“Is it worth all the work?”
Whenever I have a conversation about camping, that question inevitably comes up. Since camping and fishing go together like peanut butter and jelly, you could ask the same question about fishing. Anyone who pursues a hobby, especially an outdoor endeavor that requires hours of driving, has likely been asked that question.
June is National Camping & Outdoors month so naturally we recently camped with some friends. They hadn’t camped in a long time so 10 years and two kids later; their camping preparation took on a new level.
I watched my friend pull out their supplies of two big plastic bins filled with food and other necessities, separate bags of clothes, beach towels, sun hats, winter coats and gloves (it’s Colorado after all), a tent, air mattress, sleeping bags and an assortment of other odds and ends. I couldn’t help but think about why we camp despite the work involved.
I camped a lot with my dad when I was a kid, but got away from it in my 20s and 30s. When time spent building a life — a career, a home, a family — seemed more important than the time spent going camping.
A couple of decades, some hard work and lots of luck later, the life we built is a good one; but somewhere along the way things got really complicated. Like any life, we’ve had our ups and down’s, but overall we are blessed with good careers, a nice home and two fantastic kids. Even so, it often feels like drinking from a fire hose. Soccer games, cheerleading practice, school activities, work deadlines, home maintenance and financial pressures make it hard to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life. Then we started camping.
We’re in our 4th camping season now. My kids are a little older than when we first started, but even at ages 11 and 8 they still get pretty excited about big sticks and skipping rocks. We’ve seen hawks, pelicans, deer and snakes. We’ve caught toads, fish and insects. We’ve hiked, biked and swam. We’ve seen some beautiful places and made wonderful friends. My kids get dirty. They leave their electronics virtually untouched for days. They collect rocks that sparkle and bring me presents of leaves shaped like hearts.
On our most recent trip, my husband and I actually talked about things other than the logistics of our schedule. We laughed over remembered stories with old friends around the campfire. We also got dumped on when the skies opened up after dinner one night. Props to our friends who slept in their tent even after shaking water off their sleeping bags that were inside the tent when the storm came. Even the challenging times make for fond memories.
We have a sign in our camper that says, “Keep Calm and Camp On.” It’s appropriate. Especially when we lost all power and functionality of our camper at 9,000 feet in a snowstorm. When water lines have frozen, awnings have broken, kids have fallen off the top bunk in the middle of the night and camper keys have been lost in the lake. Ever notice how the mishaps make the best stories?
We’ve streamlined our camping preparations over the years. Even so, shopping and packing starts days before we leave – not to mention the need to book camp sites 6 months in advance if you want a good spot less than 3 hours away. Once we get back, it takes us a few days to catch up on laundry, grocery shopping and other household chores. I just folded the last load of camper laundry from our trip 10 days ago.
Despite all that, I look forward to each and every trip. In a world where busy schedules are the least of our worries, I can’t wait to disconnect from reality with my family and friends. Go some place beautiful where we fish, catch frogs, sit around the camp fire and forget for awhile that we live in a world where people are killed at school and in movie theaters. So, when I’m asked if camping is worth all the preparation and work, my answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
Hell yes, it’s worth every effort and more!