Dan Gisvold at Bear Creek

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Happy Place

When I think of Dan I immediately think of two things: trucks and Camp Nelson. Most folk know about big trucks but very few have any idea about Camp Nelson. So here is some background.

Camp Nelson is in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It is nestled in the Sequoia National Forest (not to be confused with the Sequoia National Park which is also part of the Sequoia National Forest) just above the towns of Porterville and Springville. It sits at an altitude of 4700 feet above sea level.

It is the natural home to scrub oak, ponderosa pine, manzanita, California black bear, dear, mountain lion, ground squirrels, gray tree squirrels, rattlesnakes, king snakes, limestone and granite rock formations, natural mineral water springs and a host of other critters, growths, and outcroppings.

For my family it was a home away from home and it was, and still is, our happy place.

Our cabin was off the beaten path. Turn to the right just past the stables, go over the hill, stay to the right and go to the end of the road. There we were- along with people we had known all our lives.

Our cabin had a fire circle. We had an open space where sparks wouldn't get into the trees and our great-grandmother built a rock fire pit there. It was near a Monterey Pine that she had brought up the mountain in the early 20's and planted and nurtured along with her irises.

It was around that fire pit that our family and the neighbors would gather in the evening for a campfire. We would roast marshmallows and we would sing. My father was a singer. He had a beautiful tenor voice and he would sing "My Wild Irish Rose" and "It's a Long, Long Trail". He insisted that we all sing. And we did. And we loved it.

I remember Dan when I think of all of this. I see his face when he was 10 and Francis Ferguson would chase him around the yard singing "Danny Boy" to him. I have to tell you she was accompanying herself on her accordion. The look on Dan's face was priceless. (It is why I introduce the VAE rendition of Danny Boy to him---I left out Francis Ferguson)

I see his face when he was a teenager just coming back from a fishing foray. I see his face early in the morning with the gray squirrels  would wake us up just as the sun rose. I see his face as he played cribbage with Dad.

Yes, Camp Nelson is my happy place. But right now I can't go there.

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