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Home, Home on the Range

By Justine Dorton

I sat at the kitchen table with my dear friends. We were mulling over summer vacations, playing through the various events that had transpired, musing about next summer’s destinations. (well, as an aside, it should be noted that I was merely smiling at everyone jealously, not having actually left my house all summer long)(well, except for the brief kidnapping to Timberlake’s I happily endured). I mentioned all the camping trips we had canceled this summer, and a chorus of groans ensued.

“Aren’t you so glad you got out of those!”

“There’s nothing worse than bugs and sweat and dirt”

“Sleeping on the ground! Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to that?”

“I’d rather be burned at the stake than have to camp in the wilderness!”

OK, so those aren’t actual quotes as much as they reflect the overall tenor of the conversation. You still with me?

I suddenly felt sheepish. “Ummm, I love camping.” Silence. “Sorry.”

Am I alone? Certainly I’m not. Every summer, as we head out to some new and unknown wilderness, we’re thronged by hundreds of other suburbanites yanking their dome tents out of their mini-vans, scorching marshmallows and singing off key at the campfire. It’s only when we really leave civilization — when we backpack into the mountains for a week — that we ever truly lose touch with human kind. So, since I know I’m not the only one camping at the state park every summer (I’ve seen you there), I know I can’t be the only person that actually likes it.

You will kindly notice that I refer solely to myself. I’m quite certain there are few, if any, little children in the western world who think living in the dirt for a week is a bad idea. So, in that regard, kids aren’t part of this equation. So, you. Adults of this world. What’s the deal? In our church, camping seems almost doctrinal. We dutifully shuffle our children away each year to Scout camp, Girls Camp, the Klondike Derby, the YW Huff-n-Puff. Why the sour taste? Do you camp, but hate it? Do you refuse to camp under any circumstances? Do you love it?

I’m going camping this week (I’m actually already gone). I’ve managed to go on just this one trip this summer. My father-in-law is bringing me a bed — an actual mattress, just so I can safely venture my swollen brain into the wilderness to listen to the water rustle by, feel the wind blowing through camp, smell the s’mores cooking in the fire, and wake up to the sunrise coming over the mountains in the middle of nowhere. I’ll see ya’ there.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

18 thoughts on “Home, Home on the Range”

  1. I also love camping. That's what we did for summer vacation when I was growing up. It is a lot of work now that we have kids, but it is fun. My only problem is that we don't know where to camp here on the East Coast that feels like camping (read, no pine forests I know of) – but we have even done long-distance camping, flying to Oregon and California to camp with our families. It has been fun, but soooo much harder than just packing everyone in the car and setting out. Anyway, I'm glad you got to take a camping trip after all!

  2. Camping is one of those things that should have been included in all those 'what is our future going to be like' discussions before marriage. Because my husband doesn't like camping I get my camping fix by going to girls camp. I'd rather be there with my family instead of finding childcare for a week but now that my oldest is a YW it's great. Other people who hear that I volunteer think I'm crazy. This type of camping that seems too good to be true- other people do the cooking while I get to act like a teenager, sing silly camp songs, pratice archery and float down the river. Plus spiritual renewal, watching young women's testimonies grow and wonderful heart to hearts around the campfire.

    Going camping is next best thing to going to the temple.

    With the exception of clean up when you get back home.

  3. I think people who like camping are more spiritual and flexible and all-around more godly, so, go you guys! I hate camping because I feel like I have to pack up my whole house, unpack it while there, repack it to take home, clean it, and put it all away. Plus it's just so dirty. I just don't enjoy that, but I love hiking and even overnight trips where the paraphernalia can be kept to a minimum.

  4. I really love camping, but it's hard for an extended period of time. I do well with overnighters to 5 days. Anything longer, and I'm ready to be done.

    There's just something about being outdoors with my family without distraction. Media distraction. We talk, laugh, play games, hike, listen, smell, and ponder. The world just slows down a bit, and I notice things I never notice in the city, rushing around from here to there.

  5. Ooh ooh ooh!! Take me, take me! We didn't get the chance to go camping this summer 'cause we sold our truck 🙁 But we rarely miss a day where we don't all express in unison as a family that we're so sad we didn't get to go even once this summer.

    I too love, love, love camping! There's not much else I'd rather do on a vacation. Well, unless you count the options I can't afford like traveling to Europe, traveling to a tropical, exotic island… okay, okay, I'll stop whining.
    But yes, camping. I have the same fondness for the smells of a campfire, the quietness, the relaxation. However, we've still yet to find somewhere more secluded, which is what I want. But now that my husband has been diagnosed with sleep apnea and can't breathe without a C-PAP machine, we're really limited. But if I had my druthers, I would be backpacking out into a (charted) wilderness, pitching a cozy tent, and staying for at LEAST a week. No trips to the store, no driving anywhere, no sound of cars, and preferably no sounds of anyone else but me and the fam. The kids could go bike riding, exploring, I could read, hubby and I could play cards as often as we wanted, it would be almost too divine.

    Ah. Thanks for letting me vent that, I guess I've not had the opportunity to really think about it all summer long, I've been trying to put it out of my mind as much as possible. 🙂

  6. In my mind, there's camping and then there's camping. The former is hard on moms, because you have to load up half the house and chase small children and deal with kids who can't sleep in a tent and all that miserable stuff. The latter is when you hike in the mountains with a frame pack and you're away from it all. If it weren't for the work involved, I'd love both, but give me a good Uintah camping trip any day.

    (I didn't know any other ward but the one I grew up in had a Huff & Puff! I've never run into any woman who went on one; we were anomalies. Or freaks. And we like it.)

  7. I might like it if I ever had the chance to try it. I grew up with a mom who was absolutely phobic about camping, then almost seamlessly transitioned into marriage to a guy who hates being too far away from his cable television. I did like girls camp, loved the year my BYU ward flouted convention and went camping together several times, and really like sleeping with the windows open at my IL's canyon cabin. Next weekend we're going to stay in a cabin at Big Bend National Park, and according to the person who booked the reservation for me, it's probably not all that different from actual camping, except I guess there's a toilet. I also like toilets.

  8. Hate is not a strong enough word to describe camping for me. I would never choose to do it. I know it's an important part of the church, but really? Talk about stinky, yucky. The ironic thing is I was called as Assistant Camp Director. Talk about the Lord trying to teach me that I can do hard things! I can see the good in girls camp. It is an absolutely wonderful experience and I wouldn't want my girls to miss it. I actually enjoy it when I'm there. It's just everything leading up to it, and the cleaning and putting away after that slays me.

    It's interesting…I grew up in a family of 8 kids. The first four spent every weekend when we were little camping as a family, and not a one of us camps now. The last 4 kids are camping fools. My parents never took them camping. They were too tired by then and instead took them on trips to Mexico or Hawaii (yea, I'm a little bitter). Weird how we're now doing the opposite of what we grew up with.

    I love that you love it, I just don't get it.

  9. Well, we just got back. There's stuff dumped all over the house. Everyone is sunburned and grimy. We had a blast, and I'm kinda sad it's over.

    And, Annette, it's entirely possible that I live in the ward you grew up in. I actually think that my friend across the street (Melonie) has a sister named Annette. So there could still only be one ward with a Huff & Puff. But if not, you're not alone. Our ward has done one forever.

  10. What, pray tell, is a Huff & Puff? Does it involve marijuana?

    Justine, I loved to camp as a kid, hated it as a mother of young children, and love it again now that the kids are older. I don't like outhouses though.

  11. I love being in the great outdoors. I don't love the work that goes into camping. There are a few things that have made it more fun for me: having each family assigned to one meal, banning airmattresses that ALWAYS leak and give me a backache, dehydrating myself so I don't have to pee every hour the first night (just once or twice), taking a nap sometime soon after the first night so I can recover from that awful first night and function with more than a dazed look and a grumble, and, hallelujah, staying three nights instead of two, so the fun hours well outnumber the miserable first 24.

  12. I don't like being the mom camping with little ones. Suddenly I have to watch that no one is in the fire, or getting lost, or drowning in the river, or stirring up stinging insects. When I was the kid, I liked camping. My dad was former Army Ranger so camping was checklists and logistics and being prepared for just about anything, and he was. when I was asked to be the YW ward camp director, I took a hint from my dad. Checklists out the wazoo, and I made the girls plan the menu and the shopping for food etc. I made tent assignments too. I had two moms tells me their girls didn't like each other, there would be problems. I said, fine. If there's a problem we'll separate them, but in the mean time, they can be in the same tent. The meals went off like clockwork despite the rain when the bishop showed up, and the two girls ended up burying their differences in the mud that leaked into their tent. The moms were surprised, (so was I to be honest). Best trip ever. Can't wait until my girls are old enough to go.

  13. My husband says, "Sure, I love to sleep under the stars….

    "Four or five stars, that is."

    So, uh, you prolly haven't seen us up there in dem dere mountains.

  14. I like nature. I don't like roughing it. My idea of camping is sitting out on the porch of a nice cabin to watch the scenery, then being able to go in and get a good night's sleep in a soft bed.

    I don't like being dirty and smelly. I don't like being without proper bathroom facilities.

    This summer we "camped" in Aspen, Colorado in a condo. We still got to enjoy the gorgeous mountain scenery. It was perfect. Then we went to Park City, Utah and "camped" again in my sister-in-law's parents' cabin with my extended family. That was equally nice (especially when the women got to leave camp, go shopping at the nearby outlet mall for a few hours, and come back to find dinner warm and waiting for us).

    I did grow up in a camping family, until my dad was too sick with diabetes to go anymore. Even after he'd had both legs amputated he talked of hiking the nearest peak. My dad and brothers live(d) for backpacking, rapelling, and all that stuff.

  15. I enjoy camping! I'm ready to go home again in about 2 or 3 days, but for those few days I love it!

    I never went camping as a child. My parents are NOT campers. We stayed at a cabin in Montana for a few summers and that's as close as we got. Not very close. 🙂

    All my camping has been done with my husband, my children, and my husband's family who are all avid campers. They are very good at camping! They are genuine horsemen and go trail riding in the mountains every year. We always have a wonderful time.

  16. What few people know is that everything tastes better when camping, everything looks crisper, sounds sweeter, and seems calmer when camping. Its okay to just lie under the stars; its okay to go to bed when the sun goes down, and its okay to just stare into the campfire and be entertained by conversation and thought.

    To sacrifice our fluffy down comforter for a night or three to receive personal revelation of some sort up in the mountains seems like a welcomed occasion. At least that's how we see it in our family…


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