I don’t go camping very much in this phase of my life. Because of that, every time I do go camping, I think about how my family’s frequent camping trips influenced my character development. Many of the positive attributes and skills I think I posess–reliability, accountability, perseverance, athleticism–trace directly back to camping. For instance, in high school, I wasn’t much of an athlete, but because of summer backpacking trips, I had a strong body. When I got to college and joined the rowing team, I was able to adapt and have a successful rowing career.

Our flagpole didnt rise as high as some others, but we were proud of it anyway.

Our flagpole didn't rise as high as some others, but we were proud of it anyway.

The reality TV shows that feature adventure and challenge, like Survivor and The Amazing Race, capture the human drama so well because the physical challenge plays against the mental requirements and at the same time elicits the most raw emotions, thus making both the physical and mental parts harder. When I was younger, I didn’t need to watch these things on TV; I experienced them by heading out into the woods with at least my father and brother, and possibly the whole family.
We made plenty of mistakes and had plenty of tense moments. There was probably some yelling (Dad), and passive-aggressive resistance (me). However, those bad moments were infrequent parts of the whole experience, which was overwhelmingly good. We didn’t just camp, we learned to take care of ourselves. We learned to do things the right way, even if it seemed harder than doing it the easy way. We also practiced getting along together. Sometimes, we used the caterpillar method of climbing a steep hill; other times my brother and I would go ahead, then come back to help everyone else.
Camp stew in preparation.

Camp stew in preparation.

To this day, I practice a distinctive style of minimalist camping, and I think it served me and the boys well this past weekend. We were never in danger, but there were times when efficiency and decisiveness helped to keep everyone happy, like when I made camp stew for a late dinner.
At the same time, some of the things that I saw bewildered and frustrated me. The boys stayed up way too late on Friday night, and were tired the next morning. One boy in my group, who in general doesn’t like Scouts, but comes because of his mother, displayed an extreme lack of participation in the challenge activities. With him in particular, and all the boys in general, I don’t know how to get across my feelings that camping is not escapism; it’s a useful microcosm of life, and a time when we learn and grow in ways that have positive transfer to all the aspects of life.
Elena and Jenny saw us off on our trip, but someday I hope theyll be participants.

Elena and Jenny saw us off on our trip, but someday I hope they'll be participants.

Jenny doesn’t like camping much, but I think that’s because she sees it as all dirt and bugs. She thinks the that the lessons I learned while camping can be found in other places as well. She may be right, but I plan to teach Elena to camp.



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3 responses to “Camporee

  1. Leisa

    Ah yes, the scenic monocosee river, otherwise known as the scenic scenic river river.

  2. Grandpa Dana

    It was Leisa, Mark, and Dad in the truck going to Catoctin. I can’t remember if we met up with the rest of the family, but we sure had a lot of ‘fun’ with crossing the river. The other special time with Leisa and Mark was when just the 3 of us went to Ramsay’s Draft Wilderness to scout it out. Then we went back there with everyone. That place is a special place to me.

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