The wonders of nature

Summer is time for family fun in the Great Outdoors

By Barbara Pierce

Stunning waterfalls, breathtaking mountains, pristine lakes, star-filled skies, family friendly playgrounds, great fishing, tubing and kayaking.

Campgrounds in Upstate New York offer something for everyone, from low-key tent sites and RV hookups to luxury cabins with all the amenities.

A wealth of camping experiences are available, including federal- and state-operated campgrounds with showers and playgrounds, as well as private campgrounds with swimming pools, Wi-Fi and convenience stores.

“From national parks to RV parks, the possibilities are endless,” said Kathy Perry, executive assistant at Herb Philipson’s in Rome.

More and more people are camping. Everyone has a different reason for camping. All agree that camping does a body and mind good. Any kind of camping has health benefits. Some are straightforward, like setting up camp or hiking. Mental health improves. Sleeping under the stars helps you get high-quality sleep.

Maybe you have concerns about camping. Sleeping on the ground, outside, with no heat or AC sounds intimidating, but we guarantee that it’s worth overcoming. It is about the joy of a simple life, reconnecting with nature and things that really matter. And time away from work contributes to your overall health.

You don’t have to throw all sense of comfort and cleanliness out the window to go camping. With the right gear, it’s easy to transform your campsite into an oasis.

Perry and other experts offer suggestions for first-time campers:

— Keep it simple: Your first camping trip is not the time to strap on backpacks and head into the wilderness. Start with one or two nights camping near civilization, where your campground has flush toilets, showers, electrical outlets or some of the other comforts of home.

— Go with friends and family: Camping with a group is fun. If you have friends and family who are experienced campers, tag along with them on your first campout. They will likely have know-how and equipment to make your trip a success. Furthermore, having kids the same age as yours keeps everyone happy.

— Consider a trial run: “Practice setting up your tent at home first,” advises Perry. “And don’t forget a properly sized footprint — if you have a ground sheet that’s too small, it won’t fully protect your tent floor, and if it’s too big, it can catch rainwater and pool it underneath your tent.”

— Keep food simple: You’ll have plenty of challenges; don’t make food another. Think hot dogs or brats, and plenty of marshmallows to roast. To make s’mores, pack graham crackers and chocolate bars too.

“Pack all your kitchen gear in a large clear plastic bin with a lid,” suggests Perry. “It’s easy to store and everything will be ready next time you camp.”

Stress preparedness

— Plan for comfort: Perry advises “bring a warm coat, plus long underwear, gloves, a beanie and warm socks for nighttime, along with a rain jacket just in case. Also pack some sensible shoes for your feet as well as slip-ons for midnight bathroom breaks.”

Use separate air mattresses or pads; singles, not queens or kings, so everyone keeps his or her tossing and turning to themselves. Separate sleeping bags are warmer than doubles.

Insulate underneath you or you’ll be cold. If in doubt, lay down a blanket.

— Other stuff: “You’ll need prescription medications and hygiene items,” said Perry. “You can bring bandages and medicines from home, but a separate first-aid kit has comprehensive supplies in a compact case. Always plan for sun and prepare for bugs by bringing sunscreen and insect repellent. Because campground bathrooms sometimes run out of supplies, bring your own soap, toilet paper and towels.”

— Start out early: When you get to your site, set up your tent, bag and pad early, so you don’t have to do it in the dark, adds Perry.

— At your campsite: “Don’t leave food or garbage out overnight, or unattended,” advises Perry. “Seal up everything in a large plastic bin anytime you’re away from camp and lock it in your vehicle at night. In bear country, check the local regulations — there might be food lockers because bears have been known to break into vehicles.” Don’t throw garbage or grey water out near your campsite.

— One last word of advice: Don’t expect everything to go perfectly during your first few trips — you will make mistakes! Think of them as learning experiences.

If tent camping isn’t your thing, consider an RV, cabin or yurt. Many are in awe-inspiring locations and provide an authentic experience in the forests and parks, surrounded by wildlife viewing opportunities, bountiful recreation and great landscapes. Renting camper trailers through Airbnb is an option.

It’s all about getting outside and spending time in our beautiful outdoors. There are many awesome places to choose from, destinations that make this area so special.

“Make your reservations well in advance,” concludes Perry. “An online site that covers public lands is Recreation.gov. Private campgrounds can be found in several online sites, or do a Google search.” Read each facility’s description carefully to understand the amenities that are provided so you can be prepared and fully enjoy your stay.

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