You don't have to leave the city for a camping adventure. All you need is a MetroCard, the right equipment and a desire for fun
- Last Updated: 11:35 PM, July 20, 2012
- Posted: 11:01 PM, July 20, 2012
Consider sleeping outside in New York City, and the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t the glory of the great outdoors. More like the trials of homelessness.
But there’s bona fide camping to be done within city limits, news that would no doubt surprise Manhattanites for whom the wilderness is a sidewalk cafe and roughing it means bedsheets with a low thread count.
Last year, the National Park Service created the city’s first full-fledged campground out at Floyd Bennett Field, a decommissioned airfield that sits aside Jamaica Bay at Brooklyn’s southeast corner. In May of last year, it opened 36 new campsites at the field; this month, it also introduced seven campsites at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. The sites are the first urban campgrounds created by the Park Service and a model it hopes to duplicate elsewhere.
Intrigued, I recruited my son Leo, 12, for an expedition. Following the instructions on the Park Service Web site, I reserved a campsite at recreation.gov. The site offers thumbnail shots of each plot, though they reveal no glaring differences — I picked the one that seemed most remote, paying the $20 fee with a credit card.
Then I set about getting ready. Now might be a good time to mention that as a longtime New Yorker raised in suburban Connecticut, I’m not exactly Paul Bunyan when it comes to outdoor skills. Drop me in a forest with a compass and a pocketknife, and there’ll be coyotes snacking on my bones within days. Hours, maybe. So I had to do some thinking about what exactly one brings on a camping trip.
A tent purchase was in order, for starters. Sleeping bags. Bug repellent. A flashlight. Matches. Some food packed in a cooler and marshmallows to roast.
Those were no-brainers, but there were details to consider. Did we need a pad to sleep on? What about pillows — do real campers bring those, or would they make us the laughingstock of the campground? I’ve got neck crinks to consider, dammit.
I end up ditching the pillows, but the other stuff added up, and by the time we finally make it out the door, the bulk and weight of our duffel bag seem faintly ridiculous. Instead of a rugged outdoorsman I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s valet.
Our destination may well be the only camping site in America reachable by public transportation. We take the 2 train to the last stop in Brooklyn, then board the Q35 bus. As we make our way down Flatbush Avenue, past landmarks of natural beauty that include a Midas shop and the Kings Plaza Mall, this is seeming an unlikely mission.