Field Report: Denene Millner of My Brown Baby Goes Camping

By Denene Millner of My Brown Baby

Yup—I did it. Two days and two nights, deep in the woods of North Georgia. And despite my initial protestations (and the tolerance of threats from my resident Go Green enthusiast/sister-in-law Angelou and much pleading from Mari and Lila), I have to say it wasn’t half bad. And maybe—just maybe—I’m willing to admit that I had some fun. Here, our journey in pictures and in words: We stayed in Ft. Yargo, a state-run park in Winder, GA. It’s only about 40 minutes from our home, but the massive lake, pristinely-maintained forest, and primitive living made it feel like we were 400 light years away from Atlanta. And yes, that’s Angelou, acting like she’s about to check into The Ritz. Signs welcomed our families—the Chileses, the Ezeiloes, and the Gees—to our campsite, located on small peninsula off a small corner of the lake. We dropped our stuff and got busy getting settled—setting up tents, unpacking sleeping bags and lights (all graciously provided by REI, the campground superstore). You know I was scoping out what mattered most: the bathroom (a two-minute walk from our tent site, it had running water and toilets, but lots of bugs, which meant I was going to do the drop and run; showers up in there were not optional), the cooking facilities (a rock pit with a sturdy grill) and an exit strategy (you know, in case a chick had to make a quick getaway). All in all, it was all quite nice… for the outdoors. The kids got a kick out of the idea of sleeping on the ground, surrounded by the lake. They skipped rocks over the water, tossed around the football, danced to the Black Eyed Peas, Earth Wind & Fire, and Nice & Smooth, tooled around on their scooters, and, on many occasions, were caught looking reflectively out over all that God made. (A big highlight for Mari was being allowed to brush her teeth in the woods and spit on the ground. It’s the little things, y’all. The little things.) During the day, we mostly chilled—went for a leisurely hike through the woods, took a dip in the man-made beach, talked, and read (Mazi got wrapped up in the latest Dan Brown novel, “Angels and Demons,” while Nick and I shared Nathan McCall’s incredible novel, “Them.” We got our New York Times fix on our Blackberries (reception was crystal clear). When the dark settled in, we whipped up dinner (grilled veggies, salmon, chicken, and potatoes the first night; hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sausage, and grilled corn the second) on the campfires, and then watched the kids gorge on S’mores while we played “When I Go to the Moon.” We followed that up with a raucous round of campfire singing, black people style, which means we were crooning Teena Marie, Chaka Khan, Rick James, Run DMC, and Sugar Hill Gang songs at the top of our lungs (the volume of said sing-alongs was wholly controlled by various adult elixirs). The trickiest part? Sleeping on the ground, in the pitch black, in the middle of the Georgia woods. This truly is something that freaked me out, not a little, but a lot. I’m no fan of bugs or critters (though REI’s Jungle Juice, a bug repellant, is the truth, the light, and the way, for real!), but it wasn’t the creepy crawlies that bothered me. It was the noises. And the darkness. And the fear of what was lurking—the unknown. The first night wasn’t so bad, but the second night, Lila woke me out of a dead sleep, shivering, talking about how she heard noises and footsteps. I heard them, too, and felt powerless to do anything about it but cuddle Lila and try to be brave while she settled back to sleep. All the while, all I could think was, “Damn, James has the knife in is tent—how am I going to stab a mofo if I don’t have the regulator?!” I spent the rest of the night staring at the stars and waiting for Jason/Freddie Krueger/The Blair Witch/a group of guys in white robes to slice through the tent. Needless to say, sunlight couldn’t come fast enough for me. When morning finally came, we made quick work of breaking down the tents, gathering up our things, and getting in our last looks at nature. I have to admit that it was quite a lovely experience, sleeping out in the open and waking up to such beauty. I’m not planning on becoming a camping enthusiast, that much I know (though REI has some pretty spectacular gear that did wonders for keeping us comfortable—from the tents to the lanterns to the coffee percolator to the backpacks, kids’ toys, and the Jungle Juice). But I wouldn’t be against going again… one of these days. (The picture below is of me and Mazi—proof that I was, indeed, there!) A special thanks to REI for making this, my first camping trip, a comfortable, special experience; the tents were incredible, the lanterns lit the way, the
percolator made great java, the sleeping bags were quite cozy, the portable stove made perfect Jiffy Pop Popcorn, and not one of us got bit by a bug thanks to your fantastic Jungle Juice (I’m SO buying stock in the JJ!)

19 Thoughts on “Field Report: Denene Millner of My Brown Baby Goes Camping”

  • Hello Rue!

    We had sooooo much fun on this camping adventure! And, I so love your blog- I am now a follower! I believe we will both be presenting at the Breaking the Color Barrier conference in September. Can't wait to meet you. Let's be sure to stay in touch.

    When you get a moment check out the Greening Youth Foundation website at

    See Ya,

  • LOL! I swear, Denene, you could write a story about the paint drying process and make it engaging! I enjoyed this post, so thanks for sharing!

  • Rue, baby!

    Thank you SO much for showing our camping experience to your readers… it means the world to me. I'm hoping that it encourages many more of US to get over our fear/dislike of the outdoors and give it a try. We really did have a good time—great friends, the wonder in my children's eyes, and the beauty of what God made it a much more joyous experience than I could have ever imagined.

    Trust me on this, people: If I did it, anybody can!

  • Thanks so much Denene! The response from your post has been tremendous and well received. Your story has inspired many to try camping already!

    Can't wait to learn about your next trip 😉

  • As a 28 year-old white man with Cerebral Palsy,I commend you for this blog! People need freedom to be who they are no matter what culture they're from. May God bless you!

  • Thanks RAJ! I sure hope you'll consider getting out this summer. It's easier than you think and so much FUN!

  • Hey Michael,

    Thanks for your support! I am actually doing research for an upcoming blog regarding how folks with MS and paralysis are finding innovative ways to get outside to do recreational activities. Stay tuned Michael!

  • I'm a white guy who stumbled onto this post (excellently produced, btw) and want to share a little something with you.

    My wife is 'a woman of color' and we have been tent camping since we got married … in fact, my possession of camping gear (nothing as exotic as the REI stuff) is one of the reasons she married me.

    We are going again next week.

    Over the past eight years, I have noticed an increase in Black faces in the SE Michigan / Lake Erie campground we frequent to the point where I would guess that YOU are clocking in at 1/4 to 1/3 of the campers on any given weekend.

    I think this is a good thing. I worship in an all-Black congregation (actually we just got another Caucasian and, to be quite frank, he sticks out) and all (ev-er-y single one!) of my male friends is Black … none of whom could 'pass'. The vast majority of guests in our house are also Black.

    So I have come to the point where, when I don't see a lot of Black faces, I'm not comfortable.

    I tend to forget that I am not Black.

    So, c'mon camping. Leave the living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a jacuzzi motor home in the driveway and come camping with us.

    Some of us ARE 'crackers' … but most of US 'is just folks' … and we don't feel right if we can't see at least a few of YOU around.*

    *Just funnin' because someone above made a point of capitalizing the "US". That's one barrier I just can't buy into.

  • Bless you and your family. I laughed when I read about the things that go bump in the night. I am an avid horror fan and find that there is little that frightens me. I remember as a child my family would, on a regular basis, camp out in dunes and woodsy areas. It is a treasured part of my childhood so good for you and you man for allowing you children the oppotunity to experience such a wonderful thing. By the way I live in Australia. Kudos to you.

  • I live near a beach in Southern CA and don't get how a person could do the treadmill thing indoors as their primary exercise routine in this region.

    I am not averse to going to the gym, but every day? Here?

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