It was 6 a.m. at McIver State Park in Oregon, and in camping spot 42 the Enberg family was just waking up in their $50,000 Airstream Bambi.
Across the road in spot 41, a group of first-time campers with $250 BIPOC Camping Kits had been up since 5. It had rained overnight, everything was was wet, and everyone was miserable.
“The kit didn’t include a tarp or any of those stretchy things,” said one camper who identified themself as Little Uzi Pervert.
“You mean bungee cords?” I asked. My reporter’s instincts were always stronger in the great outdoors, and the SacBrie had dispatched me to Oregon to get the truth about camping’s complicated racial past.
“Whatever,” said Little Uzi. “It’s just another fucking barrier to entry, like tents that cost hundreds of dollars. All I wanted to do was re-center myself, catch my breath in a sacred place. And what did I get? A campfire that won’t light because nobody told me it rains in the woods.”
Across the road at spot 42, the Enbergs lit their fire and waved good morning.
That’s when Little Uzi lost they shit.
“If I’m not warm and comfortable, no one’s gonna be warm and comfortable,” they said, pointing to spot 42. “There are so many Black people in the Pacific Northwest, and white people pretend like we’re not here.”
“They did wave at you,” I said, feeling like I’d compromised my journalistic integrity.
“Wave? Nobody with a fire and a hot cup of coffee is gonna wave when me and my crew are freezing our asses off in the mud,” Uzi said, grabbing a stack of protest signs and distributing them to the group.
The signs had slogans like “Connect With Nature Not White People” and “Decolonize Camping.” Somebody dragged an upside-down American flag from a soggy tent, and the group marched across the road to confront the Enbergs.
“What do we want?” Little Uzi shouted. “Camping! America’s favorite outdoor activity!” the group replied.
“Wait!” said Mrs. Enberg, who declined to give her first name. “We’ve been camping here for years because it’s only 25 miles from our house in Portland. But if our whiteness makes you uncomfortable we’ll sell our trailer and donate $50,000 to BIPOC Camping Kits.”
The protest died down and Mr. Enberg said, “The bigger picture is full solidarity; it’s going to take all of us coming together to topple these racist systems so we can find our sacred places again, and find peace again, together.”
Little Uzi hugged him. “Nature is a precious gift, isn’t it?” they said. “Especially for someone like myself and, I think, for a lot of people of color, because of systemic oppression, because of racism, economics and all these things we have to navigate.”
Mr. and Mrs. Enberg made hot coffee and breakfast for everyone, and then packed up because they had no food left for the weekend. As they drove away, the BIPOC campers waved goodbye and threw another log on the Enberg’s fire.
It was going to be a beautiful day in the great outdoors.