Family Vacations That MatterIt’s midday and I am sitting in Yosemite in the campground while Mason naps in the trailer peacefully. A warm breeze blows gently across the campground and rustles the the wall of our pop up shower tent.

Mark has gone for a hike without us to get his hardcore on. After a beautiful 9 mile trek to Vernal Falls with Mason yesterday, I am happy to wait it out here in the campground and take a break. My calves are sore, but it’s a good kind of sore because I know I worked hard for it.

Yesterday’s hike was beautiful. Crowded, as most parks in America are, but somehow the massive walls of rock and pounding waterfalls made the crowds acceptable. I think because it’s awesome to see so many people coming to a place like this so they can experience nature. When you are somewhere like Disneyland and there are lines and crowds it’s annoying because there’s no peace in artificial adventure.

As we shimmied our way up steep stairs and politely edged by people, there was this feeling of “We’re all in this together and isn’t it lovely.” No one was in a hurry. People smiled and laughed and huffed and puffed. When one elderly Japanese couple leaned back against a rock to rest, people smiled at them and said,”You are amazing for being up here,” as they passed by. Little kids who made it this far were told they were superstars.

In Yosemite the packed campgrounds have the potential to be irksome. There’s the on and off hum of the generators and RV heaters, the screeching of children riding bikes around and chasing each other through the trailers and trees, the clanking of pots and pans, the constant smell of campfire and sometimes over smokiness due to the density of us all being packed into this small space.

But if you stop mid morning and sit out on a picnic bench, close your eyes and just relax and focus, the human chaos fades away. Beyond man it’s easy to hear the birds chirping, the nearby rush of water babbling in the creek, squirrels scampering across pine needles as they venture from campsite to campsite. And then there is the sunlight streaming through the tall pine trees, warming the rocks, melting the winter snow. And if you really focus you can hear the drips of water sliding down the rocks and smell the earth beneath your feet.

This is why so many people come here. You have to love the fact that it’s nature bringing everyone here. Not a manmade playground.

I have a love-hate relationship with parks like this. The paved trails leading miles up into the woods, the manicured rock walls and steps taking people up into places they wouldn’t dare venture too without the man-made path. But in spite of the little “oh give me a break, really?” arrogance I often feel when I come to places like this that are so accessible they almost seem overrun, I also find myself thinking that it’s amazing our country had the foresight to create places like this in nature where families, no matter how poor, can afford to come. We are paying $10 a day to be here, a price so many families can afford. This is what I want our taxes paying for. This is the kind of subsidies that we should be proud of.

Bring your child here and they have to learn to love nature because there are no video games, cable hookups, candy stands or Facebook. What we have here is dirt, water, rocks and sunshine for entertainment. I wish more families decided to do this for a family vacation instead of going to Puerto Vallarta or Knott’s Berry Farms.

As Mason gets older I imagine our vacations will involve mountains, rivers, deserts and oceans. I don’t see Disneyland in our future. I could be wrong, just like I thought I wouldn’t feed Mason dairy (he already loves cheese at 9 months old), but I hope that we stay true to what we enjoy and teach Mason that adventure is not spinning on a teacup or riding a Wild Waters ride, but taking a raft trip down the Middle Fork in Idaho or mountain biking in Moab. I hope my child looks forward to scaling rock walls in Joshua Tree and catching salmon for dinner for us in Alaska with his Dad. It is the real adventures in our world that I want him to get excited about.

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