Camping experiences can range from lighthearted kids’ summer camp like scout camp or church camp to the toughest, most dismal prospects of military camp. RV camping brings its own criteria to the campfire, allowing you to choose just how rough your “roughing it” will get, how many amenities will travel with you, and how primitive your hook-up pad may — or perhaps, with no hook-ups at all – may not be.
The camping I’ve found most enjoyable is in my own back yard. There’s no worry about forgetting to pack extra luxuries; just pop next door to the house if you decide you can’t cope.
At middle school age, we could stand in the center of my brother’s first tent. Comforts were sparse at first. Sleeping bags, a flashlight, and one of those pocket-sized transistor radios that were the rage in the ’60s. We woke sticky and stiff after tossing on lumpy bumps that hid quietly when you chose a spot to spread your sleeping bag, and then stealthily surfaced as the night waned.
Requirements for camping grew as the novelty of a night in the tent diminished. A cooler packed with bacon, eggs, and soft white bread for dipping spent the night in the tent with us, a menu just made for trying out the Coleman camp stove my brother received. (Once you’re a camper, camping stuff makes a great gift.)
One backyard campout turned out to be unforgettable when a groundhog joined us before breakfast. My brother, outside frying eggs, quietly watched the friendly woodchuck follow his nose toward the cooking smells, then amble past through the unzipped tent flap up to the foot of my sleeping bag.
It’s significant that brother is just one letter beyond bother. He thought it would be all too amusing to watch me awaken facing a woodchuck. Spoiling his joke, I’d been awake since he eased out to fix our meal. I sat up and reached out to the fat, furry visitor.
I might have shown more concern for caution around a “wild” critter, but the closest I’d viewed groundhogs, ’til then, was through binoculars, foraging in Dad’s little fruit orchard. A groundhog looks harmlessly cute lying on its back, fat tummy to the sky, its front paws as tiny hands holding knotty, Transparent apples like choice candy treats.
Unruffled by my move, our groundhog guest let me touch him. Though he looked to be my guinea pig’s cousin, he was not nearly as soft. Just as determinedly as he appeared, he decided to go waddling toward the tent flap, and away he ambled through the grass to take his breakfast elsewhere.
Whether camping in the back yard, a park, RVing, or tenting, recreational camping promises a confrontation with the unknown. As camping styles change when new gear becomes available, one aspect remains. Like frontier campers of old, we will always be thrilled by a bit of adventure.
*Back In Your Own Backyard, Words and Music by Jolson/Rose/Dreyer;
Recorded by Ruth Etting for
Columbia Records, NYC in 1928.
“You’ll find your happiness lies
Right under your eyes
Back in your own backyard… .”
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