High Stakes at Stokes - My Family Travels

Living a fast paced, new age life style is no easy task, and my family prides itself on our ability to keep up with the demands of everyday living. We own the carpool route like it’s nobody’s business, and school drop offs have developed into a work of art; ending with my sister and I throwing ourselves out of the moving vehicle to make the morning bell. But one day, my mother decided we needed a change of pace. She feared us falling out of touch with nature. To combat this problem, she signed my family up for a camping session with a nearby 4H Camp at Stokes State Forrest in Sussex County, New Jersey.  Needless to say, my father, sister, and I were less than thrilled, but that didn’t stop my mother from dragging us to the middle of nowhere for some good, clean family bonding.

We should have known we were in over our heads when it dawned on us that New Jersey actually had hills. Living off of the Jersey Shore near Atlantic City, encounters with any driving shift except first gear were far from common. Shortly after we got lost, and as darkness descended upon the forest we reduced ourselves to a sniveling pack of wilderness shoobies. All of a sudden, one of the dirt roads burst into an open clearing, and we found ourselves in the middle of a trailer park. It was dead quiet, except the groan of rusting metal swaying in the wind. Suddenly my mother shrieked, jumping away from a rap outside her door. Slowly, she rolled down the window to reveal a burly, toothless fellow hunched over the rim of our car, his shotgun slung over his shoulder. “Excuse me Miss,” he huffed “You’se be lookin like you’re in needin of some assistance”. “Oh no!” crooned my mother after a slight pause, “We’re just trying to get to the survival campsite.” The man licked his lips in thought, and ran his tongue over one of his remaining front teeth. “Ain’t no way you’se be gettin to them there campsite in the dark. Maybe you’d do betta if you waited out till dawn”. With that food for thought, my father punched the gas and sped off in the direction we came.

It took another three hours to find the campsite, and by then we had reached our boiling points. We checked in with the camp counselor, who handed us a bag full of tent equipment. “What are we supposed to do with this?” my father asked, “build it”, replied the counselor, “Your tent station is on top of Hill #22 – good luck!” and with that he slammed the cabin door shut. Begrudgingly, we left our car in the parking lot and marched ourselves to the top of Hill #22. It took another two hours of sweating, cursing, and sheer luck, but finally our tent was complete. We crawled inside and zipped up the flap; trying to convince ourselves things couldn’t get any worse.  And just like that, it rained.

In the end, camping didn’t turn out too bad. We tried new things like archery and canoeing, while brushing up on old favorites– making smores over an open flame, for instance, requires great skill. To make the most of your trip, I suggest getting involved in as many classes your camp offers, the weirder the better! After all, you never know when tracking animals or picking nonpoisonous berries may come in handy! Though camping started out as a bust, living in the forest became almost enjoyable, and a 4H experience I’ll never forget. 

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