Sunday, May 22, 2016

REMINISCING: Weekend Getaways

I love this time of year. The sun is out and the leaves are coming out. The yards are drying, and gardens are being planted. It also means that campers and tents are being aired out for a long summer of outdoor adventures. (I know some people camp in the winter, but I'm not talking about those crazies.) So, in this week's "Reminiscing," I've decided to talk about those weekend trips with family and friends.

As the weather turned from the gray, dreary winter and spring into beautiful summer days, my parents occasionally would pack up the car and head out for a day of relaxing at the lake, or maybe even a weekend camping trip to one of the state parks. Sometimes, we even had some family friends join us. Actually, I think it was mostly with these family friends.

Wilson Tuscarora State Park - courtesy NYS Parks
 If they were looking for just a quick day trip, weoften found ourselves at what we called Roosevelt Beach in Wilson. Officially known as Wilson-Tuscarora State Park, we'd settle in for the day with a picnic lunch and lots of swimming in the waters of Lake Ontario. Today, the park is very nice, with new amenities and life guards. When I was a kid, it was nice, but we didn't have all that stuff.

Most often, we'd meet up with the Herman family and spend the day picnicking. To get from the beach, there was a rather steep hill going down to the water's edge. As little kids we had a difficult time climbing that to get back up to the picnic area. With sand underfoot combined with the steepness, our footing was slipping and sliding. All the way to the west end of the beach, there was a trail to the beach that was mostly overgrown and probably the steepest of the trails. Matt and I wold dare each other to climb that one. It was a matter of pride if you could make it up that part of the cliff.
Wilson Tuscarora State Park - courtesy NYS Parks
Herman's had a boat, and so did some of the other people who happened to be part of our merry group. So, we'd go out in the boats and cruise the lake. It is so much different, seeing the land from the water. The perspective is sometimes difficult to comprehend. Just think of the travelers in the early days of exploration plying those same waters and seeing an unending forest. 

One time, I can remember one of the guys with a boat trying to teach people how to water ski. That was an interesting day. Thankfully, I was too young to try. Otherwise, I likely would have been in a body cast for the rest of the summer. Seeing the attempts that were made by the adults in attendance, it's surprising no one else ended up in traction.

Another thing we'd do when I was a kid would be to go camping on a long weekend. We went to Golden Hill a lot for that. With it's cool lighthouse, this was one of my favorite places in my youth. I dreamed of long-ago pirates lurking in the waters of Lake Ontario, just off the coast and trying to avoid the all-seeing light of Golden Hill. Under the cover of darkness, they'd haul their booty into the cave in the bluff below the light. No one would think of looking for it right under the noses of the authorities. (Yes, I've always had quite an imagination.)

Speaking of caves at Golden Hill, I can clearly remember seeing that cave one time when we were out in the boat. We got as close as we could without grounding, but never really took any chance to explore the cave. I'm not sure why. It looked pretty big in my young mind. I'm sure that most of that area of the shoreline has long been washed away, and the secrets of the cave along with it.

Golden Hill Lighthouse - courtesy NYS Parks
Every once in awhile the lighthouse would be open, and we'd go to the top to look out over the lake to Toronto, or more often than not, back to our campsite. We were on top of the world. The old lighthouse was decommissioned many years ago, but the Coast Guard put up a large tower with a light on it. That thing used to scare the crap out of me when we were camping. Late at night, the light would be turning, and it would cast crazy shadows on the wall of the tent. I thought for sure there were lake monsters coming to get us. Deep down, I knew it was just the light, but I couldn't help it.

Golden Hill also had mowed trails that we could hike. Matt Herman and I would run those trails, mostly to get away from our sisters. We did laps and laps of those trails. The ones right near the campsite we could go on almost anytime we liked. However, the ones between the campground and the boat launch were only for supervised hikes. Parts of those trails went through some pretty swampy areas and along the creek. Our parents didn't want us drowning or getting eaten by all the alligators in the swamp.

Camping at Golden Hill State Park - courtesy NYS Parks
Over the years, I have gotten away from the whole camping thing. I'm just not a big fan anymore. Part of it is that it bothers my back. I guess that's just a part of getting old, although I'm not old. To be fair, some of my most intriguing moments have happened while camping. Someday I may tell the story of accidentally meeting a friend at a campground in Pennsylvania when we least expected it. 

How many of you had weekend trips to the campground with family and friends? Did you enjoy those picnics at the lake? I think the only place my kids have camped besides the backyard is at Aunt Jan's house. That's probably my fault because of my aversion to camping. However, we have spent time at Roosevelt Beach and gone to Hamlin Beach for an afternoon. It's one of the pleasures of living near the Great Lakes -- we have wonderful summertime destinations.

Next Week: A Memorial Day Special

Craig Bacon has  the gear to go spelunking. Anyone ready to hunt down the missing Treasure of Golden Hill?