After being home at the maple camp for the Somerset County Maple Taste & Tour event a few weekends ago, I couldn't help but reminisce during my drive back home about all of the changes as well as the wonderful memories the maple camp has been able to provide to so many people over the years. My earliest memories of making maple syrup include going to the creek with Dad to find clay to seal the old boiling pan to the handmade brick firing base . We would gather the sap into old milk cans and return to a small out-building and light up the fire. The boiling pan did not have a steam lid, so the steam would fill the top several feet of the building, to which the adults would have to bend over or sit down to see. I remember my Mom would have trouble keeping her glasses from getting steamed up, causing her to be unable to see even when bending.
I remember later, gathering the sap in the sugar woods and being so determined to keep up with my older brothers that I would try to dump my filled bucket of sugar water into the holding tank by myself, only to dump the majority of the bucket down the front of my jacket and pants and later returning back to the sugar camp soaked and frozen, yet still excited about the possibility of getting a taste of the sweet maple candy.
Fast forward to the present. While I sorely miss my Mom's warm smile and greeting every time I walk into the camp, the sugar camp is still a place filled with warmth and joy that now feels like home to not only myself, but to so many others. The Brant family sugar camp is no longer an 8’ x 10’ shack with a dirt floor, but rather a 3,000 square foot log cabin welcoming visitors to learn about the maple process. Our sugar camp features a state of the art evaporator and reverse osmosis machines, as well as a camp store and interpretive room with an antique showcase. The camp is now open for tours year round and entertains thousands of visitors each year. Yet, in spite of the renovations, I was reminded this past weekend that the spirit of family still exists as I was talking to a visitor at this year's Taste and Tour. She and her daughter were one of the very last visitors to the camp at the end of the 2-day event. She shared that she and her daughter had spent 2 days visiting as many camps on the tour list as possible, and she told me "All of the camps have unique differences, and I would have to say that this is the coziest one we’ve visited.” Looking back to the days in the dirt floor shed with the whole family crammed in watching the fire in anticipation of the completion of the sweet reward for all the hard work, I believe that what I felt as a small girl and still feel to this day when visiting the sugar camp is indeed the unmatched family feeling and just being "cozy".