UPDATE: There’s a cool piece up on ABC News dot com today about how most kids aren’t getting outdoors enough. It actually links back to this post and quotes me a time or two. It’s entitled Too Few Kids Getting Outdoors with Mom or Dad and is a bit of an eyeopener. Check it out by clicking HERE.
Very early into my engagement to Caroline, I felt the need to make something abundantly clear. After all, forever’s a long time, and I didn’t want to spend it fighting over something which I hadn’t done a good enough job of communicating.
“Some guys play golf on Saturdays,” I said. “Others go dove hunting every weekend in the fall. Me? I go camping.”
“Oh, don’t worry, honey,” she said. “I’ll still allow you to play Eagle Scout in the woods with your little buddies. Just don’t expect me to go, though. My idea of camping out is ordering room service at the Ritz.”
Guess who loves to camp now? The Ritz girl, herself. And guess how I got to her? Why, through her daughter, of course!
You see, I’m section hiking the Appalachian Trail with a close friend of mine, which means that every year we take at least one extended backpacking trip, usually two. We cover some serious mileage on these trips (usually 15 or more per day) which means that our packs have to light, but right. Carrying too much could slow you down, but forgetting something essential could be even more of a deal-breaker.
And Alli has always loved watching me prepare for these trips. It’s easy to tell by all the questions. Why do you bring that? What do you do with this? What do you do about water? Do you like sleeping in a tent?
All of which prompted a question of my own: Would you like to go with me sometime soon?
So, when she was six, I took her to meet my AT buddy and his son at the family-friendly Chilhowee campground, a little over an hour drive from town. We spent two nights there, and on the day in between, we went whitewater rafting down the Hiwassee River.
The question Caroline asked of Alli upon our return was the one you’d expect: “Did you have fun?”
Alli’s answer blew her away: “The best time ever. It was even better than the beach.”
POW. Take that, Ritz Girl.
They came slowly at first, like the occasional drip from an otherwise trusty faucet, these queries from my wonderful wife. What all do you eat? Do you build fires at night? What type of clothes do you bring? Within a day or two, the questions became nonstop which meant the faucet was wide open, as was my wife’s previously closed mind. And thus, it was official.
She wanted me to take her royal ass camping.
So I did. And she loved it. And I’m so glad. Because it’s become an annual deal for us. And this year will be the first time the triplets will be onboard. (They’re so amped, it’s a joke…) We’re going, like we do most years, to a secluded spot in western North Carolina where we’ll set up shop on a site that’s only accessible by boat. If that one’s taken, we’ve got plenty of backups. And if this trip is anything like our other ones, we’ll leave there and even tighter-knit group.
Every family is different, but how I wish all would at least try camping. Because there are so many positive things about it.
I wrote about family camping once for TLC; I won’t bother to regurgitate the entire post for you, but long story short, camping provides kids and parents with common ground that is unadulterated by the many things which distract us in our normal lives. It’s upon that common ground that some of my most effective parenting has taken place. Is it for everyone? Probably not. And I’ll be the first to admit that one reason my wife and Alli enjoyed their first taste of camping so much is because I was seasoned enough to deliver an extremely comfortable experience. And you might not a seasoned enough camper to do that.
But one of your friends probably is. And if that friend is anything like most campers I know, he’d be more than happy to have your family tag along the next time he takes his crew to the woods. So do yourself a favor, and see if you can’t set that up. Because even if you’re not the least bit outdoorsy, I think you’ll be surprised by camping and what a galvanizing force it is.
Below is a video I made of the last family camping trip I took. Caroline was 30-plus weeks pregnant with Luke, so she didn’t go, but Alli and I went with two other families and had a blast. Check it out.
Also, let me know in the comments if you’ve ever taken your family camping.
Check out my personal blog over at JohnCaveOsborne(dot)com