When you tell someone you went camping, you can expect two reactions; “Gross, that sounds horrible” or “I’m super jealous”. My wife and I represent both camps – pun overtly intended. This is what made it great when she was onboard to take the family camping.
Finding a campsite the week of Memorial Day weekend in San Diego County is like looking for an elevator in an outhouse. Luckily, we stumbled upon the Down to Earth EcoShire, through Hipcamp. What is an EcoShire? We didn’t know either. Stumbling into the unknown, we packed the kids up, carpooled with our friends, and headed east. My expectations were low, but our experience at the EcoShire was exactly what we needed.
We met Jim Rizor as we pulled up. Jim bought a dilapidated 35 acres of land around 2016 and has been cleaning it up for over 3 years. Jim and his wife Dawn live in a R/V right on the property. As we set up camp, Jim wandered over and let us know that there would be a tour the next morning. Intrigued, we made plans to attend. We cooked dinner, wrestled the kids to bed, got 5 minutes of adult time, and went sleep.
The next morning, after breakfast, we wandered over for the tour. What started as a tour of the grounds turned into a tour of Jim’s heart. He shared with our group, the largest since he had turned the land over, his divine purpose. The reason for this project, his der grund, was to reclaim the land. This would, in turn, lead to reclaiming who we are as humans. Evolving from a disposable mentality to a sustainable one. Jim’s goal is to inspire a movement.
The Down to Earth EcoShire is located outside of Hemet, California. It’s about a 90 minute drive from my house in San Diego. The views are amazing. You are surrounded by mountains in desert terrain. An old Boxcar from the 1920’s is the centerpiece as you pull up through the dirt single car drive. Outfitted with a kitchen and a bathroom, the boxcar provides the comforts of home while not seeming out of place.
Different from camping at a state owned site, the EcoShire provided a loving comfort right from the start. I was taken by surprise because I wasn’t expecting it. It’s not often you stumble upon a gift like that.
A cure for distraction
In a distracted world, unplugging is so important. One of the main reasons we went on this trip was to spend quality time together. I struggle so much with staying hyper connected. I always need to stay busy at risk of feeling useless. Camping allows me to stay present while I make dinner, set up camp, walk to the bathroom, or sit by the fire. You get to have fun keeping the kids alive and existing outside. This brings a presence that is hard to come by.
I love the incidents that happen. My friend Jason Vogel said recently, “You don’t remember the trips that go right. “You remember the trips when you almost die and somehow make it through.” Although “almost die” is a slight exaggeration, getting stung by fire Ants – which my son did – is what makes the memories.
Kindness through a tractor
Jim was an amazing host. At one point he wandered over with an Orange Kunitz BX25D tractor that he used to work the land. As I cleaned up breakfast, I looked over and saw both of my children riding on a pull behind trailer, cruising the grounds. How often do those random acts of kindness happen in your life? Getting around other people and embracing the random experiences makes all the planning and uncomfortable circumstances worth it. My daughter repeated “Tractors commin…” for days.
I like to think we can all reclaim a more sustainable life for ourselves. Through being intentional, we can spend time together and connect in a way that is impossible when we are distracted.
I’m glad that our group took the time to plan this. My state of mind was changed and I felt more connected to my family and friends. It was an experience worth pursuing, even if it ended with some moving mulch.