The Great Memorial Day Campout of 2024 is in the books, and again I realized the value of getting outside.

Sometimes We Just Need To Do It

It seemed like I had a monumental task in front of me, and it was all in the way I was looking at things.  

In preparing for the upcoming weekend, I dug out just a portion of the ridiculous amount of outdoor gear that I own.  I proceeded to sort it into several piles. There was a pile I wouldn’t need, a pile I might need, things I needed, another of things I forgot I owned and would probably never use, and I’ll admit there was a moment or two where I came across something and thought, “hey so that’s where I put this!”

This was all in anticipation of the great Memorial Day campout.
This marks the third year my grandson, his dad, and I would take to the wilds of some Metropark in Ohio for an immersion in nature. 

The first year was a combination, of hike, raft and tent camp on the Ohio designated Wild and Scenic Grand River. The highlights of that trip included exploring some wonderful waterfalls, seining (netting) some macro-invertebrates, and seeing a really big black snake 40 feet or so, high up in a sycamore tree. 

The following year was a raft, biking, primitive cabin camping outing on an island in the great Maumee River. The Maumee is also an Ohio Scenic River, but not a “Wild River”, with an incredible Native and early American pioneer history. The highlights of this trip included an extremely challenging raft trip down a big river in low flow while fighting an un-relenting headwind, sheer amazement at the huge alga mats in the river caused by nutrient runoff, seeing several eagles, and, both a cut and burned finger.   

This year's outing itinerary would include a simple hike into the designated site, establishing camp, a little fishing, some day hiking, and kayaking on a nearby wetland.  

Once again we would be taking advantage of the incredible metroparks that are located across Ohio. A lot of folks don’t understand that Metroparks are not simply one park system. For example, Cleveland Metroparks, Lake Metroparks, and Geauga Park District are three completely different entities, that were created by the same happen same legislation that was passed in 1917. That last time I checked, across Ohio, there were 55 park districts. Some are huge operations Like Cleveland and Toledo, some are more humble like Ashtabula Park District. Not all have camping facilities, but with a little research, it is possible to find some excellent accommodations within the park systems that do. We have always opted for primitive sites that have required carrying our supplies into the camp area. In the past, we have found excellent camping accommodations and this year was no exception. 

The campsite was located on a ridge between a wetland and the top of the steep valley wall above the Grand River. It was nestled in amongst some very large hemlock, beech, and oak trees and was a great location.

The older I get the easier it is for me to think of everything as a bit of a hassle, and in truth, everything is. Every activity requires a little work, and camping out is no exception. An unfortunate result of this creep-in-attitude, is the loss of anticipation and excitement that should be building, and certainly adds to the joy of the event. 
On Friday morning after sorting everything into various piles, I packed it all up into the appropriate containers and then loaded the truck and set about the process of making sure my share of the meals was lined up. After my campmates arrived at the house, we consolidated all of the essential, as well as nonessential gear, clothing, food, and assorted recreational equipment, and finished packing the truck. 

I sort of felt like Shackelton was about to depart for the Antarctic, in other words, my truck was full of stuff. 

The first evening was a flurry of activity just getting set up, but the campsite was lovely, the weather perfect and everything was coming together nicely. Dinner was fire-roasted chicken sausages, mac and cheese, Trailtopia triple berry crisp, and some Wyler's lemonade. 

And so the adventure continued. We had enough rain one morning to encourage an appreciation of our rain tarp and several spirited games of Uno, enough time to explore a nearby wetland on our kayaks, and the opportunity to take in some wildlife observation: a beaver, deer, eagles, and several turtles, and more importantly, time to disengage from the day to day routine we all have.      

For some of us, it is so easy to feel that everything out of the ordinary is more hassle than the return is worth. And as I have gotten older, I have moved solidly into that “camp” (pun intended). 

But sometimes we just have to do things that push us into the current and out for a little ride. This outing was cut short by a day due to an onset of allergy symptoms but was still impactful enough to encourage me to start thinking and hopefully planning my next overnight outdoor outing.

I noticed on Saturday evening, I was moving with a more familiar gate on the uneven terrain of the forest floor, and feeling considerably better about everything than I have for a while. Although brief, it was a nice shot in the arm. I posted a few pictures on social media and had someone ask, “Where is the guitar?” to which I replied, “Church and state”, implying I was out for relaxation, not work. 

Sometimes you just go to do it and trust the reward will follow. 
See you on the trail!

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