In life some things continue, some things end. This was what I thought as I packed Violet the van with food, water, and my clothes.
I was getting ready for the Kuna Kousin Kampout at Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan. I had ransacked our pantry for camper food: crackers, cheese, some odd pieces of bread. I complemented these supplies with items from the market: a pound of lean hamburger, a pint container of deli potato salad, and some bakery cookies to pass. I packed light, bringing only a single change of clothes and my Dopp kit. The Kuna Kampout is only a two-day event.
Julie and the kids used to come to the Kampout, but their attendance has waned with the onset of competing demands for their time. I said goodbyes to my family and climbed into Violet’s front seat. I knew that some of my cousins had been following my travels in Violet and so I made sure that she had a bath before I left. I wanted her to look her showroom best.
I don’t mind traveling alone as it is easy to get lost in my thoughts, but this internal entertainment lasts only so long, and by the time I approached South Haven I was eager to connect with others. However, that was not to be the case.
I backed Violet into my site, making sure that her power port was in line-of-sight to the site’s electric hook-up. Setting up camp was as simple as plugging her into mains power. My recent travels have been off-grid, and the possibility of unlimited free electricity for my microwave and heater seemed intoxicating. In reality, I left the heater in its Sterilite storage bin, and I used my microwave only to heat water for coffee. I guess I am a creature of habit.
I didn’t see any familiar Kuna faces on my arrival, which surprised me. My T-Mobile iPhone barely functions at Van Buren, but I was able to get enough signal to post, “At Van Buren and so far I’m the only Kuna here.” on Facebook. It was chilly, and I needed some internal warming, so I microwaved some water in which I added a heaping teaspoon of Nescafé Clasico instant coffee. Porting some Etta James into Violet’s sound system, I sipped coffee and chilled. After about 20 minutes, I saw my cousin Ron and his daughter outside my door, and we exchanged greetings. Ron and his family were several rows over, which is why I didn’t initially see them. I walked to his site to acknowledge the rest of his crew and to admire his impressive set-up. He has a large C class RV, and his site was carefully arranged with tarps and chairs. I oohed and aahed over his camper, and we sat and talked for a bit. I returned back to Violet, and within about 30 minutes of my return, his family wandered over to see her in person and reciprocated with their own oohs and ahhs.
Shortly after that, my niece appeared at Violet’s door as she saw my Facebook post. Her campsite was up the road, but far enough away that I had initially missed her. After showing her Violet, I moseyed over to her site to enjoy her campfire and conversation.
So many of our regular campers were absent this year. My sister and her husband canceled due to illness. My other sister, her daughter’s family, and my sister-in-law stayed at a local hotel. Other regulars were absent due to obligations, and even the main organizer of the event, my cousin Ken was only present on Saturday, as he and his wife also stayed at a hotel this year.
This was the 20th year of the Kuna Kampout, one of several yearly events designed to keep the cousins connected. However, with the absence of several key players, it felt different. As the afternoon wore on, it started to rain, a constant, steady rain. In the past, several of the Kampout’s participants would bring canopy tents which were latched together to provide an ample sheltered space to gather. Unfortunately, those campers did not attend this year. Instead, we became a canvas of umbrellas and rain ponchos. Hardly ideal, but good enough.
Our dinner is usually a community event, but this year, we didn’t have the large grilling surface that we typically use. My nephew, Tommy, offered up his small tailgate style propane grill, and with careful planning, we all had enough space to cook our food. Part of the Kampout tradition is to bring a dish to pass. I gave away three of the 4 hamburgers that I made, as I munched on my sister-in-law’s gluten-free macaroni salad, and my niece’s cut-up fruit. Such exchanges are the norm, and our combined efforts turn our personal meal plans into an eclectic feast. Eventually, the rain stopped, and we sat, ate, and talked into the night.
Yes, this campout was different from past ones. Some key players didn’t attend, and others stayed at hotels as it has become too difficult for them to tent camp. Initially, I had some sadness about this change, but I have since reconsidered.
The lower attendance allowed me to chat with some relatives who I rarely have contact with. Despite the smaller crowd, the spirit of the campout was the same, as was the level of genuine friendliness and enthusiasm. We managed with a small grill, our umbrellas, and a lot of real excitement.
It would have been easy to focus on the negatives of this year’s campout. However, when all was said and done, it was our attitudes that determined the tone of this experience. The campout was just as much fun as it had been in previous years. Those of us who were there wanted to be there; we wanted to connect with each other. This year’s Kuna Kampout was a success and a delightful experience.
In life some things continue, some things end, and still, others evolve. Was this year 20 of the Kuna Kampout or was it the first year of the Kuna Kampout 2.0? Here is to 20 more years of burnt hamburgers, late night hikes, friendly smiles, and good conversation!