Thoughts filled my head with desire to give my children good survival skills. I remembered experiences with my father. My sister and I learned to row a boat on a wide river and watch my father catch trout. He felt it was important to learn to navigate through nature. Memories of fire building and the taste of fresh cooked trout are still vivid in my mind. These were some of my most cherished memories, for my parents were not in my life very long.
I felt an urgency to make sure my children could take care of themselves in nature, so I began talking to them about what it would be like to go camping. We began planning to make this experience happen. We gathered items needed to tackle such an adventure. First, the tent, a blow up mattress since we are city girls, sleeping bags, camp light, flash light, eating utensils, items for clean-up, and an ice chest.
I only went camping one time with Heidi and her family. It was amazing that so little could create such fun. We played in the sand, burying the dog up to his neck. My granddaughter became a mermaid under her father’s sand sculpting skills, and my grandson exhausted himself running around dragging a long sea onion.
This was something that we wanted to do as a family. We would spend four days of camping at Detroit Lake, a beautiful mountainous area of Oregon. None of us had been there before. We wanted to camp at the lake. I sent out instructions. Heather was coming from Portland. Suzy and I were coming from Salem. Heidi and her family were coming from Medford. Everything was all planned and set.
Suzy and I were to arrive early and secure a site. By the time we packed and left, it was later than expected. We arrived at Detroit Lake to find all camp sites around the lake were taken. I stopped at an attendant’s trailer and picked up fire wood, and was told about possible camp sites fifteen miles east of the lake.
I was worried when we arrived and it was late afternoon. The cell phones did not work in the mountains. I could not alert anyone of the changes. Suzy and I unloaded the car, and gathered wood and dry moss to start a fire. I followed my father’s instructions. We set up the tent, but with darkness coming we could not read the instructions. We ate hot dogs on a stick and I wrote directions on nine paper plates to post at each camp site around the lake with the fading light. My heart tugged as I realized I had to leave Suzy with our little blind dog at a wilderness camp site to go back to the lake and post plates on entrance boards to each camp area, but that is what I had to do. I stopped five miles from the lake and found I was able to use my cellphone to call Heather, coming from Portland, to give her instructions. Then my phone went dead. All I could do was go on and post directions and hope they would be found.
I went back to Suzy, still alone at the camp site. I decided that since it was so dark I would wait at the entrance. I was actually glad it was dark because only three cars passed and there were large things buzzing past me and some hitting me that I did not want to see. I needed to stand my ground and wait for my family. Soon, I recognized the headlights of a car approaching as Heather’s. She stopped and I ran and got in. We went back to the lake to try and find the others, but they were not there.
We decided to go back to Suzy, alone at the camp, and look in the morning. To our surprise, when we got back, camp was all lit. Heidi was cooking. My son-in-law was putting up tents, and my grandkids were running up the lane to greet us. I marveled at how things come together like this, as I lay on my blow up mattress in the tent, letting the murmur of a nearby stream lull me to sleep. I realized there was a lot more to navigating nature than I thought.
In the morning I woke up to laughter and Heidi asking; “Mom, what is wrong with your tent?”