Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Memories

As some of you may know, I grew up here at Pack & Paddle. The store was founded by my parents in 1974 in a small Acadian shack on the edge of the Vermillion river. I was 13 years old at the time. Since that year, Pack & Paddle has in many ways defined this season for our family. As you might imagine, we've built up a lot of stories over the last 34 Christmas seasons.

Our first year sales were very slow - so it was announced that everyone in the family was getting Christmas presents from Pack & Paddle. The pile grew under the tree until when, a week before Christmas, the shopping madness finally hit. That's when us 5 kids watched our Christmas presents get unwrapped and sold to customers looking for gifts!

There are lots of great memories as well. Ask anyone in our family who the "last customer of the season is" and you'll hear a chorus say "Harold Schoeffler". Harold has a tradition of coming in on Christmas eve and shopping for his whole list. We all look forward to Harold making his appearance and having fun picking out gifts for the whole family.

When Christmas eve finally arrived, we would all take a picture by the front desk and the usually go out to eat and celebrate - having survived another crazy Christmas The photo above is of our family at P&P circa 1978. I am on the upper right). We had made it through together, built some great memories and became closer as a family in spite of (or maybe because of) the hard work.

These days, many of you have become involved in our Pack & Paddle family through our trips and our in-house events. It has been a joy to join you over the last year here at the shop for films and events as well as out on the water and on the trail. These programs have allowed us to get to know all of you so much better.

There are so many memories of the last year: Watching groups struggle though the final miles uphill out of the Waterfall hike - then celebrating on the porch of the Pond General Store. The epic muddy pullover at Buffalo Cove was a huge effort that was rewarded by the beautiful views of Bayou Gravenburg and Buffalo Cove. Likewise, the first tentative strokes of students in a Kayaking or Canoeing 101 class morph into confident paddling skills as we glide through the trees of Lake Martin at sunset.

Experiences like these that you share with your family - especially the struggles - give you a common thread. A common life blood. And memories that last a lifetime.

All of us at Pack & Paddle thank you for joining into our extended family. We look forward to being outdoors with you next year and wish you a very merry Christmas!

John, Becky, Amy, Cheryll, Jamie, Skip, Joe, Kristin, Emily