Dennis P. Aures: ‘Big Blue’ was a haven in the great outdoors - The Buffalo News

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Dennis P. Aures: ‘Big Blue’ was a haven in the great outdoors

A blue canvas cabin was our home away from home on all our adventures in the great outdoors for many years. Ten feet by 14 feet with a silver-colored roof, sewn-in floor and attached awning, this monster of a tent provided shelter and refuge for our family and many friends as we communed with Mother Nature.

Zoar Valley Campgrounds was our first experience with roughing it. Family members were already established campers with trailers and RVs on permanent sites with nice amenities. But we were in possession of a 75-pound bundle of canvas and aluminum poles that required us to set up in the rustic area. Our amenities amounted to zero, but introduced us to camping the way we would enjoy it from then on.

Not yet in possession of a station wagon that would later become the way we hauled around the tent and everything else the simpler life required, we needed a way to transport all that stuff. A rooftop carrier seemed the perfect answer. One 4-by-8-foot sheet of ¾-inch plywood, a saw, some nuts, bolts and screws, a pair of mounting rails, a canvas tarp, a collection of bungee cords and voila, the ugliest thing to sit on a roof since Quasimodo! I could sense our old Pontiac cringing each time she had that hideous box strapped on. More than once I swear the old girl tried to shrug it off as we trundled down the highway.

An Algonquin adventure was planned for the summer of 1969. Unfortunately, the dreaded Canadian black fly also picked the same time and place to hold its annual convention. Clouds of the nasty little buggers would attack and drive us into the safety of our tent. Our daughter’s bad reaction to the multiple bites and Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s impending televised walk on the moon persuaded us to cut short that adventure and head for home. Good choice!

One of our many trips to the Adirondacks found us confined within the four walls of our “cabin” because of constant rain. My wife and I considered our imposed togetherness an excellent opportunity to encourage our children to improve their minds and expand their horizons, so we taught them how to play poker. But even taking all their wooden matches got old after a couple of days (I couldn’t get them to put up their allowances) and the big tent was getting smaller and smaller. Eventually the rain stopped and the sun returned. A good thing!

Percy Priest Lake was one of the most picturesque places we’d ever camped. Tent pitched at the water’s edge, the setting was idyllic. We had persuaded friends who had recently moved to Nashville to join us and try camping for the first time. I have nothing but fond memories of that trip, notwithstanding a violent electrical storm, torrential downpours and discovering our “cabin” doesn’t float. Oddly, our friends never expressed any further interest in this activity. Go figure!

Amazingly “Big Blue” lives on and continues to provide occasional shelter and protection for our kids and grandkids, as long as staying dry is not a priority.

As for Gramma and me, these days we do our “roughing it” in a hotel.

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