This Saturday, June 26, is the annual Great American Backyard Campout, organized by the National Wildlife Federation. Camping out in your backyard is a great activity, whether you have kids or not (although, I suppose it depends on your neighborhood). It can be an awesomely powerful way to reconnect with the planet and get over some fears of nature and darkness.
I am not one of those campers who likes to tell (or hear) scary stories around a campfire. I am the kind that prefers to lie on a soft, squishy sleeping bag and look up at the stars and marvel at the hugeness of the universe.
My favorite campout was when I was younger, and I slept in the open on top of a mesa in Utah. There was not enough dirt to pitch a tent, but it didn't matter because the sandstone was soft and the night air perfect. It was during the Pleiades meteor shower, so I just watched shooting star after shooting star and absorbed the Milky Way into my soul. I can still go there in my mind when I want to.
My husband does the backyard thing with the girls during the same meteor shower. He often invites his friends with daughters, and they call it the "Daddy-Daughter Campout." Unfortunately, I am not invited because I make the whole thing a bit too gourmet for their tastes. (Best campout meal ever was pan-fried steak over a wood fire, topped with sliced truffles then salt and pepper. Heaven. It was at Mic Mac Cove in Maine, and was followed by a wood-fired sauna and a nighttime dip in a cool pond.) Check out my post from last year on less gourmet campfire recipes.
I would much rather stay in a tent than in a bad hotel. And I love the taste of food cooked over a wood fire. I'll tell you on Friday about how I cook trout over a fire. But in the meantime, you might want to start planning your campout.
The thing you realize when you've camped out a few times is that it's usually not nature that you need to be afraid of, it's other people. However, nature is nothing to be sanguine about--as evidenced by the flash flood in Arkansas that killed 20 people at a campground a few weeks ago. Go to the Great American Backyard Campout website for safety tips and ideas on how to make it an experience your whole family will enjoy and remember (fondly!).
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.