On my first night of sharing a tent with Sophie, I had a moment when I thought, “Is this night EVER going to end?” and picked up my cell phone to check the time.

It was 10:11 PM. I had many, many more hours to go.

Apart from that night, the puppies’ first camping trip was pretty much perfection. Well, there was a little rain (less fun in a tent with a dog that wants out every couple hours than in Serenity) and a little more barking than desirable… but mostly it was great weather, fantastic beaches, happily energetic puppies, and excellent company.

We left on Labor Day and drove up to Humbug Mountain State Park in Oregon. We made plenty of stops along the way — at Trees of Mystery, the beach in Crescent City, Fred Meyer in Brookings — and managed to turn a three hour drive into a full day affair, but all of it was fun.

The beach at Humbug Mountain State Park in Oregon. Most of the time, we were totally alone, so the puppies got to be as rambunctious as imaginable, but also practice recalls and responding to their names.

On Tuesday, we mostly went from one beach to the next, heading up the Oregon Coast. The puppies had such a good time, rampaging with one another, getting wet and sandy and exhausted, and practicing all of their developing skills. Empty beaches are wonderful places to work on responding when called. Even Riley got into the action, and not just for the treats. He had a couple moments of really playing with the puppies, running circles around them. It was so good to see three happy dogs having fun together.

Our northernmost point was our destination: Claussen Oysters, a restaurant where we’ve eaten before. I wasn’t particularly excited about going back there, because the only things on the menu that looked gluten-safe were the oysters on the half-shell, which are delicious, but not really sufficient to be a full meal. I warned Suzanne that we were going to have to find me more food somewhere. But the restaurant has plenty of outdoor seating and it felt like a great place to take the dogs for their first restaurant meal.

As it happens, it’s now a great place to take a person with Celiacs, too. Suzanne went inside to order while I stayed outside with the dogs and mere moments later, she came bursting back out the door, saying, “Great news! The chef’s girlfriend has Celiacs! Well, not great news for her, but great news for you!” They use separate frying stations for products with gluten and those without, and so probably 3/4s of the menu was actually safe for me to eat. I ate oyster tacos which came with fried tortilla strips and they were beyond delicious.

Literally, because Suzanne and I made a scale for our food responses during this trip and the highest point on the scale is, in her terms, “OMG,” and in my terms, a hum of happiness that precludes analysis of ingredients. The scale, as best I can remember, went in order: hum of happiness/OMG; delicious; tasty/yummy; good; okay; eh; unappealing; gross; revolting; disgusting. On Wednesday, my breakfast — a backpacking meal of eggs and potatoes to which one adds hot water — fell somewhere between gross and revolting. My oyster tacos, however, were definitely the hum of happiness. Beyond delicious!

The weather went from foggy and cold in the mornings, to sunny and clear blue skies, then back to foggy again (with rain one night), but always stayed in comfortable ranges, never uncomfortably warm or uncomfortably cold. I was sleeping in a tent, so that mattered even more than it used to. I did figure out that I’m going to need to do a better job with my layering if I’m really going to be a tent camper, but even so, I mostly stayed comfortable.

On Wednesday, we went inland and took the dogs swimming at a swimming hole. Bear, the Lab mix, was undecided about swimming, but Sophie actually really took to it. Her ears are currently sometimes up, but sometimes one up, one down, and the sight of her tiny head held above the water, one ear up, one ear down, as she paddled was ridiculously cute. No pictures, though, because I didn’t have my phone on me in the water, but I want to remember the image!

Resting puppies. Bear was out, but Sophie was still watchful, still making sure no strange dogs came near the campsite, no birds dared to trespass, and neither of her people did something interesting without her.

We came back to Arcata on Thursday, and even though camping was great, it was lovely to be home again, sleeping in a real bed, taking hot showers at will, even cooking in my own tiny kitchen. (I don’t think I mentioned this on my blog before, but while I was gone, Suzanne began a regimen of weekly food prep with limited foods. Lots of greens and sweet potatoes! It isn’t something I want to do, and while I know I’m welcome in her kitchen, it’s not really big enough for two people to be cooking at the same time, so I’ve been working on making Serendipity’s kitchen more functional. A griddle, a convection oven/air fryer, and a new fridge later, it’s getting there.)

Apart from camping and settling in, I’m not doing much right now — a thing about which I’ve felt occasional Puritan guilt. Is my sense of self-worth derived from my work ethic? A little bit. But I keep telling myself that my current situation is something like a maternity leave: I’ve got two adorable babies to hang out with and it is absolutely a once-in-a-lifetime experience/opportunity. Sure, I meant to get back to writing and taking the self-publishing business seriously when I got settled, but… well. C’est la vie. Meanwhile, puppies! Cuteness! Training and playing and walks, as well as lots and lots of sweeping dirt out of Serendipity — I can’t believe how much they track in. Anyway, life’s good and I’m appreciating it. I’ll get back to writing regularly eventually!