Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why You Need to Camp

I have a love/hate relationship with camping, I'll admit it. I think many people do; there are bugs, the lavatories are far away and spartan, it can be hot, wet, cold, is outside, after all. I believe however, it is an essential part of life. There are experiences, pleasures and lessons that can only be had living outside, and camping, especially tent camping, is the simplest path to to outdoor living. 

In the photos from yesterday, you can see one small thing that happened to connect the children to the environment while living out of doors. The tiny bird was found while exploring, close by our campsite, and for 36 hours it became part of their world.
They looked out for the mother bird, watched for predators, and with some trial and error, brought it food. They remembered that the size and shape of beak could help determine what kind of diet it would eat; long, thin beaks for insects, shorter, wider ones for berries.
They began with bread crumbs, considered worms or bugs, and ended with berries picked from a bush close by. And it ate!

The trees were filled with the strangest noises yesterday. I wondered what sort of bird could possibly make that sound. When my husband remarked how musical the frogs were just then, I realized that I was hearing frogs...but flying frogs? We debated it, with the kids guessing anything from mammal to insect that may make that sound, and I  remembered a teeny tiny critter Cate once discovered on a tree in another park; a tree frog. Valentine had a flash of memory from an exhibit at the Putnam Museum and said; "yes! That is the noise of a tree frog. I remember it!" As the sounds moved from tree to tree, we tried to follow with flashlights, but did not actually find one until we set off for a nighttime hike, and one hopped past us on the road. We studied its long toes until it escaped into the dark.

My husband came up with an idea during this last trip. He calls it "motelling"; you spend all day outdoors, but then sleep in a cheap hotel. I said it already exists; renting a cabin. He countered with the fact that in an inexpensive hotel, you would have no need to haul bedding, gear, cooking utensils, matches, marshmallow roasters, flashlights, etc. You could just plop and sleep. I told him he was missing the whole point...although, driving back to a soaking wet, muddy campsite after half a night in the car, the idea did have its appeal.  However...

The above-mentioned small connections to nature can happen when you linger in one place for a day or two, not just a hike, even on the prettiest trail ever. They happen when you are camping. They contribute to a child's sense of wonder, of awe in creation, and a path that leads to greater responsibility for the fragile world around them.

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