Today's Alicia Ybarbo Recalls Camping Memories
Editor's Note: The following blog was posted on the MSNBC.com website. It is from Alicia Ybarbo, TODAY producer & co-author with Mary Anne Zoellner, TODAY'S MOMS: Essentials for Surviving Baby's First Year
As a child, my family took me camping on a regular basis. My parents even have pictures of me when I was just two weeks old, swaddled like a burrito, chilling out at a campground. That experience, at 2-weeks-old, was just the beginning of a childhood of outdoor education. Every summer my parents would take me and my siblings to places in California like Eureka, Mendocino, Bodega Bay, Yosemite, Sequoia and Shasta. We'd take in lakes and mountains, redwood forests and beautiful oceans. These were vacations where nature was presented to us as an outdoor classroom. I finally got the chance to take my own children to experience the great outdoors at Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California, just north of Yosemite – home of giant sequoias, some as old as 2,000 years old.
If you strike from your memory the idea of dirty clothes, timed showers, bug bites and cramped quarters, camping is quite fun! My children loved it. And what's not to love about most camping rituals: eating s'mores, stargazing, talking by the campfire, reading books, bike riding, marathon Scrabble games, swims in ice cold lakes and hikes in the mountains with a little trail mix as the reward? This was a time where I was also able to expose my children to nature, conservation and our environment. In fact, most state and national parks offer plenty of programs for kids, and Big Trees was no exception.
My children became "Litter-Getters" and collected trash around the park to help keep it clean and wild. Any trash turned in was rewarded with a sticker from the visitor's center. My children and nephew would run around our campground with plastic gloves on one hand saying things like, "Look! We found a bottle cap!" with the same excitement as they would have if they found money on the ground. They enjoyed the evening campfire programs led by park rangers. They also participated in the Junior Cubs program, where every day was a new lesson about animals. I learned (scratch that, they learned) that owls regurgitate (i.e. throw up) a pellet before they eat again; that the only Grizzly bear in California is on the state flag and how "fed bears are dead bears" while hearing that ladybugs are our friends.
One thing we were disturbed to learn is that the fate of more than 100 state parks in California is in jeopardy because of budget woes. (So now Smokey the Bear is out of a job, too?) We need to use, appreciate and respect these parks before they become a thing of the past. I want more than a memory of camping. I want the real thing.
What is your favorite memory of camping with your family?