Tuesday, February 21, 2012

According to Homer Simpson, there's an old saying that goes "Let your children run wild and free." I don't think he meant it in the get out and explore nature way, but that's how I choose to interpret it.

My kids would be perfectly happy playing with their video games or watching television all day, but that's not how I want them to grow up. When I was a kid we were outside all the time. We camped in the back yard, we pretended we were lost in a desolate world with no adults and had to rely on ourselves. There were many days we'd get up in the morning, build a camp fire, then pretend we were pioneers or explorers. At the time, we had a copy of this very old book I'd snagged from my mother, The Golden Book of Camping (published in 1971) and it was full of ideas for foods to cook, things to make with tree branches, and games to play. Of course, looking at it now, a lot of the things it suggests doing you shouldn't do if you follow a 'leave no trace' style of camping. You shouldn't cut down trees and make your own seats or tables (especially not in Provincial Parks or conservation areas) and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be happy if you denuded the area around your campsite so you can build a tent out of branches and a tarp. This book was like a bible to me and I was determined to master all the skills in it...(it should be noted that I didn't even come close, but that doesn't mean I can't keep working on it.)

Before my dad started his own business, we used to spend weekends camping at Haliburton Forest along with cousins and friends of the family. I was pretty young, but I can remember feeding chipmunks and swimming. We didn't get out camping much after dad started his business, but we often went canoeing, or fishing still, and we still spent a lot of time cross country-skiing in the winter. Just recently, my parents have started going camping with me and the kids. I sometimes think my mom gets even more excited than I do when we book a campsite. Like me, I think she'd be happy to camp the entire summer.

There are so many great opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Camping, hiking, canoeing, backpacking, snowshoeing, skiing, biking, and geocaching are wonderful ways to get kids out of the couch potato rut (and adults too!) and learn to appreciate the natural world. How can we expect our kids to care about protecting our resources if they never get to see just how wonderful it can be to hike to the crest of a rocky cliff overlooking a lake unspoiled by cottages and motor boats? Or the thrill of exploring a cave? Or the true peace of a night spent on a remote lake where you can't hear traffic and can see the full glory of stars.

Okay, I don't want to sound preachy. That's not the point of this blog. My goal is to help families get out and explore the natural world by sharing my reviews of campgrounds, trails, books, recipes, kids activities, gear and anything else that will inspire others to enjoy the fresh air...

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