The first column of the year, every year, is about giving back to the Great Outdoors. This is appropriate, with the idea of setting a positive tone for the rest of the year.
Outdoor-minded people have the mindset to look at the outdoors as a place to enjoy, but they can also improve the outdoors in many ways. There are large projects, such as building a washed-out bridge or improving a dilapidated hiking trail.
These are honorable tasks, for sure, and we should all strive to help when this type of labor is needed. However, there are many other jobs requiring much less effort, plus these easier tasks can be accomplished every day.
A group of us, six in all, were camped at a forest service campground while fishing a nearby lake. The campers next to us had obviously been at the campsite for a couple of weeks or longer.
We watched as they began to break camp, loading the tents and other items in their truck. Our shock was evident as the campers drove away, leaving two-weeks’ worth of garbage at the site.
One of our group actually ran after the truck, but it was traveling fast and didn’t stop. We looked at each other, grabbed garbage bags and cleaned up the mess. This was an extreme case, which has never happened to me again.
Other aspects of giving back to the Great Outdoors can be a simple as picking up a paper coffee cup. Once while moose hunting near Colville, such a cup was spotted in the middle of the snow-packed forest service road.
I stopped and my hunting partner stepped from the Death Ram and picked up the cup from a well-known coffee shop. Who would discard a cup in the middle of a beautiful forest? I will be nice and simply call them slobs in this column.
My friends and I consider it good Karma to clean up after others in such a manner. This lowkey effort requires little work and presents a good example for others, especially our youth.
In fact, it is sometimes necessary to slow down some youth or they will clean up the entire campground. This actually happened once when fishing at a lake with a friend, Bill Witt, and his two young sons, Kevin and Kyle, who were in the 7- to 9-year-old range.
We talked about picking up after others, as a few bait containers were discovered. Next thing Bill and I knew, Kevin and Kyle had cleaned up 50 yards on either side of our fishing spot.
If you teach the youth under your control about this effort, set one rule: Two items are forbidden to be touched; broken glass and disposable diapers.
It isn’t unusual for my hunting buddies to open their packs upon returning to the Death Ram and take out beer and soda cans, candy wrappers, along with containers of most items taken into the hunting and fishing areas of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
It baffles me terribly when stopping to pick up a candy wrapper. Why couldn’t this person eat the candy bar and then simply place it in his pack or pocket?
Another way to give back is teaching outdoor skills to others. Our youth is naturally thought about when this is mentioned, but there are adults who don’t know how to start a campfire or tie a fishing knot or gut a deer.
There are families who want to go camping, but don’t know how to pitch a tent or cook on a camp stove. These people can conduct a dress rehearsal in their backyard, with the help of more educated friends.
Or, consider this: A family asked me to help them learn how to camp. My reaction is to invite them to reserve Campsite 22 or 24, which will be on either side of our favorite Campsite 23. When they arrive, Garnet and I would help them pitch the tent, start the campfire and help them make a meal or two.
A piece of camping equipment, which would be fun to have, is a journal. Use any type you want, but I would make it the kind with a bound back and hard covers. Allow all members of the family, plus guests, to make entries. Think how much fun the journal will be in 20, 30 or 50 years.
Another fun tool for a family as a whole and for each individual member is to keep a list of birds spotted. A life list is a list of birds a person spots in their lifetime. Birder’s Journals are available for this purpose.
This could be a part of the family journal, yes, but each person could have their own book or journal to keep their own list. Some people keep a list for each year, such as the 2017 bird list, as well as a life list.
Remember, spending time in the Great Outdoors with family and friends creates memories which will last a lifetime. Giving back to the outdoors adds another element to the fun.