Believe it or not, we are already just past the mid-point of the calendar year 2004 and the huge Fourth of July holiday weekend is right smack in front of us.
This upcoming weekend is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, of all the weekends of the year with tens of thousands of folks venturing into the Great Outdoors to have fun.
In fact, I would be willing to bet that a good number of people will probably not even read this column as they have already left to get an early jump on celebrating the Fourth, away from home.
This weekend, I guarantee that no matter where you go or what you plan to do, you are going to encounter big crowds of people everywhere.
Do you like to bait fish, spincast, fly fish, fish from a float tube or a boat or a canoe or a raft, hike, camp, backpack, four-wheel drive, ride an ATV, go horseback riding, water ski, jet ski, canoe, row a boat, swim, climb mountains or photograph outdoor scenery or wildlife?
Well, if you do and if you plan to do it this weekend, you'll have company! And, plenty of it.
So, if you don't like crowds, then I would sincerely suggest that you stay put, right here at home.
You can always have a nice, quiet, relaxing outdoor barbecue in your backyard, complete with hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, steak or chicken.
And, then as a bonus, on the evening of the Fourth, just kick back and enjoy some spectacular fireworks, right here in beautiful downtown Carson City.
If you are going to be out of town, then no matter where you go or what you do this holiday weekend, please remember these very important tips:
1. Be very, very careful when driving in the outdoors at this time of the year.
We are in a serious dry period. Our backcountry (in fact, all of our country!) is tinder dry and just waiting for one spark or one flame to burst into fire.
This is an extremely dangerous time, so please, please be very careful.
Don't drive off established roads.
There is too much danger of a spark or hot muffler starting a fire.
If you do travel by vehicle on backcountry roads, be sure to carry, at a minimum, a shovel and a 5-gallon container of water. You just might need them to put out a fire that you caused!
2. If you must smoke a cigarette, pipe or cigar, then please do so inside your vehicle. And be sure to keep that cigarette or cigar butt inside an ashtray in the vehicle. Don't throw it out the window!
3. If you need a campfire (and, very frankly, I'm not really sure why you need one at this time of the year) douse it very carefully with lots of water, while stirring the ashes in the firepit.
Then, do it again, to be doubly sure.
Then, do it one more time for good measure. You'll be glad you did, I'll be glad and so will Smoky Bear!
4. Don't drink and drive.
Gosh, this goes without saying!
Save the drinking for when you get to your destination. That's the time to party!
Don't become an embarrassed DUI who we read about in the newspaper.
Or worse yet, don't become a holiday statistic.
5. Don't be an obnoxious camper.
When camping overnight at a campground (or anywhere else!) be considerate of the other campers near you.
They certainly did not plan to spend the night next to a group of rowdy people who stay up into the wee hours of the morning, loudly partying, talking, laughing and playing music.
The Great Outdoors is a place to be appreciated, not to be resented.
Be a good neighbor!
6. Don't wait until you are at a boat ramp to load or unload your boat with water skiing equipment or fishing equipment, armloads of clothing, cameras, lunches, coolers, etc.
And for darn sure, don't wait until you are tying up that ramp before you try to start your boat for the first time this year.
That's the last place to be when you discover to your (and everyone else's) horror that the boat motor won't start.
Be considerate of other boaters and have your boat ready to be quickly launched, when it's your turn.
Most importantly, be patient while you're waiting for those ahead of you to launch or retrieve their boat.
It's a holiday, so relax!
7. If you fish, practice "catch and release" fishing, when possible.
If you are one of those folks, like me, who like to fish but don't particularly care for the taste of fish, turn your catch loose to live for another day.
That makes more sense than killing everything that you catch.
When you do catch and release, remember this important tip:
As soon as you lift the fish out of the water, hold your breath.
If you have not released the fish by the time you run out of breath, take a big gulp of air and put the fish back into the water. It needs to breathe too.
8. Please help stop the poaching of our birds, fish, small game and big game.
No matter where you are, you see anyone doing anything that looks illegal or suspicious, don't get personally involved but do note all the details that you can, such as: Location, date, time, descriptions of individuals, descriptions of vehicles, license plate numbers, etc.
Then, as soon as you can, call one of these anti-poaching numbers:
In Nevada: Operation Game Thief (OGT): (800) 992-3030.
In California: Turn in Poachers (CALTIP): (888) 334-2258.
Remember: With OGT, you can remain anonymous and you can also receive a nice cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers.
if you follow those eight tips, listed above, you should have an enjoyable and memorable weekend.
Have a Happy Fourth of July!
• Bet Your favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you what Elaine and I will be doing over the holiday weekend.
If he grins and says, "They plan to just kick back and relax at their two-story cabin near Davis Lake, Calif., enjoy the spectacular view, watch the deer walk by in the mornings and evenings and barbecue some steaks with members of their immediate family," he has probably been a guest there.