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Monday, August 19, 2013

Why camping is good for you, or an apology of the great outdoors

Sea kayaking
Note: all the pictures in this post were taken this summer in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.
(As always, click to enlarge.)


Yes, camping is good for you. And when I say camping, I mean CAMPING. The real thing. With a real TENT. Very few amenities. Even better: NONE. As in back country camping.

Because roughing it is the best way to get the most benefits from the outdoors.

Just one detail: If you've never done it, being that close to nature can be scary.


Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the world.
Here, low tide.


The Stuff

It's scary to be in the great outdoors because you will say "adios" to your daily comforts. What's true for traveling is even more true for camping: if you're too carry your belongings, you want them to be minimal in size and weight. That means everything will have to be stripped to the bare minimum.

Scary as it is, living frugally, with your attention away from "stuff", becomes a wonderful thing as soon as you embrace it.


Early morning fog on the cliff


When I go camping, I bring no electronics, nothing that requires electricity, no makeup, no nothing except for what will provide me simple protection against the elements, and simple sustenance. Entertainment? not needed: how about fauna and flora observation, how about a hike, how about a dip in the lake/the river, how about a nice campfire, how about the starry skies? How about gliding on the water with your kayak or canoe? How about simply listening to the falling rain?




Or how about a nice, musical surprise in the way of camping neighbors who play guitar, ukulele, and the accordion?


Our neighbors played this 
while we were putting up the tent


Which version do you like best?



There's only one paradox. Life in the great outdoors may be simple and a great escape from our consumerist world, but it's not necessarily cheap. Not because you need to buy a lot of things, but because the things you buy, you want them to be of good quality. Good quality, when it comes to the outdoors, usually means lightweight AND efficient. Once you've tried technical clothing and equipment, you won't want to go back. Oh! how I love me merino wool! (But please don't let those material matters deter you from enjoying the great outdoors. A lot of things I bring camping cost close to nothing!)


The People

It's scary to be in the great outdoors because it also means you will become very close to the people you are "roughing it with"... and that's not always achieved without a couple of "adjustments". Don't they say if you can put up a tent with someone without it ending in a fight, it's a sign you have a healthy relationship? I could add: if you still are attracted to someone who hasn't shaved/put on makeup in a week, who dons a ball cap right out of bed to hide their perpetual "bad camping hair", and who wears the same ole hiking boots and clothes day in, day out, you two are a definite go!


We still all get along...
Guess it's a good sign!




I like the people I meet when I camp deep in the woods, because I like the kind of people the deep woods attract. No later than yesterday we had the most fascinating conversation with another camping neighbor, who in his "real life" is an urbanist. (If you're interested in urbanism, may I suggest this blog?)


The Dreaded Self

It's scary to be in the great outdoors because being so close to nature, with so little other distractions, also means you will feel very close to yourself (unless you drown your existential dread in booze, that is).


No need for "substances"...
I'm already high on Mother Nature!


Happy camper enjoying some alone time
with oneself in nature...


I love how the great outdoors present you with so many physical challenges: walking long distances uphill on uneven terrain; paddling endlessly; carrying heavy backpacks or water bags; squatting to set up camp, or to cook (or to p...); balancing on one foot to put your socks and shoes on; and, if you're not so young anymore, simply getting up from your sleeping pad in the morning!


Sometimes on hikes you will need to use your hands as well!
R and A being real troopers.


I'm usually not too bad with the physical challenges, but I met a new one this summer: a hammer induced arm inflammation. I guess I had been working a little bit too energetically on the tent pegs: as I was hammering down the last one, my right forearm suddenly doubled in size and became hard as a tree log! Interestingly it did not hurt at all, and everything went back to normal within a couple minutes. (Unfortunately I was so busy worrying about my new difformity, I forgot to take a picture for you readers!)


In conclusion

Yes, immersing yourself in the great outdoors might mean getting out of your comfort zone (literally), but once you've gotten accustomed to it... ah, the benefits you will reap!


Not too bad a place to end up on a sunny morning...


Freed from all the material stuff, you will explore your surroundings and really see them. You will interact with others and really get to know them. You will be in communion with yourself... for better or for worse!




And when you come back home, like I did today after a wonderful sojourn in the woods with my family, you  will fully appreciate the comforts of modern life!


What is your experience of the great outdoors?



33 comments:

  1. Great pics of you and the family having outdoor fun. Some of my own children's best childhood stories involve taking them tent camping. I used to "rough it" with just a sleeping bag on the ground. I haven't roughed it in years. Now roughing it is a 3 star motel with a continental breakfast. Are Grizzly Bears an issue where you go out in the woods?

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    1. No grizzly bears on the East Coast.

      We have black bears and coyotes in our "regular" backyard, so...

      It's so nice that your fondest family memories involve camping!

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  2. Wow!! this is Bay of Fundy you say? I want to go!!!!

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    1. Yep, beautiful isn't it? It was our first time there. Stunning. And the weather was perfect. :-)

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  3. I could do about 14-16 hours and then I would be done.
    Glad y'all had a great family trip!!

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    1. You know what they say: know your limits! ;-) I'm sure you could last some more, but a long day is already full of benefits.

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  4. You picked a beautiful weekend to visit my home Province! :) I live just down the road in Moncton! You definitely enjoyed mother nature. Did you do any particular hikes in Fundy?

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    1. Hi Shannon! We did all our hikes within Fundy National Park. For ex. Moosehorn and Laverty Falls. Also some on the littoral.

      You're lucky to be from that area!

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    2. That's awesome! Laverty is beautiful! My husband and I actually got engaged in from of Dickson Falls (which is in Fundy).

      Did you stop at Alma's Bake Shop and get some sticky buns? MMMMMMmmm....

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    3. What a beautiful place to get engaged! :-)

      No sticky buns, but I did sample a little bit of "lobster ice cream"!?! (tasted like orange)

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  5. Love the pics, looks like a fantastic trip! And I so admire the true "roughin' it" campers. I used to do that as a younger person, but now... our campervan is our fave way to camp. Long hikes and adventures during the day... but at night, a comfy bed, a refrigerator stocked with goodies, and a toilet accessible without getting out a flashlight, unzipping a tent, and wandering around.

    But thanks for the vicarious primitive camping experience!

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    1. I have to say the need to empty one's bladder in the middle of the night in the middle of the woods is one of my pet peeves... but mostly because I don't want to get out of my warm cozy sleeping bag... the nights are cold in Canada, even in the summer!

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  6. I love the pics, and am envious of your surroundings. I grew up in the mountains of Colorado, and camped most weekends -- even in Winter. Those were skills learned that have been formative in other aspects of my life.

    My friends camp these days with tablets, A/C units in the tents, and occasionally with satellite TV. It's not camping, it's hauling the furniture to a new yard. When I go with them, I like to play this song while they are setting up THEIR "tents" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgwVsrE72x4

    ReplyDelete
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    1. There are benefits to being surrounded by nature no matter how you do it, but I think they are inversely proportional to the amount of stuff you bring... :-) The less the better!

      Really like this: "It's not camping, it's hauling the furniture to a new yard." :-)

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  7. I LOVE camping and backpacking! My husband and I used to take our vacations to different national parks and spend 10 days hiking, camping, and backpacking. I can't wait until our girls are old enough to go on their first overnight trips!

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    1. I know people who go canoe-camping with toddlers!!! I'm not THAT hardcore, but apparently it's doable! And my parents took me tenting when I was under a year. I don't think it scarred me for life, LOL.

      National parks are wonderful. :-)

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  8. I've rough camped in Denmark and Sweden in a one person tent! That was very special! I loved the freedom it gave me!

    Your description of your forearm swelling is quite puzzling!

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    1. Freedom is the word, Dr. J! :-)

      I've had the same thing happen in a calf after swimming too much butterfly, but it was painful as hell, and remained tender for a few days after the cramp disappeared. In this case it's the absence of pain that I find most puzzling.

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  9. I've often heard entrepreneurs say that if you go camping for a week without electronics or anything else, you will feel like you took a six month vacation.

    I can definitely believe it. Our bodies were hard-wired for that lifestyle. Nowadays we sit, watch tv, and browse the internet. We're not living the lifestyle our bodies were originally designed for.

    Being away from computers and out into nature is definitely on my to-do list.

    Great stuff!

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    1. Very true: taking a break of all electrics and electronics is the best way to recharge your batteries! (pun intended)

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  10. Profites-en bien ma chérie!!! J'ai campé toute ma vie (basic stuff, "pop tent" jaune orange à mes débuts)et ces moments font partie de mes plus beaux souvenirs... Avec les années et ma vieille ossature, il m'est devenu impossible de récidiver. (Ouais, y a les Westfalia et cie, mais, bon, c'est pas pareil!)

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    1. Le camping, on a ça dans le sang faut croire! :-)

      Le Westfalia, c'est mon rêve pour quand mes os seront trop vieux...

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    2. Ah! coquine... tu m'as reconnue! (W s'est esclaffé : "Bella", franchement, Twilight et cie!!!" Je dois être out :je n'avais pas fait le lien...) Toujours est-il que je recommande vivement le "Safari condo" plutôt que le Westfalia. J'ai tâté, et oui, c'est vraiment cool!

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    3. Comment aurais-je pu ne pas te reconnaître? :-) Gros becs. xox

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  11. It's bad but I really do NOT like camping!!! I am from WY, which you would assume would make me an outdoor wilderness girl, but nope. I actively choose to work out INSIDE when everyone else is hiking outside. And my form of "camping" is staying a Best Western. Wow, sounds so DIVA of me! LOL!!!!! My sister on the other hand, LOVEESSSSS camping! I swear, if she had it her way, she would live in a tent (with internet access, lol)

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    1. I would SO live in a tent with Internet access! :-)

      You gotta know what you like and don't like! Life is too short to do things you don't like (except pay your income tax I guess)

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  12. Hi Julie! That was such a lovely post with all of its photos of your beautiful family and wonderful doggy. We used to go canoe camping in Canada on the Rainy River when we lived on the Minnesota border--you know before passports were required. :D

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    1. And WE used to go camping in the States all the time! :-)

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  13. Your photos are so gorgeous!! The last time I went camping I was in 4th grade. It's not really my thing. BUT, I am totally ok sleeping on a boat for a week! I feel like that's kind of similar but not quite as much "roughing it"!

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    1. Sleeping on a boat, another great thing to do for sure! :-) You might end up roughing it if the seas are not calm. ;-)

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  14. I haven't gone camping for a long time, but with inflatable beds I'd like to get back to it. I have backpacked and camped in some of the most gorgeous wilderness in the world! A few days without electronics and t.v. news reports restores my spirit. It is good to feel so tiny in the vast landscape.

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    1. Absolutely feels wonderful to be one with nature, without all those gadgets.

      Self-inflatable mattresses are comfortable AND compact! Try them! :-)

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