Monday, June 19, 2006

The Scent of a Campsite

Some of my memories from childhood seem to have a taste or smell associated with them that is entirely unrelated to anything I ate or sniffed at the time. There was a Golden Book I had that I can still "taste," that taste having to do with the texture of the illustrations and the mood it created in me. It would be impossible to define the flavor, but it's there in my mind very clearly.

One such set of memories involves Laurel Lake. This spring my dad showed me some pictures he'd taken there and I seemed to smell something besides trees and campfire smoke and water and sand. Every summer from the time I was about 8 years old I went camping there with my Dad for around two nights. We even had a favorite site that we managed to get most years. When we first started this tradition it was by design a very primitive experience. We slept in a small two-man tent and carefully selected perfect logs to serve as camp chairs. The sites came with a picnic table and fire pit.

As years passed (and perhaps as his body aged) my dad decided that the optimal circumstances for communing with nature were more luxurious. Comfy folding chairs started making appearances as well as pads for the sleeping bags, and toward the end we'd gotten a nice roomy dome tent that I could stand upright in and probably could have slept 4. This tent was particularly nice one year when it rained. Dad and I spent the day playing gin rummy inside, which took on a strangely sunny effect from the light colors of the fabrics. Dad always brought nice quality meats to fry and one year we found blueberries on a hike that we picked and put in our pancakes the next morning.

My dad also took my brother camping--separately though. Mostly I'd go first and help set up camp. But I think there were years that Dan had his turn and then I'd take down camp with my dad. These trips always involved finding fire wood, hiking around, and many walks and talks. We would go to the lake, as I remember, only in the evenings as part of a walk. (Many Saturdays during each summer were spent at the lake, swimming, and sunning, and trying to keep sand out of our tuna sandwiches.) I love walking and talking with my dad and have since I was very little. And I think this was my favorite part about these trips--a lot of time for talking.

One year though, in high school, I was NOT up for camping. I spent a bit of time as a teenager coming up with reasons to be angry at my dad. I can't recall if that was the reason I didn't want to go or if it was truly the camping itself. I didn't have the guts to say no, so I acted grumpy in protest. I also can't remember if I had helped to set up camp that year, but I think I had. We'd only been there a couple of hours when my dad turned to me and asked if I'd rather go shopping. I couldn't believe he was serious--but he was. We packed the car back up and went home. I think we did shop a little at the mall, but mostly we just spent the time together at his house. Even at the time I realized what a considerate and loving gesture this was and felt very thankful. Looking back, it means even more. It seems like the next year we didn't even try camping--we did something more urban for fun instead.

College makes you a little nostalgic sometimes, and coming home my freshman year we did the camping trip again. I knew it was probably going to be my last and I think it was the best because of that. There was nothing exciting or out of the ordinary. Just a lot of talking.

That kind of time with my dad just doesn't happen now. Not really because we don't go camping together anymore, but because we're rarely alone anymore for more than a few minutes here and there. I'd not change that--I want my kids to get to know their grandpa as well as possible--but sometime it would be nice to have a day for walks and talks. Living in the mountains, I've got a perfect setting for that. But maybe my dad would prefer I take him to the mall.

3 fishy comments:

Jenn said...

OK, I hope I'm not annoying you, commenting on everything you post!! It's hard to know whether it's appreciated, or a bother, but I know I love comments on my blog, so anyway...

I really, really enjoyed your post. It's funny - I've always had these mental images of your family (I did actually get to meet your mom & Dan at your wedding, but I don't remember meeting your dad, ever), and it actually made ME feel nostalgic reading about that. It sounds like fun. But I have a hard time picturing YOU pulling the grumpy teenager thing, LOL.

Kelly said...

So I don't get around to reading your blog as often as I would like but I will have to say that knowing you when we were young, I never knew that you went camping with your dad or that you even liked camping. I guess maybe we were just getting to be friends when you went through your grumpy teenage years :)

Even though I don't have memories of my dad when I was young due to the physical distant between us, I am like you and love the time that we have to just talk. We seem to do that more and more as I get older, even if it is only on the phone.

Annette Lyon said...

Man, this really brought me back to Uintah Mtn camping trips I took with my dad. Sniff.

I'm waiting for my parents to come back from their current mission so I can go with him and take my kids. They need that experience.