Phoebe Young Interview and Five Surprising Things About Colorado Camping History
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword 9/27/21
Have you ever wondered when and how sleeping outside for fun became a thing in the United States?
That’s the subject of Camping Grounds: Public Nature in American Life From the Civil War to the Occupy Movement, the fascinating new book by University of Colorado history professor Phoebe S.K. Young, who spent years looking into that question. Along the way, she found a complex and sometimes traumatic “hidden history” of camping in the United States.
That history, detailed by Young in Camping Grounds, essentially begins with Civil War veteran reunions but is also tied to the brutal treatment of Indigenous people, segregation, class issues, women’s rights, homelessness, and political protest from the Depression-era “Bonus Army” campers to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Young started teaching at CU in 2009. Living in Boulder, she hasn’t camped much herself in recent years because, in her words, she can “easily access the outdoors,” and camping “is a distant third to hiking and skiing.” However, Young — who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego and grew up taking frequent camping trips all over the western United States in her father’s VW Beetle — has a longtime love of Rocky Mountain National Park, which is mentioned numerous times in Camping Grounds. She uncovered plenty of Colorado history while working on the book.
Read my interview with Ms. Young, including five surprising things about Colorado camping history, at Westword.com here.