Combine one reluctant husband, a teenager with a serious “Facebook” addiction, and a declaration that this weekend “we’re going camping!” and you have the recipe for either a great adventure or a natural disaster!
Fortunately for our family, we had a great time. My, then 26 year old daughter channeled her inner child and began climbing the nearest tree…snapping twigs and admittedly, scaring me senseless. But in the end the nature hikes, moonlight walks, cooking over a campfire, and sleeping in tents outweighed the fear of a midnight raccoon raid or a 3AM bathroom run.
The “Camping Adventures with My Parents” program, better known as CAMP is offered at a select number of National Parks throughout the country. Believe it or not, my family went camping in Brooklyn…New York, that is…traffic jams… apartment buildings (to the tune of “The Beverly Hillbillies”). Gateway National Recreation Area, part of the National Park Service at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York currently offers Overnight Family Camping experiences free of charge for city dwellers and their families. The goal is to make the park accessible to families that typically don’t have many opportunities for outdoor camping experiences.
National Park Service spokesperson, Kathy Kupper explains that NPS’s Family Camping program (CAMP) not only reaches out to urban families, but Kupper maintains, “There’s a whole generation that hasn’t done that ‘traditional, back in the day,-60s and 70s, load the kids in the station wagon’ and go the National Park and go camping.” She adds, “There are a lot of parents now that don’t know (camping) skills, so they’re a little afraid because they don’t want to go (camping) and not be able to cook dinner” She adds tongue in cheek. The beauty of the Family Camping (CAMP) Program is that you get to experience camping with your family members, as well as 2 or 3 additional families. There may be as many as 20-30 campers in your group.
A group of Park Rangers guide you through the entire camping experience. NPS provides camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, cookware, propane stove, woodburning stove and other essential items. Rangers then provide basic camping instruction in campsite setup, tent set-up, building a campfire, outdoor cooking, composting, recycling, safety and so much more. Kupper prefers to call it Camping 101. “The whole point is to take anyone that needs a little hand-holding and say ‘Hey we’re here we’ll show you how to set up the tent or use our gear and we’ll show you how to cook’. The goal is to get people that haven’t been exposed to it (camping) and so they know that there’s someone that can help.”
Photographer: Jeremy Demps, Everglades National Park, Florida
Located at the southern most tip of Florida, the Everglades National Park offers “Camping Adventures with My Parents” at least twice a year. According to Everglades National Park Ranger, Rudy Beotegui, the goal of the program is to make the park less intimidating and more accessible to the local communities that border the sprawling 1.5 million acre parcel of natural land. He explains how a typical family camping trip begins, “When families get here, we take them on one of the more popular trails in the park, so we go hiking right away. After that we take them to their campsite where they build their own tent and they set up their own campsite” From there, the real adventure begins!
The Florida Everglades boasts flood-filled swamp and marshland that is home to several cypress domes. A popular family camping activity is “slough slogging” in Florida’s famed “River of Grass.” Beotegui explains, ““We start off in Saw Grass Prairies where usually it’s ankle high water; it builds up to shin-high water, and then we start walking into cypress domes— the water can be quite deep inside there. It’s not rare to be in waist-high water or even chest-high water; depending on your height. “ he adds, “That’s one of the more enjoyable activities.”
Spokesperson, Kathy Kupper notes that the Family Camping (CAMP) program is not available at every National Park, but she explains, “Every campground has a Campground Host. Usually that’s a volunteer or a volunteer couple, in many cases. They’re there almost 24/7, so if you have a problem setting up your tent or you see a snake in your camper, the campgrounds do have a campground host who is there to answer questions and provide help if needed.” Kupper continues, “If there’s a family’s going camping, there is a friendly face there that does the rounds and helps out or you can go knock on the door of their RV and they’ll be happy to help”
So what are you waiting for? Visit nationalparkservice.org or the National Park Foundation at nationalparks.org to plan your family camping trip this summer!