Old Forge, NY (WIBX) - We're half way to the weekend. Do you know what you're going to do? The summer months are quickly leaving our grasp. Back to school commercials are well underway, and the time to strategically prepare for some summer fun is upon us. Here's a suggestion that will fulfill your summer vacation needs, get you in touch with nature, awaken some dormant senses, and the best part...it won't cost you an arm or leg, (parents and college students fully grasp the last bonus point.)

I'm adding another destination to my 2011 Summer Stay-cation Series. These tough assignments are purely selfless...(insert sarcastic smerk here.) I have embarked on this journey to provide a firsthand account about surrounding destinations that are family, couple, and wallet friendly. My first stop was at Jockey Bush Trail in the Adirondacks. It was about an hour drive North from Utica and a mile hike to Jockey Bush Lake, where the scenery is simply breathtaking. I even saw salamanders in the water! My second trip was to the Genesee Lighthouse in Rochester--another great summer trip that is historical, family and date friendly.

This past weekend my summer journey took me to Old Forge. Thanks to Tickners, (a canoe and kayak rental place) the trip was everything I had hoped for. It started with an hour drive on 12 North to Old Forge. I filled up my gas tank at $3.89 in Old Forge--it cost about $50 to fill up. Renting a kayak or canoe from Tickners ranges in prices depending on what package deal better fits your itiniary. Hourly prices start at $6 for a canoe and $8 for a kayak. Not too bad for a mini stay-cation in Old Forge.

This time of year, Old Forge is experiencing a steady flow of tourist traffic. The bars and restaurants are full of people looking for a good time with family and friends that's accompanied by good food and drinks. Throw in a live band, and people might stay longer to enjoy what the area has to offer. The shops are also seeing an increase in foot traffic. And yet, the place is still welcoming and lovely in every way. For me, every time I go to Old Forge, I visit a place I haven't been to before, making the experience almost new again.

So, we make it to our destination around 10 in the morning. The day was perfect. The place was moderately busy with families loading kids, boats, kayaks and the like, into shuttles and cars for the short ride to the entry point, which is at Whispering Dam--at the mouth of Fulton Chain of Lakes. Depending on what package you decide to go with, Tickners will provide the transportation and even help you get in the Moos River. One package even includes a train ride. Although I've canoed before, kayaking was new for me. I have to admit, I was a little worried about using a kayak because I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. In hindsight, my dream the night before about getting trapped in the kayak was silly.

Other aspects worth mentioning about going down the Moose River in Old Forge are the sand banks and wild life. There are Otters, Deer, Raccoons, Herrings, Eagles and other great wild life in the area. We saw a few tracks after stopping to explore on one of the many sand banks. One thing to keep in mind is...don't stand up in a canoe or a kayak...you will fall. Making my way back into my kayak, I did not enter in a squatting position. Instead, I entered standing, with intentions to lower myself into my seat. But, as I executed the maneuver, I felt the kayak starting to tip--I tried stopping it but it was inevitable...I fell right in to the water...camera, lunch and all...it was a humbling moment but a lesson learned--One I'll keep in mind the next time I take a trip down the Moose River.

It took us about 5 hours to make our way back to Tickners--where you're assisted out of the water by helpful young people who also seem to be enjoying their summer job on the river. It took us 5 hours because we stopped along the way. There's also a part where you may have to get out of the water if you don't want to go over the rapids. The kayaks aren't too heavy to pull. There's also a bridge to cross on foot--kayak or canoes  in hand--to avoid the small rapids.

After the soul enriching journey, we made our way to a local restaurant to replenish. We ate at Tony Harper's Pizza & Clam Shack. We started with steamed clams that were beautifully seasoned and of course, fresh calamari--two of my favorite appetizers. Amanda--also known as "Beast" is a Rugby player in Utica who accompanied me on the trip--she had a grilled chicken sandwich and Alex, the other party member and animator who lives in Boston--enjoyed a burger. I had a ceaser salad with grilled chicken--yum! We also ordered bread that was crowned with wonderful melted cheese. It was an Old Forge style feast.

So, if you're looking for some fun this weekend--consider taking a short day trip to Old Forge to canoe or kayak down the Moose River. The cost is relatively low and there's nothing better than feeling like you're taking mini vacations all summer long. Who needs the Bahamas when you have Old Forge.

For information on canoe and kayak rentals check out the good folks at Tickners at, www.ticknerscanoe.com or at (315) 369-6286. Of course you can't head home on an empty stomach--especially after the 4+ hour excursion. Here's a link and additional information to Tony Harper's Pizza & Clam Shack; (315) 369-3777, www.TonyHarpersPizzaAndClamShack.com. Here's a link to all the restaurants in Old Forge, http://www.oldforgeny.com/restaurants.html. Enjoy!