Of camping and nostalgia

I spent the weekend camping with my family at Interstate Park, the Wisconsin side, in a brand new Coleman tent that kept us dry despite rampant thunderstorms throughout the area. I was born near there in St. Croix Falls, and Interstate Park features in some of my earliest memories. It’s still a great place to go to meet up with family around the area, and a reasonable distance from where I live now.

And it was hot. And it was wet. And because it was wet, it was dirty. And the mosquitoes were out in full force. I was in a full-fledged snit on Saturday because things were just not as fun as I remembered them being.

However, by Sunday morning, I remembered why I still do, actually, like camping.

My phone died on Saturday and I had no contact with the outside world until Sunday afternoon, because we had no electricity at the camp site. At first, this bothered me, and then I just went with it. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire at my parents’ site, generally caught up on family stories, and listened to each other. Our little girls, ages 2 and 3, had never been camping before. Or slept in a tent before. So they were very, very excited at bedtime. And without electronics, we fell back on the old standby: telling a story. Everybody added to it until our youngest was snoring and her big sister sighed and curled up with her favorite pink plush pillow to sleep.

Thunderstorms raged in the middle of the night, and the rain pattered loudly on the fly over our tent, but we were dry. At 4 a.m., our preschooler woke up with the universal cry of “Gotta pee!” The family as a whole took a trip to the pit toilets (which were clean and dry, honestly; very well kept for pit toilets) across the street from our site in the dark, giggling with flashlights and lots of “Shh!” noises. It took no time at all to get back into our tent, under covers, cuddled up, and back to sleep.

The peace of birdsong on Sunday morning, cuddled up with my kids and my husband, made me smile. The world safely lay beyond the walls of our tent. Not five minutes after we all opened our eyes, we heard my father say quietly, walking his dog to our campsite: “Hello, Amy! Good morning!”

We chorused back, “Good morning, Grandpa!”

He said the magic words: “Bacon’s ready.”

With more giggles, the girls and I left my husband to sleep a little bit more, grabbed our bag of clothes and ran across to my parents’ camper in our pajamas to eat blueberry pancakes and bacon. Because it was still wet outside, and the mosquitoes were snacking on all of us, we ate in the camper. Matt joined us shortly after we arrived, and we feasted.

I remembered, then, many, many mornings like this growing up. The smell of wood smoke and frying bacon still in the air, the giggles and cheerfulness of a family that genuinely enjoys each of its members, the sheer love that fills that space.

My general irritation with the bugs, the dirt, the allergies, and the work of setting up and taking down a camp site faded when my three-year-old said, earnestly, “I go camp again. I like to sleep in the tent!”

Yeah, we’ll probably do this again. And again. Despite the dirt.

We wrapped up our trip with a lunch at one of my favorite childhood spots: The Drive-In in Taylors Falls. They make their own root beer, and a car hop will come right to your car, take your order, and bring it right back to you. I remember going there for root beer floats when I was very small, and later, as a teen, going back when I had my drivers’ license just for the experience of it.

The food–classic burgers and fries for Matt and I, chicken strips and fries for the girls–was fresh and homey and delicious, and the service was great for a Sunday lunch crowd. It nicely finished our trip before we headed back home.

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