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Celebrate Maryland Outdoors Days

You’ll enjoy it in the moment and in the ­stories you create

We couldn’t have better weather for Celebrate Maryland Outdoors Days, a state of motivation that culminates this week in the Great American Backyard Campout on June 22.
    June is showing us her best side with mild temperatures, comfortable humidity, ticklish breezes, honeyed air and cloudscapes racing across blue skies.
    To do our part of the celebrating, we’ve recruited Heather Boughey to tell a campfire story.
    As Bill Burton’s youngest daughter, Heather didn’t need Gov. Martin O’Malley to read her her outdoors rights. Bay Weekly’s outdoors columnist for most of two decades after his retirement from the Baltimore Evening Sun, where he’d been outdoors editor for three decades, Burton had camped all over the continent. Those adventures fueled wonderful stories, many retold in Bay Weekly.
    Burton so loved his job that he did the same things for play that he did for work. So Heather grew up living the Children’s Outdoors Bill of Rights, proclaimed by O’Malley, himself father of four, as opportunity for every child to —
• Discover and connect with the natural world
• Play and learn outdoors
• Splash and swim in the water
• Camp under the stars
• Follow a trail
• Catch a fish
• Watch wildlife
• Explore wild places close to home
• Celebrate their culture and heritage
• Share nature with a great mentor or teacher.
    As you’ll discover in reading Heather’s story, she inherited more from her father than love of the outdoors. Like him, she can tell a story that pulls you with her, then motivates you to put the paper down and set out on your own camping expedition.
    Your own back yard, as Heather writes, is a great place to start. By night, it’s a whole new world, a nocturnal kingdom where you’re not the boss.
    I couldn’t read her stories without remembering my own.
    A great nature lover, my mother initiated me in all these rights but one. We never camped under the stars. Those journeys entered my life with husband Bill Lambrecht. It must be a thing with guys named Bill.
    Back then, we lived in Illinois, and the state of its environment was dismal. Because of the runoff of industrial and farm chemicals, not a river was fit for swimming. You could catch a fish, mostly catfish or carp, but you might not want to eat it.
    So we’d escape to the cold, clear, pebble-bottomed rivers of Missouri, to paddle, dabble, fish, swim and live out of a tent. From the musty old canvas collapser we’d borrowed from a friend, our tents improved to lightweight, water-resistant pop-ups. An early reader of Outside magazine, my Bill set his sights on higher, more distant adventures, too.
    We’d manage time off work, pack the Jeep, talk a friend into keeping the dog and head straight north, crossing into western Ontario at International Falls. Bill’s ambitions took us higher and higher, from Lake of the Woods to Sioux Narrows to Kenora. And wilder and wilder.
    The summer we flew into the wilderness above Kenora, humidity and the weight of all our gear (which included an iron skillet and a bottle of B&B) reduced the plane’s carrying capacity. I stayed behind at the rustic lodge. Our laid-back outfitter, Dave, landed Bill at the wilderness drop-off before a thunderstorm broke. Bill huddled under the shelter of an aluminum canoe. When the storm cleared, I climbed into the little plane to reunite with a dampened Bill. “I’ll check on you now and again,” Dave said, and flew away.
    Bill and I flipped the canoe, overloaded it and set out on our journey. Trolling a nice little Mepp through the transparent green water, I caught a northern pike. We still had our campsite to find, our tent to pop, firewood to gather, a fire to build and dinner to cook. We ate pike and boiled potatoes, drank camp coffee spiked with B&B and retired to the tent to a nocturnal world where we were not alone.
    Are you ready to take a step deeper into the wilderness?
    All Maryland state parks with campgrounds are offering special campfire and s’mores programs (www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/campinginfo.asp). In addition, select parks are offering unique programs including Scales and Tales, guided hikes, campfire cooking, owl prowls and kayaking.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com