The sun was shining and the temperature was in the upper 60s as Dave Raushi set up his campsite in Moreau Lake State Park Friday afternoon.
“I’ve been looking forward to it,” said Raushi. “We try to get out for the first weekend.”
He had a large blue screen house erected over a picnic table, a pop-up camping trailer opened and ready, and a small cooking fire going in the fire pit.
Moreau Lake State Park in Saratoga County and Thompson’s Lake State Park in Albany County are the first two state campgrounds to open for the season in the Capital Region.
Raushi, 46, of Saratoga Springs, his wife and their 12-year-old son will spend the weekend in the woods, enjoying the lake and 20 miles of hiking trails at the park, two miles from Northway Exit 17 in the town of Moreau.
“It always starts slow,” said Peter Iskenderian, park manager. “Next week it will pick up more.”
Many of the park’s 144 campsites are already reserved for most weekends through the summer. The park’s lake shore cabin has already been reserved by various parties for the entire season, said Debbie LeBarron, office manager. She said 25 of the campsites have been reserved for the opening weekend and she was expecting walk-ins to register through the afternoon and early evening because of the relatively dry and warm weather forecast.
Kayaking and fishing in Moreau Lake are very popular in the early spring but swimming in the lake won’t start until the Memorial Day weekend when the lifeguards arrive.
Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said 2011 campsite bookings are ahead of 2010, with 283,000 nights already booked across New York, an increase of 4,000 nights from the same time last year.
“Over the last three or four years we have seen a real good upswing,” Keefe said.
State parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said camping is an economical family getaway for many people.
“From tent sites nestled in the woods to charming cottages, state parks offer comfortable accommodations for everyone,” Harvey said in a prepared statement.
“What’s more, they remain close by and affordable for families pinched by the economy and rising gas prices,” Harvey said.
It costs $17.75 per night to rent a campsite during the week and $21.75 per night on weekends. Each site at Moreau Lake State Park can accommodate a maximum of two tents, six people and two cars.
Camping reservations for state campgrounds can be made through ReserveAmerica (www.reserveamerica.com) or by phone, 1-800-456-CAMP.
In the Adirondacks, the state Department of Environmental Conservation operates the campsites.
Michael Bopp, a DEC spokesman, said most of the state campsites in the Adirondacks will open May 20 but two opened on Friday. One is at Northhampton Beach on Great Sacandaga Lake and the other at North-South Lake in the Catskills.
Bopp said the high water on Sacandaga Lake has prevented use of some sites but campers are being accommodated on higher ground.
Tim Donbeck, who lives on Mountain Road almost across the street from Moreau Lake State Park, drove his large Pace Arrow Vision recreational vehicle from his home to a park campsite.
“We have the grandkids,” Donbeck said, and the 7-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy love camping in the nearby park.
Donbeck, 61, a transportation supervisor at the Target Distribution Center in Wilton, and his wife have been coming to Moreau Lake State Park since the early 1980s.