I don't remember my first camping trip, but my parents say we camped when I was a baby. Maybe it's starting at an early age that got me hooked, but I don't know. Maybe it's an inherited trait. I know people who would NEVER go camping. Just the thought makes them shudder. And I know people like me, who like nothing better as a family activity than camping.
Part of the appeal for me is getting away from my daily life, and going to a simpler existence. No telephone, no TV, no video games. I will never understand the people who have a satellite dish on their camper. Why bother going camping if all you're going to do is watch TV? For me the appeal is the forest, and the solemn quietness, the play of light through the trees, a gentle breeze. Quivering aspen leaves, dancing, letting go to fly freely on the wind. And it's even better when you can be beside water. I don't care if it's a roaring river, a quiet stream, or a languid lake. Water soothes my tangled nerves with it's movement, and it's scent of secrecy, hinting at things unseen. I'm content to just watch it, or dangle my toes in it, or to float for hours on it. Or sometimes, just listening to it's gentle rhythms while my thoughts are away somewhere else in the book I'm reading.
It's essential to have a campfire. In the mornings, to take that slight chill away, and relax by while The Engineer cooks camp breakfast. In the evenings, sometimes to cook our meal, but definitely for the marshmallows. And then to sit and stare into, while quietly talking about those things you never have time for. Reconnecting deeply with one another. Thoughts and feelings flow more openly in front of a fire, late at night, in the peace of darkness, the quiet of the forest.
Although we now have luxury of a camping trailer, complete with kitchen and bathroom and ridiculous amounts of storage, for nineteen of our years together, we tent camped. Some say it's not camping unless you're in a tent, but I paid my dues. I've slept in a tent with a port-a-crib, in a wind so strong it ripped our rain-fly off. I've slept in a tent in a torrential downpour which literally lasted the entire three days we were there. I've slept in a leaky tent, soaked and miserable. I've slept in a tent, and woken up to two inches of snow. I feel that the camper is well deserved at this point With it, it's so much easier to just take off on a whim. Bedding and non-perishable staples live in the camper, so all you need to do is grab some clothes, the food that needs refrigeration, and you're off.
My boys love camping, too. Chopping firewood, building the fire, roasting pine cones on that fire, it's all boy heaven. They've even gotten to like hiking, though that took some convincing. You can't play with the fire if you're hiking! And you can't invent elaborate games among the trees if you're hiking. And hiking can be strenuous. But given no choice, they've found things to like about hiking. They like using the carefully selected walking sticks that my talented brother-in-law has carved animal heads on. They like leading the way, and being the first to point out interesting finds. And they like “accidentally” getting themselves wet when we encounter any water.
Yes, it does take work, and yes, you do get dirty. But for me it's all worth the trouble. If you're feeling stressed out, stretched to breaking with the hassles of your normal schedule, come join me by the fire and sit for a bit. We'll catch up on each other's lives, roast a marshmallow or two, and then star gaze. You really haven't seen the stars until you see them on a camping trip. Away from city lights, you realize just how many there are. The sky seems almost covered with them, and you can even see the milky way if you look hard enough. That swath of almost joined stars is a magical thing to behold. And when you're gazing, you really understand the vastness of God's creation, and feel so blessed to be able to enjoy it.