Camping 101 With AKontheGO and Anchorage Community House

Jump with joy – you’re camping! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Were you raised to spend summer nights in a canvas tent, cooking meals over a campfire and playing until all hours among the leafy trees and rocky streams? I was, and so were many of my friends. My parents would pack the VW Bus with sleeping bags, coolers, boots, extra clothes, and that smelly canvas tent and away we’d go, sometimes to a real campground but more often to some remote place at the end of a logging road in Washington or Oregon. 

Oh, what fun kids in the old days were able to have, fishing, hunting, camping, and playing. Griffith family photos, from anchoragecentennial.org site.

What do I remember? Oh my, the smell of bacon in my dad’s old cast iron frying pan, of toast stuck atop a forked stick and held over the fire. The sound of loons on a quiet mountain lake, and squirrels chattering in the tops of Douglas fir trees. And my parents. I remember how relaxed they were in the woods, my father standing near the fire, a can of beer in one hand and a soda cracker with a smoked oyster balanced on top, in the other. “Gee,” he’d always say after a big swig of his beer and a look across the lake, river, or mountain valley, “This is really nice.” It wasn’t the beer, or the oyster, or even the crackling fire. It was simply the place. 

Indeed. 

Yurts are one way to car camp in Alaska. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

The concept of camping has changed over the years, both in my life and the lives of thousands who take to the public lands of America each summer. Some people go urban with their sleep-outs, preferring the framework of companies like KOA. Others, like my dad, would rather drive to the end of the highway, and then some, looking for the most space in which to be alone with nature and us. Both work. But both do take some planning to pull off.

According to the 2016 North American Camper Report (funded by KOA),about 28% of the United States population went camping last year, up a smidge from the previous year. So, that’s not bad, a quarter of the population hitting the road and camping out, but can’t we do better, America? I mean, 14% of the US is protected federal, state, tribal, or local public lands. That’s a lot of room to roam with your kids, and what better time than this summer? 

RV travel can be one of the most comfortable ways for families to camp around the 49th state. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

AKontheGO has entered into a new partnership with Great Alaskan Holidays to expand the knowledge base of families looking to explore the 49th state, and we’re kicking things off Saturday, May 13 at Eagle River Campground, just 12 miles north of Anchorage. AND, we’ve got some friends who want to party with us at the first-ever Outdoor Family Pop-Up Party. 

This is for families, large, small, and somewhere in-between. Anchorage Community House is co-hosting with us, and we’ll have a ton of free, fun, and interesting activities to provide essential knowledge for camping 101. 

  • Need a tent? We’ll have a few styles to show, and allow for set up and dismantling by kids (they need to know, too). 
  • Never cooked over a fire, or don’t have a camp stove? No problem, we’ll be making some simple goodies over the campfire and on our little stoves of varying sizes. 
  • Not sure what to take camping? We’ll have a great list and a few tote boxes all set up with the basics for camping 101. 
  • Looking for other families to explore along with you? There will be resources, activities, and all kinds of fun people on hand who love the outdoors as much as you do, and want to meet other people to do the same. If you’re new to Alaska, or just hesitant about exploring this wild and wonderful state, this event is for you. 

All families attending the Outdoor Family Pop-Up Party need to bring the following: 

  • A lunch, snacks, and beverages for your family. This is a great opportunity to learn what foods your kids do and do not like while in the outdoors, as well as what foods pack well (or don’t). Try string cheese, nuts, dried fruit, bars, and the like. Or, bring hot dogs and roast them over the fire we’ll have going all day! 
  • Clothing for sun, rain, wind, or…snow. We camp in all kinds of situations, and…there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Layers of non-cotton, boots or sturdy shoes, rain gear, hats, mittens. Load into a bag or backpack and bring it along. 
  • An Alaska State Parks pass, or $5/vehicle for day use (we are waiting on word from the campground contractor on this, but bring just in case.) NOTE: This is a special day, just for us, so please thank the campground hosts if/when you see them! 
  • Notebook, pen, or any method of your choice for taking notes on the things you learn. 
  • An open mind. Kids will have a great attitude if YOU have a great attitude toward the day and their experiences. 

Not sure how to get to Eagle River Campground? Here are directions

PLEASE – RSVP here so we know how many families to expect. We will limit this event to 25 people, so let us know today! 

“Take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.” ~H. Bennett

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