FIND A CAMPGROUND
Camping is a great, inexpensive vacation option for budget-challenged times. There are more than 16,000 commercial and public campgrounds nationwide!
Some great resources include:
PRESERVE THE OUTDOORS
Each year, outdoor recreation allows millions of people to unwind, challenge themselves, or just take in the scenery. Yet all our activities have significant effects on our natural resources. Minimize your impact on the outdoors by following the seven Leave No Trace principles:
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts.
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
IN SEPTEMBER, SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC. INVITED ME TO JOIN A GROUP OF JOURNALISTS FOR THE SUBARU RESPONSIBLE RECREATION EXCURSION CAMPING EVENT IN GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK. TAKING TIME OFF FROM MY HECTIC URBAN EXISTENCE TO GO TENTING IN THE PINE-SCENTED MOUNTAINS OF WYOMING SOUNDED PRETTY GOOD AT FIRST. THEN IT DAWNED ON ME. THE CLOSEST I’D EVER COME TO BEING A CAMPER WAS BUYING A RIDICULOUSLY LARGE TUB OF TRAIL MIX FROM COSTCO®.
I am a freelance journalist and happily married mother of four. I am a girlie girl to my very core and enjoy the comforts of modern life – a roof overhead, my warm bed, appliances, and fixtures of the residential sort. What surprises lay waiting in the wilderness for this city kitty?
Face pressed against the window, I held my breath as the plane lumbered low over brilliant, colossal mountains toward the impossibly short landing strip of the Jackson Airport. The beauty of the landscape was overwhelming. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the Subaru public relations team and introduced to two journalists who would ride the last leg of the journey with me. We were handed keys to a 2010 Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited and a map. Game on!
After navigating several wrong turns, we eventually made it to our campsite. That’s when two realities hit me: I’d never experienced such profound, natural beauty; and I really didn’t need to pack my hair straightener.
The first order of business was distribution of our camping gear and a talk about bear safety. No need to worry, we were told, as there had been no bear activity in the area in two weeks. TWO WEEKS. I put on my brave face and listened to a presentation by the folks from Leave No Trace, a Subaru-sponsored organization dedicated to teaching responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors.
Tentative friendships solidified to BFF status as we helped each other pitch individual dome tents and compared our astonishing levels of inexperience. I actually learned how to set up my tent twice – the second time at an angle that didn’t have my head pointing downhill.
Dining under the stars was magical, and warm drinks by the fire lulled me to a relaxed and happy state. I drifted off to sleep nestled in my Marmot® mummy-style sleeping bag thinking this camping business wasn’t half bad.
DAY TWO, 2:21 A.M.
Late-night trips to the bathroom take on a whole new dimension when you’re carrying a can of bear spray. Gripping this favorite new accessory in my right hand and sporting my newly acquired headlamp, I crooned “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” as I walked to alert any large mammals that might be lingering nearby. Two of them heard me – journalists, not bears – and they gratefully scooted out of their tents to join the chilly march to the facilities.
Back in my toasty cocoon, I slept soundly and woke to the sound of tent zippers opening and birds chirping. And Claudia – she is the culinary goddess Subaru brought along to ensure our bellies were filled with enough divine campout cuisine to survive the elements. (Think warm Gorgonzola and pears for starters.)
Our itinerary for the day included a walkaround tour of the new Subaru Outback and a scenic drive up to the nearby Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. While I looked forward to putting the legendary Subaru All-Wheel Drive capability to the test, my very real fear of heights began to gnaw at my newfound “mountain mama” bravado.
Our caravan of Subaru vehicles followed a loose stone and dirt road that wound around the mountain through stunning Douglas firs and blue sagebrush. Almost as if on cue, a majestic family of mule deer appeared on an outcrop. As the incline grew steeper and the road more narrow, my sweaty palms gripped the wheel, and I fought off a potentially embarrassing panic attack.
Lucky for me, the Subaru remained steadfast and true, gripping the rocky terrain like glue and giving my confidence the boost it so desperately needed. The ease with which the Subaru handled that rough trek up the mountain dashed away all fear, and, right there in that driver’s seat, a backcountry adventurer was born. I drove a little faster, engaged tighter turns, and threw in some hard stops to test the anti-lock brakes. You name it, and I tried it. The Outback never let me down.
Up top at 10,450 feet, the views of the magnificent Grand Teton mountain range were a testament to the power and complexity of nature.
The trip down with my delightful co-driver, Subaru Corporate Communications Manager Heather Ward, was just as impressive as the ride up.
To wind down after an exciting day, we gathered to watch the sun set over Jackson Lake. Quiet conversation set the mood for one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever known.
By our third day in the wild, our crew definitely qualified as “rugged and outdoorsy.” It was time to give back to this grand valley “City Slicker” style. Outfitted in leather work gloves and hardy fleece, we teamed up with the Grand Teton National Park staff for a service project that involved tearing down an expansive stretch of buck and rail fencing. The offending fence inhibited elk from moving across a major migration corridor within the park. Our grimy-but-grinning group finished the project with a great sense of accomplishment, drawn even closer by our shared endeavor.
BACK TO REALITY
I reluctantly packed up and returned home a changed person – someone who risked face-to-face encounters with bears, rose above phobia to ascend a mountain, made a difference for generations of wildlife, and decidedly loves camping.
I know my camping experience was not typical – hot showers and scrumptious, prepared meals are not the norm – but for me, it was just the gentle introduction I needed. I am ready and eager to take the plunge this summer with my family. Campgrounds for every comfort level are abundant; those with access to electricity, showers, and toilet facilities can cost as little as $15 a day. Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping gear can be rented for next to nothing.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity Subaru gave me to step out of suburbia for a while to stroll through sagebrush meadows, meander down untamed trails, sit on a quiet lakeshore, and reflect in silence under a massive, star-studded sky.
It all left me wondering, why did I wait so long?
SUBARU PARTNERS LEAVE NO TRACE
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is an educational, nonprofit organization based in Boulder, Colorado. It promotes and inspires responsible outdoor recreation through education, research, and partnerships.
Subaru is a principal partner of Leave No Trace in its dedication to the responsible enjoyment and active stewardship of the outdoors by all people.
Learn more at www.LNT.org.