S'more Summer Fun
story: Cindy Martinusen Coloma
CAMPING GETS FAMILIES AWAY AND TOGETHER
My feet get warm before the crackling fire, and I take my first sip of hot percolated coffee. The paper plate in my lap holds fluffy pancakes swimming in syrup. I wear my coat on these crisp mornings, and I smile thinking of how it’ll be 100-plus degrees at home today.
After taking a bite, I say, “Now, that’s a pancake.” I have never eaten a better pancake than the ones I’ve had when camping.
“Coffee ready? Hot cocoa? Did Grandma make pancakes?” family members ask as they stumble out of tents with disheveled hair and grimy shoes.
“I slept terribly,” someone says with a laugh, and my back reminds me of the rock beneath my tent. I’ll need to dig that out before we sleep tonight.
In some ways, camping makes little sense. We basically pack up everything we already have inside our homes: cooking supplies, food, lanterns, beds, clothes – the list is long and something is inevitably forgotten. We return tired and dirty, fighting over the first shower.
So why is camping a defining family experience? What’s the point of it all?
For one, camping can become tradition, and tradition births memories.
In August, I usually drive west on Highway 36 to find my friends on their annual camping trip in the Trinity Wilderness. “Annual” is an understatement. The La Com family started camping here in the 1960s when my friend, Michelle, was 3 years old. They camp every year, in the same campground, for two weeks, with the same people. With old family friends who occupy other campsites, the group has mixers, bonfires, swim days and decades of memories between them. My own childhood memories are rich with camping experiences all over Northern California and across the West. Sometimes we traveled in our old cab-over camper wherein my sister and I watched America slide beneath our tires from the window of the upper bunk. Other times, we packed in with horses to mountain lakes in areas named Caribou, Lassen, Shasta-Trinity and the Warner Mountain Range. At night, we’d wrap heated rocks in towels to place in our sleeping bags, our effort to stave off the cold mountain nights.
My three kids have grown up with similar memories. Our trips often include extended family and friends. We have a talent show night, campfire games, hikes and early-morning fishing trips. We like exploring new spots and revisiting old favorites.
Memories and traditions may be found in other ways, but with camping we have an escape; the outside world is far removed for a while. Something primitive stirs within us, awakening our sense of adventure.
Now adventures undoubtedly include obstacles and mishaps. We’ve had plenty: the horses got loose, the fish weren’t biting but the mosquitoes were ravenous, the homemade ice cream tasted like rock salt, the Jiffy Pop burned, rain kept us huddled inside, a rattlesnake slithered into camp, and my nephew cooked a prize fish meant for the taxidermist. Once my mom ran screaming when a bear crossed the creek she was fishing (and the bear ran the other way), and another time a bat dive-bombed my parents as they slept. The imperfections only add to the adventure, laughter and the memories.
For now, the day is done and the campfire settles down into glowing coals. My husband zips the tent closed, and we stare up through the screen opening to the brilliant night sky, much brighter than at home. The scent of campfire, tent and pine surround us.
I wake too early with my face cold and that rock in my back. I want to stay awake to savor the peace and anticipation of that moment when night turns toward morning. Soon it’ll be hot coffee and Mom’s pancakes, and a day packed with activities. But sleep and the warmth inside our sleeping bag draw me back.
I love this. We’re together. We’re camping. And it’s perfect.