Hello again, good friend | VailDaily.com

Hello again, good friend

Elizabeth ChicoineSpecial to the Daily

I sit here tonight having so much longed for time in these few days to write about you. Piney Lake. Three words describe you. A miraculous place. Our family’s dear friend. It was so good to see you this week.Tonight, I am listening to Micky Poage’s “Ode to Piney Lake.” I try to rerun the melody to listen again. But then I get stuck on another song: “Did You Ever Know You Were My Hero?” Yet another rhapsody sticks in my head. Such deep meaning. These songs and this lake take hold my heart. Last Wednesday night we decided to visit our old friend, Piney Lake. The trip was a result of our 7-year-old son’s aspirations. He made a list of hopes and dreams for our summer. Camping was No. 1. Somehow, we let it slide to the last minute. Jobs, life, and health interrupted the list to some degree, but camping just kept creeping forward. Good thing for his persistence, and for my husband’s tenacity. We managed to place aside one night to camp. On the short list was Piney Lake. I initially overruled it. Too cold, I insisted. But my husband earnestly believed in the pursuit. So I agreed. Everything good happens at Piney. It is our family’s place of renewal.And of course, as dreams fuse our daily rituals into a trance, Piney Lake lifts us to a state of imaginings. Corny as it may sound, as soon as we left the pavement of Sandstone Road and bumped along the washboard forest road toward Piney Lake, we started upon our trail toward happiness. We were going to where our hearts delighted.Back in 1996 we were married at Piney Lake. It was our choice of places for matrimony. Camping led us there in our courting year, and love pulled us there for our vows. Jack Van Ens was our minister. His scholarly tenets held us together in our preceding weeks to marriage. Our altar was nature.Amidst tragedy and new beginnings, our wedding was held at Piney, a week after my sister’s husband, Ken, died in a plane crash. Piney Lake participated in our enduring. At one point during our ceremony, the minister heard me whisper under my breath as I looked at the lake towards the mountain range above it and uttered, “There’s Ken.” The minister picked up on my words and called it wondrous. As he so prophetically said, “In that graying sky there was a shaft of light.” A rainbow. No matter what your beliefs may be, I sense that Piney Lake is a source of wonder for many. So many years ago was that statement of wonder noted in my mind. And it ebbs forward tonight in my thoughts. Silently, I was afraid to revisit our old friend, Piney Lake. Such high expectations it held in my heart. How could it possibly remain so good, so pure? It was our place that held nature’s legacies of men such as Ken. Our hero. Our woodsman. Our lover of water, mountains, and the West. But Piney did last, just as I had hoped. Yes, much has changed. And much remains the same. A new verse did play out for us that night. Unexpectedly, we stumbled upon an Old West gun show up at the ranch. Perfect for a camping family on the howl for some woodsy fun. Some cancellations occurred and there was room for us at the lodge for dinner. We quickly abandoned our campfire chicken and signed up for the well-priced Old West show. Our daughter (under 5) was free. Proves you can get a good deal in Vail!B.C., the Sheriff and Dirty Dog showed us the other side of Piney Lake. It was a Wild West show that made you a part of the past. The props, humor and participation pulled you into a stupor. Just a part of Piney’s magic, I guess.Change is happening at Piney, but mostly for the good. A few new cabins are being built. One family in the audience was staying in a warm abode, complete with a hot tub, a stone’s throw from the lake. Now, that’s my kind of camping!My favorite line, however, came from a sweet, proper East Coast mom in the audience. When the Sheriff, acting out his role in full, told those boys to eat their beans, that boy declared, “Those beans make you fart.” That mother turned paler than the moon in a cloudy sky. “No more of that ‘F’ word, son!” Gosh, there are pretty clean folk up there, even the occasionally naughty ones. If that’s as down dirty rotten as it gets, then, bring it on. For a night of hearty laughter, wilderness, and a little bit of pampering, I highly recommend Piney Lake. It is our family’s source of beginnings, renewal, and everlasting memories. Mark your calendars for early season camping next year. It’s my tip for off-season deals and memories that just may last a lifetime. Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at echicoine@centurytel.net. This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail, Colorado