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Last weekend, Chuckie and his mom went camping. It was the first time for him, and a long time since, for her. They went up to a park on Moosehead Lake. This was a great place to be – uncrowded and beautifully maintained as Maine parks are.
I’ve been to this magnificent lake three times. Never camped but did take wonderful boat rides, hosted by my boss. One of the trips was the three hour-long ride to Mt. Kineo, where I was able to visit the long deserted, but still beautiful, hotel. I took many pictures of its ghostly splendor and wrote about the images evoked of the visitors who had come from far away places to spend happy vacations.
If you’ve never visited this great Maine lake treasure, you should. Adele found it to be a place of memorable beauty. Its size is awesome and its beauty, breathtaking. One of the campers in the party brought his boat, which was wonderful, because you should be able to see the area from the water.
Fortunately, the drivers were all intelligent and careful, so the inevitable moose sightings could be safely enjoyed.
The trip touched off my many memories of camping when our family of four were still young enough to love family outings and activities – you know, when a teenage get together of any number, could knock a trip to Yosemite into a cocked hat.
When you live in California, especially north of the central part, there’s no excuse for not camping in any one of hundreds of beautiful spots. We decided, when the youngest was four and the oldest eleven, it was time to pack up the VW bus and start pitching our tent in some of them.
Some of the best fun was assembling the gear for the trips. We read an ad (no ebay in those days) in the San Francisco paper, placed by someone selling just what we were seeking. The seller turned out to be a very nice and interesting old man who had spent years camping in the northwest. We knew his equipment would be rugged and extremely waterproof, and it was. The tent was large. It could hold six sleeping bags with ease, and had an alcove-like addition. It weighed a ton, being made of oilcloth canvas. No nylon for this old fellow, nor for my husband either, who had spent a lot of time camping in Alaska, and was the best tent pitcher I had ever known.
We also bought a Coleman camp stove big enough for a four pot meal, and a couple of big, old, but still in good shape, Coleman lanterns.
I had spent three years as a Girl Scout volunteer, teaching camping skills to troop leaders, so the anticipation of basic camping didn’t faze me. To my husband’s delight I was not someone who viewed camping as living an indoor life out of doors. As a matter of fact, I can still teach someone how to do all the camping cooking on an open fire, using a big roll of heavy aluminum foil and one pot for heating water – in case you leave home without your cooking supplies.
Once we had what we needed, we folded up the tent and put it down in the center of the bus, after removing the two seats. On top of it we put the sleeping bags and duffel bags of clothes. This made a comfortable riding/sleeping space for the kids whenever they tired of sitting in the back seat. There was plenty of room in the back for everything else we would need.
The kids were picked up from their beds at 5 AM and put in the bus wearing their PJ’s. We rode for about an hour then stopped, dressed the kids, and had breakfast in a restaurant somewhere along the road. This would be the last, non-camp meal they would have until the return ride.
Getting there was exciting, especially watching their father put up the tent. The setting was always beautiful, whether in Yosemite Valley, or deep in a redwood forest, or in a pine forest right on the sea. I can still remember, lying on the ground on soft pine or redwood needles, looking up at the stars through a canopy of towering redwoods. There isn’t a cathedral in the world that can get you any closer to God.
Maine is also blessed with many wondrous places to pitch your tent. You should take your kids and go. If you’re really lucky, as I’ve been, you can sometimes have the experience right in your own backyard.
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