Stephanie and Mike McWethy, of Fountain Hills, Ariz., have been tent campers since they were youngsters.
Early in his childhood, Mike McWethy’s parents instilled in him a love of nature and the outdoors. In the late 50’s, the family took a four-week tent camping trip from Michigan through the West hitting all the high points of the national parks.
“Imagine doing that with three young boys,” said Stephanie McWethy. “Living in a tent and cooking over the campfire for a month. I give Mike’s mother credit for that.”
Also back in the 50s, Stephanie’s father built a pop-up green wooden camper that “was flat with low sides and a tarp cover that became a tent over it.”
At night, everyone slept under the stars. “I seem to remember I was about 5 years old,” said Stephanie, retired from the University of Michigan. “Those were great times. Can you imagine what an impression that made if I can remember it after more than half a century.”
More recently, after a particularly wet and miserable tent camping trip in the Arizona high country, the McWethys came to the conclusion that tent camping wasn’t that much fun anymore.
“We decided that a big rig would not be feasible for us because of maintenance and time availability issues,” recalled Stephanie.
So they selected a Coleman Niagara pop-up tent trailer, purchased a truck that snugly fits into their garage “by inches, and is environmentally friendlier than a large rig.”
The tent trailer is easy to tow and has lots of room and amenities including: heat and air conditioning, a stove, microwave, toilet, shower and two king-size beds.
“As we age,” said Stephanie, “we will probably step up to something different, but this is a LONG way from a leaky tent and trying to get warm by a campfire of wet, smoldering wood.”
Stephanie and Mike, a computer software engineer, are planning a two-week trip to Colorado in July, stopping to explore several camp venues.
“The nice thing about having a detachable rig is that you can take off and do the back roads adventure, which we enjoy,” she said. “We look forward to many dry, comfy camping explorations in the future where we can meet like-minded folk who love the outdoors and savor the experience of reconnecting with nature.”
Photo: Mike and Stephanie McWethy relax outside their 2009 Coleman tent camper at Lake Alamo State Park in Arizona. Stephanie points to a scarf that Mike is knitting for his mother. By Julianne Crane