Of all the many creaturely fringe benefits associated with backcountry trail work, routinely getting to spend extended periods of time camping in a tent ranks right up there as one of my personal favorites.
Call me a glutton for the wonders of nature, but if I had my druthers, I’d take 30 consecutive nights sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors over a single night luxuriating in the finest hotel room every time. Four walls and a roof might keep me drier, but it takes a sleeping bag, a foam pad and plenty of close physical contact with the ground to keep my spirits sufficiently nourished.
No, it isn’t always pretty (like when it snow-hails three feet during a lightening storm in the middle of July). And, yes, sometimes it gets downright ugly (like when the zipper on the bug screen ceases to function at the height of mosquito season).
Yet, no matter how much adversity wilderness throws in my face, I always manage to hike/limp/shamble away feeling all the better for it.
I don’t have any children, but if I did, you can bet your last ducat that one of the first things I would teach them would be how to raise a proper tarp and set up their tents in the rain—blindfolded. And if some do-gooder decided to report me to Child Protective Services, I would set them straight on this one simple fact: In order to help our kids grow up into healthy, responsible adults, we need to get them out camping as much and as soon as we possibly can.
In an era where virtual realties are succeeding to occupy an ever-increasing percentage of our sensory systems, we run the risk of alienating succeeding generations of Americans from the one enduring thing that binds and shapes us together most—the land.
Viewed in this light, exposing one’s offspring to fine art of camping transcends mere recreation and becomes something even more important—a patriotic act.
You don’t need to force-march your internet-dependent brood up the slopes of some mighty mountain or make them spend a fortnight in the wilderness to get them inspired. Just peel them away from their gadgets, set them loose in your own backyard (equipped with sufficient guidance, shelter and supplies) and let nature work its magic.
Back in the late 1970s, that’s precisely what my parents did to me. And, despite some initial misgivings, their strategy seems to have worked just fine as far as this happy camper is concerned.
If you’ve got a hankering to establish your own family’s connection to the wondrous world of the great outdoors at one of Whatcom County’s premier, year-round family camping venues, you’re in luck.
This weekend, in conjunction with the National Wildlife Foundation’s Great American Backyard Campout campaign, REI is hosting a free overnight camping event at Silver Lake Park. With 400 acres of scenic mountain forests, bounteous trails, a horse camp, cabins, boat rentals and a multitude of good fishing spots at hand, mother nature will be waiting to greet you with a hearty display of inspirational vistas and open arms.
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