Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Reflections’ Category

Amazing World, Emerging Beauty, and Enchanted Hike

What an amazing world we live in! Yesterday I had an opportunity to photograph a chrysalis and watched a new life as it emerged into the sunlight. Today I was graced by a visit from a lovely new friend and shared a spectacular hike up an Enchanted Rock. There is so much beauty to be found in the world, but it can be easily overlooked as we try to navigate our challenging and changing times. I believe that in the face of these challenges, it is more important than ever to draw on the beauty and order of the natural world as a means to balance and strengthen our hearts. I encourage you to spend an hour or two each week in a place of natural beauty and see what a wonderfully positive impact it will have on your life!

This morning started with a bit of rain so my friend Sandy and I decided it would be best to wait a while before heading out on our hike. I took advantage of these few hours to work on sewing the binding on a quilt I brought with me.

By mid-morning the rain was moving out so I jumped in my truck headed for Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg. Sandy was already on her way there from Driftwood, TX, just southwest of Austin.  Sandy and her husband Don were the very first RV folks I met in the very first campground I stayed in with Wild Thing, all the way up north of Seattle, WA in a little town called Bothell. Now, what are the chances that I would meet such a great couple so far from home, and what are the chances that we would be able to meet up again so soon! Life is an exciting adventure and I am frequently in awe of its elegant unfolding. Sandy and I “clicked” right away and so I was happy when she offered to drive the hour and a half to meet me while I’m in the area so we could spend this time together! She suggested a hike at Enchanted Rock which is a massive pink granite dome that rises up out of the landscape of the hill country. The summit trail was 0.67 miles and was moderately challenging but the views were spectacular all along the trail. The dark clouds moved off shortly after we arrived and we were left with beautiful blue skies and puffy white clouds to augment the rugged landscape. We both enjoyed the hike and our visit.

 

 

Here’s a link to a little video I took of the 360 degree view from the top!

 

This evening I downloaded the photos I took yesterday with my Nikon of the butterflies and chrysalis in the flower garden in Fredericksburg. I was completely enamored with the chrysalis. It is amazing to me that a butterfly as large as the monarch fits in something so small. I was also curious about the shimmering gold spots and found this article that helps explain the phenomenon.

As I was photographing the chrysalis, I looked down and saw a monarch crawling up a leaf directly below. When I looked closer, I saw that this butterfly had actually just emerged from his own chrysalis! Although I didn’t capture the moment he emerged, it was pretty exciting snapping these pictures of him next to his empty chrysalis!

Tomorrow Dexter and I will hitch up and head north up I10 towards New Mexico. I plan to stop for the night in Van Horn, Texas, the little town I moved to when we left Vermont. The past few days in Texas has been quite a trip down memory lane. I have years of memories scattered all around this state and it has been good to travel back and touch some of them again.

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving, Itinerary Changes, Spread the Love

Happy Thanksgiving to all my cyber friends! I hope you are today surrounded by family and friends, carving out a bit of time for yourself and stuffing as much love as you can into the hearts of those around you!

I’m having a quiet day, enjoying a bit of downtime. Last night I had an impulse to write an e-mail to wish my siblings a Happy Thanksgiving and it occurred to me that too often I think of them all lumped together as “family” without taking the time to really appreciate them as individuals. That led me to write a note that gave a brief glimpse into how I experience each of my siblings and the special way each one has touched my heart and helped me grow. I have 12 siblings so the note took a while! It was well received and I encourage each of you to follow your impulses to share your love and feelings with the people you care about. Taking a step beyond our culturally accepted and safe expressions is scary, but so worth the effort. I’m learning that I frequently censor myself, fearful of being judged too “mushy” or overly sentimental. The truth is that we all need to hear how much we are loved and appreciated by those around us. Words have tremendous power and they can be such an agent for good. Choose your words wisely and use them often. I believe that love can change our world.

Dexter and took a nice long walk this morning and now he is snuggled under his blanket for a much-deserved sleep. He’s been up and on alert much more than normal so he was ready for a  crash day.

I’ve been toying with the idea of altering my route. After visiting my family in Oklahoma later this week, I realized I could easily drop down into Texas and pay a visit to the resting place of my parents in Fredericksburg, Texas. A few days after I started thinking about this, I mentioned it to my husband who strongly encouraged me to do so. He understands how meaningful family connections are and thought this would be a great opportunity to make the pilgrimage. A couple of days later, one of my nephews, Paul, posted a photo of my parent’s gravestone on Facebook. He and his lovely wife, Aleda, were on an anniversary trip to the area and had visited the site. No members of our family live in the town where they rest, so it is always a blessing to receive the news that someone has visited. I took this as a sign that I was being prompted to make the trip. This morning I met a lovely couple, Gary and Diane J., who live not far from Fredericksburg.  My Angels are persistent in their promptings so I guess it’s time for me to listen! I’m researching route changes and making reservations at area campgrounds. This little side trip as it turns out will also give me an opportunity to see my brother John, his wife Tracy, their daughter Robyn and her husband James and daughter, Rose. I’m going to meet them in Burleson, TX just south of Fort Worth.

I’m also hoping to catch up with my nephew Paul and his family since they live just an hour and a half from Fredericksburg.  And it turns out my friend Janice in Kerrville, TX will also be in town and up for a Wild Thing visit! I am so fortunate to have family and friends all around the country and love meeting new people along the way.  Gary and Diane J., the nice folks I met this morning, own an Airbnb property so if you are traveling in the Austin, TX area, check out this place:  Curly J Hilltop Mini-Ranch.  I traveled quite a bit using AirBnB before I got the Wild Thing and find it’s a good alternative to hotels.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I count each of you among my many blessings and I’m grateful that you are sharing this journey with me. I’ll share my revised itinerary when it’s ready!

Low Tide, Hidden Depths, Learning to Receive

I enjoyed a lovely walk on the beach this morning at low tide. The weather was overcast and cool, perfect for a quiet stroll. When the tide is out on this beach, there is an outcropping of large seaweed and barnacle covered rocks that stand sentry before the shore. At high tide, there is absolutely no evidence that these solid giants exist below the waves. They remind me that we all have hidden parts of ourselves that dwell below our surface. These secret parts may remain unknown throughout our lives, or perhaps, they may be revealed when the rhythms of time encourage us to draw back our surface protection and expose what lies in our depths.

I collected a few leaves, feathers, rocks, shells, and foliage on my walk. I think of these things as “gifts of the sea”. I’m always tempted to bring them home, but now that I’m practicing “tiny house living” I decided to take pleasure from them in their natural habitat then leave them for someone else to enjoy.

We concluded the retreat today.  The time passed so quickly! I love seeing the creativity of others who attend this weekend. Each person’s work reveals a little bit about their inner world, a little of what lies below their surface.

At the end of the session, each artist hangs their body of work and the other participants collectively pay homage to their creative process by responding to the work with one-word comments expressing how the art makes them feel, or what the art evokes for them. One of the participants records the comments on a beautiful handmade card for the artist to take home. Most of us have little or no experience receiving compliments, positive feedback, or words of encouragement, especially about something as vulnerable as our art. For the artist, this process the most challenging of the weekend, but is also by far the most powerful. Although I have experienced this process each of the five times I’ve attended the retreat, it is still as powerful now as it was the first time. Their comments help me to uncover a bit of what lies beneath my awareness, below my surface, in my own depths. I am so grateful for their tender loving care.

 

 

I Made It to Chilliwack!

After 3,383.5 miles….I made it!!

I’m really really here in Chilliwack BC!

I’m so thankful for a safe journey. My angels have been watching over me the entire way.

Today was a busy day. I just couldn’t sleep last night. I kept tossing and turning, my mind racing and I found myself waking up every hour. Finally, I gave up at 5 am and got up for good. I was on the road at 6:30 just as the sun was beginning to rise. It was foggy and raining in the higher elevations again today and I90 took me up over the Cascades and through a challenging stretch of road called Snoqualmie Pass.

Heading Out Day 9

Construction coupled with the poor weather made this another day of focused driving.

I90 Heading into Seattle

Traffic came to a standstill just 6 miles before I  branched off I90 onto I405 and this congestion slowed me down for about 45 minutes.

Traffic Jam I90 and I405

My spirits were not dampened though since I knew the end was near. Once down from the mountains and out of the city traffic, the sun came out and dairy farms dominated the landscape. It was quite reminiscent of the countryside in Vermont where I grew up. I was nearing the end of my audiobook, “Glass Houses” by Louise Penny. This is the 13th in her Inspector Gamache series. I love this series and it was quite fitting that this series of  books are set in a small town on the Canadian Border near Vermont! It all ties together now doesn’t it?

I405 Farm

I405 Countryside

 

I arrived in Sumas, WA just before lunch and located the Sumas Mini Storage facility where I had a unit waiting for me. I unloaded the bulk of the items I brought with me for the camper and re-arranged the remaining stuff into some semblance of order in the truck.

Sumas WA Welcome Sign

Rain threatened overhead in the form of big thunderheads but did not materialize and everything was safely stored in the dry locker in short order. I stopped by the mail service center, Ship Happens, and learned that my package had arrived but was still being processed so I decided to take a lunch break and enjoyed a celebratory steak salad lunch at Bob’s Burger and Brew.

Bob’s Burgers and Brew

Bob’s Steak Salad Sumas

After days of a diet consisting mostly of yogurt, fruit, trail mix, and cheese, I was ready for some steak! Lunch was yummy and a real treat!

 

 

 

My package containing the cable for the cell phone antenna was waiting for me after lunch and after picking it up I headed for the border crossing.

I was faced with the usual questions: “ Where do you live?, Why are you visiting Canada? Is the trailer paid for?, How much cash do you have? Are you bringing any meat, alcohol, tobacco, fruits, or vegetables into the country? How long are you staying?”  and after answering all and presenting my passport, I was waved through. A short 20 minute ride up the road and I was in Chilliwack!

I decided to stop off at Escape Trailer Industries and bring them the cable needed for the antenna and say “Hi”! When I arrived, a man stopped me in the parking lot to talk. He was from Vancouver and considering the purchase of an Escape Trailer. We had a lovely conversation and after about 5 minutes of chatting, a woman came out from the office and said “You must be Sarah! I want a hug!!”  It was Meagan, one of my customer service reps who has been helping me and sending me all the lovely photos of the daily progress on Wild Thing!

I must give a big shout out to Meagan, Sarah, Lori, Erin, Verena and all the staff at Escape. They do an amazing job and are always ready to help. Thanks also to Nigel and the entire Escape Production Team. You make it all happen and are so willing to go above and beyond to make our camper dreams come true! The owners of Escape, Reece and Tammy, have built a formidable team who share their vision of a quality custom product and a happy end customer! Having spent a large part of my professional life in Customer Service, these are my kind of folks!

Thank you Escape Trailer Industries from Wild Thing’s Mom!!

Erin and Verena Escape Trailer Rock Stars!

After my quick stop at Escape, I checked into the Rainbow Motor Inn and then took a 3 mile walk down to the grocery store for you’ve got it…cheese, fruit, & yogurt!! At least enough to hold me for the next couple of days until I have my real kitchen! I so needed a good walk to stretch out the kinks. I also picked up a bottle of bubble bath and a nip of  Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. It is indeed time to relax and celebrate a bit tonight!

Today’s Driving 233.4 miles. 4 hours.

Total Trip Miles: 3383.5 Ashland to Chilliwack

Total Trip Driving Hours:  56:16:30 Ashland to Chilliwack

And here are the trailer build update photos for today, thanks to Meagan! These are the 7th in the series. The details of my camper are really coming together. The countertops have been installed in the kitchen. The sink, faucet, stovetop, and range hood are installed.  The blinds and the valances are hung, the microwave and heater are installed, and the cabinets are finished. That’s just what I can see from the photos! I know there is also plenty of work being done that is not evident in the photos.

I’ll be up early tomorrow and scoot down to Trademaster’s Automotive where they will install the 5th Wheel Hitch and I plan to have them give the truck a check-up.  Then I’ll have a little time to rest and get ready for the next leg of this grand adventure!

Tonight, though,  I am just overwhelmingly grateful for the wonderful and amazing journey that has brought me to this place, at this time, with you.

Enchanted Highway, Painted Canyon, and (a real!) Buffalo

I was off to another early start this Saturday morning in Bismarck ND. It was still raining, foggy, and there was construction on the highway. Once I left the town behind, it was dark…very, very, very dark. No ambient light of any kind.  Full Dark… No Stars… No Cars…  It would have been spectacular if the skies had been clear and I could have seen the stars. But that was not to be so I just squinted into the dark and listened to the wheels humming on the pavement and the windshield wipers drumming a beat. The speed limit was 75 on I94 but I was going much slower (about 55) given the poor conditions. I was also thinking about all the road kill I’ve seen over the past week: deer, raccoons, fox, rabbit, and some USA (unidentifiable squished animals). I know that critters are most active during the pre-dawn and dusk hours so I kept my eyes sharp. Angels must have been whispering in my ear because sure enough, not much further down the road, I spotted a beautiful doe standing right out on the shoulder. Thankfully, she stayed in her lane and I stayed in mine so all was well.

As the sun came up I could see that the landscape was soft and muted in the fog and misty rain. The hillsides were covered in a velvety blanket of low foliage with no sharp angles, jutting rocks or ragged corners. It felt like a giant fluffy blanket had been thrown over the earth and the sky had been suffused with gray cotton candy. Such a restful setting.

When the sun rose I could see the wide variety of color in the landscape. My painter’s eye was greedily drinking in the subtle color changes greens, golds, russets, browns, and yellows of the land spread out around me.  A red dirt road cut a winding path up a velvety green hillside. It was a chilly 39 degrees and the wind and rain made it feel much cooler. I crossed another time zone and I’m now two hours ahead of home.

I was feeling in somewhat of a free-fall this morning. Maybe it was the dark, or the fog, or the rain, but I felt like an acrobat who has stepped off the platform, let go of her partner’s hand and was suspended in the air, reaching into the unknown for that swinging bar. There is safety on the platform and comfort when holding a trusted one’s hands as you swinging out a bit to grab the bar, but I made the decision to fully let go, to jump, to fly, to trust. I didn’t embark on this adventure out of fear or necessity, but rather by choice. I could, if I wished, just turn my truck around and head back home, climb back on that platform of safety. But the thing that compelled me to let go in the first place is still whispering in my ear, encouraging me forward and even in moments where I feel like I’m in free-fall, I know I’m on the right path. This adventure is terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time and I am learning to stretch my wings and to trust.

Along I94 I saw a sign advertising the Enchanted Highway and a promise of Giant Metal Sculptures. The first one was a large sculpture of Migrating Canadian Geese and it was visible from the highway. I took the exit but found that the road leading up to the sculpture was closed so I couldn’t get close. It was raining pretty hard. I Googled the Enchanted Highway and found that it is a 32 mile stretch of road between Gladstone and Regent North Dakota where 7 giant sculptures line the road. I ate my breakfast of yogurt and coffee and debated with myself about whether I should take the drive. Wasn’t this exactly the sort of thing that I hope to do in my adventures with the trailer? Why was I resisting? Whose voice was that in my head trying to talk me out of it…”it’s raining, it’s cold, you won’t get any good photos, maybe the other roads are closed too and it will be a waste of time, you can come back another trip…”  Really?? When did reasonable caution turn into unreasonable overcaution?  It’s time to tell that voice to hush! I was going on that drive, and if it turned out to be a bust, well,  I would just turn around and come back.

Sign posted in Rest Area!

I’m so glad I went! The landscape was stunning and I saw fields and fields of sunflowers.  I photographed all of the sculptures, and yes, it was raining and overcast but the experience was worth the effort.  I saw large hens I couldn’t identify walking along the edge of the sunflower field, and then spotted a beautiful male pheasant and knew those were his girls. I watched red-tailed hawks hunting, sandhill cranes soaring, a covey of quail scuttling along the field, and a line of dove perched on fence posts. I found petrified rocks, a military tank, and a castle, and it was all free!  It was indeed an enchanted highway and I’m glad I took the time to explore it.

I was back on the highway around lunch time and as the miles rolled by the landscape continued to change. The yellow and green dappled hills dropped away into long expanses of open plains.  I drove through the Little Missouri National Grassland in Medora, ND. My next stop was what I thought was just a rest area at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park but actually turned out to be the Painted Canyon Visitors Center and Overlook of the Painted Canyon of the Badlands! It was still raining but I got some photos and a little video in spite of the weather. I would love to bring the trailer back to this park and spend some time. The brief glimpse I had today was stunning and it would be fun to explore this area in more depth.

 

After leaving this stop, I was treated to an exceptionally beautiful drive through this unique landscape and was fortunate to see a buffalo grazing on the side of the road! Yes, this time it’s a REAL buffalo!!

 

The badlands landscape gave way to prairie once again and the drive was easy despite the continued rain. I saw a herd of Pronghorn deer along the side of the road but unfortunately, there was no place to pull off to get a photo. This was a day full of surprise adventures. I have settled in for the night in Billings, MT and plan to get plenty of rest. There is no telling what wonders await me tomorrow!

Light, Strong, and Ready to Fly

After placing my order for Wild Thing this past November, I realized that I needed to get into better physical shape if I wanted to be able to fully enjoy the adventures that lay ahead.

I had spent the prior two years sitting on the couch knitting while I completed the curriculum for WEBS Expert Knitter Certification Program.  I had not been exercising, I was overweight, and really feeling the effects of being so out of shape.

My weight has been a struggle most of my life. I’ve tried just about every diet available and after some initial success, I eventually found myself back where I started.  Sweets and carbs are my downfall.  When I eat them it’s like there is a switch in me that turns on and I just can’t get enough. If I was going to keep the weight off, they would have to go. To my surprise, I found that after eliminating refined sugar and overt carbs from my diet for a full 3 weeks, those crazy cravings quieted. I had turned off that switch and no longer had to battle those out of control cravings.

By late February I was sugar and carb free, loosing weight slowly, and starting to walk regularly for exercise. Around that same time my beautiful niece Ashley Batchelder Tuupo introduced me to Keto/OS,  a product that has been the reason I’ve been able to stay on track all these months and achieve my health goals. This supplement gives me energy, clears my mental fog, and suppresses my appetite!

Keto/OS is a powerful tool that puts your body in super fat burning mode (metabolic ketosis) and keeps it there! Once I started supplementing with Keto/OS, my hunger and cravings for sugar disappeared. Those cravings were replaced by a calmer, gentler hunger that appeared when my body was really in need of nourishment. It has been much easier to stay the course and continue to eat a healthy diet.  I’m happy to report that I’m now 40 pounds lighter, my blood pressure now normal, I’m no longer pre-diabetic, and I’m feeling great! If you want more information on Keto/OS, send my niece Ashley  a message on Facebook, and she’ll hook you up! 

When spring came, I slowly increased my walking routine. I’m fortunate to live next to Ashland Reservoir and can stroll up my street right into this beautiful state park. I’ve worked my way up to hiking a 4.3 mile circuit from my door around the reservoir daily.  Along the path I would sometimes find feathers. They always felt like a gift, a sign, an encouragement, so I’d bring them home.  I looked at my collection of feathers this morning and realized that just like them, I am now light, strong, and ready to fly!

 

Early Days

So why am I compelled to purchase a travel trailer and strike out across the country? What is the allure of this travel and camping thing?  Looking back, it’s clear that I have been a traveler most of my life. I’ve lived in several different states: Vermont, Texas, Indiana, and Massachusetts and within those states I’ve moved more times than I can count now.  But despite my impermanence, or maybe because of it, I’ve always enjoyed travel.  I know many folks who live their lives within a small geographical area and seem perfectly content to do so, however I have an itch for exploration that wriggles just below the surface all the time, compelling me to just go.  Perhaps wanderlust is just part of my DNA, or maybe I was a gypsy in another time, or it’s possible there may be some clues in my background….

I started camping at an early age with my family. We lived in northern Vermont for the first 12 years of my life in an area that was very rural and quite remote. I’m the youngest of 13 children, having 8 brothers and 4 sisters. We lived in a large two-story farm house on a fair sized plot of land surrounded by dairy farms on the shores of Lake Champlain, a mile from the Canadian Border and 10 miles from New York State.

The old Homestead Alburgh Springs Vermont

My home Alburgh Springs Vermont

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life here was much different than it is today. We lived a quiet, self sufficient, simple life with few of the conveniences we consider essential today. We had heat and hot water, indoor plumbing and electricity, a radio and a washing machine. Our TV received the 3 available channels and sometimes UHF and VHF if we could fiddle the knob just right and adjust the tin foil on the rabbit ears… and our black Bakelite phone was on a party line.  All of the upkeep and repairs of this homestead as well as most of our food resulted from the efforts of our own hands. The physical demands of supporting the well being of such a large clan took a constant and communal effort so leisure time in our household was scarce. Our summers, the usual prime camping time in the Northeast, was mostly filled with a focused effort to cultivate and prepare food for the coming winter and make any necessary improvements or repairs to our home.

Each summer we planted two huge gardens which provided all the vegetables for the coming year. In the fall we harvested and preserved our crops by canning or freezing corn, peas, tomatoes, green beans, pickles and carrots. We had a cold cellar for storing onions and potatoes.  During the summer we enjoyed the bounty of lettuce, squash, scallions, kohlrabi, peppers, cucumbers, and pumpkins. We picked local berries for jellies and  jam, and local apples for pies and applesauce.

Jean, Pat, and Mark Berry Picking

Morton (my Dad) and family in the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gardens required much time and effort to cultivate and we were kept busy with other chores as well. We needed lots of protein to fuel our activities so in the spring I would accompany my father to the local feed store to pick up the 150 fluffy yellow chicks he had ordered months before. They arrived crammed together in short, squat cardboard boxes emitting a raucous cacophony of indignant chirping complaints along with a sharp pungent odor through small round dime sized air holes punched in the top and sides of the box. It was thrilling to see the wriggling mass of small downy creatures as soft and fluffy as a field of dandelions gone to seed.  I always felt sad for the few who inevitably did not survive the trip, trampled or suffocated in that overcrowded box. These adorable creatures would grow over the summer to become fat white hens by early fall, and plump juicy roast chicken dinners throughout the winter. A few would be saved for egg production but most were meant to provide our family with meat.  After spending the summer slinging feed, lugging brimming metal pails of water a quarter mile in the predawn hours, cleaning out the foul filth produced by the brood, and chasing the hens clever enough to scrabble under the chicken wire fence, it was an acceptable fact of farm life to see them safely into the freezer.

Along with the chickens, we also raised two pigs to be butchered in the fall providing us with ham, bacon, and smoked pork for the winter. Also in late summer, a half of a butchered cow would arrive bumping around in the back of my father’s old pickup truck. The family would work together to break it down into steaks, stew meat, roasts, and ground hamburger that we would package in white butcher paper and put in the freezer. These meats were supplemented by the wild game my brothers and father would hunt. Venison roasts and sausage, roasted goose, ducks with orange sauce, and plenty of fish graced our table and filled our bellies.  Our milk was purchased from local dairy farmers and pasteurized by my mother on the wood stove. Her hands mixed, kneaded, and baked bread almost every day. As soon as one meal was over  and the tidying up completed, the prep for the next meal would start. Our days were filled with purpose, activity, and occupation.

Along with cooking, I learned to sew and knit before I can really remember doing so and those skills were employed by most of the women in my family to provide clothing, scarves, mittens and hats. And oh… the laundry..mountains and mountains of laundry…that chore was never ending. There were always work to be done both inside and outside the house to provided for our large family, so an outing was a rare treat indeed and an overnight trip was a particularly exciting event. The shared work of the homestead and the isolation of our location bonded us as a family in a strong and unique way. When we did enjoy time away, it was usually as a family either on day trips with a picnic in tow, or camping overnight out in the countryside.  Those camping trips were rare and precious events that stand out in my memory in sharp relief against the backdrop of our daily life. We worked hard but we also enjoyed the direct benefits of our labors and gained a deep appreciation for the gift of a camping vacation.

My earliest memories of “camping” (not counting flashlights under the covers in bed) involved a secret neighborhood girl’s club called “The Golden Tigers”.  This club met in a “tent” which consisted of an old blanket thrown over a clothesline in the back yard, the ends spread out on either side and held down with old discarded bricks. The openings in front and back of the A-Frame blanket structure were then neatly covered using bath towels clothes-pinned to the blanket edges. A secret word was required to gain entrance to this tent and the meetings were held in hushed and reverent tones. I still have the “minutes” I kept from those meetings tucked away in a secret box upstairs…

Real camping with the family involved an old canvas tent held together with a prayer and propped up with aluminum poles, many of which were bent as I recall.  What a puzzle it was to set up! There were a dizzying number of tent poles and their odd shapes and awkward angles would baffle an engineer, but working together we would have the thing wrangled (amid amiable jostling) and up before dark. Everything turned into a contest in our family, and I see now how that competitive banter helped to keep our motivation high and our activities moving along.  The tent leaked of course and we were constantly patching the seams. It was also not entirely impervious to mosquitoes and flies. But, in spite of it’s flaws, I still remember the allure of it all: the smell of that old canvas tent wet with dew, the sound the zipper made and the unique quality to the light that filtered into that tent late in the day. Cocooned inside that tent, sheltered from all that lay beyond, lay a world quite apart from the ordinary. As night fell and the camp fire rose, our voices would join with the songs of the crickets and frogs. I would watch the fireflies twinkling like fallen stars in the meadows and feel the landscape transform into a place of magic, mystery, and in my mind, endless possibility.

Mom, Mary, Faith and The Tent! circa 1973

In the early days, my father fitted the back of his old pick up truck with a home-made plywood cap and outfitted the inside to serve as a kitchen and storage area. Pictured here is my Mom doing dishes in the truck’s  “kitchen”!

Priscilla and the Wooden Truck Cap circa 1968

Later on, this wooden truck camper was replaced with a commercially made truck cap. My Dad’s homemade folding wooden kitchen table and wooden storage box are pictured here with Mom as she enjoyed her coffee. Also notice the Coleman Butane Stove (which must have been standard issue for every camper of the time!) and our ever present Hellman’s Mayonnaise jar full of ice cold mik!

Priscilla and the truck camper circa 1973

Most of the time we camped in the areas surrounding our home. Vermont was, and still is, a landscape of great beauty and natural resources.

My favorite early camping trip however was to the coast of Maine where I had my first experience of the ocean. This would have been around 1973 when I was 11.  Water has always held a particularly special place in my heart.  Babbling brooks, clear mountain streams, quiet pools, marshy bogs, raging rapids, it doesn’t matter…I love them all. Our home was just across a small pasture from the great lady herself, Lake Champlain, and I spent every free moment I could at her banks swimming, rock picking, shell collecting, bottle digging, or just sitting and gazing out across her watching for Champ, Lake Champlain’s version of the Loch Ness Monster (who by the way I really DID see one time….).  The lake was just as much fun in winter where we enjoyed skating, sledding, snowmobiling, and fishing through the ice.

Sarah and family enjoying Lake Champlain 1964

Sarah, Mark, Paul, and John at Lake Champlain 1965

But oh…The OCEAN!  It was the sheer size of course,  the power and the majesty of that pounding surf, the texture of the craggy shoreline, the briny taste of the sea, and dank fishy smell that permeated the air. But, it was the wild nature of the ocean that captivated me and seeped into my bones. Unlike the serene and tranquil lake I had grown up with, the ocean raged, it expanded and contracted, and seemed to heave itself, breathe itself upon that shore. It was in constant motion and was never the same from moment to moment and I saw my own nature in it’s depths.  And then there was that whole world below that surface, invisible from shore, but knowing it was there, teeming with life,  rich in color and artistry and  shrouded in mystery gave me a thrill.  I felt a primal familiarity with the ocean, a kinship, and an awareness of and opening to my own mercurial nature. On that camping trip we roamed the rocks along the shore,  dug clams and had a clam bake on the beach and walked for miles picking up driftwood, shells, and rocks.

Morton (my Dad) along the Maine Coast

It was from my family that I learned how to really take in and experience a new place where I learned the fine art of exploration.  It’s also where I found my love of camping. When we traveled, we did not visit tourist attractions nor did we partake of the packaged entertainment offered. We spent our time instead observing and interacting with the new landscape, experiencing and enjoying the natural bounty on display and learning as much as we could about nuances of the place. Like explorers before us, we walked and sat quietly looking and listening to what this new place might chose to share with us.

Soon I’ll be camping and exploring again in Wild Thing. I’m glad you will be along for the ride…