Camping Cores

I awoke suddenly, sitting straight up in the cold, damp corner that had been assigned to me. It took a full five minutes for my eyes to adjust to the surrounding darkness. I wiped a gob of goo from the corner of my mouth as my brain caught up with reality in the middle of the night.

As quietly as possible, so not to disturb my sleeping buddies, I crawled out of the smelly den of canvas. The embers of last night’s fire were still glowing so I added a piece of wood and sat down in front it, trying to warm my bones.

Never have I seen so many stars. Or was that some little beady eyes looking back at me from behind the bathrooms? I looked over at the tent that miraculously was still standing after we pieced it together upon arrival yesterday afternoon. I smiled as I remembered my dad finally confessing that a major piece of the tent was MIA, after we had pushed and pulled metal poles for over an hour, trying to connect them so that the tent could be secured. I had to admit, when dad tied one side to a nearby tree, our “home away from home” in these Smokey Mountain woods became inhabitable.

I began to see other fires flickering around the campground, making the scene primitive in nature, like turning back the clock a hundred years. I envisioned pioneer men arriving holding hunted rabbits by the ears, an offering for lunch stew. I saw long skirted women in colorful bonnets stirring black caldrons over blazing fires. Young children gathered wood and washed articles of clothing down by the creek. A cold shiver brought me back to life from my ancient dream and I quickly, but silently, reentered the tent to complete my nap.

I awoke three hours later to the smell of coffee and bacon. Was I still dreaming? The lopsided tent was empty as I dressed sitting down, which turned out to be a magic trick, and made my way to the now roaring, restocked fire.

“Good morning sleepy head,” my brother called out. The sun was just coming up over the mountain ridge and the colors streaming through the trees were priceless.

“Good morning.” I smiled at my brother and my dad as I grabbed my toothbrush and washcloth. “Don’t eat without me!”

I washed up in what had to be the coldest water known to man and stretched muscles I had just found. Rejoining my camp mates, I was handed a hearty breakfast and a steaming cup of coffee. I sat down on a sagging camp chair in front of the fire, feeling free and full of life. So, I thought, this must be one of the beauties of camping. My dad had convinced me to come on this, my first camping trip, by what he called, the beauty of camping and the joy of nature.

We sat and ate around the fire, discussing the events planned for the day. We joked about the fact that the tent was still standing. We laughed and talked about old times. We rejoiced in the fact that there were no women in our camp. We smiled and waved at every passing Ranger and chipper camper. We delighted and bonded in each others company. We threw crumpets to the resident squirrels, birds and chipmunks. The day grew warm and we basked in the sunshine of each other, in the love we shared and the memories we were creating.

This may have been the first camping trip for me with my dad and brother, but I knew it would not be the last. I was already looking forward to next year when we would sneak some quality time in and escape to a National Park to find our camping cores together as a family team. The things learned during these camping trips would stoke the fire of adventure for me and my brother and our families later in life.

“Look! Over there! Is that a bear?” I pointed to a distant blanket hanging over a tent flap.

My dad and brother laughed at me as we gathered our fishing gear.

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