For twenty years, we've had this family tradition of going camping
in April and November, for highly practical reasons, no mosquitoes
and food in coolers stays colder. Sometimes the April date coincided with Easter,
so money was saved on new Easter clothes for church and we'd just do the pagan thing,
hiding colored eggs and candy in the woods. The kids loved it.

The November date was originally chosen for us by the NJEA, who felt teachers needed a four day weekend
in early November to gamble in Atlantic City and discuss education while blitzed.

This year I could only get a cabin the night of Thanksgiving, staying over til Monday morning.
There are only eight cabins and two were damaged by Hurricane Irene. There is no electricity,
practically no privacy, a small woodstove, and the updated restrooms are five minutes down the hill,
and five minutes back. It's a good place to unplug for a few days.

We make bonfires and go on hikes, light lanterns and candles, tell silly stories when it's dark, laugh a lot, play old
board games and draw pass-along-stories.
It is a place to make special memories: acorn villages, treasure hunts, an attempt to make homemade calzone
still not lived down, burned on the outside, raw on the inside. Threw that camping "oven" out!
The year my son-in-law was in Iraq, the year my father died, the year after my surgery, the year my son got in trouble;
it was just a place of healing.

We have all walked on Shades of Death Road and around Ghost Lake. The sunsets are out-of-this-world, then instant darkness descends. We have almost gotten lost in the forest at night, a designated dark-sky site. Without a flashlight, you cannot even see yourself walking. Me, the Methodist, who should have died several times, am not afraid, besides I love this place, partly because of the darkness. My husband is older and an atheist; just reads, smokes his pipe, and sleeps and reads and talks in his sleep. The kids are now young adults but become kids again for a few days. It is a place where you get what you need.

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