Families camp out for the weekend at Allens Pond

Aug 24, 2019

The field in front of the Stone Barn Farm on Horseneck Road was looking festive on Saturday, slowly filling with multicolored fabric as around 80 families pitched tents for a Family Camp Out held by REI Co-op and Mass Audubon.

Families — many of which had never been camping before — came from all over the state to pitch tents and partake in a number of outdoor activities over both Saturday and Sunday.

Mass Audubon naturalists and REI instructors led several different nature hikes through the Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, kayaking and stand-up paddleboard trips, family yoga, and cooking and survival workshops, among other activities.

Participants were also given a dinner of fresh local organic food at nearby Round the Bend farm, cooked s’mores over a campfire, and a Sunday breakfast at the campsite.

Mass Audubon Associate Director of Marketing Heather Demick and REI Co-op Brand Coordinator Eric Grady were running the show from a welcome tent at the Stone Barn entrance.

“Me and Heather met like two years ago and we talked about how our organizations could do more stuff together,” Grady explained. “And I immediately thought about families, and getting people outdoors.”

“We looked at a bunch of venues — this is just a really beautiful space,” Grady added with a smile. “This is the first time we’ve done a collaborative, joint camp-out in New England between REI and a non-profit.”

“It just seemed like a natural fit,” Demick said. 

Demick and Grady noted that the event is meant to get people who may not be experienced campers more comfortable with being outside.

And it seemed to be working.

The Lam-Sit family from Lexington was busy unpacking gear in a large blue tent.

“It’s our first time camping,” said Susan Sit, who was there with her husband and their eight-year-old twins. “We’re awfully excited!”

She added that she was looking forward to experiencing nature as well as just spending family time “in a not-so-conventional way.”

This seemed to be a familiar refrain among the campers.

“I’m looking forward to just spending time with [my daughter], with no cell phone,” said Sara Riel from Blackstone, who was eating lunch outside a tent with her five-year-old Yeardley. 

“I told my family I’m turning it off. No work interruptions, no nothing,” she added with a laugh.

For her part, Yeardley said she was excited to go searching for owls on a night walk activity.

Six-year-old Christopher Roemer and his ten-year-old sister Jesslyn were also excited to see animals.

“There is salamanders here,” said Christopher hopefully. “They’re my favorite animal. My favorite type of salamander is a blue spotted.”

Meanwhile Jesslyn said that the best part of nature hikes was feeding the birds. “Chickadees and bluejays,” she said, listing her favorites.

As for EEE concerns, the organizers had that covered. 

“We have like fifteen tubes of bug spray, and we have both lotion DEET and Picaridin,” said Grady. “It’s just for people to use as they need it.”