Who remembers their first camping trip?
Maybe it was a scouting outing or a family vacation, when everyone learned precisely how loud Dad snored. Or maybe it was just you and your best friend in a pup tent pitched in the back yard, scaring each other silly with ghost stories.
Camping is a great way to get in touch with your inner Lewis and Clark overnight, for a long weekend or for a week. And if you hate it - and lots of folks quickly learn to - the Motel 6 outpost is a bushwhack away.
The trick is in the prep work, balancing safety and comfort against making your campsite look like a cross between Best Buy and The Room Store.
A good checklist heads off lots of problems. There's nothing like pulling out the flapjack mix and realizing that the griddle is still sitting 68 miles away on the kitchen counter. And, of course, the griddle is there just to keep the can opener company.
Meals in the great outdoors can taste terrific or become deeply flawed events ("Would you like flies with that burger?").
Luckily, there are folks who have seen, heard or lived many of the tales of woe who will pass along advice for free.
The REI store in Timonium is having a series of clinics this month to take the mystery out of camping and cooking.
On Saturday, Barbara Pittack will spend 90 minutes walking folks through a camping trip with kids.
Pittack, who was a camper at 6 weeks old, preaches a less-is-more philosophy.
"Don't expect to do too much," she says. "If you're hiking, don't go too far and don't think you're going to get there quickly. Kids are lower to the ground and see things adults don't. Let them explore, but don't let them out of your sight for a second."
Don't plan elaborate activities, she says. "Sometimes the coolest thing for a kid is to sit on a rock and eat a PowerBar."
Let kids carry their own water and lunch, but don't let them carry any more than you're willing to add to your pack later on. Remember that a quart of water weighs 2 pounds.
Buy them sturdy shoes. Give them a disposable camera. Tuck some "rewards" in your pack - a whistle, a small carabiner, a cheap magnifying glass - to be used as camping merit badges.
At some point, of course, you gotta feed the troops. Pittack's REI colleague, Scott Eney, will help take the guesswork out of campground cooking during his talk June 22.
"It's not that difficult if you break down your meal plan day by day on a calendar or a sheet of paper," he insists.
Freeze-dried food is lightweight and has gotten tastier, but it's very expensive. Ramen noodles and Lipton's rice-and-sauce packets are quick, easy and cheap, but there's only so much of a mediocre thing you can stand.
Eney has some simple recipes, including camp-stove pizza bagels and cheesecake, that will spice up any outing.
He'll also pass along tips to lighten the load, make KP duty easier after a meal and prevent food poisoning.
Both workshops run 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m. at REI Timonium, 63 W. Aylesbury Road. The phone number is 410-252-5920. If you live closer to the D.C. suburbs, REI College Park, 9801 Rhode Island Ave., is having the same talks on the same schedule. The phone number there is 301-982-9681.
Speak now, or ...
After working with a number of hunting and conservation groups and holding three hearings, the Department of Natural Resources has come up with hunting and trapping regulations to cover the coming season and the 2003-04 season.
Basically, the package expands many of the hunting opportunities for antlerless deer, doesn't fiddle with the bow-and-arrow season as originally proposed, alters the bonus deer stamp program, and expands the October muzzleloader and spring turkey seasons.
A 30-day comment period on all regulations - except deer season and the late waterfowl season - will begin Thursday, when the agency posts them at www.dsd.state.md.us, (then click on Maryland Register Online). The deer bag limits and season dates will be posted June 28 and open for a 30-day comment period. The late-season waterfowl plan will be published in August.
Bull's eye for charity
The Maryland Archery Association raised $7,300 last month at its annual charity shoot.
More than 100 bow-and-arrow folks gathered at Anne Arundel Archers in Crofton to test their skills and help the American Cancer Society's Camp Sunrise, a program in Glyndon for children with cancer.
This is the fourth year archers have made the camp their charity target, and "each year, we get better and better and raise more and more," says Jerry Wenzel, MAA president.
The top donor was young Charlie Rice, who lives in New Jersey, but whose grandfather, Bob Sales, is a long-time member of the Anne Arundel group. Charlie raised $550, $50 more than last year.
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