I remember crying when I was four or five years old because my brother – just about seven years older – got to go to Boy Scout summer camp and I had to stay home.

All through the years, though I’ve managed to hold back the tears, I’ve felt the same anguish whenever I missed opportunities to go on outdoor adventures and had to stay home because of school or work or other commitments.

With varying degrees of success, I tried to instill my children with that same affliction, a continual longing for all things outdoors. The key is to start them young and to make it fun.

“The hike was only 1 ¼ miles in, but that’s still a good distance for a three-year-old.”

I had the chance this summer to go on an overnight backpacking outing with one of my sons and my three-year-old grandson. We planned on staying in a lean-to along a hiking trail on some nearby state land. The hike was only 1 ¼ miles in, but that’s still a good distance for a three-year-old. It was long enough to make it challenging, but short enough to keep his interest.

My grandson got initiated into what has become a sort of family tradition: He got to hunt for crayfish, newts, and frogs in the nearby stream. We cut some downed branches for our campfire. My son grilled chicken and veggies for dinner, and of course, my grandson roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate.

No one slept very well on the hard surface of the lean-to floor. Lightweight sleeping pads don’t help all that much when you keep rolling off of them. In the morning, I made omelets in silicone Stasher bags by dunking them in boiling water.

We hiked out tired and dirty, but with only a few bug bites. For my son and me, it will be a lasting memory of a good time spent in the woods together. I don’t know how vividly my grandson will recall this trip when he’s older. My hope is that somewhere, at least in the back of his mind, there will be a lasting, positive impression that will foster a lifelong love of the outdoors.

You can never force someone to have a passion for anything. With kids, the best you can do is to introduce them to some of the many wonderful things in this world and to encourage them when they show an interest. As far as I’m concerned, the simple things are the most valuable things. A walk in the woods trumps an expensive new electronic game console in my book every time. I hope enough members of the next generation feel the same way.

Steven Paul Barlow, Editor

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