The view from anywhere within the grounds of Allegany State Park is glorious.
The view of the glowing embers of the campfire.
The billowing clouds of smoke rising from said fire.
The unfiltered blue sky punctuated by fluffy white clouds during the day or shining bright stars by night.
The administration building set amidst a backdrop of dark green trees and a rippling lake.
And the white beams of the cabin roof as I’m lying awake at night.
That being said: camping at Allegany is a full on sensory experience that cannot rely on sight alone to capture the majesty of the experience.
Take a deep breath in. What do you smell? First, the smoky smell of the fire mixed with the pungent, piercing aroma of bug spray, and the pure, clean forest air.
The smell stays with you, long after you depart from ASP. I should know: I was just there, and my hair still smells like smoke after showering.
Not to mention, there’s the smell—and the taste—of bacon: hot, crispy and sometimes still crackling, washed down with an ice-cold Old Vienna lager.
There’s the crunch of that first bite of toast or cinnamon roll in the morning.
And the bite of steaming hot, buttery, salty Jiffy Pop, straight off the stovetop.
The tastes and smells of camp are heavenly comfort, indulged in but once a year, and not nutritionally advisable.
What can compare to the sounds of crickets, birds, and sometimes, a rushing creek, to fall asleep?
Or the constant popping, cracking, and whistling of the fire?
The scary stories whispered around the fire linger in the air, and may resurface when you’re about to drift off to sleep.
And of course, there’s laughter: the neverending laughter that comes in bursts and cackles and giggles and chuckles and wheezes, at all the right moments and some of the wrong ones, too.
The slam of a card down onto the picnic table while playing 500 rummy punctuates the impact of the move. Sound and touch. The stickiness of the table makes it difficult to pick the cards back up again.
The feel of the wet grass and mud and sticks and rocks beneath your feet as you climb into the woods to find kindling makes your heart soar.
The heat from the fire warms every fiber of your being, inside and out.
The cold condensation that’s formed on the beer can wets your hands, but you don’t mind.
The ridges and indents of the flashlight that you curl your fingers around as you powerwalk to the bathroom in the middle of the night steel you against your fear of bears and axe murderers.
Or, can you? We talk about the five senses, but I have to mention this other type of feeling.
The euphoria of being with family in a place imbued with family history.
The sheer bliss of being completely out of cell service.
The nostalgia and memories of trips past.
The slight buzz from drinking a beer at 9 in the morning.
The satisfaction after helping to cut down a tree or laying a log in the perfect spot on the fire.
The sheer gratitude and love you feel for this place and these people that you miss even before you’ve left.
Like I said…the view from here is pretty damn special.