By Mike Willis
Springtime is one of the greatest seasons to enjoy the outdoors. All of the brilliant colors and panoramic views are a welcome change for those suffering from cabin fever. A quarantine on the heels of a long winter can feel like cruel and unusual punishment. For this reason, many outdoor enthusiasts are anxious to head out on their first camping trip of the year.
Most campers are used to seeking out shade for their camping locations. During the majority of your camping season, this is a good practice. However, in the cool and damp days of spring, a much different approach is needed.
Look for areas that have maximum sun exposure. For those camping in RVs, this will help save on propane costs to heat your camper. For those tent campers, a little sunshine can be a huge morale booster. Dry ground and warmth are equally important.
While warmth may not be an issue for our friends in the south, the northern part of our country is known for a cool and damp spring. You will need to prepare accordingly.
During the spring, sunny days are normally accompanied by wind. Seek out areas that provide natural wind barriers to shelter you from the direct gusts that will come. As the season progresses, wind becomes more predictable and consistent.
As you are scouting for camping spots, take note of prevailing wind directions. Most areas will have a “common” wind direction, which you should consider when establishing your camp.
In mountainous terrain, consider the thermals. A cold draft can seem never-ending if you set up on a large drainage (ravine).
Choosing areas that have good sun exposure are very important for finding solid ground to set up camp. Areas that see little sunlight take too long to dry out, leaving your family wallowing around in the mud for the duration of your visit.
Look at the grade in the area that you want to camp in. Avoid indentations in the ground, which could hold water during a passing shower. What may appear to be dry and suitable upon first glance may quickly become the wettest area around after a passing shower. It is ideal to establish your camp on a slight knob, which sheds water quickly. These areas rarely become saturated as the water flows off of the surface to the lower areas.
In the summer, I like to find a nice dirt area to establish my camp. Long grass usually is accompanied by bugs and is an inconvenience during camping activities. However, grassy areas have proven to be the best in the springtime camping season.
Having a little bit of vegetation will prevent you from creating mud around your camp. I have noticed that my tent and camper all stay much cleaner this way too. The root structure of the grass and undergrowth stabilizes the soil, greatly minimizing any potential for mud.
During spring runoff (melting mountain snow), rivers can rise at an astonishing rate. Don’t set up directly on a riverbank, or you could easily find yourself in a waterbed by morning.
Trees often meet their demise after a long winter of freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and wind. Don’t forget to inspect the surrounding trees every time that you camp. Many people begin to trust their favorite camping spots and forget to perform this crucial observation each time they return. Standing dead trees and broken treetops (referred to as widow makers) are very dangerous and should never be in your camping area. I would much rather see a bear come crashing into my camp than a large dead tree!
Speaking of bears; in the spring, bears are fresh out of the den and hungry. Bring a bear-proof storage container for your food, or a bear tag and a gun.