Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Wild Bunch

Picture this - two families, with five children between them, three boys and two girls. Out on one of their many annual camping expeditions. Two big cars - a suburban and a big ol' van - pulling two ski boats. Both boats are loaded with the equipment necessary for a few weeks of camping. Full kitchen set up, shower, tents, etc... Bike racks on both cars, loaded with mountain bikes. A canoe strapped to the top of the suburban. The cars pull into their site in the campground, and all hell is let loose as the kids stream out of the cars, full of pent up energy after the long drive. Ready to play, and get this vacation on the road. The noise level is high. The bustling of things being unpacked and set up, plans for the coming weeks being made. Tents popping up around the camp site, while the kids buzz around like little worker bees, ready to be released to play. And then, finally, everything is set up and the three boys and two girls hop on their mountain bikes and zoom off to unleash their terror onto the rest of the campground. Ready for their two weeks of fun and learn the joys of camping.

This scenario is my childhood in a nutshell. I was one of the two girls (the other being my sister), and the three boys were my cousins, who were raised almost as my brothers. We were the Wild Bunch, and we repeated this scenario several times a year for 25 years, vacationing together, growing together, building the most precious vacation memories that anyone could have.

It's true - I spent my childhood camping, exploring the mountains of California, getting dirty and exerting energy. Terrorizing campgrounds and having a blast. Living without a cell phone, a laptop, or (GASP) a TV. Finding ways to keep myself occupied and having a good time. Building forts. Waterskiing. Playing games. Getting hurt. Growing older and inviting along friends to join our family fun.

And you know? Those are my sweetest memories of time with my family - and ones that I hope I'll be able to share with my own children someday.

Fast forward. Jason and I spent Wednesday through Friday camping and hiking in Yosemite. It was incredible! For all the years (my entire lifetime) of camping in California, I'd never been into Yosemite. It was always too crowded at the times we could have gone as a family, and so we never went. How perfect that my first visit was with my husband, who considers it one of his favorite places on Earth?

Anyhow, on Thursday, after a butt-kicking hike up to the top of Nevada Falls, we returned to our campsite in time to see a few big vehicles pull up, loaded for bear (or camping as it were). They were pulling trailers full of camping equipment and had heavy laden bike racks on the front. The doors opened wide, and out spilled the kids. Lots of kids. Ready to unleash their creative fury and energy on the campground. I watched two little girls, about 8 and 10, swiftly (and competently) set up their own tent, and then hop on their bikes and join the Yosemite 500 happening on our loop in the Upper Pines campground. It was like a cross between Nascar and the Roller Derby, on bikes.

It was awesome. Some might say that it was sweet revenge, but for me it was sweet memories of the best times.

I am SOOOOOO glad that families still camp, and that there are kids out there who know how to have fun when removed from the their TVs and computers. It gives me hope for the next generation, that they can still appreciate "wildness", and have some unsanitized, unorganized fun. That they can make up their own games and rules, and play oustide until it's just too dark. That the Wild Bunch lives on.

I think we could all use a little more wildness in our lives. Don't you agree?


  1. Such sweet memories! And that is an AWESOME photo. We've loved camping for the last two years with a group of close friends. You know my family didn't grow up "outdoorsy," so I'm loving starting a new tradition with my kids (and my adventurous mom!). And Chris and I did that hike last IS a doozy. But so worth it for the spectacular views. We should have a little "reunion" in Yosemite one of these years :)

    1. Thanks, Jess! I love that you're camping with your girls - they'll have the best memories! And yes - a Yosemite reunion is a must! Hugs!