Camping can be a nightmare for me, or it can be the most rewarding way to travel. Location makes all the difference. The image shared with this post is my favorite place in the world. It is a spot in the Adirondack mountains, in a six-million-acre wilderness in New York State.
I return here every summer, and occasionally in the fall, to this quiet spot to relax and rejuvenate. On a clear night there are millions of visible stars, and the moon rises bright above the forest, its brilliance unhampered by city lights so far away. By day I have seen mink running busy along these banks. I have watched loons teaching their young to fish, and a family of otters eat and play at the water’s edge at sunrise. I have had close sightings of deer, fox, moose, coyote and bear, all including their young. I have been awakened by the sound of an owl in the tree above my tent, to the haunting cries of the loons, the tapping of pileated woodpeckers, the call of ravens and the song of the whippoorwill. I have spotted great blue herons and osprey from my canoe and kayak and I have been startled out of my wits by the warning slap of a beaver tail on the surface of the water. I have been entertained by chipmunks around the campfire, and the chatter of red squirrels gossiping with their relatives in nearby bushes. I have seen rainbow trout dance on the surface of the lake. I have had some of my most fruitful insights while sitting quietly alone with these trees.
It isn’t the beauty alone that makes this the right place for me. I have left other beautiful spots without staying a single night. One was in the South in summer. It was so hot the tent sweltered within minutes of being pitched. Large buzzing flies circled our heads and bit our bare flesh from the time we arrived until we gave up a few hours later and went home. It was impossible to relax there. It would have been miserable to try to sleep in that intense heat.
I have also left a campsite way up north in a cool climate but in a mosquito-infested area. It was so bad there that an actual cloud of mosquitoes attacked us before we got our car door closed. We could not breathe without getting bugs in our mouths and our noses. We didn’t even put up the tent. We lost our deposit and rented a cabin and moved on the next day to friendlier shores.
Adirondack nights are cool, sometimes cold, even in mid-summer. There are sometimes mosquitoes and even horse flies if the wind is still. This location at the northern edge of the lake helps, because the wind – or at least a breeze – blows in across the water and keeps the bugs moving. Add a campfire morning and evening and you have warmth plus a natural deterrent to bugs. Wear light colored clothing because biting insects are attracted to darker colors. Add a little herbal bug repellant, and you won’t likely have to worry about bites.
One caution to add, however: along with location, consider the time of year. Camp in the Adirondack mountains in fall, even in early September, and you may wake up to snow. Be sure to pack for warmth and safety from the cold. I can never camp in the Adirondacks in spring. Tiny swarming blackflies are abundant and vicious between the time the snow melts and the first really warm days in early July. I am allergic to these little bugs and will suffer swollen glands and flu-like symptoms if I get bitten. They bite with an anesthetic, so the first sign that they have attacked – usually around your face neck and head – is a tiny hole dripping a trail of blood that appears quite dramatic if not horrific to onlookers. By the month of July these critters stop bothering humans.
So, my advice if you plan to camp, and particularly if you plan to camp with buddies that may be more reluctant than you are to suffer a little or a lot for the benefits of nature, do some research about temperature and bugs before you choose where to go. Be prepared anywhere to keep flesh covered against bites and to use herbal repellant that smells pleasant and won’t poison you. Camp in colder climates to reduce bugs and be sure you can keep warm. Bring plenty of socks, sweats and extra blankets. Be sure you can build a campfire and pack a hat to protect your head from any pesky flies that may find you.
Then you can sit back, enjoy the view, and clear your mind of troubles.
Written as a response to a prompt about Favorite Places at this site: