French Meadows

When we lived in California, we had a yearly tradition of going camping. Same spot, same people, every year right after school let out for the summer. It was the highlight of my summer, and something I looked forward to throughout the year.

About a week after the beginning of summer vacation, my two brothers, my dad, and I would load up in the truck, along with more supplies than I could ever imagine anyone being able to use. Occasionally, my mom would come with us, but it wasn’t very often that she felt up to the drive.

I can remember being in the car for hours on end, listening to the same CD over and over again, wedged in between my two little brothers intent on landing a punch on the other. They got me instead.

Our car was so full of stuff, from pots and pans to bathing suits and shampoo. As soon as we arrived at our same campsite we had every year, we would unload and wait for everyone else. With three or four different families going, it was first come first served on the places for our tents, so we all tried to get to French Meadows as soon as possible.

Much to the disappointment of myself, and all the other kids, we were not allowed to go down to the beautiful lake until everything was set up and in order. But once that was done, we made a bee line for it.

We had the ideal campsite, nestled right above an amazing lake, with a small trail leading down to it. What we called the beach was really a bunch of rocks, but to us it was perfect.

The kids would have races to see who could swim faster, and who could swim the farthest. Then one of the moms would decide to swim all the way across, at which point all of us little ones just gave up and decided to go on a bear hunt instead.

We would find the perfect sticks, which we would later roast our marshmallows on, and start walking around the campground singing “We’re going on a bear hunt,” la di da, I can’t remember the rest.

We never encountered a bear on our excursions, but we definitely knew they were there. One night after dinner we had locked all the food up, except for one case of sour cream, which was sitting atop the beer cooler. In the middle of the night my dad and I woke up and looked outside the tent.

We heard noises, so we figured it was a bear. My dad turned on a bright flashlight, thinking it would scare hime away. Instead, the bear looked up with a face full of sour cream, and then continued eating.

Another time we all woke up the the clanging of pots and pans, which were all in the back of my dads and his friends trucks. My dad quickly got up to join the other father outside, and what ensued was a solid half hour, perhaps more, of swearing, muttering, and the sound of people running around.

We woke up the find the corner of the fiberglass on the window to my dad’s truck bed ripped off, and the entire window of his friends truck smashed in. Let’s just say the man wasn’t too thrilled the rest of the trip.

We moved away from California, to Colorado, where there is still excellent camping. But for some reason every place just isn’t as good. As the time since we moved away grows bigger, I find myself missing our old family life in California less and less.

But the one thing I do still miss, and think I always will, is the one or two weeks at the beginning of every summer, where I woke up with bed head and didn’t care one bit.

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