I love adventure, discovery and surprises! But there's some comfort in the familiar. In returning to people and places that evoke warm feelings and memories. Since childhood my family has spent many summer weekends at a place called "The Wilderness." For generations, we've packed our weekend summer bags, hopped in the car and taken the hour drive to Fredricksburg, Virginia where we have a recreational vehicle (RV) parked at a modest resort in the woods.
1. Our original RV was quite small. Here's a photo of my family in the mid-80's standing on the front porch. Oh, these were my dorky years!
2. The RV was purchased by my dad's parents in the early 70's. They called it "Casa Del MattaMar," a combination of their names (Matt and Margaret). Here's me standing by the sign around age two. My dad still has this sign hanging in the massive garage I showed you in my hometown post. When his parents passed away, he inherited the property.
3. A few years ago we upgraded to a really nice, but nameless, RV. It's a "fifth wheel" and completely mobile! You can hook it up to the back of a truck and journey anywhere but it has remained parked here since it was planted. Now let's go inside...
4. Here's the living room when you first enter the door, complete with a TV. Absolutely no Internet connection here, even on mobile devices it's difficult to get good reception. The couch folds out into a bed. We've had as many as eight people sleeping in here. In the open spaces we simply use big blow-up mattresses so a lot of people can stay overnight.
5. Aerial view from the upstairs.
6. Full kitchen with stove, refrigerator, microwave. We almost always have barbecues so it's rare that the stove is actually used.
7. Cozy table, but there's a huge picnic table on the lot that we usually use for summer meals. The table is a nice back-up in the event of rain.
8. Cute salt and pepper shakers, my favorite accessory in the kitchen. :)
9. Here, old school salt and pepper shakers in my hand. Probably getting ready to eat some burgers from the grill.
10. The upstairs has a nice bed, toilet, shower, closet and dressers where clothes can be stored.
11. The grounds of the property. We spend most evenings sitting out here chatting by a huge bonfire and occasionally singing when one of my acoustic guitar playing friends stays for the weekend. Pure joy to me, sitting by the campfire singing and I love the delicious smell of campfire sinking into your skin and clothes.
12. The resort where the RV is parked is surrounded by several lakes and a lot of wooded areas. I get so bored sitting for long periods of time so usually I'll go wander around in the woods to see if anything interesting shows up. I've seen many snakes, squirrels (eek!), beavers, racoons and huge insects. But no bears. :)
13. When we were very young my sister captured a turtle in one of the lakes and brought it home. It still lives today, almost thirty years later, in an aquarium at my parent's house. But the moment of capture was caught in this photo. My dad really pushed us to do things on our own, even when we were young girls. Touch turtles, put worms on our own fish hooks. In some ways my sister and I are both tomboys but I'm grateful for the strange knowledge he's imparted upon us.
14. There's a wonderful bridge by one of the lakes. Just last weekend I went fishing here with my sister and nephew.
15. My sister standing on the exact same bridge about twenty-five years ago. You can see the bridge has changed color, and even shape, over the years. Today it has much more character and it's also a lot less stable!
16. My mom and Aidan on the bridge last autumn. He loves it here, running around in the woods, fishing and swimming. For me it's really cool to look at the progression of the bridge through the years, seeing different generations of my family standing at the same spot and hooking a worm at the same location. I'm a progressive thinker but there's something about tradition when it comes to family. It's a real soft spot for me.
17. My favorite season here is autumn. The air is crisp and cool and the foliage is usually very colorful and vibrant.
18. Residents can park canoes at the lake, but the resort also offers them for rent.
20. Several times my sister and I have gone out on the lake, ventured too far and regretted the long paddle back. A canoe, hard work getting it back to shore at times.
21. You can also rent paddle boats or simply sit on one of the docks and catch up with old friends.
22. Things get really festive for every summer holiday. We were here for the recent Memorial Day weekend and participated in the decorating contest. For my mom, this is a big deal! She's really competitive and takes the decorations and strategies seriously.
24. This year she didn't place in the competition. Great disappointment for her. But she's a real champion at the resort and has the trophies to prove it. She proudly displays them in the kitchen. :)
25. The resort also holds parades on all major holidays. Kids decorate their bikes and can compete for prizes.
26. This little girl was my favorite. Her grandmother told us she made the girl's cap out of a coffee filter. Creative!
27. And she won a prize, standing here with her proud dad.
28. Most residents drive around the resort in these golf carts and they also compete for best decoration. Now that I think about it, Americans really like to decorate things!
29. Some just enjoy the ride.
30. There's a wide range of RVs here. Some people with bigger lots have full gardens and the RV looks more like a main home rather than a weekend getaway.
32. And some abandoned RVs and lots as well.
You can also rent a vacant lot and tent camp. We did that in our younger years, but now most of the family prefers the comfort of the RV. Personally, I like tent camping but only in cool weather. With the heat and humidity of Virginia summers, a tent in July or August would closely resemble a torture chamber.
33. Simple secluded places like this are my saving grace, whether it's up in the mountains, in the woods or by the open sea. You can breathe and think. I don't know whether Russians read American literature in school but my favorite American authors are the Transcendentalists/Romantics from the 1800's. A group of writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau who promoted individuality, solitude and self-reflection. The catalyst for such reflection was living in the woods or other natural landscapes.
As Thoreau wrote - "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
Some day I'll find an adventurous partner, we'll hook the RV up to a pick-up truck and journey through America. A girl can dream, right?
So tell me, does your family have a dacha? Share pictures and memories if you wish. I will be happy to see and hear.