Summer is here, and the days are filled to capacity. The calendar is scribbled with reminders and commitments: band camp, church camps, sports, family gatherings, pastoral meetings and events – the list goes on and on. Those lazy days of summer I dreamed of during the stark winter? Forget about it!
We’ve blocked off a week for a family vacation, but I haven’t planned the trip yet. I am seeking a destination that is nearby, yet exotic; inexpensive, but not tacky; great fun, but known to few. The hotel and all attractions will be pet friendly. Last minute reservations are no problem. Tipping is prohibited. The restaurants are casual and economical, but serve four-star, quality fare. Is that too much to ask?
Don’t answer that.
One of our most enjoyed family vacations was a trip to Cook Forest two years ago. My daughter won four days at a cabin in the woods when she placed second in a rubber duck race. Each contestant paid five dollars to enter the event. Hundreds of ducks were placed in the river that flowed through our neighborhood park. At the starting signal, they were released en masse, spinning aimlessly in the current toward the finish line. There was no telling which duck was hers, but still we cheered wildly, “Go Fluffy! Swim, swim, swim!” We were surprised and elated when her duck floated beyond all but one competitor.
The cabin owners had graciously donated the cabin for a long weekend in support of the charity sponsoring the duck race. They were kind enough to allow our dog to accompany us for our four day stay. Driving time was only two hours from our home, but it was far enough away to feel like a vacation destination. The small kitchen enabled us to economize on food costs. In addition to the surrounding beauty of the forest, there were other amenities to enjoy. Mini golf, fishing, hiking, target shooting, canoeing, horseback riding, and a small deer ranch were mere minutes away by car. The cabin was free, so vacation costs were limited to food, gas, and a few attraction fees.
It wasn’t an extravagant vacation by any measure. The cabin was clean and cozy, but spartan. It had electricity and plumbing, but no running water. We collected rain water in a barrel outside to flush the toilet, and used bottled water for drinking and dish washing. We had a microwave, but no shower. There was a refrigerator, but no internet access or cable television. We were “roughing it” in small ways, but I had the indulgence of a soft bed at bedtime instead of a sleeping bag on the hard ground.
We took hikes through the woods, and cooked mountain pies for dinner in the campfire. The kids spent hours involved in simple activities: whittling sticks, identifying plants, and collecting pine cones. They invented an elaborate role playing game using nothing more than a walking stick and a collection of rocks. Brian and Liam took turns shooting at hand drawn targets and empty pop cans. The dog ran herself ragged haring down deer trails and chasing stray scents on the wind. We spent the evenings toasting marshmallows and trying to scare ourselves with ghost stories.
A Found Feather, One Tired Dog
We’ve been many places together over the years: the beach, large cities, amusement parks, water parks, museums, and zoos. We’ve enjoyed them all, but our visit to Cook Forest is the one our children remember most fondly. It was low tech, under planned, and relaxed.
Our vacation plans are not finalized this year, but I know the best trips don’t require fancy lodging or overpriced attractions. All we need is a quiet place where we can reconnect, relax, and enjoy our beautiful world.
All things being equal, however, I do hope to have running water this time around.
Virginia, Princess of the Wood