Roughing it (anytime)

July 15, 2008

I read this week that fewer Americans are playing in the great outdoors — 18 to 25 percent fewer than in the 1980s, depending on the activity (those studied included hunting, fishing, camping and trips to national and state parks).  The only category that was up, according to the study published last winter in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was day hikes, and increase was very slight (from once every 12.5 years to once every 10 years).  The authors’ contention was not that we’ve grown lazy in the past 20 years, but that we’re losing touch with nature.  And it’s not only Americans; they also studied trends in Japan and Spain and found much the same result. That, they say, could have implications for conservation and environmental policy in the future. For details, read this link to Scientific American.

So in light of this, I’d like to share a few snapshots from our trip to the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois two weeks ago.  We camped three of the nights and “decompressed” with nights in motels bookending the trip.  It was a great experience all around, and although it wasn’t technically free — we stayed at the Lake Glendale campground, where rates start at $12 for a single campsite without electricity — we saved money over a hotel and eating in restaurants.  Heck, even if your idea of cooking over a campfire is heating water to add to the packaged meals at REI (and I can vouch that some of them are pretty tasty and worth the $6-a-bag price for the  sake of convenience).

A big perk to staying at Lake Glendale is that there are two nice swimming areas close by:  the lake’s own beach and a nearby state park with a swimming pool.  We spent quite a bit of time at each, which had the benefit of wearing the kids out to the point where they crashed in the tent at night instead of spending an hour treating it like a bouncy house (which is what I had expected they’d do).  The only two pieces of equipment I consider essential for camping are a good-quality tent and and air mattress.  Especially in summer, it’s totally unnecessary to have sleeping bags.  I’d read online that the national forest won’t allow campers to bring in their own firewood, so we arrived without any only to find that the campground was out and there was only one other place nearby to stock up.  But other facilities (toilets and showers) were widely available and in good condition.

Many other moms have since told met there’s no way they’d ever go camping with little kids, but I found that in some ways it was easier to have young kids who didn’t stress out about “washing” with baby wipes before bed or hauling water 50 feet from the nearest hydrant.  To them, it was all a big game.  It reminds me of another study I read recently, that if kids aren’t exposed to the great outdoors before age 11, they’re much less likely to adapt and embrace the experience.

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One Response to “Roughing it (anytime)”


  1. Always good to read about swimming, my ex was an olympic swimmer..

    Can I ask though – how did you get this picked up and into google news?

    Very impressive, is it something that is just up to Google or you actively created?

    Obviously this is a popular blog with great data so well done on your seo success..

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