Walking around a lake while camping or day picnicking in a camp area has magical memories for me. When I was between the ages of about 7-9, my parents, my older brother Erik and I went camping in Southern Jersey two times. Both times we drove south on fairly small roads through the Pine Barrens to Bass River State Forest (I am pretty certain it was called a State Park, not a State Forest back then). One time we rented a cabin and the other time we pitched a tent. On the trip where we rented a cabin at the edge of Lake Absegami in Bass River, Erik and I decided to go for a hike (though as I think about it we probably didn’t call it a hike then, just a walk on a path or trail).
Venturing off on a path was not so uncommon for Erik and me. Every summer for perhaps 5 years or so, our parents took us to Washington Crossing Park to see outdoor theater. Around the theater were wooded trails that snaked around gentle hills above the amphitheater. Before the show started, after we had our picnic dinner or got hotdogs at the concession stand, Erik and I would go off and explore the paths.
I don’t remember if we told our parents that we would be away for long, but I do remember that when Erik and I left the cabin we went out on our walk with no particular plans. Of course as a child that is the norm whereas as an adult I never leave without looking at a trail map first. We started our walk and before we realized it we were nearly half way around the lake and had to make a decision. I remember being tired and grumpy but our only method to get home to the campsite was to walk back or continue and either route felt too long. So we decided to continue and complete the loop.
I have no sense of what we did other than walk – perhaps we were quiet, perhaps we talked or in a rose-colored memory maybe we sang songs. However we progressed we eventually made it back to the cabin and I do remember the feeling of immense satisfaction for having made it around the large lake. When I glanced at the lake, I could hardly believe that my legs actually took me around it. I have that similar sense of amazement when I hike a trail that has elevation and look back to where I started – is it possible that I made that much distance in my human vehicle?
In grad school, when I was dating Andy who later became my husband, I went with his family for a day trip to his childhood camping area in Northern California. His grandparents had a cabin that they owned nearby Pinecrest Lake, and for several summers Andy and his two sisters and brother and parents got the cabin for their own week long vacation. We arrived and walked around the camping grounds and meandered around the roads to look at the cabin that had been unfortunately sold by Andy’s grandparents before anyone of their kids or grand kids could have bought it. We had lunch at a picnic table near the looming lake.
This was the 80s and “jellies” were in at the time. “Jellies” are rubber shoes styled to look like elegant flats. Now these days it isn’t uncommon to find rubber shoes but the difference is that today they have good construction and lots of padding. Jellies were almost like walking barefoot except that you always got blisters. (Mine looked like these without the bow).
Not realizing that we were going to be doing anything other than lounging around (what was I thinking), I wore my favorite pink jellies and sundress. The kids (Andy, his siblings and me) decided to go for a walk around the lake. I went and I remember feeling the same sense of grumpiness as my childhood experience after walking and sweating and getting sore feet about half way around the lake. But soldier on I did, trying my best to be sweet to Andy’s siblings who I didn’t really know all that well yet. They thought I was nuts, of course, walking around in the pink jellies, but what was I supposed to do? When we got back to the picnic table where Andy’s parents were hanging out, I again had the feeling of personal triumph as I conquered yet another camping lake trail. By the end of that trip my jellies had ripped, but I had made it. And as I gazed at the lake, I was again astounded that on my own, I had gotten around that large body of water. I am at awe of how resilient and powerful our human bodies are, including my own.