Camping Is Good (Part 1)
Camping Is Good (Part 2)
Camping Is Good (Part 3)
Camping Is Good (Part 4)
“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 can always be counted on to bring a craft for the kids….
This year it was painting birdhouses. Last year was stringing bead necklaces.
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.
Our camping is family time, free from distractions and with no schedule.
All ages roast marshmallows.
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.
I love that our tradition is adaptable and that there is always room for old friends to become new campers.
I love that we have a vacation where quality family time is so perfectly meshed with fun activities.
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.)
This whole story – every single installment – is all kinds of happy.
Thank you so much for sharing!
The Rambler says
Oh V..I loved reading this. Very similar to my family. We’ve gotten older and now my cousin and I have kind of started to try to re-start the tradition of just being together. 🙂
Good times. Good times.
That was a wonderful post. I would love to start a family tradition of camping like that.
So I started out all happy go lucky and by the end, I’ve got tears in my eyes!
I love this post, your mom was gorgeous and she still is! I love that she drinks beer out of a licorice straw and she plays scrabble with the kids.
Kolby loves scrabble. They would have a great time together!
This is just an awesome post, I wish I was there. You almost make it like we ARE there with these pictures and stuff.
I told my MIL just last week, “I have a friend who says ‘If you do it twice, it’s a tradition,'” because this was the second year we did the whole “play hearts, Taboo and any other game we could kick the boys butts at and then make a mad dash for something to eat at midnight because we couldn’t stop playing and we are starving now!!”
Tammy Howard says
I have loved these posts so much. I want to say your passion shines through, but that’s not exactly right – passion is hot and these posts are – warm. They are warm and cozy and absolutely delightful. Maybe I want to say your love shines through. Yeah. That’s what I want to say.
Keetha Broyles says
I’m soooooo glad you do this.
I really “get” what you mean when you say it is near and dear to your heart. There are things like this for me too
One is our annual trek to WI, which I’ve just been telling about for the past two weeks.
Another is the Church Camp I grew up attending in WI. It has, sadly, gone the way of the Do-Do, but I cherish my memories in my heart.
And about traditions – – – would you PLEASE tell my children that traditions HAVE to be a bit flexible???? Every time I alter one of ours to KEEP MY SANITY – – – they nearly crucify me.
My kids tell me that their memories of camping are prominent and happy. They go camping now with the children of the people we camped with, and their children. I choose to pass on these particular events. Tell your mom she is a saint in my book.
What fun! I love your stories. Your mom sounds like a hoot! What a great way to get away and bond with your family. It really does sound like so much fun!!!
Helen McGinn says
Stopped by from SITS; what an amazing story! I laughed out loud when I read about the towel with the hole in the middle…that’s the kind of thing my mum did. And the look on your mum’s face when she has thos M&Ms sitting on her hand? Priceless. I know that look…it’s the same look my mum gives. Love your blog. x
...Mrs. Southern Bride... says
What a wonderful post! 🙂
Stopped in from SITS!
Great series. Now I want to go camping but only with you. I love that your parents helped establish this tradition for you and then for you to pass onto your kids. How wonderful and what a bonding experience.
Jessica and Michael says
What a great tradition. How fun! I love your photos. Looks like such a wonderful time with family. We are hoping to start something like that after our son arrives. Stopping by from SITS and hope you have a great day!
Amanda@Imperfectly Beautiful says
What sweet sweet memories…and absolutely priceless! And that mom of yours sounds like my kind of gal. I liked her instantly!
your family is RAD!!!!!!!!
and i love me some scrabble. oh, i would like to play right now!
Connie Weiss says
I love traditions! I love that you were searching for the rocks with your Mom!
Glitter and Bliss says
Looks like so much fun!! I haven’t camped in forever, but you’ve got me thinking that our boys would really have a great time!! Getting out of your element is always a great idea.
Your mom sounds great and if she is the head of the scrabble fan club, I would like to join. I’m glad that camping site featured your posts because they are really good!
That’s so cool that you were featured…I’m going to check it out! Can’t wait to get up in those mountains!
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