Author: Elise Lange, AWF Communications Manager
This blog was inspired by our Podcast Episode: Raising Outdoor Children. Listen to the episode here: https://podcastq5.podbean.com/e/raising-outdoor-children/
One of my first memories of being raised as an outdoor child was shoving handfuls of dirt in my mouth while camping. Now, my mother may not have liked that or understood why I was doing it at age three, but it was an important part of my initiation into the outdoors.
I was lucky enough to have a mom who hiked with me and a dad who dragged me out outdoors every weekend growing up. Now, I say dragged, but the truth is that I was willing and happy to get out there — even if as a teenager I hated to admit it.
I grew up camping at Big Lake every school break and went hunting and fishing every weekend that we could. There’s something special about waking up early to go to the hottest parts of the Sonoran desert and walking till you hear that characteristic cooing of mourning doves or the calls of gambel’s quails.
One morning at our camp — Billy Camp, as we called it after my dad’s first hunting dog — I woke up in the middle of the night beneath our canopy and heard scuffling outside. I turned over on my cot to see my dad quite literally holding our dog, a black Labrador Retriever, back. Coyotes were outside.
In the morning we woke up and found hundreds of feathers. From what, we weren’t positive, but our hunt that day was unsuccessful.
I was not an avid hunter growing up. However, I adored fishing — especially anywhere I could catch rainbow trout, a personal favorite of mine still to this day.
Big Lake was our favorite place to go fishing. Whether we rented a boat there or stayed on the shore, I would spend my days there exploring, watching fry in the shallow waters, and getting sunburned. Oh — and of course, I would be fishing.
The first time my dad had me fish out there, I didn’t catch a fish on my first reel-in: I caught a fishing pole.
This is absolutely true — the dark green pole rose out of the water as I reeled it in. It was dirty and had clearly been at the bottom of the lake for some time, but I had actually caught my own first fishing pole.
My dad immediately set me up on that pole which somehow worked just fine. I then caught my first 11-inch rainbow trout — not a bad size for my first fish!
It was this experience and the thousand others I had growing up as an outdoor child that made me a steward of wildlife and wild places. Growing up as an outdoor child is the reason I care so much about vulnerable places and wildlife populations in Arizona and why I want to see our public lands — the same lands I frequented often as a child — around for the future.