Camping Time

It is almost camping time. The trees are in full foliage, the sun is shining and the earth is perfect for fun in the outdoors. I can smell wood burning, potatoes and onions frying in an iron skillet, and hamburgers and hotdog sizzling on the grille. As these smells engulf me, memories of camping flood my mind.

I remember a creek… and what a creek it was. It served me and my camping friend with many pleasurable times. In the heat of the hot summer days, it became a refuge. It was so cool, it begged for our lawn chairs to merge with its rustling water, so we plunged our chairs into its rolling water as deep as we could get them and still stay dry. With feet and legs dangling in the cool water, we talked about all the things teenagers talk about. What great times those were, but they were not my only memories of the ever cooling creek. We found cute boys were also attracted to the rocks and the water, and sometimes they even came by to talk. But, unfortunately, other things were found in the water as well. And, these things not so friendly… water moccasin snakes. Most of the time, the snakes avoided our intrusion into their world, but on one occasion they forgot to stay away. The memory is very clear, even today many years past. We were taking a bath in the creek, as always. Yes, we bathed in the creek. It was much better than those nasty shower rooms. We would take our soap and towels to the creek and sponge off. The water was cool and crisp, making us feel squeaky clean. I was washing away when I noticed my friend was no longer in the water. I frantically looked around to determine why this would be, when I spotted her a long way down the creek and on the ground, waving arms frantically. I had no idea what was being said, but the body movements alerted me to look down. I did and was surprised to see a snake looking up at me through the water… Yes, water moccasins do have white mouths. At first, I froze, not believing what my eyes were telling my brain. It did not take me long to decide this was not the right approach to my problem. You might say that was the fastest I have ever moved.

There was another time when the pace I ran was an important factor to survival. I remember hearing breathing and footsteps. My friend and I would walk around the camp at night and often go into Gatlinburg to the dances. The dances produced a lot of fun for us, but came with one drawback. Because of the late hour returning to the campground, the gates were locked, forcing us to walk to our campsite. That was generally not a problem, until one dark, dark, night. We were merely walking to our campsite, talking about our night’s adventures, when we heard an unusual noise. Both of us stopped at once. We had both heard the sound. Listening carefully, we could hear crackling noises as twigs and leaves were crunched under foot of something or someone. We decided to walk a little faster… and we did, hoping the sounds would go away. Did they? No, they only got louder and louder, and it was obvious that who or what was making the sounds was big. We walked faster … it walked faster. We slowed down … it slowed down. By now, we knew “it” was following us. We really tried to be cool, but when we got closer to the campsite, we ran as fast as we could. We made it to the tent , ran in, and quickly zipped it up. By now, we were sure it was not human. We were also were pretty sure it was a bear. We got very quiet in hopes the critter would leave. The breathing and rustling around our tent lasted a good hour. Eventually, after a lot of anxiety, the bear left our small tent area. The next morning we discovered that a bear had been in our campsite during the night and created havoc. And to think…. we probably invited the bear into our campsite when we ran. Now thinking about the bear and the snake, I have decided that maybe camping is not such a good idea after all.

Source: K. P. Guessen