Thursday, August 20, 2015


DH and I both liked the fire pits at the summer camp where we were working.

 We could imagine the fun we’d have at home with our friends and family toasting marshmallows over glowing coals in a big brick fire pit.

While we were shopping for camp supplies we saw a similar fire pit for sale at one of the hardware stores.  It was set up and ready to take home.  The price was a little more than we wanted to spend so we went on our way.

A few weeks later when DH’s birthday approached I decided this would be a great gift.  Our kids were glad to help since it meant no shopping for a present and they’d get to enjoy it too.

The plan developed that Vern, our friend and fellow camp worker, would help transport the gift to camp where it could hide in plain sight in a spot where a fire pit was going to be relocated between two cabins.

Vern brought the bricks and metal ring in the back of his pickup truck and then spent the rest of the day trying to keep DH from seeing them stashed there.

Our daughter and some other leaders were at camp that week with their group of girls so they were recruited to temporarily set up the new fire pit near their cabin for the big surprise.

My job was to keep DH distracted and busy while this was going on, which turned out to be quite a chore.  Everything he wanted to do would take him past the assembly site.  I had to keep diverting his attention until I could see the coast was clear.  Then we got on our ATV and continued on our way right by the newly built birthday present.

That evening our daughter and her group cooked a fine lasagna dinner in their Dutch ovens and invited us to eat with them.  When the meal was over they sang “Happy Birthday” to DH and then the girls jumped up and ran around the side of their cabin.  DH looked super confused when we told him to follow them.

 There they were standing together posing like a bunch of fashion models.

They were doing their best to conceal the fire pit for the big reveal.

When they all moved aside and told DH this was his birthday preset he gave them a big “Thank-you.”  He thought they’d moved the other pit to that location as a service project.

It took some more explaining to help him understand that this was his very own pre-assembled fire pit which he could take home.

 Our daughter and our granddaughters got some big hugs for their part in the escapade.

 This is our daughter and two of her accomplices helping with cleanup while dessert cooked in their other Dutch ovens.

 The dessert/birthday cake was a combination of chocolate bars, cookies, marshmallows and graham crackers which the girls dubbed, “Camp Poop.”

Since no birthday candles were available they stuck some forks in the portion served to the birthday boy.

 The next day the group disassembled the birthday present and helped Vern put it back in his truck for the trip to our house.

 A day or two later while we were home, Vern and his wife delivered it to us.  Our youngest son was there and helped unload it.

Our new friends were glad to share in the fun and help out with the birthday surprise.  We made a mental note to invite them for a barbecue and/or fish fry when the fire pit was ready and we were through with camp for the season.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Camp has a big field of lawn in the center with buildings on three sides.  At night the field is lit by cabin porch lights and three very bright mercury-vapor yard lights which come on after the sun goes down.  Other than that there are no lights in the area from civilization.

I realized camp would be the perfect place to view the upcoming Perseid Meteor Shower.   DH and I talked it over with the other workers and decided it would be a good idea to invite the campers to view a clear night sky plus falling stars.

We just had to figure out how to turn off the yard lights.  Our first attempt put the whole worker trailer park in the dark.  We got some murmurings later, but they were good sports about it.  Finally we found the breaker switch for each light and knew we could put the field in darkness when we needed to.

We told the girls and their leaders that the main lights would go off for an hour or so after midnight. We encouraged anyone interested to join us on the field with warm clothes and blankets.

DH and I have camping chairs which recline so we set them up on the lawn while the campers were still enjoying their evening camp fires.  I’d also brought my camera with its remote shutter release so I could take some timed exposures of the night sky.

Before we turned out lights I took a few shots of the big dipper with the camp buildings in the foreground.  It wasn’t until later that I saw I’d also included DH’s feet as he reclined in his chair.

Even before we darkened the area we saw a few long, slow, colorful meteors with sparkling tails.  We could hear ooo’s and aahh’s going up from those who also saw the sight.

At midnight we went around and shut off the big lights one by one, and those in the cabins cooperated and turned off their lights too.

 People were scattered all over the grass in groups staring up at a sky so dark and filled with stars that the Milky Way shown like a hazy rainbow overhead.

We were seeing approximately a meteor a minute by then.  Some streaked across the sky and some were just a blip of trailing light.  Big ones brought yells of “Awesome!” from our young crowd, some of which had never seen a night sky without the pollution of street lights.

I set my camera down on my hat on the grass and left the lens open to the sky to see if I could catch some flashes of meteor.  Some of the photographs came out okay, but with only the standard constellations.  A lot of my attempts were out of focus because I was trying to adjust my camera in the dark so I wouldn’t spoil my own night vision.

 Several shots were messed up by condensation on the lens because I had no tripod to keep the camera high above the damp grass.

 We could tell by the gigging, yelling and singing that there were still groups of girls watching, or at least staying up past any kind of bedtime.

DH finally gave up and went back to our trailer.  I was still playing with my camera so I stayed up to turn the lights back on.  Meteors continued to fly across the sky in every direction in front of the summer constellations.  Still I hadn’t captured one with my camera.

Then around 1:30 a.m. I smelled skunk and felt that, even though the little critter may have been far away, the chances of him running into people on the lawn in the dark was not worth risking.  So I turned on the big lights and told everyone to get back in their cabins.

I walked back to the trailer and still wanted to try a few more photographs.  I went out to the parking lot, away from most of the lights and set my camera up on our car.  I aimed my lens straight up through the pine trees.  I still didn’t see anything unusual in my shots so I packed it up and went to bed.

It wasn’t until I tweaked one of those photos in Photoshop by increasing the contrast and bringing up the lights that I saw I had, indeed, captured my objective.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.”  --Vincent Van Gogh