Today would be our second Thanksgiving, but this time it would be with our friends at the club property.
Here’s the backstory: The hunting and fishing club we belong to owns property in a remote location in the hills north of Los Angeles. Over the years, the club slowly improved the property with utilities, bathrooms, fire pits, etc. It is a perfect venue to camp and it is one of our favorite getaway spots. A few club members would be there over the Thanksgiving weekend and they invited us along. From Santa Paula, the drive is about two hours along winding mountain roads.
We got an early start and after a quick McDonalds breakfast, we headed into the mountains. The day was clear, windy and cold. Watching the car thermometer, the temperature dropped below freezing a few times. By the time we got to the property, it was overcast, windy and cold. In fact, it never got warmer than 40 degrees the entire day.
Some of our close friends from the club were there, including Dennis, Mike, Carl, Bill and Merle. Some brought the family with them and planned a Thanksgiving dinner. We arrived around 9:00 AM and found a turkey was already smoking in one of the barbeques.
After many months on the road, it is hard to describe how nice it was to see our friends again. Although we kept in touch via e-mail and phone, it just isn’t the same as sitting around the campfire telling lies.
When the weather marginally warmed, Mike and I hunted quail for about two hours. There is no other experience like it. For readers not familiar with the process, here’s the deal: Quail are birds that are native to California and live in all but the most extreme environments. They live in groups and spend most of their time on the ground looking for food. A unique characteristic is that they are fast runners, taking to flight only to escape danger. Their coloring make them extremely hard to see. It is best to hunt quail with a group of hunters lined up and moving forward through a field. Typically, when you least expect it, a group (covey) of quail erupts and takes off at full speed. You have less than two seconds to mount the gun and take a shot. Most of the time, the birds win.
The club property is hilly and covered with thick brush. To hunt quail, you are humping hills, crashing through brush, jumping over logs and stumbling into ruts. All the while, you need to know the exact location of your hunting partner, lest you spray him with birdshot. There is nothing easy about this. At the end of the day, it isn’t how many birds you get, it’s how much you enjoyed the outdoor experience. Each quail outing, I renew my appreciation for the food that reaches our table. For today’s experience, we expended two hours and 700 calories each for one bird. But we had a great time.
That afternoon, Dennis and Carl deep fried a turkey. Strange process. Heat a vat of oil, slowly lower in a turkey and watch it boil in oil for 20 minutes. Needless to say, there are a thousand things that can go wrong, including the whole thing erupting in flames 30 feet high. Thankfully, nothing that eventful happened and the turkey turned out great.
Around 3:00 PM we sat down for dinner. It was cold and the wind was gusting. You had about five minutes before the steaming hot food turned ice cold. Now we know how the pilgrims felt that first Thanksgiving. Think of it as a vacation in Norway.
After dinner we stoked up the fire and visited. Spending the holiday with good friends was very much appreciated and we truly had a good time. With a long drive ahead of us, we left around 7:00 PM. This is where things get interesting.
We had a choice of two return routes. Route #1 follows a remote road to the interstate. Route #2 follows a remote road all the way home. Due to the cold and wind, we decided to take Route #1. As it turned out, after a 25 mile drive through wilderness, Route #1 was blocked by downed power lines. The only option was turning around and taking Route #2. While fueling the car, we met a young couple who had no idea where they were or how to get home. We told them to follow us and gave them a walkie-talkie. For the next three hours, they followed us through some of the most remote areas in Southern California, at night and in the cold. For sure, they had absolutely no idea who we were or where we were leading them. From time to time we would use the walkie-talkie to see if they were o.k. And, they were traveling with a baby in the back seat. After what seemed like one of the longest rides we ever took, we pulled into Santa Paula. We collected the walkie-talkie, pointed them in the right direction and sent them on their way. They were only about 30 minutes from home and the roads were now familiar. I’m sure they made it o.k.
For us, it was only a few minutes to the security of the coach. Snuggled into a warm bed, we quickly fell asleep. It was another great day of the Excellent Adventure.