standing on the summit of a mountain way up high
where only rocks and boulders rise to meet the mighty sky
to the west the sun is sinking and it sets the sky ablaze
to the east he rolling clouds diffuse the colors to a haze
and all the myriad problems that so often trouble me
are forgotten as I witness nature’s awesome majesty
— pc 1975
To everything there is a season, and eventually our time at the cabin ended. As we neared our teenage years, my father purchased the business he worked for, and needed to get away from it for a few weeks each year. So we cut back on our time at the lake, and began taking our summer treks across the United States. Eventually we wanted to spend more time with friends at home during the summer, took on summer jobs, and so slowly other interests took over and time at the cabin lessened. We didn’t sell it right away. My aunt’s family still used it, and we would drop in from time to time, but eventually we sold it, so another family could enjoy it as much as we did. The lake is still there today, and so is the cabin, although it has been added on to. The community is now a year round neighborhood, and much more developed than it was in our time there. Time passes and things change. That’s the nature of life. But I will always remember and cherish the memories we made there
. But on to new adventures. Once we were bitten by the travel bug, we really threw ourselves into the experience. I would begin to plan out our itinerary in the spring, sending away for travel information from the state tourist bureaus (no internet in those days). I would sometimes choose a destination based on my interests at the time. The year i discovered John Denver, we went to Colorado, then when he wrote a song about Jasper, Alberta, Canada, we went there. Now in college, my friends and I became avid Beach Boys fans, so, off to California, where we drove the coast highway (Route 1) from San Francisco to San Diego. We traveled to Mexico, as well, and by the time I married, we had covered all of the contiguous 48 states and Mexico and Canada. It was my dad’s dream to drive to Alaska, but we ran out of time – we all married and moved on before we had the chance. The cruise I’m taking this summer will finally achieve his dream. I just wish he was still with us so I could share it with him.
We looked forward to early June, when we would start shopping for our travel wear. We would assemble our outfits, and be packed days before departure. My travel itinerary was designed to include interesting places along the route to our final destination. We had so many memorable experiences – seeing The Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Mount Rushmore, the great Redwoods of California, Monterey Bay in California,, Acapulco, Mexico, the Alamo, Las Vegas, the sandstone formations of Utah, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, the Sierra Nevada mountains – sense a pattern here? I was a mountain lover and so we explored mountains.
One of the most zen moments I’ve ever experienced, came to me atop a mountain in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Mom and Dad opted to sit in the small cafe located partway up the mountain, but Mary, Steve (my younger brother) and I wanted to climb to the peak. The vista was breathtaking. Way above the tree line, only rocks all around. The sun setting in the west, clouds amassing from the east, the sun streaming through.. I felt lighter somehow,, experienced a clarity of thought and peace and calm suffused my soul. The poem “Summit” was written at the top of the mountain. I didn’t want to lose the magic so I wrote the poem there as the magic unfolded before my eyes.
Our adventures continued. From being accosted in our car by bears looking for handouts, to sitting around Old Faithful under a star-studded sky, and watching its eruption to traveling miles to see an ancient Indian medicine wheel rock formation, located at the top of a treacherous mountain road. We swam in the Pacific ocean and watched fireworks burst out over the water on the Fourth of July, we threw snowballs at each other in the snowy altitudes of the Rockies – on the Fourth of July. We drove to the top of Pike’s Peak where it began to snow – in July! We ate chuck wagon suppers with the cowboys on the prairie of North Dakota,and joined them in song later, as the sun set. Big cave spelunkers, we explored the Great Mammoth Caves of Kentucky, rode boats on the lost river in the caves of Tennessee and delighted in the crystal formations of Crystal Cave in Pennsylvania. We swam in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and in the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe. We drove out in a snow vehicle on the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta and attended the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo).
No adventure is without its dangers. Mary,examining a cactus in the desert , got a little to close and was shot in the hand by sharp barbs. Mom had to remove them with tweezers. Steve was nearly overcome by fumes in Mexico when our exhaust pipe had a problem.. We encountered the remnants of a hurricane on our way through Biloxi, Mississippi, and had to be pushed off the road until we could get the car to start. Water from the bay had already covered one side of the highway. And mom bit into a salsa covered tortilla in Mexico, which nearly set her mouth on fire. But these were just minor diversions in our adventures, and we carried on
These are also memories I will hold dear all my life. Time spent with the family in an over-packed station wagon, searching for a motel with a vacancy sign, and trying exotic foods like grits, or Mexican salsa, singing along together to pass the time. I can still hear my father singing:
” The bear went over the mountain
the bear went over the mountain
the bear went over the mountain
to see what he could see…”
He’d sing it over and over until we screamed for him to stop. We loved stopping at Stuckey’s Restaurants to look at the gift shop and drink a frosty glass of cherry cider . If we were dozing in the back seat, dad would call out “Stuckey, Stuckey, Stuckey’s” and that would rouse us.
Our summer adventures were priceless. We didn’t have smart phones , I pads, laptops, or portable flat screen tvs. We had the car radio, a cassette player and ourselves. One family talking and laughing, rolling down the highway, singing, “the bear went over the mountain…” To those who love to travel, there’s always another mountain.