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Because it is more than just “Camping”. A little back-story, part one

January 15, 2015

104As the amount of people who follow Camping Missouri increases, I have given a lot of thought to defining the idea of what I am actually trying to accomplish here and how it has evolved from what it was when I started this blog almost two years ago. What was going on in my mind in the beginning, and how that has changed and grown. Obviously the things that I post are about more than just camping. From trail reviews to natural places in Missouri to adventures in the forests and on the rivers, the term “Camping” is a bit limiting, with “Outdoors” probably being a little more appropriate. Blame hindsight? Maybe. What I thought it was going to be originally has been expanded on AND somewhat neglected, due to my own limitations and obligations and desires…but I like where it is at and where it is taking me. So where I find myself at this point, I thought it might be helpful to give a bit of origin story, to clear up any possible questions.

Because it is more than just Camping.

061It was early March, 2013 and I was a 34 year old out of work carpenter, living in St. Louis, MO. The economy was terrible, especially if you were in construction, as it had been for a handful of years already. I spent most of my days looking for a job. Calling around, taking my resume to offices, filling out applications. Doing what I could to try to find work within the field in which I had been professionally trained and a part of for over ten years already. Just about every morning, after calling at least ten contractors and hearing each one of them tell me “We don’t have any work right now”, it starts to wear on a guy, and it gets increasingly difficult to keep your chin up. The constant rejection, compounded with the growing financial instability of my only income being unemployment insurance and food stamp assistance, can be rather crushing to a person’s optimism and willingness to see every new day as a welcome one. My house was on its way to foreclosure. I was not the provider that I was supposed to be. Things were tough and stressful.

458464_10200104296470942_2018024798_oSo I found myself on a lot of days, after my morning job hunting, heading to the woods somewhere nearby to just get away from the depressing effect of it all. Spending some time on a trail away from everything, getting some exercise and immersing myself in the distracting calmness of the forest was becoming routine. The positive effect of it was helping me to find a good emotional place to be, but I hadn’t really noticed it consciously, yet. The awareness of all this would come later…but I knew that I was heading to the woods more frequently. It was a growing habit that was starting to become an addiction, and I began to look online more and more to see what else was out there to go check out. What can I say, I had a lot of free time and the dog needed to go for a walk.

Now, I had been a hiker and camper for most of my childhood and youth, and adulthood so far…but I had never really thought about how it affected me. When I was a kid it was just a thing that my parents would take us to go do. Spend some time in nature. Try to appreciate being in it. I would go along, sometimes reluctantly if you can believe it. I was young and they were my parents, so I didn’t really have a choice. I remember Sunday afternoons in the Fall, driving somewhere to look at the changing leaves, sitting in the back seat stewing because I could be having so much more fun just wasting time in my room at home. Ugh.

DSCF2326When I moved out of my parents house in my late teens, heading to the woods became a routine adventure. As a ritual proclamation of our independence, friends of mine and I would spend our days off driving to some trail somewhere to see what was out there. I learned a lot, saw a lot of cool natural places, probably broke some trespassing rules here and there, and strengthened a longing that I hadn’t yet realized was inside of me. I was pretty lucky to have had people in my life that knew more than I did about what there was to see in the forests of Missouri, and some of those places are still special to me.

2013-04-25 11.41.42After becoming an adult (having a couple kids and gaining a mortgage), the forest was set aside for more domestic pursuits…temporarily. The obligations in life changed, and the amount of gear that was needed for an excursion into the forest increased, almost to a level of “Is it worth it?”. With very new little people in my world, the outside was put on hold for the most part. Careers and child rearing became the adventure, with the occasional weekend trip to the local county park to run around on the playground. As the kids grew and became more autonomous, the chance for adventure increased. Eventually the playground was exchanged for a trail once in a while, and at least a couple times a year, a weekend at home sometimes became a weekend at a campground.

20130405_115508Fast forward to 22 months ago, and there I was…getting depressed every morning because I was facing a lot of financial and emotional stress and anxiety, and then spending an increasing amount of time walking through the woods in the afternoon, just to get away from it. I also started to spend a lot of this unwanted free time really absorbing as much information as I could about natural places to see in Missouri. It has been the state that I have spent the majority of my life in, and I figured that there had to be a couple campgrounds and trails that I hadn’t been to yet, at least within a couple hour drive from where I lived. The internet is relatively free, so after filling out online job applications on rainy days, I would look up the state park websites and the conservation websites to see what was out there. And it was good for me. It was giving me something to focus on that was bringing some optimism into my life, at least as a distraction. Yeah…steady work still wasn’t to be found, but I was tapping into a positivity that I hadn’t fully recognized.

20130413_130608So after a couple of trips to the forest that I had taken some pictures on, and with encouragement from some of the people in my life, I did some research to figure out how to start a Blog. Not anything special or out of the ordinary. Just a way for me to share my experiences in the forest, and to have some sort of creative outlet. Maybe it could even become an online archive of places that other people could visit, once I had compiled enough posts.

DSCF1766I knew that I was limited financially to keep from taking trips all over the country, so I decided that my focus would be on just Missouri. Like I said, this is the state that I’ve lived in most of my life, and even though we lack the obvious topographical grandeur and vast scenic horizons of some of the more notable states in this country, I felt that there must be a lot to see and experience here. Natural places with their own charm and magic. I knew they were out there; I had seen some of them before. So my focus would be held to showcasing natural and historical places in Missouri. As it is limiting, it gave me a clear target. And I knew that it would be about the camping trips that I took. I felt that could be the center of it. Camping for a night or two was the thing that I did that got me close to all these great places to see. A whole weekend here and there of exploring some natural area, taking some pictures, and then attempting my hand at “writing”. I was going to call it “Camping Missouri”. This could be fun.

2013-04-08 10.37.44But this was just the first section of the trail.

To be continued…

  1. Marty permalink

    Once again pictures with no captions or locations. Please include them. I’m curious, if no one else is. I agree with your insight about trips to the woods. I was a high school teacher for 38 years, and often it was the best way to find solace from the stress.

    • You know, Marty…you’re right, and I had given some thought to it when you mentioned it before. The reason I haven’t included captions on the pictures thus far is that when I started doing this blog, I had done that, and what I kept coming across was that it tended to be disruptive to the spacing of the text. The captions elongated the space that the pictures took up, and sort of…messed up the layout of the text. So I stopped doing it so that I didn’t have to deal with that hurdle. I want you to know that I am taking it into consideration, as it would enhance the posts in a beneficial informational way. When I get a chance at some point, I will play around with it and see if I can make it work without causing me aggravation.
      Thank you for your suggestion!

  2. missourihowell permalink

    Nicely said. Have really enjoyed your style since I started following. After 14 months, I still have a difficult time “opening up” on my blog. Especially why I do what I do. I suppose I’ll have to write about it eventually. In the meantime, I’m doing a 2-3 night OT jaunt in March (Trace Creek and Taum Sauk). Let me know if you’re interested. Should be fun.

    • Thanks, man! I am going to have to remind myself to respond more thoroughly after work today, if I get the chance. I have some thoughts that I ought to share, that you might appreciate.

  3. Carmen permalink

    i have recently been following your site, and absolutely love your posts. I am originally for the jacks fork and current river area and miss Missouri so much. Your posts help bring a little bit of home back to me.

    Thank you

  4. Carmen, you are very welcome! That is awesome to hear. Makes a guy even MORE motivated to keep doing it. Thank you! Have you seen the posts that I’ve done about the Ozark National Scenic Riverways? Click the tab near the top of the page, if you haven’t already.
    Take care, and thank you for checking it out!

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