Driving around Lake Red Rock last week led to reminiscing of my teen years when I would blaze trails in the woods for campouts.

A couple of weeks before school let out, I would spend hours with my siblings chopping, pruning and mowing trails through the woods to set up camping spots.

We would start by picking an area in the woods where we wanted to set up camp in the backyard. We lived out in the country. This usually entailed hiking through tall brush and thorny bushes.

After mapping out the trails the work began.

It started with a pair of large, sharp branch pruners. This would take out all the undergrowth from the trees. It wasn’t easy work.

Once the undergrowth was cut, I used a rugged lawn mower to make the trails.

This lawn mower could take a beating. I can’t tell you how many clumps of dirt, rock and stumps the mower had mulched and spit out. It worked great.

The main trail was about 12 feet wide and led down to the main campsite with narrow trails winding down to a creek bed.

Once the trails were made we would build fire pits by digging holes and lining them with timber. This was the final touch.

The work was dirty and hard, but camping with friends was rewarding. It made for many fun times on the last day of school.

After school let out for the year, my brother and I would grab our tents and set up camp along with our friends for most of the summer. When our tents were up, we would keep the campfire burning most of the night.

Once the sun crept below the horizon, and the fire became red embers, we would go on a night hike, which was one of my favorite activities.

We would also hike three miles to a nearby gas station that was close to our house.I enjoyed these ventures the most, listening to the sound of crickets and frogs and the excitement of not really knowing what lay ahead of us.

After the long hike we would stoke the fire and stay up until the fire had burned out one last time before calling it a night. It was usually dawn before we would get to sleep.

Although I still go camping today and enjoy it, it’s not as fun as the days after school would let out. That was when summer, and our freedom, officially began.

Ethan Goetz is a reporter for the Pella Chronicle. He can be reached in the newsroom at 641-628-3882, or by email at reporter@pellachronicle.com