The Annual Trip to the Woods: Part I

I don’t remember what year we started going up to Cook Forest State Park. It came about because JenZ’s family (her mother’s side) went every year, and one year she decided it would be fun to invite some of her college friends and roommates. When I started going, I was single, as were many of the rest of us. It was just a great excuse to hang out in the woods, sit around a camp fire, drink A LOT of beer, smoke a lot of cigarettes, and read trashy magazines. And eat junk food. The guys burned stuff and played poker.

From the original group of six or 10 of us, we have evolved into a force of about 25 (it varies year-to-year), including children and dogs. We’ve expanded from the biggest cabin they have (two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a loft) to three cabins. This year, the stalwart Misfit household is unable to join us because they relocated to Tennessee. (We miss you, Misfits!)

We have been there in many iterations, the lot of us: single, dating, married; pregnant, with infants, toddlers, kids (I think everyone is still under 10 years old, but we’re getting close) and dogs. I don’t recall going with the Ex while we were dating, although it’s possible; ironically, he will be there this year, newly divorced. He’s bringing his dog (they didn’t have children). DearDR and I have gone almost every year we’ve been together, starting in 1999; I think we missed one year “just because” (read: we were broke), and I know we didn’t go when Bun was still an infant.

We still drink beer, but not as much as we used to. Hangovers are hell with kids. A few of us may smoke a cigarette or two after the children are asleep (guilty). Trashy magazines, junk food, burning stuff, and poker are still the order of the days (and nights). As are hikes, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, canoeing (someone falls in the river every year — last year was DearDR’s turn), and all manner of catch up.

And although we have been there rain and shine, I don’t know that we’ve ever been there when the weather is predicted to be 80 degrees with no rain. The kids and dogs can run around outside; there’s a playground nearby; s’mores will be made; sunscreen and shorts will be worn. It isn’t the most relaxing of times when you’re a POD (parent on duty), but I can think of worse ways to spend the time. Besides, it kind of illustrates the “it takes a village” mentality in action — everyone, parent or not, keeps eyes on the kids (and dogs) and takes turns playing with and/or feeding them. It’s pretty awesome.

We’re leaving today around 2 p.m. Cannot wait to be there.