By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sleeping in a bag at Bucks
The morning bite on the lake was weak, even for these guys. - photo by Photo by JEFF LUND
It occurred to me just before I fell asleep that the sugar pine that stabbed at the speckled night above me would, if hollowed out, make a perfect mailing tube for shipping submarines.

With two choices of double beds but seven other people upstairs in my cousins cabin at Bucks Lake, I chose to sleep on the deck for precisely this reason — inconsequential, yet cathartic pondering. The tree cut a huge black swath out of my constellation viewing, but I can only recognize the constellation that appears on the Alaskan flag so I wasn’t missing out on much.

More so than the stars themselves is sometimes the reminder of how big things are here, as well as way out there.

I wondered, then dreamed.

I don’t remember the topic, but I vividly recall the bear that was huffing just down the steps from where my vulnerable body was stretched. I sat up, which was the worst thing I could do, because it startled the bear. I listened quietly, as the cold tried to work itself into my sleeping bag.

It wasn’t a bear. It was my cousin Dean. He was upstairs snoring in a language consistent only with what I have seen on National Geographic.

I laid back down, and tried to think about the tree, stars and all that.

The cold was frustrated. It couldn’t get in to me. The best it could do was make my face chilly, but not even my nose would run. It pouted and tried to convince me I was hot enough that opening my sleeping back would be okay.

I ignored its pleas and fell back asleep.

Nothing awoke me next, unless the orange sun tapped my subconscious and told it to check out the bucolic yellow and red stretch that begins each day from behind the eastern hills. It would have made a great picture if I felt like ruining the whole thing by putting it onto a memory card as an image.

I decided to be respectful and watch it myself. It’s not like you can explain a moment like this anyway. I slept exceptionally well on an exposed wooden deck, didn’t get eaten by bears or torpedoed by the cones from 50 fathoms up.

Any of these things could have destroyed me, but I was granted not just another morning, but one of possibility and epic beauty, something I miss when I toast wheat bread on regular mornings at my place in Manteca.

The squirrels and chipmunks don’t care about the orange sun thing and steam rising from the stiff lake, they just want me to drop pancake crumbs at breakfast.

I do care about the lake, because in it are fish.

So halfway to noon, Tony and I take the skiff out. I put a nest into my reel on the third cast and shivered while asking myself why I thought trying out my new casting reel without a backup was a good idea.

The cold finally got me and I didn’t get any fish.

But I still loved it.

Outside of losing my keys floating the Thorne River, I had nearly two months of unscathed fishing bliss, so I was due for a rough one.

By 9 a.m. I am able to shake the chill and sit for breakfast on a picnic table at the end of the deck. Between bites I look at the blue of the lake that fills the gaps between the trees. I’ve already forgotten about the fish.

Breakfast is good, warm and plentiful.

I tell Kathy, Dean’s wife, to watch out for my bed as she scoots a chair to where I spent the night.

She laughs, so I move right in to the bear story.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail