First and Last Camping Trip

I guess I did laundry in the nearby stream

I’m resurrecting an old story that was introduced three years ago.

Isaiah 43:1-2 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

But now, thus says the Lord,
    who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name: you are mine.
When you pass through waters, I will be with you;
    through rivers, you shall not be swept away.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
    nor will flames consume you.

Be Prepared

When we planned our first camping trip we purchased a four-man tent, along with all new cooking utensils and sleeping bags. We were excited to drive up to Twin Lakes with our kids. It was summer the of 1978, when Mikos was five years old and Sonja was three. We must have used one of our delivery vans  because I distinctly remember it having one side- sliding door and seating for only the driver and one passenger. Our children traveled safely on a bed of sleeping bags; there were no laws against that at the time. We drove for hours until we reached the campsite. Two forest rangers greeted us at the entrance to the campsite. We paid the camping fee and were handed a flyer with a composite drawing of a rapist in the vicinity. I studied the face of the criminal, then dropped the flyer on the floor of the van. Great fear gripped my heart because of that creepy drawing.

Our brave captain

Camping Snobs

I told Mike that we were not there to make friends and I wanted to be far from any crowds, so Mike did just that. We could see campers from a great  distance; so far this was a perfect plan. Our site was a long distance from the public restrooms, but I was fine with that as well. When night fell it got dark; this type of darkness was black, scary dark, so dark  that you could not see your hand in front of your face. We had our flashlights and got into our sleeping bags for the night. I was scared of the dark and the rapist’s face on the flyer was still fresh in my mind. I tried to sleep but I could not. I felt like there were bugs in my newly permed hair. It was uncomfortably cold – so cold that I had to put on another layer of clothes. After tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep. Then I heard Mike’s voice, “Are you awake, Lynda? Are you awake?” Now I was wide awake. Mike told me that he was going to move the van in front of the entrance of the tent so that if anything happened, I was to grab the kids and lock them in the van. What did Mike know that he wasn’t telling me? I asked Mike why, and he told me to be quiet and try to get some sleep. Well, I was asleep until he decided to add more fear to this living nightmare. Every noise – the wind rustling, and the strange forest sounds – was amplified, making my life a living hell. By morning I was just happy to be among the living. It turned out that Mike overheard some campers talking about a bear sighting. Mike thought that we were going to be attacked. He had a medium-sized knife to fight off the beast. I knew this unfortunate aggression was real, and that the bear would be the victor. I’ve seen the movies, and I wanted to go home!

Mikos, me (the dead perm), and Sonja

I had just had my hair permed and, back in the day, you had to wait three days before washing your hair or the curl would come out. It was day two and I had to wash my hair; because of the imaginary bugs and dust, I could not wait for the third day. When Sonja and I walked to the showers, I had no idea that they  were communal. You had to pay for the water usage: a quarter every five minutes. So in the middle of washing my perm, the water shut off! Could this get any worse? I wrapped Sonja in a towel and sent her out for more quarters. “You tell your dad that he better have at least five quarters!”  As the result of this disobedience to my hairdresser, the perm went flat and I looked like one of the Beatles.

Family Fishing

Our provisions were scarce because Mike decided that we were going to live off the land. So in order for us to eat dinner we had to catch our own fish. We rented an outboard motorboat and traveled for half an hour to what seemed to be the perfect spot; however, I had to go to the bathroom, so poor Mike  had to turn around and dock the boat while I used the facilities. We finally reached a good fishing spot and cast our lines. At first we waited and got nothing, then Mike got a bite. Mike caught a good-sized fish which would have been our dinner, but when he unhooked the fish, it was flopping all over the boat.  The kids started crying. It was too much for these city slicker kids to see the suffering and torment of the poor creature. “Please Daddy, please put it back! Put it back!” they cried. Mike set the fish free, and we had eggs for dinner. Thank God, because the last thing I wanted to see was fish guts.

Kum Ba Ya

I tried to keep the inside of the tent tidy but the dust and insects won, beating me into near insanity. Remember that I requested to be away from the maddening crowd; well, that didn’t work out so well either. Each night, while I prayed for morning to come, we could hear singing and laughing . Now I longed for camping friends, but it was too late in the game for that. I never experienced campfire talk first hand,  scary ghost stories (I was living it), nor the singing of Kum Ba Ya. From a distance we could hear the other campers, and by the scent from their camp fires, they were probably eating s’mores.  We roasted some hot dogs and went to bed. After a while the laughter and singing annoyed me. I wanted to sing and eat s’mores, but we were camping snobs.

Take Me Home

For years I could not understand how people enjoyed camping. The stillness of the night was an unsettling reminder of how vulnerable we were. The ferocious bears, and the eerie sounds of  birds was like being in a haunted forest. The best part of this trip was packing up and staying at a hotel the last night.

Looking back at this vacation I wonder how we could have allowed our kids to ride in the back on sleeping bags. Mike and I were slowly coming out of our Hippie days, so  things like that did not matter.  Nowadays any trips with children are planned to make sure that they are entertained the entire trip. I can not back out of my driveway without the secure sound of the clicking of my grandchildren’s seatbelts. It may be safer now, but even though it was unsafe the old way, it was a lot more adventuresome.

I thank God that nothing happened to us and that we lived to tell about one of the two camping trips we experienced. But I will never forget this trip, and no one in the world could ever convince me that camping is a vacation. The spirit of fear has finally left me, but I’m still not ready for another camping trip.


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