Happy Campers

By Laurie Davis

Growing up in the 1960s, when my dad got off work on Saturday mornings, he would often take us camping. My mom would get the food ready, and the sleeping bags, pillows, and clothes packed, for a weekend at Detour State Park.

As soon as my dad showered and changed, the car was loaded up and off we would go. My sister and I loved camping. It was so much fun, especially when surrounded by sand and water. It always seemed like such a long drive to Detour and that we would never get there. I think there were many times though when my mom wished the drive was just a little longer. She never complained about going camping but somehow we knew
that it wasn’t exactly her thing.

There were many reasons for that I guess. The bathroom facilities for one thing. I won’t elaborate but those of you who have camped in primitive settings know what I am talking about. Then there were the bugs and mosquitoes constantly being swatted away, and let’s not forget the creepy crawly things that would find their way into our tent. But the biggest thing of all that I believe my mom disliked most was the dark. When it was time for bed we would pile into the tent. My sister and I would be giggling about
something while my dad would tell us to be quiet and go to sleep.

I’m not too sure that my mom ever slept when we camped. Depending on the spot we were camping in and the size of the moon, it often cast shadows on the tent walls. We would see big monsters moving back and forth ready to grab us at any given moment. In reality, it was the wind blowing the tree branches but our imagination worked overtime when we camped, and we often saw big scary things.

I know mom saw those shadows too, but the thing that bothered her the most was the sound of nearby animals. We often heard the crunch of dried leaves being walked on near our tent. I could hear the fear in her voice when she loudly whispered to my dad “what was that?” He would always tell her that it wasn’t anything to worry about – that whatever it was, it was probably more scared of us than we were of it. I’m not sure my mom believed him though.

It never took long for my dad to fall asleep. We always knew he was sleeping because he snored. My sister and I would quietly giggle because his snoring seemed to echo in the tent. We eventually settled down and fell asleep too, until one of us had to use the facilities. Now that was always an adventure in the middle of the night. My sister and I were too young to walk there ourselves, plus it was scary dark, so Dad would take us.

No way was my mom going to stay in the tent by herself and she followed too. Dad held the flashlight and led the way with the rest of us bringing up the rear. Frequently I saw mom look over her shoulder to make sure there weren’t any creatures following us. My mom had my dad check everything out with a flashlight before we entered. She didn’t want to see anything slithering or crawling.

My sister and I would wake to voices talking low and the smell of bacon frying and coffee brewing. We’d unzip the tent and warm ourselves by the campfire. Mom would be frying the bacon and eggs while Dad toasted the toast in a long-handled basket. I think they were some of the best breakfasts we ever had, and the smells were heavenly.

After breakfast, my sister and mom would head for the sand and water. Usually, I went with my dad into the woods on nature walks. I loved spending time with him. It wasn’t that we talked much but I think I just enjoyed the time we shared together. I don’t know what my dad was thinking about as we walked in the woods but I was having the greatest adventure with my imagination fully charged. Around every twist in the path, there was always something to see and whether it was real or imagined I had the best time discovering it.

When it was time to pack up and head home I felt a tinge of sadness. I loved the woods, the sand, and water. I loved the smell of campfires and the sound of birds chattering to each other and animals scurrying about foraging for food. I loved the feeling of togetherness in nature and the smell of pine and cedar trees. Somehow things were different out there.

To this day, I often think about those wonderful memories of talks around the campfire and the silly songs that we sang. There were moments of awe in discovering the different plants and animal tracks in the woods, and the sound of the water as it lapped against the shore. But I think what I remember most was the laughter we shared. There was a freedom of being together in a primitive setting that brought out not only our flaws and weaknesses but our strengths and the ability to be silly and laugh with each other. It was a time for bonding and enjoying all that God created in nature. Now that is something to remember and enjoy.

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