A Night at the Shack - My Family Travels
The bunkhouse at Whitewater Challengers Camp

Last July, my Mother, Grandmother, and Aunty Tracey had excitedly made plans to sleep in a log cabin before rafting down the Lehigh River along the lofty peaks of the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania.

For this reason, I now know better whenever I see another cliche image of log cabin. Those warm and loving illustrations of warm and loving roomy structures… what tosh!

The bunkhouse at Whitewater Challengers Camp
The bunkhouse at Whitewater Challengers Camp in Pennsylvania.

This misadventure, along with many others, was to be the crown jewel in our holiday to the North East.

Mother and I had driven from Texan suburbia to rural Pennsylvania where we reunited with Aunty Tracey, Uncle Peter, and their daughter Nicole. The five of us, then traveled to Connecticut, collected the Grandparents and returned, driving for many hours into the state’s untamed heart. One cannot comprehend how many trees there are within that area; Comparable to giant florets of broccoli lined with asphalt.

The seven of us rolled in our three-car caravan up the sloping leafy peaks to the Shawnee Inn and Resort – a very large and lavish establishment, of which I gladly took full advantage.

However, hotels are hotels are hotels; it was that log cabin I was looking forward to. An earthy, hearty, Laura Ingalls-esque, roomy cabin updated with all the modern amenities; electricity, heat, and indoor plumbing – after all, we had already visited Lancaster County. What else could an ignorant teenager expect? After two nights in luxury, our caravan was reloaded and we trudged a little further up the mountain in the pouring rain to the headquarters of the White Water Challengers which facilitated the rafting.

Upon arriving we were assigned a cabin number and key, and drove a little further into the camp site until we came across six, tiny, wooden shacks. And then it all fell apart.

This wasn’t a cabin! The seven of us stared in horror and crowded into the dark, cold cedar building inside of which were eight naked, mold-scented bunks and nothing more. Upon returning from the office with an entreaty for mattresses; we received half inch foam pads. I received mine, set up a hasty nest in the top bunk and, in typical adolescent fashion, lay there in an angry coma.

Thankfully, Grandmother had the prudence to pack pillows and blankets. I cannot say how long I remained there, perhaps an hour. I often heard talk of going to see a film but I didn’t care. I was too busy trying to keep warm underneath two thin blankets as I rested atop my half inch layer of padding. But Mother ordered me out, and I dragged my damp feet into the car.

The nearest theatre was known as The Casino, though no gambling took place there. It was a quaint establishment; having been equipped with 1950’s decor and a similarly themed diner, where I first tasted and forever fell in love with the egg cream. The movie was pleasant too, a cute children’s film that lightened the family mood exponentially.

We returned to our shack, the rain having ceased, filled with good food and fresh excitement for both the night and upcoming day. Later, I sat at the soaked picnic table and watched the newborn flames from our fire lick the air and caramelize the marshmallows, while listening to the family’s discussion, scalding my tongue with the smoking confection.

But I put pain and pleasure aside as I lumbered, exhausted, to my bunk. It had been a full day for my body, as it had been for my soul.

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