When in reality you’re trying to covertly snap a photo of your camping neighbors taking their dog for a walk…in a pink stroller.
That pup was the most pampered being in that campground, always parked in front of the fan, “walked” to her heart’s content…
But this camping trip wasn’t about dogs. It was about children, and the wonderland that is having a playground within eyesight and the freedom of coming and going by oneself,
About being made to carry firewood,
No matter what your age.
About playing on the giant rocks in a creek bed that’s never been anything but dry,
About heading to the playground before breakfast and before being de-pajamaed,
And before anyone can force you to put your Crocs on the right feet.
About playing happily with your cousins so that your parents can take a romantic and quiet walk around the campground without any little shadows getting in the way,
About pulling your grandmother in every direction possible because we all know she’s the most fun person on a camping trip,
And about sitting around the campfire with your Granddad while making up ghost stories.
And, since Ali was there and Ali is never unprepared, it was about having a craft table set up and organizing all of your cousins as if you were the activities coordinator on a cruise ship.
This might mean that you have your first Rainbow Loom disaster and major rubberband de-sorting, but it’s worth it anyway.
This is our annual family camping trip. Always at the idyllic location of Buck’s Pocket State Park, low in the valley below Sand Mountain in North Alabama.
It’s a place where you take your dogs along to do the dishes,
(Yes I gagged a little when I saw that,)
Where you force your children to go on long nature hikes,
(Yes these “paths” were most definitely where we managed to pick up Poison Sumac,)
Where you teach them how to climb trails that go straight up mountainsides,
Where you have to come up with a satisfying explanation for the rock-writing along the trail – because after all, some kids can read,
Where, on some parts of the trail, you wish you were as short as they were,
And where the view at the top makes it all worth it.
Well, at least for grownups.
(But the cousin-to-cousin bonding of such shared trauma cannot be denied.)
But this is also the place where my Mother has been hosting The World’s Best Treasure Hunt for over two decades and two generations, so all hiking can be forgiven.
Because the ecstasy of getting your water balloon into a bucket a foot in front of you erases all negative memories.
(As does finding a new best friend.)
At night, there are glow sticks to be had, and light shows to be offered.
But after the children are tucked snugly in their sleeping bags is when the real fun can be had – because the good chocolate comes out for the S’mores, there are glow sticks to burn,
And fiery air-writing to attempt.
And then, after all can be had of the State Park, there are new adventures to discover.
Adventures that require walking up to a ledge and looking over –
To discover what is sure to be one of Alabama’s most fantastic sights, High Falls Park.
If ever there were a Troll Bridge, that has to be it.
And of course, there are sunsets.
Wide, sweeping gigantic sunsets,
Unbelievable overlooks in the middle of nowhere,
And awe-inspiring paintings in the sky.
Sunsets that leave the cows unimpressed,
Because they see them every night.
This is Alabama. Come visit us soon.
(And I might even take your dog’s picture while I’m pretending to take my son’s.)