Folks start camping shortly after Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Weekend is the unofficial opening of the camping season for many families like the Fred Nelsons, Independence. For more than 25 years the Nelsons have made the Memorial holiday their first camping trip of the year and 2008 was no different.
“We plan on camping places closer to home this year in part due to the high gas prices,” he said. “We will be hitting Pomme de Terre, Truman, Stockton and other state parks closer to home. Last year, I caught a lot of nice fish and the kids always liked places around a lake. It all started when I heard my wife tell the kids that they had been inside too long and why didn’t they go outside and play and get some fresh air. Although we seemed to get going in 10 different directions, we decided to go on an outdoor activity that all family members could enjoy, so we started camping. We don’t have to go far to find a good spot, there are excellent campgrounds within a tank of gas.”
According to the Recreational Roundtable survey, outdoor recreation participation leads to a higher quality of life for both children and adults. Outdoor recreation leads to improved physical and mental health, gives people a better appreciation of nature and the environment and promotes stronger families as well as family values.
“Over the years, camping without TVs, VCRs and video games has helped us to get to know each other on a level only the outdoors can provide,” Nelson said. “It helps promote teamwork and is something we can enjoy as a family. Our son, Jim, started camping at age 3 and now is starting his own family camping.”
Memorial Day marks the first big exodus for many campers and while car or RV camping at state parks and other campgrounds is the most popular form, canoe campers will be doing their thing this summer.
Tom Holt, Warrensburg, is one of the growing number of canoe campers for several reasons.
“Isolation is the main reason I canoe camp,” Holt said. “When the campgrounds are crowded on weekends, I load up my canoe and have the benefit of getting away from the crowd. Canoe camping can be rewarding, but you need to start slow. You learn how to pack smart and organize after awhile. Since you are limited in space, you have to plan on taking just the things you will need and not a lot of frills. Canoe camping is not only an enjoyable activity, it complements other outdoor activities including fishing and camping. This year the squirrel and the bass season in south Missouri streams opened on May 26, so I will be bringing my fishing gear along on my next float.”
Holt is also one of a few Missouri squirrel hunters who goes after the bushytails early in spite of the ticks, mosquitoes and heavy underbrush.
“I usually get out very early and since there are plenty of squirrels, it doesn’t take long to get enough for a good meal before it gets uncomfortable,” he said.
Camping has come a long way from the covered wagon days. It is the oldest way of living. Organized camping in America dates back to the 1860s, but didn’t take root as a recreational event until the 1920s when millions of people changed from rural dwellers to urban residents who had more time and money to spend. All the refinements of modern civilization haven’t dimmed our appreciation for a place in the wilderness away from it all.
Camping has evolved in a big way over the years. Today, rather than camping for economical reason alone, people camp because they love being outdoors. Camping equipment has also evolved. Tent camping is still very popular, but now there are pop-ups, pickup campers, motor homes and houseboat camping. At sportshows across the country there are RVs in the $200,000 and up range. No matter how much camping evolves, what’s important to many people is that there’s always a spot in the wilderness waiting our return.
It’s interesting that as Missourians’ leisure time decreases, their camping and outdoor time is increasing. Outdoors is a cherished part of our lives and, although many families have been camping for several times already this year, last weekend jump started the season for many campers. You never know what the weather will be in late May or early June so be prepared.
“It usually rains at some point while camping so we have learned to live with it and use the weather to our advantage,” Nelson said.