Saturday, November 14, 2009

Generation Y Meets the Outdoors

I went camping for two nights last weekend at Fort De Soto Park with an extended group of friends. The campgrounds are surrounded by water but are protected from the Gulf by another peninsula, which boasts the pristine Fort De Soto Beach -- a true gem with powdery sand and partially shaded by huge Australian pines.

Fort De Soto North Beach

It's almost unfair to call this "camping." The weather couldn't have been more ideal. Gas stations and condos were five minutes down the road. The grounds are impeccably maintained. Many sites are occupied by posh RVs with more amenities than my apartment, and the restrooms are cleaner than my own, at times.

Then, we barrel in with air mattresses, a coffee maker, a fancy propane grill, and speakers wired to a vast library of digital music (or Pandora radio, if we preferred). Not to mention Blackberrys, chargers, etc. I didn't even set foot in the camp office -- an iPhone could access their FAQ page within seconds, so why bother?

Note the queen-size air mattress inside. This was after Friday night. On Saturday night, an even bigger air mattress was squeezed into this tent!

There's something special about being outdoors with other people, isolated from modern conveniences. The simple act of removing yourself from the grind of the corporate world, school, or whatever your lot, creates memories. The entertainment, as we know it, is muted. The ping of an email, whir of traffic, and beep of a timer -- it all stops. Instead, waves lap. Treetops rustle. Fire crackles. We are forced to entertain ourselves.

I'm beginning to think I was born in the wrong century.

I worry, sometimes, that my generation -- and all generations to come -- has forgotten the importance of silence. Our time at Fort De Soto was refreshing, and we had a healthy turnout. I would totally do it again. But looking back on it, the weekend was tainted. Is it still possible, today, to spent a few days outdoors without a cell phone, iPod or air mattress? Without coffee, beer or bottled water? To cook food without propane, charcoal, lighters or matches?

I'll take the credit/blame for the coffee maker.

Maybe I'm getting carried away. After all, I cheated last weekend, too. I'm not much of a hunter, gatherer or fisherman. I'm the only Boy/Girl Scout dropout in my family. But if John the Baptist can subsist on locusts and wild honey, I think we can do a little better.

I'm concerned because many of my fondest memories in life are rooted in camping trips, or some variation of them: Fourth of Julys at Fireside Inn. The August 1998 family voyage to Montana and back in a 15-passenger van, and the countless KOAs where we bickered at night. Quiet bonfires at the cabin in Michigan. My college roommate, Shadow, and I trekking down the Pacific Coast Highway, camping next to a Washington riverbed and Crater Lake in Oregon, beneath California redwoods, and in Death Valley.

Will my kids and grandkids be able to appreciate God's creation in moments like these, or will they be too distracted by their video games, iPods, texting, and whatever else is hip in 2053?

Such advanced culinary skill!

The view of the bayou that our campsite bordered.

**All photos stolen from Heather Bale via Facebook**


Barb said...

Fear not! Your kids WILL appreciate God's creation without all the modern trappings simply because of your keen awareness of the beauty and wonder of our world. Stay in tune with it, and so will your children!

Good post!

Dan said...

Thanks for the thoughts.
The reason you are aware of the need for outdoors and silence is because Mom and Dad exposed us early on. You will pass that along, too!

Your post reminded me of a new series on PBS that Jenny and I just finished..."National Parks: America's Best Idea" by Ken Burns. I recommend checking that out sometime.

Dave Haller said...

Good call, Dan. I've caught a couple of Ken Burns' series on National Parks...been very sporadic because I kept forgetting when they were on...but really enjoyed the parts I did see.

Joe said...

Wait, without beer? Let's not get carried away here...