Hunting camp provides more than just an escape
The annual big-game season was again hampered by warm weather and the lack of a consistent snow cover this year. It is a situation that has become a steady trend in recent years.
Another hunting season has passed with less than a full week of snow cover for tracking. The long-held technique of tracking big bucks has become somewhat of a lost art in this day and age of climate change, when the snowpack has been meager and thaws have been frequent.
Although I continue to head off to camp on either skis or snowshoes during the winter months, the trail now seems to have grown longer and the hills may be just a bit steeper. But it will never be as long as the return trip, which brings me back to the duties and responsibilities of the real world.
That is the kind of place a camp is. It’s not intended to be a permanent residence. Rather it’s a refuge, a place where we go to escape the daily toils and trials that wear on a man’s soul. It is a unique location where grown men can freely act like boys. It is also a place where boys can become men.
As our everyday lives get busier with ever greater responsibilities and less time for leisure activities, we have become increasingly stressed. Research indicates this is not good for us. Stress makes us more aggressive, more depressed, less patient, slower-witted and fatter.
But most of us already know that. What the doctors haven’t been able to tell us is how we can fix it. The answer really seems quite obvious: We just need to spend more time in camp.
We don’t actually go to camp in order to run away or escape. We go off to the woods in an effort to return to our roots and to recapture some indescribable, previous existence when men were free to roam far and wide and the most pressing matters of the day centered on finding food and locating a basic shelter rather than securing a mortgage and catching up on credit card payments.
George W. Sears, aka “Nessmuk,” the famous Adirondack travel writer, described our innate yearning for nature with these words:
“For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.
And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd —
But he shuns the shadow of the oak and pine.”
(Editor’s note: The attribution of this quotation has been corrected. In an earlier version of this column it was incorrectly credited to Charles Dickens.)
Sears, who was also a tuberculosis sufferer, recognized that we don’t necessarily go off to camp in an effort to get away or escape; rather, we go seeking an opportunity to return to our roots. Sears also wrote:
“The reason we go off to camp in the first place is to recreate a part of our past, and rediscover an ancient piece of ourselves that has long been buried and forgotten for the sake of society. We all need a little reminder at times to reassure our connection to the earth, and it can easily be reclaimed in wild, solitary confines. It’s often something we have long felt, but didn’t have a word for. It is a unique feeling when this memory is finally realized, almost a relief. We usually don’t know it, until we find it; but when it happens we will want to spend the rest of our lives chasing it. That is what recreation is intended to provide, an unbridled freedom, as well as the scent and sense of the wild which has been proven to improve both our physical and mental health and well-being.”