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Roughing It With Chaperones 

Family Campout Program for Beginners

Saturday, April 12 to Sunday, April 13

Catalina State Park 11570 N. Oracle Road

586-2283; www.azstateparks.com/family/index.html

Arizona State Parks introduced a pilot program last year to help introduce families to the joys of camping, and after a successful tryout it's back for another year. Catalina State Park is the next site on the list for the Family Campout Program for Beginners, with room for 10 or so families interested in spending a night under the stars but in a controlled environment with plenty of nearby assistance available. "This is for people who either haven't been camping before or haven't been camping in a long time," said Howard Buchanan, Arizona State Parks' family campout and stewardship program coordinator. Thanks to a grant from AmeriCorps, various parks across the state have held overnight camps since late February. Locally that has included Catalina, Kartchner Caverns and Patagonia, with Kartchner also hosting an event this weekend and on April 26-27. All three parks are likely to also hold camps again in September and October after the weather has cooled off, Buchanan said. For $85 (which covers four people; additional campers are $5 each) campers get a nearly all-inclusive camping experience, including tents, sleeping mats, camp chairs, lanterns, flashlights, first aid kits and GPS units as well as water, lemonade and coffee. The program also provides two lunches, a dinner, a breakfast and snacks during the visit. All visitors need to bring is bedding and personal items. Besides the campout itself, Buchanan said the program will feature lessons on basic desert survival, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, archery and astronomy. "It's not throwing someone out into the wild, there's support there," Buchanan said. "We show them how to set up camp, in some cases how to cook. There's a nutrition component, a fitness component, an environmental awareness component, and a stewardship component." The family campouts are only open to campers six and older, Buchanan said, because of attention to detail that some activities require. Having to care for young children could take away from the focus, he said. Registration can be done by phone or on the Arizona State Parks Web site.

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