This past week I spent some time at Camp with my grandson, Billy, and his friend, Syd. The boys are 10 and nine respectively. Of course, they were accompanied by their moms– city women who are usually wrapped up in their executive careers and never more than a few inches away from their phones. But I knew they would all relish camp life for a few days. My daughter, Brooke, has joined me on camping trips from the time she was very little. When she was a teenager, we explored the Bob Marshall Wilderness area in Montana on horseback and during summers spent weeks in the Adirondacks. An especially exotic trip was to Iceland, fishing and traversing the barren, majestic landscapes. She is my co-adventurer. But this trip this week would really be about the kids.
Billy is more like his dad who is a great guy and father but who likes the home fires a bit more than the campfires. I wanted Billy to open up and experience for himself the kind of connection to nature that has brought me so much joy over the years. I sensed he was starting to lean distinctly toward the campfire team after we made a batch of sticky and delicious s’mores the first night. And that was just the beginning. The next morning, we had a 6:00am wake up call for fishing with Andy and Greg, both local friends and expert anglers—Andy is a guide at Wheatons. The boys had barely slept off their s’mores when I rustled them out of bed. They were groggy and less than enthusiastic at that hour. But with the first tug on a rod the excitement level went to an eleven on a scale of ten. They had some run of luck catching small-mouthed bass that day. Needless to say, they were “hooked.”
The next morning, Syd beat me to the dock at 6:00 am followed by Billy at 6:30 and that would set the reveille pattern for the rest of the week. I could barely get a cup of coffee to my lips before they started in about straightening out the rods from the day before. After breakfast we fished from the dock, but the fish knew to swim out beyond their casts. There were some long faces, but their moods brightened when I said we were going out on the water in the canoe. It was good preparation for the next day fishing out on Spednic Lake, which would be their best fishing day of the week. The perch were down deep but abundant and between them the boys caught 25. I took them to Baskehegan Lake the following day, and though the catch was smaller, their enthusiasm for the sport was undimmed. They must have slept soundly and blissfully each night, dreaming about “fishin’ and catchin’” – Andy’s turn of phrase. We finished out the week with a ride on my new-old boat—an aluminum ’68 Duratec. The 8.5 horsepower motor was underperforming but the experience for the kids was like a coaster ride. We idled the boat and trolled for a while but caught nothing. They loved it anyway.
Seeing camp through their eyes is like stargazing. When I look up at the night sky from the dock, it seems there are ever more stars to behold and it fills me with an almost child-like wonder. Out here there is no manmade light to compete with or diminish the glimmer of those distant celestial bodies, just the remains of some glowing embers from the pit fire. For the boys, each day here was one of endless discovery. I asked Billy “What was the best part of your time at camp?” He said, without missing a beat, “Catching more fish than Syd!”