Travel Tips: part two, location, location


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:

Travel Tips: part one – choosing a tent

When my children were very young I had little resources for travel. I took them to an Omnimax show about national parks, and I was feeling disappointed that I couldn’t afford to take them on fun vacations. As I sat there I started thinking maybe I could afford to take them places if we could camp instead of going to motels or hotels.

That started a long tradition that has served us well over many decades. I have found places to go where a two week stay costs what a single night would cost at a hotel in many cities. The key, I discovered, was a combination of choosing good locations and providing safety and comfort through the selection of good camping gear.

I couldn’t afford to accumulate the best equipment all at once, but over the years I have added items (and subtracted others) to increase our camping enjoyment. So I will share some of what I learned on a series of blogs.

This one will focus on choosing a tent. Future blogs will include ideas regarding choosing the right location and tips on what to pack for maximum comfort and fun.

Our first tent was small and inexpensive. We crowded in and slept on the floor. This was fine until it rained, and the tent leaked, causing us to spend precious time in laundromats, washing and drying all of our gear.

Investing in a good tent made all the difference. My favorite brand is Eureka! My favorite style is the Sunrise, but I have used several styles and sizes by Eureka! and all have been very well made. I like the Sunrise because like all Eureka! tents, it does not leak, and it also has great ventilation.

I learned that it is wise to use the extra tie downs that are included, in case of high winds.

I have never experienced getting soaked in these tents. Occasionally the floors may get a a small trickle or corner puddle in extreme conditions, but no flooding. I have learned some tricks for keeping everything cozy and dry, which I will share in another blog.

The Sunrise is also easy to put up and take down. I have done so alone, and my 2 pre-teen children were able to do it without my help. It takes just a few minutes. There are two main poles that hold the tent up, and four smaller poles that keep the door and window covers open. There are windows on all sides that offer cross ventilation and great views in the right location.

I have also tried an LLBean tent that I like. It has straight walls that give taller campers good standing room. It also has a vestibule that allows campers to remove footwear before entering and gives shelter from rain. The model is quite spacious and is great for setting up a table for writing, art projects or board games, still leaving space for sleeping. This model has been discontinued, but I do recommend the brand as the tents are well made. If you can get to an LLBean outlet store you may get a great closeout model at a good discount.

We often take two tents – one for day use and one for sleeping.

The cost can be reduced substantially by purchasing tents directly from the manufacturer and choosing one that has slight flaws. These flaws may include things like minor misallignment of panels, or irregularly placed pockets – nothing that interferes with the stability or water resilience of the tent.

While these tents are more expensive than some other brands, I can purchase a good dry tent that will last for years – and we have used these for up to six consecutive weeks at a time, year after year.

Ventilation in the LLBean is not as good as the Eureka Sunrise, however, and rain flaps are operated from outside the tent. The Sunrise allows window covers to be opened and closed from inside, a real advantage in sudden downpours that wake you at night.

Disclaimer: My comments on products in these travel blogs are based solely on my own experience and preferences. I have no vested interest in any of these products, just an interest in sharing what has worked for me.

It is important to choose a tent that fits your own needs and preferences. We camp in the cooler northern states, so I cannot vouch for how comfortable these particular tents might be in hot climates.