By Steve Peterson, Executive Director, Northwest Family YMCA
I have always loved camping. The Peterson family fished, hunted and camped as we had for generations. Since I could walk, my Dad made sure “us boys” got out of the city to see what he called, “God’s Creation.” I don’t remember a time we weren’t preparing for a camping trip.
Our family evolved from backpacking, to tent camping, to trailers, to fifth wheels and then motorhomes. Camping was a family tradition, and we traveled around the U.S. making memories.
By the time I went to college, I knew I wanted to be a Wildlife Biologist or Forest Ranger. I pursued and graduated with a degree in biology – the perfect thing to keep me connected to the outdoors! I made like-minded friends in college who also loved to camp and be outdoors. They were all fishermen, hunters, farmers, ranchers, cowboys and wildlife biologists. We camped all of the time.
For work, I made sure to find a resident camp to work at during the summer when I wasn’t too busy with classes. YMCA Camp Cullen, outside of Houston, was the perfect place for me, and I’m so glad I found it! I spent three of my four college summers working at camp.
I even met my wife, Robin, there when we worked together at Camp Cullen. I was a Unit Leader and Wrangler, and she was an Adventure Counselor who took teenagers to Colorado. Robin liked to mountain climb, whitewater canoe, fish, backpack, and camp – my kind of girl! We have now been together for 39 years and we owe it to camp and our love for the outdoors.
When we had children, we knew that we wanted them to grow up outdoors as much as possible. Through the years, our kids learned to fish, hunt, and camp just like Mom and Dad. Both of our children regularly attended camp at YMCA Camp Pine Tree, Camp Cullen, and Camp Hamman Ranch.
Why is Camping so important to us?
For Robin and me, camping helps us to slow down and remember what is important to us. Like many people, we are incredibly busy, but learning to disconnect from the city and our busy lives is crucial for our happiness. Camping allows us to leave the city traffic, forget about the deadlines, and leave the meetings behind at the office. Over the years, we have learned to disconnect and unplug! Connecting to nature is so wonderful, as we love all things natural that the earth has to offer.
There is no better than feeling the wind blowing on our faces, feeling the warmth of the sun, or hearing sound of approaching storms. There is so much beauty in a blue sky, wild animals and plants. There is nothing that relieves stress better the smell of honeysuckles, wildflowers and streams. The stress melts away from our muscles, and the tension dissipates from our bodies.
Camping also helps to revitalize our relationship. We are given the chance to talk and become present with each other more.
All of this is to say that life is sweeter and simpler for us when we are camping, and Robin and I could not wait to help with YMCA Camp Moody here in the Austin area! We believe in the benefits of camp for children and families. It is important to us to be long-term donors to Camp Moody’s Capital Campaign to ensure the happiness for generations to come.
One of our favorite new activities is Family Exploration Days on weekends through the summer. Families are welcome to come out to camp and enjoy the natural beauty of 85 acres along Onion Creek with canoeing, archery, hiking, scavenger hunts, orienteering, slingshots, picnicking and other special themed activities. Y Summer Day Camp sessions are also available for kids age 8-14 through August 7.
We are excited to see family programming and summer camps begin there, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.