Anyone who ran into me last week knew how much I was looking forward to my Labor Day camping trip. It’s all I could talk about. I simply could not wait to go roughing it for a couple of days in the Catskills, surrounded by a representative sampling of the Farrell clan and the promise of all the campfire camaraderie that was sure to ensue.
The Farrell’s, in case you are wondering, are my cousins on my mother’s side. As my mom is one of 12, you can imagine there are quite a few of us. I counted 35 first cousins last time I did a tally, and honestly there is no guarantee that I didn’t miss one or two.
Although the family has dispersed over the years from their Brooklyn roots, one thing has never changed: Where there are Farrell’s, there is never a dull moment. You are almost universally guaranteed a good time.
The Labor Day camping trip, to North-South Lake in Haines Falls, has been an annual tradition in my cousin Peg’s family, the Lauths, for a few decades. What started as a yearly trip for her immediate family, grew over the years to include neighbors and relatives from all over. After she married into the Farrell family (via my cousin Tim), it was only a matter of time before our fun-loving clan jumped on board, too. Combined, they now take up one full loop and then some at the campground every Labor Day.
And let me tell you, these are not rank amateurs. They are pros when it comes to camping. They still “rough it” in sprawling tents (no campers for this lot), but you’ll be hard pressed to find what most people consider your typical camp-out fare of hamburgers and hotdogs. They go all out with gourmet meals that would make Bobby Flay proud.
They even take marshmallow roasting to another level with the use of the “superflue,” an ingenious invention which yields perfectly toasted marshmallows in under a minute. If Peg’s brother John isn’t seeking to patent this idea, he certainly should.
And this is no lay-about camping trip. While there is plenty of time spent in front of the camp fire, there are also horse back riding excursions, organized hikes, and even tie-dying for the kiddies – of which there are dozens running around in packs.
I didn’t decide to invite myself along until long after everyone else had reserved their campsites. But in true Farrell fashion (the family’s unofficial motto is “the more the merrier”), my cousin Coleen invited me to share a tent with her family, the Coffey’s. When I touched base with her early last week, she assured me that they not only had plenty of room, but that she was packing more than enough food and other camping supplies to accommodate any hangers on. (That would be me.) She and her son Eric were heading up on Thursday, and her husband Steve and their other son Bret would join us on Saturday.
My enthusiasm for the trip was apparently contagious, because on Friday morning, after hearing me go on and on about it for weeks, my bestest bud Ed decided he’d make the trip up from VA for the occasion. Although maybe it had more to do with the fact that he didn’t have any other plans for the weekend. Either way, I was still excited. So excited, in fact, that I forgot to print out directions to the actual camp ground. Which neither of us realized until we were almost to Haines Falls. Ooops.
But it all worked out. Despite getting a somewhat late start, no directions and a bit of friction with the Janet Reno look-a-like at the camp ground gate, we were able to make it safely to our destination, where cocktail hour was still underway. (Even though it was nearly 10 p.m.)
Growing up, I slept out plenty of nights, but it was usually on top of the hill behind my house. I’d never had the full campground experience before. If I was expecting ambient wildlife and avian noises, I was to be disappointed. After a fitful night’s sleep snuggled comfortably in my sleeping bag, I was woken up, not by the twittering and chirping of birds, but by the sound of the bathroom door slamming and the whooping and hollering of what sounded like a full legion of children on their bikes. It didn’t bother me, though. I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
And boy, did I sleep. We all did, actually, until the temperature inside the tent rose to roughly that of the surface of the sun. It was like a sweat box.
By then it was late morning, and we’d missed the planned hike to Kaaterskill Falls. (With the exception Eric, who had actually gotten up before 10.)
We’d had breakfast (Taylor ham and eggs, Jersey style) and were on our way back from a quick trip to the General Store at the bottom of the hill, when things got a exciting, and not in a good way. In a rare moment of cell coverage, we got frantic messages from Peg that Eric had taken a particularly bad spill on his bike. It looked like he’d broken his collarbone, and emergency services were on their way. His had met pavement as well, but thanks to the freakishly thick skull most Farrell’s are blessed with, he survived the thump without a concussion.
The collarbone on the other hand, wasn’t quite as lucky.
By the time we got back, the ambulance was already there, prepping the poor kid for transport to the nearest hospital – which was about 50 miles away in Kingston. Col went with him, of course, with Peg following behind.
Ed and I stayed behind to hold down the fort, well camp, until they returned with Eric – who was all doped up on pain meds and in some kind of slingy thing which I believe, based on the grimace on his face, was probably inspired by some sort of medieval torture device.
We helped Col pack up much of the camp, although she insisted on leaving the tent and a vast quantity of food to hold us over. We were welcomed readily by the remaining campers in our cohort, but we elected to pack up Sunday morning when Tim & Peg were heading out.
What did I tell yah, Ed? Never a dull moment when you’re spending time with the Farrell clan. It’s all fun and games, until someone breaks their collarbone.