It came to me recently that my outdoors life all started for me back in summer between the 5th and 6th grade while spending a couple of weeks up at Sequoia Lake for YMCA camp.
The year before my Grandpa Buck had passed away and with him went nearly every chance I held for becoming an outdoorsman. Learning to read a map, fishing, living outdoors, learning to hunt to feed my family all were lost to me with my grandpa’s passing and while I didn’t know it at the time it was all still right there at the ready because of a twist of fate that lead my parents to send me to camp for a week.
My Dad you see was an adrenaline junkie, not a woodsman. If it had wheels and even better yet wheels and an engine my dad was the MAN, period. He was a fast as sin motocross racer with wild eyes and nerves of steel nick named the Wild Man for his racing style. Before that he was both Bo and Luke Duke in his cars running around the countryside for sure up to no good.
My mother on the other hand was a small town girl who was not a fan of my grandfathers hunting for one and to tell her to she was sleeping in the dirt was a declaration of war. That last part may be a little far-fetched but while she would camp in a tent over night that was about it. She preferred our comfy home and being poolside than out in the woods with the bugs and the bears.
That year as summer came and both my parents working full-time, our family still dealing with the loss of my grandpa and me in no way being allowed to just stay home by myself my parents asked if I wanted to go to camp for not 1 week as was the norm but two. I can remember thinking 2 weeks at camp seemed like forever and I was all in.
That trip was the one where I went from a kid who got sent away to one who went away and let me tell you that is huge difference to a 10-year-old.
Instead of being forced into arts and crafts I found every outdoors option I could.
I went fishing and caught a rainbow trout for the first time ever.
We went for an over night walk…..aka as backpacking to the adult group.
I learned archery, swam across the lake, learned to make fire, learned to orienteer, learned not to kill what I don’t expect to eat, learned about the trees, rocks and streams.
I became a 10-year-old expert in 2 weeks.
Fast forward 35 years to the present day and I look at my life outdoors and see an outdoorsman my grandfather would be proud of for sure. I’ve hunted the Sierra alone in the high mountains for so many days I’ve lost count. I’ve learned to only take what I need to feed my family, learned to survive on 3 days food for over a week, been face to face with monster bears and stayed calm enough we both walked away to live another day and I’ve seen places most Americans only see in photo’s.
I see an outdoorsman and father the YMCA would be proud of if they knew how much my time in their camps shaped my life.
But most of all when I see my children out in the woods learning for themselves all my wife and I know combined I see an outdoorsman that I am proud of.
While I have always wanted to have my grandfather look down on me and smile it was 2 weeks at summer camp that taught me the lessons he didn’t get the chance to on his own.
If you have a child who even remotely enjoys the outdoors think about a summer camp. You could just change the entire shape of their life.
For more information on YMCA Summer camps visit them online at www.campsequoialake.org or find them on Facebook as YMCA Camp Sequoia Lake.