Freebee camping, rowdy neighbors and the grace of God



Some summers pass quickly. Others seem like they will never end. One summer in particular, my husband worked full time and went to seminary. Not exactly fun.

“Let’s go camping,” I suggested to my mom and sister after a particularly long week of dealing with three little kids, “It will be great.”

I might as well have said “why don’t we just climb into a grocery cart, put on blindfolds and ride down a steep hill?”

The effect is the same- the participant is left scared spitless and lucky to be alive.

Unfortunately, no one had explained to me the dangers of such an endeavor.  Although it was invented to get people off their butts and into the wilderness, it can really mess with the mind. 

Like I said, I had no idea. So,

  1. Mom slung ketchup, mustard and  hot dogs into the cooler.
  2. My sister grabbed blankets and towels and stacked them by the door.
  3. I shoved fistfuls of diapers in any extra crack and crevice I could find before

we headed out onto the open road.

After about 2o minutes of driving, we crossed the border from Canada into the United States.  I maneuvered our Honda down a side road until we came upon a tiny campground beside a shaded mountain stream. At the end of the road was a secluded little hill. Two camping spots sat atop the hill. Sunlight speckled through the trees and danced across the smooth rocks of the stream.

“Oh, yeah!” I smirked as we parked at the bottom of the slope, “this is paradise!”

While I unpacked the kids and the car, Mom started a campfire. My sister and I set up the two tents.  That evening we feasted on hot dogs and stuffed ourselves with charred marshmallows.  When we could not eat another bite, we crawled into our tents and fell asleep.

Then, all hell broke loose.

A couple of cars and trucks screeched to a stop below our campsite. Footsteps thundered up the slope. The sound of beer taps being pulled stopped the frogs in mid-croak.  

While I prayed for a miracle – for these guys to suddenly hate camping  and just go away – a column of flames shot up from their fire pit.

“More gasoline,” someone shouted.  The fire silhouetted several guys heaving boulders down the hill. The boulders were aimed straight for my car. 

At that moment I had an epiphany. Paid campgrounds were not just a scam to oppress the poor. They were a necessity to keep ordinary people from being killed in their sleep.

I stopped praying when the guys turned their attention to our tents. In between beers, they threatened to come and get us.

It was time to run.

We grabbed the kids and scrambled down the hill. I was certain that any moment we’d get smacked by a boulder. Somehow we made it to the car. In the pitch black of a wilderness night, we somehow got in and drove off.

All our belongings –

  • our  tents,
  • our food,
  • and clothes –

stayed behind.

At that moment, I didn’t care. What mattered is that we survived.

Funny how a sudden twist in circumstances can change our perspective. On an ordinary day, we don’t notice each and every breath we breathe. We often discount precious moments spent with the ones we love.

We just plain forget how good it is to be alive.

Scary camping trips are not fun. But, we all need to be reminded that life is a gift. 

Have you had something happen that made you forget your problems and just be glad to be alive?

Share it with me. I’d love to hear from you.

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