Camping With Dad
Dad's Love of the Wilderness
I love the smells of going camping with my Dad. The air was so sweet you could almost taste it. Fresh, cold water from the stream was sweet like sugar water and the pine smell really is intoxicating. My Dad loved the mountains and visited as often as he could get away. He instilled that love of nature and camping into all of us. It’s no wonder that before he passed away, he made us promise to scatter his ashes there, so close to blue heaven you could almost touch it.
My parents invested in Coleman hardware for camping and often replaced items with better Coleman camping equipment. We owned a Coleman stove, Coleman lanterns, Coleman camp cook kits, and I think even the tent was Coleman. I feel like I grew up with Coleman, like a member of the family. The smell and taste of food cooking in the mountains where the air is thin and fresh are so much better, that for years I thought we should cook with a Coleman stove at home too. Maybe it would all taste astounding like it did in the mountains.
My mother would take bare ingredients all neatly packed in crates and even a homemade pancake mix for those frosty mornings. She knew just how much to bring and no more. She was certainly an expert at meal planning and campfire cooking. Instead of bringing a whole loaf of bread, she brought only enough to make the sandwiches she knew we needed for a lunch or two. This was important because bread tends to dry out quickly in the thin mountain air.
I gained my desire to be an artist up there in the high country among the birds and rambling pine trees. The steaming mug of hot cocoa on a nearby rock and me with pad and pen in hand, trying to capture immeasurable beauty. Those are good memories. I still try to capture the beauty of nature and still fall a little short of the natural grandeur. I also still like to visit the mountains with my own Coleman stove, my camera and the ghost of my Dad saying, “breath, Neesie, now that’s fresh air!”
What I Learned
I learned many things in those mountains. I learned to appreciate what I have. I learned that you don’t need as much to survive as you think you do. The bare necessities amount to food and a place to sleep/somewhere warm to lay your head. Everything else is secondary and a blessing. I learned that my Dad was a true pioneer in his love of elbowroom, somewhat like Daniel Boone. He had a deeply ingrained pioneer spirit that goes back to his forefathers. We didn’t find out until decades after Dad’s death, that one of his forefathers actually knew and was friends with Daniel Boone. Dad would have been very proud to have known that. I suppose he knows that now.
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I think that this love of art I have stems from my Dad’s love of nature too. It seems the wilderness calls to me and I have to go and paint it as often as possible. An excellent legacy, I would think, to pass to my own children and grandchildren. Thanks, Dad.
I have won many awards on my paintings in watercolor, collage, and oils. My favorite subjects are children and landscapes. Because of my father's legacy of camping, I took my children there as often as I could. When I discovered that my husband loved camping also, he moved from best friend to the love of my life.
Have you ever been camping, the sleeping on the ground or a tent kind of camping?
I think one of the best parts of camping is the interaction with the family around the campfire when the sun goes down. There is a sweet sort of comradery then. No TV, no Internet, no social media; just you and the stars. Your voices echoing softly on the mountain tops. We talked about all sorts of things from the past to the future to things that have never been.
The stories we made up on the crisp evenings in front of the campfire still live in me. The story of the Kybo Monster is just one of many stories we told around the campfire, but that is a story for a different time. The way the air smelled sweet and the voices echoed softly back to us from the cliff sides and the way animal calls in the dark thrilled us, still makes my heart beat quicken. I find that some of my best memories of my Dad are in those hills. It seems only appropriate that he wanted his ashes scattered there in the wilderness, where the tall pines sweep the stars.
I think every child should have the opportunity to visit the few places in this country that are still designated wilderness before they are all gone.