(keep going out) where the wild things are…

“the core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.”
-jon krakauer

this summer has had its share of adventures (some planned, some unexpected)…in fact, i was just telling my wife that this has been one of the most action-packed summers of our life together…from road trips to utah and chicago, to camping at state parks around minnesota…i feel like we could’ve run our own outfitting group for travel adventures-

dett-fitters…

not only that, but my friend (nate) and i were able to take a long-awaited canoe trip down the southern part of the st. croix river…we had been talking about taking the trip off-and-on for the past 4 years…but, we both had experienced the arrival of our own children during that time–four children (two each), all told…so, i guess it wasn’t surprising that the trip wasn’t realized until just this summer?!

honestly, i’ve always loved the outdoors…but, i’ve been inspired, once again, by just how excited my children get when we go camping, especially, when we get the tent out…their sense of wonder is completely and absolutely unmatched…it is awesome…so, i was fired-up and determined to make the canoe trip happen this summer–and it was clear that nate was, too…

and as awesome as it was to have all those earlier adventures with my wife and kids…there was something equally as awesome (albeit different) about taking an overnight canoe trip with my friend…we put in at the osceola landing–after hitting the local pizza buffet and downing a couple of miller lites (it was 11am–so, that’s a good start right there)…we headed down the st. croix…the water was the perfect temperature, so we stopped a couple of times to get out and swim near some sand bars…afterwards, we continued on, stopping about 12 miles down to set up camp…after swimming and relaxing by the campsite the sun started to set…so, we went about our chores–and with a good campfire going, we had a hearty, man-made dinner of steak, potatoes and beans–and jack and cokes, of course (that dinner was tasty…and a bit nicer than what you’d get on your average outdoor trip, but hey, it was one night and we could pack the canoe!)… eventually, the fire faded, so we hung up our food and anything else that was “scented” (to keep the wild things away) and hit the hay…

the next morning, we woke to another sunny day…and a deer…checking out our campsite…just 10 feet away …it was unafraid…and, what an amazing sight?!  before breakfast, i had to make a run to the “bathroom”…so, with my trowel and tp in hand i walked a good distance from our site…i dug my hole and took care of business…there’s nothing better to test your mettle than “poopin’ in the woods” (i had to dig my hole pretty fast, too–it was coming!;) …anyways, after i shook out my leg cramp from my “yogi squat*”, i covered my hole with dirt and left no trace behind…i took care of the tp in our “burn can” (a new trick we learned), washed my hands, and relaxed as nate prepared breakfast–i was on dinner duty…

[*yes, i know what a “yogi squat” is…because i took a few yoga classes with my wife this summer…apparently, i need a few more classes, if i’m still getting leg cramps when crouching;)]

after a filling campfire omelette–eggs, cheese, and sausage in foil…and coffee…we took it easy and lounged a bit before hitting the river again…

all packed up and on the river, we continued south…we enjoyed the paddle and the conversation–it was good to be able to catch up on life…just “us men” and the open river…what a great trip it had been…

nate and i on the river

nate and i on the river

but, like all trips, there is a beginning and an end (or, at least, “until next time”)…and, after another 8 miles or so, we reached our destination–the boom site landing near stillwater, mn…

after loading up the canoe and gear, picking up the second vehicle near osceola, we returned to nate’s house to ‘break-down’ and claim our individual supplies…after a few words, we shook hands and went back to our everyday lives…

a few days later, when i was back at home, i thought…

it is important for men to do such things together, to have adventures together, to wonder…once again…at the world.

(go out) where the wild things are

my wife and i have a lot of love for the outdoors–let me give you an idea about the scope of this love…my wife is the adventurous sort and spent a significant amount of time hiking, camping, canoeing–and even tracking wolves (true story) in the wilderness…she is a tough one…and i spent TEN summers (count ’em) working at outdoor summer camps…both of us camped with our families in our youth…given this, it’s not surprising that we hoped to pass on ‘the love’ to our two little ones when the time was right…well, that ‘right time’ happened this past fourth of july weekend…when we decided to bring our 2-1/2 year-old twins ‘camping’ with us (for the first time)…

i realize that some of you might ask the questions, why, on God’s green earth would you do that?! are you completely nuts?!  we had the same thoughts, believe me, as we prepared for this adventure…anyways, camping is in quotes above because we drove up to my wife’s uncle’s cabin and set up our tent outside…we deemed this…Level 2Level 1 was the time (a few days before the overnight experience) when we set up the tent in the backyard and had the kids play around in it (as we talked about the upcoming trip)…see photos from both levels below…

Level 1- Backyard

Level 1 – in the backyard

Level 2 - Jack and Daddy (near family cabin)

Level 2 – tenting near the family cabin

 

though we had my wife’s family and a few other comforts nearby, it was still a sufficient new challenge for our family…with the new family sized tent and other gear (much more than we were used to when we camped as ‘singles’ or ‘married’s without children’–the stuff that accumulates when you have kids, in general, is out of control–every new parent has asked themselves, how did this happen to me?!…camping is no different)…while it was some work, it was a helluva-lot of fun, too (and it was just one night, we’re not trying to be heroes here;)…all in all, it was really great to see how excited the kids were about playing in the lake, hiking, picking up sticks, reading books, playing games, hanging out by the campfire & cooking up some s’mores, and sleeping outside in the tent (notice i didn’t mention anything about tv, movies, or hand-held digital devices–they were excited about nature, people!!!)…it was like doing it for the first time (again)!

since this first trip was so promising…we planned another overnight at a local campsite (on our own)…what we’re calling Level 3…later this summer…i’ll let you know how it goes and if we continue to go outwhere the wild things are…

proposition: take your kids camping with you…seeing your love for nature will inspire theirs…

i realize that not all parents like camping…that’s o.k….if i relied completely on myself to teach jack and grace everything they needed to know about life–they would be SOL…heh, heh…and the longer i work with the kids the more i realize that it does, in fact, take a village to bring them up well in our world today…the good thing is…like us, most people have a core group of amazing ‘stand-in’ or ‘shadow’ or ‘mirror’ or ‘mimic’ parents in their lives; known entities who they can rely on in all kinds of situations (the folks at boys town in omaha, nebraska call these people ‘assistant family teachers’–and i like that)…and there’s probably a few of these people who like to camp…they might be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and/or family friends (adults who are positive, responsible, and trustworthy)–so, try to connect your children with them…see if they might be willing to bring your children camping with them the next time they go…if that’s not an option, there are 100’s of quality camps to send kids to across the country (many of these camps have scholarships for kids, if financing is an issue)…

footnote: camping can be a “really affordable good time” for your family…sure, like anything, you can spend huge amounts of cash on the provisions–there are countless specialized stores and outfitters who would love for you to do so;)…but, you can also do it “on the cheap”…by either borrowing equipment from friends and family…or, laying down an initial expense for some key/quality items–a tent, sleeping bags/mats and cooking gear, etc–after that, you’re good to go, but for some minor up-grades/additions throughout your life course–it’s an investment worth making, i think…and the sites at state and national parks are very reasonable (compared to the costs of resorts or amusement parks)…

 

 

call of the wild

“direct experience in nature is the most important aspect of the camp experience.”-richard louv (author who coined the term nature-deficit disorder)

one of the greatest rewards of working at summer camps is the amount of time you spend outside…while this is especially true for the summer camp staff, it is also true for the young people in our society, too–the ones we call campers…who spend just a week there…

whether the focus is sports, music, art, horses, academics, service, or faith…summer outdoor camps can be so very important for our young people…young people who are most often plugged-in to some kind of device, like one of the characters from the matrix, for the majority of their days and nights [the matrix – a computer-generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into a battery]…so plugged-in that they sometimes forget or lose touch with what is real…so plugged-in that their world has been reduced to an alternate-reality-bubble of snap-chats, instant messages, texts, emails, posts, tweets, sound-bytes, and video-games…being plugged-in to nature raises the bar on any kind of synthetic or contrived distraction, attraction, or entertaining feature of the digital world…it is a healthy, stimulating, unpredictable, and important alternative to the tech-stuff our youth are so closely attached to today…

“the postmodern notion that reality is only a construct–that we are what we program–suggests limitless human possibilities; but as the young spend less and less of their lives in natural surroundings, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically, and this reduces the richness of human experience…reducing that deficit–healing the broken bond between our young and nature–is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it” (louv, 2008)…

proposition: when you hear the call of the wild…listen to it and herd dem catsoutside–you might like it, too;)

recommended reading: last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder, richard louv, 2008.

tradecraft…the “ten attitude” part II

in the weeks before summer comes, i get that old feeling again…

wouldn’t it be great to work at camp again?!

it’s a thought that bursts into my head every single time, as i drive out to work, during the ‘pre-summer days’…because the road i take to work goes west and west is where camp is…in the sawtooth wilderness of idaho (one of the most beautiful outdoor areas in the united states)…and when i’m ‘aimed in that direction’ i think, i could just drive a little further, a few more miles–out to camp…then, i remember that i have a wife and twins…

🙂

the camp i’m talking about is luther heights bible camp…and i worked there for six summers (to the chagrin of my parents:)…i remember my thoughts going into my first summer there…i’ll just work here for one summer–yeah, right…

in my summers there, i worked as a counselor, travel staff director (for day camps), and finally as an assistant program director…and–in addition to working at skyhawk’s sports academy (summer soccer camps), my time at luther heights was instrumental for me…in developing my skills and abilities herding cats

this was especially true when we had kids attend our on-site programs…where we would be with them for 24 hours a day/six days a week…during these intense on-site weeks, it was impossible not to learn a lot about talking to, relating to, and engaging with kids (from the elementary level to high school kids)…

the days would include a morning/evening worship, games, crafts, bible study, nature activities, singing, skits, campfires, storytelling, hikes, challenge course activities, etc…

during these summers, i had the pleasure of working with such amazing and fun people…living and working in community together…kt, adam, chris & chris, e.j., beth, kari, kate h., hilary, nathan, matt, mary, debbie, nat, megan, holly, aaron, mark, jp, eric, jeff, jordan, brian, steve, heather, jon, maren, chelsea, laura, carol, and–of course–big e [see post titled, big e]

working at luther heights doubled-down on the importance of the ten attitude…i realized pretty quickly that my attitude could make or break the week, it was a counselor’s most important tool–especially, during those weeks when the kids didn’t go home at the end of the day…

because…

why should the kids care about what we’re doing, if we don’t?!

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