First of all, before I go on my over-hyphenated, half-cocked reverie about all things Post World Patriot, I would like to remind everyone that Memorial day is not just about the great sales at Home depot, or loading up the family, to go in the woods to play Lewis and Clark. To all of you who had a loved one who gave their life to protect the best country in the World, I solute you, and may their memory never be forgotten…
Ok now I will regress to my former state. So sit back and let’s get this series of run-on-sentences rolling. I usually talk about guns, I hate to say it, but firearms are kind of my security blanket. So I’m branching out a bit this week. So here goes, Lets get weird!
Kids (and Adults for that matter) are growing farther and farther away from our frontier roots. I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the Panhandle of North Idaho, and my parents were (and still are) troopers. We camped and fished all the time in my youth, not only because we were under an hour from some of our favorite haunts, but because it was a reasonably priced weekend activity for the whole family. The camper was already on the truck, and all we would have to do was throw some drinks and ice into the cooler, grab a bag of groceries, and we were on our way. As time progressed so did our camping, and Dirt dikes were bought, ridden, wrecked and sold, now my parents and I have transitioned to quads. One word to the wise, once you have an ATV, camping never really seems the same without one. Yes I still go for hikes around camp, but the freedom of being able to take the ATV to other locations to forage, hunt, fish, or hike is awesome. Plus it makes it way easier to bring back game or fire wood. ATV’s are a ton of fun but not something that you have to have in order to enjoy the woods. So what I figured I would do this week is put together a list of things that I think are great family activities, that not only bring us back to the woods for an impromptu “spirit vacation”, but also bring the family closer together. Many a memory and photo album have been filled with “The Adventures of Camping”. Try these ones out with the fam some time and you would be amazed at how much fun you will have.
Camp in a tent: I have a camper now,but when I first started camping on my own I used my tent a few times. A tent is about as close as you can get to really roughing it, without sleeping out under the stars. (I have slept under the stars too, but as for a family get away, I believe the tent to be more practical and I think most would agree.) Practice setting your tent up at home first (preferably when there is little wind and the sun is shining), that way when you get to your camp location you have a reasonable idea how to get your home-away-from-home set up. Plus you look like a boss when you have your whole tent set up before you buddy has found his tent pegs.
Don’t camp In a campground: I know some of you are reading this and thinking to yourself that there is no way that people actually “Pay to camp”. But to a lot of people, that is their idea of camping. Restrooms, running water, maybe even a power plug-in. All for somewhere between $25-$129 /night. Sacrilege I say. If you go to your local forest service station you can buy a forest service map that will show you all kinds of places that can be camped at for free. The reason I go to the woods is to get away from people and all of the modern conveniences that clutter our lives. If I wanted to sleep 15 feet away from some kids watching Netflix, I would just stay at home. I don’t recall in Robert Frost Poem “The road not taken” where he said “I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence, Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one that had WiFi, KOA made all the difference.” That even made me sad just to type it out.
Buy a BB gun: You knew there was no way that I could sit for over 15 minutes without talking about guns a little bit… (And technically a BB gun is not classified as a firearm, and in so I am tap-dancing a grey area on this one.) We always had a BB gun in camp, it’s what you did all day long, and even Mom would join in on the fun. I can still remember my first dabbling into the world of the pellet rifle. My parents bought me a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster (yes I still own it), and boy is it a thing of beauty. It has the wood furniture, it holds 18 BB’s in the magazine tube (as well as about 7 pounds of them in the reservoir. :)) and it could shoot pellets by loading them one at a time into the loading gate. No C02 cartridges to worry about, all the air pressure needed was generated by a levered pump that was mounted integrally into the forend. If I had received a dime a pound for all the Crossman Copperhead BB’s that left the end of that barrel, I would surely be writing this blog from a 1000 acre ranch somewhere by now. Everyone started out shooting some sort of BB rifle, and we all learned a ton about ballistics by shooting them. We learned trigger control, proper safety and shooting techniques, and we all had good and safe fun. Just think back to your youth and the first time you heard the metallic “TINK” of a BB hitting a soda can and try to keep yourself from smiling… It is physically impossible.
Forage your dinner once: I was 12 years old, with my first hunting license in my Velcro wallet, and we were going camping for Labor Day. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. This was the first time that I ever harvested all that food that I was going to eat. My life long friend Greg and I had spent the morning plucking Brook Trout from the creek behind our camp. In the early afternoon we went out shroom hunting with his uncle and brought back a bucket full of coral mushrooms. But the day wasn’t over yet, we loaded up the shotguns and headed into the woods, determined to collect a few Ruffed Grouse (I always thought they were “ruffled” grouse, but google tells me that I have been saying it wrong all of these years, you learn something new everyday I guess.) A few hour later we returned to camp, grinning ear to ear with a limit of grouse a piece. My Mom, being the master chef that she is, took the grouse, the brook trout and the coral mushrooms, egg wash and floured all of them, and promptly fried them all in a cast iron skillet over a Coleman stove and we feasted like kings. From that moment on, I was hooked. A person (especially those new to the woods) can be well served by talking to someone who knows the local flora before foraging wild plants. But once a few simple plants are easily recognized, foraging can be a lot of fun. If you want your children to eat better , make them a fresh batch of pancakes, with huckleberry’s that they just harvested themselves. If you want to get a little more fancy, make a simple syrup with the same berries. I’ll bet you wont even have to wash dishes, the plates will be so clean.
Make it fun: The biggest Reason that children would rather play video games, then go camping is because they believe that its boring…This is really sad to me, how does someone get bored in the woods? You are always way to busy to get bored when your camping. If you’re not cooking, your cleaning. If you’re not cutting wood, your starting a fire.If your not hiking, your fishing. But some children have been brought up in an environment where things are instant, if you don’t like whats on TV, you can watch Hulu, or play a game on their Iphone, or their xbox… Blah, Blah, Blah you get the point. Well the woods doesn’t lend itself well to that kind of thinking. But by the same token, the easiest way to sour someone on the woods forever is to make them miserable when they are in them.Just because I like to traipse down deer trails looking for wild asparagus doesn’t mean that my 5 year old Son will. So whats an outdoors-men to do? Well here are a few things that I have tried that have worked pretty well.The first one I just think of as little bites. If I want to go hiking and I want him to go, I need to cater my trip to his abilities. Shorter trips are almost always better, especially if you break up the trip with several breaks for snacks, drinks, and just to look around. Enjoy the time with them, and more than likely they will enjoy the time with you. Encourage your children to look around, and take everything in. If they see a cool tree stump, be excited about it too, if they see some flowers and want to know what they are, take the time to pull out your field manual and try to figure it out. You will be amazed at how much you both learn by then end of your trip. One thing I always try to do is remember what it was like when I was just a kiddo and everything was new to me. Its Ok to laugh and joke and play. It is your get away and however you decide to spend it is fine. Bring games. There are no rules that say that you cant set up a ladder-ball or Horseshoe pit in your camp. Industrial revolution makes an awesome invention called the “Softshell Ice Cream Ball”. Think of it as a soccer ball with 2 openings, you put ice and rock salt in one side, and your milk and ingredients in the other. Then you go run around rolling and throwing the ball for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes you have a pint of Ice cream, and a happy kid. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Make a s’mores oven: Ok so this is kind of a fun one that will impress your kids or friends. I personally don’t really care for s’mores too much, but I make it a common practice to have at least one a year whether I want one or not. The problem with s’mores is that they are a mess factory filled with sugar. You cant really get away from the sugar (its jet blown sugar, sugar in the chocolate, and sugar in graham. there is no way around it.) But you can get around the mess with a little invention i found some time ago called a “S’more Oven” and it is about as simple as can be to build.
List of materials needed for the project.
- 16 oz. beverage can.
- 1 Large box of strike-anywhere matches.
- Knife or scissors.
- Pair of pliers or a Leatherman.
- Graham crackers.
- Chocolate Bars.
- Marshmallows (the big ones)
Directions for project.
- Cut the top off of the can Carefully. (freshly cut aluminum cans are extremely sharp!)
- Press the large box of strike-anywhere matches (or a trimmed down 2″x 4″) into the open side of the can to make the round can into a rectangular shape.
- Cut all 4 corners of the can to a depth of 1 inch from the open side.
- trim off 2 of the short flaps, and one of the long flaps.
- Fold the remaining flap to a 90 degree angle.
- Assemble s’more as follows. 1/2 graham cracker on the bottom, then the marshmallow on top of that, 2 pieces of chocolate on top of the marshmallow. Then remaining graham cracker on the top.
- Press crackers together gently and place inside the can.
- Place can next to fire , using the flap to stabilize your s’more oven.
- Let Your s’more cook for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove the can from your fire ring wall (I use tongs).
- Carefully remove your perfectly cooked s’more, and enjoy. Look Ma, no mess.
Happy Memorial Day ya’ll, and Be safe.
-Grant Willoughby 5/28/2016-