Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Camp Chicken - The Beginning

From the Camp Chicken Diary

Camp Chicken never used to be called Camp Chicken, it was always called "The Forty" even though it is actually 80 acres. It was always called "The Forty" by my Grandparents, Gladys and Elmer Rutledge.

In 1996, Arlene got this brainstorm that we should go camping again. We used to go tent-camping but since sleeping in a tent on the hard ground had little allure for me, she suggested that we buy a pop-up camper. I agreed and we went to our local dealer and got a real good deal on a 1995 model with a regular size bed in one end and a queen size bed in the other.

We tried going to a state forest campground but the weekend that we were there, a bunch of locals partied drunkenly for most of the time we were there. I refused to go to any more public campgrounds after that.

Arlene suggested that we ask Mom if we could camp at "The Forty" and she said we could. Now, Mom, Dad, and Grandpa and Grandma used to use the property to garden and there were two large meadows of about 3-4 acres in size that used to be big gardens. But, they hadn't been used in about 15 years!

Nature has a way of reclaiming the land and boy had it! The once huge meadow was now a mass of spruce and poplar thicket. There was one small clearing left by the old red trailer that was about 30 feet by 40 feet and the rest was woods. Dad brought up the lawn mower and mowed a spot for us to park the pop-up.

That first September weekend, Arlene, her grandson, Arnie who was about 9, and I camped out. After dark we only had the light from the fire to illuminate the dark and boy was it dark. All around us the forest creatures could be heard moving around us as they weren't used to intruders into their domain.

The very next morning, armed only with a hand saw and a hatchet, we set to work to reclaim the meadow. Arlene said that we had to limb the spruce trees up high enough so that we could see further out into the woods and more importantly so that the animals could see us and avoid walking right into camp.

We had no outhouse so you had to take a shovel, go dig a hole to do your business and then cover it up. Yikes. We had no water except what we could carry and only the power that was in the trailer battery. When that went dead we were out of lights. We hadn't even thought to bring a lantern.

But, our dog Bear loved it. I tied him up the first few weekends we went to camp until I was sure that he wouldn't take off into the woods. After that, he had the run of camp.

Mom, Dad and Gram liked it too. They hadn't been up there much in recent years. Oh, Dad and Mom would come up in the fall and spring to cut wood but never to just sit around and enjoy the woods.

So that first weekend, we worked really hard at pushing back some of the forest. Mom and Gram came up for a visit both Saturday and Sunday and watched with some amusement as we hacked away at the spruce limbs.

But, you know what? It felt great to be outdoors!

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