I love the western tanager photo. I spotted one once in the tree off our balcony in California, and it’s an image burned into my memory. My girls and I were looking through a bird identification book the other day, and they were quite impressed that their mama had seen one.

    As usual, everything sounds just breathtaking and wonderful!

  6. Ami permalink
    May 25, 2011 8:55 am

    HMmm… this completely melts my heart. I do SO adore the fresh, renewed feeling one gets from a good, solid campout. I love Dan’s idea – it makes perfect sense to me! And I’ve noticed that Cole gets less (if any) timeouts when we camp. He’s been VERY modest lately, but last weekend, when we arrived at the women’s herbal symposium, he was naked in 15 minutes! I was relieved and vowed then to get him out as much as possible! Thanks for the excellent reminder!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 25, 2011 9:43 am


      Speaking of modesty, it totally surprised me when Col wanted to change clothes in our tent on this trip. He’s usually the first to strip down…well, actually that would be Rosie.

  7. Melissa permalink
    May 25, 2011 10:42 am

    I’m glad Rosie still accessorizes in the campground–her animal prints did not go unnoticed!

    It’s always good to unplug and go wild.

    Loved this post!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      May 25, 2011 2:54 pm

      She toted her purse around all weekend, which was probably good – it contained bandaids.

  8. ike permalink
    May 25, 2011 10:56 am

    Beautiful post.
    Such lucky kids and parents too. Brings back memories of camping out with you kids (Rachel and Erica) in Mt. Lassen and the California and Oregon coasts.
    You are on the right track!

  9. Molly permalink
    May 25, 2011 11:09 am

    I think I encountered your jewelry making friend at Trimble recently :) The toy thing – My girl packed a bag of toys, mostly instruments, for our weekend in Moab, and brought them out once. Mostly she was busy jumping off of her dad’s belly, stacking rocks, or identifying purple “pinto” flowers (her name). There was hide and seek and Simon Says. I came home and bagged up some toys for giveaway (and some for the trash can). Let me know if you want to swap a few little plastic toys – I sometimes give them to Lucinda if we go to Zia’s or another restaurant, so she won’t love fast food better. This summer I’m veering toward a policy – if we are indoors, there had better be an indoor specific reason for being there. Something like that.

  10. May 25, 2011 12:17 pm

    Being outside for days is the best. Life-affirming, happy, fun, perfect. If you find said mortgage company, please share? xo

    ps I look forward to hearing more about your kids’ education. Love it.

  11. May 25, 2011 12:45 pm

    Dan? Seriously. What the hell? What. Are. We. Doing? Feh.

    I’m gonna start reading “The Good Life” and see how those folks managed to do it all without the damned mortgage. I’ll report back! Also? Colorado sho’ is purdy.

  12. May 25, 2011 1:47 pm

    Meditating in the carrot patch? Is that what the kids are calling it these days?? =>

  13. May 25, 2011 8:35 pm

    Neat. A secret hidden canyon. Darn, we need those here.
    I have taken to “spontaneously” taking the kids to beaches and woods – that way, they don’t campaign to bring toys, and nobody squabbles, and they have way more fun.
    Meditating in the carrot patch sounds suspicious to me, too. Were you sitting on the carrots, like Dan was sitting on the loaf of bread? Your relationship with food is so beautiful, and occasionally puzzling.

  14. May 25, 2011 9:17 pm

    i am with dan on this. lifelong learner over here. i am so signing up for alternative society when you find the lender who will foot the bill (or some free land? anyone?)

    brilliant introduction = nailing of the dinner table. thanks, rachel. : )

  15. May 25, 2011 10:31 pm

    gorgeous pictures! and crazy gorgeous sky in your new banner.

  16. May 26, 2011 1:33 pm

    Oh, that “Frisbee grove”!

    On a run in Prospect Park yesterday, everything was similarly green green green green. The time of year I’m always longing for? Is now.

  17. May 26, 2011 2:06 pm

    wow. flipping beautiful. i am right there with you guys on the dream, too. imagine giving ourselves what we are giving our kids. i think it has got to be possible. keep hope alive, i say!

  18. May 27, 2011 6:30 pm

    We had ten days completely outside earlier this month and it was *glorious*. Love your education scheme and can’t wait to read more about it. The photo of the box elder frisbee grove is making me drool.

  19. May 27, 2011 7:33 pm

    You can probably guess my comment by now but yeah, camping isn’t for this girl but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate stories from your experience. You guys make it look so easy, so wonderful. It just might inspire me to try it someday :)

  20. May 27, 2011 11:01 pm

    When you find that mortgage company, please give me a call. I know! Why do the kids get to have all of the alternative fun?

  21. May 28, 2011 11:03 am

    wow, what a great trip with such interesting people. I love your friend’s art. I’d love to get some of those earings.

  22. Emily permalink
    May 29, 2011 1:00 pm

    Kids Moms Pops go Completely WILD!!
    We wanna come too : )

  23. June 1, 2011 11:28 pm

    Wonderful! We just got back from 5 days camping, and I totally get what you are saying. I’m trying to figure out how to spend as much time this summer as I can hiking and camping, and just getting outside. Now how to make money doing that… still working out that point.

  24. June 16, 2011 11:13 pm

    I love the look on Dan’s face in the first chopping wood pic! :)


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