When it still feels likes the depths of winter, with temperatures lingering below zero these recent mornings, it’s hard to lust after nights sleeping out, but I recently came across an article on what folks want at their campgrounds these days. It’s WIFI. Along with the ever important bathroom facilities, campers have put a high priority on being able to check their email, peruse websites, and post their photos to the rest of the world in real time. But, isn’t camping about making memories you can share over a holiday dinner with hand gestures and exaggerated story telling? Why would you want the pictures you post to your facebook page to show the real truth? Isn’t it about listening to the crackling of a fire, the rush of a stream flowing past or the buzzing of the mosquitoes sweeping past your ear? Playing card games with an old set that’s been creased and stained? Rearranging your clothes over and over in a stuff sack to create a poor imitation of a pillow? Eating basic camp food that tastes more satisfying than any restaurant meal? Resting your feet, camp shoes off, and just being in the company of others? No screens, no ringtones, no hashtags.
Although the survey concluding this is from KOA and is pretty interesting to check out in its entirety, National Parks have been feeling the pressure to give campers this type of access during their stays in an effort to keep up with private campgrounds and their offerings. We’ve camped in Denali, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone National Parks in the last couple of years and I can’t say I ever got the sense that those parks were hurting for campers. The campgrounds we stayed at were always packed and the popularity of Yellowstone almost left us without a place to unroll our tent, the ranger stations cheering us on in the race to the last available campsite in the entire park as the place filled by midday. Had we not gotten that last site we would have been hours away from any other legal option. I don’t feel like lack of wireless internet is hurting our national parks, but perhaps when those busy days even out with the not-so-busy days campgrounds are feeling the loss.