I haven’t pitched a tent, lit a camp stove or burrowed deep into the secure cocoon of a sleeping bag as owls called out to no one in particular, in far too long. Nine years to be exact. The last camping trip I mapped out was to the Apostle Islands, but that was also the same summer that my dad died, and I cancelled the trip. So when my friend Jane threw together a last minute mid-week camping excursion, I couldn’t refuse.
And I’m so grateful that I was able to juggle schedules and move work and childcare days around to get out to Woodland Valley Campground in Phoenicia, New York, tucked into the Catskills at the foot of Slide Mountain.
The tidy campground established by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s, was practically empty on this Wednesday in October, and we had our pick of sites. Signed off on all the bear disclaimers and bundles of firewood purchased, we pitched our domestic domes on the bend of a gentle stream that slipped over a shallow, rocky river bed. And attended to very important matters, like setting the beer to cool in the stream. Nice work, Sue.
We strolled, leaves crunching underfoot, to the trailhead which led to substantial ascents to the ridge line, but we only had enough daylight for a healthy scramble part of the way up. This was a power camping round, but we did it all: Jiffy Pop on the fire, a gourmet feast of rich black beans and Alaskan salmon (thank you Iliama Fish Co.) and s’mores roasted over the fire pit. There was strong French press coffee in the morning and the newest trick in the outdoorsy book: heating lavender-scented face wipes in a pot of bowling water to freshen (and warm up) in the morning. My idea of a spa retreat. It was nourishing on every level, and I can’t wait to return in the spring…