Seeking Freedom

I spent the first 18 years of my life living in Nevada and outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and fishing were an important part of my childhood. When I was younger, my family went camping often. As I entered high school, camping with my family became less common, but I went camping a lot with friends. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Nevada is very unique in that most of the state is public land, and you can camp anywhere you want, anytime. I never paid any fees or bought any permits, and I don’t even know if it was possible to make reservations. I can only think of a few locations with maintained camp sites – and those probably had some fees associated with them, but none of my family or friends would have even really considered staying there. Why stay in an official campground surrounded by other people when you can stay anywhere else in the entire state for free?

To go camping in Nevada, you pretty much just started driving out of town on a dirt road, and whenever you feel like stopping, you park the car and you were at your campsite. If you’re lazy (like I was in high school) you drive about 20 minutes out of town and find a bare spot in the middle of the sagebrush and call it good. If you want to drive a little bit further, you can find some more scenic surroundings – but still everything was free and nobody cared where you were.

Now I live in Minnesota, and I like it here, but I also really miss having the entire state as my playground. Minnesota doesn’t have “no man’s land” like Nevada did. If I want to go camping, I have to plan ahead, make reservations, pay some fees, and camp 30 feet from somebody else. Or at least that’s all I’ve figured out how to do here in MN. Maybe I’m just inexperienced in “camp planning” since we never did any planning growing up. I’m not sure if it’s possible to camp near the Twin Cities anyplace other than state parks or privately owned campsites.

So now I’m trying to plan a campout for 6 people (3 adults, 3 kids) and it’s looking like I will pay an $8.50 reservation fee, an $18 campsite fee, and a $5 vehicle fee. I will only be able to have one tent on the campsite (though I sweet talked the park employee over the phone today and she said she might be able to let me get pitch a second “very small” tent “just for the children”), and any more than a single vehicle will have to park outside the state park. I’ll probably be be able to eavesdrop on the conversation at the campsite 30 feet away. It won’t really feel like camping, with the running water, bathrooms, and showers a few-hundred feet away, and I’ll probably end up getting a little cranky when I see the parks employee making the rounds during the evening to make sure we’re all using appropriate firewood purchased from the park office.

There is little chance I will ever live in Nevada again. I was anxious to leave when I turned 18, and really, there are many places I would enjoy living much more. So I’m better off in Minnesota, for now. But anytime I think about planning a campout, sweet home Nevada starts sounding pretty good again.

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