Well, I am back from camping, and slowly returning to normal life. I went to Rickett's Glen State Park in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a group of college friends and friends of college friends. This is the third year we've gone camping as a group (well, I couldn't go the first year, but it's the third year the group has gone), and it has become something I really look forward to. Last year, we decided we could save money and have a little more privacy if we booked one of the group camp sites, which simply required that we have regular meetings and an elected official in order to qualify as an organized group. Well, we meet once a year, which is as regular as a birthday, so we voted ourselves a leader and officially became "Yarr". And no, it doesn't stand for anything. Although I like to think that it stands for "yearly annual redundancy reunion", because I'm a dork like that.
(Aside: My story of last year's trip can be found here.)
The group sites proved to be ideal for us. For most of the time we were there, we never saw anyone but each other, as the nearest site was almost out of sight, and unoccupied for all but the first night. We couldn't even hear the people from the other sites, but occasionally encountered them at the bathroom. There was no electricity, so water had to be heated on the stove, and after-dark bathroom trips had to be made by the light of a flashlight. We had plenty of space to sprawl out in our ever-growing number of tents, and had plenty of picnic tables to spread out our ever growing number of camping supplies. Every year, a couple of us bring something new, and I think that before too long, someone will find a way to bring a kitchen sink. I came close this year, as when I went to dig out my dish pan, it happened to be in the same bag as my dish drainer, so I brought that along too. Now, I don't know how I ever camped without a dish drainer. Most useful random extra thing to have camping ever.
Perhaps most exciting for me was the fact that Maryalice and Dan were able to join us on this camping trip with little Ayron. Ayron's parents and sister were all killed in a car accident earlier this year that left him seriously injured. You can read the full, amazing story on his site. Ayron just turned five, but the injuries from his car accident set him back quite a bit in his development, so it was really more like having a big toddler around. It was incredible to see his progress, and to see the love and encouragement that he has from his new parents. It was also nice to be able to help out Maryalice and Dan a little bit, so that they could sit and rest for a few minutes occasionally while I blew bubbles for Ayron.
One of the highlights of every Yarr camping trip is the food. Sara and Rachel and I had a blast doing the menu planning and shopping, and everything turned out really well. Of course, we got too much food again, but that's not the worst problem in the world to have. If you have never had a foil packet dinner or banana boat cooked directly on the coals of an open fire, then I am sorry, my friend. Your life is just not complete yet.
The weather cooperated the entire time, in that it didn't rain. It was, however, a little on the cool side during the day and downright cold at night. On several nights, the temperature dropped to the 40s (single digits for you Canadians out there). But, cold nights = great excuse for warm fires, so we didn't complain too much. Except when we were trying to sleep and no amount of blankets seemed to be enough. Seriously, one morning, I took my temperature and it was 94.6 F (34.8 C)! That's officially within the range of stage one hypothermia. I guess I've gotten spoiled by having a warm body beside me most nights for the past five years. Note to self: make sure Jeremy can go on next year's camping trip.
I have decided against a play-by-play account of this year's camping trip, since I'm afraid that I would begin to ramble, and this post would become a novel without conflict. Well, without much conflict. There would be the occasional heated religious debate, and overcoming trials such as what to do with the glowstick that was accidentally dropped in the fire. And we did play a lot of board games in a screen tent by lantern light, most of which were competitive in nature. But we were very cautious about our food and garbage and didn't encounter any bears, and mostly just had a really good time. Thanks, guys!
Back Row: Justin, Dan Y., Phil, Tim, Meghan, Aaron
Center Row: Sara, Dan H., Maryalice, Rachel
Front Row: Ayron, Me
Missing: Jon (who could only come for one night, and had already left by the time this picture was taken)
Credit where due: Photo taken and edited by Justin Chalmers-McDonald on a Canon 20D with an 18-55 lens at F-11, and edited on Photoshop CS2.