Manning Camp

Saturday, September 05, 2009
A few weeks ago when I stopped at Saguaro National Park East, I spent some time in the small exhibit room. Filling the center of the room is a topographical map of the park. I'm a sucker for maps, so I was immediately drawn to it, looking at the trails and wondering how far I could make it on some of them in my admittedly poor physical condition. As I was contemplating the possibilities of a one or two mile hike, I noticed a location, a whole lot further than the distance I'd been debating, and at a much higher elevation than I'd even consider climbing, labeled Manning Camp.

My first thought that it had been a camp site for hunters or trappers or miners since it seemed high up in the Rincon Mountains. Or a stop on a trail over the mountains on the way to... who knows? It wasn't until later that I got to the pictures and text on the walls describing Manning Camp. My eyes widened at the photos of the whole Manning family, including women and children, posed outside the cabin.

Now I already knew that Tucsonans escaped the summer heat by trips to Sabino Canyon in the past and it seemed likely that other places in the mountains surrounding Tucson served as retreats from the roasting valley. But Manning Camp was so far.

This started me thinking about how wimpy we've become. Maybe it's because I grew up in a suburb of New York City, but any distance over a mile isn't something I consider walkable. Heck, more than a few blocks and I'm getting in my car to go there. It's the time it takes, I tell myself. I'll have groceries to carry.

Summer vacations consist of trips to hotels with maid service and restaurants. I've only been camping once in my life, as a Girl Scout over a weekend, and even then we slept in tents built on platforms. I'd hardly consider that roughing it. But our forefathers—and mothers—thought nothing of packing up the whole household and traveling up a mountain to a rustic cabin for the summer, while still going back into Tucson for luxuries like shopping.

The more I think about it, the more attractive the idea of a simpler time becomes. Yes, I'd miss indoor plumbing and watching Red Sox games on television, but maybe I'm tired of living on Internet time.

You can read about the Manning family here:

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