And the Jar says...
Did you go camping? Tell about experiences doing it.
Did I go camping? Ha! We were campers to the max! Well, maybe not the max... but we did it alot. I LOVED camping! I still love it, in fact, but I've found out that camping as a mom makes you a little more tired and grouchy than camping as a kid did.
We had this big tent... remember there were five of us kids. My dad called it "The Tent of Many Poles" and there were always swear words heard while trying to get this particular tent up. There were two main sets of poles that held up the very tall roof of this tent. These sets of poles would always come apart as you were trying to get it all looped in the right places. Finally, after several years of this silliness, my genius parents bought bungee cord and bungeed them all together. The swear words decreased significantly when this idea was brought to pass.
My mom was the coolest camper-mom ever. She had (still has, I think) a book called Roughing It Easy wherein you could read about numerous ways to camp, build fires, cook in non-traditional ways, food, recipes and a zillion other things to do with camping. This book had all these great cooking ideas... eggs cooked in a brown paper sack over the campfire, ash cakes (dough thrown on the ashes and cooked on them), a tin foil cookstove heated by the sun or the fire or something... details are vauge on some things, but the memory is clear about how cool my mom was and how fun it was to try all these neat things.
As soon as we arrived at our campsite, my dad would send us out in search of "Red". If you don't know what "Red" is when you're camping, I'll tell you. Red occurs on a pine tree when part or all of it has died and the needles are all crispy and have turned red instead of green. It's the best firestarter ever. It was always the coolest to go hunting for Red. I remember seeing huge trees where the top was covered in Red and I would wish so bad that I could get to it and bring it to my dad. I always hoped to find the big cache and be the "Red" hero for the trip. To this day, when I drive through a canyon, I find myself seeking out Red. The best Red is always at the top of those huge, unreachable trees. *Sigh*
My mom would make all sorts of awesome food. We kids would play non-stop. My memories of camping hold some of the most imaginative times of my childhood. My brothers and sisters and I would explore, pretend, laugh and sing. We were Red Sonja and Kalidor with our swords which were large sticks. We were hikers who got "lost" and would call for help. We would play in creeks with sticks, leaves, and rocks. We kids, camping above Flaming Gorge, UT. This happens to be the very trip we played Red Sonja on.
My dad would sometimes bring his guitar and we'd sing around the campfire. Camping was elation in a bottle, or in a forest or desert as the case may be. My heart was always sad when it was time to leave and I always had a raging headache on the drive home. Still get that headache, in fact. Weird.
I always remember the phenomenon of campsite arrival. You get there and it doesn't look any different from the rest of the landscape, but as you pitch your tent, park your car, get all the coolers out all over the place, and set up camp the space begins to take shape and significance. It becomes familiar. It becomes home for those few days. I always marvel at this. I always look back at the site as we're leaving and remember just a day or two or three before when it all looked so foreign to me. As I'd watch it shrink out of sight I felt like I left a piece of my heart there in the forest because, for those few days, that was my home and I loved it.
Big Cottonwood Canyon, Hoop Lake, Flaming Gorge, Bear Lake area, Dillon Colorado, The Uintah Mountains, City of Rocks, Canyonlands, Moab, Lake Powell, Yellowstone, the Teton area and so many other sites that were before my awareness of our destination. I have been to some great places. It sounds cheesy, but my favorite place could be any of them, as long as I was with my family.