By: Otha Barham
Fishing, hunting, hiking, and similar activities are often complemented by a most pleasant pastime – camping. Such trips afield become complete retreats into the arms of Mother Nature when the sportsman or woman is operating out of some kind of camp.
Beyond facilitating other outdoor activities, camping just for the sake of camping is enjoyable enough in itself, and legions of people fill many leisure days on a “camping trip.” Our beaches, forests, lake and stream sides, and commercial sites are filled with campers when the weather is nice.
What is a camper’s motivation? Nearly all of us can recall some special moments in the past spent beside a campfire, warm and bright against a chilly, black night. There may be some primitive instinct lingering in the blood of campers that draws us back again and again to experience those moments that bring us closest to the land and the animals and the trees and the elements.
The Simple Things
There is a comforting simplicity to the camping experience. I have long felt that we should find time for the simple things, like just sitting and watching a campfire’s flames burn slowly down to glowing embers. Even just a few hours around the campfire strengthens one’s spirit. It’s hard to evaluate a thing like that, but to me it is worth a lot.
Drift back with me now to a camp in my past and let my memories give rise to some of your own.
One of my most recent camping experiences that I remember fondly was a little two-tent spread on the banks of the Colorado River several years ago where Mike Giles and I camped during an October hunt for elk and mule deer. A few anglers waded the shallow river, fly casting to cutthroat and rainbow trout on their final forays before winter freeze up, their long sleeves and thick waders testaments to the icy water of mountain glaciers.
We were just a county away from where this great American river heads in the mountains northwest of Denver, a mighty long way from where its currents cut out the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This is public land with primitive camp sites in the part of north-central Colorado called Middle Park.
For those unfamiliar with western terms, a park is what we in these parts call a meadow or opening. Coloradans stretch the term a bit in identifying large areas of the state as North Park, Middle Park, and South Park, named so because from an airplane or satellite these areas appear as separate giant basins, or parks. To lowlanders, these designations seem odd because throughout each are giant mountains, valleys, and lots of seemingly broken terrain.
Cherished Memories of a Successful Hunt
This particular camp in Middle Park was meaningful for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Mike bagged a bull elk and a fine mule deer buck on this trip. He got both while hunting alone, although a friend of mine joined the two of us for many hours of the hunts. Mike got his buck in an area where I had bagged a good muley years earlier, so I sort of relived my hunt through his.
Mike was using a Browning A-Bolt for deer charged with factory Hornady 140 grain bullets. He used a second shot at a bit over 150 yards when he saw the buck standing still and staggering. His scope was a Varix Leupold. His elk was taken with one shot through the neck from a Browning Semi Auto also with heavier Hornady factory loads and a variable scope. My gun was a Ruger 77 with hand-loaded 140 grain Nosler Partition bullets, mounted with a Leupold Variable.
When I returned to the area in search of elk a day or so after I collected my buck it had snowed on my hunt. Mike experienced his first significant mountain snow when he went back far into the mountainous region with a four-wheeler to retrieve his buck.
When he got there, the landmarks and his deer were hidden under a blanket of fresh snow that was still falling. Of course he was prepared for this common weather event in the mountains and now fully understands the value of a good GPS unit.
Our campfire that night was my three-burner propane stove inside my tent. Reliving the day’s hunt, imagining on a hot summer day the comfort of steaming hot camp food on a blustery day, is the memory of a camp two men will never forget.
Otha Barham is a retired entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture writing from Meridian, Mississippi. Contact him at: OthaBarham2017@gmail.com.