The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

July 20, 2012

DEC's youth camps are cool places to be during the summer


Daily Star

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Every summer, the Department of Environmental Conservation runs camps for kids.

Within the past two weeks, two guys I know attended these camps in the Adirondacks.

Dominick Hopper is 13 and lives outside of Laurens. He was sponsored by the Otsego County Federation of Sportsmen and attended the camp at Lake Colby just outside of Saranac Lake. When I spoke to him the other night, he said it was one of the best experiences of his life. In fact, when his parents went to pick him up, he didn't want to go home.

Lake Colby is open for youths ages 11-13 and is loaded with activities to make their stay fun and full of adventure. Dominick loved the kayaking on the lake and impressed the staff and other kids with his fishing abilities.

Most nights were spent sitting around the campfire, telling stories and singing songs. But one memorable night was hiking back into the woods and camping out. When you get out away from everything, it's amazing how different the world really is. It was a great experience to camp out where bears and bobcats may wander by.

Besides regular activities and conservation-education programs, the campers participated in a variety of optional activities. Some kids chose archery, but Dominick learned fly tying and took up fly fishing. This is an activity that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

One thing about going to camp is meeting new kids. Dom made many new friends and plans on staying in touch with them. He said he would love to go back again and eventually become a camp counselor.

The other DEC camper this summer was my grandson Justin Sparaco. Justin is 15 and was sponsored by the Dave Brandt Chapter of Trout Unlimited. He attended the Pack Forest Camp in the southern Adirondacks north of Warrensburg.

The Pack Forest Camp is open to older campers, ages 14-17. They have a chance to explore forestry, aquatic biology, wildlife management and other environmental issues.

During the week, Justin had a lot of fun. Besides environmental discussions with forest rangers and environmental officers, there were a lot of great activities.

Justin shot guns at the target range and completed his bow hunter safety course.

One day, his group hiked to the top of Fifth Peak. He was fascinated to learn about orienteering and bushwhacking off the trails to get back to camp. Another fun activity was kayaking and canoeing several miles up the Hudson River and back.

Of course, there were many recreational games during the day and in the cover of darkness. And what would camp be without a campout and smores around a campfire at night?

Both boys had a wonderful time. If you or your son or daughter is interested in the DEC camp program next summer, stop by the conservation exhibit at the county fair and get all the details. The county federations of sportsmen and other sporting groups sponsor campers each year and pick up the tab, so why not get in on the fun?

What's Happening?

The Ponderosa's annual 500-yard rifle shoot will start at noon July 29 on South Hill Rd. out of Worcester (699 County Highway 39). Check out your skill at long-range shooting and enjoy the refreshments. For more information, call Chuck at River Valley at 607-432-8180.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.