I didn't have a father or other men in my life who took me camping. There was one outing when I was a Cub Scout that is still alive in my memory. We only went as far as a town park on the edge of the city where you could still hear traffic. But as a first timer, playing with other guys in the woods, grilling a hot dog outside, sitting around a fire under the stars, and sleeping in a smelly old army tent, all bordered on magical. I can still smell that old tent canvas. I was allowed to sharpen a stick with a real buck knife, and I learned how to start a campfire, put up a tent, and laugh when someone farted at the fire. All those memories come rushing back and the potency of that experience comes back to me every time I go into the wilderness with men and young males.
This last weekend, the men and young guys of the Desert Men's Council held their annual Council Rocks Campout (photos at this link). There were the normal pre-departure challenges to arrange transportation for our food, water, all the campers and their gear. It was sweet to watch the mom's hanging around and seeming to not want to let go of their sons. Finally, after counting off around the circle, a pack of twenty-four males, ages ten to sixty-eight, and a few dogs, loaded into cars and drove over pavement, dirt, and then finally a 4-wheel drive road to get to our campsite in the Dragoon Mountains near Tombstone, AZ.
On arrival we set up a first class camp by dividing into teams. Fire team, kitchen team, and even a team for digging the latrine! With camp prepared, we gathered in a circle to make sure everyone was accounted for (again counting off). We discussed how we were going to approach the challenging afternoon hike, covering the critical importance of hydration in the desert, what to do if we encountered a mountain lion (unlikely), snakes (very possible), and how to travel as a band of brothers, making sure everyone was OK, and that we'd arrive back together safely.
I know this is a long story. But if you got this far, it's because there is something in the story that speaks to you. Speaks to a part of you that knows this story, or maybe doesn't and possibly hungers for this experience still. You can believe the men who put on the event are just like you. We all had vastly different skill sets, none of us could have done it on our own, but together, we figured out the details and filled in the blanks to make it all happen. You could too.
If you and some of you male friends were to gather and begin to remember the camping you used to do, or wanted to do, remember leaving the women and children to head out in a pack, the time spent around the fires, the beauty of the night skies, and the "guy conversations" that always occur, you might just stir up enough interest to bring those gifts to some young males in your world. It really doesn't have to be far, elegant (think hot dogs), or in any way perfect. But you can be sure that if you have some young guys along, it just might be life-changing memorable for them. And it will be very good for you're masculine spirit too.
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