Working on this issue of OTM was painful. Not because the writing, editing, and other work was especially hard. No, I learned that writing about so many cool summer adventures – ones I’ve been dreaming about for far too long and others I haven’t had time for in years – while being stuck behind a computer on deadline requires a level of mental fortitude I’m apparently still not accustomed to. And it seems to be getting worse as summer approaches.
As a kid, I remember the excitement starting to build in early June as another year in a classroom was coming to an end. Summer meant freedom – whole days, weeks, and months of it – out in the sunshine in the woods, fields, garden rows, and horse and cattle pastures of the Spokane Valley. There were the pivotal benchmarks of summer like the last day of school, the opening of our pool, and the first food rolling in from our vast garden spread. But the summertime experience that always represented the zenith of summer was the lead up and execution of family summer vacations.
Preparations for these trips, at least filtered through the haze of childhood memories, was a ritual of cleaning, organizing, and finally packing of the truck camper and trailer. I remember struggling to contain my enthusiasm for the approaching trip, spending many hours holed up in the camper days in advance of our departure – relishing in the distinctive smells of musty camp gear, gasoline, sun-bleached curtains and camper bedding – waiting with such intense, bridled exhilaration for that moment when the old Ford engine would fire and the wheels would roll right out of that familiar driveway and grid of streets that was home.
Our summer trips were simple, fun, and to my childhood imagination, full of adventure and mystery. We explored the Oregon and northern California coasts from one end to the other. Walking beaches, wandering rainforest trails, and living the good life around the campfire. We took trips to lakes and rivers around the Inland Northwest, casting for trout, hiding from bears, and burning marshmallows and hot dogs on open flames. One year, we headed north through British Columbia and spent a day touring the now closed “Fintstones” themed Bedrock City park.
Those trips, and the impact the many subtle experiences had on me, were profound. When I look ahead to this summer’s adventures, with anxious anticipation, I know where it comes from. So many amazing places and outdoor experiences to be had, yet so little time. There’s a word in German, fernweh, that means being homesick for a place you’ve never been. I get that a lot these days. //