Saturday, June 19, 2021

Camping's return brings memories, gratitude

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| June 9, 2021 1:00 AM

Camping … don’t ya love it! Maybe, maybe not.

After years of not being able to get out in the woods it's finally happened. I grew up camping. It was our family's vacation every summer. My dad bought every camping gadget available at the time — and just about every type of tent. We were a regular canvas palace by the time camp was set up.

I loved being in the umbrella tent, with the shadow patterns of the trees keeping me company, and listening to the wind in the pines. But every moment wasn't pleasant. Like the campground in Canada with all the slugs. I got it in my head that one had slugged its slimy trail into the tent, and I had my sleeping bag wrapped so tight around me it practically cut off circulation.

When Terry and I married we continued the camping tradition of our childhoods. His family used to camp on Priest Lake's Kalispell Island where his mother felt secure from bears — until the summer day they were packing to leave and spotted three of them in the woods!

He and I had an unforgettable experience in southern Idaho when a campground bear trap alerted us to be extra careful with food storage. All edibles went in the car — however we forgot about our dog's mushy food in the pink dish outside our tent.

In the night she began circling inside the tent growling. It didn't take us long to realize the bear was just outside. Then we heard it. Slurp, slurp, slurp...on the other side of the canvas. What was meant for the dog fed the bear.

When we had children, we passed on our love of camping to them. Tents and campfires and swimming in the lake and games at the picnic table — it was our favorite thing to do.

But in more recent years something happened. My husband's years of hard work — combined with the spina bifida condition he was born with, though repaired — returned to plague him. His ability to balance and walk became impaired. Tent camping was no longer a choice.

Then last summer a dream came true over a meal with friends. Talk of a travel trailer — and our friend's casual search on his phone. There was one that might fit our needs nearby. We checked it out the next day, and purchased it two days later. An older model well-built Sunnybrook, in terrific condition.

And so as I write here at the table I find myself camping once again. It's a little chilly — but there's a furnace. Some might consider that cheating — and so would I once upon a time. However at 69 and 70, Terry and I have earned our comforts.

There is still the pristine lake out the window. The other evening a majestic rainbow shot up from the water. We step outside to the fresh mountain air, and the hermit thrush singing at full throttle. We can roast marshmallows around an evening campfire, and breakfast on banana pancakes at the picnic table.

Camping has come back to us when I thought it was gone. And I am grateful.