The twilight falls gently with a wisp of cool breeze, indigo sky playing peek-a-boo in the spaces between the trees. Hush! Be still and drink in the evening. Listen to the crackle and hiss of the campfire, see the tongues of flames dancing, sparks spiraling upwards toward the stars they yearn to be. Breathe deep of the tangy scent of wood smoke, the flowering trees, the rich earth.
It is the enchantment hour, a quiescent moment suspended betwixt sunshine and moonbeams. Now is the time to tell tales of today and of days of yore.
Friends have gathered at lakeside cabins to spend a rustic weekend in the woods. What adventures will this motley crew undertake? What stories shall we hear at this fire?
The blue waters of Lake Nockamixon beckon our campers to explore on a pontoon boat. Haycock Mountain looms on the horizon, and osprey and eagles ride escort for the boat as it plays tag with unwillingly cormorants.
At the water’s edge an Eastern Kingbird perches sprightly on a gray-barked branch. In his dark ash suit and white waistcoat, he looks the part of a nattily attired young businessman.
Look sharp! There a Northern Water Snake, on business of his own, slithers out of sight.
No camping trip is complete without the nightly campfire. Preparation requires skill, dexterity and, with luck, no bandages.
Is it the wood smoke or the fresh air that makes a dinner of hamburgers and hotdogs taste better when cooked over an open fire?
Each meal on this weekend comes with an appetizer of impassioned discussion. Eavesdrop now as the debate rages over the finer points of burger-flipping. Soon these two, innocent of the temptations of s’mores, will lose their dessert virginity to the siren’s call of marshmallows and chocolate.
An evening in the woods offers the chance to experience the sights and sounds of a forest at night. There will be owls hooting, foxes barking and ruffed grouse drumming, while the Milky Way arches brilliantly overhead. Or perhaps not, for the critters will not cooperate, and the sky is a thick blanket of dark clouds. The Milky Gray!
Instead, a brightly lit fishing boat takes a short tour. During its voyage, a kayak and its paddler materialize from the darkness beyond the shore.
Daylight brings new adventures. Hikes are taken down paths through verdant woods, fallen pines and rocky slopes. Powwows are held over the identity of this or that plant. The flock’s incurable wanderer strays from the trail, and must be shepherded back like a lost little lamb.
Along the way a creek bubbles through moss-bound rocks, calm pools and swampy meadows before tumbling over a dam to find its rest in the lake.
Some spend a morning exploring the park by horseback. Others go on a driving tour around the lake. Treasures revealed on this sojourn include a bright red barn, the watery geometry of a dam spillway, and an eccentric old church. Behind the church, gravestones inscribed in German march in disorderly rows, leaning this way and that. Further on, Covered Bridge Road surprises with an actual covered bridge. An old grist mill and antique car are additional delights.
A steady rainfall late in the day is not to be lamented, but enjoyed from the sanctuary of the cabin porch. Dry and cozy, the gentle patter of raindrops on the leaves is balm for tired souls. The wetness does not deter from another campfire after dark, and another round of story-telling.
The morning after the rain dawns with clear blue skies above the tree canopy. Below, the cabin hides behind an ethereal mist.
Moisture glistens on every leaf, and drips from every leaf tip, sunlight refracting into a rainbow of colors.
From everywhere bird song echoes through the woods. A ray of bright red reveals a scarlet tanager; an iota of orange, an orchard oriole.
A clear two-note song rings out from all directions. A search for the singer is met with success. Ovenbird, a lifer!
To walk out the front door into a deep wood filled with chattering birds and rippling creeks is perhaps the greatest gift of this weekend idyll. Too soon the fire burns low, the tales draw to a close, and the road leads out of the woods toward civilized society. As the lake recedes in the rear-view mirror, the inevitable end-of-camp blues set in.
Memories must sustain us until the happy day when we shall return, when trails to explore unfold before us and campfires flicker anew.