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What is camping? An interpretation. (A Place to Share).

It is reveille in the freshness of early morning when drowsy boys pop out of tents and cabins to watch the Stars and Stripes ascend to the top of a flag pole.

It is a plunge into the waters of a clear lake, and "the light drip of a suspended oar."

It is the noiseless glide of a canoe over still waters, and the reckless shooting of river rapids.

It is acquiring the independence, self-reliance, and satisfaction that come from knowing how to take care of one's own daily needs and the needs of companions in the deep woods.

It is heaving a pack to the shoulders, scaling a high mountain, and then sitting speechless, viewing, with both eye and soul, an endless panorama of distant peaks and valleys.

It is sizzling bacon and the soft popping of frying eggs over a wood fire in the silent forests or on a friendly lake shore.

It is play and work, give and take, and growth of body, mind, soul.

It is a "vision of pure skies enriched at dawn and sunset with unspeakable glory; of dew drenched mornings flashing with priceless gems ...."

It is life "with flowers and butterflies, with the wild things that made possible the world of fable."

It is a "camp fire when the wood has fallen low and the ashes start to whiten neath the embers' crimson glow."

It is the quiet and beauty of that enchanted hour of twilight when "one by one in the infinite meadow of heaven, blossom the lovely stars, the for-get-me-nots of angels."

It is a camp fire in the wilderness about whose dying embers lie six, perhaps eight, tired-but-happy campers and their counselor who is not only their leader, but their companion and friend.

It is the ascending smoke, the incense of the red gods, of many camp fires as campers cook their food and recount their adventures.

It is living with mountain peaks mist-soaked at dawn, sun-kissed at noon, and silhouetted against a crimson horizon at sunset.

It is wondering at the mysteries of nature and the wisdom of the Creation; law and order, the interdependence of plant and animal, color, harmony, design, male and female, and the great purpose of it all.

It is attuning one's ear to the symphonies of nature -- symphonies that were a part of the first music of the universe -- a music that will continue as a never-ending anthem of praise to the Creator.

It is learning the meaning of immortality from the life cycle of butterflies and birds and trees....

It is acquiring a sense of belonging, of kinship, of parrnership with nature and nature's God.

It is storing within mind and heart the serenities of nature for days of stress and strain.

It is an awareness of the meaning of day and night, of morning and evening. God must have foreseen that boys and girls would love camping when He made night -- the time of the camp fire, "the flower that blossoms by night."

It is an experience during which "in glorious revolt from the drabness of the city, the camper drinks in the wine of the sunset, lays his head close to fresh and smelly earth-things, and is lulled to sleep by that sweetest symphony in all the world -- the patter of raindrops on the tent roof."

It is freedom -- freedom to shout and to hear the echo of your voice which is possible only in the country; freedom to explore caves, hollow trees, dense, untrodden forests, freedom to catch salamanders and crawfish in a brook rushing down a mountainside, freedom to be one's self and to dream of what one may become.

It is that quiet and soul-searching hour after taps when a camper sits on the edge of his cot, unties his shoes, and places them gently by his bed.

It is a ceaseless search for "something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you."

Let us not think of camping as so many games, swims, rides; as schedules and contests; or even as relief from city heat and noise. Camping is all these, but the heart and soul of camping -- the great purpose of camping -- is infinitely more than these.

This is an excerpt from a piece written many years ago by C. Walton Johnson, former director of Camp Sequoyah, Weaverville, North Carolina. He assisted in writing the first American Camping Association (ACA) Standards in the 1940s and is remembered as an inspiration to the ACA Southeastern Section and to numerous campers, staff, and directors.
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Author:Johnson, C. Walton
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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