First to Arrive, Last to Leave

Frank and I were the last campers to leave Audra State Park at the end of the camping season last fall. We watched as the assistant park worker carried every stone removed that season from the river and taken around a campfire back to the river.

Imagine. Every stone that every camper carried from the river over a period of almost seven months — is carried back to the river at the end of the season — by one man.

I sat and watched him go back and forth a dozen or more times at each of 65 campsites. To the campsite, lift, to the river, toss. To the campsite, lift, to the river, toss.

It was one of those times when you get a glimpse behind the scenes and discover something that never occurred to you before.

This season, we will be the first to arrive. The campground opens at 10 a.m., and we will arrive shortly thereafter. We will obviously get our favorite campsite. (Which I’m not telling all of you ’cause I don’t want you all to want it too.) As a matter of fact, we often leave at the crack of dawn, or even a day early if we can, just so we can get that spot.

Tomorrow, we will be there.

We’ll be the first to gather driftwood from the shores of the water, the first to fill the air with the smell of charcoal and wood burning.

There’s a new park superintendent this year — following one who had been there for 15 years or more.

Of course, campers rarely see the park superintendent. But we know his assistant, and the camp volunteer, Trudy, well by now.

Both shared concerns with us last October when we said, “see you next year!”

They both replied, “I hope so!”

They were worried about the changes, and now I’m sitting here wondering if we’ll see them again tomorrow or not.

I hope so, because they have become as much of the park’s character as the river that runs through…

And I do believe I will miss them if they’re not there.