We returned from our camping vacation a week ago, and in spite of a week of work and resuming the usual routine, it was not until today that I felt like I was finally back from the wilderness. I find that camping for extended periods lingers in the imagination like that. Even my friend Jessica, whose family joins mine each year at camp, called me the day after we returned home to confess that she, too, was missing camp.
I knew we were missing more than the guilt-free afternoon naps and camaraderie of reunited friends. We missed the peace found in the cool evening breeze that moved through the forest following the heat of the afternoon, the rushing streams that ran along the boundaries of camp that put us to sleep and opened our eyes in the morning. We also missed the harmony and honest connectedness spent in such a beautiful and natural space, and the deep laughter that hurt our sides during the Saturday night talent show.
Going to Feather River Family Camp has been a tradition in our family spanning many years. My first time going was at age 12 as a camper with a program facilitated by the local arts center. Later I would become a Counselor in Training (CIT), which gave me a greater sense of responsibility for others in the natural environment. In the years leading into my deep teens, I became way too cool and foxy to camp, but when I married and had children of my own a decade later, camp powerfully called me back. My kids can’t tell you when they camped for the first time because we took them when they were barely out of the womb. My youngest joined us at family camp when he was only 3 weeks old.
But this camp year was particularly unique as it marked the first time I could immerse myself into the experience of camping with children who were now old enough and skilled enough to enjoy all aspects of the experience with me. The babies and pre-schoolers I had, who used to require all kids of equipment and careful attention, finally grew up to become sturdy swimmers and hikers, and savvy enough to make their own plates for dinner!
It was the first time since back country camping in my early twenties that I was able to take in the wilderness at a more relaxed pace; and the first time that my children could each create their camping experience on their own terms. For example, my 13 year-old proudly announced on the drive back home that he met “all his goals” for the week (of course, none of which he shared with me). When asked about what she remembered most about camp, my 8 year-old daughter, who I only saw in passing for most of the week said, “feeling happy” — I agree with her, and am already looking forward to camp next year, and for generations after that.
For more information about camps in your area, check out the American Camp Association.
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