Monday , July 09, 2018 - 4:16 PM
The recent July 4th holiday found us in the mountains with about a million other Americans celebrating the nation’s independence with kids, dogs, ATVs, and various shelters—everything from simple tents to colossal homes on wheels with 6 pop outs, front porches, and double showers.
The need to provide shelter is instinctive. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lists shelter right after clothing, sleep, food, and water—everyone’s basic camping list.
My first “shelter away from home” was a sheet of plastic thrown over the back of an old truck. My student husband and I decided to slip away for an overnight camping adventure. As newlyweds, we were low on camping gear—we owned an old lantern and two hand-me-down sleeping bags. But we figured the bed of our truck was called that for a reason, so we piled in some blankets, laid out the sleeping bags, and because a weather report said it might rain, tied rocks to the four corners of a sheet of clear plastic and strung it across the truck bed. Then we lay down underneath it and marveled at the stars we could see through the plastic. The night came on, we settled down, and sure enough, eventually the rain came.
We were pleased with our foresight. The pattering of the rain on the plastic sounded soothing, even romantic. The pattering turned into drumming. Well, we were still dry, so all was well. The drumming increased, and a pond formed in the center of our plastic roof, ominously growing in circumference and weight by the minute. No problem. We just put our hands up and made a clever tent of our plastic. That lasted until our arms gave out. So we used our legs to hold up our roof. That lasted until we pushed too high and the sides of our plastic roof pulled inside the truck, bringing all that lovely rain water in with it.
That sheet of plastic was also useful for wrapping up the whole sodden mess as we drove home soaking wet, shivering, and defeated at 3 a.m.
It’s possible that introductory experience was a driving force in our gradual ascent to bigger and better traveling abodes. We borrowed a real tent for our next few campouts, then bought a used truck shell which most importantly kept out the rain. It served until our family numbers grew but the truck bed didn’t. So the shell was replaced by a regular truck camper. The upside was it slept four, had a nifty little stove and fridge, and the kids could ride in it instead of in the truck with us. Big plus.
When we reached five and six in number, we traded up for a pop-up tent trailer, which was basically a transformer on wheels. We’d pull into a campsite, unhook some latches, crank up the roof, pull out the beds, pop up the stove, and we were in business. We ate supper at the table, then dropped it down to create a two-person bed. That trailer slept six, kept us out of the dirt, and made memories.
That’s probably the number one reason for camping—to make memories. The work to go camping—planning and packing, actual camping, and going home to unpack—fades away, but the good memories don’t. Each of our four adult children owns a pile of camping memories, and still trot them out every now and then to gleefully sort through and enjoy.
Whether we head to the hills for solitude or take up half a mountain with the extended family, there’s something timeless about reminding the kids to be careful around the evening campfire, wiping gooey marshmallow from sticky faces and fingers, and pointing out constellations to teens who suddenly realize their parents still know cool stuff.
Memory-making moments happen when we connect with our camping families and friends. How well we do that depends on how well we disconnect with everything and everyone else. Especially our technology.
Wherever our family camps, no cell phone or internet or wi-fi is available. That’s our call—not the phone company’s. There’s no lie in saying, “I’m headed into the mountains and can’t be reached until I return.” The phone can’t ring if it’s turned off. And leaving the technology in the glove box can bring the most liberating moment some of us have had in a long, long time. Best of all, it signals that we’re serious about disconnecting so we can reconnect with the important people in our lives.
Pack some kind of dependable shelter (not made of plastic), fill a cooler with food, and haul those you love to some new place to explore. Build a fire, roast marshmallows, and stare at the stars. Most importantly, disconnect to reconnect.
It’ll be worth it.