Girl Scouts taught us: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver but the other is Gold.” And so it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that our Golden friend Judy George has decided to retire as the Florida Girl Camper Chapter Guide. Judy has made the decision to pursue other adventures at this time. She taught us a lot over the past years, and we will miss her at the campfire, but we wish her much joy and luck in her well-earned future endeavors.
As of September, I am the new Florida Chapter Guide. This is a new adventure for me, and I am very excited to start on this journey! So let me tell you a little bit about me.
How did I start camping?
I was born in a small town in Florida. It’s the same town my father was born in, where my grandfather was once the postmaster and head of the school board, and my Great-Grandfather was one of the town founders. So, my southern roots grow deep and my Florida ones even deeper. I love everything about Florida from the long-leaf pine forests to the palm trees to the beaches to the swamp. I love the endless summer and, since I grew up without an air conditioner, I’m okay with the heat and humidity. And for reasons no one has ever been able to explain, the bugs just don’t bother me.
My Dad had a saying, “We can be hot at home, or we can be hot someplace interesting!” As a result, there aren’t too many places in Florida that I haven’t been to. Since he loved Florida, we went everywhere and tried about everything at least once! It was an amazing way to grow up
My mother, however, was not a fan of Florida. She grew up in Idaho so she preferred mountains and lakes (the kind without gators) and fields of potatoes. Every summer of my childhood we drove from Florida to Idaho so she could visit her home and family. We would take 2-3 weeks to get there traveling a different route each year, mostly car-camping, and seeing a different part of this great country. Then we would spend 3-4 weeks out west in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington visiting different relatives. Then rush home in 3-4 days in time for school to start.
Out west was so different from Florida they might as well have taken me to a different planet! And I wanted to see and experience it all. My uncle would take me Jeeping in the mountains in Nevada which is also where I learned to shoot a gun and hunt. A different uncle taught me fishing on the Salmon River and in the lakes around the city of Twin Falls, Idaho. My Aunt had a cabin up at McCall, Idaho where there were always too many kids for the beds, so we slept in tents or on the porch or just in the yard on air mattresses. My Great-Aunt was a forest ranger from the early 1900s and she taught me to build a fire and cook over it. And everyone took me camping everywhere! Sometimes we were in a tent or a camper or car-camping. I even camped on a boat in Washington with another uncle!
Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in Florida, Hurricane David and Hurricane Frederick which hit back-to-back in 1979 wiped out the pictures of my childhood. While I don’t have any pictures of those times and those people, I will always have the memories.
When I reached adulthood, I left Florida and moved north. I’ve lived in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware. I was married and we had 4 children and I wanted my kids to experience the outdoor life to its fullest. They were all into Scouting and I was their leader for many years. Our Girl Scout troop tent camped in 9 states over the years, and we had a blast! As a family we owned a pop-up camper and later a Coleman Caravan which we used to visit 19 states.
In 2018, after my divorce, I came home to Florida. My mom and I have made two cross country trips to New Mexico in her Class A during that time. Plus, I bought my own Little Guy Mini Max which I have used to visit 6 states in the last year. Obviously, I love camping in any form! I can’t wait for my next adventure!
What made me buy a camper by myself for my 58th birthday?
To put it simply, my mom! (This is not my biological Mother; this is an incredible woman I am lucky enough to call Mom who loves me as her daughter.) She is quite simply the most amazing woman I have ever met and leads by example in ways I never thought possible. While she is 85 years old, you would never know if you met her. There is nothing she can’t do! She currently owns a huge Class A which she drives and maintains completely by herself (her fiancé likes to think he helps but it’s her baby and he knows it!). Right now, she is on an adventure to wherever the road takes her. I get a text from her every few days with pictures saying what she’s seen or discovered. I want to be her when I grow up! And part of that is having my own camper and going places on my own whenever I can because she taught me, I can do it.
What type of events can you expect?
I like all sorts of events! I like events where we are going places, doing things. I also like “do nothing” events on occasion. Events where people can learn a new skill or have a unique experience are a blast! Over my life I’ve acquired an interesting set of skills that I like to share with people. I also like the opportunity to learn as much as I can from everyone I meet! There are so many places to go, people to see and things to do. I want to do it all and I love to take friends (new and old!) with me.
If you have ideas for a camping event, contact me at [email protected] ! I’d love to hear your ideas and I love to have co-hosts.
Articles and the Blog
I love to talk! And for me, writing is just another way of talking. So, make sure to check out the Girl Camper Florida Chapter page at Florida – Girl Camper often because I’ll be posting lots of articles about our State Parks, the National Parks in Florida, camping gear, camping products I love and more. Drop me an email and tell me what you would like to read about, I’d love to hear your ideas. If you want to write an article for the blog, email me and let me know.
Let the Adventure Begin!
Valynda Rankin |Girl Camper Florida Guide
Connect with Valynda & the Girl Camper Groups
Facebook Page – This is where we share general Girl Camper news, events and more. Girl Camper | Facebook
Facebook Group – Please join the women only Florida Group so you can participate in this supportive and fun community! Girl Camper – Florida Group | Facebook
Events – Be sure to check out the Girl Camper Events I’m hosting.
Welcome Valynda! I’m fairly new to Girl Camper and I’m excited about making some great memories with the FL chapter. I love your story and look forward to meeting you!
What an incredible journey you have made to get to where you are. You story of your mama takin off into the wild blue yonder made me smile. I look forward to meeting you in person along the trail.