A camping trip to remember

Posted 10/6/21

Last Friday was the first camping trip my wife and I took with our three young children. As our middle son bounded out of the minivan at the Lake Jordan campsite, he called out, “Remember, Mom’s …

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A camping trip to remember

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Last Friday was the first camping trip my wife and I took with our three young children. As our middle son bounded out of the minivan at the Lake Jordan campsite, he called out, “Remember, Mom’s the leader!”

Smart boy. My wife is far more experienced in the ways of the woods than me. In fact, marrying yours truly was the only thing that could put a halt to her camping adventures. Until last Friday.

Over the course of my 40 years, I have spent maybe a half-dozen nights in a tent: a handful of times as a boy with my family, then twice when I was wooing a certain young woman. Thankfully, she did not judge my reliability as a future partner by my ability to put up a two-person tent.

For our first camping trip, our family of five borrowed a massive tent that, once spread out on the ground, reminded me of playing with a parachute in elementary school recess. Only this time there were lots of poles and pegs. Good thing I was not the leader!

Following my wife’s expert instructions, we got the tent up and looking fine. She went to work stringing hammocks between trees so our kids could play before supper. I got busy collecting firewood.

Again, I’m no outdoorsman. But even I find something deeply satisfying about building a fire. I started the kindling with my old columns printed in this very newspaper! As my words went up in smoke, the sticks caught fire and soon there was a roaring flame. My kids wandered over in time to watch how I made a pyramid of the biggest logs so that the fire would have air to breathe. Watching the flames lick the wood, I remembered my granddad starting a fire in his fireplace. “Just takes one match,” he’d always say and chuckle with delight.

On the fire that I built, I burnt most of our supper. But my wife had packed plenty of chips and hummus. Of course, we had plenty of fixings for s’mores. Our eldest son eats only chocolate and graham crackers. Our 3-year-old stuffs marshmallows in her mouth like a blonde chipmunk with pigtails.

Only the middle son takes the time to build the classic s’more. His mom taught him how to hold the marshmallow on the end of his stick at just the right distance from the flame and turn it ever so slowly, toasting it to a golden brown. Clearly pleased with his efforts, this son climbed into my lap with his sticky fingers.

Darkness came early to the woods. His siblings were barely visible in the hammocks, but we could hear their giggles. In the campfire glow, I watched my wife settle into her chair with her own perfectly toasted marshmallow. The smoke from the fire curled into the treetops. Through the branches, the moon glowed brightly.

The son in my lap interrupted these observations: “What are you thinking about, Dad?”

“How glad I am that we went camping,” I replied.

He grinned. “You should write that down!”

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church. His newly-published book is a collection of his columns for the Chatham News + Record titled “Hope Matters: Churchless Sermons.”


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