Happy Campers

“Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

What a fifteen-month period it’s been, a hard time for all. For me, between the Covid crisis, crutches, my kid spending his entire senior year of high school (plus the last four months of his junior year) behind a computer screen, and my mother diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called Merkel Cell, our summer family trip to Tahoe was a welcome reprieve.

Through it all, I feel gratitude for the simple beauty of life, for the energy I spend in advocating for social justice and combatting climate change through my novels, which ultimately focus on awakening human consciousness. The power of literature to affect social change is as beautiful as the landscape of a lake. I am so grateful simultaneously appreciating the world while trying to change it for the better through my words. 

We camped at one of our favorite sites, Donner Memorial State Park, next to Donner Lake in Truckee, California. It’s a beautiful campground with a historic background, a forest setting amid sage and scattered pines. Here, you can learn about the fate of the Donner Party, the Transcontinental Railroad, and local Native Americans. Although we’ve visited the museum in the past, this time we opted to focus on hiking, paddleboarding, kayaking, and simply lounging on the lake.

Each morning I started with gentle yoga stretches at our campsite, then ventured onto either the sandy walking path along the lake for a stroll or the hiking trail with my husband and son. As my last blog post mentioned, I suffered a serious injury this past ski season and was ecstatic to even go camping. It amazed me how much I could do after my accident on the slopes, and I attribute it to all the physical therapy and positive healing thoughts. Bringing my yoga mat to the campsite proved to be a wise choice, as it calmed my mind, body, and soul, enabling me to go the extra mile on land and water.

Although I didn’t dare stand up on my paddleboard, I used it as a kayak. The attachable seat offers cushioned back support, and I could go for hours! The steady paddling rhythm melted the stress away. Within a few minutes on the water, I had the sensation that all was right in the world. A warm, relaxing flow started in my neck and shoulders, then spread to the rest of my body. Our nearly 18-year-old son went on paddleboard adventures that lasted for hours until dark. I knew he needed this after experiencing such a tough year, so we let him have his free rein.

Although I typically like to hike steep trails, there was some easier hiking terrain near the campsite that worked well for me with my injury. We did a combination of the Beaver Pond Loop, Tahoe Donner Nature Loop, and others connecting off them, winding back to the simple sandy trail around the lake. It delighted me to have an adventure out in the woods with my family. 

 In the remote wilderness, my husband Tommy found a small hand-painted rock with colorful artwork, a lovely meadow with snow-capped mountains and stars. I love when a creative do-gooder is out to spread a bit of happiness. It’s the little things that make me feel content!


We spent long, relaxing moments doing nothing but gazing at the peaceful lake and listening to the birds singing and people laughing. The most productive things I did were hang a hammock from the trees and plop a notebook onto my lap, jotting down ideas for writing, or scribbling thoughts in my daily gratitude journal. What I love about nature is it’s not marketed to you. It’s a quiet presence.

Each night, we’d sit for hours at the campfire and tell jokes or read novels under a flashlight.

Camping is a skill. Not one that I had before I arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1994. It’s one, thanks to my best friend and husband, I have gained. I love to help contribute to our happy camper family. 

I walked farther along the lake than I’d expected with my knee injury, at least four miles, taking in the expanded scenery with each footstep. It was like stepping into a postcard and I couldn’t wait to see what’s around the corner of each path; the lake surrounded by mountain ranges and spectacular views. There were hills and knolls through the trees, offering peeks into the blue of the water, with access to beaches along the way.

Yes, it’s been a tough year. But I’ve lived my life out of gratitude, not because things are rosy, but to keep my heart and mind intact through the anxiety.

I’d bought a small, “Attitude of Gratitude,” journal before the camping trip, and by the end of the week, it was full of daily writing prompts of things I appreciated, big and small, that otherwise get taken for granted—like streaks of light radiating from the sun, casting a certain slant through the trees, the barbeque- scented air, or a squirrel rushing past my tent. I enjoyed hints of frog-song rippling across the silence and dogs barking with glee as their master repeatedly tossed sticks into the water for them to chase. 

Since I spent every summer of my childhood at our cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, I feel at home on the water. The second I close the car door to the wild, I feel I’ve returned.



Thank you for reading,

T.L. Mumley

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