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Observations of McDowell Nature Preserve

Coyle 1

Discourse Observations

Assignment One (English 1102)

Fall 2013

The figured world I decided to observe is that of campgrounds. I decided on this community because I love the outdoors and it is filled with groups of individuals who are easy- going and looking to escape monotonous routines of going to work and taking care of the home. Whether a camper likes to bike, hike, canoe, fish, or simply spend more time with family and friends, there is little restriction as to what recreational activities you can do while camping. Camp grounds are social areas where friends, family, and even strangers can come together and share an affinity for the outdoors and enjoy each other’s company. Camping has always been one of my favorite year-round activities. The best memories I have growing up are the ones created when my family and I would go camping every few months. During this time I learned a lot of rules of camping and how to navigate the wilderness while still enjoying the freedom of staying outdoors.

Campgrounds are entire communities where different individuals, groups, objects and ideas play a significant role in the regular actions. There is etiquette to camping that some people do not know applies to staying outdoors. It is always courteous to clean up a camp ground completely for the next party to use and be considerate of what actions may harm the local wildlife and other people. Since most campgrounds are more secluded, it is acceptable to be loud while camping. Playing loud music and conversing loudly is acceptable so long as it is not bothersome to those who are trying to just relax and enjoy being outdoors. In state-run campgrounds and nature preserves drinking alcohol is not allowed in order to reduce risk of campers hurting themselves or the environment around them, and to keep the camp a family- oriented place. Making very large campfires and destroying campsites are not tolerable and can do serious harm to the entire site if a fire gets out of hand. These rules and regulations were initially ideas put into place or “artifacts” that control the actions of the actors in the community. In any campsite it is common to see families, first time campers, frequent campers, professional backpackers, and people traveling cross country in recreational vehicles. These “actors” of the community all have individual purposes in the campgrounds. First time campers are more likely to become frequent campers depending on whether their first experience was unpleasant. First time campers and families will sometimes continue to be a part of this community after realizing how closely it brings people together and become frequent campers. Frequent campers and backpackers are experienced travelers who often move from one camp to the next and living on minimal money and outside resources. People traveling cross country in recreational vehicles are usually welcome to spend the night in a campground. Actors in RV’s usually have more free time, so they can drive cross country for extended periods of time. They are essentially backpackers but they have more luxuries that would be found in a home including showers,

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plumbing, enclosed secure area, beds, etc. All actors and artifacts in the community together creates the daily hum of camping activities. How all of these aspects interact together and communicate are through the different literacy practices. Verbal talking between actors and the physical interaction with other actors is a literacy practice, as is how the ideologies of the community are used in different situations.

Observation One (9/8/2013)

My first observation of the McDowell Nature Preserve was of the front entrance to the campgrounds. Here is where all campers, RV’s, and cars enter to check into their assigned campsite after entering the front gate. The area is about 2 acres large with small convenience store on the immediate left and the information booth on the immediate right on the paved road. All around the entrance area are signs posted to remind campers to keep their areas clean, keep pets leashed at all times, proper campfire procedures, camping courtesy, where to park, and where to find different resources. Behind the information desk is Chestnut Trail, a nature walk trail that connects to the reserve. From my small vantage point, I am able to observe campers entering and leaving the campground through the main entrance and the nature trail. A few hundred yards down the paved road, I can see the road fork three ways directing to different campsite parking. RV camping is the first campsite in the middle fork. From where I am stationed I can see two RV’s parked in their respected sites with their residents milling about on a slow Sunday morning.

10:38am I settled myself into my fold out chair between the information desk and Chestnut Trail. There are many campers who drove cars exiting the campground. I count 8 cars leaving in five minutes. Assuming that because it was Sunday, the weekend campers were on their way home after spending the weekend in the campsite.

10:50am I was somewhat surprised to see a class of elementary school students walk out of the entrance to Chestnut Trail. They started the nature walk from the main entrance to the preserve and came to the end of the trail into the campsite entrance. The camp guide for the class told a student to put down the leaves he picked up on the trail. He explained that it was nice to see nature and be able to enjoy it, but emphasized that it was important to not take things from the woods because it can hurt the habitat. I assume that this is a shared literary idea of the people within this campground, that nature should be enjoyed without being damaged. This idea can also be considered an artifact of the campers and staff; because it is something they all have in common and can identify them as campers, or people who love the outdoors.

11:02am It may sound irrelevant, but there are unusually fearless squirrels that came within 4 feet of me. This leads me to believe that

Figure 1 Eastern grey squirrels are sociable animals, but can be easily grow dependent for food, that is way it is important to not feed them.

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they are used being in close proximity to people. Perhaps people have gotten into a bad habit of feeding them food and now the squirrels expect that people will give them food (See figure 1). This also goes back to the literary idea of not interfering with the natural habitat of the wildlife because it can negatively impact heir life. These squirrels that could have been fed by humans are at greater risk of becoming too dependent for food and may abandon their foraging and storing habits, that could lead them to starve. I would consider the local wildlife to be both artifacts and actors in the camping communities. Artifacts because wildlife is expected to be seen or heard while in campsites, no matter which campground it may be in. The creatures are like icons of camping. I say that they are actors at the same time because the animals and insects play just as important roles as humans do in the campsites. They play prominent roles in keeping up the campsite, such as pollinating some plants and planting trees through their excrement after eating nuts and seeds.

11:10am I am about ready to leave at this point. I have had 2 camp managers and one concerned parent walk up to me and ask what I am doing just sitting here and writing. The actors of this community are wary of me, because I am obviously not here camping like the rest of them. Since I was approached by these actors, I have also become an actor in the community because I play a role of explaining myself to other actorsI am not simply an outside observer in this situation. I explained my assignment to all of these people and they considered it to be valid reasoning. I realized that most of the interaction between people in the campground is through face to face verbal communication. It was the main literary practice through the area to speak effectively to others and interpret tone and body language. I noticed that the camp officials carry radios, so they also need to be technologically literate to some extent.

Observation Two (9/9/2013)

For my second observation, I wanted to go farther into the campground and observe from the fork in the road that divides RV campers and drive-in campers. RV campers and drive in campers are two different groups of actors that play roles in this discourse community. I thought it would be to my benefit to observe both actors at the same time to really see how they differ side-by-side. I unfolded my chair on the grass in between the first three forks in the campgrounds dirt road. Unlike my first observation, I am doing this observation in the evening, when most of the campers are more active in their activities. From where I am sitting, I can see 6 different RV’s to my right and 3 sites with cars and tents.

6:29 pm I see more drive-in campers out of their tents right now and being more active. They are playing in the volleyball court and young kids from different plots are coming together to play and chase moths. Adults and teens are erecting their tents. A camping tent is the quintessential artifact to camping. It is a

tent is the quintessential artifact to camping. It is a Figure 2 – Basic tents are

Figure 2 Basic tents are an artifact for more primitive camping

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universal sign of those who are camping or enjoy camping. It is my impression that those in the RV’s are cross country travelers who have all of their needs at their disposal. I think that is why they do not need to come out of the recreational vehicles so much except to let their dogs go out to the bathroom.

6:45 pm – There is a family of campers about 100 feet away who are singing “Down by the Bay” around the large fire pit. Campfire songs are another common (albeit cliché) literary practice used in camping used to be more social with others. Campfire songs are used to communicate feelings of giddiness, excitement, and sometimes to tell stories. A few RV’s are packed up to leave now, and I am guessing that those families are on their way to their next destination. Recreational vehicles are artifacts particular to cross-country travelers. It gives the owners the luxuries of a home while on the road.

6:50 pm The same family singing campfire songs are having problems with their tent. It has collapsed once and after it was re-erected a breeze lifted it from its stakes. I am now under the impression that they are first- time campers. First-time campers are actors in this discourse community because there is a chance that they will go camping more regularly.

Observation Three (9/11/2013)

My last observation sight is at the very back of the campground. I am sitting under a sheltered picnic table behind the parking lot for the “primitive camping.” Primitive camping is the most isolated and cars a not allowed in the site plots. The campers who spend the night here are left to their own devices and can forage in designated areas if they wish. On the opposite side of the parking lot is the large white- tiled community bathhouse. This area is the densest with trees and shrubs and the campsites are about an eighth of a mile apart from one another connected with worn grass roads. From here, I can only see 2 different campsites of the 13 that are tucked away in the woods. It is dusk and the first few glimmers of fireflies are starting to appear. I can see a group of 3 men and one woman cooking over a small fire and talking boisterously. A young black dog on the group’s plot notices me and is excited to see a new person in their midst.

me and is excited to see a new person in their midst. 7:05 pm – The

7:05 pm The group’s Labrador, Tank, frees himself from his tether and lopes over to greet me enthusiastically. The group of people aren’t too bothered, they told me that he is friendly and well trained. He’s lying next to my chair as I type. I’m pretty sure he only likes me because I bought a snack sized Slim Jim at the convenience store. I cannot see what the group is cooking in the pot over the fire, but it obviously didn’t appeal to Tank enough to catch his attention. Camper’s diet usually consists of nonperishable foods and drinks. Canned, vacuumed sealed, and jarred foods are ideal because it doesn’t attract as much animals and can be kept fresh longer. For some nonperishable foods of

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choice such as hotdogs and marshmallows are cooked over the quintessential campfire. Camp fires are another artifact because for primitive camping, campfires are normally the only means of cooking food. Campfires are also social areas that bring the campers together to cook, chat, sing, stay warm, and mingle.

7:13 pm I get the chance to talk to the group the Labrador belongs to. This small group of people is a lot less skeptical of me than the individuals who approached me during my first observation. I would attribute this to their laid-back characters, and the fact that they did not have children with them. Most likely when I was approached the first time it was out of fear that I might be a danger to the families that I was in close proximity to. I do not come off as threat to the group of four middle aged people and just appear to be a girl with a lot of time on her hands. One man and his wife are backpackers and their two friends were camping for the first time. Backpackers are unique actors in this community. Backpackers are essentially frequent campers who are experienced in travelling minimally and move from one camp to the next. Backpacking in the US is not as common as European countries, so it was a rare chance that I had the chance to meet two.

7:28 pm I catch site of a nosy raccoon sniffing hopefully at the metal garbage can. After it couldn’t get the secure lid open, it gave up and retreated into the trees.

7:32 pm Tonight is really my night for wildlife. There are a few stray cats that made this campsite their home as well as a buckless pack of deer. The deer keep eying me suspiciously. With the wild animals being actors in the community, it is good to see that the deer are not assimilated to humans.

Interview of Campsite 3 (Primitive Site) Manager, Mallory Horsley (9/9/2013)

Note: After my second observation, I went to the small convenience store and check-in area to ask who would be interested in an interview. I requested that it be a more prominent role in the campground area and I was directed to Mrs. Mallory Horsley. My interviewee is a middle aged woman, originally from Israel. She has a kind smile and a very soft, breathy voice laced with a thick Israeli accent. I attempted to audio record our interview; however that idea was snuffed out as soon as I realized that others would most likely not understand what my interviewee was saying.

1. What are common activities that can be seen while in your campground?

My 4 campsites are closest to the creek, so often people request these sites in advance for fishing. There is a volleyball court in the dirt for the players here. There are trails through the woods to walk on and you can take your

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pets on a walk, too. There is a large fire pit that can be used between all 4 sites, so campers can use that if they would like to build a large fire instead of a small one.

2. Do the reasons to go camping differ from one person to the next?

Most people come here to relax. More people are here on Fridays than any other [day]. Weekends are always the most exciting.

3. Exciting how?

There are more people and they are louder, and they play lots of music. They make me laugh (smiles). The big campfire is used more on weekends.

4. What do all of those individuals have in common?

They all want to come here to have fun and relax from work or being at home too much. Sometimes, they come here to party and drink but alcohol is not allowed in the camp, so I have to call them in.

5. Do you need to alert campers to the authorities often?

Sometimes. I really don’t like too. But it is dangerous for them to be too wild. They can hurt themselves or get lost in [the] woods. So I will call the guards if they are drinking. If they are grown people, I cannot do anything about that except to tell them to be quiet.

Mrs. Horsley is a very small woman. She is approximately 5’2” with a slight, willowy build and appears to be in her late 40’s or early 50’s. I am given the impression that she is not intimidating either physically or by her demeanor. I felt compelled to ask her:

6. How do rowdy campers usually respond when you tell them to quiet down?

(She chuckles but her face is more severe) I usually do not get into trouble. Most of them will agree to be quiet the first time, and I do not need to ask again. If I need to ask again, I am more serious and will threaten to report authorities to remove them. If they are still too rude, I will tell nearby camp managers and authorities.

7. What are some things you should not do while in a campground?

Do not be too loud and bother other campers. Drinking and drugs are not allowed. Fires near tent areas need to be small to not burn any trees or bushes. The big fire area is open and clear enough to have bonfires. Clean garbage and glass bottles and throw them away where they need to go, in the black bins and shut them tight. Keep food packed away in the trailer or cars to keep animals from getting to it. Do not touch wild animals or tempt

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them with food, they can be aggressive. If you use the grill, clean it when you are finished with the metal brush. I think that’s everything (laughs).

8. What could be changed about campgrounds that would benefit those who use them and enhance their experience?

I would like my campsite to be closer to the playground or build one. The children usually have little to do this far into the camp. The playground is about a mile away. I want more lights in the campsite and on the trail too, because it will make people feel safer. I have had to call police more than once because of people attacking each other in the dark and some run-ins with animals. It is important that it doesn’t happen anymore. There should be easier contact with me or other managers if something bad happens to a camper.

I notice she goes somewhat rigid when she mentions people attacking other people. I feel hollow in my stomach, but do not want to upset her further by asking more about it. I don’t think I could stomach what I might hear. I thank her for her time and tell her that I will be doing an observation the next day at the farthest campsite I can reach by car, if she needed me and I left her my number.

Observations of McDowell Nature Preserve Coyle 8 Legend Observation Sites RV Sites Drive-In Sites Primitive
Observations of McDowell Nature Preserve
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Legend
Observation Sites
RV Sites
Drive-In Sites
Primitive Sites
Primitive Parking
Map is NOT drawn to scale
Bath
House
Volleyball
court
Sites Primitive Sites Primitive Parking Map is NOT drawn to scale Bath House Volleyball court Information

Information

Booth