Monday, June 18, 2012

Great American Backyard Campout

Camping is not something I did as a kid. My parents are not the outdoorsy type. "Camping" in the Smith houshold consisted of a poolside room at a hotel with a cooler of your own snacks. That was what made it camping, you see, the fact that you didn't order room service. When I was about 9 years old my sister and I got to go to summer camp. I chose a pioneer themed camp. My sister chose make-up camp, where they learned how to make beauty products out of woodland plants. "You laugh," she told me, "but when they find me dead of exposure in the woods, I'll look fabulous."

The first time I ever officially went camping was on my honeymoon; just me, my cute new husband, my 1977 Dodge van (this was 2003),  the stars over the Arizona desert and my father-in-law. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. Granted I spent pretty much the whole first night afraid I'd be eaten by bears (because God knows, there are a lot of grizzlies in the desert, right?), but I woke in the morning and, much to my surprise, I had lived. We went hiking, ate popcorn from the campstove and explored some caves. It was everything I was hoping camping would be.

Then I had babies. Two of them at once. Then, shortly after that, we moved across country from Los Angeles back to Minnesota. No sooner had we gotten our feet under us than we had baby #3, who was followed almost immediately by babies #4 and #5. I am a hearty woman, my friends, but there are limits, and camping in the woods with two elementary schoolers, two babies and a three-year-old is not really an option right now.

When James was a newborn we participated for the first time in the National Wildlife Federation's Great American Backyard Campout. We loved it. It was the perfect balance of outdoor time and convenience for that busy stage of our lives. It's that time of year again and after some discussion, we decided to put together a team for next week's festivities.

The neighborhood we live in is practically a resort in the summer. Within a leisurely stroll of our front door we have two pools, walking paths, duck ponds, tennis courts, a volleyball court, a lake with fishing piers and canoe rentals, a beach, a picnic area with a fire pit and trails through the woods. There is no reason we can't have some camping fun right here.

We're still working out all of the details, but I have high hopes for this to become an annual event. I'm picturing hot dogs and s'mores and popcorn, fishing and canoeing and swimming. Maybe some letterboxing or a demonstration on how to use a pocket knife. We'll break out the fabric markers and some t-shirts and do some t-shirt crafting. We'll whittle something.

It doesn't fit my husband's stringent standards of "camping" as I will still be sleeping on an air mattress and I will be within walking distance of a professionally made latte, but I think it will do. Secretly I think he's even more excited for it than I am.

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