My husband grew up in NYC. He grew up like most city kids – riding the subway, avoiding fights, and generally keeping to himself. But every year, his dad packed him and his sisters up and headed into the wilderness. Literally. The trip took weeks and weeks to plan, coordinate and schedule.
I started dating my husband in late October of 1991. That year’s trip was in the Spring, so I missed it. But oh the stories! I think I started hearing about the trips almost immediately. They were the stuff of legend.
Here’s a few overall facts about the Kowal Camping Trips:
- They go to the same place every year (many a story is told of how they discovered the campsite and how all other camp sites are substandard). It’s called Crystal Lake. Go ahead and insert the Friday the 13th jokes.
- The camping trip is never in the summer. That’s for wimps and yuppies. Kowal camping trips are in the early Spring or late Fall. Cold? Check! Wet? Check!
- This is no organized site with plug-ins, bathrooms and showers…this is…the opposite. You’ll get to know the forest well.
- Ponchos and tarps are your friends.
- Although total time in the woods is less than 42 hours, enough food, booze and magazines should be packed as if you were going away for a week. And even then you’ll wish you had more.
- The trips began with my husband and his dad (Pappa Joe as he’s referred to now in our house). They scouted, found and claimed the site. The sister’s were indoctrinated quickly after. I joined a few years in and since then, we’ve had lots of additions and subtractions. Our old photos of these trips are a who’s who of relationships past and present.
- There has never been a camping trip without rain. Never. Ever. Not once.
- This year, at ages almost 10 and almost 15, we decided it was time to introduce our kids to camping. We didn’t know how they’d fair or if we’d have to go home in the middle of the night or something – so we decided to do a “test” trip. We knew they could handle it when, on the first night, as my husband and I were trying to figure out the new tent – it started pouring. We couldn’t have been more proud when we looked over and saw the kids huddled together in the dark, in ponchos, sitting on tarp covered equipment – pretending it was normal. It was beautiful. A parenting home-run in our book.
Here’s some shots of camping through the years. Please note that some of these photos are before digital cameras, filters, edits, etc. Some of these pictures were actually physically developed! They’re “vintage”.
This is one of the early trips…notice the tarp covered tent. This is my husband’s younger sister, Stacy. Stacy has the longest running record of tents that leak. There’s usually a running stream in her tent when she wakes up. No joke.
This is my sister-in-law Colleen – sitting on cooler with toilet paper in hand. Classic.
This is the original Kowal gang below.
This is me and Pappa Joe in the early 90s. It was my birthday on this trip. That night, it poured so badly and I felt so bad for myself (because that’s what you do in your 20s), I threw a tantrum and slept in the car. I know better now. Suck it up! It’s the Kowal way!
This is my husband and Stacy. Cooking. Which is the only thing that takes your mind off the fact that you’re cold and wet.
Stacy and I enjoying the lake. Sitting very very very far away from each other enjoying the lake.
This is Pappa Joe – who always smiles when his two daughters are with him.
Did I mention it’s all about the fire? Men. Must. Stoke. Fire. That’s Uncle Roman doing what he did for the entire trip.
Sorry about the terrible quality of the photo below – but I needed you to see that I am wearing a winter coat, gloves and a scarf. There’s snow in the ground behind us. Just sayin’.
This is Pappa Joe. I love this photo. It’s quintessential. The vest. The glasses. The perfectly combed hair. This is the man who started it all!
And here we are continuing the legacy. Hazing our kids into the next generation of camping.
Yes – that’s my husband showing my kids how to load and use a BB gun. Please don’t send me angry emails about safety. Only empty Poland Spring bottles were hurt. If it makes you feel any better – we recycled them later.
Nothing made my husband happier than bringing his kids to the spot that held so many happy, funny, wet, cold, hysterical, loving memories.
As you leave the camp site, you always think the same thing – thank god we’re going home, and thank god we came.