Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do You Share the Love?

The first time we took the kids on a camping trip, we had to borrow a tent. My now ex-husband had never been camping. He was raised on a farm. Funny, so was my mom, and she'd never been camping either until in a maniac expression of love, us kids talked her into it.


Anyways, I grew up in girl scouts and put up with the weekly meetings and ten cent dues just for the twice yearly camping trips. How I inherited this love, I'll never know, but I was determined to pass it on to My Kids.

So, borrowed tent and totally frugal gear,( meaning normal household stuff) four youngsters, a reluctant husband and I headed to a nearby state park to camp. We chose a walk in site, which meant hauling all this crazy gear half a mile back into a secluded, wooded site: camp fire ring, picnic table and a generous flat spot for a huge tent neither of us had ever set up before. An outhouse built for the backcountry camp sites meant a short hike down an unlit path, so we build one and curtained it behind our site.

Now, I didn't have much experience family camping, but somehow we managed to put up the castle by nightfall, get a fire going and cook some real food in real pots, eating on real dishes. I said frugal, right?

It was early October in northern Illinois. The fall colors were gorgeous, there were trails to hike, and crazy outhouse adventures. The thing my kids remember, though, is that first night while I was washing the dishes, a cat came to the site and refused to leave. Seemed inappropriate, and we didn't want a stray around, who knows if it would bite, or what. So, after exhausting every idea, I threw the dish water at the cat. Problem was, some of the real silver ware was still in the wash basin. My kids thought it was hilarious, the oldest being just 9, as they watched me hunt and rescue the forks and spoons from the forest floor.

Well, many successful family camping trips were to follow this until now, while they raise their children to go camping, I feel some love has been imparted for the great outdoors.

I hope so. If our children love the woods, they will take care of them, not leave garbage, will strive to protect our national treasures, will participate in family camping rondevous.

Sitting in the woods this morning, the trees scraped each other creating strange noises. In the darkness of night, this could be frightening if you'd never heard it before. Flowing water over rocks can sound like someone walking. Sleeping in valleys, on mountain tops, or near cliff formations can cause echos and other "creepy" noises.

You get used to this stuff the more you get out there. How to share the love? Get out there, in daylight, and listen to the natural music of nature. Sit still until animals begin to move near by. Watch the sun set slowly. Not just on a bike path. Not just in the city park, but on a trail, in the forest.

We learned to bring finger foods, stuff that can be cooked on sticks (hot dogs, brats, pre cooked chicken thighs, apples), stuff that can be wrapped in foil and put in the coals, stuff that can be placed on a grill. We learned to use paper plates, and not stress over dirty clothes. As long as our hands got washed before meals, and we could sleep warm, and enjoy some good junk food, it was fun and all was well.

I've been asked how to make girls love backpacking. It should never feel like a chore. Girls are generally not as competitive, there should be love, and purpose.

I don't know, really. I always have loved the woods. My sisters don't.
Go figure.

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