Last year, due to the girls’ school schedules, I had to miss the vacation I’ve taken with my family in the Adirondack Mountains since 1968. Halfway through that week, hearing me emit yet another heavy sigh, my husband said, “Whether or not the girls have school that same week in 2015, you need to go with your family. You’re not right without it.”
So last week, after seeing our kids through the first days of high school, I hopped on a red eye Tuesday night and went to Family Camp sans family. Well, of course, you can’t swing a dead cat at Family Camp without hitting one of my relations, but I was there without MY kids. Which is maybe why this year felt a little…sparse. So many of us have been going for so long and our kids are big now, off to college and such. You could get onto whatever horse ride you wanted to sign up for. It only took ten minutes to wait in line for oatmeal, rather than the customary 15. You never had to wait for a paddleboard, though you might have to wait for a few minutes for the three people it took to balance you when you tried to stand up for the first time.
So I’m making a recruitment pitch. Bring your families to Family Camp next year! It’s good wholesome family fun in a beautiful spot, with the added bonus of maybe running into a bear but definitely running into deer, turkey, and a backhoe that will be digging out some cabin’s septic system.
Of course, we don’t want just any warm bodies filling up Family Camp. Can you meet a few simple requirements?
1.) Do you have a high threshold for exhaustion?
After the aforementioned redeye on which I slept for four hours, I made it to camp around lunchtime, which meant I still had time to squeeze in a kayak race, a swim, and a hike up Rocky Mountain to watch the sun set. I actually Periscoped (@midlifemixtape) the Rocky Mountain summit, but I was so delirious with lack of sleep that I narrated an ode to the wrong lake. Better you should just look at the still.
At any rate, if you’re able to go from Polar Bear swim at 7 am to archery at 11 to tie dying at 2 to cheese and crackers on the porch at 5 to square dancing at 7 to shooting pool at the Glenmore at 11 pm without a break in between, and keep that pace for seven days straight, you might be a Family Camper.
2.) Does personal safety take a back seat to fun for you?
Yes, it’s incredibly dangerous for middle aged project managers, realtors, tourism professionals, or writers to strap on life vests and haul their carcasses onto a floating disk in the middle of the lake called “The Spindle,” in order to chase each other around in a circle while a lifeguard in the center bounces on a trampoline to try to get you to go airborne into the 65 degree lake water. It’s even less wise to try logrolling in 18 inches of water when your only qualification as a lumber jack is having seen the Monty Python skit. Even as you’re laughing so hard that you forget to hold your breath as your head goes underwater, you’re picturing the explanation you’ll have to give your co-workers on Monday morning about the crutches/black eye/upcoming surgery that will be the inevitable result.
If you’d do it anyway, you might be a Family Camper.
3.) Do you consider a dip in the lake the same thing, more or less, as bathing?
Here’s a shot of my Family Camp Feet. I had used them to bushwhack around the lake that morning, and the dirt was really ground in there good from the barefoot-through-the-lake-inlet portion of the adventure.
But why shower? I was going next to horseback riding, then my daily Spindle session. Any time taken to shower in the admittedly updated Girl’s shower house would have caused me to miss after dinner kayaking, or the Cheese and Cracker Porch Sit. The Spindle was kind of like running yourself through a washing machine anyway, right?
If you think, “I’ll shower when I’m dead,” you might be a Family Camper.
4.) Are you the opposite of a Paleo-Vegan?
Sure. We all start out on the first day with a giant plate of salad from the salad bar. But by the third day, when we see daily menus like this posted, we’re not only looking forward to it. We’re wondering if we have time to sneak out to Eagle Bay Donuts for a bag of fresh hot cinnamon sugar donuts to down between breakfast and lunch.
If you consider two pancakes and a piece of coffee cake a balanced breakfast, you might be a Family Camper.
5.) Can you get worked up over bocce, bingo, and brownies?
We are a nerdily enthusiastic bunch. Family Campers may be the only people in the world who would miss a flight home in order to see the gripping bocce tournament finale, played by four people whose only training was last year when they played. We get excited enough to whoop and holler when the date and time for bingo, or the Sunset Kayak, or the distribution of wooden boards from the Craft Barn for family commemorative plaques is announced over the PA or at meals.
If you think the only sane response is to “There are brownies for dessert” is “YEEEEESSSSS!!!! WOOT WOOT WOOT!” with maybe some foot stomping thrown in for emphasis, you might be a Family Camper.
6.) Do you have a talent to use for skit night?
Because we need more. Not that the little girl doing no-handed pogo sticking wasn’t AWESOME, because she was.
If you have a guitar and can carry a tune, or let’s face it, even if you don’t, you might be a Family Camper.
7.) Can you dish it out as well as you take it?
There was a big new family this year, lots of adults and kids in the mix, and their presence all over camp made me self-conscious about how much of my day at camp comprises trash talking fellow campers. I mean, many of us have known each other since people still had milk delivered by milkmen, so there is a lot of history upon which to draw. You name a Family Camper, I will shorthand for you an embarrassing story and/or nickname that the rest of us will never let go. They would gladly do the same for me.
Same with practical jokes. The backstory is far too long to go into here, but one lucky Family Camper opened her car door on the last day to find this strapped into the driver’s seat. Don’t ask. (Do note the septic system backhoe parked in the background.)
At one point I was out on the Spindle with a bunch of Family Campers; most of us had met early defeat at the hands of Physics and were floating in our life vests like human ice cubes, hurling invective at the remaining runners until only one man was standing: a guy from the new family named Mark. Could I restrain myself from screaming to the lifeguard, “Bounce him off! Bounce him off! Get Mark! Get him!” even though Mark and I had barely been introduced to one another? No I could not. Afterward I found him on the beach and apologized. “It wasn’t very nice of me to yell that about you.” He said, “Frankly, I felt bad that you guys didn’t go after me harder.”
He’s definitely a Family Camper.