The Top 5 Documentaries About Bears

In an animal kingdom that features many characters, few would argue that bears are the most fascinating. From the diminutive Sun Bear to the massive Kodiak and Polar Bears, there are many variations among these mammals. There are also many variations in documentaries about bears. There’s even a Disney documentary appropriately titled Bears coming out this Friday. Here are five Pocket Ranger® blog picks, and an honorable mention for a fictional bear movie!

1. Grizzly Man (2005)



It’s unfortunate that people fear bear attacks so much, because for the most part bears are solitary and peaceful creatures that possess many unique and even human qualities. Still, bear attacks do happen, and it’s the brutal maiming of animal documentarian and preservationist Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard that is the centerpiece of Werner Herzog’s excellent 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. While the movie goes into length about Treadwell’s life and lengthy time spent living amongst bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, it also provides insight into bear behavior, what provokes bear attacks, and why extensive physical contact with bears in the wild is bad on many levels. Despite Treadwell’s good intentions, his work is now punctuated with this cautionary tale.

2. Project Grizzly (1996) 



This offbeat documentary is also about a bear attack, though the major difference between this and Grizzly Man is that the man survives and makes it his life goal to build an armored suit so that he may one day battle a grizzly bear. Directed by Peter Lynch, this National Film Board of Canada documentary focuses on Troy Hurtubise and his project. It also goes into length about how his research and testing of the suit over the years has allowed him to study bears at length, and how he now possesses a desire to study them rather than fighting them. Still, you’ll have to check this film out to find out if he steps into the ring with a grizzly! It’s a funny yet sincere film about a man’s passion and dream.

3. Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice (2010)


This BBC documentary puts you within a paw’s swipe of the massive Polar Bear. Utilizing remote-controlled spy cameras that are blended in with their surroundings, the documentarians manage to get some amazing footage of several different polar bear families as they go about raising their cubs. Narrated by former Doctor Who star David Tennant, this documentary will provide entertainment for polar bear fans and newbies alike! 

4. The Edge of Eden: Living With Grizzlies (2007)


This documentary is also about a man living amongst grizzly bears, but practicing more caution than Timothy Treadwell. Charlie Russell wrote about his experiences in the book Grizzly Heart, so this movie acts as an expansion as well as a companion piece to that. This film details Russell’s extensive preservation efforts and grizzly bear studies. An informative and fascinating film. 

5. MonsterQuest: Giant Bear Attack (2008) 


Monster Quest is a TV show that airs on the History Channel. This 15th episode of season 2 takes a look at how big bears may be getting more assertive and aggressive, which ties into their look-back at monstrously massive prehistoric bears that appear to have been much more aggressive predators. The series also goes into environmental factors like humans moving into bear-inhabited land that would explain the bears’ aggressiveness. A foreboding segment of the episode even speculates on hybridization and breeding experiments that could introduce a close approximation of giant prehistoric bears back into our modern world.

Honorable Mention: The Bear (1988)


The Bear is a fantastic French film directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Starring two live bears, this film is an adaptation of the James Oliver Curtwood novel The Grizzly King. While it’s supposed to take place in 19th century British Columbia, the movie was actually filmed in parts of Austria and Italy. It is the tale of an orphaned bear cub who befriends an adult male grizzly that eventually comes around to the cub and teaches him how to hunt and survive. An award winning film with a minimal score and dialogue, it’s a wonderful story that fully utilizes naturethe best special effect of allas a narrative tool.

Many of these documentaries can be watched for free online so seek them out!


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Tips for Camping out of a Kayak

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

With the popularity of kayaking and kayak fishing steadily on the rise, more and more people are beginning to get away from the traditional canoe and switch to kayaks for their camping excursions. But there are several things that a person must take into consideration before attempting to camp this way. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning a camping trip via kayak.

Kayak Camping

1. Store it away

My number one rule for camping out of a kayak is that if you aren’t willing to lose it, keep it below deck. The question isn’t whether or not you’re going to flip one day; it’s when. Paddle enough, and it’s almost a guarantee that someday you’ll capsize in the kayak. Even well strapped down gear can break free during a spill and one runs the risk of losing precious gear for good if it’s not stowed away safely. Vital gear like emergency radio, water, food, and a tent should be kept within the kayak rather than on top. Losing gear like that can instantly end a camping trip and make things much more difficult on yourself.

2. Pack light

Think of camping from a kayak as almost like hiking. You want to carry everything you need, but you also want to be as light as possible. Unlike a canoe that can easily handle several hundred pounds of gear, a kayak is limited on space. In addition, a really heavy kayak in the water will tend to go through waves, rather than over them. This often leads to getting far wetter than you would normally. If you’re paddling long distances, a light kayak will help save your arms and shoulders from feeling like they’re going to fall off.

3. Anchors away

Camping Out Of A Kayak

An anchor is one piece of gear that every kayaker should have. They come in handy both while fishing and while just traveling. It’s a simple task to toss out the anchor and take a break while paddling, and doing so will prevent you from possibly losing ground to currents or winds. When it comes down to actually camping, I like to pull the kayak out of the water (if possible) and toss out the anchor on dry land. Fluctuation tides or inclement weather conditions could come float the kayak in the middle of the night. And the one piece of gear that you absolutely cannot afford to lose is the kayak itself. When camping on something like a platform or dock, I still use my anchor and wrap it around the wooden posts or columns.

4. Bag it up

Kayak Water

Whether you’re paddling a sit-in or a sit-on kayak, getting wet is inevitable. Not only will you get wet, but so will your gear. That’s why when I pack up to go camp from my kayak, I make sure to keep things that need to stay dry inside dry bags. These waterproof bags have rubber seals and clips that can ensure a watertight seal. Things such as dry clothes, cookware, and food all go inside a dry bag. By putting things in dry bags, a paddler opens up much more available space on the outside of the kayak. Bags can be strapped down with bungee cords or rope and doing so frees up room on the inside of the kayak.

5. Bring back-ups

This holds true for almost any camping excursion, be it hiking, canoeing, or kayaking, but be sure to bring back up items. An extra paddle is a must when camping from a kayak. Imagine, for a second, how terrible it would be to break or lose your only paddle when you’re on a multi-day trip. Other items include ways to fix broken gear like rudders or seats. Spare rope, extra clothes, and alternate ways to make fire are things that I’m sure to always bring along. Redundancy is essential when it comes to being well prepared on a trip.

Though it’s slightly less conventional than camping from a canoe, the kayak is definitely a good way to spend a few days in the wild. It’s just important to remember the kayak’s limitations and plan accordingly. If you follow these easy tips, you’ll be well on your way to having a successful kayak camping trip and realize just how fun it can be.

Do you have any tips for camping in a kayak?

Hiking Up Deer Creek Road

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Deer Creek Road

The view from the ridge

The Mountain Loop Highway bordering the North Cascades has spectacular and secretive trails that can be hiked year round, ensuring an enchanting view of the mountainous landscape. This past March, I was invited to hike Deer Creek Road, a winding snowshoe trail. While it wasn’t steep, it involved breaking through virgin powder, crossing ice-framed streams, and being surrounded by snowcapped mountains just below the national park. We previously visited this area when we came to hike Gothic Basin, the trailhead just five miles farther up the road. When it snows, this area takes on a whole new character, and much of it is devoid of any other trekkers. The combination of solitude and grandiose vistas gives it some of the best hiking in the state.

Deer Creek Road

The old growth forest

Since the trail isn’t that steep, it makes for easy hiking in the summer. But in winter and early spring, snowshoers and cross-country skiers break through deep powder around a curvy winding road. As I learned, this wide trail bordering Deer Creek is a great introduction for those who are just learning to use snowshoes, and while difficult on the deep snow that we encountered, the scenery changed from an old growth forest to a stunning panorama.

The trailhead starts on the edge of the parking lot and the first mile rises gently through snow-covered pines, curving between the forests before exiting upon a high ridgeline. As the trail drops off a sharp cliff, the trees give way to snowy peaks set dramatically above the fir wilderness. The highlights of the scenery are the glimpses of Vesper Peak, Big Four Mountain, and the upper slopes of Bald Mountain rising just above the landscape. As the trail drops back among the trees, there is a snow-lined stream crossing that cuts right through the middle of the trail and another snow-covered bridge shortly thereafter.

At this point the trail diverges, one path headed toward Kelcema Lake and the other following higher up the ridgeline for more expansive views of the Cascades. Our group, already tired from the 6-mile trail in, decided to break for lunch just before the junction and start back down the trail to the parking area. Once back at the trail head, a second 4-mile flat road sets out just behind the lot and leads to the Big Four Picnic Area, a small clearing revealing an awe-inspiring look at the titular mountain’s huge north face.

From here, another trail sets out for the ice caves, formed by the frequently avalanching face. Although the winter-formed caves had already collapsed by the time we had arrived, they form frequently, and it’s important to stay out of them, as they are structurally unstable.

Deer Creek Road

The north face of big four mountain

The serene wilderness of the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie Forest has trails for every skill level that loop just under the North Cascades, and even the drive in reveals Glacier, Shuksan, and Baker itself from the highway. While it wasn’t as physically demanding as our Gothic Basin hike, breaking through two feet of snow was a challenge and we were amply rewarded with sore legs and splendid views.

Deer Creek Road

Breaking through two feet of snow

Final note: while we were on the southern side of the Mountain Loop Highway, in the days following our hike, the northern side, including the towns of Oso and Darrington, were hit by devastating mudslides. We’re all wishing a swift recovery to the town and our thoughts are with the families of the victims of the tragedy.


Wharton State Forest Fire

A forest fire at a New Jersey state forest made big news on Monday in New York City.

The fire, which was in Wharton State Forest, caused a strong smoky smell that pervaded all over New York City, home of the ParksByNature office. Some even described the experience of waking up Monday morning like they were at a campsite with smoldering embers filling the air with smoke and haze.

Smoke in New York City

New York City Monday Morning

The fire started at about 3:30 pm on Sunday. The smoke plume could be seen, as well as smelled, in Philadelphia and New York City.

As of the posting of this article, the causes of Wharton’s forest fire are still unknown. Common natural causes of wildfires like this are lightning, sparks created by rockfalls, and even volcanoes. Human negligence, like not disposing of cigarette butts or even the way we deal with leaves in fall!, can cause these fires.

This was a pretty routine forest fire at this time of year, officials say. There were some unusual weather conditions, though, that made this fire a little more noteworthy.


The unusual weather condition was called was an atmospheric condition called inversion.

Inversion is when temperatures increase as you go up in altitude, rather than decrease (which would be the norm). This leads to smog or smoke being forced closer to the ground where it can cause numerous problems.

The fact that it coincided with the inversion weather phenomenon is what made this fire so newsworthy and why it smelled like smoke in New York City on Monday.

Smoke in New York City

Inversion in Action in Shanghai 1993

Also, a lack of humidity left the blaze to smoke all night long. This is why the smoky smell was so strong and traveled so far from the source (90 miles)!

The Aftermath

Wharton State Forest is 110,000 acres and the fire burnt about 1,500 acres of the park. Despite the damages, visitors are still encouraged to enjoy the large unaffected area of Wharton State Forest, as well as plenty of other state parks in New Jersey and New York while Wharton recovers! 

Forest Fire

Putting out the blaze

Happy Golfer’s Day: The ‘Fore’ Best State Park Golf Courses

Put on your polo, grab your clubs, and hop on that cart because’s it’s Golfer’s Day! In honor of this oft-forgotten holiday, we’re giving you ‘fore’ of our favorite state park golf courses. (You don’t even need to say it. We’re cheesy. And we’re proud of it.)

Arrowhead Pointe, Richard B. Russell State Park

Golfweek ranks Arrowhead Pointe as the 4th best golf course in Georgia, and the 7th best municipal course in the nation, so you know it’s something special. It’s an 18-hole layout, and the 14th hole juts out into the lake. The course is on a peninsula within Richard B. Russell State Park, so it provides stunning stunning water views. And, since you’re already in the park, you can rent a pontoon boat, play some disc golf, or go hiking and biking after your round.

Arrowhead_Pointe state park golf course


Dale Hollow Lake, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park

With its website boasting that it’s “one of the most scenic courses in the country”, Dale Hollow Lake’s 18-hole golf course has been voted by Golf Digest as the 7th best in the state of Kentucky. It’s no surprise, considering its springs, gorges, two ponds, and mountain views. There are three large zoysia trees, a new Clubhouse and Practice Range, and, as part of a resort park, excellent accommodations (check out the Mary Ray Oaken Lodge) and all of the activities (water skiing, scuba diving, nature trails, boating, fishing, etc.) a state park has to offer.

Dale-Hollow-Lake-State-Resort-Park  golf course foliage

Image: Kentucky State Parks

Bear Trace, Cumberland Mountain State Park

We’ve been spitting accolades like nobody’s business, but we had to include this one: Golfweek magazine named Bear Trace the #1 golf course in Tennessee. All 6,900 yards of this par 72 layout feature “flowing brooks and clustered, matured pines”, so you know it’s scenic. Another plus? It’s open seven days a week. And, if you do decide you want to stop golfing but don’t want to leave the outdoors, you can go hiking, fishing, or birding in the park.

bear trace golf course


Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course, Wasatch Mountain State Park

We’re leaving the south and heading west to Utah’s Wasatch Mountain State Park. There are four 18-hole courses in the park, and Golf Digest rated Wasatch Mountain as one of Utah’s Best Places to Play, giving it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The course is most popular in the summer, but you can also play in the early spring and late fall. And when your golf course looks like a scenic overlook, there’s really no excuse not to play.

Wasatch-(Mountain)-5th-back best state park golf courses


What are your favorite state park golf courses? Let us know in the comments!


Garmin GPS Units

Contributed by Al Quackenbush, The SoCal Bowhunter

Some people want a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit to get them from point A to point B, while others simply want one to geocache. With so many on the market and with all the features you can get, selecting a unit that is just right for you can be overwhelming. My advice is to go with a unit that has the basics of what you need—don’t buy the most expensive one because you think it will work better. Once you find a unit, get to know it by using it around areas that you are familiar with.

To help you narrow your search for a dependable unit, I’m going to share the experiences I’ve had with two Garmin GPS units. Although the two I mention here are discontinued in retail stores, they are still available online.

Garmin eTrex Legend

Garmin eTrex Legend

The Garmin eTrex Legend HCx is a compact unit that works in the deepest cover and picks up satellites well. It has a rather small screen, but it’s in full color and has excellent battery life (25 hours). I have used this unit in deep canyons in Colorado and it worked really well, but if you plan on using the compass you should know to hold it completely level. Marking waypoints and going through the menus can be cumbersome due to the toggle and buttons. You will have to practice with it to get used to it.

The price is what really helps this little workhorse. At a price of $249.99, it is relatively inexpensive for all that you get. It is a discontinued item, but you can find it used or for sale through online channels. I would still recommend it as a used item for hiking or hunting.

Basic Stats:

Unit dimensions, WxHxD              2.2″ x 4.2″ x 1.2″ (5.6 x 10.7 x 3.0 cm)
Display size, WxH                         1.3″ x 1.7″ (3.3 x 4.3 cm)
Weight                                          5.5 oz (156 g) with batteries
Battery                                          2 AA batteries (not included)
Battery life                                     25 hours
Waterproof                                    Yes (IPX7)
Floats                                            No
High-sensitivity receiver                Yes
Interface                                       USB


Garmin Colorado 400t

Garmin Colorado 400t

The Garmin Colorado 400t is a larger GPS unit, and with that comes a larger viewable screen. This is great for my tired, aging eyes—and maybe yours, too. The maps are in full color and are easy to read and understand. Plus, there is a feature where you can see the elevation of the land around you in 3D to plan your next move. Pretty neat stuff and valuable when you are hiking out elk quarters in the Rockies!

One of the features I really enjoy about this GPS unit is the roller wheel. Instead of an array of buttons, you have a wheel that you can scroll. This allows you to move faster and it feels more intuitive.

It has good battery life (15-16 hours on two AA batteries). I will just plan on having extra batteries on hand.

The investment increases with this unit, though. It has also been discontinued, but can be found at many online retailers. The price ranges from $185.00-$299.00. This is a very fair price, but you probably won’t find a warranty on it. Even still, I think the Colorado is an incredible GPS unit.

Basic Stats:

Unit dimensions, WxHxD              2.4″ x 5.5″ x 1.4″ (6.0 x 13.9 x 3.5 cm)
Display size, WxH                         1.53″W x 2.55″H (3.8 x 6.3 cm); 3″ diag (7.6 cm)
Display resolution, WxH                240 x 400 pixels
Display type                                  Transflective color TFT
Weight                                           7.3 oz (206.9 g) with batteries
Battery                                           2 AA batteries (not included); NiMH or Lithium recommended
Battery life                                     15 hours
Waterproof                                    Yes (IPX7)
Floats                                             No
High-sensitivity receiver                 Yes
Interface                                         USB and NMEA 0183 compatible

Garmin Montana 600t Camo

Garmin Montana 600t Camo

The Garmin Montana 600t Camo is a unit that I am considering adding to my hunting kit. It has all the bells and whistles of the older units, but this one has a touch screen. At first I was hesitant about the touch screen because of cold weather, but Garmin states you can use this with gloves. (Sounds great, right?)

It also boasts a larger screen at 4”! The drawback is that it weighs quite a bit more that the previously mentioned units (almost twice the eTrex), but it’s a trade off as you get more viewing area. Take a look at some of the new features.

  • 4″ dual-orientation, glove-friendly touchscreen display
  • Preloaded TOPO U.S. 100K maps
  • 3-axis compass with barometric altimeter
  • Supports BirdsEye satellite imagery, Garmin Custom Maps, and photo navigation
  • Uses rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or AA batteries

The retail price for this very new Garmin product is $499. While it is pricey, you get updates, newer maps, and a warranty. I have yet to fully try this one out and look forward to the opportunity!

Basic Stats:

Unit dimensions, WxHxD              2.9″ x 5.7″ x 1.4″ (7.48 x 14.42 x 3.64 cm)
Display size, WxH                         2″W x 3.5″H (5.06 x 8.93 cm); 4″ diag (10.2 cm)
Display resolution, WxH                272 x 480 pixels
Display type                                  bright, transflective 65k color TFT, dual-orientation touchscreen; sunlight readable

Weight                                         10.2 oz (289 g) with included lithium-ion battery pack; 11.7 oz                                                           (333 g) with 3 AA batteries (not included)

Battery                                         rechargeable lithium-ion (included) or 3 AA batteries (not                                                                   included); NiMH or Lithium recommended
Battery life                                   up to 16 hours (lithium-ion); up to 22 hours (AA batteries)
Water rating                                IPX7
Floats                                          No
High-sensitivity receiver              Yes
Interface                                      high-speed USB and NMEA 0183 compatible

No matter what GPS unit you plan on purchasing, talk to a reputable dealer who can answer any questions you might have. Don’t forget to test it out a few times at home or nearby. Once you have a good handle on how it works, hit the trail and have fun!


Waxing Poetic: 5 Perfect Poems About Spring

Spring is in the air. Spring is everywhere. Although it’s technically springtime, in some parts of the country, it still feels like the dead of winter. April is National Poetry Month, just in time for spring. First celebrated in 1996, NPM’s aim was to honor and raise awareness of poetry across the country.

In conjunction with National Poetry Month and spring, here are five poems about spring to warm you up in preparation for a sunny, fruitful season.

poems about spring 

A Light Exists In Spring
by: Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period –
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay –

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

poems about spring

Spring Sunshine
by: Ellen Ni Bheachain

After all the chills and winter blues,
The staying warm and staying in,
Meetings indoors for outside is cold,
Then comes the spring sunshine,

The sun breaks in like a door open wide,
With the burst of sunlight,
That lasting and warm,
Bringing smiles back on peoples faces,

While in the chilling season it brings,
Us all to hibernate and stay in,
Not getting out much as weather is cold,
Until the spring sunshine brings us back outdoors,

It is the time for new growth,
It is the time for new beginnings,
It is the time for buds to bloom,
It is the time for nature to sound its sounds of nature again,

For all the while when we shelter from the chills,
Winter is chilling,
And springs getting ready,
For all the new beginnings,
Brought forth from the old,
Of last seasons blossoms,
Spring will bring new growth from its roots,
And bloom again with spring sunshine rays,

Spring will start again,
And a new year to begin it with,
That starts with first,
The spring sunshine,
Of first days of spring,
That brings the smile back,
To all our faces,
With warm sun rays,
Of spring sunshine.

poems about spring


In Perpetual Spring
by: Amy Gerstler

Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.

Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.

poems about spring


Farewell Frost, or Welcome Spring.
by Robert Herrick

FLED are the frosts, and now the fields appear
Re-cloth’d in fresh and verdant diaper.
Thaw’d are the snows, and now the lusty spring
Gives to each mead a neat enamelling.
The palms put forth their gems, and every tree
Now swaggers in her leafy gallantry.
The while the Daulian minstrel sweetly sings,
With warbling notes, her Terean sufferings.
What gentle winds perspire ! As if here
Never had been the northern plunderer
To strip the trees and fields, to their distress,
Leaving them to a pitied nakedness.

And look how when a frantic storm doth tear
A stubborn oak, or holm, long growing there,
But lull’d to calmness, then succeeds a breeze
That scarcely stirs the nodding leaves of trees :
So when this war, which tempest-like doth spoil
Our salt, our corn, our honey, wine and oil,
Falls to a temper, and doth mildly cast
His inconsiderate frenzy off, at last,
The gentle dove may, when these turmoils cease,
Bring in her bill, once more, the branch of peace.

poems about nature


Spring is like a perhaps hand
by: E.E. Cummings

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere) arranging
a window, into which people look (while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here) and

changing everything carefully

spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
(carefully to
and fro moving New and
Old things, while
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there) and

without breaking anything.