When I think of a vacation, I naturally think of going right back to the same place I have always gone for vacations, Hermit Valley at the top of Ebbetts Pass. Of course, to most normal folks that would be pretty dull. I never get to Hawaii, haven’t been to Paris, and probably will never cruise the Caribbean in a sailboat. It’s pretty poor ammunition for chatter at cocktail parties, too. When others are talking about the magnificent view of the Alps, I really don’t make much of an impression when I casually mention that the view is fantastic from Wolf Creek Pass.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to travel as well as the next person. Heck, I chase rainbows in California, Brown Trout in Pennsylvania, and Cutthroats in Pyramid Lake and Smallmouth in the Potomac. Oh, it’s great to see the Coliseum in Rome or the Acropolis in Athens, but I think Dorothy said it pretty well in The Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home”. As vacation places go, Hermit Valley is home.
Over almost 30 years, three families had camped together every summer at Hermit Valley – the Moyers, Hodges, and Neumans. In fact, we grew so close we referred to ourselves as the MoHoNeu Tribe. We camped, fished, chased chipmunks and counted stars around the campfire. Whenever we squabbled as kids, whichever mother was closest, would cuff us, much like a mother bear with her cubs. We grew up together and went to each others’ graduations, bachelor parties, weddings, and baby showers. The MoHoNeu Tribe grew from three families to a dozen and beyond.
Naturally, I like the memories that become associated with the happy times of vacation. There was no crime, no drugs, nor political assassinations. Instead there are memories of cranking the ice cream freezer until your arm ached, and how good that ice cream tasted when you finally got to eat it; getting caught in a summer thunderstorm, and of roasting fresh trout over a streamside fire. Every time I visit the outhouse, I think of Jerry’s butt can and the great outhouse fire.
Last weekend, a couple dozen of us gathered once again at Hermit Valley. There were stories around the campfire, and dirty- faced kids who splashed in the creek. The grass in the meadow was sprinkled with wildflowers and the river was running high with melting snow. The sun was warm and the blue sky was dotted with a couple cotton ball clouds. My nephew Jacob and I went down to do a little plinking with a 22 and everyone ate too much. Our primary goal this weekend however, was much more serious. We were there to scatter Mom’s ashes in Hermit Valley. Before she died last spring, Mom made it very clear that she wanted her ashes scattered at Hermit Valley alongside Dad.
While funerals are almost very solemn events, Mom’s Ash Scattering was really quite fun. We concentrated on all the great times we’d had camping with Mom and Dad and the Outdoor legacy they left us. All of the kids and grandkids and sons and daughters-in- law who attended were invited to take a handful of ashes if they wanted and help to scatter Mom on the wildflowers, and meadows and waters she loved so well. It was a happy time and I think everyone came away with a smile and warm memories of Mom and Dad together again at Hermit Valley.
Until Next week,