With twenty-eight hardy souls around the campfire, our circle grew so large that I could barely make out Rob's face, lined up with the other dads across the flames from me. A deer ran by, looking askance at the one dog in our group, and periods of light rain fell, causing a cropping-up of umbrellas. No one moved or drifted away until the 10pm quiet time fell, and even then folks lingered to put out the fire, finish a few last stories, put the trash in the cars so bears wouldn't be tempted to join.
Our Saturday dawned bright and blue-skied, and in a remarkable feat of logistics we managed to get five cars and twenty-three people to the Harvard Lakes trailhead before 11am. Wildflowers lined our path and the pine forest carpet glowed a delightful shade of green not often found in August wanderings in Colorado. With the dirt trail soft underfoot and the conversation of the college kids lifting high in the thin air around us, we moved our caterpillar train of campers up Harvard peak to the lake, where Ozzy Dogsbourne (the pup) went swimming and the rest of us sat and recovered what oxygen we could find at 10,000 feet.
Post hike and lunch, our amoeba shifted again from the campsite to a hot springs down the road. We were informed that the artesian springs would benefit our mind and souls even more than our bodies, a loftier goal than that of the sulfur springs found in other locales. A pool in the river offered 55 degree temperatures to reduce inflammation and various other pools, ranging in temp from 98 to 105 degrees, offered relaxation and (recovery from the river). William found his happy place in the frigid river water and floated there for fifteen minutes, while I could only dip my head for mere seconds.
Wild sunflowers waved at us while we cooked in the water and an employee walked around burning sage. Electronics were banned - even watches - and we lounged and conversed in pleasant denial of the passage of time. Only hunger pains spurred us to departure - although for Rob, the failing light also signaled a need to rush set-up for the cornhole game before players lost sight of the boards.
We cooked sausages over the fire and shared access to camp stoves to warm hash browns while the other families assembled Mexican dishes along the picnic table bench. The youngest among us was asking for marshmallows before dinner was concluded and his needs were soon met. Though rushing clouds obscured the stars, a half-moon made its appearance over the mountains and conversations turned to communal topics like first concerts, birthplaces, favorite camp songs. With full bellies, exhausted but clean bodies and happy hearts, we even managed to sleep a while in our second night at the campground.
As we took down camp and packed the cars on Sunday, chipmunks scurrying around us to scavenge any crumb left behind, our 16-year-old finally admitted he had fun. "I'll even come next year," he said. So I'm putting it in writing, but I think the happy memories will be enough to bring everyone back again.