As I have done for the past three years (I think...plus or minus a year), New Year's eve was spent with the family of Ms Rivers at Rickett's Glen State Park. The actual time spent was at a cabin, well cabins when you include Ms Rivers' parents, brother and sister plus families. I don't know the total count, but suffice to say the age range want from very young to, well, more "seasoned".
I've written about Rickett's Glen before, as it's a place we frequent from time to time. The connection to the park runs deep for Ms Rivers and her family, as many a vacation in younger years was spent there, away from their south Philadelphia home. In fact, when you think about it, sitting on top of a mountain ridge at Rickett's Glen is just about as different as one can get from deep inside Philadelphia. The fact that the family continues to come to this place is, in my estimation, simply wonderful.
I love rituals like this, by the way. I think the attraction for me lies in the fact that this particular ritual involves two things that were in short supply when I was growing up:
1) We didn't have much in the way of rituals.
2) We had no sense of an extended family.
It is as if I can vicariously live part of a childhood withheld through this particular annual event.
Now the end of December at Rickett's Glen is not for the faint of heart. Simply put, it's really, really darn cold. There is no cell phone service. No Internet. No television. Get the impression that this isn't the most attractive event for the teenage set? In fact, you have to go half way down the ridge before you can begin to get cell phone service.
What is there to do? Well I can't speak for others, but I love to hike. This works well, as Ms Rivers' mother also likes to hike, as do other members of her family. So you guessed it, lots of hiking. There is also time to contemplate, and this year I did indeed engage in come contemplation. There is also lots of time for reading, which usually allows me to finish "that book" that I can never seem to finish other wise (in my case, "that book" was really THIS BOOK). Part of the ritual involves going to a party at the Harvey's Lake location of Grotto pizza to celebrate Ms Rivers' birthday (it just happens to be New Year's Day) along with an even more extended group of family. I will confess that my initial exposure to the "Grotto Party" was a bit over-whelming (see above, re: inexperience with extended family), but since then I've come to really enjoy the time.
The down side for me? I am, admittedly, a notoriously bad sleeper under the best of conditions, so I always need a bit of chemical-willy to help at night, but even that doesn't guarantee anything for me. There is also too much food, and this time always means throwing good eating out the window. Lastly, there is the packing (my sleeping bag, two pillows, blanket and memory foam mattress pad alone take up a ton of space), unpacking and packing again. All minor inconveniences, to be sure, but I have to be balanced about this stuff.
Here's to year end 2015 at over 2000 ft above sea level.