One of the activities my wife and I used to do with our kids was camping. Kim’s family was a weekend camping family, she grew up with frequent trips to Hueston Woods as a kid. I didn’t, I had my first exposure to the trailer camping experience with Kim when we were dating. I liked it. I liked all of it, the getting away from the regular routine, the no phone calls, (there were no cell phones yet), the grilling out, the hiking and creeking and the nighttime s’more making. I would do it again, (not sure about my wife).
So after we had our own children, we soon invested in a small pop-up camper. Our kids loved it, absolutely loved it. On maybe every other weekend, we’d head up highway 177 to make our way up to Hueston Woods. Hueston Woods is a nice little state park equipped with just about everything you’d expect to find in a state park, including some nice camping areas. They have two primary camping areas – Section B is raw, just spots with a fire ring, a table and a place to pitch your tent. Section A has electricity and showers; we camped in A. I have lots of great memories from these times and I plan to write a ‘camping theme’ story, but this story is about one specific camping trip, one with my new friend Jeff.
In 1987, I began working for P&G. The very first person I made friends with was a guy named Jeff. Meeting Jeff was one of those rare moments, those moments you meet someone and you hit it off immediately and you get the sense that a great friendship could develop. Jeff was featured in an earlier story (link).
Jeff had been married only a short time, a newlywed really. I had married very young and at 29 already had 9 years of marriage and two little rug rats under my belt. One of the earliest conversations we had was about parenthood. He was curious about it since I was such ‘an old pro’. I remember the glassy eyes on his face as I was sharing various child-rearing stories like diaper changing and sleepless nights.
Kim and I were deep into the weekend camping scene and just about every other weekend Jeff would ask me how the camping went and I’d share a couple of funny stories. Back in those days, Jeff’s kids weren’t yet even a glint in his eyes but getting close to nature and the great outdoors sounded attractive…..so we planned a camping date.
We had an extra 2-person, little red tent. We brought it along in case Jeff and Carolyn decided to spend the night. They arrived in the early afternoon. We did some introductions and then gave them the grand tour. We walked around A and B and then we hiked down to ‘the falls’. The falls was a small drop off in the nearby creek. In heavy rains, it could provide a decent sized swimming hole.
Once I was swimming there when I swam under the small falls area. I wanted to pop my head up behind the falls. I wasn’t the only one – when I popped up, I was staring directly at a decent sized water snake. The snake quickly got his privacy back.
After the Falls hike, there was a warning of a brief thunderstorm so we decided to hop into Rick’s truck for a ride to the Lodge. Rick is my brother in law on my wife’s side. It’s a relatively small lodge with a pool and a couple of pinball machines, but it was dry and that was the main thing. Like a lot of Ohio late afternoon storms, this one moved through quickly. Soon, we were on our way back to camp.
As we walked out to the parking lot, a large size dog began following us. The dog was very friendly and looked well-fed, obviously someone’s lost pet. The pickup truck was small so most of us hopped back into the bed. Evidently, the big dog thought he’d found a new family because he wanted into the truck too. Dogs love trucks, right?
Rick was having nothing of it and didn’t want the dog hanging around us at camp. He started driving away slowly. To have a little fun, Jeff and I were coaxing the dog to keep up with the truck. Fifteen to twenty mph and the dog was keeping pace, this dog could run! With each couple of additional mph’s, the dog would lose a little ground but Jeff and I would step it up – RUN, COME ON, RUN…..RUN! And with that, the dog was with us again. This kept up until Rick decided to step on it. We lost the dog when he hit about 3 miles and 35mph. Jeff and I were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.
The camping area was a little wet, but nothing a nice big s’mores fire wouldn’t fix. Nightfall was coming soon and as Jeff and Carolyn began thinking of their long drive home, spending the night began to look more and more attractive. And so, the little red tent was pitched.
It was a dark night, a little too dark to see the ropes attaching the tent to the stakes in the ground. Yours truly accidentally tripped over one of those ropes while walking past the tent. Carolyn screamed “STOP IT” at the top of her lungs! We had been sharing scary one-arm, killer camping ground hook-man stories and apparently she thought one of us was trying to scare her. 🙂
Unfortunately, the trip had created a small rip in the tent. Ripped tents on rainy nights, not so good. Our little pop-up camper was nice and comfy. I loved that little camper.
Jeff and Carolyn stayed the night but were absolutely miserable, convincing them that perhaps they would never become the rough outdoor types. There was no hanging around for an outdoor breakfast. I thought I heard Jeff mutter something about getting me back for this and Carolyn yearning for a hot shower in the comfort of her warm home. They did however survive the camping trip from hell and even eventually became parents, wonderful parents to three great kids. I’m sure that the challenging camping experience helped to prove to themselves that if they could endure a night in a soggy tent, how hard could it be to raise three kids?
Jeff and Carolyn are still married to this day, Jeff and I are still close friends, despite his near-death camping trip. Every now and again he phones me, begging me to take him camping again. He’s made an excellent father but I’m betting his kids were deprived of the wet tent camping experience.