WAITING FOR FIRE This colorful campfire circle is the begInning of Healdsburg Community Church’s camping weekend., when families and children convene for a couple of days of fun and games.

The joys of camping are many. Open space. Fresh air. Preparing food outdoors. Sitting around a campfire. Falling asleep to peaceful sounds of birds and wildlife, feeling a gentle breeze at night, gazing up at the heavens’ stars on full display.

If lucky, light pollution is low and the unnatural world of beeps, buzzes, text messages, emails and phone calls is precluded.

Whether it’s RV, tent camping or glamping, summertime beckons families and friends to enjoy living outdoors. In and around Sonoma County, there are many opportunities to confer with nature.

Fun facts: Camping for recreation is a relatively new phenomenon. In Britain, it’s traced back to Thomas Holding, a traveling tailor, who, recalling his youth traveling across America’s prairies, popularized the concept by writing a book in 1901 called Cycle and Camp in Connemara.

Camping in North America gained popularity around the turn of the century from a group called The Vagabonds. They were hardly vagabonds, in the sense of wanderers without a  home or a job, as the term usually implies.

The Vagabonds were: Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and naturalist John Burroughs. They traveled in summer together, driving to different states, camping on farms, buying food along the way, fending for themselves like ordinary Americans.

Well, not exactly. They had an entourage of chefs and butlers. Nonetheless, they summered this way for 10 years, until the popularity of their excursions reported by newspapers made it impossible to continue.

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