When I went camping with my mother-in-law, I never anticipated what would happen

The relationship between my husband’s family and myself had always been a little fractious, especially between my mother-in-law and myself. We never seemed to get along…until we took off on our camping trip.

In my mind, this could mean building bridges, making a fresh start, and letting go of the past.

It would not have occurred to me that this would become a memorable trip for all the wrong reasons.

1. July 4th. Twilight.

They’re going to find me.

The sweat is pouring down my face, stinging my eyes. I’m exhausted, my legs and back soaked as I pull my sleeping bag over my head and body. I have to rush. My blonde hair escaped the zipper before it completely opened, so I lay in my nylon casket trying to breathe. They’re wrestling with my tent’s zipper.

Heavy boots step inside and walk towards me.

2. July 3rd. 8 A.M.

The rest of our camping gear, John announced as he loaded the truck, will have to do. “We can’t fit any more than that.”

Even though we were only going on the family camping trip for three days, it was still best to bring as much as possible.

Our destination, the Smoky Mountains, could be unpredictable, so we prepared accordingly.

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3. Smokies

As a child, I loved spending time with my family and seeing the beautiful mountains of the Smokies, but most of all I loved the chance to spend time with nature.

The Smokies were weird.

In the Smokies, ghosts, Native monsters (Spearfinger was my childhood nightmare), ghostly tombs, and old Civil War soldiers are said to lurk. All legends, but they only add to their mystery.

4. Spearfinger

You’ve not heard of Spearfinger, I’m guessing.

Cherokee legend describes U’tlun’ta as a woman with stone-like skin and a huge, sharp finger on her right hand. When she walked around the mountains, her footsteps sounded like thunder. Camping up in the Smokies meant scaring each other, so we told campfire stories all night.

In the next few days, I would be returning home, but not with friends, but with my husband’s family, as well as a member of my family.

5. Smooth Waters

“My family will meet us up there. They may want to stop for lunch,” John said. “And your cousin knows the way?”

The trip also included my cousin, Jackson, who I had pleaded for to join us. “It shouldn’t be any problem for him,” I told him.

It was challenging even for close-knit families, which ours wasn’t. But as newlyweds, John and I took the trip to help smooth out the waters that had been roiled by blending families.