June is Great Outdoors Month. The month begins with National Trails Day sponsored by American Hiking Society and ends with the Great American Backyard Campout sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. While families view hiking as a more accessible outdoor adventure, camping sometimes brings feelings of intimidation to the minds of parents – equipment, bathrooms, cooking and sleeping are usually the first four barriers. However, families can experience camping for the first time in their backyards or in a municipal park close to home, such as Little Bennett in Montgomery County.
So let’s challenge those feelings of intimidation and the barriers. Equipment, such as a tent, sleeping bags and pads and a stove, can be borrowed from a neighbor or friend and rented from REI. Some parks also have equipment to encourage first time campers, such as Pennsylvania or Georgia State Parks. Most campgrounds have toilets and sinks but some have showers also. What kid doesn’t like a hot dog roasted on a stick over a campfire, an easy solution to outdoor cooking. My personal favorite is pouch dinners, stick your favorite protein and veggies wrapped in aluminum foil and put it next to hot coals in the campfire. The best thing about camping in the backyard is if your kids can’t fall asleep in the tent their bed isn’t too far away. However, it’s all about keeping a positive attitude, which can make or break a family’s first camping experience.
Looking for family adventures beyond your backyard this summer, try camping at some of my family’s favorite places within three hours of Washington DC:
• Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania. Wooded campground with full bathroom facilities, two lakes, canoe and kayak rentals, beach, Appalachian Trail, general store with ice cream and the Appalachian Trail Museum. Read my blog for full review.
• Cunningham Falls State Park, Maryland. Wooded campground with full bathroom facilities, waterfall, lake, beach, boat rentals and many places to climb rocks along the trails and at the campground.
• Assateague State Park, Maryland. Sunny beachfront camping with full bathroom facilities, wild ponies, ocean, kayak rentals, bike trail and nature center.
• Prince William Forest Park, Virginia. Wooded campground with full bathroom facilities, lake for fishing, hiking trails, paved and unpaved roads for biking and nature-led programs.
Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned camping family, camping is an inexpensive weekend or weeklong vacation that ensures family bonding in the great outdoors and an opportunity to work as a team to establish camp. Sustained fresh air in beautiful landscapes, which provides peace and relaxation but also adventure, is the recipe for great family memories.
Share with us your favorite camping space and your fondest memory there.
By Jennifer Chambers – owner of Hiking Along, a science teacher, environmental educator.
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