It's difficult to explain my love of camping as even I don't fully understand it. There's just something I love about the sounds and smells of the forest, or if I'm out in the winter, the absolute silence and stillness of it all. The freshness and newness of the world when I wake in the morning after an solid sleep makes me smile and babbling brooks and crackling fires can hypnotize me for hours. Ok, so I admit I'm a "tree hugger" but I think everyone needs to connect with nature now and then to ground them. In these modern times we like to delude ourselves into thinking we don't need the natural world but we've spent way more of our history immersed in nature than we have in the artificial electronic world that surrounds us today. But don't get me wrong, I need the modern world and the social connections just as much as the next person, but I also need nature and the forest to chill me out now and then. Science has recognized this as well and there is ample research linking access to nature and improved health.
Now back a few years ago when I had a car and no wife, I could get away on a lot of short overnight trips whenever the urge struck, but these days things are opposite as I have a wife and no car so I get out camping less often than I used to. But I have a wonderful wife who can tell when the camping urge is bubbling up inside me as I'm checking the weather websites and eyeing my camping gear. And every once in while when schedules work out, she'll take me outside the city to the edge of the woods in the CarShare car and pick me up again the next day. She knows that otherwise I'll probably be sleeping in the backyard that night.
Now I have nothing against camping with other people and try to when I can, but no one I know has the desire or energy for quick last minute trips. I know a small group of guys who like to camp and we do get out together from time to time but it's just so damn hard to organize them that I usually don't bother trying. To get the gang out camping requires picking a night at least a week ahead of time and advanced logistical planning. And inevitably someone will drop out at the last minute, usually a driver and the whole carefully orchestrated plan goes awry.
I came to the conclusion years ago that if I wait for people to do the things I want to do than I'm not going to get much done in life. So if I want to sleep in the woods then I just have to go do it by myself.
And this isn't about me playing SurvivorMan because unlike Les Stroud, I like to be warm and well-fed so I take exactly what I need to be that way. I figure being cold is a matter of personal choice as we have the clothing technology to keep a person warm if they choose to wear it. And I do, I like to be warm and I like to eat. And I like to sip on wine beside my campfire.
Generally on these quick overnight trips I don't go that far into the woods, maybe a couple of kilometers and that's it. Just far enough so that the city disappears and the forest swallows me up. My usual plan is to pick the general area for my camp and then take off my pack while I zero in on the exact spot for my tent/hammock/tarp and fire area. Then I'll spend some time collecting wood and making sure I have enough for at least a few hours of camp fire. Usually by that time I'm hungry so I'll make supper and slowly set up the camp area. After supper I pour my first mug of wine and hike around the area exploring and looking for a good sunset spot. Many of the areas around Halifax where I tend to camp have a lot of high granite outcroppings that I like to climb and watch the sunset from. And as I usually get the camping urge on sunny days, there's always a good sunset to take in.
Once the sun goes down I retreat to camp and light up the fire. I spend a lot of time picking out it's location because a big consideration is how I can sit or lay comfortably near it. Then I'll read my book, drink wine and eat munchies until I get tired. And I tend to get tired fairly early while in the woods as there's something about lugging a 35+ pound pack and cutting/collecting firewood that tuckers a person out. That and the fresh air. Sometimes I'll just sit there and listen to the sounds of the forest while taking in the night sky. I'm never lonely, bored or scared and it's all peaceful beyond description for me.
So that's why and what I do. I encourage others to get out in nature more often. One doesn't need to sleep in a hammock in mid-March like me and it could be just a simple hike on a groomed trail because whether or not you know it, you need nature too.
This video shows my campsite from last night.