Confessions of a Non-Camper

by DanWolgemuth on September 8, 2023

It was two years ago that our family gathered outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado for a camping weekend. Yes, that means all 19 of us… with one notable adjustment. In this case Mary and I opted to “camp” at a nice hotel in Steamboat Springs. Certainly we joined the other 17 family members for a few meals and other camping activities, but when it came to sleeping arrangements, we opted for a king sized bed and a controllable thermostat. I confess that I might have wondered, perhaps out loud with Mary, that maybe our real outdoor camping days were behind us.

In full transparency, I’ve never been a camper. There were no tents in our house growing up. No campfire meals or memories. Consequently, I’m not very good at it. Seriously. We all know folks that are natural campers. Tents. Fires. Food. Outdoor activities.

But not me… and confessionally, I wonder if my lack of competence informs my willingness and my transitional energy into a hotel.

Fast forward to Labor Day Weekend. The plans had been set in motion nearly a year ago. State Forest State Park outside of Walden, Colorado. Family camping. No hotels nearby. And yes, the moose capital of Colorado.

19 campers. Family.

Tents. Sleeping bags. Camp stoves and instant coffee. Hot dogs and s’mores.

No cell coverage. No wifi.

Just eight adults.  11 kiddos ranging in age from 4 to 15.

Two nights. Three rain storms. Chilly nighttime temps in the upper 30s……

And then. And only then. When personal excuses, and immobilizing apprehension subside… something special. No, something remarkable.

Against the fear-filled mental messages that tug toward adventure-less experiences. Something remarkable.

Kids being kids. Adults unplugged. Conversations. Uncontained laughter. Fireside games.  And yes, kids being kids included a trip to the outhouse with Mack, our four-year-old grandson, who informed me enthusiastically, “Pops, you don’t even have to flush this toilet.”  Indeed.  The optimism of a four-year-old.

So much that could go wrong. But so much that could go right.

Handcuffed by either inconvenience or fear. I could have passed. I would have passed, except I married an adventurer. And in spite of me, my family has grown into explorers. Into kayakers and fishermen. Into barefoot wanderers and Spike-Ball players. Into fire pokers and axe-wielding 8, 9 and 10-year-olds. Into whittlers with sharp blades, and beaver trackers.

I am in their classroom. Remedial learning for the patriarch.

A reluctant “Yes” opened the Milky Way. Literally. Unencumbered stars showed off. The moon splashed on the party.

I confess. I repent.

And as such, I wonder what else I have said no to that would have provided immeasurable return on investment.

Anyone else?

Is a safe “no” in the way of a muddy, wet, risky, “yes”?

No excuses.

The work continues…


And yes, I’m still vacuuming dirt out of my car… and never has it been more welcome.

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