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  • Kenton E. Biffert

The Lost Art of Family Camping

Every summer my parents took us camping. Without fail. It was literally the

highlight of the entire year. We would each get to pick our favourite sugar cereal to

bring for early breakfasts. Mom would bake bins of cookies and biscuits that we

would only have during camping. Dad would by a number of chocolate bars to divvy

out and we would bring a lot of board games. Each year my parents would pick a

different part of British Columbia or Alberta to explore – that is until we happened

upon the Okanogan Valley, and then we started camping there every summer.

I remember sitting in the top of the camper, looking out the window and counting

tunnels as we drove through Roger's Pass in British Columbia. At other times, I

would put a cassette tape into my Walkman, sit in the back seat of the truck and just

look at the majesty of the mountains and await the adventures ahead of us.

Upon arrival, we would set up camp, eat snacks, grab out our bicycles and explore

the campground. We had to see what the campground had to offer, where the best

places to explore would be, and of course, what candy we could buy with our


My parents were big into photo albums and the climax of each album was always

the camping trip, the hikes, the beaches, the ice cream and the adventures we had as

a family.

Now, I have a family of my own and we continue this tradition. However, the culture

has changed. This past summer we headed out to camp on Manitoulin Island, ON.

Now, by camping, I mean sleeping in tents, tarps, camp stoves, hauling water, no

electricity and so forth. We arrived, set up our tent and took the time to get our

bearings of the campground. There were only four other sites with tents in the

entire campground. Every single other site had motorhomes, holiday trailers,

massive monstrosities with the glowing blue light of the television coming through

the windows. We were an anomaly.

By the third day, the weather brought us rain. The entire campground dove into

their luxury trailers to avoid being outdoors. With no luxury trailer to sit and watch

movies in, we put on our raingear and played Frisbee in the rain. When the rains

subsided and the other kids were allowed back outside, my children biked around to

find them. A group of boys walked by our campsite each holding a tablet and

discussing their video games. My kids didn't fit in. They came back and we pulled

out our novels and sat by the fire with some pretzels and read.

We fought waves of raccoons attacking our coolers that we didn't fit into our tents.

The fourth night I stood in the middle of the campsite at 1:30am waving my ax at

four raccoons as they tried to rifle through our gear. We awoke with the sunrise

lighting up our tent and went to sleep as it got dark. We heard the breaking of branches, the wind, the birds, the waves on the beach, the rain pounding on our tent

and slept soundly.

The adventure of camping and exploring is a memory I hold dear. It formed me, but

the family vacations were also a way we marked the years and our narrative as a


My point is this:

Take a family vacation every year even if you can't afford it.

And, in my biased opinion, the family vacations are more memorable, the simpler

they are – like when you are camping.

Semper Fidelis,

Kenton E. Biffert

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