They say you can never go back to summer camp as an adult but I was sure going to try.
Like most childhood memories, the setting is often divorced from the memory itself. I find this out almost every Monday when I learn that one of my students has gone camping over the weekend. My first question is, “Oh, where did you go camping?” The inevitable answer is, “Ahhh. . . I don’t know.”
I retained certain details from my summer camp experience, which was 30 years ago, like the name of the camp: Skylake, and the lake it was near: Bass and aided by photographs in a album, I have images of people, my councilor Bil, and locations: my cabin and the horse coral and actives: horseback riding, archery, waterskiing, and canoeing, but other than that I had no idea where my summer camp was, other than I knew it was somewhere near Yosemite.
A casual glance at a map reals many lake named “Bass’ in the United States. I looked at a Yosemite regional map and found a Bass Lake just south of the Wawona entrance to the park. A web search revealed that Skylake Yosemite Camp was indeed still in business but under a new ownership. Well I couldn’t go to Wawona without first going back to camp!
All was well when I turned right off pf Highway 41 at the Bass Lake sign. Well this was going to be easy, I thought, one road to the north of the lake and one to the south. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I could not see the lake through the woods. And when I finally did see the lake, it was to my right and I wanted it to my left which meant I was on the north shore and not the south where Skylake was located. Oh bother! As pooh would say.
I figured I would just keep driving east until the road curved around to the south side of Bass Lake but the road kept going east and not south, like I wanted it to. I eventually consigned myself to defeat, turned around and headed back along the north shore on the roadway of shame. I turned left and made a false foray into a housing development, turned back, and stopped at the ranger station and got a map (something I should have done about 45 minutes ago). I finally found the correct road, memorably named Road 222 and headed east along the south shore.
I looked at Bass Lake, trying to connect my memories to the location. The only thing I could come up with was there seemed to be more large house on the north shore than I seemed to remember. Well the last time I was on this road heading in this directions was 30 years ago, aboard a bus loaded with excited campers.
I did remember that there was a picnic area on the shore near the camp and Pine Point Picnic area appeared on my left, I knew I was very close! I rounded a curve and there was the sign on the right side of the road, “Skylake Yosemite Camp”!
I turned up the single track paved road, the ideal scenario running through my mental cinema: I would pull into camp and the off-season caretaker named Gordon (and not Jack) would look up from raking the leaves from the parking lot near the flag pole and welcome me to Skylake. He would commence a grand tour of the camp and memories would come flooding back. Instead I was greeted by a fallen oak, blocking the entire roadway.
I returned to the camp dock remembering a canoe camping trip from 30 yeas ago. I remember setting of in the late afternoon to the northern shore and I remember sleeping under the stars.
As I drove back towards Highway 41, one final memory came back. It was they day my dad came to pick me up to take me back home. He was the one who took the photographs. I remember it was great to see him and I gave him a our of the camp along with my best friend Erik. I think we must have driven around the lake, no doubt my father stopping along the shore to take photos. Now much has changed.
They say you can never return to summer camp but I tried.