Spending a night camping out under the stars is as American as Apple Pie — maybe even more so. It’s a classic summer pass time handed down from generation to generation, for good reason.
There is no better way to connect with the natural beauty and bounty of our great nation then spending a night sleeping outdoors.
This past weekend, all across the nation, thousands of Americans participated in the Great American Backyard Campout. The National Wildlife Federation sponsors the decade-old annual event, which seeks to encourage Americans — especially children — to spend the night outside in order to connect with nature.
This year the NWF’s Board of Directors pledged up to $400,000 for every individual who took the pledge to campout. The funds are dedicated to conserving our national wildlife treasures for future generations.
I, of course, took the pledge weeks ago and spent a night camping out with my husband, Carl, our two dogs and my Big Brothers Big Sister’s “Little Sister” Regina, 17.
Regina has been camping only one other time with Carl and I, in a campground with all the amenities. She specifically asked to go camping this time, saying, “I want to do cool outdoorsy stuff like you and Carl.”
This time we took her to Cave Run Lake, where we could camp on the lakeshore and fish, something Regina had never done. Not only did she catch her first fish, she quickly added her second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth! Needless to say, she’s now hooked.
It was a perfect evening for a campout. We sat tending our rods and watched the evening fade into night over the calm glassy water of the lake and the sky transform into a canvas of twinkling stars. When the evening grew cold, we built a roaring campfire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows for gooey S’mores.
Regina fell asleep in our tent listening to the sounds of owls, bullfrogs and crickets while Carl and I fished into the early morning. When we finally turned in in the early morning, the Milky Way had come into perfect view. In the morning we awoke to a symphony of twittering birds and a mist rising off the water.
There is just something so grounding about spending the night sleeping on the ground. Camping always reminds me that there is immense joy in the simplicity of life and nature. A single night camping out is all it takes to remind me to slow down, look around and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings.
Regina must have felt it too. That morning, she immediately asked to go on yet another camping trip this summer as well as to tag along when Carl and I complete our last 700 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Our hearts almost burst with joy. All it takes is one night to spark a lifetime of interest and it’s so simple to do.
Although I prefer to camp as far off the beaten path as possible, camping in my own backyard can be just as rewarding when taking a first-timer. With flushing toilets and sturdy shelter just steps away, pitching a tent in the yard at home ensures a worry-free night under the stars.
It’s amazing what you can discover in your own backyard or what it can inspire. Don’t wait until next year’s Great American Backyard Campout to find out. Pitch a tent this summer and take a child camping. Then next year, do it again.