It’s Wanderlust Wednesday here, so we’re going to continue to share our Kern River camping adventure with you!
Okay, okay, we can take a hint. After two days of locals commenting “for people on vacation, you sure do work a lot!” we decided to take a real day off.
We created video content so we can put together a how-to video on making delicious focaccia from scratch in our new Lodge dutch oven over a campfire (keep an eye on our Youtube!) but for us, that’s fun!
14 years later, we’re still learning new skills together. Who knew Niels was such an awesome backcountry chef!?
We didn’t go to the general store for wifi to check in for jobs, opting instead to take our time making the focaccia, which we then shared with our campground neighbors. We could have fired up our camping stove, but it was way more fun to slow-cook over the fire!
Niels cooling off after prepping the fire for the focaccia
We didn’t need to check a calendar to know it was the weekend. The camp was packed and people were yelping with delight as they hit the rapids in front of our site. It turned out that not spending our time hunched over a computer freed us for meaningful interactions with the people around us.
As we cleaned up after breakfast, a family of 12 walked by looking for the put-in, so I decided to lead them up the sandy path so they could have an extra 10 minutes of float time. While we walked, I made small talk, explaining the importance of walking on the sand and the stones, and avoiding the delicate plants. I also expressed that you could tell we were walking in what used to be the river bed: thick mud, smothering plants brushed down at the same angle, an old water line on the rocks.
“How long have you been coming here?” one of the guys in the group asked.
“Not long,” I replied.
“Then how do you know so much about the river?”
I realized I was unconsciously sharing the lessons I’d learned from so much time observing and immersing myself in nature. Outdoor education is something that Niels and I are passionate about, especially now as more people get into nature. It’s necessary to educate them on their impact. I felt deep gratitude for my environmental education experiences, and the fact that someone else was enjoying learning these lessons!
As we continued walking along the riverbank I encouraged them to pick up any trash they saw along the way. When we arrived at the put-in, the conservation conversations continued with a family that was already there. One of the men was explaining to his son that he could only take a pinecone home, nothing else. This led to us having a lengthy discussion about how difficult it can be to practice leave no trace, especially with children. Sometimes taking something treasured home from nature might mean they learn to appreciate and respect nature more. But if everyone did it, would we have a wilderness to explore and enjoy?
As he cracked open a beer, and his other son took a group photo of the family I’d led to the river, we discussed an awesome article we’d both read recently about a young girl who visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park and took a stone from the river. When she got home, she realized it was wrong, and mailed it back to the park service, asking that they put it back, which they did, and used it as a chance to educate people on the importance of following Leave No Trace protocols. To put it in perspective, the park service said they receive 11.5 million visitors a year, and if 11.5 million people took one rock, the park wouldn’t be much of a place worth visiting. We both looked down at the river stones beneath our feet, sharing silence as we imagined 11.5 million people taking stones from this beautiful place.
“Sure wouldn’t be the same here, would it?” he mused.
The reason I’m sharing these interactions is because despite our varied backgrounds, age differences, and unique life paths, we found unity. Some of us were from the city, some from the suburbs, different ethnicities and cultures, and yet we all found interconnectedness out here on the river, sharing this beautiful space. The kindness of the locals in pointing out that we weren’t being present and enjoying the nature around us because we were too busy working, the large family open to learning ecological lessons, and the military veteran father discussing leave no trace with a girl he just met. All of us have walked such different paths in life, but we all felt a sense of connection because of our shared love for nature and recognition of our planet’s limited resources.
The generosity of heart, and willingness to share this space brought smiles to our faces. As we floated to the local rope swing the father told us about, we looked at each other knowing that these are the moments in life that truly matter. We spent hours swinging and talking with more locals, grateful for the special feeling of welcome here.
All of these interactions give us hope, because on a daily basis we’re seeing more and more people recognizing the need to respect the planet we live on as well as one another. Even at a time when the news is inundated with stories of hate and tension, or the horrors of climate change, there is positive cultural change in daily life. Yes, as we tubed the river, we had to collect some fishing bobs, and some cans. But it turned out we weren’t the only ones choosing to do that! We’d set aside a can to pick up later on our next river run, and by the time we came back, it was gone. It made us feel good to know that we weren’t the only stewards of the river.
So, we’re not giving up on our planet, and we’re not giving up on the people, and we hope you won’t either. Together, we’ve got this. In the words of my favorite band, Modest Mouse, “we’ll all float on (Alright!) Now don’t you worry, we’ll all float on.”
Thanks for wandering with us!
P.S. Don’t forget to follow/subscribe to us for more travel photography and adventure stories: