The Allure Of Camping

It’s that time of year. Summer. People take vacations from their day-to-day jobs. Many of them will take their family camping. I wonder, what is the allure? (I believe I know…)

I’ve ‘camped’ many, many times. My first memories of camping were during my youth. Then as life went on, I would again go camping from time to time. There was always the allure of camping…

What is that deep rooted human allure of camping?

I’m not sure why, but some memories of camping entered my head this morning. Maybe because it’s the first day of summer. So I thought it would be a good topic today…

I’ll share an example of one place that I enjoyed camping / vacationing during a period of my life when I was quite busy and buried in my career at the time. And then I’ll give my opinion of the allure of such places / camping.

I recall a place we used to go during a previous chapter of our lives – a campground on Trinity Lake, nestled in the Trinity Alp Wilderness area of northern California (back when we lived and worked in the Bay Area). It was a long drive up there. But why did we enjoy it so much?

Granite Peak

I would bring my boat up there (and Mrs.J and our two dogs at the time). Most people that went up there would stay at campgrounds near Whiskeytown Lake, just west of Redding. That lake although beautiful, was pretty busy. But I would keep pushing much further into the mountains all the way to the Trinity region just past Weaverville. Why? I suppose one reason was because there were lots less people up there. More private that way. Quiet. A different sort of allure.

We would set up camp (it was always fun setting up camp). Then we would develop a routine for the week or two, spending part of the day on the Lake – exploring. Finding countless coves with not another soul around. Letting the dogs run and play (oh man did they love that!). Fishing. ‘Chillin’… Tinkering with the boat. Picking a lunch spot. Watching the many eagles soar. Then later returning to camp. Preparing dinner. Enjoying the evening camp fire. Encountering the occasional bear… Oh what fun!

One year early on, I bought an old ski boat at a yard sale. Couldn’t resist the favorable price… Lotsa memories with that boat during those years.

I was into off-road 4-wheeling at the time. Had a dependable Jeep Grand Cherokee (good old ‘straight 6’ engine). In addition to spending time on the lake, we also found plenty of old logging roads to explore up in the mountains. One interesting memory… one time, while way out there somewhere off-road, we accidently came across a ‘facility’ all barbed wire, helo pad, buildings… whoa! A white pickup truck chased us out of there right quick – never discovered what that was…

Alright – what’s the allure? I believe the allure of camping is something ‘built in’ to our subconscious. A reader here on the blog once commented, “For most folks, whether they are aware of it or not, it is a subconscious desire to return to a simpler life. A life of self sufficiency, a life less complicated, a life devoid of many of modern day pressures. Escape, if you will. You might even call it bugging out.”

For me, it was definitely the escape from a hectic busy work life. I felt so incredibly at peace when I was up there (after a few days to unwind). It was the simplicity. Nature. The naturalness of it all (except for my boat I suppose – but it was a ‘tool’ to get around). Something about cooking over a fire or even a camp stove – outdoors. It all just felt great.

We always enjoyed places that were sort of off the beaten path. We never were the type of people who crammed a vacation with all sorts of man-made ‘doing this or that’. I was at greatest peace when I was integrated with nature in some way during our vacations.

Anyway, now I live on the other side of the country, up in the mountain region of northern New Hampshire. Still surrounded by nature. Quiet, peaceful. It’s just me I guess…

What’s your opinion about the allure of camping?

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16 Comments

  1. After working as a ranger and living off grid for 3.5 years, camping has lost a bit of its allure for me. It was a heck of an education though. The lessons I learned from those years carry forward and led to many life changing decisions: Switch majors from forestry to economics, I discovered what my skills were as a medic in primitive conditions.
    The allure of camping is getting away from complex decisions in life and possibly learning a new skill that can give one a sense of independence and “living off the fat of the land”. I also saw that this was an illusion in terms of a forever lifestyle in that the resource will get tapped out of food and protein in short order. Living in the hinterlands means that you become migratory following the game and the fish in order to survive and not starve. Camping made me appreciate the relative richness of the bottom-land farms that I grew up working on.
    I hope folks out there will be able to witness some of the things I was able to see when I was working in a National Forest and a National Park. A bobcat making a kill, a cougar giving birth to a kitten, The noise a bear-cub makes when it calls out for its mom. Some of the best fish I’ve eaten was the trout that was so fresh it contracted in the pan when I dropped it in hot oil. The best liver I’ve eaten was from a deer that was taken less than 6 hrs before I fried it up in a skillet. (fortunately, I was close to home where I had bacon and onions). Lets not forget about the sunsets at alpine zones or sunrise in the high desert.

  2. i have always loved primitive camping ever since i was a kid in scouting. DW and i would go most weekends when we were younger, just walk off into the woods and set up camp, it was great, just me and her and sometimes some friends. campfire cooking and burnt marshmello’s. we have a spot on the river behind us now that we go to every so often to camp, fish and swim.
    is it just me, but has the ground gotten a lot harder in the last 20 yrs? must be global warming. : )

  3. I camped a fair amount when I was younger. I would have the wife drop me off up in the mountains. Southern Cal at the time then pick me up a couple of days later at another spot that I hiked to. Now days I live in the sierra Nevada mountains so I am not more than an hour at most to some of the most beautiful camping spots in the country. Since most of them look like my backyard I don’t really have an urge to go sleep on the ground and wander around without a shower for days lol. Might be like scout said. The ground keep getting harder.

    1. Poorman,
      Kings Canyon was great. i’m young enough to remember when Yosemite was not so crowded with people. the Soda Springs area west of Reno was always nice in the summer. oh well, it’s like they say, ya can’t go back home.

      1. Sure ya can scout. I go out hunting fishing and hiking then go home lol.

        One bad thing about camping. Wake up in the morning and think where’s the shower and why didn’t the coffee pot come on. Lol

  4. A few years back I was in Idaho for a couple of weeks work. There was a 4 day break between that everyone else flew home for. I knew about it so packed a second suitcase with all my Hiking/ Camping gear and took off into the Sawtooth mountains. Spent some time at a glacial lake at around 8000 ft elevation. Being that deep in the mountains, it was the first time I ever checked a firearm all the way thru. Surprised at how easy it was. Something to be said about sitting on a mountaintop with no electronics, or phones, and a good book, a cigar and some bourbon.

  5. Up until 2015, I spent every spare minute in the high country above 8000, with a VERY good mt horse and a pack mule. For most off my adult I roamed Mt, Idaho, E Wash, E Ore, W WY.

    I started hunting with a camera because I got tired of being called a lair for what I had seen. Pictures don’t lie. I prospected gold in 4 states, got quite a pile still, all raw. I’ve collected sheds that were HUGE. I’ve went in with very little, learned to live off the fat of nature. I’ve got some of the coolest rocks people have ever seen. My hiking stick is an old gnarled alpine branch, all cleaned up with a bunch of notches that only me and my daughter know what they mean.

    I’ve even spent a good amount of time in the Blue Mts looking for Bigfoot, I’m serious, Had some scary encounters, that to this day I can’t explain.

    Snowball fights on the 4th of July. Some pictures of the sunrise and set, Full moon rising. Ever see a crescent moon sitting on top of the Grand Tetons? I have the picture.!

    I’m very thankful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me the time, places and skill to achieve these adventures, I’m all busted up now, but these memories are as fresh as the day they happened. I Got’er done.!

  6. I think the allure of camping is more primal. Last time I camped, it was a hunting trip some 20 years ago. As we sat around the campfire that night telling of the day’s hunt, I watched our shadows dance in the trees. I sure many others reinacted their hunts for untold millenia in that same spot. Camping is about reconnecting with nature, and renouncing the man-made world, even if just for a few days.

  7. Mrs. P spent her youth on weekend camping trips to the Florida Keys. She and her Dad would scuba dive and often hunt Florida Lobsters. Once they bagged 90+ in a weekend and had a huge block party with their neighbors when they returned home to Ft. Lauderdale.

    I was an “Everglades guy” for fishing, but the Glades is just much too dangerous to camp out in. Gators/Snakes/Drug Dealers/Poachers.

  8. In today’s environment, anyone who goes hiking or camping off the beaten path without a firearm (Discreetly secured.) is just being foolish.
    The old saying, ” It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. ”
    You don’t want to spend the rest of your life (No matter how long or short) saying ” If I only had a gun “.
    I’ve been there !

    1. Packing a gun has always been a mandatory for me when hiking. Where I am you never know when you will run into a bear mountain lion or some other creature that just doesn’t want you in their area.

  9. I recall one night many years ago, Mrs.J and I camping up at Lassen Volcanic National Park. That night there was no moon. It was so incredibly dark, I mean pitch black, you could not see the hand in front of your face – quite literally. Although looking up at the heavens was absolutely breathtaking incredible (once your eyes adjusted). I will never forget that stunning night.

    1. Ken
      That is one of my most brilliant memories from camping at a cabin we had on the big island as a kid, the stars, incredible, we were at 9500’ +/- on the north side of MaunaKea, no other visible light other than the stars, when it was full moon it looked like we were on the moon up there in the cinder cones.

  10. Did a lot of tent camping when younger, now that I’m nearing retirement we bought a 21 ft camping trailer with a couple of solar panels so we can camp unfettered. We hike during the day, or just hang out (and/or take naps). Nothing like being surrounded by woods with the only sounds being wildlife.

  11. I have always liked to camp and when I couldn’t I would yearn for the days until I could again. My husband is a camper and we have camped from AZ to Alaska. It is always exciting camping your way to Alaska and in Alaska. Never know what might be in those woods. As we got older we gradually moved to a cabover, then a trailer and at 70 and 80 yrs old went back to a tent. We had more laughs trying to get out of a blow up mattress and stand up. One night north of Flagstaff, AZ we were so cold we stole the dogs blanket at which point he came over to my side and I let him in. He was nice and warm! We finally went whole hog and got a 26″ used motorhome and a ’97 suzuki we named Zip. We almost always boon dock and have had a wonderful time. With covid we couldn’t go out and now we can’t afford the gas. But we still go down to the “Hulk” and play Mexican Train before returning to the house with all it’s comforts. Someday soon I hope we will be “On the road again.”

  12. Have a one bedroom condo on wheels set up for boondocking.

    When going to a campground I liken it to going to a trailer park where the trailers still have tires. Great for people watching.

    I do not find camping relaxing. When in a campground there are always undesirables and those that have no respect for others. When boondocking you always have to be prepared to be pestered by locals, out of towners, and LEOs. However, it’s great for an adventure.

    People come to my place to camp.

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