The joys of camping

In my last column I mentioned that we often do “out of character” things when dating in order to show our flexibility.

I was first tested in that regard back in 1974 when my future husband, Peter, taught me how to fish. I had never been in a boat and had never held a fishing pole. It was so-o-o not me! However, it turned out to be a pleasurable experience.

Having passed that test, he moved me up to the next level of outdoor adventure the following year. We were married in September of 1975 and that same month he suggested we spend a weekend camping. The object was to fish in ponds and lakes beyond the Rutland area.

Peter came into our marriage with a pop-up camper but I had no idea that it would ever involve me, as it had been a joint purchase with a fishing buddy. Little did I know that he was now the sole owner! This “hotel on wheels” was now available to us 24/7.

I wasn’t sure I was ready for camping, as my overnight stays had always been in hotels or motels with a comfortable bed and a bathroom! I noticed that the latter was sorely lacking as I checked out his camper.

Looking back, I was fortunate that my camping experience didn’t begin in a tent. I would probably have convinced myself that a bear would be joining us during the night. Sleep would have an issue!

I knew he was anxious to show me the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) of Vermont. He wanted to take me fishing on lakes and ponds that he had visited long before I came into his life.

I had heard a lot about his favorite places, all of which were located very close to Barton. This town is the home of Bel-View Campground, which is just a few yards from Crystal Lake. I decided I was up for this next adventure, so off we went. I made sure we had all the essentials for meals and Peter took care of the fishing gear.

When we arrived at the campground, the owners showed us our site. It was instant “love” on my part. There was a waterfall behind us and a fire pit for campfires. Because we were in the woods the moon and stars shone like I had never seen them before. The streetlights of Rutland never allowed me to see the sky as I was seeing it in Barton.

When it was time to get ready for bed, I hiked up a hill with my toothbrush, soap, washcloth and towel. It cost 25 cents to take a shower. But everything was so clean that it was an acceptable experience.

I was particularly anxious to try my luck at catching a salmon. So the next morning after a big campsite breakfast we headed to Caspian Lake, which was the current “hot spot” for salmon. The lake is in Greensboro, about 15 minutes from Barton. With Peter as my guide I caught two beautiful salmon. I was thrilled!

For us camping did not mean hanging out at the campground all day. We used it as a home base. When we explored the lakes and ponds in the area, we often packed our table-top gas grill, some burgers, a salad and dessert. We found a nice spot to enjoy our meal as we took in the natural beauty around us.

I guess camping brought out the kids in us! We had campfires every night complete with marshmallows on a stick. They were delicious. People walking around the circular road often stopped to visit. I was falling in love with camping.

But after spending many nights in our pop-up camper while others had self-contained trailers, the inevitable happened–we upgraded. By the next summer, we had our own shower and bathroom! No more trips up the hill with my 25 cents. I was in heaven. We decided to become permanent campers and kept the trailer there year round. I realized that we had acquired a summer home!

My guess is that Peter was willing to do whatever it took to keep on fishing in the NEK. It happened gradually, but by the end of our 25-year camping stint I had managed to acquire a microwave oven, a small portable TV hooked up to cable, and a platform deck with an awning. Creature comforts were taking over!

Did Peter mind his new way of camping? Not at all. As they say, “Happy wife, happy life!” And, of course, he got to keep on fishing.

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