outdoors

Midweek Camping

I started new project this month: sleeping outside one night a week.

It works like this: I come to work extra early, and then I feel less guilty about heading out at 4:30 or 5. I fight through the San Francisco traffic until I reach a wilderness permit station, pick up the permit that’s waiting for me in a box out front for latecomers, then head out to a campsite. I stop on the way and buy a veggie wrap, throw it in my backpack, then park at a trailhead, strap on my pack, and hike out. I pass people on the trails, and they eye my backpack. I assemble the tent, devour half a wrap, let the sun set all around me, zip away the world and stare up through the bug netting at the endless stars or the mist or the clouds or the hillsides. I wake before 6, and I run or I don’t run, and I’m back in the office by 8 AM, slipping into the shower on the first floor, settled in my office chair before 9.

The idea is to get wilderness into my life, in small bits and pieces, whenever I can.

And maybe the real goal is about reclaiming my life. I don’t want my life outside to be something I dream about in between meetings for weeks or months, then burn through in a few brief vacation days. I look up sometimes and realize weeks have gone by and I didn’t do anything except work and commute and sleep. I want to start to close the gap between epic backpacking adventures and sipping decaf while I scroll through emails in the morning in a windowless office.

Instead, I am making living outside a default setting. It’s something I build into my life every week, until throwing together a camping trip doesn’t seem like a big deal anymore.

Because it’s not a big deal. I need a sleeping bag, a tent (sometimes), a sleeping pad, a water bottle, and enough cash to buy a sandwich or burrito or slice of pizza. I often need to book ahead some sort of camping permit.

But that’s it. Everything else is optional. And I do love bringing the optional stuff—a Kindle, a headlamp, chapstick, something I can eat for breakfast, allergy meds, pajamas, a puffy jacket. But those are the easy afterthoughts, the niceties I can live without. I don’t really need them, and I’m always close enough to a store that swinging over is no big deal.

Weekday camping is often less crowded. It’s possible to roll up and find a first-come campsite, or book something if I plan a few days out. I can even book beautiful weekday campsites a few weeks out in places that book up months in advance on weekends.

When I have time, I’m going to write about some of the campsites I find in the larger San Francisco Bay Area, how to book them, and include a few photos. I’ll be putting them up on Instagram and this blog using the hashtag #MidweekCamping (yep, that’s a thing). And if you’re reading this and something here resonates with you, and you’d like to start making space for more wilderness in your own life, then I’d encourage you to also use the hashtag #MidweekCamping and send me photos over Instagram, and maybe together we can start a small movement.

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