Have you gone camping yet this year? If not, what's your excuse?
I say there is no excuse -- at least not a good one.
You can't say it's too expensive to spend a night under the stars. There are all sorts of cheap or even free camping opportunities. You can't say there's nowhere to go. There are dozens of great places to camp right here in York County. And you definitely can't say you don't have the right gear. If you're a first-time camper, you can rent it for a dirt-cheap price.
Thanks to a partnership between Gander Mountain and the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, folks who have never experienced the thrill of camping in the Keystone State can get all the gear they need.
For just $20, campers get two nights in a state park campground, plus all the gear they need. The deal includes the use of a four-person tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a lantern, a camp stove and even a set of sticks to roast a few marshmallows over the fire. It's a perfect chance for a novice camper to get outside at one of the area's state parks.
What if you have the gear you need, but want an ultra-cheap weekend of camping? If that's the case, you need to head to one of Pennsylvania's many state forests. When you do, you'll have more than 2.2 million acres worth of potential campsites to choose from.
The rules for camping in one of Pennsylvania's state forests are pretty simple. Primitive campers don't need a permit, as long they are not using developed facilities and don't stay at the same site for more than one night. But even if you do need a permit, they're free. That's one of the best parts of Pennsylvania's state parks and forests. Access is free. That's a rarity in most states.
If you can't find a suitable site inside a couple million acres of forest or if you're not a fan of primitive camping, there's still no excuse not to spend a night outside. After all, just about every state park offers camping opportunities with plenty of modern amenities.
For around $20 a night, you can enjoy the luxury of a shower, toilets and drinking water. And for a few bucks extra, you can tap into the electric grid right at your site. Don't be surprised, though, if a modern RV with a satellite dish and onboard entertainment center pulls in beside you. That's the price you pay for camping with modern amenities.
We live in a great area for adventurous campers. Within a three-hour drive to the south, you can camp on the beach. Or head the opposite direction and spend the weekend atop a scenic outlook deep in Penn's Woods.
The bottom line is there's absolutely no excuse not to go camping at least a few times each year.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.