Kettle Moraine Camping

I still get the Story Worth Questions, even if I do not always write answers. This one asked me to describe my first camping trip. It is below.

The first time I went camping was in when my HS friend Dwayne Gorgon and I rode bikes up to Kettle Moraine State Forest.  It was a big adventure for me, more of one than the actual travel would justify.  It was not really all that far, a day trip, but a big deal then.

It was a hard trip for me at that time.  My relationship with Dwayne was a little odd. He was a swim team colleague. We started out together and we used to practice together summer mornings at Kosciuszko Park.  I was a significantly better swimmer and our abilities diverged in our junior and senior years.  I think he felt it unfair that we worked out the same, but I got better.  On the other hand, he had a better bike and I think he was a better bicyclist than I was.  It is the kind of rivalry that both spices and sours relationships among teenage boys.  I tried not to lord my abilities over him, but I think that made it worse for him.  Dwayne was less circumspect in showing he was faster on the bike.

Kettle Moraine is glaciated landscape, that produced wave-like topography.  The country trunk roads did not flatten the hills or go around them, so you got a lot of ups and downs.  To going down is not usually worth the coming up.  You peddle as fast as you can down the slope, but it is never enough to get back up the other side.  Crossroads are a complicating factor.  Roads tend to cross at the bottom on hills and in those days often featured four way stops.  That means you come down fast on one slope and you are supposed to stop before starting up the other.   There was not much traffic on those roads, so we tended not to stop.  It was scary, however.  You could not see over the hills or around the curves, so you always worried a bit that a car would come along.

We ended up at the campground not very much before dark.  There is a little poignancy to this story, in that I tried to call home from the phone booth, charges reversed in those pre-mobile phone days. It still made a big difference to me that my parents knew of my exploits, especially my mother.  My father answered and said that my mother had already gone to bed.  Odd. Turned out that she had gone into the hospital.  She would never come home.  She knew this was going to happen, but she also knew that we had long planned the trip and did not want to ruin it for me.  My mother did not want me to see her in her declining condition and did not want my sister or me to visit.  We thought she would be home soon, but we never saw her again.  But this was in the future on that night.

That night was the first time I saw the milky way.  Milwaukee was darker in those days, but still had streetlights enough to obscure the milky way.  I was amazed by the stars, the three-dimensional vastness.  But it seemed that the mosquitoes were as common as the stars.  We were unprepared for camping (a persistent theme in my camping experience).  The mosquitoes tormented us until the wind picked up sometime in the pre-dawn darkness.  The wind the blew the mosquitoes away also blew in storm clouds and they dumped heavy rain on us as we rode back home.

It had been a hot ride up; it was cold and wet on the way back.  It did not rain all the time. It just rained hard when it rained.  In the open country, you could see the rain coming, but could do nothing to avoid it.  I was exhausted by the time I got home and went to be early.  I still recall my dreams, well images from the dreams.  They were letters, like F, HH etc.  Wisconsin’s county trunk roads have letters not names.

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