The Joy of Camping

Prior to the 19th century, most Americans viewed nature as solely a resource for food, clothing, and shelter. However, by the early 20th century, American families began to discover the joy of camping outdoors, spending their vacation time sleeping under the stars, fishing, hunting, canoeing, hiking, and or backpacking; due, at least in part, to the transcendental movement inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and other early environmentalists. National and State Park systems were developed including the Forest Service. Campgrounds were established, offering places for people to set up their tents, cook on fire pits, collect fresh water, picnic by a stream or lake, take a long walk in the woods, and nap in the sun on a beautiful summer day.

I grew up spending all my family vacations camping by a pristine lake in the remote backwoods of northern Canada; canoeing, preparing meals over an open fire, sleeping on the ground in a lean-to, and listening to the lonely cries of a loon.

When I left home, I worked for the National Park Service for a few years, spending my days hiking the trails and picking up garbage. On weekends, my friends and I explored more out-of-the-way spots in the park systems, camping out in the open air with just our sleeping bags.

I met my husband camping and later, whenever work responsibilities became too much or when difficult decisions needed to be made, we went camping. Long conversations by a fire. Extended hikes in the backcountry. Gazing at the stars on a moonless night.

When our children were born, family camping vacations seemed as natural as rain. We explored national and international parks, upgrading our equipment as we went along, always trying to maintain a certain sense of simplicity, escaping the urban world, experiencing wonderful wild places, and appreciating the art of getting closer to nature. In fact, I think, most of our fondest family memories were made on our camping trips.

I just returned home from a memorable camping trip with our son and his girlfriend, jaunting back to some of the same places I hiked as a young woman. Many things have changed drastically, other things – not so much. But every night we settled into our little camping spot and once again, appreciated the passage of time in the simple ritual of sharing a meal outdoors, watching an elk saunter in the nearby meadow, playing a board game, laughing at commonalities, and letting go of all those things that don’t really matter. Camping by far is my favorite season.

“We can never get enough of nature.” Henry David Thoreau

How did you find solace this week?

Sharon

© 2022. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved

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