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Go Back: Family Camping

July 15, 2013

July 9.2013
Arrival was imminent. Lake Chelan State Park, Washington. This year marks the 30th anniversary of our family, the Smiths and the Parker Jervis’ (PJs) family going camping together, and the 29th year at Lake Chelan. Other families and friends have joined but I recall the first year I was seven, we went to three, maybe four, campgrounds until we found Lake Chelan. Chelan was full that year, but I remember thinking this place was perfect: no matter where I traveled to, I would always say here was a perfect place.

I have now been many places, about twenty-five countries, and it is still true. Perhaps because it is about family, about camping, nature, campfires, campfire music, sunshine, and tenting, reading, being outdoors and getting in the glacier-fed lake. It is tradition – always fun, always sunny, and now a legacy 30-years strong.

This is the first time I have made it down to camp at Chelan in about 18 years. I have no excuse. I have wanted to come every year but didn’t prioritize it. I had to come this year. It is one of those places where life makes sense. Just like when I am out hiking, life makes sense. No matter the differences between all of us here – we all love each other, we all love this place, camping and family. It is something awesome, chill, and in nature that we do together. And the night time campfire songs! Ghost Riders, Mule Skinner, The Gambler – my all time favourite has always been Jim Reeves‘ ‘Put your sweet lips, a little closer to the phone. Let’s pretend that we’re together, all alone. We’ll tell the man to turn the jukebox way down low. And tell that man, right there beside you, he’ll have to go.” No matter who did what original that made our old playlists – I will never accept that Nick’s voice on and version of them isn’t the best.

My sister Karen had a bathing suit one year that my mom made – a one piece with black and turquoise stripes on top and all black on the bottom. Well, she tanned through the thin turquoise stripes! Another year, my other sister Laura and I had to peel a whole layer of Karen’s burned back skin off. And one time Karen and I must’ve been playing tag or racing, and just up from the grassy three-tiered main beach area, there is a gravel parking area for the boat trailers and damn it if I didn’t slip on some loose gravel and my left foot slide, bringing me down hard and fast just above my hip onto the jagged pointy hitch of one of the trailers. First thing I remember is Karen holding me back up in her arms. It was always like that with her and I – we fought, but she was always the first one to have my back or take care of me.

We weren’t ‘sent’ to camp, we camped – as a family, as 3-4 families, one big grand Canadian group of high school principal dads and teacher moms, making the trek every year, for five hot and sweaty hours to eastern Washington. We reserve sites in January, right next to the bubbling creek, not too far from the washroom with three-minute token-run showers. In the center of the park, there’s a huge field that now has a children’s playground, a sandy beach volleyball court and a vast grassy expanse to play baseball, run, look at the stars, and an amazingly chilly glacier-fed lake to swim in or float around with a dock that’s just about too far given the cold temperature of the water. Happy hour is 5-7pm, a walk around the grounds for whoever’s willing around 8, fire rotates sites and starts around 9. At some point in the morning, my dad will be up and about and start singing, “Good morning to you, good morning to you!”. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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From → 2013 Summer

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