Thursday, April 21, 2011

Back to Camping

My parents used to take my brother and I camping a lot when we were kids.  We grew up pitching tents and cooking on a camp stove or over the fire.  I remember riding my bike around campgrounds and swimming until it got too chilly at night then heading to the warmth of the campfire.  One of the last great memories I have with my own grandfather was a camping trip we took.

Somewhere along the way I stopped going.  Not because I didn't want to, or because I didn't have that desire burning deep within my soul, but because I had no one to share it with.  My husband of 13 years never wanted to go and wouldn't get excited about anything, so it was hard to talk my children into wanting to go pitch a tent in the woods somewhere.  It's a devastating thing to a person's soul to lose something that you identify as a part of your life.  It's worse knowing that I couldn't share those memories with my own children, because the memories I have camping with my family are some of the greatest from my childhood.

And so it was that I started making plans to take my kids camping during their spring break.  My dad, being a camping enthusiast, put forth a huge effort in making this endeavor happen.  Having someone else get excited about it makes it a little easier to get the kiddos involved.  So, my children, who were used to being camping naysayers, headed with us into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a tent, some supplies, marshmallows to roast, and a bit of  a sour disposition.

Before the first night was out those same naysayers were begging to stay longer and begging to go again long before they ever had to leave.  How do you know a camping trip is successful?  When your techie kids say "who needs video games when you have all this fun out here!"  

Unfortunately, some bad weather cut our trip short by a day and the hiking, waterfall viewing, and peddleboat ride on the lake that were on our list of things to do ended up not happening.  Sad faces emerged, but were short lived when I promised future trips to make up for what the weather ruined.

While we were there I realized we weren't the only ones in the camping spirit.  Oconee State Park in South Carolina was packed.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and there were always people camping, kids running about, and laughter filtering through the trees.  If ever there was an upside to a downed economy, it's that people rediscover nature and the simple pleasures in life.  

The other amazing thing I re-discovered is that campers are some of the nicest people out there.  I have never been on a camping trip where everyone didn't wave, ask about your day, join in random banter as they pass by, or come to your aid if needed.  I had forgotten that people could be like that - you know - genuinely nice and caring.  When your own neighbors don't even know your names in a lot of places, it's somewhat disarming to have our fellow campers ask if my daughter was alright when she was crying.  It wasn't that could you shut your kid up thing you get while walking through places like WalMart, it was a genuine inquiry.  It was a pleasant change of pace to be able to strike a random conversation with a man about a his St. Bernard/Great Dane mix dog because the animal was so beautiful.  He didn't look as if I were invading his personal space as so many people on the street would.  We stood and talked about our animals for a bit.  Two people exchanging pleasantries on a whim - it made me wonder when basic human goodness stopped being the norm.  That's another blog for another day though, for now, I'm happy to see courtesy making a comeback.

So now that camping is back in fashion, grab your tent, and come join us by the fire for some marshamallowy, outdoorsy goodness!