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Sleeping Under The Stars

The smell of the old canvas tent never leaves my senses. Even if it has been decades since we spent a weekend camping out, that distinct scent lingers in my mind.

Our son recently asked if we still had a camping tent that he could “borrow” for a trial backyard campout with our two young grandchildren.

A quick look in the basement and the answer was yes. The neatly rolled up tent was delivered with some hardy good luck sentiments. It is a generous-sized tent that probably could house two adults and a handful of kids. I have a feeling when our son erects this addition to his backyard, he may end up with a few eager-to-camp-out neighborhood youngsters in addition to his two children.

Everyone should have a camp-out experience if only in a backyard setting to start. Later, you can graduate to a state park or even grander setting complete with skunks and raccoons. For now, I would advise a trial event that is within running distance to the back door of your home. I speak from experience.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the night we would be allowed to set up a tent in the backyard. We would spend hours talking about it with the other kids in the neighborhood until one tent became two or three more as others wanted to join in the fun.

Picking the perfect location for the tent was a chore in itself as the backyard also served as a baseball diamond with its share of potholes. Once that was decided, it was a matter of gathering the sleeping bags and flashlights with working batteries and of course, our bag of snacks to share later.

If you think sibling bickering is loud inside the house, just listen to it inside a crowded tent. Most of the disagreements rose over who was sleeping next to whom, and who was in charge of opening and closing the zipper door. The sleeping arrangement became even more of a challenge when our two dogs insisted on being included. They served as our security system for the night.

Once settled in with a promise not to leave the yard, we would open the flaps on the tent so we could look at the moon and stars on those rare, clear summer nights. More than once, our plans were interrupted by a thunderstorm and by parents yelling for us to get inside the house. Camping out on the living floor just didn’t compare.

Our late executive editor Mike Myer used to regale us with his camping stories.

He was an avid and adventurous camper who took his wife, daughters and later young grandchildren to exciting places within the Shenandoah Valley.

He brought back pictures he snapped of family, the breathtaking scenery and nature — including his prized photos of bears in the wild.

But most of all, he gave his family the gift of his time and love for the outdoors. I know his legacy will continue within his family as they embrace those memories and make their own in the future.

What better gift can you give yourself and others than time to share the splendor of our great surroundings? Whether in a deluxe RV or tent in a bumpy backyard, enjoy some of the goodness our planet has to offer.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.


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