I can still see it when I close my eyes. Aunt Joan setting up the picnic table with that classic red checkered oilcloth, Dad stoking the fire just so, Mom relaxing on the aluminum folding chairs. In fact, I can more than see it. I can smell the campfire, I can hear the screams of children from the neighboring campsite, I can feel the slimy bowl of newts we have collected from the stream.
This is one of those cherished memories I will remember for a lifetime. When we were children my parents took us camping often. It was a meaningful part of my childhood. I remember my first real taste of freedom was in a campground. I was allowed to walk to the bath house by myself. Oh my goodness. Not only am I trusted to go somewhere by myself, but in the woods. What if I got lost? What if a bear ate me? Of course in hindsight the bath house was only about 20 yards away and I am sure they could still see me through the trees, but that feeling of independence has lasted me my whole life.
My soul cries for the woods. She brings me a peace that I can only experience when nestled amongst her life bringing trees. She is my escape from this crazy plugged in world of Facebook and Blog posts. There has been a lot of big changes in my life lately and I have been yearning for the sweet smell of the woods.
It’s time for my children to experience a good old fashioned camping trip. On a whim we packed our bags and headed to the mountains. I have not been to Locust Lake in almost 25 years, but it is almost exactly how I remember it. Locust Lake is a state park so there is no camp store, pool, or planned activities to distract us. There are designated campsites, a bike path, a beach area on the lake, trails through the woods and many boat docks. We are left to our own devices. Of course the first things the kids want to do is explore. While Rory and I set up the tent the kids check out their new surroundings. Mini Me found some really cool fungus (I think) that looks like a bouquet of roses, and Miss E started turning over rocks looking for bugs.
We collected fallen sticks to start our campfire and got down to the business of teaching the kids how to start a good hot fire. There is something to be said about cooking over an open fire. Maybe it is the sweet taste of success in building the fire, or the smoky infusion of the burning wood either way there is nothing better. After dinner we explore some more. We walk the bike path until we find a trail leading off into the woods. We walk this path until it gets dark. There is no agenda, nothing that needs to be done. Just a slow walk through the woods. The kids need to stop every couple of feet to look at something. We scream at a moss covered rock that looks like a dragon, we cry when we trip over a log, we marvel at how an uprooted tree looks like a fairy house, we see the beauty of nature with renewed respect. I am so thankful that we have these moments to share with our children. I hope they will look back from their adult lives and share these stories with their children like I have shared my story with them.
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