By: Julian Brenman ’20

When you hear the word “camp,” you may think of the place you go in the summertime to partake in sports, crafts, and recreation. Perhaps you remember the time you snoozed in sleeping bags in the backyard or at a nearby campground for a night as part of a Boy Scout or Girl Scout event. When Pierce Hayton, a current sophomore, hears the word “camp,” he reminisces with a grin about the two times he, his father, and his sister, Zoë, spent nearly a month driving from California to Philadelphia. During these periods, the Haytons spent most of their nights sleeping beneath the stars at renowned campgrounds anywhere between the state known for sunny weather, fame, and fortune and their home here inPennsylvania.

Pierce explains how these two quests came to be: “Right after winter break in seventh grade, my dad has this idea. He says, ‘Hey, how about I sell my current car, we fly out west to California, buy a new car there, then drive it back home?’ Of course, me and my sister [sic] were totally on board with that. We flew out there and saw some of our grandparents, which worked out well, then we bought the car, and arrived back here just under three weeks later. We did the same thing before ninth grade.” Pierce adds, “Along the way, we camped at places like Glacier National Park, (seen in the 1st and 2nd photos) The Redwoods, (seen in the 3rd and 4th photos) and many other little campgrounds you find across the West. The badlands in South Dakota, (seen in the 5th photo) which had very odd, sandy-typed terrain, were a great place to camp at. We’d spend a few nights at every place. We’d camp at two places, then we’d stay at a hotel so we could do laundry, shower and clean up basically. We’d drive six or seven hours a day east, stop for the night somewhere, camp two or three nights there, explore that area, then just continue all the way back to Ohio. Then we went east.”

The outdoorsman shares his favorite aspect of the journey: “My favorite place to camp was the Redwoods. It was awe-inspiring. You see these trees, and you think to yourself, ‘Wow, these are hundreds of feet tall and they’re hundreds of years old and they create this incredibly dense canopy.’ You can leave and go back to California where it becomes dry and warm, but when you go in the Redwoods, it’s humid and shady. It’s cooler. It feels like a very different environment. It feels like you’ve left California and you’re now in this new land. Then you go back out and you’re like ‘Wow, now I’m back in California.’ I also really loved visiting Salt Point. Salt Point is on the very northern coast of California. It’s this beautiful spot along the ocean. I woke up really early one morning to go out there and see the sun rise and light up the ocean from behind me. It’s this big old cliff, and I’m the only person out there. I remember standing out there, looking at it, and thinking to myself, ‘Wow. This is stunning.’ When you see something like that you realize how humans are so tiny compared to the rest of the world.”

Pierce says the logistical aspects of camping aren’t as treacherous as some make them out to be: “Sleeping in a tent isn’t that bad if you have some good sleeping pads. You obviously have a sleeping bag, but you’ll want to put some sleeping pads under it so you’re not sleeping on rocks or roots or anything. We have inflatable ones which are really comfy. The sleeping pads also help insulate you from the cold ground. If you have a good sleeping bag and a good sleeping pad, you’re not going to feel it too much. For cooking, you have to plan ahead when you’re doing these types of things. Though you’ll be in a campground with other people, so you’re not too far from civilization, you still don’t want to have to make a run back and forth to town every night to cook your dinner. What we do is we go to R.E.I. and they have these meals that you just add hot water to and you let them sit for six minutes and they’re good to eat. Those are usually dinner. For lunch, we bring bread and sandwich materials. It’s a lot of simple foods when camping-nothing extravagant. Some campgrounds have a shower but not all of them do. We’d have to go a few days without it!”

While many of the aspects of Pierce’s camping episodes were fantastic, some were what others would deem “hair-raising.” Pierce shares his encounter with a grizzly: “I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I see this big lumbering figure looking at this table. I see two reflective eyes looking at me and I walked back to my tent calmly. It was a bear who was trying to get food. I didn’t get hurt and luckily, I felt pretty safe.”

Most families struggle with relationships. Despite common belief, Pierce says the intense quality time provided by camping and driving coast-to-coast strengthened the relationship between him, his father, and his sister. He elaborates,“Camping helped me and my sister not fight as much because we’re like, ‘Well, we can fight for these four to eight hours and be unhappy, or we can learn to live with each other for these four to eight hours and enjoy the experience’. Fighting isn’t going to make anything change. Don’t get me wrong, we did argue a lot because obviously we’re trapped in a car for anywhere from four to eight hours in a single day. But I think my dad’s always been good at mediating and preventing these fights and arguments from starting. Me and my sister generally get along very well anyways.”

In addition to benefiting his family relationships, Pierce says camping gave him, his father and his sister many skills they use as individuals: “As a result of this camping, me, my dad, and my sister have become a lot less uptight. We’re now a lot more ‘go with the flow’ type people. We accept what’s going on. This attitude gives you this appreciation for nature, because you learn to recognize what’s going on and choose how to deal with it.  It helps you with problem solving, accepting a situation and growing through it.”

If camping seems like something you’d like to do, Pierce suggests that “a great way to get into camping is to go with friends of yours. It was great when I went with Jacob Groch and his father and his sister because we had the benefits of camping, but my family and I weren’t going solo. I had the other people to hang out with. Going with others can be fun because it can help alleviate some of the fears of camping. If you don’t know what to do, you can talk to the other family to get help. If you and your family want to go, you should definitely do it.”

Pierce notes that camping taught him things he didn’t know about himself: “I’ve learned that I’m more crafty and more resourceful than I thought I was. You don’t have access to a Rite Aid or a Target or a Giant, so you have to make do with what you have and continue from there.”

In closing, Pierce exclaims, “When camping, bug repellent is a life saver.” As far as his future camping plans, Pierce reveals, “We are hoping to go camping either spring break or beginning of summer.”

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