Like any other holiday, I give the 4th of July the reverence it deserves. This is one of my favorite celebrations because instead of wrangling a turkey or ham alone at dawn, I am cooking over a campfire with some of my most favorite people in the world scurrying about in close proximity, with the summertime scent of Coppertone and bug spray trailing right behind them.
Our Fourth of July we head to a sweet little spot in a valley, along a river, in northeastern Iowa. It’s something I depend on as surely as a sunrise, and our camp has several camping traditions.
Each adult is required to fashion a Haiku in a treasured notebook more than a decade old. A haiku is a three-line poem consisting of five syllables the first line, 7 syllables the second line, and 5 the third line. One amongst us, a Haiku purist, grades and critiques every entry. I guarantee we would wrangle a bear to preserve those wonderful feelings and images inspired by elements of nature, a moment of beauty, or a poignant experience. Who am I kidding – our poems tend to be more biting and satirical!
Each adult is also required to carve something on the top of a weathered old picnic table (this is private property – do NOT deface anything at a public campground). The plan is to someday turn the top into a heard board. It is a tradition to put together puzzles, play board games, and one card game in particular, “May I.” A game not for the faint-of-heart and known for the hours it takes to play.
On the Fourth, I wake the camp to a playlist of patriotic songs one might describe as rousing! Then, a menu consisting of Benedict Arnold (Pre-traitor) Eggs, Uncle Sam Sausage, Betsy Ross Potatoes, Martha Washington Coffee Cake (Secret Family Recipe), Fruits of the Fields (From sea to shining sea); Coffee, Juice or Boston Tea Party.
Create a camping tradition. The interesting thing about traditions is that if you do something often enough it starts to feel like it’s always been there. It becomes as familiar as a treasured robe and surrounds you with comfort and warmth.
Perhaps the most undeniable camp tradition of all is the campfire it’s self. Synonymous with the camp experience, there is something both touching and dramatic about the campfire. Campfires demand you put down your guard. Share something about yourself you may not have revealed. I can attest perhaps a little too much sometimes. Luckily we prescribe to the doctrine “What happens at the campfire, stays at the campfire.”
From holiday celebrations to family gatherings, traditions are an essential part of our lives. A campsite is a place where the feeling of family and community is strong and honors traditions. Not only the traditions of the past but traditions that will be carried forward into the future by the next generation of campers we currently nurture and guide.
Start with something as simple as kids gathering pinecones. Each selects two of the best. One they throw in the campfire while sharing a wish they have for the future. The second pine cone, is to take home as a reminder of the experience and their wishes.
What is your camping tradition?
• The spot you camp?
• The people you camp with?
• Places you stop along the way?
• The food you prepare?
• The trails you hike?
• The river you canoe?
• The music you play?
• The activities you enjoy?