Celebrating the Great American Backyard Campout in the Pacific Northwest

Sometimes here in the cloudy Pacific Northwest we feel like summer will never come. But threats of rain did not intimidate approximately 700 Washington families & children last weekend who participated at the 7th annual Great American Backyard Campout.

This event is the perfect opportunity for families who have never been camping before to experience the joys of being outside- and this year did not disappoint. Campers learned an array of skills from how to put up a tent and what equipment is necessary when camping outside, to different outdoor activities and cooking on a campfire.

NWF Pacific Regional Staff, partnered with REI and KOA, to host 6 different Great American Backyard Campout locations.  Here are some highlights from each event:

On a sunny day at Redmond’s Farrel-McWhirter park, 65 family campers came together to play, walk trails, BBQ, and visit the farm animals on site.  Kids colored animal masks at the NWF table and ran around chasing each other making animals noises. After dinner the s’more making began, everyone lined up with their sticks waiting for a turn to roast their marshmallows. Families appreciated the opportunity to borrow REI equipment to take their kids camping in a calm and safe environment.

The beach-side event at Silver Lake Park in Mill Creek was a sellout with 141 campers. Activities included classes on Dutch oven cooking, Leave No Trace Behind, and camping safety, as well as night sky viewing through telescopes, pancake breakfast, and canoe and kayaking opportunities. At an NWF table campers were introduced to NWF’s Nature Find website and were excited to learn about more opportunities for hiking and camping in their area. Many families expressed making the Great American Backyard Campout a yearly tradition.

Outside of the Tacoma REI store almost 400 people stopped by activity stations.   NWF helped kids create animal masks, and shared Frisbees and NWF magazines while REI did Leave No Trace and camp food demonstrations. Also, the Tacoma Metro Park and the Natural Resources Youth Camp had tables with activities.

Over  100 families and volunteers participated at three different parks around the Spokane Valley. The NWF Frisbees were a real hit and started flying that afternoon until the campfire beckoned them over to roast marshmallows for s’mores.   The Great American Backyard Campout was a delight for all, and when one young girl who had a strong dislike to bugs exclaimed “Bugs aren’t so bad because nature is where they live and do good!” everyone smiled and sighed with joy knowing that this experience had made a real difference.

Didn’t get to make it to the Campout this year? Don’t worry Hike and Seek is coming up! This event will be held on September 17 in Seward Park, Seattle and is basically a cross between a 2 mile hike and scavenger hunt.