The 4th of July is about celebrating freedom. I don’t know of a better way to be free than spending time outdoors. One of the many benefits we have as Americans, is the use of our public lands and waters. We have large expanses of forests, mountains, and grasslands where adventurers may disconnect from the day to day. We also have state, county, and city parks where a picnic or game of basketball may be your ticket to outdoor enjoyment. Rivers, lakes and reservoirs certainly add to summertime outdoor enjoyment. Whatever your level of outside adventure is, the 4th of July is a great day to exercise your freedom as a public land and water owning American.
Fishing is certainly a great way to spend time outdoors early in the morning on the 4th of July. It could be hot early, so those fishing trips may turn into swimming trips. There are several other ways to enjoy the holiday outdoors this year. Three outdoor activities you may want to do on the 4th of July are paddling, hiking, and camping.
A float trip is one of the most fun and simple ways to spend time outdoors during the peak of summer. It’s doesn’t take much equipment, because just about everything you need can be rented. Liveries exist on many rivers throughout the Midwest. Canoeing, kayaking, and rafting can be enjoyed on just about any flowing body of water. When it’s hot out on the 4th of July, head for the river and float the day away. Doing so provides an incredible sense of freedom.
If you have your own equipment, like a canoe or kayak, then you have what you need. This usually requires a little more work but is well worth if paddling is a regular pastime for you. If you’re floating downstream without the use of an outfitter, you must stage a vehicle at your take-out point, or arrange a shuttle service. Another option is to leave your vehicle downstream and have someone drive you upstream so you can float back to your car. If you aren’t a regular floater, just rent your watercraft and let the livery do all the work.
Across the country, parks and recreation organizations, along with local, state and national parks, have more miles of hiking trails than you could imagine. Stretching your legs and starting the 4th of July off right with physical activity outdoors is a great way to celebrate freedom. Hiking gives you a lot of time to think, so on this special day you might use the time to reflect on the blessings you have as a citizen of this country.
Hiking in a park is a very safe experience, but one must be prepared for the slight chance something could go wrong. Be sure to hike with essential safety items. Carry a first aid kit with you. Make sure you have plenty of water and food. Bring a map and compass because cell phone batteries die.
If you have young kids at home who have been spending too much of summer vacation staring at hand-held screens or playing video games, going for a family hike is a way to disconnect them from these activities. However, don’t feel like you must force them to leave the phone behind. Doing so could make them resent the activity. Instead, if they insist on bringing their device, encourage them to use it to map the hike, monitor their progress, and to take pictures of the time spent together outdoors. Maybe those pictures will remind them of how much fun they had.
The 4th of July is a great time to go camping. There are many different styles of camping. A lady in the backcountry with a backpack and the guy hauling a 40-foot travel trailer to a racetrack are both campers. Both get you outdoors and enjoying time away from home in the outdoors.
Camping doesn’t have to be fancy. Whether you have a tent, mattress in the back of a van or a fancy fifth wheel, all you need to round out your equipment list is a couple of folding chairs, a few cooking essentials, and a tank of gas to get you where you’re going. Once you are there, you can likely take advantage of the first two suggestions in this column and go paddling or hiking.
Cooking while camping is always fun, too. Hot dogs and hamburgers on the 4th of July cooked over a campfire is about as American as it gets. Maybe the only more American thing you can do is have a baseball game playing on the radio and an apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
I hope you have a safe and wonderful 4th of July. Take a moment to be grateful for the freedoms we have in this great country, and hopefully, you spend some time outdoors.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Celebrating your freedoms this 4th of July by paddling a river or by spending time outdoors.
For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.