It’s interesting what summer vacation spots are called in different parts of the country. Where I was born in Michigan it was called going “up north”. For us, that meant driving 300 miles north to Burt Lake to spend glorious days in a small cottage on a lake. In Maine we call that same experience going to camp. No, we aren’t going camping, although a lot of Mainers love to camp.
A camp is a cottage, small house, or even a shack, generally inland (and not on the ocean), often on a lake or pond. Our camp was purchased by Connie’s (my wife) parents in 1937. Then it was a modest one-room log cabin with several sets of bunk beds, a hand pump for water inside, and an outhouse.
Over the years my in-laws made improvements—indoor plumbing and hot water, a separate kitchen, two new bedrooms, and eventually two new complete buildings. We call the building on the water the boathouse. Technically, it does store our many kayaks and canoes in the winter, but it is really another sleeping space and a place for the grandkids to spread out and play on rainy days. The third building, the cookhouse, has a large grill and gives us a place to store tools and other gear.
A couple of other interesting facts about our camp, named Mi Camp. We are equipped to handle large crowds with a picnic table that seats 50 people, lots of beds (we’ve slept 18 people inside and sometimes set up tents outside), lots of boats, and noodles, and snorkels and more for water fun.
One other thing: If you conjure a palatial vacation home in House Beautiful, that is not us. Admittedly, the location is spectacular but our camp is modest and furnished with lots of hand-me-downs that make us all happy. There is something comforting about returning to a place every year that never changes and where we have so many good memories. I particularly like the 1950s Time, Look, and Life magazines that are always fun to re-read every summer but the mis-matched furniture from a variety of eras makes our place special.
And we have entered a new and exciting time with a new generation of grandkids ranging from a 6-year-old, three 5-year-olds, a 3-year-old, and one more due later this summer! The camp has become much more lively in the last couple of years and this year it is really humming with all the activities—swimming, kayaking, building castles in the sandbox, playing basketball, kickball, and croquet.
On rainy days like today we head into the boathouse where we can spread out on the floor to play games or into the camp where we do the same, read books, draw and color, or dance to lively tunes from the old organ. C, our 6-year-old, is becoming quite the accomplished pianist/organist and loves to play songs for her cousins to dance and run to.
Hikes down the camp road and onto another dirt path are always fun especially as the blackberries and red raspberries ripen. We always carry cups or buckets with us for the few berries that aren’t eaten as they are picked! Back at camp we have our own crop of blueberries where O eats a healthy snack at least twice each day.
Have you noticed that I have not mentioned one thing about technology?
When I first started going to our camp over 30 years ago, the closest phone was a pay phone hanging off the side of the Amherst General Store 7.5 miles away. When making a phone call we were standing less than 10 feet away from Route 9, the major road (albeit two lane) between Bangor and Calais. Bad reception is never good but the noise caused by 18-wheelers was something else altogether.
One of the great things about going to camp is that we’ve never had a TV out there. Ok, that isn’t exactly true. For a number of years we had a very old, small portable B/W TV that we hauled out of the corner ONLY to watch the Summer Olympics every four years! But the static or “snow” was so bad that it looked more like the Winter Olympics.
Technology began to catch up with us. With older parents and our own kids venturing further afield we needed to be in touch. So, before phone service was available to our camp and still in the mid-1990s we purchased a “bag” phone, a large cell phone with an exterior battery. Cell phones followed for the next few years, but finding a spot with even minimal reception was a challenge. Dialup internet service began in 2000, replaced soon by DSL, and seven years later, fiber optic cable was installed…in the middle of the Maine woods!
To be honest, this was a mixed blessing for us. It allowed us to “work” from camp so we could live out there for July and August but it definitely took away from reading and family board game time at first. It was all too easy to merely pick-up our smartphones, tablets, or laptops and become totally immersed in that world, instead of each other.
Now, we pay attention to limiting our internet time, especially with the grandkids around. We want them to remember and think of camp as a time to play and have fun without devices. Since they are all so young they haven’t developed the “device habit”. Happy to report that there is much reading happening for all ages! E, C, O, P, and R love every minute at camp and we couldn’t be happier
Moral to this story?
I’m not sure we need a moral here but if there is one it is something like this: Technology doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can have access to our devices and the internet as a normal part of life, even camp life, but it doesn’t become the sole focus. In addition to staying in touch with family not already at camp, internet access has saved us numerous times. Two years ago the alarm for the septic tank went off in the middle of the night but YouTube saved us. Poison Ivy a year ago. Thanks Web M.D. A mouse infestation every year…well, you get the idea!
A great way to make a healthy start to your day at camp or wherever you are this summer is with this healthy smoothie recipe from my BoomerTECH Adventures colleague, Chris Toy. Enjoy his recipe.