camping with dad
story: christine la

Everything I have learned about the outdoors has come from friends over the past few years. My family was far from outdoorsy while I was growing up. We never camped, hiked or did much outside together. Occasionally we would find ourselves at the beach or skiing it felt out of the ordinary. Being in Northern California we are lucky to have easy access to various natural landscapes so as an adult I've come to take full advantage.

The pandemic lockdown has enabled family quality time. I decided to take mine camping and booked a spot at Fallen Leaf Lake Campground in South Lake Tahoe. It allows dogs and is close enough to civilization for safety. At departure time, only Dad and our dog Lulu could come. The last time Dad had gone camping was as a boy scout in Vietnam. I am usually the one learning from him so our role reversal was an interesting dynamic.

Cellular reception at Fallen Leaf was spotty and, even prepared with downloaded offline maps, our phones weren't reliable for navigation. We found our spot thanks to the camp's map handout. While Dad is a handy person, I had to guide him through setting up our tent, sleeping pads and pillows. Ever safety-conscious, he chose a spot clear of falling branches. He tested the Freestyle Sleeping Mat and found the setup to be straightforward and later got a good night's sleep. While putting our food away, Dad marveled at the locking mechanism on the bear-proof bin. I diligently explained that anything with a scent had to go inside. He also appreciated the Water Carrier Cube I brought along which made water bottle refills easier and more sustainable than purchasing plastic bottles from the store.

After setting camp we visited the lake. At the peak of lightning-started fires in California, the sky was hazy but still beautiful. We were disheartened by the sight of things left behind by previous visitors. We spotted socks left by the lake and Dad wisecracked, "The breathtaking lake view knocks your socks off." As we made our way around the wilderness, we made sure to double check our surroundings before proceeding.

When I was new to camping, I figured handheld flashlights were the way to go for evening light and on this trip, Dad seemed to think the same. However, they quickly become inconvenient to hold while trying to do other things. Headlamps are definitely the way to go. At bedtime, I showed Dad a tent pocket to keep car keys for ready access.

In the morning we headed to another side of the lake and were pleasantly greeted with clearer skies and cool water. Hiking in the woods with the smoky air and dry trees, we thought of the thousands deprived of their shelters by the recent climate disasters. Acquiring camping equipment and skills to engage in outdoor recreation also prepares us for life in unsettled times. On the way home, Dad told me to let our family know that he had enjoyed himself very much.