Betty & I have already visited many of the campgrounds and scenic spots we hope to travel to again in the next 5 years, building wonderful memories along the way. She has been gracious enough to indulge me in exploring remembrances from my family life, before we met, including stops at the 3 spots I am about to highlight. We have often chuckled at the fact that those places, on return, are not as grand and fantastic as in my childhood memories. But they hold special spots just the same.
From 1957 to 1967 my family (dad, mom, brother and I) spent a month (usually July) in a tent as we camped up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States. Everything a family of 4 needed was either in the trunk of a Buick Special, or Pontiac Parisienne, or on the roof! At first the tent, poles, and suitcases were strapped to the roof, and then my dad arranged for a custom carrier to be built with a place for the poles and supplies under a canvas top that snapped down along the edges.
My mom was a big believer in “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. I remember a customs agent once asking to see the contents of our trunk, with mom giving a dire warning: “If you take anything out, you’d better put it back in the same place!” Needless to say, the border guard didn’t touch a thing. LOL
As we prepare to pack our Class A motorhome for a trip involving the two of us and our dog, Charlie, without the need to add a Coleman stove and tent, I can’t believe we are still running out of room! But that’s another story. On to the 3 campgrounds:
Camden Hills State Park is situated on the rugged Maine coast, not that far from our New Brunswick home in the late 1950’s. I learned to swim in Lake Megunticook, driving my mother crazy with “Watch me. Watch me now!” We would hike up the adjacent Mount Megunticook for a scenic lookout over Maiden’s Leap, and fish for flounder in the Atlantic ocean in the picturesque Camden harbour. It was the only time in my life I could catch a fish! Without a rod, just a string around a stick and a bucket of clams to bait the hook, we caught a boatload of flounder in no time at all. I guess it spoiled me for life — never had the patience to wait for fish to bite after that!
Years later, when Betty & I were married and living in Toronto, I convinced her and our good friends, Ken & Wendy, to go back to Camden with me. I built it up to be a spectacular spot, and of course it was rainy and miserable the whole time we were there. They never let me live down the over-hyped location. Oh well, there it is…
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, is the second stop on memory lane. With miles and miles of fine grain sand dunes, it is the site (Kitty Hawk) of the Wright brothers first flight, and of an iconic spiral painted light house and many shipwrecks. I have always been a sound sleeper, and one night in 1960 I tried to sleep through a hurricane, as our tent filled up with water and came down on top of us. Eventually my parents got me out, and we spent our first and only night in a motel, until we could get to Sears the next day to buy a replacement tent. BTW, that replacement canvas shelter — that always had the smell of camping for me — lasted for many years, including camping trips with Betty & our young family. Our son took it tree planting in northern Ontario, and we pitched it on a cottage lot we purchased on the shore of a lake in southwestern Manitoba. It was always a sturdy structure. Maybe it’s still there…
The third and final stop on today’s memory lane is Cove Lake State Park in Tennessee. Prior to being developed into a park (in the early 1960’s?) I believe it was a private golf course, and the beauty of the land with mountain backdrops was maintained. We made friends with a family on a neighbouring acreage, and they took us horseback riding around their property — a real treat for young kids. We would also swim in the campground’s large pool, with Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire blasting from the juke box. Oh the memories!
Again, I convinced Betty & our 4 kids to stop there one year on a Class C motorhome trip from Winnipeg to Disney World, but think I overhyped it again. It was winter and while there was no snow on the ground, the air was chilly and there were no leaves on the trees, or any other lush vegetation from my childhood memories. But the on-site restaurant was still there, and we went in for a hearty meal before hitting the road.
As we left, the waitress called out to us “Y’all come back now. Ya hear!” And God willing and the creek don’t rise, I hope we will!