Taking a break from the responsibilities of work and home is good for the soul; making the time to connect and have fun together is good for the family. Why would we not go camping?
Camping is fun and exciting! We will breathe the fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, and just play! No internet, no computers, no phone. We don’t need much – hot dogs and buns, marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, and some drinks. Oh, wait, we will need condiments for the hot dogs, napkins, plates. Oh, breakfast? Instant oatmeal and coffee; and plates, bowls, spoons, and cups. Got to have some snacks. Extra clothes, a towel just in case, T.P., a lighter, boots, an extra blanket, walkie-talkies. A book, a deck of cards, a board game. What am I forgetting?
Look at us driving away and leaving all the stress behind! Camping fun here come!
By the time we get there, I’m already exhausted. The kids have been infringing on each other’s backseat space for three hours, it’s raining, the mosquitoes are the size of sparrows, and there doesn’t seem to be a spot without rocks. Within minutes everything is covered in mud – yes, I mean everything, and the thing I forgot was ketchup.
Isn’t camping is supposed to be fun? I must be doing this wrong.
Camping is in tents.
Tent camping seemed to have a lot of complaining attached. Everything is wet and dirty; everyone is tired; and everyone is hungry. Mosquitos.
Yes, I know some families can go for weeks at a time with their five kids sleeping under the stars and receiving nary a mosquito bite let alone a complaint. I mean, I *know* these families. Their adventures never cease to amaze me. But, that wasn’t us.
Last year we bought a camper, it’s small but sleeps the whole family. At this point, camper camping is as close to roughing it as I want to get. I like indoor plumbing and heat, and it’s still technically “camping,” right?
There are things that I miss about tent camping. The whole tent thing is comparatively cheap. It still seems fast and easy in a way a camper is not. You can just toss a bunch of stuff in the back of the car and head out. You can go tent camping in places that you can’t even consider with a camper.
In the camper, all the non-perishables, cookware, and bedding stay at the ready. Every time we take it out, it gets faster and easier. My son is learning the ins and outs of the water and electrical systems, how to hitch it to the truck, and how to do all the safety checks.
On the downside, campers require hours of maintenance before, during, and after each trip. Tanks need to be full and batteries charged, the refrigerator needs to be cold before we leave town. During the trip, holding tanks need to be watched to make sure they are not getting too empty or too full. Inside requires constant shifting and reshifting of items to make space for the next meal or activity. When we return home, holding tanks must be flushed, and batteries charged. Then there is the cleaning – bathroom, bedding, floors, and the outside too.
It’s a different kind of work but compared sleeping in a tent, the camper is sheer bliss.
All the other things that kept me busy while tent camping didn’t go away just because we got a camper. Keeping my family fed and hydrated, slathered in sunscreen, and protected from pests are the priorities. While I want them to enjoy their time camping, I know that we will eventually return home and have to face the consequences of the sun, the bugs, and too many smores.
Is camping actually a break from the mundane? Maybe not entirely.
But, even with my tendency to overthink and over-plan, going away makes space in my head for things that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Space for exploring, for storytelling and listening; for sharing experiences that carve the pathways leading to memories. No matter how much work it is getting ready for camping, being camping really is worth it. It’s worth it for the moments of peace between brother and sister, the moments of laughter and joy, the moments of freedom from the stress and pressures of work and home, and memories that will last forever.
Dear readers, don’t let the summer get away from you. Take a break and make the time to get outside. Camp. Take your visitors and show off the beauty and majesty of Alaska.
If you need motivation or inspiration, read Mountain Echoes: Eklutna reflections – a journey in time. Frank Baker shares his memories of Eklutna as a child, as a parent camping with is children, and now. Frank also provides us with a book review: Denali Ranger, by Lew Freedman.
Lee Jordan helps those of us expecting visitors this summer with What tourists need to learn about Alaska, as well as some ghost stories for the campfire. A huge thanks to Jon Van Zyle for illustrating that story HistoricLee: Alaska ripe for stories of the supernatural.
Frank Baker takes a break from Mountain Echoes to play psychologist, offering us a quiz to test your abilities on dealing with life’s little stresses in Supreme pet peeves and our ability to cope. I think this will provide us all with a bit of insight into “The Mind of Frank Baker” and to understand why he spends so much time outdoors and away from the rest of us.
There are some other summertime things for you to check out. Good Things with Elizabeth Pearch reminds us that sometimes the best things are right under our noses, and Nancy Clark tells us about some excellent resources available at the library. Cara Walsh Dorman talks about the showdown between piano and keyboard.
If you are looking for places to go, Gold Star Peak is a meaningful place to visit to spend time honoring our Gold Star Families and the fallen. If you are looking for a more leisurely walk, the Boardwalk at Potter Marsh is excellent for those of any ability.
Donn Liston educates us on the inner workings of the Alaska Legislature, which, with upcoming elections seems timely. He also writes about his wife, Cat, and her ongoing fight with cancer in The consequences of not facing reality. It’s a personal story that far too many people have to share.
I am excited to have a contribution from Don Neal this month. Don is a veteran and local author. You can find his three-book series on Amazon.
To our readers, as always, I hope you enjoy reading this issue of the ECHO as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you. Don’t be afraid to let us know what you think.
This month, ECHO Magazine and Eagle River Printing say goodbye to Emily Murray who has been on the ECHO team since the beginning. Thank you, Emily, for all you have put into the ECHO. You are leaving behind something beautiful.