Lifelong Memories of Camping
When I was growing up summers meant camping in one of the California’s national parks. Every year, Dad would load up the car with mom and us kids, along with the tent, camp stove and ice chest, all the piles of food and miscellaneous…and drive off into the night.
And for some reason I remember leaving at night often. I suppose when Dad got home from work. When I think back on it now, it couldn’t have been particularly fun to pitch a tent at midnight! Especially the old fashioned tents that relied on tent pegs and poles. Personally I prefer picking the perfect sight and setting up in daylight.
Our favorite park for those summers was Sequoia National Park, with Kings Canyon National Park adjoining it. It was the closest park to our southern California home, but also one of the prettiest. The giant redwoods, known worldwide, draw many visitors, along with the rushing river that runs through the canyons. Hiking through the forest, sliding down little slippery rock waterfalls into one of the creeks, and playing fort with other kids in hidden tree shelters or among the huge rocks. What good times exercising our imaginations. Even visiting the gift shop with its redwood souvenirs was exciting for us on those trips.
Another year we visited Crater Lake in Oregon, an exquisitely beautiful lake. We did go in the summer, but that particular summer was a cold one! We woke up to snow in July. It makes me smile now to think how excited we were, without any regard to the difficulties it brought with it. The tent, Dad told us years later, was so frozen he almost left it there. This from a rather frugal father.
The National Parks make for wonderful vacations. Each of them offers something unique, but all offer incredible natural beauty. Beauty that is much easier to recognize and appreciate outside of the populated areas where most of us live.
Mom and Dad always seemed to enjoy our trips, in spite of all the work it took. That fondness carried forward to my adult life. Camping today provides far more fun memories than most of the luxury hotels or resorts I’ve had the chance to visit.
What was missing? Hmm, there was no television. There were no computers, no phones, no video games. We did bring books—we always had books with us—but the whole trip was about being outdoors, enjoying the outdoors. At night in the summers there were often gatherings where we would sit on log benches to listen to a forest ranger telling campers about the wildlife. Sometimes there would be a movie. Most often we could sit around the campfire at our site, roast marshmallows, tell stories, or just visit.
As an adult, camping—still my favorite–became fun and challenging. I liked to see how little we’d need to pack for a week away, how basic we could make it. I’d see how simply I could make the meals, even though the aromas of cooking in a campground are a delight to my nose. Even the challenge of organizing all the gear became enjoyable. It never seemed like work to me either!
Once, on the East Coast, my husband and I tried to rely strictly on canned food. We lined up cans in the trunk of our Buick, loaded our bikes, and drove to Acadia National Park in Maine. We had so much fun, biking everywhere during the day, then come back to our tent for the night. I admit though, after three or four days, we happened upon a market and bought up all the fresh food we could fit in our bike basket. Chicken and salad never tasted better, cooked on a wood stove in the campground lean-to.
Yosemite became one of our favorites, especially off season. It’s a beautiful park with so much to offer. Mountain climbing, backpacking, visiting gorgeous waterfalls are only a few of its attractions. Many, many people take advantage of its beauty, so we’d go in October or November. My favorite trip was for one Thanksgiving in our motorhome. I even managed to bring a full pre-cooked turkey dinner along to celebrate.
In a motorhome, camping in the snow so easy and fun! There were few people around, plenty of snow to build a snowman, and wildlife that would come so close. It was sweet at night to see the lights shining from some of the tent campers there for cross country skiing. They looked cozy and dry inside. One thing we learned on that trip: the heater will run down your battery at night! Thankfully the back up battery brought it back up to full charge.
Today it grows a little hard to imagine everyone leaving the electronics behind to get back to nature. Still I so hope people try. I know, we can’t be without our phones, but if you left the rest behind, even the games, wouldn’t it be wonderful to learn how you’d handle it? Explore your surroundings, walk in the meadow of flowers, play with your children. Let your imaginations go free while you are out there. The simplicity of it still calls to me.
And simplicity is reason enough when you think of it.
I love today’s tents. Lightweight, so easy to set up, and very reasonable to own. Personally I prefer a tent that stands a little taller than many. True you can manage inside bent over, but it’s nice if at least in the center you can stand. That’s why this one is a good choice to me. A 6-person tent may sound too big for you, but trust me, it’s nice to have a little room to move around and to stash stuff. Get a little Coleman Tent Kit while you are at it. That way you will have the mallet and pegs altogether too when you are ready to camp.