A few days late, but here, I'll catch you up on our amazing camping trip this last weekend over the Fourth of July. A great many of us have been looking forward to this trip ever since last year's successful event. This year we decided to coordinate some more with the food, and I think it worked out splendidly. I was charged with buying burgers, hots, bacon and taco-meat, and others were asked to bring side dishes and buns and such. We all decided a Friday through Monday would work, and come Friday, having been packed for 3 days already, we headed off mid-day on a giant separate caravan down 390 for the 2 hour drive to Big Flats, NY.
This camping trip was once again on the property of Rachael's uncle, on a nice big mountain-side, with a pond, pavilion, giant fire pit, and lots and lots of room for the TWELVE dogs that were with us the weekend. And it turned out the final count of people equaled 12 as well. A rounding success, for sure. Everyone got there and set up over a few hours on Friday afternoon, and by the evening, we were prepping burgers and hots and lots and lots of salads and delicious sides. Friday was kinda misty and windy, but the joy of being back in this blissful spot just clouded right over any imperfections. And Uncle Joe was MORE than happy to see us there. He started right away working on the area to get things settled, mowed, cleaned, and nailed down for our weekend stay. He very much enjoys having us there every year.
Lindsay also invited one of her VERY new coworkers, Tim, to spend the weekend camping, and he brought his dog Milo. Tim was a welcomed addition, and I got to know him a bit over the next few days. Definitely hoping we don't scare him off to the point he moves out of state again, but we shall see. Our group is a bit overwhelming if you don't know us, as evidences by all the mean and harsh jokes at Lindsay's expense throughout the weekend. As tents went up, and food was finished up, the fire was started, and the beer started flowing. First night down was great, and people began to relax.
The Fourth of July included a VERY warm and sunny day, a lot of laying in the sun, swimming, playing with the dogs, hiking, reading, eating, and so much more. And by early afternoon, we were ready to head to a 4th party that by all means is one of the largest parties you can go to. But there was a slight snag. On the way there, we took 3 vehicles, and two of them ended up in the ditch in what can only be described as parallel road-side parking gone BAD. In a bout of laughter, some concern, a lot of road hazards, some ingenuity, and the kindness of extended family, several of us managed to get both vehicles (both with a wheel completely off the road), back in driving order, parked, and safely away from deep ditches.
The party was fun, the food was delicious, games and dancing, the usual you would expect at a party. But the fireworks ending? Watch out, cause you might get hurt. As soon as dusk migrated to night, several slightly to heavily inebriated individuals were charged with setting off enough fireworks to make Uncle Sam proud. Unfortunately, we had 3 mishaps over the course of a half hour show. In one instance, a firework never left the ground, and exploded in an array of sparks and color near the pile of to-be-shot fireworks. Luckily, after that, nobody was hurt and the show went on. In another instance, a firework shot not UP into the air, but directly INTO the truck where 10 people watched with cups in hand. They dove. They fled. And the boom was to be of concern. But hey, the crowd was safe, or so we thought.
We had set ourselves up on the top of the hill next to a pond near a tent. We wanted the best view, and positioned ourselves next to a small fire in clear view of the fireworks, their reflections on the water, and enough room for a row of 6 of us to sit next to each other. However, the last mishap shot into the crowd, splittig a firework into two pieces. One piece exploded into another truck at the end of the crowd, prompting Lindsay and several others to stand, jump, and flee. Me, being right in the middle, went along for the ride. About 10 feet away, under the tent, the other piece of the firework landing in a girl's sweatshirt and exploded into an array of sparks and magnesium spirals. The BANG scattered people in all directions, and injured a few in the process. By this time, I had fallen down the hill trying to not be trampled by those around me.
This was not the end of the fireworks. But the rest went off without a hitch, and the final was a great deal calmer and prettier, with only small forest fires being started by the finale-box.
Coming back to camp with stories, most everyone else had quieted down for the night, made some nachos, and enjoyed a quiet experience of stargazing and distant-firework explosions. On this hillside, you do not hear trucks, cars, planes, trains, ambulances or anything. It's quiet. You hear your fire. You hear your frogs. Even an occasion dog barking doesn't interrupt your tranquility. As you start to doze off by the fire, like I did a few too many times, you call it night, and enjoy sleeping in the cool, night air with some perks of the modern world.
Come Sunday, you realize you need to make the most of your ever-fleeting camping vacation. Breakfasts with this group felt like gourmet, all-you-can-eat buffets. With several people cooking, and with fresh fruit, toasted bagels, and at least a dozen choices, who can go hungry? And for that matter, breakfast and lunch run together, and you get the best of both worlds. I did my best at making bacon every morning for the group, and Rachael with her amazing camping grill made some french toast, eggs, and a sprinkling of other options. More sun, more swimming, and MORE people! Several new people arrived, making Sunday the largest group so far. The tents were spread all over the place, but nothing ever felt crowded. The day warmed up extremely fast, and there was never a hint of bad weather. Perfect summer days, every day.
This was the day that the 17.5 foot bonfire was to make its appearance. Every year, with Uncle Joe as the lead man, the men of the group (minus me) create a tower of fire, made out of braces, screws, and piles of food, lumber, and brush. This thing was HUGE, and the flames much higher. And once lit, the fire could be felt some 50 feet back. The final measurements were at least 10 feet above the top, some 30 feet in the air. Not sure what could POSSIBLY be done next year to top it, but I'm sure they'll try.
I broke out my liquor, Michael brought his own tequila, bad beer was purchased, the alcohol was flowing, there was a bit of naked pond diving, some obnoxious but hilarious hooting and hollering, and a night that never seemed to end. Well past three AM, you could hear people swinging in the dark, with just the moon as their guide, into a dark pond. Hoot.... splash.. dogs barking. It was hilarious, if not just for those participating, but for those in their tents listening in to the ramblings of a very drunk Joe with admiring Michael. But as they often do, all good things must come to an end, and the night did, and the final morning's sluggish push came to be.
The feelings in the air was that things were done. People started packing up almost immediately, cleaning up began, breakfast finished off what food we had left, often leaving some looking for what snacks would fill their hunger. What was 12 people, with 12 dogs camping on a couple acres, dwindled to 10, to 8, to 6 and finally to just a couple of us left. With people heading back to Rochester, vehicles full of dirty, smoke-filled laundry, damp bedding, dog-hair everywhere and coolers much sadder than day 1, the camping trip came to an end, and another year, successful as it was, only a memory to those witnessing it.