Camp Is a Retreat Where We All Want to Be

From World Conservation Force Bulletin, by John J. Jackson, III – May 2018 issue

Camp is a personally appealing retreat where we catch up with ourselves, our family and friends and can be inspired by the natural world. It can be a tent camp with what Robert Roark described as a “tiny gleaming camp fire” as well as a weekend hide-away. It is a place that inspires us and where we deeply want to be. It is likely to be on the water or at the very least have a substantial garden.

A simple “shack” in the woods helped inspire Aldo Leopold’s famous work, A Sand County Almanac.What I want to share here with fellow sportsmen and women is my recent realization that both the Father of Wildlife Management, Aldo Leopold, and the woman that shared the distinction with Aldo as the Mother of the Environmental Movement, Rachel Carson, were inspired by their personal retreats, their camps surrounded by nature.

Aldo had “The Shack,” a rebuilt chicken coop along the Wisconsin River where he and his family stayed during weekend retreats. The landscape surrounding the Leopold Shack and farm land “informed the vision put forth by Leopold in his conservation classic, A Sand County Almanac (1948), including his call for a ‘land ethic’—a caring, ethical relationship between people and nature.” (Aldo Leopold Foundation.) I have had speaking engagements about Aldo, his Shack, and his Land Ethic and have visited the simple shack several times. The Almanac was a record of the day-by-day change of seasons through the eyes of Aldo, the devoted bow hunter and forester. (See

Rachel Carson’s seaside cottage provided her the perfect retreat to produce her works on the importance of preserving the natural environment.


Rachel was a career marine biologist with the FWS. Her camp retreat was beside the sea instead of a river and until the end most of her writing was about the sea. Her summer cottage in Southport, Maine sits amidst spruce and pine atop a rocky bluff overlooking tidal pools, gulls and lobster boats. The Rachel Carson Council says that from the picture windows you can imagine “Rachel’s feeling of awe in the face of such majesty and mystery. And you can find here the sources of her love.” (

Aldo’s A Sand County Almanac was not published until after his death, and Rachel did not write the last of many books, Silent Spring, until 1962 when she was dying of cancer. Aldo wrote of the land and Rachel wrote of the sea until Silent Spring. Both of these icons were inspired by their nature retreats and in turn continue to inspire us today.