Time to Try Something New

Message From The Director

As 2020 wears on we are all finding ourselves doing new things --usually things we never planned to do.  From video calls and ordering curbside pick-up, to constant hand washing and wearing personalized face masks, it has been an interesting year.  Some of these adaptations will become a permanent part of our lives, and others we will happily give up.  Doing something for the first time can be both intimidating and exciting, but it usually teaches us something.  On a rare occasion, it creates an unforgettable memory.  Last month I had a first in state parks that I never thought could have happened. 

I have worked in state parks for 25 years and raised three wonderful sons while here. Through the years we have camped in many different parks, both as a family and in scouts. That is, the boys and I have camped. People frequently assume that as a park ranger I have a wife with the same sense of adventure and love of the outdoors, and while that is true for many, it is not the case with my wife.  While always willing to day-trip for a hike or a paddle, I have learned that to make our marriage work, it better be accompanied by a quality overnight accommodation and some fine dining.  We have made this arrangement work for 28 years.  I camp with the boys or friends, and she and I adventure in more luxury.  

This year, as we quarantined at home, my wife, who travels extensively for work, began to have strange new urges. As her work from home life suddenly became a more permanent situation, she found herself wanting to get away.  All of the sudden, my "Hilton Honors wife" was sending me links to used RVs and RV rental sites.  At first, I thought this was just a phase, and that if push came to shove, she really wouldn’t enjoy a weekend in a campground staying in an RV.  Despite my reservations, I found myself renting a small RV, an R-Pod, while my wife made reservations for Myrtle Beach State Park

The weekend finally arrived, I picked up the trailer and we headed to the beach, without a single person I work with knowing we were coming.  We pulled into the park on a busy weekend and set up on site 100 which was already surrounded by campers in everything from tents to giant fifth-wheels.  As a regular tent camper and backpacker, this was new experience for me.  This is one of our busiest parks, and we were in a full campground.  As soon as we pulled up I began to worry.  The two sites next to us were occupied by a group of friends having a boy’s weekend, and I felt like we didn’t belong. Those concerns were quickly dispelled, because as soon as I began setting up they walked over to say hello. When I told them it was our first time camping in an RV they immediately offered to help!  After we got set up, they were back to offer us dinner since they had cooked more than they needed.  In fact, we had great conversations with several of our campground neighbors that weekend, an unexpected delight for us both (especially as they gave us state park tips never knowing who I was). 

Our camping trip was full of new experiences.  My wife got to enjoy my camp cooking (which as a long time scout leader I like to believe is pretty good), we spent three nights in an RV and got to experience a busy state park campground in a different way.  While at the park we enjoyed the beach, as well as a trip down the road to Huntington Beach State Park for some more beach time, trail walking and wildlife viewing.  We watched an off-duty ranger interact with some kids fishing on the pier teaching them about the shark they caught and enjoyed mountain pie over a campfire.  It was a weekend to remember and through it all my wife continued to not only enjoy the experience, but to begin planning to do it again.

So during this year of firsts, I got to add one of my own choosing to the list - enjoying a camping experience with my wife in a state park.  This "first" also made me remember that our parks are full of people experiencing "firsts" every single day.  Some people are visiting a new park for their first time as they go on an Ultimate Outsider journey.  Others are finally trying to complete that hike they have been training for or walking a new trail for the first time.  Somewhere in a park today, a person is beginning their bird-watching passion, while another has spotted a bird on their life list.  A young child is experiencing park wildlife for the first time, while another catches their first fish.  There is also a kid out there who has visited a park for the first time, fell in love with the outdoors and is beginning their journey to becoming a park ranger. 

As you plan for the coming weeks, I hope you take advantage of the strange circumstances this year has brought us and find a way to try something new and enjoy a "first", maybe even in a state park.