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The outdoor life is a life well spent

July 13, 2011
By JOE HACKETT, News Outdoors Columnist
Recently, I spent a few hours sorting through a stack of old appointment calendars that were hidden away on a shelf in my office. It was a batch of dusty old day planners that I used from the late 1970s and into the early 1980s.

It has been nearly 30 years since I last reviewed them, and I embraced the opportunity to revisit the early days of my career.

The majority of entries included a series of short notes and brief observations on the daily chores of camping and fishing, with remarks on recent weather patterns, camp pests and the fishing success of my guests.

It was interesting to note the number of nights that I spent in camp in those early days. Obviously, I was fully independent to travel and roam since it was before family duties and the responsibilities of a house and home.

Back then, I spent a lot of time on the trail, working as a nordic ski instructor during the winters and guiding trips for canoe camping, backpacking and fishing trips in season. 

During the early 1980s, I also led lodge-to-lodge bicycle tours throughout New England, whitewater rafting trips in North and South Carolina, and guided a number of extended canoe trips throughout the Adirondacks.

In fact, I once offered a package trip through the I Love New York campaign entitled “Paddling Across the Adirondacks.” It entailed a week-long journey from Old Forge to Saranac Lake. I hosted three of the tours back to back in the summer of 1982.

I also spent a lot of time guiding fishing trips for brook trout on Lows Lake, which was still a viable trout fishery at the time. Sadly, the fishery has gone almost exclusively to bass since then.

Another popular packaged adventure that I offered at the time was a 17-day backpacking trip, in which we traveled throughout the High Peaks and along the Northville-Placid Trail. The effort entailed a fair number of food drops, requiring me to haul the goods into the woods and stash them in a tree.

In those days, I guided primarily for camping trips. In 1983, I spent 103 nights in camp, roughly one out of every three. This total included almost three weeks of winter camping, including a six-day ski trip I led from Long Lake to Lake Placid.

30 years later

I realize now how fortunate I was to be able to earn a living in a landscape of soaring mountains, wild forests and fresh, clear waters, where remote lands were plentiful and people were few.

However, as the responsibilities of family, home and business concerns eventually required more of my time, the number of overnight trips diminished.

Day trips now constitute the majority of my work, and my children are now young adults.

However, it is easy to recognize the advantage that they derived from being part of a family that was active in the outdoors.

Recent studies have revealed that children from “outdoor families” are more satisfied as adults with their lives, families, friends and careers.

It is easy to understand, since outdoor recreation leads to improved physical and mental health. Children learn responsibility and develop self-confidence. 

Additionally, outdoor recreation provides children with a greater appreciation of nature and the environment. It promotes stronger families and shared family values, and as adults, they will seek to protect the environment that they enjoyed as children.

Both of my kids will always maintain a solid attachment to the outdoors. The outdoors has always been their playground, and I expect it will remain so well into the future.

Although the family doesn’t camp as much as we once did, rarely does a week go by that we don’t share a canoe trip on the brook or a walk in the woods.

We must all do our part. Parents must be intentional about taking their children outdoors. Research indicates that children must be introduced to outdoor pursuits by age 11 (fourth grade) if they are to become lifelong anglers, paddlers or skiers.

In the Adirondacks, it is a matter of their quality of life. We cannot assume that they will do it on their own. Get out now!


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