My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland

I recently took a trip back in time, and it did not require inventing a time machine or ingesting any hallucinatory drugs. I simply drove ten miles to a quirky, iconoclastic place in the middle of nowhere called Chumleighland in the Woods. It was named in honor of its owner, Reverend Chumleigh – who, I soon discovered, is not an actual reverend nor is that his real name. So why is it called Chumleighland? Heck if I know. Why did God make the Duck-Billed Platypus? There are some questions to which we may never find the answer.

What a fascinating, strange visit it turned out to be. My wife and I had seen small ads in the local newspaper about this odd-sounding place hidden away in the forest near the southern tip of our island. We had no idea what to expect. We followed Google Maps but when it announced, “You have arrived,” we could not locate anything resembling a building, a park, or even traces of previous human contact. 

Suddenly, I spied a tiny sliver of a clearing in the woods, barely wide enough for a refrigerator, with a closed gate. Then out of the thicket emerged an older chap with long grey hair and a scraggly beard. He gave off a Gandalf meets Jerry Garcia kind of vibe. He donned a t-shirt that read “It’s Mueller Time” and featured a cartoon rendering of Robert Mueller in cool-looking sunglasses. “Do you know how we get to Chumleighland?” I asked uncertainly. “Just drive into the grove. Park anywhere and follow the torches. Oh, and watch out for the cats.” That was my introduction to the good Reverend Chumleigh.

We parked by a massive oak tree, as there was no parking lot. Dutifully, we followed the torch-lit path, which meandered beside a miniature train track, like what you’d see at a children’s petting zoo. “Oh, the train should be running again by next week. I just have to clear some felled trees,” explained our ebullient host. Somehow that almost made sense to me. Continue reading “My Visit to Whimsical Chumleighland” »

You Can Take a Hike

You Can Take a Hike

Lately, whenever someone invites me to go hiking, my response is usually: “You can take a hike.” That’s because, I really don’t care for hiking.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lazy. Okay, maybe that’s a lie. But I used to take long walking excursions all the time. It’s one of my wife’s favorite leisure activities – so much so that she snuck it into our wedding vows: “I promise to love, honor and cherish you – and take annoyingly long, arduous hikes into mosquito-infested woods in the middle of nowhere – so long as we both shall live.” I probably should have read over our vows a bit more carefully, but young love makes you say yes to the craziest things.

I’ve endured tons of treks over my lifetime. I’ve scaled summits of the Rocky Mountains (well, the summit of the visitors’ information stations, at least). I’ve toured all over Europe for two months, with nothing more than a backpack and my sister (to carry my backpack). I’ve run several 10K races and even completed a marathon – that’s 26 miles – and at the end, all I got was a t-shirt. So, don’t tell me I’ve not put in my share of hard miles on foot.

But hiking is not that much fun for me anymore, in part because I have osteoarthritis in both knees – which, personally, I blame on my wife, for making me join her on so many walkabouts over the past 35 years.

I don’t get the appeal of the activity. Hear me out. You want me to walk for hours, usually in the middle of a forest, so the view is totally obscured by trees and boulders and nature. Then, to make matters worse, after reaching my destination five miles later, there’s never a Starbucks. I’m stuck in no man’s land with no cell phone reception, so I have no idea what the game score is. I’m utterly exhausted and my knees are throbbing. But wait! We’re not done with the fun yet. My ordeal is only half over, because to get back to civilization, I have to cover the exact same route in reverse. I guess if you’re a masochist, I totally get the appeal.

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I am not a happy camper

I am not a happy camper

Camping - tentRecently I started worrying that my wife no longer loves me. No, I didn’t catch her with another man. And no, we didn’t have another nasty argument about the proper way to load a dishwasher. It was much more troubling. My wife actually said the three words I have long dreaded: “Let’s go camping.”

Why would any woman who claims to love her husband force him to endure a weekend in the wilderness with no access to ESPN Sports Center? My wife thought it would be fun if the two of us had a romantic getaway. I was envisioning a cozy B & B overlooking the ocean. Or maybe a posh resort / spa where we could get a couple’s massage, whatever that is.

But unbeknownst to me, my wife’s concept of a romantic getaway included physical and emotional torture – camping. When she first brought up the idea, naturally I thought she was kidding. When I realized she was serious, I apologized profusely for whatever I might have said or done to upset her. I even promised to do the dishes for a month. Turns out she wasn’t upset at all. She just really wanted to go camping.

So she booked us a campsite for a long weekend at some God-forsaken state campground deep in the wilderness beyond any cell phone range. The nearest carryout pizza was 50 miles away. I believe there is a term for being forced to sleep outdoors in the cold and wet, with no bathroom, no hot running water, and no bed to sleep on. It’s called being homeless. And when is the last time you heard a homeless person say to his buddy, “Hey, I have a great idea. Let’s go camping!” You never will, because they know that compared to their lifestyle, camping would be a step down.

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