Fun Earth Day Events at State Parks

Stout Memorial Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwood...

Stout Memorial Grove in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near Crescent City in northern California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s almost that time of year againEarth Day! Today we’ll be sharing our annual list of Earth Day events at state parks. Before you start digging holes in the soil in an attempt to plant a tree, a shrub, or any type of greenery, we’d like to give you a mini history lesson so you can truly appreciate this day (and our planet, of course).

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. After an alarming oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson became extremely concerned about the future of our planet. He attempted to pass several reforms after that event to raise awareness about the importance of keeping the earth both healthy and clean. One of the reforms was to create a national Earth Day.

Over 20 million people across the nation celebrated the first Earth Day. The event was so big that there was even an unofficial Earth Day flag! Following the first Earth Day, several acts were passed by Congress to protect our drinking water, wild lands, and wildlife from people and companies. Talk about a success!

More than 40 years later, the tradition carries on— and not just in the United States. On this global holiday, we can all pitch in and make our world a better and cleaner place to live.

And now without further delay, check out some fun, educational state park plans for Earth Day.

Happy Earth Day, Big Blue Marble!

Happy Earth Day, Big Blue Marble! (Photo credit: EraPhernalia Vintage)

Georgia: Earth Day at Floyd State Park

Saturday, April 19th. 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

What better way to spend the day hiking and observing wildlife? There will be an Easter egg hunt and a campfire later in the evening. For more information on this exciting event, call (706) 857-0826.

Tennessee: Panther Creek State Park

Tennessee State Park with bridge by water

Image: tnstateparks.itinio.com

Saturday. April 19th. 12:00 p.m.

Panther Creek will be hosting Earth Day this year. State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath and many other rangers will be there helping you with planting. This event is for those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Call (423) 587-7046.

North Carolina: Carolina Beach State Park

Tuesday, April 22nd. 2:00 p.m.

Come and learn about plants and animals that are found at this park. Make this Earth Day a special one with family and friends. Call (910) 458-8206.

New Jersey: Liberty State Park

English: The tall buildings of Jersey City, NJ...

The tall buildings of Jersey City, NJ are easily seen from Liberty State Park, NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday, April 26th,11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This daylong event provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the environment and create wonderful memories with the family. Arrive early to register for the Race/Walk. Race registrants will receive gifts!

Virginia: Beer Creek Lake State Park

 

Globe on Leaf Earth Day Post

Image: www.justforests.org

Saturday, April 26th. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thinking about donating non-perishable food items for the less fortunate? This is the place to be! A donation of four or more items will get you a coupon for a free 30-minute boat rental, with your choice of canoe! Click here for details.

New York: Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve

Saturday, April 26th. 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Come out and celebrate Earth Day at this festival. There will be many activities for all. Visit New York State Parks.

 

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How to Dress the Part of an Outdoorsperson

Let’s say you’re walking along, you find yourself at some kind of park, and you strike up a conversation with a person that you begin to fancy. All’s going well: you’re talking about your favorite books and bands, where you grew up, and other such things that occur in potential pre-first date conversations. But then, lo and behold! This person starts talking at length about this great overlook he/she wants to take you to, and it’s only a 15-mile hike, and you start to realize that your six summers at sleepaway camp as a child just aren’t going to cut it because you’ve somehow roped yourself a true outdoorsperson.

Between hipsters masquerading as lumberjacks, overalls (which look suspiciously like fly fishing waders) being back in style, and fashion plates mimicking chic safari garb, it was understandably hard to discern that your new potential love was a hiking/camping/fishing/hunting/general outdoor enthusiast, but now that you know, we’re here to help.

Disclaimer: We don’t advise completely changing who you are for love. We just thought this was funny. Also, we want everyone to love the outdoors.

So, read closely, friends. We’re going to tell you how to dress the part of an outdoorsperson. Luckily for us, it’s in time for spring fashion finds, so here are our picks!

For the fellas:

dress the part of an outdoorsperson

Image: www.patagonia.com/us/product/mens-skeena-river-waders-long?p=82310-0

These men’s skeena river waders are lightweight but durable. If you show up to the watering hole with these on, you’ll look like a fly fishing pro.

backpacking shoe for men

Image: www.thenorthface.com

The North Face’s men’s storm mid waterproof leather shoe is fashionable yet rugged, and is perfect for backpacking on wet terrain. Put these babies on and your new special someone will think you’ve been hiking for ages.

 

men's fishing jacket

Image: www. pocketrangerblog.com/gear-store/

Throw on the Simms men’s flyte jacket, and its windstopper technology will have you feeling comfortable throughout your whole excursion.

For the ladies:

These women’s wreck mid GTX North Face hiking boots are fashionable (get a load of those blue laces) without being too in-your-face. Plus, they’re lightweight, waterproof, and have Grippy Vibram® rubber soles for optimum traction when hiking on wet or dry surfaces.

hiking boots for women

Image: www.sunandski.com

These grey socks may not look like stunners, but SmartWool mountaineer socks will show your new partner that you mean serious business when hitting the outdoors. Perfect for hiking, mountaineering, etc., the extra cushioning, breathability, and ability to not get stuck in your new boots will have you thanking us after your excursion. (We accept all kinds of gifts, like love letters, Twitter shout outs, etc.)

 

women's mountaineering socks

Image: www.rei.com

Did your new squeeze suggest a trail running date? No problem! Get yourself these Patagonia Houdini® pants, and you’ll look like you were born ready. They have a water repellent finish, cuff with snap closure to get them on and off over running shoes, and a reflective logo so everyone will see you speeding by.

 

clothes for outdoorsperson

Image: www.shoebuy.com

Love is in the air, friends, so fall in love with the outdoors with these fashion finds. For other get-ups perfect for outdoor adventures, check out our Gear Store.

What are your favorite picks for outdoor wear?

 

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)

bears

Image: spiced2.com

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) 

bears

Image: upload.wikimedia.org

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)

Image: image.tmdb.org

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)

Image: 2007.riverrunfilm.com

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) 

Image: upload.wikimedia.org

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)

Image: movietrain.net

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
[Image: www.gothamist.com/2014/04/07/why_nyc_smells_smoke.php]

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.

Inversion

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
[Image: www.upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Sha1993_smog_wkpd.jpg]

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
[Image: www.philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2014/04/07/smell-from-new-jersey-brush-fire-carries-to-nyc/]

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

Image: www.georgiagolf.com

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

Image: www.bertramgolfpackages.com

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

Image: www.wasatchgolfcourse.com/

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