Sunday, February 14, 2021

Your Spring Bucket List of (Safe) 2021 Camping Fun

Set up for a longer stay

"Safety" is a feature of any endeavor, but certainly one to consider when camping. After all, camping isn't necessary; it's a lifestyle choice, and one that should be safe. Right now, I'm sitting at dawn in my home beside my woodstove, typing these words while outside the temperatures are below zero and there is a foot of accumulated snow and ice covering the ground. My little Airstream Basecamp trailer sits in the driveway, and the main question isn't when I'm going to hitch up and take off. Rather, the main question on my mind is when will the snowplow come through and clean up the road so that the snow isn't a maze of runnels and moguls of dirty ice, as it is now.
Therefore, I choose to let go of that which I cannot control and to embrace those dreams that spring eternal--namely, in this instance, our dreams of spring camping. I'm celebrating my dreams by creating a bucket list of camping destinations for this upcoming (eventually!) 2021 camping season. We're closing in on a year now of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, so any bucket list of camping expeditions realistically has to consider safety precaution for ourselves, our families, and for other campers. I'm not going to spend much time on how to camp and be safe during the pandemic, even though I plan to follow protocols--especially since right now my state--Iowa--is #50 in terms of vaccine rollout. It's important to follow pandemic safety measures, our governor says, and in order to emphasize how important those safety measures are, she has lifted all restrictions. I kid you not.

Waiting for warmer weather

We've had eleven months of dealing with the pandemic, and the basics of social distancing, hand washing, masking up . . . and now getting a vaccination have all been covered. In fact, I covered the basics last March in the article "Camping in the Time of the Coronavirus," which focuses on the basics of safe and responsible camping. In the last year, most campers have found a way to safely camp. In fact, we've discovered that camping can lend itself to pandemic safety because we are outdoors and in the fresh air. That seems a lot safer to me than going bowling or to a movie. 

The big question I've been thinking about a lot in terms of camping pandemic safety is one I briefly mentioned in my coronavirus article: unexpected difficulties. We can keep our campsite private, have our own RV living space, bring our own supplies--but what do we do if there's a breakdown or accident on the road? What if there's a medical emergency? A couple of years ago I cut my hand while camping and had to go to the hospital emergency center for stitches. How do we prepare for emergencies? I have a few suggestions that are probably ones most travelers have followed for years, even though they are more important during this pandemic.
  1. Have your travel rig checked out. Breaking down while on the road seems to me to be the biggest danger point of camping. Breaking down will probably involve interacting with a tow truck, a repair shop, a motel, and probably getting food somewhere. These are all interactions that can be avoided if your tow vehicle and trailer (or whatever combo you roll with) are mechanically sound. Have those wheel bearings packed. Get an oil change and spring tune-up for your tow vehicle. Are the tires in good shape?
  2. Have emergency kits. My wife and I just finished updating the medical supplies for our camping. We had to purchase some new supplies for expired materials, and we had to replenish some stock, especially bandages for cuts. I've also checked out the tools I carry. Even though I'm not a mechanic, I have some basic tools. Mostly, though, I've had to update my spare tire and jack for our new trailer so I can change a flat. Having some basic tools and materials can allow for taking care of a situation without interacting with others.
  3. Prepare for an automotive breakdown or accident. I'm not talking here about fixing the break-down yourself, but have masks, sterilizing spray and wipes, and cash and credit card so that if there is an emergency on the road, you have materials and a strategy ready to minimize any risks. Have a strategy for renting a motel room, like asking what covid procedures they use to keep everyone safe.
  4. Bring extra food. This is especially true when camping when there might be snow or freezing rain, but having some extra food allows for being able to self-sufficiently take care of unexpected situations. One full-time camper mentions that the extra food allows her choose not to shop in a store if when upon entering she notices that most of the people in the store aren't wearing masks. She can leave, try somewhere else, or just live on staples for a day or two while she travels.
  5. Consider camping locally, or at least staying longer at a campsite between travel times. If you are able to camp locally, then at least you are familiar with the local businesses and possibly also have someone--family or friend--who can help you out, even if it's only giving you a ride home. Staying within our "bubble of safety" as best we can is essential.
Having established safe travel practices (whether during a pandemic or not), then the "bucket list" for camping becomes relevant, and for me, yes, there are some geographic locations I'd like to visit. I've only been to one national park--Lassen National Park--and that was when I was a kid. A few years back, my wife and I visited Lake Michigan, and a tour of the Great Lakes would present some spectacular vistas. My wife was raised on the Pacific Ocean, so some ocean camping would be an undeniably captivating experience. 

American White Pelican,

However, for me, my 2021 bucket list is not so much composed of outer destinations but, to phrase the concept in more poetic terms, my bucket list is composed of inner destinations, inner perspectives or vistas that camping in nature can nurture. Now, what the heck do I mean by that?! As simply put as possible, I want this 2021 camping season to be time spent out in nature in a lifestyle that allows the stress and strain of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic coupled with a long, cold, icy winter to be eased. I want my individual battles to be healed by the soothing sights and sounds of nature. I want to provide myself and my family opportunities to enjoy sunshine on water and dappled shade beneath the trees, to enjoy leaves stirred by a soft, cool breeze from off the lake. I want to hike through forest or along the lakeshore, to identify perhaps a flock of American White Pelicans on the water, majestic in their migration, as I did a couple of years ago. As matter of fact, let me go on record to say that I'm seeking to culture a perspective that makes every bit of woods a forest filled with stately trees, for light to be lambent upon every lake, for every wind to be gentle and caressing, for the spring sun to warm and soothe me deep to the bone, and for the online descriptions of my campground stays to accurately describe sites as peaceful and idyllic. The fresh, clean air of springtime and natural landscapes--that's what I want.

There, I've said it. I'm not looking so much for a spot but rather the serenity that nature can help provide. Nature can reassure us, not so much the everyday occurrences of nature that can include natural disaster, but rather the cosmic tides of nature that ebb and flow inside and outside of us can be increased in our lives with some conscious effort. There are just three points to this year's camping bucket list.
  1. Find campgrounds nestled within nature rather than carved out of nature.
  2. Travel less, stay longer.
  3. Camp on the quiet side.
These three criteria will help me on my primary "expedition"--the journey within, for how can we truly appreciate nature outside of ourselves if we do not know our inner nature? There is an undeniable spiritual aspect to all of this. I am reminded that I once heard a physicist say, "We once thought of the universe to be like one huge machine, clicking away, but now with recent discoveries as to the nature of the universe, it may be more appropriate to think of existence as one huge thought." Life is connected, a unified wholeness. And if I can devotedly camp my way to that reality, well, I say hallelujah. 

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