While watching my friend’s little girl lost in play, I couldn’t help but remember camping at Todd Lake (or Todd Puddle, as I called it). The trips came at an important stage in my life. A stage in which I was not quite old enough to have outgrown an active imagination and one in which I’d matured enough to have a degree of situational awareness. The pictures from those times cannot begin to show the majesty of those tall trees and the peace of winding mountain streams tripping over mossy stones in their path.
As so many of us do in the first half of our second decade, I lived for the moment and for the person I was at the moment. My decisions, adventures, and existence were tainted by the chains binding me to my mentally ill mother (who I cared for and supported financially in those years). Instead of looking for a way out from under her control and making it happen, I waited for a white night to gallop in and save me. In fact, I had the scenerio all worked out. He would be lost on back country roads and would come across me on my horse — like a clothed Lady Godiva (so… um… not really very Lady Godiva-ish at all). He’d roll down his window, our eyes would meet, and then we would fall completely madly in love. He would tell my scheming mother that she couldn’t go on our honeymoon with us or move into our home. I would be rescued from my hell. Of course, I never met anyone on the roads except dairy trucks and tractors. We would wave or nod to one another and I would watch them drive away wishing that they would magically morph into the hero from my dreams.
Every part of camping was therapeutic. The act of packing (digging out tents, camp stools, skillets, utensils, and sleeping bags) was healing. In the midst of chaos, there was order. I had a master list and loaded my geriatric stationwagon with great enthusasim. Each armload brought me closer to the forest and farther from my reality.
The drive to Todd Puddle, to this day, is one that I can picture with absolute clarity. My memory holds to each bend, loop, and overlook as though it were my personal driveway, as though I’d carved the roadway out of the rock myself. With music cranked up and all my windows down, I’d drive my creaking car up the mountain to one of the spots just down from the lake with friends or sometimes all alone. Yes, I realize this was not a safe practice but certainly no more dangerous than dance clubs on Friday nights.
The first meal was always grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh my, nothing compared to campfire food in my mind. I loved the scent of campfire and how it permeated clothing, hair, and skin. The scent marked me in some way and I felt as though I belonged.
Part Two: tomorrow