Becoming a 'Happy Camper'
It was just a few days before Memorial Day weekend and I had still not made any arrangements for camping. The group I had been camping with at Pendleton Center United Methodist Church decided to hold off on camping this holiday weekend, something we’ve done as a group for over a decade. But sometimes life just gets in the way. Kids have grown up and gotten more involved with extracurricular activities. Family functions multiply as the years go by. If you have a 15-year old-daughter with a 14-year-old friend who has a passion for camping, what do you do? Go camping' of course!
Going camping is no small task. On the first major camping weekend of the year with a forecast for fair weather, finding a site was first on the list. I wanted to stay relatively close to home for a number of reasons. One was I was slowly trying to break in a new wife to the camping scene. She never grew up with it and really didn’t understand what the big deal was.
“Why do you go camping?” she asked.
I didn’t have a quick comeback. It’s easier for me to answer that now as I’m sitting in my campsite, listening to the birds chirping and squirrels chattering in the distance. I can smell burning wood from a dozen campsites around me, some with the distinct aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers sizzling on a grill. It’s a different kind of peaceful, too. The people you do encounter seem friendlier, always willing to wave or chat a minute as they walk or drive by. People who are into camping – happy campers – have a common bond with nature. They "get it."
Except for the fact I had two teenagers chatting away until 1 a.m., I normally sleep better in my pop-up camper. The mattress isn’t better. The pillows aren’t better. The comfort level as far as temperature is usually a struggle. Still, when I zonk out, it’s a solid sleep that recharges my body – mentally and physically. Life is good. Then again, I grew up with camping.
When I return home, I will hand my wife a book – “Wheels of Joy” – authored by my grandmother, Dorothy Hilts. It was a book about her camping adventures around the country and I was along for many of them. From trips attending Outdoor Writers Association of America conferences in places like Saskatchewan, Colorado and Idaho to many adventures in the Adirondacks, it’s been a long road. In fact, my first camping trip was at six months old.
Okay, so the decision was made. We had to go camping, at least for a couple days. After a couple “no vacancies,” I was able to secure a spot in Barker – an old campground under new ownership called Shady Pines. They had just opened up earlier in May and they were still trying to make some improvements and adjustments. The new owners seemed friendly enough and they had a team of helpers who were all trying to get everyone situated and comfortable. By the time I was settled into my site, it felt comfortable. It felt like home.
Because I was less than a half hour from home, a quick trip back to Lockport was needed to grab the wife and bring her in for a cookout and a glass of wine. It was just enough to share a piece of the experience. Time will tell if the barrier will slowly be eroded away. For my daughter and her friend Samantha Krauss, there never was a wall.
So the point of all this is that you need to get your family out camping early in their lives. Share these natural moments, even if you’ve never done anything like this before. If you don’t have a tent or camper, rent a cabin or cottage. You won’t regret it. Help pass on a very important tradition regarding out outdoor heritage. Hopefully more of you will become happy campers.