Ron’s the camper in our family. In Alaska, he went on expeditions in below zero weather. Last Spring, he took Michael and Kelly Berg to the Big Bend. This is particularly sweet because we used to camp with the Berg family when the kids were little. And Dave, Kelly’s dad, went on that winter camping expedition with Ron. Dave’s ashes were spread at Big Bend fairly recently, and Ron and Michael took Kelly back there to visit.
Camping always seemed to strengthen bonds – within our family as well as with our friends.
Because we moved so often with the military, our family campouts were scattered all over the country. We camped on the beach outside Santa Barbara with literally hundreds of homeschoolers. We’ve watched black bears poke around for food in neighboring campsites at Denali State Park. We’ve camped on the Blue Ridge Parkway, on the banks of the Eagle River, on Homer Spit, Bodega Bay, and Yellowstone – to name a few! Our kids grew up making s’mores, playing in the campfire smoke, and finding constellations in the nighttime sky. It’s a fairly inexpensive way to spend a lot of time together with your family.
As the kids have grown, family camping trips have dwindled in numbers. Occasionally, Ron would take Michael or Alyssa off on a weekend, one at a time. Schedules are just tougher when kids go off to school or work. It’s not unusual for Ron to go off on a solo camping trip these days. He packs his motorcycle with the bare necessities – that’s all he needs – and he’s off to the Great Outdoors.
|Katie Alyssa Michael – 1999|
But this trip was different. Texas record heat was finally behind us. Ron, Alyssa, Josh (Alyssa’s boyfriend) and I were all talking about camping. The weather was cooler and the leaves were falling. Definitely our kind of camping weather. So I gave Ron my schedule for weekends in November, and he to a reservation at Mother Neff State Park, just north of Temple, Texas. Katie and Michael are off in New York and Nicaragua, so they obviously weren’t going to be joining us. After the date was set, Alyssa reminded us that she had a special class to take that Sunday. She’d have to bail and join us next time.
Just Ron and me, no kids at all. The last time we camped without kids was probably 1986 – nearly 25 years ago! But after all this time, I’m used to changes in plans. But, for me, this felt really different.
|Campsite Antics of Yesteryear!|
Ron left Friday night to get a good campsite. The tens were really cold, I wimped out and decided to join him the next morning. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. The smell of the campfires, rustling of the leaves, the creaking of the trees rubbing against each other in the wind – fabulous! We couldn’t help but notice that all the campsites around us were full of families with children. Babies cried, dogs barked, kids skateboarded and played catch all around us.
Ron’s been camping a lot without it being a whole family experience. I have not. So we reminisced about past campouts and our children’s crazy antics over the years. We were relieved we didn’t have to calm any babies, watch over the pyro tendencies of our children, or make sure someone wasn’t falling into the river. We took pictures of nature itself – instead of pictures with kids as the focal point and nature as just a prop. I texted the kids to say goodnight and sent them this picture of our campfire. It was peaceful and relaxing… yet definitely a melancholy moment for me. The sun set and I sat by the crackling campfire writing while Ron hit the hay.