Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Lurks in the Woods

I like to camp. I feel capable, simple and strong in the woods. I take pleasure in fashioning retractable bear-proof garbage systems in trees and using my Swiss army knife to solve problems. Being without modern amenities and setting up a tent takes me back to cherished days on the Pocantico Hills Camp bike trip when dirty was a state of mind and sweaty was a sign of triumph.

My father did not like to fly and so each summer we drove the 24 hours from New York to Florida in the most efficiently packed vehicle on the road. Prior to departure, my father would evaluate our luggage and the available cargo space of our Ford Bronco, then mastermind the most geometrically superior packing plan ever created. He would create a comfortable space in the back of the Bronco for my brother and sister and me to lay down with our pillows, blankets and books. Our vehicle was miraculously transformed into an RV every year and we were never short of amazed. As a result, I am convinced that in the area of packing a truck for a trip, I am genetically gifted. Sadly, my husband feels the same way about his own skills and so at the inception of each trip I bite my tongue and watch him pack the bed of our pickup. Admittedly he does an excellent job packing the bed, but then seems to forget a number of things including all that our children have packed and by the time the superfluous items are loaded into the back seat all that is discernable is a pile of possessions with four little blue eyeballs peering out from within it. Off we go!

We camp in the Adirondacks. Our entire road trip from front door to campsite is breathtaking and that truth is never lost on any of us. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were forced to try a new campground on our latest outing. We arrived at the main office to find an old gas hearth outside with a filthy couch in front of it, I suppose in case one fancied sitting in a roadside parking lot on an infected couch gazing at a sham of a fireplace. In addition, there were two dozen motorcycles and bikers in the lot. As we assessed the situation we assured ourselves that the biker group must have only stopped to gather supplies at the campground’s convenience store. Minutes later they left and we were relieved. As my husband got out of the truck to check in, he offered us a comforting farewell, “If I am not out in 15 minutes, send someone for me”. The girls and I locked the door behind him.

As we headed to site 19 we were unnerved to find that the sites were extremely close to one another with no privacy. For those that do not camp this means, among other things, that you will either get up and walk all the way to the actual bathroom in the middle of the night, or you will hold it until morning. As a camping family we all get into the act and have a comfortable campsite with dining tent, sleeping tent, cooking station, campfire ring and hammock erected within 30 minutes. This was an impressive home for the next two nights, indeed. Moments into our camping adventure we realized that our fellow site mates did not speak English. All of Canada had come to enjoy the Adirondacks this weekend as well it seemed; and, as English speaking Americans we felt like foreigners in our own land.

To our dismay our site mates were young, loud and drunk making our home away from home so unappealing that I gave pause to consider sleeping in the parking lot, on the contaminated couch, in front of the broken fireplace. As I attempted to settle into my sleeping bag, I was struck by distant thunder. A loud roar built in the distance and rumbled toward us like an earthquake. As I considered the possibilities of what act of God would sweep us from our beds, the ground shook and the procession of Harley Davidsons made its way into our campground highlight after headlight. Later, I was pleased to learn that while their late night entrance was unsavory, the bikers were far more courteous than our foreign friends. Despite my family’s cornucopia of sleep aids, from iPods to ear plugs, I stayed awake all night protecting my young from the potential hazards of insolent heathens.

The Adirondack weather graciously provided us with sunny days and cool nights. All in all, we had a delightful weekend full of horse show jumping, kayak racing, swimming and hiking. Cooking together made us feel capable as a foursome and while our Killer Bunnies game turned ugly at times due to our collective competitive nature, the weekend was a success. There was even a bit of culture as we learned that everyone is different, manners matter, and most of all it is hilarious to yell “Fermez la bouche! “ as a family at 3:00am.

1 comment:

Sheila Siler said...

Delightful. Thanks for sharing so well.