The season for camping

It’s July, the weather has been nice and for many that means it’s camping season. Of course camping and roughing it means different things to various people.

There will be those who just need a small tent, a backpack, a sleeping bag, a few supplies and they are ready to head to the woods or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Others will want a little more, such as a camper and will travel to the closet campground that has a pool or nice beach area. To each their own, but I’ve usually preferred keeping the trip simple. As a youngster, my Boy Scout Troop went on a camping trip where we hiked in South Dakota one summer. My family went camping in a small pop-up camper that we used in private and national parks through North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

On the family trips, we also set up a tent that attached to the camper. There was an awning, three to five feet wide, between the camper and the tent. We would usually move the picnic table at each campground into the tent. It gave us protection from rain and the mosquitoes. The camper had a simple gas stove that we used only when we needed to. More often than not we cooked over a wood fire or used a portable gas grill under the awning, both created more heat than the camper’s stove.

I have many memories of my family cooking while camping. It was something that my parents made as a family event. The four kids were given small things, such as set the table or husk the corn if we were having corn on the cob. In the morning there would be pancakes or French toast with bacon or sausage and hash browns. A simple lunch would be roasting hot dogs or brats over a campfire. Put the food on long roasting forks and we could cook it to how we wanted it. The evening meal was sometimes pork chops or chicken on the grill over a wood fire. Wrap potatoes and other vegetables in tin foil with some seasoning, set among the coals and wait until they were warm and delicious. Later in the evening there would be s’mores or bananas slicked down the middle and stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate and then set in the coals.

If we were really adventurous we would cook something in the Dutch oven. My family had one recipe for a breakfast meal. We would cook potatoes in a Dutch oven until they were slightly soft. We would dice up whatever vegetables we had and throw on top of the potatoes, we would usually cook up some bacon and put that on top of the mixture and then crack open eggs and let those cook on top. It was something we enjoyed and it was filling.

Those family outings sometimes had us just go exploring in the park along hiking trails or head down to a beach. Other times we would get into the family vehicle and head out to explore and sight see. The trips in South Dakota included ones to Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial and drives through the Black Hills and Badlands National Parks. In North Dakota we stopped at Theodore Roosevelt National Park or the International Peace Garden and in Montana we traveled through Glacier National Park. While we saw some manmade marvels, we also saw nature’s wonders. Seeing the Rocky Mountains spread out and reaching up into the clouds can be breathtaking, as can be taking a moment to look out over the rolling hills and grassland of the Dakotas.

When people talk about camping I have those and many other memories and I’m thankful for the sense of wonder and traveling to see what’s over the horizon my parents gave me.