The rituals of camping

The prompt:


How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

Buying a home sure puts a dent in the travel budget. I knew this in theory before we took on a mortgage, but now, two years in (twenty eight to go! High-five!) I feel like we’re only just rubbing our eyes and shaking our heads, remembering there was a time when picking up and going somewhere was no big deal.

However, there is a form of travel that’s almost cheaper than staying home – camping! For the last five summers, a group of friends has camped together at Jenkinson Lake, an hour and fifteen minutes east of Sacramento. (henceforth referred to as “Jay Lay,” ie: Should I get those creepy running shoes with toes for Jay Lay this year…?) We take over a few campsites, float on floaties in the sparkling blue water, and read trash magazines while lounging on camp chairs all afternoon.

In travel, as in all things, I am a creature of habit (by the end of one three-day solo stint in Saskatoon –recommended!- I had already formed a routine, a favorite coffee shop with favorite barista, my favorite walk over the best of the two bridges to my favorite neighborhood…) so it only makes sense that the ritualistic aspect of camping would be so satisfying to me. The details of the trip are exquisitely mundane, and utterly the same every time.

The lake always takes your breath away the first time you round the bend and see it – a mini Lake Tahoe without the crowds. You’ll find our campsites at the far end of the lake –drive all the way around to the sign that says “Hazel Creek.” There they are – the quiet, shaded sites by the creek. Over there’s the ditch I got pushed into the first year during our group photo. One year we tried sites closer to the public beach, but they were too crowded. Heck, one year we weren’t at Jenkinson Lake at all, but in a house at the Russian River. But the next year, there we were again, creekside at Jay Lay.

There are attempts to coordinate one dinner together, but there is always too much food. There are s’mores and liquor. The campsites are spacious, but your feet will be the dirtiest they’ve ever been, no matter what you do. There is a luxurious torpor, an utter lack of motivation to do anything, that’s overcome exactly once per trip – to go paddleboating, say, or to hike to the spectacular waterfall. There are ghost stories and jokes that we only realize in retrospect were completely inappropriate for the children.

This repetition creates a monotonous backdrop which throws into stark relief the ways life is not monotonous at all.

Each year, Jenkinson Lake doesn’t change, but we do.

Some of us don’t live in Sacramento any more. There are children whose first trip was in utero, and then in diapers and dirt, and now are real little people. The friendships ebb and flow. Marriages end, people fall in love.

I hope we keep going to Jay Lay forever, or at least until the babies bring their own babies. Against the fluctuations of our lives, we claim this need, to build a temporary, creekside village of constancy, to sit under the dark trees and gaze at the fire together.


About madyoga

Yoga Teacher and Massage Therapist in Sacramento, CA
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2 Responses to The rituals of camping

  1. HollyPhoenix says:

    Jay lay – 4 – eva. 🙂

  2. bachatero80 says:

    I love how the lake is holding all this for you. It’s wonderful when you have go-back-to-spots that are able to record and keep memories. I think it’s what makes them sacred.

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