Our favorite recreational activity is spending time in the great outdoors.
Finally reaching a sweet spot, we are now primed to head out and explore.
My lover of parks and I perfecting what we pack in the car, before traveling north, south, east, or west.
Discovering barely worn trails, both near and far, is always our favored quest, and visiting an Arizona State Parks site makes us feel doubly blessed.
Our recent visits to several Arizona State Parks have been invigorating, liberating, and breathtaking, but …
I have not always experienced the great in the outdoors.
I did not enjoy camping and fishing as a kid. Especially when my dad woke us up hours before the sun to “beat the traffic.” This idea strikes me as hilarious, since the traffic that happened during my youth, was nothing compared to the never ceasing traffic we now see on our congested streets and freeways. But, for the man who loved to fish, who was still the boy from Iowa, the lake was best experienced in the calm quiet of the still morning; a stolen hour or two before other boaters caught up with him. I would rather have continued enjoying the quiet of my warm bed, but as a child my opinions were often overruled. So, frazzled and grumpy, I dragged myself into whatever truck we had at the time. Sometimes I would climb into the cabin of the truck and other times I would climb into the camper. If in the camper, my brother and I would play cards, or board games, while traveling to our lake destination, and with one unexpected bump on the highway, our cards or game pieces were scattered in the air while we were tossed around, like two exploding kernels in a hot kettle.
Other times we did not have the luxury of a cab or camper. We were just two dusty smelly crispy lake kids bouncing around in the back of our truck. I was always trying to hide from the scorching sun, usually under a blanket or anything else I could crawl under and hang onto. My brother didn’t seem to mind the heat as much as I did, but his little leathered nose paid the price for overexposure. During the days before sunblock was an outdoor staple, it seems my brother had a peeling nose that is forever captured in just about every family and elementary school picture.
The tortuous sun is what I most despised about our camping trips. I would hide away in any shady spot I could find on our bass boat, usually under the steering wheel when my parents were fishing. Waiting desperately for any respite of shade, my young grumpy self, turned into I am bored out of my mind self. Along with hiding from the relentless rays, we were discouraged from talking while on the boat. OK, we weren’t allowed to talk – we might scare the fish away. Maybe it was a plausible scenario, that two youngsters quietly talking could chase off fish swimming depths beneath our boat and ruin our chance at a fresh fish dinner. As an adult, I now believe that my dad just wanted quiet. I suppose I understand.
The baking sun and a boring bass boat are the two things that made me want to hide under the covers when our parents began calling us out of bed, but there were happy moments to be had on the way to and at the lake. Most of those happy moments show up as memory highlights from our family outings, versus a my favorite camping story, with a defined beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes just the four of us went to the lake, and other times we joined up with my parents’ friends, or larger groups of people during fishing tournaments.
If I could splice all the happy memories together, I would end up with a camping trip that begins something like this: With our windows down we traveled down Bush Highway that led to one of the many lakes northeast of the valley. Going up and down the curvy stretch felt more like a rollercoaster than a road. We listened to songs like, “Bye-Bye Miss American Pie” and singers like, Willie Nelson on an 8-track cassette, that my dad turned down occasionally so that he could talk on his CB Radio. Sometimes he would even let us click and speak. We said silly things like, 10-4 good buddy to truckers passing by. As we passed the green spikey sentinels standing guard several steps off the road and up the hill, my mom and I would talk about what life might have been like for the Native Americans and early settlers who lived and traversed through the region, before dams were built and lakes were created. Driving and talking until a turn in the road revealed the lake below – the crystal blue water that reflected the sky and called my parents time and time again. We found our campsite, a cove, and began the setting up camp process. My brother and I would stand idly by or entertain ourselves while my parents partnered to back the boat into the lake. One of them in the truck and the other in the boat, working together to set the boat free. With that task completed, we would find the perfect camp spot and begin unpacking necessities for the weekend: a stove, a lantern, a tent, sleeping bags, coolers, chairs, and fishing gear. Once organized our weekend adventures began.
I remember hearing the morning melody of mourning doves and other desert birds, before unzipping my tent, and the calm lake that looked like blue glass, before jets stirred the water. I remember campfires and the stars at night; both seemed more grandiose than they do now. Although still beautiful, as an adult, fires seem smaller and the stars seem fewer.
I remember learning: Learning to put a hook through a squirmy worm, learning to cast and reel, learning to watch for signs that fish might be biting, learning to wait quietly, learning to filet a fish with a knife I never would have been allowed to use at home, learning to read a depth-finder, learning to swim, learning to slalom ski and realizing this sport made the torturous heat and the endless waiting worthwhile, and learning to watch vigilantly when others were skiing, ready to pop up the red flag when a skier went down.
I remember watching my parents cook breakfast on the camping stove. The fresh open air amplified the sound of the simmering coffee, the sizzling sausage, and the bubbling eggs. An aroma carried along by the morning breezes that would rouse the last of the sleepy campers. I remember devouring what my dad called, Poor Man’s Lobster (bite size bass boiled in water and beer, dipped in melted butter). Delicious. I remember trying Coors in a gold can for the first and last time. Disgusting.
Although I cannot recall a favorite camping trip story, there were some standout hilarious moments that did not seem so at the time. Laughter is sometimes a delayed dish, needing time and perspective to simmer.
Funny camping moment #1: We were camping in a cove and my parents were fishing nearby in the boat, while my brother and I were back at the campsite. I ventured off alone to use the restroom (i.e. a large tree I could hide behind). While there, minding my own, I mean, taking care of my business, I was surrounded by about half a dozen grazing cattle, who were chomping their way toward me and staring at this strange little creature crouched by a tree. Being a bit compromised, I could not move, but I could scream. That scream echoed through the canyon and was more of a distress signal than any red flare I could have fired. When my parents found me, they were out of breath from sprinting to my rescue, but they did manage to laugh after they realized the reason behind the scream.
Funny camping moment #2: Once again, my parents were fishing in the nearby cove while my brother and I were back at the campsite. The sun had set, and we were in the camper. I was probably reading a book and my brother was probably building something or taking something apart. At least we were doing those things until noises outside the camper startled us. We jumped onto the raised mattress and terrified, we began to quietly conjecture about what might be making the skin-crawling scratching noises outside of the camper. Frozen, we looked at each other with frightened eyes, imagining what creature of the night was going to bust through the door and drag us off never to be seen again. This scene lasted a lifetime, until our parents made it back to the camper. Huddled in the top of camper, we explained that something was outside, scratching its way in. The “something” was a tree branch resting on the camper, that was moving back and forth in the wind.
I have other funny camping moments and not so funny camping moments, but I will save those for another time.
Did I say I hated camping and fishing as a kid? I suppose being woken up before the sun to beat the traffic and find the perfect cove wasn’t so bad.
Thank you for stopping by and for traveling with me through a few Arizona State Parks and down memory lane. If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow and read my blog. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend and enjoy the great outdoors! Michele
This post is dedicated to all the parents who take their kids camping, fishing, boating, hiking, and exploring in the Great Outdoors. Keep doing it, even if your kids grumble and complain. 😉
Photo of my dad doing what he loved, a few years before he passed.
© 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.