Terri Kaiser

It's almost time again for the family campout. Ah yes, that time of year when we all give up our comfy homes to live like a band of gypsies in the woods, sort of, thanks to the various camping manufacturers out there.

Sporadically, we all pull into the campground on the big day. The excitement is palpable. As each family pulls in, we all gather to help with set-up, kind of like a modern-day barn raising. Campers are leveled, lawn chairs pulled out, boats launched, and fires built.

We're an older crowd these days. No longer a tribe of kids running toward the beach. Now it's more adults walking their dogs, unless there's grandkids along for the stay. That's always a special joy. We do have one young family that comes every year and we've so enjoyed watching their kids grow and change between summers.

Meanwhile, the lake and the land remain unchanged, welcoming us back every year. And each year we discover new trails, new beaches out in the flowage, and new places to land the big one.

There are a few traditions of this week. There's floaty day, where everyone brings their float toys (blowup chairs, mattresses, sharks and turtles) and we float upon the water, beverage in hand, shades and sunscreen on our noses under hats of all shapes and sizes. Every once in a while a boat or pontoon pushes on through and rocks us into complete vacation mode.

The newest tradition, about three or four years now, is beach day. We load up the boats and pontoon and journey out into the flowage to find an island with a decent beach. Then, we pile into the water for a spirited game of water volley. We make a wide circle and count how many volleys we can make before the ball hits the water. This involves lots of giggles, guffaws and teasing. I love it! Of course, I can't imagine how we look to boaters as they pass and us, arms and legs flailing, bodies splashing after jumping into the air after a brightly colored ball.

Our longest standing tradition is the bag toss tournament. I've mentioned this in a previous article, but it bears repeating — I am the reigning champion! I have to brag while I can because even I have to admit, it was probably a fluke. I'm looking forward to seeing whose name will grace the traveling trophy this year. Could be me again. Stranger things have happened.

We used to play volleyball, and still try once in a while, but the injuries are more sustaining the older we have become. I for one, have a permanently crooked finger because of this game.

I try to use the campout as a time to remind my body that I do actually have some muscles left. I bike and walk, swim and kayak, and jump around after a beach ball. I also sit by the fire with a good book, lull on the waves in a blow-up tube, spend precious time with relatives, and eat. Yes, we eat. Lots. There's nothing better than a blackened hot dog with the works. Or grilled corn on the cob. Or steaks on the grill. Or smores. Or ice cream at the lodge. Or...

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