“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” – Muir
There is nothing quite like being truly present outdoors to soothe my soul. I’ve always felt drawn by nature. I could dine al fresco for every meal, much to my husband’s annoyance during these hot Alabama summers. So it’s no surprise I love camping and sing its praises whenever I can, despite not having grown up living the camper life. Now, more than ever, camping is a lifeline to what my mind needs during these hard times.
My first camping experience was in college with eight people in one tent, incorrectly set up. We ended up with wet feet during a midnight rainstorm. Surprisingly, I didn’t wait too long before trying again. My husband and I loved tent camping in the earlier years of marriage. We have several friends who still prefer that route. But with his distaste for the heat and my intolerance of the cold and sleeping on the ground, we didn’t go as often as we’d like. We stopped all together after becoming parents, until the Fall of 2019, when my brother-in-law talked us into getting a pop-up camper. We were immediately hooked. However, we had no idea how grateful we would be for our camper just a few months later.
Fast forward to March 2020. Things were shutting down and we realized how important it was, for our family especially, to stay safe. We figured if we had to be isolated for a few weeks (we were so naive in March . . .), we could at least explore the outdoors from the safety of our camper. Three “Covid Camping” trips later, we realized the virus wasn’t going away anytime soon, and we were tired of showering behind a tarp and using a bucket for a toilet. (We avoid public restrooms these days, though generally campground bathhouses are just fine!) While prepping for a longer camping trip, and at the encouragement of a fellow BMC writer, we made the decision to upgrade to a small travel trailer. We have no regrets.
“In the woods, we return to reason and faith.” – Emerson
In the ten months we’ve been camper people, and the five months we’ve been social distancing, we’ve had several wonderful trips. Best of all, they’ve each been within a few hours of Birmingham! Fall Creek Falls, TN is for sure one of our favorite locations. But personally, I prefer roomy, slow-paced sites like the Corinth Recreation Area on Smith Lake. Dauphin Island’s campground is a great way to experience the beach. And there’s no beating the proximity of Oak Mountain and Rickwood Caverns for a one-night trip. These places have each been a welcome respite from the monotony and stress that this year has carried with it.
While most places we’ve stayed have well-spaced sites, I will acknowledge that not all campsites are set up for social distancing. We’ve had to move spots due to the proximity to neighbors with kids unaware of boundaries. Upon trying one nearby place, we turned around and went home because of how crowded it was. But generally, we have felt safe and like our space was respected.
Camping can be accessible for so many budgets and comfort levels. We’ve seen all kinds of setups, ranging from single person tents to massive motor homes with big screen TVs. We’re content being somewhere in the middle but frequently dream of being retirees who travel the country in their RV, Cousin Eddy-style!
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately . . .” – Thoreau
If you’re still not convinced that camping is for you, here are a few more reasons to consider:
- Nature at your fingertips: Imagine walking out your door to a lush forest, glass lake, or starlit sky. I love how my son is getting to experience and embrace the outdoors on these trips! We keep our agenda light to simply enjoy being outside.
- Quality togetherness: No tablets, computers, or TVs, and limited cell coverage. While Covid has provided LOTS of togetherness, there is nothing like a camping trip to rid us of our usual distractions. We eat, sleep, and play in close proximity.
- Teaching resourcefulness and resiliency: By some standards we may be glamping, but successfully enjoying a trip still requires creativity, trouble-shooting, and a bit of grit. Whether parking the camper or building the campfire, I think we’re teaching ourselves and our son valuable lessons.
- Exploring new places: Each site we have visited has its own discoveries to explore, from waterfalls and lakes to caves covered in glow worms. We’ve hiked, swum, kayaked, and biked in some of the most beautiful spots the South has to offer. Our list is ever-growing of where to adventure next!
- Meeting new faces: While I’m content reading alone at the campsite, my husband and son especially love meeting neighbors. While Covid has complicated this, we’ve still met some very kind people on our journeys. My son still talks about the man who helped us set up our sewage on our new camper’s maiden voyage.