I like the mountains,
I like the rolling hills,
I like the flowers,
I like the daffodils,
I like the fireside,
When all the lights are low,
— camp song
In the days that followed my assuming the post of assistant organizer for the Fern Hill spring camping trip, here is what happened:
I didn’t run into my boss, Don, at Fern Hill, so I called him and left a message on his voice mail.
I didn’t hear back.
I wasn’t worried. Liar. I’m always worried. The trip was nearly eight months away. But I knew sometime soon we would have to reserve the campsites at the chosen state park, or there would be no camping trip.
The reservation process was murky. It was done by computer. There was something called a “site rush.” On a given day, all the sites for the month you were going camping suddenly became available. You had to book the sites you wanted in competition with everyone else in the state who wanted them.
In the early days, the Fern Hill trip had attracted only a small group of campers, and booking enough sites was no problem. But every year more and more families wanted to go. Last year 160 people went camping. Don couldn’t get enough sites at the park he wanted, so we ended up staying at the second choice, a place called Frog Creek.
“Dada,” Nick said, “Where are we going camping this year?”
“I’m just the assistant,” I said.
I got an email from Don.
“I put an announcement in the Fern Hill Bulletin asking for more help,” he said.
One person had volunteered, a mother whose son was in the Nursery Yard. Her name was Trixie. She had already begun an email exchange with Don, who forwarded the thread to me:
Trixie: Hey– I’ll help you with the camping trip . . . What do you think about getting Snake Rock?
Don: That’s a better place . . . we tried it last year. I had three computers set up in front of me and another person had a few too . . . I had each one logged in as a different user on Reserve America and within 5 minutes Snake Rock was sold out. Ouch.
Trixie: Do you think it’s so difficult because it’s Memorial Day Weekend? What do you think about a different weekend that isn’t a popular holiday? Just throwing it out there . . .
Trixie was a geyser of information on state parks. She hadn’t liked Frog Creek. But she mentioned a location on the coast that she remembered as particularly beautiful, called El Capitan. The conversation trailed off without our deciding anything.
I still had no idea how we were going to go about getting a campsite, and all the discussion was making me queasy. I knew situations like this were not good for my brain. Self soothe, I thought, as in Get a life. You’re not in charge.
Don had mentioned that he had booked around 20 campsites at Frog Creek last year (each site held eight campers). When he showed up to claim them early Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, a kindly ranger gave him all the sites, but warned him that one person reserving so many was against the rules. She told him that rangers could cancel such reservations any time at their discretion.
“You mean everyone might have arrived at Frog Creek for the trip last year and there might not have been any campsites?” I said.
“That’s what I mean,” said Don.
I had thought we would be moving into high gear. I took a look at the Reserve America website to learn its mechanics. I found the whole thing bewildering. It looked like each person making a reservation was limited to two sites. How were we going to reserve sites for 160 people?
I phoned Don to ask about it, and got his voice mail again. I heard from him the next day.
“Wolf, I need to tell you something in confidence.”
“Is something wrong?”
“My life is total chaos right now. I’m changing jobs. It’s a huge opportunity.”
“Oh,” I said. “Congratulations.”
“It’ll all be sorted out by next week.”
That still left two weeks before the site rush to figure out where we were going, and how we were going to book all the sites we needed. Piece of cake.
“Okay,” I said.
A week went by. I didn’t hear from Don. When I finally reached him he sounded distracted.
“How’s the new job going?” I said.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s the ideal job. But it’s taking all my time now.”
The queasiness returned, licking my throat.
“Don,” I said, “What’s your fantasy about how the spring camping trip is going to happen?”
“At this point, Wolf, my fantasy would be that someone else would step in and organize the trip.”
Neither of us spoke. Suddenly I was very thirsty. Something weird happened in my stomach.
“I suppose,” I said, “That would be me.”
Camp director continues next time with And now my troubles begin. What’s a Wolf to do?
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