There’s no place like hunting camp
As long as I’ve been alive (actually, as long as my father has been alive too), our home away from home has come in the form of a stone and tin covered cabin nestled near a cold mountain run that flows down into the Pine Creek Valley in Lycoming County.
In addition to hunting seasons, our family travels to camp for a week during the summer months every year to enjoy a little getaway retreat. I’m sure countless other families do the same by visiting their own little pieces of paradise and can relate.
Our days are typically spent enjoying the local attractions — typically splashing in the creek, maybe taking a road trip or two, and biking or kayaking to burn off the previous night’s meal. Our evenings are spent wildlife watching in the area, lazing around the campfire, and reducing the take-home weight of our coolers. There’s always good food and good conversation.
I have many fond memories from past summers at camp – fish caught, laughter shared, and even a few injuries come to mind. A rattlesnake encounter, giant black bears on the porch and a flying rock to the face all are popular subjects. Being up there often brings these old stories back to life, and everyone chuckles at the recollections.
Our camp has really changed in physical form since those earlier settings. We’ve made improvements to keep with the times – expanded, upgraded — all of which are nice updates to modernize our camp and make it more efficient. But it still has the same old bones – the same feeling of home.
Some of the people I so dearly enjoyed spending time with at camp have since passed on: Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Jim, and our great family friend “Boog” all made their final trips to camp in recent years, though we didn’t know it at the time, of course. All are sorely missed, and camp just isn’t the same without them.
Still, it remains, as I often proclaim, my favorite place. There’s just something special about pulling into the drive, unloading the truck, plopping out a chair, opening a beer, sitting down and listening to the trickling flow of the creek. It soothes. It heals. It revitalizes. Instantly.
This year was unique in that it was my newborn baby girl’s first trip to camp. At less than a month old, we still made the trip – pack-n-play, diapers, onesies and all. My dear wife is a trooper; she knew how much it meant to me for all of us to be there.
Though my daughter was still too little to dip her toes in the icy water, I’m certain she enjoyed her inaugural visit by the way her curious gray eyes gazed with wonder at the tree branches swaying in the soft breeze while I carefully held her by campfire. She was alert and as captivated by nature as I was by her sweet little face.
My 4- year-old son is already hooked, and it’s obvious he is well on his way to loving camp just as much as I do. For weeks, he talked about going to “his” hunting camp, where the allure of playing all day, collecting rocks, catching a fish, and maybe even seeing a bear are situated right at the top of any tyke’s to-do list.
He got to experience all that, but more importantly, spend quality time with his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. After all, that’s what matters most and it’s the real reason we go there.
But it’s amazing how time slows down when you get the opportunity to unplug and enjoy the fresh air of the outdoors and relish in family companionship during a simple getaway to camp. It’s also an opportunity to reflect.
While gazing into our fire ring late one night, with my son drifting to sleep on my lap, I couldn’t help but acknowledge something special. As a soon to be 35-year old husband and father of two, my life continues to revolve around a unique cycle shared here at camp – much like our family circled around the dancing flame.
Sixty years ago, my dad was the little boy playing in the creek behind camp. 30 years ago it was me. Now it’s my own kids doing the same. For three full generations, we’ve been going to camp every summer – kids, parents, grandparents – making memories together that will hopefully last for future generations.
As I carried my boy inside the cabin, passing Grandpa’s old bunk that now serves as my own, I was further reminded of how this cycle continues, and I smiled … There’s just no place like hunting camp.