Camping can be a great way to enjoy outdoors

Published 9:26 am Friday, July 11, 2008

Contrary to popular belief not every one of us that live in Minnesota grew up fantasizing about being a great outdoorsman. To a lot of us spending time outdoors was a natural thing and fishing, hunting and camping are things we loved to do from a very young age.

Take camping for example: The DNR in their never-ending quest to get more Minnesotans involved in the outdoors has done a study on camping and found a large number of Minnesotans that are “clueless” when it comes to camping.

I guess I have found it sort of amazing that there are a lot of people out there that have never even tried camping. I know that over the years I’ve met people that have said “that’s not my cup of tea” and not given it another thought but just maybe they never had the opportunity to try it.

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When focus group participants were asked to name some things that kept them from going camping, many said they simply didn’t know how to camp. The focus group sessions were conducted last year by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Division of Parks and Recreation.

“This came as somewhat of a surprise for those of us who have been involved with camping and outdoor activities from childhood,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. “It stands to reason, if you haven’t had the experience or training, a new venture can be intimidating.”

As a result, Minnesota State Parks and its partner, REI, developed “I Can Camp” for individuals and families to learn the basics of camping.

As part of the program, REI staff will show participants how to put up a tent, choose and try out gear and how to cook a camp meal that they will get to eat. Minnesota State Park naturalists will also be on hand to present information, tips and tales to enhance the outdoor experience.

This program is designed for families with kids ages 5 and up and includes an overnight stay in the campground at Lake Maria State Park, near Monticello, on Aug. 16. The program costs $7 for adults and $5 for children and includes meals. Participants can bring their own tents and sleeping bags or these are available at no cost upon request.

Registration is required. To register for the program at Lake Maria State Park, people should call REI Maple Grove customer service at (763) 493-7861. Minnesota state park vehicle permits are required to enter the park.

Camping at a campground where the campers are packed in like cars in a used car lot is not really my idea of camping. There are a lot of people out there that enjoy this type of camping and I’ve been a part of that scene in the past and I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy most of it. The camaraderie of the fellow campers and sitting around the campfire in the evening swapping stories was what I enjoyed the most.

To some people enjoying the outdoors is laying on the beach getting a tan or sitting in a lawn chair in the back yard with their refreshment of choice and grilling burgers. Whatever your idea of enjoying the outdoors, now is the time to do it.

When I was a kid we would throw blankets over my mom’s clothesline in the back yard and pretend we were camping in the depths of a northern Minnesota forest or maybe we were Daniel Boone and his men hunkering down for the night after fighting Indians in the woods of Kentucky. We were excited to see all the fireflies that came out after dark but the mosquitoes were usually the culprits that turned most of us into unhappy campers. We only had the mosquito repellent 6.12 to protect us and I can‘t recall when it became available or how well it really worked. I’m not sure that we ever spent the whole night in that makeshift tent but I do remember the excitement of the planning leading up to it.

I remember reading magazines and seeing pictures of pup tents with screened flaps to keep the bugs out and how I longed to one day own one of them. It never happened and I suppose I filed it in the same place that I put my boyhood dream of fishing for trout on a clear mountain stream in Montana or catching lake trout on a remote Canadian lake.

Camping really is a great experience and if you’ve never tried it you may just be in for a pleasant surprise. I know that there are some people who are destined to never be outdoors people but I think we all owe it to our kids and the future generations to at least introduce them to the outdoors and give them an option. We have to remember that our youth are the foundation of our future and we need them to be involved in the environment and this includes the sports of hunting, fishing and camping.

Here are a few fishing reports from around the state:

FAIRMONT — The shorelines of lakes Hall, Budd, Sissiton, and George continue to hold crappies. Fox Lake and Big Twin Lake are producing a few walleyes during the evening hours. George Lake is the area’s best bass option, while Tuttle Lake and East Chain Lake are giving up northern pike and a few walleyes.

MANKATO — Lakes such as German, Madison, and Washington are producing numbers of bass. Look for walleyes to be hitting Lindy Rigs and leeches in 14 feet at Washington, while X-Raps continue to turn walleyes on the weedlines of Madison. Spinners and crawlers are turning walleyes on the southeast end of Lake Hanska. The bays on lakes Washington and Madison remain safe bets for panfish during midday hours.

WATERVILLE — Horseshoe Lake is producing walleyes in 13 feet during the evening hours. The weedlines of Lake Tetonka are giving up a few small walleyes. The bridge area of Lake Sakatah continues to produce an occasional flurry of crappie activity. Look to the south end of Sakatah for sunfish and pike in six to 10 feet.

BRAINERD/NISSWA — Leeches and nightcrawlers are turning walleyes in 18 to 30 feet at Gull Lake, Round Lake, North Long Lake, and Pelican Lake. Spinnerbaits or plastics are triggering bass on all lakes and northern pike are taking sucker minnows on the weed edges of most lakes during the day. The weedlines are safe bets for panfish as well.

ELY — Slow-trolling Lindy Rigs and leeches or Rapalas has produced walleyes in 10 to 20 feet at Shagawa Lake and White Iron Lake. The reefs on Burntside Lake also have produced big walleyes via leeches. Smallmouth and largemouth bass remain active in shallow water on most lakes.

GRAND RAPIDS — Walleyes are hitting leeches and crawlers during the day in 18 to 24 feet or minnows and jigs during the evening hours in 10 to 12 feet. Better lakes this week have been Sugar, Wabana, Pokegama, and Trout. Sunfish and crappies are being found in less than six feet at Bass Lake, Spider Lake, and in Poole’s bay on Pokegama. The 20- to 30-foot breaks of Pokegama are giving up good-sized pike and muskie anglers are reporting follows at Deer Lake and Moose Lake.

ALEXANDRIA — Look for crappies on the weedlines of lakes Le Homme Dieu, Darling, Carlos, and Ida. Sunfish are an easy catch on most lakes in 10 feet, while bass have moved to the weedlines and flats of most lakes. Leeches and crawlers have been the ticket for walleyes in 12 to 18 feet at Lake Ida and Lake Miltona. Reno Lake and Lake Mary also are giving up walleyes in 12 to 18 feet.

Until next time, take a little time to enjoy the outdoors – good luck, play safe and good “fishin’.”

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