Some years ago when I was a young teenager I was invited along on a summer camping trip with a motley assortment of people. It was a strange lot to be sure with about five distinct cliques of family and friends all mixed together. None of the various groups seemed to have much in common with each other except for the desire to go out and live primitively in the woods for a week.
For some odd reason I was included in the “friends” category even though I had never actually done anything with a single one of these people before. In fact, my only tenuous connection to them was that the person inviting me was a friend of my mothers. It didn’t matter though…I loved camping and I was willing to put up with folks I didn’t know that well in order to go.
Our camping spot was a three-hour drive from our home town and then a three-mile hike up a rather steep mountain. Everyone was given their own personal gear to haul as well as one item for the group’s use. My one item was a remarkably heavy ice cooler which I half lugged, half drug up the trail. Although I didn’t look inside the cooler at the start of the hike I imagined it contained something vaguely yummy. A quarter of the way through I daydreamed it housed something icy cool and refreshing. Mid-way to the trail’s end I hoped it contained bandages and medication for all my blisters. Three-quarters of the way and I was looking for a steep edge to drop it over and by the time we got to our camp site I was cursing the very sight of it. Lol and behold when this treasure trove that I had slaved a half day’s labor over was opened it was full of…
Yep, cans and cans and cans of ice-cold beer. I was fourteen years old and I had carried the camp’s alcohol supply three miles up a mountain. Half delirious with heat and sweat stroke I silently proclaimed all the adults in the group complete and utter bastards. I soothed myself with the knowledge that the damn thing would be empty on the hike down when it was time to leave and there would be no way in hell I would be trading my empty cargo for someone else’s heavy stuff cause this girl had wised up to the party tricks that’s for sure.
Once we all settled in and the tents were set up and firewood gathered I had a chance to look around and explore our remote location and only one word could sum it up…GLORIOUS! It was the most amazing spot I had ever seen in real life.
Our campground was on the east side of the mountain and at the edge of the forest was a small beach that led into the crystal clear and fairly warm water of a beautiful lake. The water was so perfectly clear that you could see the white sand of the lake’s bottom twenty feet below the surface. The lake was perhaps a mile across and two miles wide and at the west end where it butted against the rocky side of the mountain there was a natural spring with a stream of glacier cold water spilling of out a deep crevice in the cliff side. Every day we would row our raft to this little stream and fill up our drinking jugs.
Although everyone was nice I decided pretty quick that I didn’t have much in common with anyone in our group…other than the adults and a handful of much younger kids there were two girls my age and three boys. The boys only wanted to tromp around the woods by themselves as fourteen year old boys are wont to do and the girls only wanted to not get dirty, do their hair and make-up, gossip about and then make calf eyes at the boys, all of which was perfectly okay… for them. I chose to go swimming instead and each day I spent the majority of my time in the lake.
I would swim a little away from the shore, take a deep, deep breath and then dive beneath the diamond glistening water to a depth of about ten feet and then just stay in suspended motion for as long as I could. My hair would float about me and my body felt free of my physical weight while my mind felt free of everything. I’d reach my hands out and let the sun’s rays shining through the sparkling depths lace between my fingers and I’d listen to the only sound I could hear, that of my own heartbeat.
In those moments the world was…absolutely peaceful and absolutely perfect.