Little Things Can Lead to Bigger Things When Dealing with the Outdoors, Camping
Images left to right: Char, Nat, and Michele in the Adirondacks. Parker Costello with an Adirondack Catch. Nat and Char climbing a fire tower.
Sometimes the rainy days make for the best stories told years later.
Like Roseanne Roseannadanna (played by Gilda Radner) used to say in the old Saturday Night Live skit, “It just goes to show you, it’s always something.”
I grew up in the great outdoors and our family took advantage of every experience possible to shape our outdoor heritage through camping, fishing, hunting, picnics and more. Along the way through our multiple travels, small memorable moments come to mind that would serve as trigger mechanisms for a much bigger picture. It was always something.
One of the first fish I ever caught was a feisty bullhead on Lewey Lake while camping in the Adirondacks. Using a fiberglass rod and push button reel, the fish put up a great fight as I battled it from a small 12-foot aluminum Sea King boat that was owned by my grandfather, Irvin Hilts. I still own that same boat today, memories of years gone by … and reflection of that moment in time. It ignited a fire within that allows me to fish (and camp) from one end of the state to the other and many points in between. It created a desire that eventually led to a job from which I am now retired involving fishing and the outdoors. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I have been fortunate enough to camp all over New York State – from the Thousand Islands to the Lake Ontario plains in Western New York; from the Finger Lakes to the Lake Erie shoreline; from the Catskills to the Adirondacks. Every one of those singular trips has become a collective memory that has built a solid foundation in the outdoors. They are each comprised of special moments, and many have been passed on to family and friends through the years. They are my “Big Picture.”
Climbing Chimney Mountain overlooking Indian Lake as a youngster with my parents and cousins was both exciting and breathtaking. It led to other climbing adventures along the way. Now, it’s my offspring Nat who is doing the climbing in the Adirondacks with a group of friends who share their outdoor passion for nature in all its glory – from campfires to cooking, from hiking to tent camping. A connection with nature is just as important today as it was 50 years ago, if not more so.
Just like the New York State Lottery, you must be in it to win it. The same could be said about camping and the outdoors. You must be in it to take advantage of all Mother Nature has to offer. Not every experience can be sunny and blue skies weatherwise. Following the motto of the Boy Scouts, you need to be prepared. One adventure that comes to mind was an annual camping trip to Triple R in Franklinville over Labor Day weekend. We generally had five or six families from church that joined us in the fun, from pop-up campers to comfortable trailers to rentals on-site.
This holiday weekend in 2006 was terrible when it came to weather conditions. The remnants of Hurricane Ernesto came motoring into New York, bringing with it plenty of rain. In fact, it rained for our four days of camping. No, it didn’t rain – it poured! However, we were prepared for it. We combined our pop-up tarps to create a common area for dinners and games. We worked together to make sure everyone was warm, dry, and safe. The kids loved playing in the rain. Some of the adults did, too. We shared our food and drinks, making it one of the most memorable camping adventures that we have ever had. Many of the kids, now young adults, still talk about that soaking weekend and how much fun we had.
I have had some exciting camping adventures around the continent, too. At the top of the list are three memorable tent-pitches into the wilderness. The first was camping under the stairs in the Rocky Mountains outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We rode horses into the mountains and roughed it for a night as guests of the 7W Dude Ranch. I have never seen so many stars. Breakfast in the morning over the campfire was one of the best I have ever had. Small moments that were huge!
The second memorable trip was a week-long canoeing adventure in the boundary waters above Minnesota, a fly-in adventure out of Ely, Minn. with eight friends – camping on an island in the middle of nowhere. I remember sleeping like a rock – on a rock – and exploring the beautiful landscape while catching fish for dinner. We even found ancient pictographs from earlier inhabitants.
A third unforgettable backcountry canoeing adventure took me to Algonquin Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. In fact, there were two of them with two entirely different sets of friends. In all these adventures, it was as wild as they come. I mention them because there are similar experiences available right here in New York, if a wild adventure is what you are craving. The best spot in New York is probably the Adirondacks, but there are other wilderness areas that could serve the purpose for a rustic getaway.
The Adirondacks is six million acres of public land, the largest state park in the country. Camp on an island in Indian Lake or take a canoe or kayak paddle through the Fulton Chain of Lakes. Discover what the Empire State has available one step or stroke at a time. Part of the fun is figuring out where you are going to explore … and with who.
Yes, it’s the little things – while camping, in life. Enjoy them while you can.
Bill Hilts, Jr. is a freelance outdoor writer for the Buffalo News and NY Outdoor News as well as other publications. He served as the Niagara County Sportfishing Promotion Coordinator for 35 years as well as the Outdoor Promotions Director for Destination Niagara USA until 2021. He lives in Lockport with his wife Sandy enjoying 12 grandkids and 3 great grandkids.
Unless otherwise noted, photos for this story provided by and copyright of Bill Hilts, Jr.