Gary Smalley’s series, on relationships, put a whole new meaning in the word “camping” for me. He asserted that every family needs to go camping because within the framework of the inevitable mishaps the seeds are planted for building strong families.
Okay…maybe in Dr. Smalley’s family…
The first six years of my life, my dad was scaling the corporate ladder in leaps and bounds. Then he decided to give up financial security, earn his masters degree and teach. I was just six, what did I know!
Upon completion of his degree we moved into the frugal lifestyle of a college professor. That meant during the summer, dad didn’t work.
The first year he filled his time with assorted odd jobs. I don’t think any one person could have been so mix-matched for such a diversity of jobs in the space of 3 months, but dad did it…he was fired from all of them!
The next summer, my parents decided to camp! I remember the pivotal shopping trip. We drove 50 miles to the nearest Montgomery-Ward. We purchased a huge tent – it could sleep 12 and all the assorted camping gear. Dad left the store: Me; Great White Camper, have stuff! Mom just looked really nervous.
My brother and me…we got our first meal under the literal Golden Arches at McDonalds! So far, camping was looking pretty good.
The first few adventures dad mapped out were in local state parks within a few hours of home. Since they were weekend adventures, Dad insisted all the parks be near civilization as we could learn the ropes. This was fine until my mom got severely sunburned. I never knew water blisters could get so big! So far, camping was…well…interesting?
Then came the real camping trip! My dad and his brother, a forest ranger, planned the mother of all camping trips! Our families were going to “rough it” in a privative area for one week.
This was the 1960’s. The Interior Department had not been “politically corrected” and the young Mark Burnett hadn’t envisioned “Survivor.” Primitive, meant primeval. My dad and uncle were taking us into regions no one on earth, not even most forest creatures knew about. I think I can relate to how the first settlers felt stepping foot on the shores of America, but I know they were better prepared.
We bounced along a dirt path until it ended, then carried a week’s worth of water, food, camping paraphernalia and high hopes another 5 miles into the woods until we arrived at a clearing along a beautifully secluded riverbed. G.P.S. tracking couldn’t have located this spot.
The first 2 days were absolute perfection! We swam swatted mosquitoes, cooked over a campfire, scrubbed campfire soot with beach sand, laughed and told ghost stories.
Then it began to rain. Not an occasional cloudburst or intermittent drizzles, no this was nonstop, flashflood, river-rising tropical depression of “Noah” proportions. Not just for a day, but for the next four.
To say the men folk in our family were determined to defy the elements was a gross understatement. To say our moms were ready to use the machetes to initiate widowhood was a mild observation.
Do you know that if a small child runs their fingertips along the roof of a canvas tent during a rainstorm, it creates a leak? Do you know what it is like when 5 hungry and cranky kids discover this?
By day 2, everything soaked. Ever tried eating soggy bread? Living off the land wasn’t an option…we couldn’t see the land!
But when the river reached flood stage and the tent floor began rising beneath our feet, the men had an epiphany! It was time to pack up and go home.
Ever disassemble a tent in a downpour? It must have been very traumatic…my memories aren’t clear. My dad has infinite patience with small children and animals, but devices, gadgets and teenagers, well; thankfully the thunder was really loud!
Trudging the 5 miles back, in blinding rain carrying waterlogged equipment was miserable. I never imagined a turquoise Dodge Dart station wagon could possess heavenly qualities, but it did that day!
…and of course, the rain stopped the second my dad unlocked the door!
…and Dr. Smalley’s assessment of building relationships through trials…hum…I’ll get back to you on that! Our family never went camping together again…and to this day no one ever talks about it!
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