LOOSELEAF LAUREATE: Phoebe, darlin', will you call home already?

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By Terri Likens, Editor

While many of you hunkered down in the air conditioning last weekend, I spent my days and nights comfortably outside.

In fact, I snuggled deeper in my sleeping bag to stay warm on those nights.

It was my annual late-spring camping trip — and it couldn’t have come soon enough.

While I didn’t travel far, it was far enough to shake off my worldly cares for just long enough to make a difference.

A small enclave of us camped creekside with the owners of the property.

We hiked, swam and snorkled in the clear, running water, and we ate well.

Too well, we all agreed later — after we had a chance to step on our scales.

We cooked breakfast and supper on a campstove, generally eating cold food for lunch.

But it was luxury cold food — hummus; wasabi peas; homemade salsa; an Asian sesame-and-ginger tofu concoction that tasted better than chicken; delicious dark Columbian chocolate; and a selection of fine cheeses, fruits and artisan breads.

No pork and beans for this group.

Our forays on trails and dirt roads were strongly nature-oriented, and we each brought our strengths to the table.

Mary Lynn served as our group botanist, listing at least a dozen different ferns over the two-and-a-half days we were out there.

She also was among the strongest birder in the group, teaching me the two common calls for the black-throated green warbler that often sounded around us.

None of us needed help with one bird that sang around us in the earliest dawn moments.

The phoebe asked and answered itself again and again. Ad nauseum.

PHOEBE? Phoebe? PHOEBE? Phoebe!

A few of us muttered in our sleeping bags that we’d sure be happy when phoebe returned to whoever was calling for her.

At night we listened to the familiar “Who cooks for you?” call of the barred owl and the wistful call of the whippoorwill.

One morning, we all smiled to the lovely flute-like sound of the wood thrush — a favorite in our crowd.

Our saddest discovery was the find of six dead young kingfishers who had been dug out of their burrow nest by a dog and apparently been shaken to death. The dog’s tracks were still in the sand, and a fox or coyote would have eaten the nearly grown birds.

For me, my first sighting of a single blue ghost firefly — a rare kind that glows blue-green and never blinks — made a great outdoor experience even more incredible.