A Fine Fall Day – [from the archives (2009)]

There is nothing that compares to the feeling of getting in a car for a road trip on a fine fall day when the air starts to chill and the leaves are erupting in bright colors. What makes this feeling even better is knowing that you are going on this trip with your son, and that you are both excited to be spending time together on a new adventure.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to take such a trip with my son Tucker this past weekend. We pointed our vehicle due North and headed up to Father-Son Weekend at Camp Manitowish in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.

For the past two summers Tucker has attended Camp Manitowish, and I think there is a strong likelihood that he will continue this streak well into the future. Tucker has several “go-to” camp stories that we have already heard dozens of times, and he will gladly tell to anyone who asks (and you might just hear them even if you don’t ask!). After his winter sports seasons ends he begins to think and talk about what the coming Camping Season will bring.

This past Friday, I picked Tucker up early from School and made a quick stop at home for our gear and packs. Since it was a long drive Tucker stepped into the back seat and asked me to put in a movie, but I told him I need someone to ride shotgun for me. He gladly obliged and joined me up front, but then started to put on his headphones to play his ipod. Fortunately I had an answer for that too and he plugged his ipod into the auxiliary jack and was the dj for our ride up. We listened to his songs and talked about the music he liked, which then gravitated to talks about friends, school, and sports.

Before we knew it we were pulling into Camp. Tucker showed me around and gave me the lay of the land. We got there just in time for 2nd dinner bell, which is the pavlovian way the camp has devised to get everyone to dinner on time. 2nd bell means there is 10 minutes left until 3rd bell which is when dinner starts.

The camp had set up a full schedule guaranteed to please the Dads and Sons alike. There were about 30 of us all in, and the array of activities they lined up for us was simply amazing.

We learned about birds of prey, and got to handle bird claws, wings and skulls, and even see a live Kestrel and Hawk up close. We got to paddle sea kayaks and go fishing for Muskie (one was sighted but like most good fishing stories it got away). We learned about gun safety and got to fire shot guns at clay pigeons as well as man the bunker and launch targets. Dads and kids alike challenged themselves and each other on the high ropes course with various fear inducing acrobatics some 20-40 feet in the air (all while safely harnessed to trained counselors). There was also climbing on a wall purchased from the X games, geocaching (a high tech scavenger hunt), craft making, and camping skills demonstrations & practice. Then on Saturday night there were lumberjack games, and camp fire skits, songs, dances, smores, and general silliness. Actually that was the part I enjoyed most… nothing like letting loose and having fun.

Interspersed among these activities were the dinner bells that were well timed to the appetites we were working on throughout the day. The food was great and included a wild game meal of “wild chickens” (whatever they are!) and a game stew which was delicious as long as you didn’t think too hard about what you were eating.

The fellow campers were a great group of people from various locales and walks of life. The common bond joining us was the focus on spending some quality time just being Dads and Sons.

Youth won’t last forever. Tucker is 12 and on the border of establishing more independence, but this weekend reminded us that we can still have a great time together, create new experiences, and start traditions that just might last for generations.

The ride home was fun too. Tucker asked me to tell stories about when I was his age, and I was happy to share those with him. We talked about our plans for skiing that winter and his summer plans for the next camping season, and whether he would take part on the optional hiking trip in the Porcupine Mountains (he decided he will).

All in all it is hard to think of a better way to spend a weekend. Thanks to all who made this weekend possible. The camp’s setting and facilities are amazing and are matched by the quality of counselors who seemed to be having as much fun as the Fathers and Sons. In case you haven’t guessed by now I would highly recommend Camp Manitowish to boys and girls of any age. They sure seem to have a good thing going.

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