When it comes to the great outdoors, I like to think of myself as a bit of a Ron Swanson — but without the skillset. I do have a few flannel shirts and a couple pairs of water-resistant pants (not quite on the level of waterproof pants yet), and I know how to start a fire, as long as my Bic still has fuel.
But, like many aspiring outdoorspeople, I’ve found that half the battle, like in life, is won just by showing up. Wish you were the world’s best mountain biker? Getting a mountain bike would be a good first step. Envious of Bear Grylls’ rappelling skills? Buy some rope. Wish you were naked and afraid all the time? ... I can’t help you.
What I do know is, even as an armchair outdoorsman, you can still look — and play — the part without much in the way of investment, terrain to cover, or hell, skills.
Here’s an example…
A year and a half ago, deep in the coronavirus pandemic, my family decided to procure a couple cheap kayaks from Walmart. Those, along with paddles, life preservers and a car rack kept my family — including our dog — thoroughly (and pretty cheaply) entertained for much of last summer.
Taking to the water seemed like a great way to remain socially distant and there are tons of locales all over the state begging for a leisurely dip. Let me emphasize the leisurely part. For those looking to shred rapids (does one shred a rapid?) while filming all the while on their GoPro, stop reading here.
If you like the idea of reading a book while occasionally moving your arms to avoid jumping fish, please, carry on...
As I was saying, amateur kayaking is an easy way to make yourself feel like a frontier-conquering outdoorsman, but once you’ve obtained the ’yaks (it’s outdoorsman’s slang; it’ll come), you’ll need to find somewhere to use them.
Living in the northern reaches of the county, we find both Palmer and Monument lakes to be highly accessible and easy enough for beginners. The bodies of water are small, very shallow and not a rapid to shred in sight.
Also, you may consider purchasing an annual park pass from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. When my fam is looking for an all-day adventure, we’ll drive a couple hours to Lathrop State Park, which boasts two large lakes (one allows motorized craft while the other doesn’t) for our paddling pleasure.
These lakes are bigger, deeper, and should the wind pick up, it can make paddling to shore much more difficult than you would find when out on smaller puddles.
And if you’re too tired to drive home, you can always reserve a camping site at Lathrop, as long as you plan ahead and claim the spot early in the season, as they fill up quickly.
This brings me to the most important lesson… No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, be a good Scout and come prepared. Research weather conditions, take the proper equipment, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, don’t forget sunscreen, wear clean underwear, call your mother... Where was I?
Oh, and here are a few more bonus tips from this weekend warrior:
If you do decide to camp after your aquatic adventure, you’ll, of course, need shelter. A tent or tarp both work. Many tents can be erected in minutes but be sure to get one with plenty of room for all your campers. I also like to take along a separate, pop-up shelter for our camp chairs — a separate, covered spot is great for keeping equipment out of your sleeping quarters.
And consider picking up a hammock or two (get the kind that protects trees and ensure the campsite allows them). There’s nothing like napping while swinging between a couple aspens on a warm summer day.
Also, campfires are great, but they’ve not been allowed lately because of the wildfire risk. Colorado has gotten a lot of moisture lately, but there’s no guarantee campfires will be allowed when summer really gets rolling. Be sure to grab a camp stove so you can count on a hot meal, even if there is a fire ban.
Finally, if you’d like to get into backpacking, check out resident badass Jenn Cancellier’s tips here.
And happy adventuring, everyone!