Do you ever think about where you’ll go if the world ends?
I find post-apocalyptic novels fascinating. Sometimes I wonder about what I would do if I were to find myself inside one of them. (All good fiction makes you wonder about yourself caught up in the story.) Like, if you’re one of the ones miraculously immune to the world-ending virus in The Stand, or if you’re fleeing from the virals in The Passage, or the vampires in I Am Legend. Where would you go to wait out the inevitable collapse of society? Where would your home base be for banding together with other survivors before you inevitably have to go out and fight an epic battle for the fate of the world?
Not New York City, that’s for damn sure.
Probably not the suburbs where I grew up, either. Not remote enough.
I think I would go to Camp Hoover.
Camp Hoover is a small Girl Scout Camp in the boonies of North Jersey that I have been going to with my cousins since my age was in single-digits. At the end of the summer, the Girl Scouts depart and the camp is opened up to families to rent out tents. And so we do. Someone in my family has been there every single year for the past thirty years.
Camp Hoover is camping-lite, for sure. The tents are provided: canvas tents on wooden platforms with cots in them. The dining area is provided: a covered platform with picnic tables and a tiny room with a refrigerator. Entertainment is provided: there’s a lakefront with canoes you can rent, lifeguards to guard your life, archery lessons for those so inclined. Personal hygiene is even provided: there’s a cinderblock building at each site with flush toilets, sinks, and (daddy longleg-infested) hot showers. I’ve done the other kind of camping, where you arrive somewhere with nothing but what you brought on your back. But I don’t think one kind is superior to the other.
And the best thing about Camp Hoover? It doesn’t change.
And I mean that literally. The tents are all in the exact same places they were in the ’90s. They haven’t replaced the canoes, or the dock, or the outhouses. (Or if they have, they did an excellent job of replicating the old ones, with the same gouges in the walls in the same places.) The camp is run by the same woman who’s been running it for years. It’s a place where time stands still.
I can stroll into our favorite campsite (Maple Glen) and walk up to the tent I always sleep in. Shower in the stall with the fewest daddy longlegs (the middle one). I can walk down the same path to the lakefront, for a fleeting moment feel the little flicker of excitement in my stomach wondering whether Skip the cute lifeguard will be on duty today, and whether he’ll make my and my cousin’s day by agreeing to throw us repeatedly into the lake. I can hunt through the same woods for the perfect stick to make s’mores, then sit on what I swear is the same log around the fire pit in pursuit of the perfectly roasted marshmallow. I still get scared getting up and going to the bathroom at night in case I’ll be eaten by bears.
So, okay, a few things have changed. Once upon a time I was tickled to have a shower head that was actually at the right height for nine-year-old me, and now I have to duck to fit under it. Skip is no longer on the lifeguard stand (I’d be a little concerned about him if he were, as he’d be nearing forty by now). The dogs my cousins bring are different dogs now. And instead of staying up late doing puzzles near the campfire, we now stay up late drinking wine. Some of my cousins have even made their own tiny people who now come with us, making memories of their own.
We’re headed to Hoover on Friday, and I am so, so excited to spend three days in the middle of the woods with people I’ve known my whole life doing nothing more than eating and drinking and canoeing and listening to the sounds of the cicadas and the wind in the trees.
Here’s to places that stay the same.
All photos taken by me, Camp Hoover, 2013