Roger Phillips: Fourth of July means freedom to have fun

The holiday is the perfect time for your favorite activities.

July 4, 2013 

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Gentlemen, start your engines and commence your celebration of America’s great outdoors.


When temperatures hit triple digits last weekend, some people hid indoors like they were going into summer hibernation.

But if Lucky Peak and Arrowrock reservoirs were any indication, the temperatures were also a siren call for outdoor folks to get out and have some fun on the water.

Waterskiers, wakeboarders and jetskiers all carved cursive wakes across the green water.

It was like a warmup to Fourth of July weekend, and based on what I saw, people are ready to go.

Campers were tucked into patches of shade up the Middle Fork of the Boise River from Arrowrock Reservoir to Roaring River, and dirt bikers were zooming up the canyon slopes on the William Pogue Trail.

It made me think about the Fourth of July, and I have to say that despite the heat, it's a pretty cool holiday.

As a country, we've twisted the meaning of a lot of holidays. Buying a new flat screen on Memorial Day doesn't seem like the best way to honor servicemen and women.

But with the Fourth of July, we unabashedly celebrate freedom, and that freedom gives us plenty of leeway to put our own personal stamp on the day.

Backyard barbecue? It's a tradition. Slather those hot dogs in extra mustard, have another beer and live large.

If you're a serious griller, that rack of ribs is like the stripes on the flag.

Fireworks are the stars, of course, and Idahoans revel in a minor rebellion against uptight fireworks laws. But I have to appreciate a state that says you can buy them here as long as you don't light them off here - wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Lots of us will head outdoors for the Fourth of July, and this year we can turn it into a four-day weekend.

Few things make me feel more American than taking off into the great wide open and not having to worry about butting into a fence on private land where I am not welcome. About two-thirds of Idaho is public land, which is very American.

Whether you're doing a casual float on the Boise River, or running the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, you will be enjoying public lands.

And we have the freedom to enjoy the outdoors in our favorite ways, whether hiking, dirt biking, mountain biking, floating, motorboating, sailing, taking a scenic drive in the family car or cruising in a yacht-like RV.

You see every demographic out there, and that's also very American.

People in an old, beat-up pickup will be tent camping near a motorhome that costs as much as a family home.

And then there's the incredible amount of choices we have in outdoor gear.

Think about what fills our garages, closets and storage sheds. It's an impressive display of American ingenuity and capitalism, not to mention an economy that allows us to afford those cool toys.

Yes, we complain about how much of it is made overseas, and that's a legitimate discussion we should have. But let's not let that overshadow the great enjoyment those toys bring to our outdoor adventures.

So let's pause for a moment and look at the big picture.

Everything in the country obviously isn't perfect, but when it comes to the great outdoors, it's pretty darn close.

We have the freedom to enjoy amazing places, great toys to play with while we're out there, and enough money and free time to get out there often.

You knew it was coming, so here it is.

When you hear those fireworks flash and boom, or you're sitting around a campfire and staring into the flames, hoist your cold microbrew to the starry night sky and say it loudly and proudly:

"God bless America!"

It's Fourth of July, after all.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.

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