“Once you do something twice, it’s tradition.”
~ Family Motto
My Uncle Chris took a summer job with the California State Forestry Service when he was in college. He lived in Southern California at the time, but for whatever reason, he was assigned to an area way up North… almost up to Lake Tahoe. The little town was called Markleeville, and Grover Hot Springs had then only very recently become a state park.
He loved it there. He also loved my Aunt Mary Kay, and family lore claims he proposed to her up there. (Many years later, their daughter was proposed to up there by her husband, up near The Creek.)
They began camping there annually. My parents joined them in 1969 (my first year to camp there as well… I was 2.) At times there were two families that camped, other years the group swelled to 5 or 6 families.
Many of our current camping traditions are pages taken from the book of “Well, that’s just how we’ve always done it.” In Part 1 of these camping posts I mentioned places we stop on the drive up to camp. In Part 3, I mentioned The Menu and the importance of Cocktail Hour. These things I just do as I was taught.
Traditions change and morph because they have to. If there isn’t some room for adaptation, your tradition will go the way of the Do-Do.
One of our traditions held dear is a trip to the Hot Springs, yet it is also a tradition that has changed over the years.
When I was younger, everyone went to the Hot Springs for a soak after dinner. I don’t remember my Dad at the Hot Springs. It is only because I have this photo that I know he was even in there. This photo is probably from 1976 or so. I know this because I remember the bathing suits my sister and I are wearing… my Mom sewed an American flag patch on the front, in honor of the bicentennial. (She also cut a hole in the center of our beach towels and made us wear them like lame terry-cloth ponchos… which I’ve bitched about before.)
When I was a tween and a teenager, the Dads didn’t go after dinner anymore, but we kids did. I developed a love for Tom Petty while making the 20 minute walk to the Hot Springs in a group, borrowing my older cousin’s walkman. I cannot hear “Magnolia” (off of the You’re Gonna Get It album) without thinking of the walk back from the Hot Springs. I could see my feet in the glow of my flashlight and the piano in that song provided a perfect pace for me; my feet keeping perfect time with the piano chords.
Fast forward 25 years. We don’t go to the Hot Springs after dinner. It seems that after dinner is taken up with tag in the meadow, s’mores and roasted marshmallows or sitting around playing games. Now the kids all go during the day.
The relaxing feel of night-time has been swapped for breath-taking views.
This should help to give you a sense of scale. Can you see the little brown structure at the bottom of the photo? That is the hot springs and pool facility. The view of the surrounding mountains is to die for.
The hot pool itself is very austere. Not much has changed in 3 decades. The only difference that I can really notice is I now have to pay $5, when it used to be free. As a kid I alternated between the Hot Springs and the cold pool.
This year, as an old lady, I stayed in the Hot springs after my olive oil massage. (Part 4)
Grant, getting ready to go to the Hot Springs, discovered his rash guard was inside-out. Oh, to be 5 years old, with no qualms about standing naked and yelling, “Hey! A little help here….?”
My parents have this photo hanging on the wall in their kitchen. I am the dork on the left who has her hood tied so tightly around her face that it is a wonder her skin isn’t blue. I am guessing that my mom is probably about 34 in this photo, and I think she is beautiful.
She brought this up with her this year, and my mom and I drove the through the campground inspecting all of the sites, looking for the rocks where this picture was taken. We took an almost forensic approach, yet couldn’t find them. The rangers tried to help us, but told us that sometimes they actually move the smaller rocks around.
I loved this time with my mom. She is just flat out fun to be around, and camping trips with her are always interesting.
I remember that when I was a teenage girl, she was a constant source of embarrassment. As a teenage girl, when I went camping, I was really hunting…. for cute teenage boys. (Heck. Any teenage boys… you’re in the mountains and the nearest town has a population of 157…. the pickings are slim.)
One year, my cousin and I actually found a few cute teenage boys and we were hanging out back at our campsite. My cousin and I, and these two cute boys were sitting at the picnic table, when my Mom (who is a nurse) loudly inquires, “Does anyone have diarrhea? Because I have medicine for it.” My cousin’s mom, my Aunt Pat, states (just as loudly) “Oh! I wish!” My mom (now sounding like a paid advertiser) “Oh!? Constipated?! Take this medicine with water and it will loosen things right up…”
You know, those holes that open up in the ground and swallow you up are never around when you need them….
Time with family is tradition.
The kids love when one of the camping days falls on a Sunday. My mom (aka Gramma O) only eats sugar on Sunday. Monday through Saturday, if it has sugar, it does not pass her lips. However, 11:59 p.m. on Saturday night, she is watching the seconds hand count down until midnight. Literally, it is nothing but sugar on Sundays. I have seen her bite off the ends of a red vine and make it a straw to drink her beer out of. She can eat a 3 pound bag of peanut M&Ms in the course of a Sunday.
>Gramma’s appetizer of choice on Sunday? Jelly beans and beer. All of the fun things Gramma does with the kids are even more fun if they’re done on a Sunday.
She is a Scrabble nut. (I’m sure she knows the secret handshake and has Scrabble Fan Club membership jacket.) She is always up for a game with the kids and is especially patient and helpful with the younger ones.
She was like that when I was a kid, and I love watching her do the same things with my children.
I love that my parents gave me this great foundation for tradition. (I meant to grab Handsome Hubby and recreate this pose in The Meadow. We’ll do it next year.)
I love that they’ve passed on the torch of the planning to me, but still come up and participate in everything.
I love that my kids get this quality time with their grandparents, even though they see each other a lot back at home.
I love that we are providing a foundation for this tradition for our kids, and my hope is that they bring their families up here someday.
When I lay in the hammock and count my blessings, this experience, this place and the people around me make me feel very blessed, indeed.
As Uncle Chris used to write on The Menu (along with “If you drink it, bring it” )… “Lord willing, we’ll all be back next year”.
(A very cool camping blog called picturecamping.com saw these posts and featured them. If I have achieved my goal and piqued your interest in camping, go check it out.)