Camping trip provides much-needed escape

I took off Friday and headed to a small town called Shade Gap in Pennsylvania. My family owns property just outside of Shade Gap and, every spring and fall, a group heads up for a camping trip. If the town is remote (population 97), the property on which we camp is even more so. It is surrounded on three sides by state game land and is primarily wooded. There is a dirt road through the woods that leads to a clearing, on which we pitch our tents, build our fire and spend most of our time. There are certain traditions that have evolved -- pizza grilled cheeses, a circle of chairs around the campfire, games during the day and a creepy, late-night hike through the woods to an abandoned house that sits on the property. But my favorite part of these trips is disconnecting from the "real world." Phone reception is limited, there is no running water and there is no electricity. Unless you drive into town, you will not see anyone other than the camping group for the entire weekend. The nearest store is about a 25-minute drive away. I give myself permission to put the "out-of-office assistant" on my email and to leave my cell in the car for this trip. I give myself permission to leave my real life and all of the obligations, responsibilities and stress in Baltimore. For this weekend, my purpose is to enjoy the scenery and the company. Aside from cooking and games (Frisbee, wiffle ball, boccie ball, etc.), there is no agenda on this trip. There is nowhere else to be and nothing else to be doing. Time in Shade Gap seems to stand still; the hours stretch to the point that any concept of time is eventually lost. At noon on Saturday, for example, I was certain that it was nearly dinnertime.

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