Reservations for free, first-time camping weekends are available at 13 state parks in New York this summer, and will provide camping equipment and guidance to families exploring the outdoors together for the first time.

Conservatives don’t usually support “free” government programs. But Heather Wilhelm, writing in National Review Online, thinks more camping might be just what America needs:

Real camping, of course, involves a harrowing yet mystical combination of several key ingredients. There is the tent, sometimes cold and soggy. There is the backpack, often unwieldy, particularly if you follow my hair-on-fire last-minute throw-everything-in packing philosophy.

More important, there is the vast, expansive wilderness, potentially filled with wandering Sasquatch — or, as in the case of Bhutan, wandering Yetis — leading one to quietly contemplate the greater meaning of life. There is the lack of a 7-Eleven or a hospital or a cell-phone signal or even a parking lot for miles upon miles. Incidentally, there is also the vague yet persistent sense that one could potentially die in dramatic camping-related fashion at any moment. This last item might seem like a negative until you realize that it actually leads to further deep (if somewhat panicked) contemplation regarding the meaning of life. …

Camping … is a glorious character-building adventure. Perhaps it is here that you’ve spotted a red flag: “Character-building,” after all, often serves as polite code for “a mild form of short-term misery where you are completely out of your comfort zone.” I cannot lie. Sometimes it rains so hard you can’t even heat up your Spam. But here’s another truth: It’s all part of the fun.

In a society motivated by convenience and comfort, stepping out of our comfort zones together may be the greatest American family vacation. And for many families, free camping could be the first step.

Read the rest of the article here.

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