When I was eight years old my mom got a job as the Costume Designer at a performing arts camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. June would roll around, we’d pack up the Jeep with our backpacks, and later our beautiful dog named Star, and hit the road. This was a privilege that I didn’t understand until much later in my life. At the time it seemed like an inconvenience. I’d have to leave all of my friends and miss out on any summer things that were happening to go to one of the most beautiful places in the world. What a brat.
During my first summer in Colorado I met three boys who have turned out to be the most important people in my life. I didn’t have any siblings and I’d always wanted older brothers. Brandon Buckles, Nick Handloff and Jesse Rapp immediately filled that void. They loved me unconditionally and treated me like the annoying little sister they never wanted. They were also incredibly protective and kept away any interested party (as much as they possibly could) once I entered my teenage years.
A week ago I got in my car in Portland, Oregon and began to drive west to Steamboat. Although the wedding isn’t for another week this will give me some much-needed catch up time with Jesse. Now that Nick is getting married and Brandon is engaged (with a baby!), we’re the only ones left. Besides that, I tend to romanticized my love for all three of these boys until I spend some good solid time with them and am reminded that we all drive each other completely nuts (as families do). This way I’ll be ready to leave when the wedding is over but back to the drive…
When Dawn (my mom) and I would make our annual voyage we’d come from the North East driving through Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, yada yada until finally reaching the last stretch from Denver to Steamboat. This was always the best part of our drive partially because I knew I only had to spend another four hours in the car with my mother but mainly because this was the part of the trip that we really knew. When you’re in the car for endless hours and days things start to blur together. This part of the trip was ours. We noticed roads being paved, houses being built, even growing birds nests. We would stop for a gas/bathroom break in Kremmling which, in 1997, only had a gas station but is now an actual small town. Finally we would come to Rabbit Ears Pass. For those of you who have driven into Steamboat you know there is a certain turn where you suddenly catch a glimpse of the entire town. It was always the most exciting and excruciating thing. Every turn I would lean over my mom and kneel on my seat hoping that it would be the bend that would show me the only place that I always felt was home. As the years went by the town got bigger and bigger, we’d drive down Lincoln Street and comment on the new condominiums and shops then we’d reach camp and things would be exactly the same.
Perry Mansfield is a special place. Everyone who has spent time there feels like it’s his or hers. Every single landmark moment in my life has happened there or was in someway connected to it. From the first time I drove stick shift, shaved my armpits or dyed my hair to the first time I fell in love and had my heart broken. When I go there I’m overwhelmed with all of those feelings. They flood my senses. There is no way I can ever explain to anyone how much I love it unless that person loves it too. Since I’ve been in Steamboat and had time to myself I’ll go there and just walk around. I know every path, when to duck from a branch and when to step higher to avoid a tree root. I know it better than I know myself.
In 1913, Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield went into the woods and built the most magical place in the world. Although they were thought of as these crazy women who danced in the woods, they we’re beginning a legacy that is now the oldest continuously running performing arts camp in the nation. The first cabin they built was Cabeen. This is where they lived and where I had the privilege of living for a few summers as a child. Cabeen was built in 1889 and (to a 8-13 year old girl who is scared of almost everything) is the scariest place ever. I don’t know if you believe in ghosts, I don’t know if I believe in ghosts but I DO believe in Portia and Charlotte and their constant presence at camp. There have been many times in my life at and away from camp where strange things have happened to me. The only way that I’ve always been able to soothe myself is by thinking that it’s just Portia and Charlotte with me.
I never cared about the performing arts really. It was my mom’s thing; I was there for the ride (and because I didn’t have a choice). I liked to dance and ride horses and got to do both as much as I wanted but as soon as I was old enough to do my own thing I started working in the kitchen. It was my first job and I loved it mainly because Brandon, Jess and Nick worked there too.
Next weekend Nick is getting married to the most amazing girl I could’ve imagined for him. It takes a certain type of woman to be able to put up with the never-ending flow of annoyance and aggravation that all three of these amazingly wonderful and kind men provide. Jenna has certainly met and surpassed a tolerance level that I was sure only their families (and I) could reach. They’ll marry in the meadow down behind Cabeen surrounded by everyone they love in a place that brought them together. We’ll all dance, eat and sing and then say goodbye. This is the first time that we will all be together (including my Dawnie) in at least seven years. Dawnie and I will get on the road the next day and make our beloved drive to Denver and then on to Savannah, GA.
Here are some pictures of my drive out here (including a stop in Twin Falls, ID) some pictures of camp and the way I’ve set up my hammock so I can spend my days reading until the insanity begins! I can’t find the charger for my camera so these were shot with my old cellphone.
Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho
Pretty nice way to enter a state...You can't reeeally see it but on the left is me with short blond hair and Brandon circa '96? This clock hangs proudly in the camp kitchen...
Butcher Knife Park. Best hammock spot ever.
My beautiful Walter. Such a road warrior.