Camping in the old fashioned way

This week's Hammertime looks at camping the old fashioned way.

I really enjoy getting out and about and chatting with people of all ages, and I am thrilled that many of them really get a big kick out of occasionally letting loose, roughing it and attempting to do some of the fun-things and adventures that we all loved not that many years ago, or have been dared or challenged by buddies, parents or grandchildren to give it a try. Depending, of course, on our age and our conditioning, wouldn’t it be fun to put together a ‘let’s do it again’ bucket list, and then hope that our bodies respond to our temptations, which we may of course casually attempt at our own speed and schedule?

My dear wife has told me on many occasions to ‘go fly a kite’, and maybe I will, but at the age of 72, I have gone back to bowling and tennis and love it, but I have absolutely refused to go raiding gardens or berry patches, to try water skiing or dance lessons, or to take on the grandchildren at wrist wrestling or lifting weights. There are also so many new activities at all levels of participation available for all ages that are played both indoors and outdoors, and are great for exercise and maintaining an active mind.

I was indulged in one of my many coffee outings the other day and was very pleased to hear that many families and couples are actually going back to camping the old fashioned way, and because I might even give it a try one more time, I browsed through the internet and found that you can purchase all sorts of tents from the ‘pups’ to those that have three or four rooms. Going into the web-site Albertacampground.ca, I was surprised to see that there are still quite a few ‘tenting only’ wilderness campgrounds around our pristine province, some even free, and while they may not have all the fancy services such as electric, water, sewer, cable, and all the rest, it is a whole lot cheaper to spend a night tenting under the stars than forking out up to $50 a night for all those perks. I am sure that for so many of us some of the very best memories came from our first scary backyard sleep out, heading out into the back woods with family or a bunch of buddies and camping beside a stream or lake in the Cypress Hills or Kananaskis country under the shadow of our magnificent mountains, sleeping in lean-tos at the Sylvan Lake Cub and Scout Camp, or pulling the old crank-me-up tent trailer down the road and stopping when we got tired or hungry. Here are some of the tips we have all picked up along the way about get close and personal with nature while camping under the stars:

* Many of our more primitive and closer to nature campgrounds may not be blessed with fancy showers or bathrooms, but as long as they have one or two traditional biffys, the best and most refreshing wake-me-up-shock in the morning is jumping into the lake or stream, then grabbing a hot cup of perked coffee from the old black pot on the first crackling fire of the morning.

* Setting up a tent is quite easy and fun if everyone helps out, but first try to find a soft level spot with no rocks or roots sticking up. Rain flaps should be tied to a tree so that the water runs off and away from the tent, and bringing along a few tarps in case of a downpour is always a good idea. When we venture out and collect our dry wood and kindling, it should be stacked in an area where it stays dry, and if you have to make your own fire pit, dig out a hole in the ground and surround it with large rocks. It is so easy to rig a tree to tree clothes line and our handy dandy axe or jack-knife are so nifty for fashioning wiener sticks, whistles, whittling, walking sticks, and all sorts of other handy-dandy stuff.

*Most families when they go camping always have an odds and ends box full of old pots, a frying pan, grate for the fire, trusty old Coleman stoves and lanterns, utensils, tarps, rope, dry paper, matches, and all the rest. Other necessary camping gear should include suntan lotion, bear spray, bug spray, extra rain or shine clothes, band-aids, a flashlight, and I guess it will be okay to take along the cell phone. Everything that is cooked on an open fire from pancakes to prime-rib tastes great, even amongst the smoke and the bugs, but please let’s not forget to clear up our left-overs and store our food away, just in case Smokey and his mates are in the neighbourhood.

*Greatest treats about camping out together can include hiking in the woods, gathering around the roaring campfire at night telling tales and socializing to the wee hours, and then snuggling up in our sleeping bags at night and listening to the magic and often eerie rumbles and sounds of nature. Whether your chosen summer holiday will be roughing it or going first class, please book ahead, be prepared, and have a fabulous week (or two) all of you.