I did something this weekend I haven't done for a very long time. I visited a deer camp. Mind you, I didn't stay the whole weekend, just a few hours, but it was a good reminder of why I don't go deer hunting. Never mind that I don't like venison. I swore at a very young age that when I grew up I'd make enough money that I could always eat beef and never have to touch venison. Some enthusiasts are going to say I just never had it cooked right. Wrong. I've eaten venison cooked by the best and I still don't like it. Elk, buffalo, and sundry other wild game are just fine, but venison--yuck.
Anyway my eating preferences aren't the point. What is the point is that I don't like late fall camping. I don't get huddling around a stinking, smoking fire wrapped in a heavy coat reading when I could be comfortably seated in a recliner, enjoying central heating, to read that same book. We were a considerable distance above Sun Valley and it was 17 above zero that morning. Patches of snow decorated the lower slopes and the mountain peaks sported a heavy coat of the white stuff. Dark clouds hung overhead and the deciduous trees were stripped of their leaves and color, the grass was brown and trampled by the earlier hordes of summer campers. The pines looked dark and ominous and even the stream, which was beautiful, appeared cold and unwelcoming with its bits of jagged ice at the edge of quiet eddies.
Now lest you get the impression I'm not an outdoor enthusiast, let me assure you I've always loved mountains and forests. There's no scenic spot I prefer to those filled with trees, mountains streams, and wildlife in either summer or winter. It's just that bleak period when summer is done, but winter hasn't quite arrived that I find unappealing. I don't even oppose hunting though I prefer fishing.
So why did I go? My sister was there. She'll be back in Utah before this week is over undergoing yet another round of heavy chemo---six straight days of it. I wanted to see her where she's the happiest. She and her husband love to camp year around so they had planned their usual opening day campout with their son and grandsons. The boys had been up since five tramping all over the mountains with their rifles while my sister and her husband sat in camp by the fire. They used to hunt too, but now my brother-in-law does his hunting with a camera and she isn't strong enough to hike that arduous terrain.
The boys came back into camp mid-afternoon without a deer, but didn't seem the least disappointed and began immediately making plans to go out again later after their blisters were doctored and their stomachs filled. They knew right where to look for my sister's first aid kit and her generous supply of snacks. They lamented the absence of hot chocolate. It seems one of the boys left the chocolate canister sitting out the night before. A fox found it and carried it a short distance from camp where he tore it open and pigged out on its contents. They laughed with their mother/grandmother over their failure to keep a camp rule to put everything away.
I'm glad I went. It was good to spend some unstructured time with both of my sisters. We took a short hike and I imagined how beautiful that spot would be in summer. And I saw something more. My sister was smiling and happy. She's been through so much pain and sickness and she has more ahead of her, but that day her furry hat given to her by a cousin to cover her bald head, her sparkling eyes, her rosy cheeks, and the stories and laughter she shared with her family proclaimed that life is good and worth fighting for. It was clear that getting a deer really wasn't the point of that deer camp at all.