Most Viewed Stories
Getting away from it all:Camping, getting close to nature
For some people, camping is not really camping without the smoky fire, hard ground, rain, bugs and cold nights.
On the other hand, some campers want to get close to nature without forgoing comfort. Take Michelle Sims, a professor of business at Arizona Western College. She has had enough of “roughing it.”
“My husband and I both served in the Army and personally I spent too many days and months living in a tent with no accessible restroom, eating cold MREs (Meals Ready to Eat),” she said.
Her family now prefers the “freedom, adventure and comfort” of camping in a recreational vehicle.
“We have the convenience of having everything we need in one vehicle along with unlimited adventures. More than anything, we love the comfort of the RV,” Sims explained.
“There is something to be said about enjoying your own bed, eating a home-cooked meal, and showering in your own space while camping.”
They started “RVing” when their daughters were 3 and 5; they are now almost 10 and 12. However, it doesn't mean the Sims have never camped in an old-fashioned tent.
“We absolutely have traditionally camped in the Northwest and in California. Most of the time, it's fun to rough it and adapt to the elements of nature,” she said.
While camping in the Northwest during a winter rain storm, a small creek swamped the tent, soaking their sleeping bags.
“All I can say is that it's awful to be cold while camping, but worse to be cold and wet with a soaking sleeping bag. There was absolutely no place to warm up.”
That's not to say the Sims don't have good memories of traditional camping. They camped a couple of years ago at Agua Caliente in California, about an hour northeast of El Centro. It is a natural hot water spring park with both indoor and outdoor spring pools.
“We were cold because it was January, but the weather was dry and the hot springs were just amazing.”
The Sims have been RV camping on and off for seven years. They have visited national and state parks as well as various spots around Arizona and Disneyland.
They usually take out their RV three times a year and often they go with other families. They ride in a caravan to a location and set up a joint site.
Sim's favorite memory of RV camping is a trip to Goldfield Ghost Town, east of Phoenix near the Superstition mountains. She describes it as “a fascinating historical mining town” with both traditional and RV camping sites. They offer guided tours and horseback riding.
“It's a gorgeous setting and a lot of rustic, Arizonan, wild-wild-West fun,” she said.
During one visit, the Anheuser Busch horses and crew set up in huge tents at Goldfield before participating in a local parade that weekend.
“We had an unexpected behind-the-scenes experience with those amazing horses and got to brush and feed them. All in all, it was magical for our daughters.”
Joel Barrera, Yuma city television production and operations manager, has tried both camping in a tent and in a camper truck.
He “definitely” likes beach camping, which he and his family enjoy doing at Pismo Beach, which is on the San Luis Obispo Bay in California, and at El Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, near the spot where the Colorado River runs into the Sea of Cortez, about 65 miles from San Luis, Ariz.
Every summer Barrera, with wife Eva and their two young daughters, now ages 6 and 4, and usually other Yuma families, camp on the sandy beaches of El Golfo.
Setting up the tents is a breeze. “You don't have to worry about the rocks or uneven ground,” he said. He usually evens out the sand with a couple of two-by-fours.
The best part for Barrera is falling asleep to the sound of the waves. “I like the noise. I like to listen to the ocean. It really relaxes you.”
Although they take some groceries from home, like meat for carne asada, they're still close to town so they do a lot of runs into town, either to buy something or to eat at one of the local restaurants.
But sometimes the food comes to them. “In El Golfo, there are pickup trucks that sell food. They come to you on the beach.”
One of his favorites? “We always eat coconut.”
His girls also enjoy the opportunity to play in the sand. He doesn't mind if they get dirty. “Getting dirty is part of it.”
Last summer, however, Barrera tried something new. He bought a camper truck and took his family to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevadas of California, with stops along the way, including at Carpinteria State Beach.
After watching a documentary on one of the first wilderness parks in the U.S., he decided he wanted to go there.
But he didn't want to worry about uninvited guests to their campsite, such as bears. A camper offers more protection than a tent.
“I'm always a little bit worried. Bears break more easily into a tent,” he pointed out.
And then there is the potential for rain, which in this trip, is something they faced.
“The first day it rained quite a bit,” he said.
Nevertheless, Yosemite proved worth the trip. Barrera compared it to “paradise.”
“It's great. We've been through a lot of places. We've seen a lot of deer,” but they've never been as close to the wildlife as on this trip. He noted that the animals didn't seem shy.
“We had squirrels eating next to us,” he said.
Tips from Joel Barrera:
Expect the unexpected. It's not a camping trip unless something breaks.
“If everything goes right, it doesn't feel like camping. Something's going to go wrong.”
On the must-pack list: “Duct tape and cable ties work wonders on just about anything and everything.”
Tips from Michelle Sims:
First-time RVers ... do your homework. “Research RVs and whether it's more cost-effective to rent or own. Then research fun and convenient places to RV. There are countless books at the library and for sale, as well as people in our community who are experts.”
Spend some time pondering your comforts of home. Is it your favorite blanket and pillow or a favorite spice with which to cook?
“Make sure you pack your RV with your favorite things. I store our big kites in the RV and when the wind is wild in Yuma, we quickly drive over to the AWC campus and fly kites. It's fun, quick and easy.”
Here are some more quick pros and cons of both:
Pros: Beds, showers, bathrooms, warm water, microwaves, stoves, ovens, television, heaters, air conditioning
Cons: Fuel costs, upkeep, insurance, having to find a dump station, storage when not camping, detached from the outdoor experience, too much like home.
Pros: You can go places that you can't in an RV, No distractions with modern day technologies, at one with nature, creates a family bond like no other type of camping.
Cons: Equipment can be hard to pack in to camp site, make sure you bring toilet paper or you'll be using leaves, water can be a hike.