Mr. Smith and I made a quick trip to Philadelphia this week. Between Wilkes Barre and Philadelphia, the quickest route is the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension which runs through rural areas of mountains, forest and farmland. About halfway, you travel through a long tunnel that runs under Blue Mountain.
Normally views of the rolling landscape, rivers and rock cuts keep Mr. Smith entertained, but this trip he found something else that captured his attention. Every time we passed someone pulling any sort of a travel trailer, often with several bicycles strapped to the back, he would wistfully say, “They’re going camping.”
I have been camping with Mr. Smith. We went camping on our honeymoon almost 42 years ago. I had camped a couple of times as a kid with my parents or the girl scouts, but never with my beloved. He grew up going on a two-week camping adventure with his family every summer and was eager to continue the tradition with his new bride. We were two kids with no money for fancy hotels, so we borrowed his parents’ pop-up camper and headed into the wild.
With stars in my eyes, I said why yes, I’d love to go camping at Wilderness State Park. Wilderness is near Mackinaw City, Michigan. We drove down a curvy narrow road that seemed to go on forever before reaching the entrance. We were greeted with 26 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan lakeshore and an abundance of coniferous forests. We stayed a couple of nights, taking a day trip to Mackinaw Island and whiling away one lovely afternoon sipping cold beers in a bar in Mackinaw City, marveling at the fact that we were married.
Then we headed for Neys Provincial Park on the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario. There is no denying the natural beauty of the park, albeit rugged. This is where I discovered Mr. Smith’s love of sunsets and his pleasure in photographing them. We were doing ok for a couple of nights, hiking during the day and building campfires at night. Then came the morning we woke up a bit chilly and looked out to see everything covered in snow. It was August! I don’t consider myself a hot house flower, but my honeymoon visions had veered more toward us lying on the beach sipping cold drinks and listening to the waves, not brushing the snow off everything and wondering if we had another sweater we could put on.
I may be a planner, but Mr. Smith is a problem solver. He took one look at my not so disguised dismay and hustled us into the car and out to breakfast. Heading back from breakfast, he pulled over to the side of the road to use a pay phone. Yes, it was the time before cell phones and when you were out camping and need to make a call, you used a pay phone. The closest big city was Thunder Bay, Ontario. He called a travel agent there and booked us into the Canadian Pacific Hotel. We went back to the campsite, packed a bag and headed into Thunder Bay. The hotel was lovely and we swam, sat in the sauna, drank champagne and feasted on a lobster dinner. The next day we headed back to the camp site, hooked the camper back onto the car and headed home.
We eventually bought that honeymoon camper from Mr. Smith’s parents and took a couple of wonderful camping trips with our sons. I do prefer a nice hotel with an en suite bathroom but must admit sometimes camping facilitates experiences you won’t get any other way. I will always treasure the memory of lying on a sandy Michigan beach one night with our boys, watching their faces as they experienced a spectacular meteor shower.
The honeymoon camper is long gone. Our boys are now grown and vacationing with their own energetic families. We’ve come full circle and it’s back to just Mr. Smith and me. I know Mr. Smith well enough to realize that while he was looking longingly (lustfully) at the people heading out camping, he was thinking about his retirement years. He has shared many of the places he would like to visit when he has unlimited free time and that some of those places are best appreciated from a campsite. At this point in life, will I help him pack and send him off into the wild on his own, or will I throw caution to the wind and join him in his adventures. We shall see, Mr. Smith. We shall see.
C’est la vie.