Let’s not forget, we were all rookies at one time
As the annual camping season arrives, it is important to be patient when dealing with newcomers – whether in the field, the forest or on the waters. It’s easy for experienced hands to forget just how intimidating their first few camping trips actually were.
In my younger years, our family camped at state campgrounds all across the Park. It was a rite of summer. Eventually, our parents evolved from tents to a trailer, and camp life became far less primitive.
While their efforts were geared to making camp life more “civilized,” I was always seeking opportunities on the other end of the spectrum. While they were stuffing pillows and other creature comforts into the station wagon, I was busy downsizing my own backpack to just the bare essentials. My mantra was “go light,” and theirs was “fully loaded, and then make room for some more.”
Years later when I began camping with my own kids, I finally understood what my parents had accomplished in terms of making camp. They did it with relative ease while handling five wild kids. As a “camping professional,” I’ve struggled to provide my own family with a comparable degree of comfort.
Of course, looking back through the eyes of age, there are many tasks my parents excelled at. They taught us how to be be content in camp, and how to share the outdoors with others. More importantly, they taught us to get along with one another.
They made sure we knew how to swim, start a fire and roast marshmallows. I always believed my father, a WWII vet, phys-ed teacher and college administrator, was the ultimate camper. However, I later discovered that my mother was the true outdoor enthusiast in the family. She was the one who selected the gear, developed the menu, cooked the meals and kept us safe from the bugs, bears and dad’s non-stop snoring.
It takes quite a while to feel comfortable in wild surroundings, especially if you’ve had very limited exposure as a child.
Even though the human species has spent more time in camp than in civilized society, there will always be a learning curve. Camp life is an ever-evolving process, and we are constantly discovering new tricks, kicks and tips to make the experience of roughing it just a little less rough.
We all have to put up with a little madness in camp, as the wear and tear of the elements, the critters and our fellow campers can be far worse than expected. This is especially true for first-time campers.
In your mind, a chipmunk racing across the tarp is just another damn chipmunk. But in the fruitful mind of novice campers, it is likely to be a wild mix of bugs and noisy neighbors that’s more likely to tear through their camp.
While camping conjures up memories of youth in the mind’s eye, most folks realize the most dangerous animals in the woods are other humans. Our greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. It’s the boogeyman complex. If we can identify the odd sounds and shapes of a creature, we can figure out a way to deal with it.
Some of the most uncomfortable pests include bees, especially bumblebees that nest on the ground. There’s also skunks, slugs, singers, squabblers and local woodland drunks.
If campers were as courteous as boaters, there would be far less problems.
Nearly 143 million Americans, about 49.2 percent of the US population, participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2015. Unfortunately, camping is still considered to be largely a “white folks” game.
According to a recent National Park Service survey, about 80 percent of all visitors, volunteers and staff in our national parks are white. It is a fact that is quite evident in the Adirondacks as well. Hispanics, especially in the west and southwest, have become the fastest growing minority group in the outdoors. Increasingly, women have been taking to he woods in record numbers. They have helped to swell the ranks of both anglers and hunters.
Fortunately, the macho, burly bearded lumberjack image is no longer the primary image of today’s woodswalkers. They are more likely to be dressed in polypro and Gore-tex, than woolies and waffle stompers.
Tourism remains the largest industry in the world, with ecotourism being an important segment of that market. Motor touring and sightseeing remains the primary activity for travelers visiting the Adirondacks.
Whatever your means of travel, or the duration of your visit, the best time to get out is now.