So, you've finally convinced some of your city slicker friends to join you on a camping trip. While enthusiasts don't need a reason to hit the brush, others we're trying to bring into the community may have some aversions, naturally. It's up to you as the host to determine the best activities for your group, to really show them just how much fun these types of excursions can be. For this scenario we'll be discussing what to do on an organized campsite, a common way for groups of friends and families to spend a few days in the woods, with some relative comfort and modern amenities such as bathrooms and running water.
State organized campsites are a common locale for frequent campers and the fees to rent the sites help support the parks and recreation agencies that maintain the lands. Each campsite is different with the available excursions around, but there are a litany of activities nearby to immerse yourself and find enjoyment in a variety of outdoor activities. While many of us might just like the feeling of leaning up against a tree with a good book, for newcomers, activities like this may come across as otherwise boring.
This is the most obvious and you'll probably have several ideas on different hikes your group can undertake. No matter where you camp, it's almost a guarantee you'll have several hiking trails nearby. Beginner hiking trails are perfect for newcomers as they are generally easy enough for most people to do, regardless of your level of fitness. If you're an experienced hiker yourself you can certainly have your group follow you off the beaten path for a different experience, but remember that you should only lead newcomers into situations like that if you are 100% confident on the destination and return trip. Embarking on any sort of hike will give you a multi-hour excursion at the very least, and leave your group with a great feeling of accomplishment once you have crested the last step on the trail.
Water Based Activities
Whether you want to go fishing, kayaking, or white water rafting, many established campsites have some types of water based activities nearby. This may not be true for the arid destinations, such as Death Valley, but since most of North America is nestled within rolling green hills, it's safe to assume there is something like this around. Fishing is a very common activity that's both relaxing and a worthwhile skill to know. Whether you're doing a catch and release, or have a permit to take some out with you, fishing is a common camping past time. Kayaking is also a great group activity, and leads to some pretty comical moments, especially with an inexperienced group of friends. To kayak well requires coordination and teamwork, something you'll be teasing each other for weeks after the trip is over. White water rafting is fun, but can be dangerous, so this is really reserved for the more extreme groups who are looking for that high stakes adrenaline rush.
Especially in the more mountainous camping regions of North America, organized cave explorations are something you can frequently find near a lot of campsites. Some caves might have storied histories of being hideouts for some outlaw gang or another back in the day, while the majority of them show stalagmite formations over centuries. These are a fantastic natural wonder, and for those who have never been on one of these types of tours, I would highly recommend looking into it if it's available near your next camping destination. Many cave systems expand for dozens of miles, with many paths being unexplored in even several commonly toured cave destinations. This is the natural 'indoors' of the wild, and if you can imagine how important caves were to early groups of humans, that makes these types of adventures all the more interesting. I will follow this up by saying that no one should ever seek a cave diving excursion without an expert guide by their side. Caves are extremely dangerous, as it's very easy to get lost. Staying along the guided paths within these tours is recommended, and if you want a more authentic experience, hiring a tour guide that deeply knows the paths in and out is a MUST.
In a previous post I discussed one of my birdwatching adventures, and for a vast majority of enthusiasts, experienced or otherwise, there is always something new to see when observing wild animal species. Whether it be birds, fish, and even insects, there are so many reasons to pencil in some type of animal watching activity. Depending on the times of year you will be going, animals will have different migratory patterns, mating periods, and behaviors with the different times of year. This creates a unique experience that is difficult to find any exact similarities between excursions, and is a great activity for families with younger children especially.
Perhaps your friends would like to learn how to properly set up and take down a tent, start a fire, or anything else that's required to camp out. Some of my friends are just interested in how to start a fire, keep it going, and how to cook over an open fire, all of which are good skills to know. A weekend trip is plenty of time to just relax, giving you plenty of opportunities to show them the proper practices of being in the wild. Even at organized campsites, cleanliness is king, as we want to be able to enjoy these places for years to come, and this is the number one thing that should be enforced with any newcomers. Next may come skills like safe handling of tools, specifically knives and hatchets, as well as maintenance like sharpening. And for any of the excursions mentioned above, if you have experience, sharing what you know is a great way to get others more immersed in the activity you are undertaking.
We are all inexperienced at something until we become experienced with it. The mutual exchange of ideas is what makes communities like ours so great, and something we should all strive to embody as we encounter others on our adventures. Be patient, as the skills you are sharing may just save someone's life one day!