I spent an afternoon with my sister on Saturday. We wandered the woods of our childhood, picking up pinecones and reminiscing our ‘good old days’. This campground was a favorite spot for our family to gather when we were kids. Shasta trailers and canvas tents lined the river bank. Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and a million cousins making this forest home for what seemed like weeks to us, but a weekend it probably was. We swam in the icy water of the Wenatchee River and broke rocks in Chiwaukum Creek. We whittled sticks, snapped at the river’s edge, into the perfect tool for roasting marshmallows around the evening fire. Up a trail there was an ant hill, always one of our first stops of favorite places, while our folks set up camp. Across the river lived a teeny tiny woman in a teeny tiny house, Penny Pemberton. She lived there all alone, a good ten miles to town and I don’t think she had a car. She piped her water from a spring and had a nice garden space, fenced off to deter the deer. The crew of us kids would traipse across the bridge and slide down the trail to her house for a visit. She had a plate glass window that offered her a view of the river and above it a narrow shelf held treasures she collected in her yard. A hummingbird nest, a few old bottles, a pretty piece of wood. She offered us peppermint candy from a jar with a lid, which we popped quickly into our mouths. How I wish I could hear our conversation! What did we have to say to Penny? And her to us? There is a mountain rising above her old home site, my grandma called it ‘Pemby’s Mountain’. I hiked it with my gram and Penny when I was just a tyke, could there a semblance of a trail there yet?
This cookshed is where we gathered to share our suppertime. Tablecloths covered the rough wood, wild flower bouquets bunched into empty pop cans for decoration. There were stories and laughter as we kids wound down from our day running, swimming and exploring. This cookshed, from the looks of it, probably constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, was built to last. Stone upon stone, though not laid by my father, we can appreciate the labor and the substance of it. My sis and I ran our hands along the log frame and sat on the picnic bench. A breeze came up from the river and across the grassy meadow. I swear it carried the laughter and songs of our childhood, and the cottonwood and pine trees whispered a ‘welcome back’ to us as well.
We wandered the roads of the park, feeling the warmth of the afternoon sun on our shoulders. We stopped at the creek and watched the water rush over smooth rocks and fallen trees. The park has been closed for going on seven years. Mother Nature is reclaiming her domain. But in our hearts it remains a sacred place, of youthful innocence and joy. A wonderful place to return to.
Peace. Love. Amen.