List 5 places you'd like to go camping
But, feeling wordy tonight (no, I haven't been drinking, thank you very much), I figured I'd tell you why I like to camp in addition to giving you my list. If you're not in the mood to read, though, just skip to the end!
The only family vacations we took when I was a kid were camping vacations. It was the cheapest way for a family of five to get away for two weeks, see the country, and have fun. In fact, I didn’t even stay in a hotel until I was a teenager. My dad, a history buff, showed us every battlefield up and down the east coast… we stayed in places like Cape Cod, the Finger Lakes area of NY, and all over Virginia. We saw all the historical and kid-oriented sights; we swam in the ocean and in lakes; we hiked in the woods, spent whole evenings star-gazing, and toasted more marshmallows than was probably sane (or healthy). One summer, my parents rented a campsite at a campground in south Jersey for two months. My mom actually chose to live in a tent with the three of us kids for most of the summer, while my dad worked at home during the week and came down to stay with us on the weekends. It was the best summer of my childhood.
I knew that when I had kids, I wanted to camp with them; to share one of the best experiences of my life. My ex and I took Ryan for the first time when she was two. She took to it immediately… never afraid of bugs or the woods or the dark, she was a natural. My ex, however, wasn’t. He never really wanted to go but he also didn’t like the idea of me taking Ryan on my own, as he didn’t feel it was safe. Pffffttttt.
For the last several years, Ryan and I have been camping by ourselves from spring through fall. We go to state or national parks (always), as ‘amenities’ like swimming pools (or, in some cases, hot showers) aren’t important to us. We’ve camped in freezing temperatures (when we had to sleep in parkas and hats) and in monsoons (when I forgot to seal the tent seams… something she’s never let me forget). We’ve gone for weekends with the dog and for full weeks without him. Sometimes we stick close to home; sometimes we drive long distances (last year we spent a week at Acadia in Maine). We’ve gone whitewater rafting, kayaking, and whale-watching. We swim and hike and star-gaze and toast marshmallows. And we do it all on our own.
(Acadia National Park, Maine - Summer 2008)
Camping, for me, isn’t just an inexpensive vacation or a way to make wonderful memories. It isn’t just a way to experience nature fully and show my daughter how to ‘leave no trace’. It’s a way to teach her one of the most important lessons I believe she’ll ever learn. I want her to understand she can do anything she sets her mind to and that she’s not limited in any way because she’s a girl. I want her to understand that she has to venture out into the world in order to learn about it and that she absolutely cannot be afraid to do so (even if she has to do it alone), no matter what anyone says. And you’d be amazed at how many people are shocked that we camp on our own, and say so. But, to my great pleasure, Ryan simply can’t understand why it’s surprising to them. It’s normal and natural to her to throw the tent and camp stove into the car and just go. And I love it - that attitude. I hope it’s something we’ll always be able to do together and something she’ll do with her kids, if she has them.
This summer we’re going to Assateague Island on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We’re staying at the national park, just over the dunes from the ocean, and the wild ponies wander through the campground. We’re beyond excited. The Grand Canyon was on the agenda for this summer… unfortunately it wasn’t in the budget. So it’s number one on our list of places to camp…
1. The Grand Canyon
3. Big Sur
5. The Canadian Rockies (added to my list after seeing my friend Todd’s pictures from his recent trip)