Camping with the Progeny

Over the past year the progeny and I have started camping together. When I first took them, I hoped they would have fun. I could not have predicted how much fun we all would have. Now, once each month we pick some state park and head off for two or three nights. After a couple weeks without a camping trip, both #1 and #2 start asking when we’re going again and where? They pull our Best Tent Camping in Pennsylvania off the shelf and start flagging places they would like to visit.[1]

We take a journal—the Field Notes “Expedition” journal because it’s weather proof and strong—and set of waterproof pens with us each time and each evening take turns writing in it or drawing pictures of things that interested us. I recently looked back at our first journal and marveled at what they noticed and chose to record (our drawings are a bit more rudimentary, but we all mean well).

Looking out over Lake Jean one lazy Thursday afternoon.

Looking out over Lake Jean one lazy Thursday afternoon.

In our hyper-connected society where people check their smart phones 150 times a day (or about 10 times per waking hour) in any context,[2] in our screen-saturated society where it is difficult to escape the barrage of moving images,[3] a few days without cell reception and without electricity is indescribably pleasant. I cherish the undistracted time with #1 and #2, sitting by the fire, hiking or exploring, skipping stones across a pond, turning over rocks hoping to find little creatures, looking at stars, lying in our tent telling ghost stories. The days are filled with conversation and laughter and questions. Just the three of us. I learn a lot about what interests them and how they explore the world. I realize just how wonderful they are—as children and as people.

  1. As we make our way around the state parks we are slowly updating the Best Camping in Pennsylvania book. Stay tuned for a link to a new, “Camping PA” page.  ↩

  2. The Meeker report is the source of this commonly repeated number. The report includes all sorts of other interesting information, e.g., the percentage of internet traffic that is moving to smart phones and other mobile devices, the amount of information we “share” and the number of social networks we use to share that information. Regardless of your thoughts about social networks and (over)sharing, time and attention are zero-sum games. You cannot simultaneously be present in your experience and be sharing that experience. Every moment spent online is a moment not spent offline.  ↩

  3. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey found that people spend another 2.8 hours of leisure time a day watching TV (this doesn’t include computers or tablets). Recent research has raised real questions about the effects of so much time in front of screens (see also the NPR report, “Kids and Screen Time”).  ↩