Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Camping?

It's not always a direct question.  More often it's a look, but it always happens.  If I'm talking about a camping trip I just went on, or a camping trip that I'm currently planning, someone will give me the look. 

The "why camping?" Look.

As if it's fundamentally absurd to leave the comfort and amenities of your permanent residence, just to go to a non-permanent, even a movable residence, for a couple nights at a time.   A place where you have to work to just get along.  You have to gather wood, water, maintain a fire, safely handle and prepare food without refrigeration, or at least from a cooler, but again you have to manage that process as well. 

So why go through all that?  It's hard for me to explain without being a little rhetorical, but I go through all that in order to go through all that.  It's about surviving on simpler terms.  I don't need to worry myself with the ephemera of life.  I need to worry about keeping my food cold, my fire hot, and my head dry. End of list.

When camping there's always something to do, and those things have real implications.  If I'm at home and I leave food on the counter, fine, I've got more in the freezer.  If I'm camping and food spoils, well one meal is going to be a little thin.  The focus on survival, breaks you down to a very primitive self.  It wipes away the nonsense of the modern world.  I don't worry that I have 70 channels and nothing to watch because there's wood to be gathered, a fire to be tended, and a trail over there that I haven't walked down yet.

That unknown trail is the real other reason to go camping.  The ability to explore the unknown, and particularly the wild places of this Earth.  My family and I love to hop in the car and roadtrip to find a new park or diner, but just like being at home, if plans fail on the road, there's an easily accessible back up plan.

In the woods that is not always the case.  For me knowing that I'm a visitor in this wild place helps to ground me and make me more mindful of my surroundings and how I'm going to move through them.  I'm not going to blindly leap over that log or creek, because failure in the woods is often catastrophic.  Now, if I  re-read that last sentence it sounds overly dramatic and frankly a little pessimistic.  Injuries happen, and you do need to be mindful of your surroundings.  However, instead of allowing that anxiety to weigh you down, allow that mindfulness to lift your spirit, to focus your attention on the REAL. 

Mindfulness in the woods have lead to some of my greatest experiences.  A doe and two fawns within 20 feet. A flock of turkeys meticulously picking bugs while moving through the undergrowth 30 feet away. A fresh bear track within 50 feet of a fresh coyote track.

Now-a-days, I have the distinct pleasure of teaching two young boys these skills.  With time and patience I believe they too will appreciate wild places and the simplicity of life at a campsite.

Happy Camping
Scott M

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