Every Memorial Day weekend for the last 43 years, my wife’s family has gone camping. It started as a Sportsmen’s club event with her Dad, and became a family tradition. At some point, the location her family settled on was Burney Falls State Park. A lovely park with hiking and tons of stocked fishing nearby, perfect since her whole family love to fish. Mostly catch and release, but a few trout are eaten as well. Also some lovely countryside with farms and small towns to visit, hiking, ice caves, and nearly always snow if you drive up Mount Burney.

The weather is a big part of the weekend. It can be cold, torrential rain, very hot and dry, lovely, and often a combination. I’ve never been there for one of the legendary "it poured all weekend" trips, this year, the weather was perfect. High 70’s/low 80’s during the day, lower humidity, cooler, but not cold, nights.

I’m not a very good fisherman, and haven’t been steeped in the tradition as long as everyone else, but it’s still the big family event of the year. Friends of various family members also attend, so it’s a great annual reunion with 20 and sometimes more family and friends.

For me, it’s often a love+hate experience. I love camping, but my ideal camping is taking a 4wd to a backcountry camp. Quiet, on your own, no crowds. More roughing it involved, in theory, carting a solar shower and following proper backcountry restroom etiquette. State park camping, especially on a holiday weekend, means a ton of people camped close to each other and the associated noise, and some truly amazing displays of lack of basic bathroom hygiene Also, something you need with this many people, lots of rules, and tickets await if you break them. Feels more restrictive than being at home! It’s a tradeoff. But, the basic outdoor kitchen, sitting around the fire, sleeping (nearly) outdoors is great.

This year, I’m sure another victim of the recession, the town of Burney is falling on very hard times. There was now only one place in town that sold Propane, and they were closed on Sunday or Monday (very odd for a rural town), the urgent care we’ve occasionally had to visit for cuts and other slight accidents was gone, having to drive nearly 20 miles to Fall River Mills, the next town up the road.

The family-oriented upside, and what overshadows my personal pet peeves, is hanging with the family for multiple days, cribbage tournaments, group dinners every night. It’s a bigger tradition than normal holidays, since there are three nightly dinner gatherings, Mexican night (handmade chili rellenos)/margaritas, Italian night (spaghetti and garlic bread)/wine, and American night (hamburgers and hotdogs)/gin & tonic. Then there’s the pinata on Mexican night for the kids (who are now all over 20), the graveyard walk the same young folks now take on their own, music night where folks play, sing and tell stories.

Another Burney has come and gone, this year one of the best ever. Wonderful weather, probably the best camping crowd ever, and as always, fun times with the family. Good times, just had to write a  recap.

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