Camp Long hosts ‘Great American Backyard Campout’


What better way to celebrate the start of summer than to go camping with family and neighbors less than a mile from where you live?

On Saturday, June 21, 67 people from 12 families, including 27 adults and 40 youth, did just that. Residents of Seattle Housing Authority’s nearby High Point Community, the families participated in a free overnight nature immersion experience, many of them visiting Camp Long and camping for the first time.

Singing around the campfire.

For the second year the Camp Long Environmental Learning Center partnered with National Wildlife Federation (NWF) for NWF’s annual national initiative the “Great American Backyard Campout,” which aims to get more families outside, even if it’s only in their own backyards.

Families stayed overnight in Camp Long cabins and participated in various activities including forest hikes, night walks, a traditional campfire and a forest stewardship activity.

After getting settled in their cabins on Saturday afternoon, families joined educational organizations in the Camp Long meadow behind the lodge for interactive learning stations.

Seattle Tilth provided gardening information and compost investigations to connect home recycling with the natural systems that exist in nature. Kids got to see live worms and other decomposers in action. Other learning stations included read-aloud multicultural nature stories with Seattle Public Library and making nature crafts from recycled materials with NWF volunteers.

Ranger Rick, NWF’s raccoon mascot, was a hit with the children.  Staff and volunteers had to pull kids off of him in order for more to climb on.

Following a buffet dinner provided by NWF and donations from local vendors, everyone headed to the community campfire circle to learn about building a safe campfire. The children eagerly swapped stories, and a Samoan family borrowed a naturalist’s ukulele to lead the group in song.

Before tucking into their cabins, there was naturalist-led stargazing and night hikes to search for owls and other nocturnal life. Candle luminaries graced the upper trails in a magical glow to illuminate the path for children back to their cabins.

Sunday morning after breakfast, families went on forest walks, learned about the health of Seattle’s forests and its wildlife and helped with forest restoration – pulling invasive ivy and putting mulch on newly planted native plants.

Everyone seemed to get a great dose of Vitamin N (nature activities) and enjoyed being outside together with their community.

Local mammal and bird specimens came to life as Seattle Parks Environmental Learning Center Volunteer Naturalists shared how these animals coexist with humans in the city.

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An excerpt from a letter sent by one of the Campout participants:

“…Our 9-year-old foster son, has never done anything like a campout before, and this was a HUGE experience for him. We watched him learn and grow in new ways in front of our eyes in 20 hours. This is a kid who whined about reading anything just weeks ago. Having the Seattle Public Library person there with books about nature (and totem poles, etc.) that were just right for him was PERFECT. He read books about animals in the field there. At bedtime, for the FIRST time, he said he’d like to stay up reading a little bit. Please share this with the library people.

“He was afraid of the dark, afraid of bats, etc., and so much of these fears dissolved on this trip because we got to pet little stuffed bats, he got to wake up in a safe cabin in the darkness without any light on. The structure provided by you and your people was so incredible, that there were only positive experiences. This weekend would have been incredibly hard to simulate in any other location, even at a campground because of the numbers of strangers there.

So thank you from the depths of our hearts.”