Summer Camping + Sentimentality🌲 Wed, Jul 10, 2019
Some of my favorite childhood memories were epic camping trips in our family motorhome. Not sure how we managed to find time to do it, but we trekked up and down California, going to almost every park in the state — like Yosemite, Sequoia, Mammoth, Redwood, Joshua Tree, and even Death Valley — plus every summer we spent a week on the bluffs of Carlsbad or San Clemente beach.
Left picture: My whole family in Yosemite.
While my dad drove us to our destination, my two brothers and I usually passed the time binge-watching movies on the bed in the back from the meager selection of VHS tapes we’d brought with us. When we arrived at the campground, we usually met our family friends who went motorhome camping with us, which made it so fun because we had more friends to play with.
We would hike, swim, bike, and whatnot during the day and hang out by the fire at night. I got to raft down rivers and scale mountains in the most amazing places. My brothers and I would catch critters such as crawdads, frogs, snakes, crabs, and one time my brothers even managed to catch a squirrel under a box with a rudimentary trap they rigged! Don't worry, I'm an animal lover and we always let them go. Except one poor frog got eaten because one time we put frogs and water snakes in the same bucket... oops! 🐸🤭
Right Camping crew of 3 families. My dad is the one in the bike helmet, I'm in front of him, and my mom took the picture.
Though we did have an oven and stove in our motorhome, in the spirit of camping we always cooked our food outside— especially by cast-iron dutch oven. If you’ve never seen a dutch oven in action: you put it on top of red-hot coals then also cover the lid with coals so it’s surrounded. My Mom was an amazing cook, and once a trip she’d make her signature dutch oven apple crisp; then all the kids pestered her constantly by asking when it would be done every five minutes. Though I’m more of a chocolate person, I swear there’s something magical about that dutch oven apple crisp, ‘cause it just never tastes the same if you make it at home!
Left: Me with my older brother Jeff and lil bro Bryan.
If it rained in the evening, we hung out in our cozy motorhomes, drinking hot cocoa and baking brownies in the motorhome oven. Usually the parents talked together in one motorhome (or whatever our parents did), while us kids played in another. I loved playing cards, usually the game “Speed” with my friend Haley or “Feudal Wars” with all the kids. Fair warning: if I am ever challenged to a card/board game, I am fiercely competitive and a stickler when it comes to rules! Not sure where I get this, but I don’t go down without a fight. 😏Though fortunately this quality has served me well in business… you don’t get far if you give up too easily.
Right: My friend Haley. Her motorhome on left and our rental on right (until we liked it so much we bought one).
Some of my favorite nighttime activities were sharing scary stories by the campfire, or various camping games like “Chubby Bunny,” during which the players see how many marshmallows they can stuff in their mouths (without swallowing) while still being able to say “chubby bunny.” Then inevitably at some point when our parents weren’t looking we’d play with the fire… and more than once we got chastised by a Ranger for whatever shenanigans we were up to. Around the campfire my brothers would make “acid rain” by melting various plastic items, creating drips that stayed on fire as they fell — though I’m pretty sure that was totally unsafe and created toxic gases. One time we made small tin foil boats, filled them with hot embers, and sent them down a stream in a competition to see whose went the farthest. Though it was pitch dark, we ran alongside following the red glow of our boats until you lost when your embers went out.
Left: Me, my dad and my little brother Bryan burning sticks which I seem to be particularly excited about.
My camping memories are extra special because it was when my Mom was still alive and healthy. She had cancer even before I was born, and she eventually died a month before my 14th birthday. I think she is a big reason why we had so many adventures. She was always the life of the party, getting people together. I have always wondered if she was trying to cram-in as many good memories as possible with the time that she had, either consciously or subconsciously. But either way, goal achieved Mom. 🙂🙌
Left: Me and my older brother Jeff with Mom.