As a child, I had a subscription to National Geographic. I was a voracious reader from the time I was 5, and my parents subscribed to magazines and periodicals to sate my appetite for knowledge. Of all the things I read, nothing captured my attention more than Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary Leakey.
I was fascinated not only with their archeology and paleontology, but with their life in the field. The pictures of their camp showed Land Rovers, tents, tables, and a very austere lifestyle out in the wilds. I imagined myself out there with them, and when I played in the forest and fields around my home, I pretended to be Dr. Leakey, pulling a wagon behind my bicycle (which in my head was a Land Rover) filled with supplies like water, shovels, brushes, and a notepad to take notes with. The most I ever found was possible arrow heads and a few fossils, but I loved my time outdoors.
My grandparents would often take me camping which solidified my love of the outdoors and of camping. Each weekend spent with my grandparents was another adventure, and my grandparents, being as thrifty as anyone who lived through WWII and a revolution, always found incredibly fun things to do on a budget. Most of these things involved state or national parks, and almost always involved the outdoors.
Throughout my time in the Marines, I did spend time in the field, but not as often as someone assigned to the Division. I was an “Air Winger,” and only had to go on field exercises once or twice a year. While I was on active duty, however, I did take my kids camping as often as I could in the national parks around Southern California. We had a blast, and while I didn’t get a chance to go camping after leaving Southern California for nearly 20 years, my joining the National Guard in 2017 once again acquainted me with the outdoors.
Soon after enlisting in the Army National Guard, I went on my first field exercise. Going as a Field Artilleryman was a lot different than going to the field as a Marine Military Policeman in the Air Wing. We lived in little 1-man tents, and the field was literally a field. I setup my tent under a forested area, and there I lived for two weeks. It was hot, but it was glorious. I really enjoyed it. Over the next three years, we would go to the field 3-4 times a year, and each time, even when it was cold and rainy out, was fun.
Now, I’m getting back to camping and finally adding overlanding to the mix. Camping for fun will be different in some ways from being in the field in the military, but there’s so much overlap that I’m sure it’ll be as fun, if not more fun. Sure, I won’t be able to guide 155mm howitzers while overlanding, but I’ll be able to have bonfires and have a nip of scotch if I’d like.
It started as a child and continues 50 years later. I look forward to having grandchildren and introducing them to camping the same way my grandparents introduced it to me.