Last weekend I took part in an overnight car camp in the Anza Borrego Desert here in California. The outing was part of a backpacking course I’m taking through the Sierra Club.
We hiked, practiced map and compass skills we learned in class, sleep in our tents under the stars and shared stories about how we got interested in backpacking.
There were 13 of us including the leaders and all had experienced camping and hiking at a younger age-for many it was the norm for their family to enjoy the outdoors together.
This was not the case in my family. We were more “indoor” folks, sitting in front of the TV kind-of family- only getting out for a trip to the beach or maybe the occasional crabbing day with my grandparents in Toms River. Even when my family moved from New Jersey to sunny California our “outdoor” experience consisted of my parents yelling “get outside and play”. No interaction with the outdoors as a family.
But I do remember sixth grade camp. Every year in San Diego County sixth graders headed off to camp for a week of outdoor learning – during the regular school year. My class went to Palomar Mountain and the thing I remember the most is being outdoors and hiking. Everyday I choose an activity that took us into the woods where we would learn about trees, trails and animals inhabiting the area. That year there was snow on the ground. I felt exhilarated – alive and strong being out in nature and I never forgot that.
I guess for me backpacking represented getting back to that feeling I had as a 12 year old – that feeling of excitement and awe I felt in the wild.
So as I get ready to cross over into another decade of my life – I’m taking part in this Wilderness Basic Course…and finding even though others in my class may have more memories about being outdoors than I do – it’s time I start making my own.