“Four persons make a good camping-party. Before arriving at their destination these persons should choose one of their number as captain.”
Naturally, we chose Teresa to lead our “sleeping under the stars” overnighter at Waddell Creek in Big Basin Redwoods. Teresa is a natural trail boss. At the head of the pack she is a cheerful, level-headed leader who encourages everyone to keep up with her in pace and enthusiasm. Her brother Owen brought up the rear. He is only two and a half, but his pleasant demeanor and natural curiosity seemed to propel him through even the roughest stretch of trail without a complaint. Teresa and Owen brought their cousin Allison who proved to be a knowledgeable naturalist. Allison kept us on course, and never let us stray too far without checking our map. Seth added the physical strength and fearlessness that rounds out any set of companions. I guess at this point I should craft a clever Fellowship of the Ring reference, but I’m too tired.
Beard writes about how a boy and his companions could fashion a cottage made of sticks and boughs to sleep in. Seth did find a pine bough on the trail and the kids used it to sweep up as they went, that was the closest we came to Beard’s idyllic vision. Although learning to build a shelter with the materials on hand is an important skill, we simply started with the basics – sleeping outside with no roof over our head. I think we all expected to see the stars, but the hike crept up on all of us, and we hit our makeshift pillows pretty hard. Seth spotted star #3, but fell asleep soon after. I only saw the stars because I woke up twice, once to fend off an opossum and the second time a raccoon. We lost nothing to the opossum, 6 bagels to the raccoon, and a stick of pepperoni to my spotty attention span and an all too comfortable cooler back in the car. I was definitely negligent from a Boy’s Almanac perspective. I didn’t bother to hang our food up because it’s been a while since I camped somewhere with medium sized mammals. Nor did I have a snare, which would have come in handy if we had been hankerin’ for some possum stew for breakfast.
Sleeping outdoors is healthy and natural. Our senses become alive when we have cause to adjust to the elements. For many years of my life I slept on a screen porch. I miss it desperately, the vibrant sound of cicadas in the summer, the howl of wind in the winter and the dampness of fog all year round (life in costal California). Seth always complains that our camping trips are too short. I like to hear this from a kid. It means I am doing my job. There is nothing more human that living outdoors whenever possible. There are many things that hinder us from doing this, snow, black flies, mountain lions, allergies…the list goes on and on. However, I challenge you to find ways to give your kids a taste of nature. You don’t have to camp without a tent. Just go camping. Bring only the essentials and let the kids make the experience for themselves. You never know, they might build a cottage out of sticks and boughs. Now wouldn’t that be charming!