I had never been camping in my life. That’s what I said – never been camping in my whole life. A friend of mine gasped as these words came out of my mouth and she asked in all her disbelief, “What kind of lesbian are you Guzman?” I took a step back from her pointed question and I told her with a straight face and certainly even a bit of pride – “The kind that stays at the Hyatt”. And I meant it….how was I to know that all of that was about to change.
Just an hour and a half west of Chicago is a little place called Hide-A-Way Lake Campground. This past Labor Day weekend over 200 women gathered to set up stakes and spend a few days in the woods. The grass roots organizers, Edith Nieves, Sam Hamilton, Patricia Robles and Joy Culver could not have imagined the amazing response to their big idea. The cause was to raise money for the Windy City Animal Foundation (WCAF) – the purpose was to engage a diverse group of women in a weekend of awareness, organized games and social events. Oh….and maybe have some fun along the way….
As you came over the ridge on the east side of the camp site the array of tents that speckled the land below was awe inspiring. Imagine the colorful landscape that the multitudes of tents created as they rolled across every inch of our designated camp site. There were tents ranging from single pup to extravagant 6 bedroom one bath luxury accommodations. These were professional campers doing it up right – oh my God – I had a lot to learn!! I cannot describe to you the communal feeling that came over me and resonated for the entire weekend. I started calling it a woman’s Woodstock – without the live music. This was a tent city of sorts, a gathering of a tapestry of women, cultures, attitudes and opinions!! There was such a cornucopia of women gathered for all the right reasons it resonated a feeling of total acceptance and comfort – comfort in the company of 200 strangers – how is that even possible??
This next bit of news may be a bit too much to take – but I actually played flag football. Don’t ask me what I was thinking – I have no idea really. What is it about the coercion of athletic women and the screams of that baby girl jock that lives so deep inside of me?? I am not a football player – I am too old and too beat up to even consider snapping the ball and running long. I played – I tackled when I wasn’t supposed to, got called for 3 penalties and ALMOST had an interception. Let’s not talk about the fact that I could not stand up straight or walk without a limp for 4 days and had bruises on parts of my body I could not even see – I mean – my knuckles hurt!!! But the point is that I played and I felt more alive and more a part of a team than I have felt in years. I had fun – one thing that was clear on that weekend was simple – if you wanted to have fun – you would have fun – period.
There was music and karaoke – tippy cup or flippy cup or whatever you want to call that insane, hysterical drinking game. There was Frisbee stuff and baggos and socializing all day into the early hours of the morning. Chicks were grilling pork tenderloins and filets. They were building monster burgers – breakfast burritos and there was coffee percolating over an open fire. There were mojitos, mimosas, margaritas and every kind of beer God intended us to drink. It was a damn festival man – that is probably the very best way to describe what was going on. Above and beyond all the fun and camaraderie there was money raised for some great causes. LCCP and The L Stop had an opportunity to sponsor games and raise money for their organizations as well.
This was the first of what is hoped to be an annual event in the name of WCAF. The monies raised will be used for a rescue mission in October to pull as many cats and dogs as possible from Chicago’s shelters. Volunteers are in short supply and are asked to contact Patricia Robles at email@example.com.
I have to say that my virgin voyage into the wonderful world of outdoor adventure known as camping could not have been a more perfect experience. You better believe I will be making time this weekend to rush over to REI and find myself some cool camping stuff. Even the poison ivy I took home as a souvenir could not bring me down and most certainly will not deter me from doing this all over again and again and again…
View more photos of the camping trip here.
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.