It’s one thing to imagine the idyllic camping scene: roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, star-gazing, telling ghost stories by a campfire.
It’s another task entirely to recreate it.
That’s why Dana Spivey Mims started her Charlotte-based business, Dana’s Outdoor Edventures (adventure-plus-education) last year.
A lifelong camping enthusiast, Mims, 52, found that there are plenty of people who want the camping experience. There are fewer people, however, who want the hassle of buying or renting equipment, pitching a tent, setting up air mattresses, coordinating a weekend’s worth of meals and then cooking them over an open flame.
That’s where Mims steps in.
“So many people have thought about camping but they don’t know what they need, where to go, what to do when they get there,” the Mims says. “They don’t want to deal with the hassle...But with me, all they need to bring is a blanket and pillow. ...I provide everything. I guide you through everything. I do everything for you. And all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy.”
Her rates start at $80 per adult per night and Mims can accommodate up to 25 people of all ages. Over hundreds of camping trips, she’s taken 3-month-olds, 80-year-olds and every age in between.
You decide the level of pampering you want. Some people have all the equipment; they just want a guide to help them know where to go, what to do and how to do it, she says. Others want her complete package.
Mims and her one-woman business were recently featured in a segment of the UNC-TV show “NC Weekend” that aired in June, as she took the hosts of the show camping. For breakfast they ate pineapple pancakes.
“I’ll take anyone camping anytime,” Mims says. “I just love to go.”
‘Campfire therapy’: Mims started Dana’s Outdoor Edventures after being laid off in the downturn. The mother of three had been an administrator at the south Charlotte private school Manus Academy, where students with learning disabilities in grades 3 to 12, get small classrooms and lots of one-on-one with the teacher. Before that, she had been a P.E. teacher at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Certified in developmental therapy, Mims saw that skills developed while camping could be helpful for children and adults with learning disabilities or developmental problems.
One former Manus student with Asperger’s syndrome, now 20 years old, dubbed Mims’ service “campfire therapy.”
“(Camping) teaches following directions, exploring options,” Mims says. “The first time I took (him) camping, he’d never been. I set up the tent; he watched. The second time we did it together. The third time I coached him through it. And after that, I said, ‘You’re on your own.’ I think it took him two hours, but he was so proud of himself.”
Worth the price tag: A native Charlottean and Girl Scout, Mims had been camping since before she can remember. It made sense for her next career chapter to be about an activity she loves.
But it’s that “make a living part” that she has to explain to some people.
“It’s interesting,” she says, “because most people I take say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so expensive,’ but then they realize they didn’t have to spend a penny the whole time they’re there (camping).” Nor did they have to buy, rent or set up the equipment, purchase food, plan out meals or pack a car full of flashlights, cooking gear, and First Aid equipment. After one of her camping trips -- where she’ll make them anything from grits to pineapple pancakes, hot dogs on sticks to filet with a homemade dill sauce – they get that, she says.
The goal, Mims says, is to have a lot of fun. And added benefit? “You may just...learn something along the way.”
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