A look at picturesque Lake Henderson in the Tahawus tract.
Following a couple of wet and wild weeks, the weather has finally returned to more predictable patterns. However, a combination of warm, sunny days and plenty of standing water has helped mosquitoes return to the woods. Unfortunately, the winged warriors have returned in swarms, just in time for the arrival of our annual Indian Summer. Where’s the snow, ice and cold weather when we need it?
Another woodland oddity of early autumn is an unusual proliferation of spider webs. It seems the webs are everywhere, and it’s been difficult to walk more than a few paces on the trail, without feeling a spider web in the face.
Despite the bugs, the webs, and the bad weather, we are rapidly approaching the Sportsman’s High Holy Days of Autumn. It is a timeframe that allows a return to our roots; where we can revel in the joy of outdoor sports, and share in the adventures that bind all outdoor sporting enthusiasts.
In recent months, there’s been a flurry of legislative activity that will affect sporting endeavors across the generations. The most important of these measures was approval of a new Junior Archery License that allows twelve-year old archers to participate in the annual Big Game Hunting Season, when accompanied by a licensed, adult archer. The new measure allows youth hunters to become involved with the sport at a crucial point in the development of their life skills and outdoor pursuits.
Whether a youngster is involved in hunting, fishing, skiing or biking, the benchmark for developing a regular recreational pursuit into a lifelong commitment is typically achieved by the age of 12 years, in 5th or 6th grade. It is important to get the current generation of youth involved in the outdoors, especially due to the omnipresent allure of electronic entertainment opportunities. Whether they decide to be hunters or hikers, anglers or paddlers, skiers or ‘shoers, they’ll be doing it outdoors! “If you hunt with your kids, you’ll never have to hunt for them.”
Numerous studies have revealed outdoor activity is beneficial to our overall physical and mental health. Outdoor pursuits help to prevent heart disease, decrease hypertension, lower cholesterol levels and reduce weight, improve symptoms of osteoporosis and arthritis, help to control diabetes and also relieve back pain. Outdoor recreation is great way to manage stress, and to learn about personal responsibilities and individual achievement. Outdoor travel instills confidence and competence. “A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world.” Paul Dudley White, founder of preventive cardiology.
We are fat! More than a third of all American children and adolescents, roughly 17 million, are obese or at risk for obesity. The number of kids living with a chronic disease has more than quadrupled since 1960, from 1.8% to nearly 8% today.
“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” G.M. Trevelyan
For far too many families, the outdoors has become a place they visit only on rare occasions. Today’s over scheduled kids travel from school to organized activity and back home again. Is it any wonder they’ve been labeled the ‘backseat generation’?They’re never too far from the electronics, whether it is a laptop, a handheld digital game, or a video screen in the family SUV. And they’re rarely out of cellphone range or far from an electrical outlet.
Spending quality time outdoors, in the slower-paced, natural outdoor environment brings families together. Kids learn to respect and protect nature, as they become familiar with their surroundings. Children and parents learn to recognize their commonalities, and to share in the adventures.
For far too long, it has been assumed that all rural kids are born to be comfortable and confident in the outdoors. We reason that since they live in the country, they automatically know how to enjoy it. Sadly, outdoor skills and knowledge is not achieved by osmosis. Proximity does not instill competence, and even local kids must learn the skills necessary for land navigation, and outdoor travel. “Walking would teach people the quality that youngsters find so hard to learn - patience.” - Edward P. Weston, Father of Modern Pedestrianism - 1861
Not only have the generations changed; so too have the infrastructures of most small towns. Many communities no longer have a popular hangout for local youth. There is no diner, movie theatre or social center in most towns, where local youth can gather. Rather, the kids tend to hang out at the local Stewarts Shop, which is often the only place with a light on after 8:00pm.
Rural youth who lack the appropriate outdoor skills, or who don’t have access to the necessary tools for outdoor travel are severely disadvantaged. For them, the situation is the equivalent of having a huge can of candy, but there’s no can opener available. Is it any wonder there’s a tangible resentment, as they watch another SUV drive into their community, sporting a new canoe strapped to the roof, and a couple of mountain bikes hanging off the bumper. “The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” - Jacqueline Schiff
In urban areas and the suburbs, there are plenty of entertainment options available for the youth. There are theatres, ball fields, sports stadiums, malls, entertainment centers and athletic leagues. There’s always something happening, and there’s usually some sort of public transportation to get them to it. However, in rural areas, young adults typically have to make their own entertainment, and if they aren’t confident and comfortable in the outdoors, the range of options for positive recreational entertainment is quite limited. “Don't think you're on the right road just because it's a well-beaten path.” -Unknown
I’ve heard it said that, ”If you hunt with your kids; you’ll never have to hunt for them.” Neither will you have to hunt for them if you regularly camp, hike, bike, ski, paddle, climb or fish with them. Become an outdoor mentor now, the kid you take out today, may be taking you out, twenty years from now!
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org