My fondest memories of childhood all revolve around camping with extended family during the summers where I grew up in Utah. One particular year my siblings, cousins and I were all old enough and allowed to wander away from camp for hours at a time. We were in one of our favorite camp grounds in the Wasatch National Forest outside of Salt Lake and we discovered a trail leading up and away from the highest loop of the campground road in a steep section where there were no camp sites. I remember hiking up and up, for what seemed like hours, through dense forest areas of aspen and pines looking for what undiscovered treasures we just knew we were going to find. Around every corner there were new sights we'd never seen before, areas where we had to find the trail or make our own to an area that looked easier to travel. Fallen logs to climb over, statuesque trees rising into the overhead canopy where the sun barely filtered through, long dark sections of trail lined with tree trunks beckoning us to go deeper. The wind whispering through the leaves on the trees around us the whole time promising us adventure.. Our secret trail eventually ended at the top of a steep hill where it opened up into a meadow with a waterfall at the edge. I remember breaking through the tree line into the bright sun of that summer afternoon thinking we had discovered our own world. We toiled at the waterfall and rollicked in the meadow before finally, and reluctantly, heading back to camp. Looking back I'm amazed we remembered how to get back and I'm certain if our parents knew exactly where we had gone that day they would not be happy. The memory of that one stolen, perfect afternoon has never left me... Nor do I remember, even though I know we tried, ever finding that exact spot again.
I hope one day I'll allow my own girls enough freedom to explore on their own without worrying about the axe murderer or child molester who could be lurking, just waiting for their chance to pounce, so they too can make a memory like this of their own.