I’ve sailed around the world on a ship, spent a year as an exchange student in France, and backpacked across West Africa. I’ve been inside a pyramid in Giza, baked a 5-tier wedding cake in a stone oven in Cameroon, and lived with an Indian family. I’ve had a lot of amazing adventures in my life. But I’ve never been anywhere as magical as Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp.
The camp has been around for almost a hundred years. My family has been going since my daughter Bird was 3 months old. We took my son Bear to camp for the first time when he was only 5 weeks old. It’s that kind of place: once you’re there, you feel like you’ve come home. The Tuolumne river runs through the camp. Fragrant pines provide shade. Campers sleep in rustic tent cabins with no electricity. The kids run free.
The best part about camp is the community that develops. We see the same families each year. We’re doing it together: our kids are growing up, and we are growing older. As I walk through camp for the first time each year, I’m flooded with memories. We look forward to our time at camp all year. For months, my kids count down the days until we go. It’s hands-down our favorite vacation.
And now it’s gone. On Sunday, Berkeley Tuolumne camp burned in the massive Rim Fire. The word the fire marshall used was “destroyed.”
Destroyed. When I read that, I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t believe it was gone. Sunday night, a memorial group sprang up on Facebook. Hundreds of people began to post pictures and memories. Monday afternoon, someone suggested a candlelight meeting in the park across from the Berkeley Camps office. Hours later, we gathered.
We sang camp songs, we reminisced, we cried. Camp was really that special. Friends have gently suggested that perhaps I could find another spot to replace Tuolumne, but there’s no place like it. And yes, maybe we can rebuild our beloved camp, and of course we will always have our memories, but right now I’ve got a jagged hole in my heart.
Do any of you have a special place like Tuolumne?