Summer is here, and my son and I are beating the heat how we can—swimming in our new stock tank pool in the backyard, biking in the still-cool early morning, and planning our next camping getaway where we can avoid the crowds.
Planning these trips with Oliver always gets me thinking about my own childhood experiences in the great outdoors. My family escaped the Texas heat by vacationing on the Little Missouri River in the Ouachita National Forest. I would patiently wait for the sun to rise and then scramble out the door, down the steps, and wade into the banks of the river. I carried the map of the trails and the river in my head. I could tell you where to find the best sitting rock, the best nook to search for crawdads, and even take you to the dam that my brothers and I built to watch the water rise.
Now that school is out, I think often about our little summer cabin with the tin roof. With so much uncertainty in our lives, one thing remains consistent—the intrinsic value of wild and natural spaces. Like many others, my son and I have been practicing social distancing at our home in Austin. I’ve become a full-time cook, 1st grade teacher (and now: camp counselor), all while juggling the demands of a full-time job from my kitchen table. With so many hours spent at home, the ability to go outside, get some fresh air, and connect to natural spaces has never been so welcome and important.
As a parent, I want my son not only to share my love of wild spaces but learn to advocate for them. He’s well on his way—one of his most prized possessions is his Junior Ranger hat with badges pinned from the 13 national parks he’s visited. If you run into him at a Texas Land Conservancy event, he’s likely to regale you with stories of the time he summited Guadalupe Peak or protected me from a 50-pound raccoon while camping in Big Bend Ranch State Park. I fondly remember one of my first TLC events—a night hike at Los Madrones in the Hill Country. Oliver grabbed his hiking boots and headlamp and joined other TLC members and guests to explore the sights and sounds of the evening. He was enamored by the special lights that showed spiders crawling and moths buzzing, as well as a telescope to view the constellations and planets in the sky.