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Steph gets wild — with a guide, of course

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It was at least five years back the day we were in the car playing “Would You Rather?” and the question arose, “Would you rather live out the rest of your days in Burger King or in the wild?”

Upsettingly, my husband chose Burger King and the boys followed suit. I thought I would throw up. I thought I needed to get a divorce and disown my children too, trade them in for new ones. Burger King? I couldn’t even go into that flourescent-lit place happily for a minute, let alone live out my days there. I’d much rather take my chances in the wild.

How could they have made that decision, I wondered.

“Burger King may not be great,” my husband agreed. “But in the wild, you’d get eaten by a lion pretty fast.”

That’s when my campaign began to sell The Wild as a concept in the abstract, to try to help my family see the error of their ways relying even theoretically on factory-made versus facing up to the potential dangers and wonders of nature.

The kids’ sleep-away camp has been helping make some inroads for years, but it was on our recent vacation camping in the Adirondacks that I was finally vindicated: the wild wins in my family, hands down.

Now, granted, paying Adirondack Mountain and Stream a fair sum to pack in food and gear to get us through two nights and three days feeling sated and pretty comfortable in zippered tents might not “technically” be considered “living in the wild.” But canoeing out to a remote piece of woods off of Round Lake, setting up camp around a firepit and downwind from the wooden “toilet” and living out of doors amidst the many biting insects for a few days to fish, swim, and build fires was certainly proof enough that we could potentially do the wild thing over the corporate-created thing pretty happily if it came to that.

Cody Frasier, our trusty guide, was a great inspiration as he strung tarps between trees as a makeshift roof over the stove and table he set up. He showed the kids how to pick the best wood and saw it into small enough pieces to feed the fire. He showed them how to cast out fishing rods to catch the local bass, and how to filet it and cook it for a yummy dinner. (Note to self: kids like fish better when they catch it themselves.)

There was, strangely enough, a good Verizon signal out there in the woods, among the great tall varieties of birch and fir trees, but the kids agreed not to use their phones, and we even opted not to stream music after a short burst of it left us feeling bereft of the calls of our favorite birds and the intermittent dramatic cries of the loons.

We played in the rapids, learning how to navigate the rocky bottom and be mindful of slipping away into the forceful part that could carry us, fast, into the felled log downstream, or underneath it and beyond. I was nervous at times, but also thrilled as the kids followed Cody’s lead and went forth unafraid but cautious, as is necessary. Water is powerful and it is great to be reminded of that.

The kids were blissed out. Even as Eli’s thighs swelled with mosquito and black fly bites, he waved off the irritations and slept soundly in his sleeping bag. The hot cocoa Cody offered just upon waking didn’t hurt. I’m not sure we could always have that in the wild so easily, but I don’t think Burger King offers it, either.

Our maiden camping experience was a big success thanks to Cody, without whom we wouldn’t have had the confidence to go so remote. It gives me hope that we all (including me) can live happily with less attachment to man-made things, that we can learn a little about appreciating life as humans once lived it, at the mercy of the elements, for better or worse.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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