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The time is right

As you’ve surely noticed, today’s Outdoor page theme is camping.

All the winter archery and small game seasons are over, spring turkey hunting is behind us and morel hunting and the best crappie fishing is waning. This means outdoor types can fish, hike and camp this time of year. And if you’re a real hardcore squirrel hunting (like I am), you can get back into the woods starting May 26 – but you’ll have to fight the ticks, chiggers and snakes to get a decent meal.

But the beauty of this time of year is just that, the “beauty” of this time of year. With nights in the 50s and 60s and days holding mainly in the upper 70s to upper 80s, it’s a perfect time to overnight outdoors in the Ozarks.

In my family the most enthusiastic camper has always been my daughter. In recent years it was usually her who prompted the rest of us to pitch a tent and sit around a fire ring.

She got married last weekend (and it was a great and fun event, by the way), and her first real job out of college has her working – and living – in the middle of a very picturesque campground in another state. She accepted the position of guest services coordinator for the campground and the job came with available housing in the form of a nice apartment on the camp property. She, and her new husband and my new son-in-law, are surrounded by serene scenery, lodges and campsites, fire rings and hiking trails, hundreds of acres of surrounding woods and a meandering river.

As for me and my wife, these days we do most of our camping is done at our weekend cabin at the farm or a hotel room if we’re traveling. Older bones and muscles can’t handle sleeping on the ground like I used to do while exploring the Ozarks or other distant places. And my wife says she fulfilled her quota of camping in Army basic training years ago. “Roughing it” for us these days is the cabin with a bed, solar power for lighting and charging cellphones, a propane cooktop and oven, wood heating stove, and a composting toilet.

But we still enjoy an evening sitting around a fire pit, or a meal cooked atop a grill or in a Dutch oven over hot coals. We enjoy these things the most this time of year or in early fall – when you can sit by the fire ring with the front side being comfortable without freezing the backside off.

We are blessed to have been planted in these magnificent (northern) Ozarks, and more specifically in the Parkland region. Do yourself a favor and get outside this month and enjoy the beauty which abounds – go camping.

Doug Smith lives in an old house, drives an old truck, tinkers with old tractors, is married to a young woman, hunts and fishes often, and can be found on any given day wearing his Buffalo plaid flannel jacket and matching Elmer Fudd hat (and starting this time of year a good film of bug spray).

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