The joys of the great outdoors |

The joys of the great outdoors

April in Glenwood
April E. Clark
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
April E. Clark

Not too many years ago, in a land about 1,280 miles away, I once had the mindset that camping didn’t seem like much of a vacation.

There can be, after all, bugs and reptiles, hard sleeping surfaces, and a fair amount of work that goes into setting up camp.

I would later learn that’s all part of the fun.

In the years before moving to Colorado, I was more of a beachside-hotel or cruise-ship vacationer type. My family and I were land-locked Midwesterners who joined the droves of sun-seeking tourists flocking to Florida every summer. We routinely made the 20-hour drive down south to take in the Sunshine State’s countless amusement parks, sandy beaches and seafood restaurants. Complete with brand-spanking-new white tennis shoes.

Like American Express cards, we never left home without them.

As a kid, my rugged outdoor experiences were limited to Girl Scout and church camps. With cozy cabins, a large pool and three full meals a day in the mess hall, this was camping on easy street.

Much like car camping to my boyfriend, Russ.

Albeit a late start to the camping season this year, Russ and I headed up above Ruedi Reservoir Saturday afternoon in my Jeep for a night of camping with our friends, Adam and Aaron, their three adorable kids, Hunter, Westin and River, and Aaron’s teenage brother, Bailey. We chose roads mostly accessible by four-wheel drive for some much-needed peace and quiet. People who know me well might say I’m way too neurotic to go camping in the middle of nowhere. Bears, serial killers, West Nile …

I have a pretty wild imagination.

But considering a preppy couple wearing designer jeans and driving a Land Rover plastered with “NObama” and “Obama Sucks” bumper stickers pulled up to share our camp spot, I knew we were closer to civilization than even I desired.

Being avid hikers and campers, they must have missed the news the day President Obama signed legislation designating 2 million additional acres of public wilderness areas.

After meeting up with the Sherman Family, we hunkered down in a beautiful spot in a fir forest near a huge pond with lily pads. The boys wanted to fish, so we took a stroll over to the pond. Russ instantly went into Mr. Fiske the Science Teacher mode. Since his dad is an aquatic biologist in Vermont, Russ knows almost everything imaginable about nature. I always tell him he should follow in his father’s footsteps, but he was more inclined to study photography in college like his grandfather. But, hey, it’s never too late, and I’m sure he would be a great science guy. Russ is also a walking encyclopedia when it comes to plants, so hiking and camping with him is always an educational experience.

Unfortunately for me, Russ’s passed-down knowledge from his dad extends to leeches.

And this pond had plenty of them.

Anything that attaches to skin and proceeds to suck blood freaks me out entirely. My dog Jake once had a huge, bloated tick feeding on him like Edward Cullen. I thought I was going to pass out while trying to burn it off without leaving behind the tick’s head. The sliminess of leeches doesn’t help their cause. I grew up with a dad who loves bugs, reptiles and fish so I should be used to it.

No such luck.

Russ was really getting a kick out of showing me his newly found friends, especially the really huge bloodsuckers under rocks. I was mostly watching for snakes since we were stomping around in muddy vegetation.

Did I mention I consider this vacation?

After science class, we headed back to camp for a meal no Florida seafood restaurant could top. There were hot dogs on sticks, fresh veggie sandwiches, corn on the cob roasted over the campfire, and, of course, s’mores. Best of all, the kids – ranging in age from 9 months to 13 years old – were having a blast in the great outdoors. They fished, napped, played bocce ball, found rocks, and relaxed in hammocks. No video games or TV, just Mother Nature to entertain.

She really knows how to vacation.

April E. Clark once went camping with scorpions, and she’s not talking about the heavy metal band from Germany. She can be reached at

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