Pine Lake camping

So Kates and I made a return trip to Pine Lake over the weekend. The place where it all started …

Only now we had a kid in tow.

We’d been looking forward to this trip for weeks. But as it usually happens, plans and circumstances changed. Then, after our usual whirlwind packing frenzy, we loaded the car and finally pulled out a little after 6 p.m. – about six or seven hours later than we’d hoped.

On our way out, we had to make a stop to pay up at the daycare. And then a stop at Arby’s for some supper. Beef n’ cheddar sandwiches, our favorite.

The traffic was bearable. Kates read her latest book. I jammed to the iPod. Phoebe slept. The perfect road trip.

We arrived at the campground shortly after 9 and made a pass around the loop before locating my parents and our camp site for the night. Then, as the rain started to fall, Kates and Mom took Phoebe into the nearby shelter house while Dad and I set up our tent. For doing it in the dark, in rain, with one flashlight – we made quick work of it and kept the tent mostly dry.

Phoebe, Kates and I were moved into our tent in no time … But sleeping would be an entirely different challenge.

First, Pheebs rolled off the little mattress Kates had built for her in a corner of the tent – the same mattress that she’d slept so well on last summer in Minnesota. I suppose 11 months of growth will do that.

So we let her sleep on the mattress between us. But even then she kept squirming and finally landed with her head balled up in my chest and her feet pushing against Kates’ chest. Adorable, sure – but extremely uncomfortable for Kates and I.

Combine that with the fact that, amid the rain and attempts to get Phoebe to sleep, Kates and I didn't bother changing into pajamas and slept in our plain clothes on top of our sleeping bags. Good thing we’d brought a couple blankets along for extra cover … And then there was the sound of the rain pelting our tent.

All told, I believe we got maybe three or four hours of on-and-off sleep. When the morning arrived, I declared it one of the longest nights of my life.

But all storms eventually pass.

Mom cooked some scrumptious pancakes for our breakfast, and by mid-morning the sun arrived to dry us out.

While we took a walk around the grounds, I couldn’t escape thinking of all the memories we’ve built there … Joel and I playing “wiffo ball” at the volleyball court, and climbing the huge, gangly tree next to it as children. Climbing on the “tire forts,” which I reminded Dad should have been torn down years ago. The canoeing. The fishing. The hiking. And the swimming.

And then as we got older and spent several summers working on the camp … All the nights driving the old pickup truck and picking up garbage. Running from site to site, checking the water. Painting picnic tables. Setting up and repairing the beaches. And of course, falling in love with Kates.

And now, here I was pushing our daughter around the grounds in a stroller … Eleven years ago this summer, while Kates and I had been dating only a couple months, her father told an imaginative story that some day Kates and I would return to the place and walk on the beach with our child taking his (or her) first steps. I couldn’t keep from thinking of that story, too, and marveling at how accurate it became …

As the hours passed, we sat around a picnic table, swapping stories of the joys and trials of our current situations. We taught Phoebe about the wonders of blowing bubbles. We played a rousing game of Ladderball – though no one was willing to take my suggestion of playing the game over a campfire and making it a game of “Fireball!” We dozed in our chairs under the sun.

For supper Dad cooked up some of his classic hamburgers, grilled to such a perfection that I'm constantly trying to nail down his formula myself. For dessert, we indulged in a chocolate-coconut cake in honor of Mom's birthday.

Finally, we hiked down the hill for one more look at the lake. With Phoebe on my shoulders, we trotted down the steps of railroad ties and greeted the shore with delight. The surface was smooth as glass and reflecting the trees and clouds.

We walked Phoebe on to the pier, pointed out the snails and the jumping fish. But she was more interested in walking around on the sand.

We spent several minutes around the lakeshore before hiking back to the camp site and packing the car to head home. At 7 o'clock Saturday night we were on our way back.

If only we could have spent a few more days there.

No comments: