Recent weather patterns have been quite predictable. As the first horse trailers made their way through the Cascade Lakes, large dark clouds gathered.
Just as the first robin signals the arrival of spring, the arrival of the annual Lake Placid Horse Show is almost certain to deliver rain.
Now, I realize that there is not legitimate connection to horse trailers and soggy weather, but there sure seems to be a pattern. If the water levels in the local streams and rivers get any higher, whitewater enthusiasts will soon replace flyfishermen along the AuSable in Wilmington Notch.
Despite bringing wet weather, the rains have served to pump oxygen and food into the river and the fish are active. Last weekend, for the opening of bass season, there were a lot of anglers on local waters. Although New York now has a year-round open season for bass on a catch-and-release basis, anglers cannot keep any to eat until the traditional season opener on the third Saturday in June.
In recent weeks, I've received a number of calls from anglers reporting the discovery of tape worms in the body cavities of both bass and trout. The ribbon-like tape worms were not consumed by the fish, rather they were usually found attached to the outside of the stomach or other internal organs.
When I asked DEC aquatic biologist Rich Preall about the problem, he explained that finding ribbon tape worms in fish was not uncommon and the tape worms can be transmitted to humans. Worms can be introduced to different waters on the legs of birds .
However, despite the outward appearance of a contaminated fish, the worms are easily discarded with the entrails and the fish can be safely consumed. A properly cooked fish will kill off any worms. There is no need to discard a nice fish.
The Great Backyard Campout
Although I now camp by profession, it wasn't always the case. I grew up in a large family and camping vacations were a standard. They were fun, exciting and entertaining and left lasting memories.
I can recall my parents loading up an old Rambler or Studebaker station wagon for a trip to the big woods. We'd usually go to a state campsite, at Raquette Lake, Sharp Bridge, Lake George or elsewhere.
Our level of excitement would usually peak as we passed the little booth at the entrance to these places. As soon as the car came to a halt at the preferred site, the kids would pile out and scatter to the four winds.
My father would be left behind to assemble a huge, heavy canvas contraption that was considered half tent, half trailer. Such tents were quite popular at the time.
One wall of the structure could be zipped open to allow the station wagon to back into the room. Lifting the car's rear door would permit access to the vehicle or the tent.
In theory, it was a great idea. In practice, it was impossible. If there was wind, there was a draft. If it rained, there was a leak. And there were always bugs.
Later, our family's home away from home was modified to a much more reliable structure, that couldn't double as a garage. It was a huge, cumbersome, canvas monstrosity that came with a huge tangle of lines, aluminum poles and a big bag of stakes. As I remember, the only thing it lacked was an instruction booklet.
Despite the best efforts of my parents, usually my Dad, our new tent's capacity to withstand a slight breeze, a whisper of rain or even a few kids tussling was extremely limited.
It became a tradition. As soon as the family wagon departed the campsite, the tent would collapse. It was no wonder that my mother, in her mid 50's at the time, finally purchased a small travel camper - small being the most descriptive element, as it was not intended to host the whole family.
My parents had the best of intentions. They were good campers, despite the drawbacks of having faulty equipment and a pack of monsters affectionately known as children.
Campouts were a family vacation standard. These trips offered unlimited opportunities for the children to be entertained and they still do. With a storied history of hosting family camping trips, the Adirondack region is still considered the standard. Mars Corporation recognized this fact in a new advertising campaign for Snickers bars. On a huge billboard posted over Manhattan, the sign features a candy bar wrapper with the logo, "Go camping in the Snackarondacks"
This weekend, the National Wildlife Federation is hosting The Great American Backyard Campout on June 27. In an effort to promote the activity for families, the group is encouraging families to camp out at home or at a nearby campsite. Visit the National Wildlife Federation website for comprehensive camping checklists, menu ideas and more.
A trial campout in the backyard is a good way to iron out the wrinkles before taking the crew to the big outdoors.
Camp comfort has improved
Times have changed the face of tent camping. No longer are heavy, bulky, musty and moldy canvas tents the standard. In fact, there are few canvas tents available in today's market, other than those utilized as hunting camps.
Current tent models range from ultralight (two pounds or less), one person bivy sacks to spacious, multi-room family lodges that come complete with a screened in porch.
You can even purchase a tent from Coleman that comes with a built in lighting system and power pack. And, in a concession to the current wired generation, the structure also offers a plug in sound system for an iPod. I guess there's no need for today's children to suffer through the night listening to the sounds of nature.
Family camping opportunities have come a long way. Travel trailers now serve as second homes, with modern conveniences including air conditioning, satellite TV's and even hot showers; a most dreaded device for any young man.
Despite the introduction of such modern conveniences, the experience of camping out has changed little over the years. It still revolves around enjoying natural surroundings in the company of family and friends. The fire still burns, the stars still twinkle and the loons wail through the night.
The age old dynamics remain evident as well. It's still man against nature, the weather, the bugs, bears, raccoons and pesky chipmunks. All are special creatures that make for a memorable experience.
Camping is a restorative process, it brings back childhood memories and creates new ones. It is also a relatively inexpensive venture. For the cost of a stay at a nice hotel, a family can purchase a quality tent and most of the gear necessary to enjoy a weekend outing. For about half the cost, a complete outfit can be rented from a local outfitter.
It is an experience that can serve to bond a family in untold ways. Due to the setting, families are required to work and communicate in a unique manner. It offers the opportunity to discover new ways of relating and the pleasures of sharing family time.