A day at Camp Andrews

Published 9:27 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

By Susan and Biff Andrews

Oh the lazy hazy days of summer. We all have our favorite childhood memories of carefree days in the great outdoors — at least those of us from the analog generation.

We have pledged to ourselves as grandparents that it is our duty to provide as much outdoor time as is humanly possible for our two 8-year-old granddaughters while they are in our care. They are most decidedly from the digital age.

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Thus, the creation of Camp Andrews and, we hope, some lifelong memories.

The early weeks of Camp Andrews began with creating a checklist of favorite field trips, with a few new additions, and the naming of the squirrels, birds and other backyard regulars.

The mornings begin with cereal and fruit on the deck with Peekaboo the squirrel, who is only weeks old. Way too young or hungry to have a fear of us, our dog or the family cat, he comes to the deck hoping to find sunflower seeds and no other squirrel competition.

He is so low in the pecking order that all the other squirrels have had breakfast and are back in the nest asleep by the time he shows up.

Meanwhile, two hummingbirds feed at the hummingbird feeders. Sometimes they arrive separately, and sometimes they try to knock each other off the feeder. One is much larger than the other.

After morning chores, bed making, ablutions and such, we drive the six miles to walk with the dog at Lone Star Lakes. Butterflies, turtles and more butterflies kept us intrigued. A yellow one is new to us, and back at home we look it up. A success!

After a snack, the girls kick a soccer ball for a while and then wind up on the dock with rods and nightcrawlers for blue gills, pumpkinseeds and other sunfish.

One reads a new book that she bought with her allowance money and keeps count of the fish for the record. After lunch, the fishing continues, and a new record is reached: 18 in one session.

The girls call for a canoe ride, so we life-jacket up and head out on the lake. Unfortunately, the water looks like St. Patty’s Day in Chicago — bright green (perhaps an algae bloom?).

The girls enjoy the paddling and scooping up any trash they spot in the water. Maybe next year, Grandaddy can be the rider and not the guider.

Back to the dock for another fish or two. With lots of success comes lots of happiness. Finally, about 4 p.m., the girls have had it, and they get their choice of nap or screen time.

Then comes dinner with visiting great-grandparents before they have to leave. The girls get their showers as the sun sets, and then they slowly sink into sleep.

Camp Andrews is a change for them — or a continuation of the old days. They used to live in Virginia, but now they’re in an apartment in Orlando.

We live outdoors, as they used to, but the only wildlife they see these days are lizards and palmetto bugs.

It’s not easy on us as the grandparents, but to see their excitement over the fish, to teach them canoeing skills, to show them how to look up the butterfly in the field guide — that’s priceless.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.