10 Thanksgiving Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

thanksgiving facts

Image: www.gospelherald.com

Thanksgiving is next week, which means unlimited turkey, cranberry sauce and gravy (and don’t forget the desserts!). While you’re sitting around shooting the breeze with your family between meals, you can shell out these interesting Thanksgiving facts:

  • Although the “First Thanksgiving” was in 1621 (it lasted three days!), it didn’t become a national holiday until 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Unlike on your family’s table, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies, apples, pears, milk, corn on the cob, and cranberry sauce were not present at the first Thanksgiving dinner in Plymouth.
  • The first Thanksgiving wasn’t really Thanksgiving as we now know it. Thanksgiving was a religious festival affair where Pilgrims would spend all day praying. Thanksgiving was also observed at different times of the year, not just on Thanksgiving. Also, if it were a true Thanksgiving, the Natives wouldn’t have been invited. The “First Thanksgiving” was actually a feast to celebrate a great harvest! A party, in a sense.
  • Contrary to how they’re depicted, Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving didn’t wear black and white with buckled shoes and hats. In fact, they wore very colorful dresses and suits.
  • The Pilgrims’ plan was to settle in the New York area via the Hudson River, but a series of storms caused the boat to sail off course and that’s how they ended up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
thanksgiving facts

Image: www.thanksgivinggallery2014.net

  • Sarah Josepha Hale is credited with the push to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She devoted her entire life to campaigning for it. (Sarah Josepha Hale also wrote the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb.)
  • Roto-Rooter says the busiest day out of the year for plumbers is Black Friday. We’ll let you guess why.
  • Turkeys got their name from the country… sort of. There’s a bird indigenous to Africa called guineafowl that was introduced to Europe via Turkish merchants. Guineafowl were popular in Europe. When the Spaniards came to America, they saw a bird that tasted like and resembled those guineafowl, so they called the bird a turkey.
  • A 16-week-old turkey is called a fryer. A five to seven month old turkey is called a young roaster.

Wish you could have someone else do all the Thanksgiving cooking and cleaning this year? Some state parks are hosting delicious turkey dinners, so bring the whole family!

Your State’s Gemstone

Did you know there is a gemstone representative of each state? While hiking or camping in a state park, try to look for one of these fascinating gems that belong to your state.


Person hold a blue and white moonstone

Image: www.galleryhip.com

Florida’s gemstone is the moonstone. The moonstone was designated the official state gem in Florida in 1970 to represent American astronauts landing on the moon in 1969. This stone is a form of the mineral feldspar.


Chunks go quartz gemstone on a table

Image: tadpolenecklaces.bigcartel.com

The gem, quartz, belongs to this state. It became known as Georgia’s gem in 1976. It is common in this state and can be found in a wide variety of colors. The state legislation recognizes two forms of quartz. One is known as amethyst, which is used in jewelry, and clear quartz, which resembles a diamond when it is on a flat surface.


Colorful tourmaline gems on a white table

Image: sites.google.com

While not necessarily a gemstone, Tourmaline became this state’s mineral in 1971. It ranges in color from black, white, shades of red, green and blue. Individual crystals can be transparent and may be single or multi-colored.


Rhodonite black and pink raw gemstone in a person hand

Image: www.earthegy.com

Rhodonite became this state’s gemstone in 1979. This gem varies in colors from a light pink to a deep rose or reddish pink. It is also considered the most beautiful gem material found in Massachusetts.


Gray agate gemstones piled on top of each other

Agate [Image: www.whataearth.com]

Raw blue sapphire in a hand

Sapphire [Image: www.pinterest.com]

Since 1969, Montana has had two state gemstones: agate and sapphire. Agate is found in southern and eastern Montana. It is polished for jewelry and is usually white with swirls of grey and black spots. Montana’s sapphires are mostly found in western Montana. They are bright blue and cut like diamonds to make jewelry.

New York

Wine red garnet gem on a table with shadow

Image: www.rough2refinedgemstones.com

The wine red garnet was designated New York’s gem in 1969. Barton Mines in the Adirondack Mountains of New York is the world’s largest garnet mine. This mine focuses on industrial abrasive grade garnets, which are used for polishing glass and metal.


white, gold and beige river pearls in a hand

Image: www.thepearlgirls.com

Tennessee river pearls became this state’s gem in 1979. They were created by mussels and are found in all colors as well as different shapes. Shapes include spherical, pear-shaped and even irregular.

Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to learn more geology facts about a state park nearest you. Our Pocket Ranger® apps also make it easy to find great hiking trails and overnight stays!

Suggested Gear:

  • Trekking Poles
  • Tick & Insect Repellent
  • Straw Cap Water Bottle

For your gemstone hike, check out Pocket Ranger® gear store for these supplies and much more.

Related articles

Bird Watching with the Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed App


Hummingbirds eating at a pretty bird feeder.

A lovely bird feeder. [Image: www. bellafayegarden.tumblr.com]

There’s a Pileated Woodpecker pecking a tree, Eastern Blue Jays flying around, and now a ruby red Cardinal! Ever find yourself losing track of bird sightings? All bird watchers have experienced this. Through years of bird watching, it’s hard to keep track of all the birds you’ve encountered. Most avid bird watchers document a bird’s location, characteristics (like shape and size), field marks, sounds, and lastly, a photo as proof.


Our new and free Pocket Ranger® Bird Feed App does all that and more! If you want to record bird findings and share them with a larger birding community, this a great addition to your birding toolbox.

Like previous Pocket Ranger® apps, Bird Feed™ has advanced GPS mapping features, and in addition a photo/video sharing community where you can post your findings instantly, view other users’ sightings on one map, record and share tracks of your favorite nature trails, mark waypoints of locations, and see them again when needed.

You also can create a profile and show off your birding skills by posting photos and adding descriptive notes, anything from location to field marks. Posts can be shared on Facebook and Twitter. Also use hashtags or notes to tag and search for species. Before you know it, you’ll be tracking migration patterns!

Within the app, you can leave comments, birding tips and award other users. Make sure to earn points and get your name on the leaderboard by uploading posts, receiving sighting awards, and commenting. And don’t forget to participate in upcoming challenges, including photo/video contests, which come with cool prizes!

Pine Warbler on a branch.

Pine Warbler [Image: http://roadsendnaturalist.files.wordpress.com]

Spring is gone and so are the songbirds, but there’s no excuse not to seek out the year-round bird residents. While you’re at it, pick up new birding skills to prepare for the coming busy spring migration.

Iron Peak Hiking in Washington

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Fall in Washington takes on a special quality: the openness of the trails, the snow drifting over the high peaks, and the promise of warm cider and even warmer company. As our group trudged the final ridge to the overlook on Iron Peak, everybody was reminiscing about the magnificent season and grandiose vistas, while already talking up objectives for next year. While others are fastening their snowshoes for winter jaunts, many will return to the high mountain hikes in the spring.

Larches in peak fall foliage

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

The extraordinary beauty of the Teanaway River Valley doesn’t enjoy the fame of the Enchantments or the Cascades on the other side of the Stuart Range. The landscape is one of towering larches, easily hikeable peaks, and summer wildflower fields, which turn into some of Washington’s most spectacular fall foliage. The trails ascend through wooded forests, rocky cliff faces, and, above the treeline, to a snowcapped vista of serrated mountain ranges and thin ridges with a multitude of peak-bagging opportunities.

Ridgewalking in the Teanaways

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

To outsiders, this stretch of Central Washington may go overlooked, as they opt for more famous volcanoes and National Parks. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the Teanaways are a gem for locals, who find a multitude of trails that are accessible year-round. The well-marked path doesn’t require much more than lots of water and a good pair of boots.

We chose to hike Iron Peak, a gently sloping massif with enormous views of the early winter landscape. This relatively easy jaunt is completed in just over half a day, with a final unforgettable ridgewalk that leaves hikers surrounded by glaciated peaks. Starting from a pothole-lined road, the rocky, in some places uneven, trail traverses waterfalls, rockslide zones, and lush meadows as it swiftly rises to the saddle under the Iron Peak Ridge.

Rocky cliff edges of the Teanaways en route to Iron Peak

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

As soon as the trail enters the saddle, it becomes apparent why this trail is revered. Between the pine trees to the south, Mt. Rainier looms above a fog and cloud covered valley, while the North Cascades beckon to the opposite side. The highlight of the hike, however, is the entire Stuart Range in piercing, snow-blasted glory, and the remarkable beauty of the South Face of Mt. Stuart. A short but exciting traverse takes hikers to the tip at the top of Iron Peak, where 360-degrees of uninterrupted mountain views are the reward.


Gorgeous summit views of mountain ranges in Washington

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Beyond Iron Peak, the Teanaways have a number of technical climbs and scrambles, such as Ingalls Peak, a 5.4 to 5.7-rock climb over a fin of granite, and Class 2 and 3 scrambles on the Esmeralda Peaks. The interconnected trails allow for multiple loops around the range, and the option to traverse several peaks in one trip.

As we left the trailhead, we drove through the pastoral farmlands with a pink twilight hue streaming through the larches. Central Washington had been the perfect stage for closing this year’s high hiking season. As we were crossing the ridge on our return trip, my hiking partner turned back to me and said, “It’s over, ” but then we started discussing our plans for spring and knew that the next season had already begun.

Nature and Landscape Paintings

In the digital age, most of us have become habitual photo-snappers, and sadly there are no exceptions when visiting nature sites. We rarely stop to absorb the air, trees and mountains. Of course, sharing your experience and documenting your travels through different social media sites (like our Pocket Ranger® Instagram account!) leaves a lovely “memory footprint.” After all, the continuation of wilderness areas is in part due to the large amount of people that continue to support it.

But let’s stop, if only for a few minutes, to see another way of documenting nature and landscape through paintings. The artists below were followers of the Hudson River School, a famous American art movement in the 19th century using realistic and detailed techniques with themes of romanticism to portray the American wilderness. Initially depicting the Adirondacks, Catskills, White Mountains, and Europe, later generations then expanded to other New England areas, the American West, and South America.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a painting? They almost take you there entirely.

Beach at Beverly, Frederick Kensett (1869-1872)

Beach at Beverly by John Frederick Kensett

Beach at Beverly in Rhode Island [Image: www.sightswithin.com]

There is a stillness about Beach at Beverly that goes on forever. Frederick Kensett was famous for making illusive and airy paintings with soft, delicate strokes and contrasts, a mode of painting known as luminism. During these years much of the country was still embroiled in the Civil War reconstruction. For art fans of the era, the painting served as an escape from tragedy and to scenic places like the Rhode Island coast.

Crossing the River Platte, Worthington Whittredge (1871)

Man on horse crossing the River Platte, Colorado in 1871.

Image: www. upload.wikimedia.org

Two horseback riders are crossing the Platte River in Colorado, approaching a Native American campsite. There’s smoke emanating below the trees as the riders tread along the calm and reflective water. The vast prairie, softly outlined mountains, and the only striking, Longs Peak awaits in a hazy distance. After traveling alone from the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains, Worthington Whittredge fell in love with the flat expanses of land, so it’s no surprise the foreground of this painting is prominent.

An October Afternoon, Sanford Robinson Gifford (1871)

Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire

Mount Chocorua [Image: www.artfixdaily.com]

In the foggy distance is the silhouette of Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire. If you look carefully, on the left are small teepees, canoes and tiny figures below orange-yellow trees. There’s an orange hazy, smoky glaze over this idyllic fall scenery, and similar to Kensett’s beach it hangs in a sublime afternoon. Mount Chocorua gets its name from Chief Chocorua, who leapt to his death from a high ledge after being chased by a colonial settler.

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Albert Bierstadt (1868) 

The sun falls on the Sierra Nevada, California.

Image: 2.bp.blogspot.com

There’s something majestic about the sun breaking through clouds. Released during America’s Western expansion, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains tied into the land of promise theme of the era. Though Albert Bierstadt’s paintings were considered highly romanticized and exaggerated, it’s not so far from the truth. More so than capturing nature in stark realism, he adds light and vigor, allowing the painting to imply a feeling of grandeur. Who can deny one has felt more than seen? And who knows maybe the clouds parted this way on the very day he sketched it.

The Great Blue Spring of The Lower Geyser Basin, Thomas Moran (1876)

Travelers in the Great Blue Spring of The Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

Chromolithograph of watercolors. [Image: www.denverartmuseum.org]

All at once the watercolors run wild in the viewer’s direction. The strong turquoise-blues, red muddy lines, and rising vapor show the earth is alive and breathing. During the 1870s, Thomas Moran travelled through Yellowstone National Park and regions of Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Utah sketching geologic features and otherworldly landscapes. He was dubbed Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran for showing its endless beauty. His paintings had a powerful effect even on the U.S. government, who decided to establish it as a national park. Today his Three Tetons painting hangs in the White House’s oval office.

Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes

Tired of all those old Thanksgiving desserts? If you want to bring back some excitement for your guests, check out some of these unique Thanksgiving dessert recipes!

Pilgrim Cupcakes

Courtesy of ivillage.com

Cupcakes that look like boy and girl pilgrims

Image: www.ivillage.com

This dessert may have all your guests laughing, but they will definitely ask you for this cool recipe! You can alter the ingredients to increase the amount as needed.


  • 2 cupcakes (either chocolate or vanilla)
  • 2 mini cupcakes (either chocolate or vanilla)
  • White icing
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Red, black and orange decorating gel
  • 2 Reese’s mini peanut butter cups
  • 1 chocolate wafer cookie


  1. Frost the large cupcakes with chocolate. Remove the paper from the mini cupcakes and frost with the white icing. Frost a smaller circle of white icing on top of one of the cupcakes to make the girl pilgrim’s collar.
  2. Press the heads sideways on top of the larger cupcakes, using a little extra chocolate icing if necessary to secure them.
  3. Put a few spoonful of white icing into a small Ziploc bag. Press out the air and seal the bag. Snip off a tiny corner of the bottom of the bag. Pipe out a square collar in front of the boy pilgrim’s face.
  4. Use a decorating gel to pipe on eyes and mouth and a little bit of hair at the top of each face.
  5. Use a dab of chocolate icing to stick an unwrapped mini Reese’s upside down on top the wafer cookie. Use more icing to stick it on top of the boy’s head. You may need to trim a bit off the top of the mini cupcake to flatten it. Once the hat is on top, use orange or red decorating gel to pipe a buckle at the front of the hat.
  6. Make a cut down one side of the clean cupcake paper and trim off the round flat bottom. Fold the rest of the frill around the top of the girl’s head to make a bonnet.


  No Bake Turkey Cake

 Courtesy of Food.com

No bake turkey cake on a plate

Image: www.food.com


  • 1 Bundt chocolate cake
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 7 lemon cream-filled vanilla sandwich cookies
  • 4 ginger snaps
  • 8 fudge-striped shortbread cookies
  • 7 coconut biscuits
  • 1 Stella D’Oro breakfast cookie
  • 9 Hershey chocolate kisses
  • 1 strawberry fruit roll-up


  1. Place the Bundt cake on a platter and fill the hole with some cookies.
  2. Put the confectioner’s sugar in a Ziploc bag and work in a little water to form a glue like substance. Snip the end off the bag.
  3. Place the lemon cookies and ginger snaps around the center of the cake.
  4. “Glue” the Stella D’Oro cookie to resemble the turkey’s head.
  5. Add a large drop of “glue” for the eye and add a candy.
  6. “Glue” a candy sideways to resemble a beak.
  7. Cut the fruit roll-up to resemble the turkey’s wattle and press in position.
  8. Arrange cookies around the cake to resemble feathers.


Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

 Courtesy of Verybestbaking.com

Pumpkin pie tartlets on a white plate

Image: tatyanaseverydayfood.com


  • 16 (2 ½ inch) foil baking cups
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large white eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz.) of pumpkin
  • 1 can (12 fl. oz.) of evaporated milk
  • 1 cup fat-free whipped topping
  • 12 small gingersnap cookies


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place baking cups on a rimmed baking sheet. Spray each cup with cooking spray.
  2. Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and salt in a small bowl. Beat egg whites in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar. Mix. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Spoon ¼ to 1/3 cup of mixture into each prepared cup.
  3. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until knife inserted near centers come out clean. Cool on baking sheet for 20 minutes. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Top each with whipped topping and gingersnap crumbs.

When all the cooking, baking and eating is done, download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to check out some Thanksgiving state park events that you and your family can attend.

Wild Turkey: 5 Reasons to Admire Them

A flock of wild turkey in a meadow

A flock of wild turkeys [Image: www.carolinabirdclub.org]

This time of year, turkey is on the brain. Some may believe all turkeys are bloated, sedentary birds destined for roasting and open-faced sandwiches, but wild turkeys are very different from their domesticated brethren. These tall birds are agile, speedy survivalists, adept at flying, running, and protecting themselves. Ben Franklin once envisioned the wild turkey as an emblem of America. Although slightly vain, Franklin saw them as respectable, courageous birds. Still dubious? Here are five reasons why America’s wild turkeys deserve your admiration.

1. Built for Speed, Wired to Fly

Unlike domesticated turkeys, wild turkeys are well-equipped for running and flying. Using those very long legs, these turkeys can reach speeds of up to 25 mph when running. Their giant wingspan of 4 to 5 feet enables turkeys to fly up into the trees to roost at night. Wild turkeys have even been clocked at flying 55mph!

2. Warrior Mentality

Don’t let those goofy looks fool you – Wild turkeys can be fierce! Both males and females are armed with spurs on the backs of their legs. A mature tom’s spurs, however, grow to be at least two inches in length and are very sharp. This makes them the perfect weapon for deterring would-be turkey suitors (or unlucky humans). When agitated, a wild turkey will chase down and fly at anything it sees as a threat. 

3. A Good Conversationalist

Wild turkeys can be chatty birds. They have an array of calls for signaling danger, assembling a scattered flock, and communicating reassurance and contentment to one another. And yes, wild turkeys also gobble. (A gobble can carry up to a mile away!)

While foraging for dinner, eating wild seeds, berries and insects, turkeys keep up with their neighbors using a series of clucks and purrs. When roosting at night, turkeys cackle to signal their presence to other flock members. A wild turkey sounds the alarm with a series of yelps, and a turkey that’s lost cries, “Kee-Kee-Run!” 

4. Indigenous Fowl

A ceremonial turkey feather prayer/smudge fan made by the Ojibwe tribe

A ceremonial turkey feather prayer/smudge fan made by the Ojibwe tribe [Image: moose-r-us.com]

There are only two species of turkey in the world, and both are indigenous to the North American continent. There is the North American wild turkey we frequently see in the States, and then the Ocellated turkey found only within a 50,000 square mile area in the Yucatan Peninsula. Native Americans saw the turkey as a spiritual symbol, and used their feathers in ceremonial practices and garb. Tribes also hunted turkeys for meat and eggs, sometimes making a kind of turkey jerky to eat throughout the winter.

Once European settlers arrived on the continent, wild turkey became an important source of food. A deadly combination of year-round hunting and loss of wooded habitat, however, pushed the wild turkey population to near extinction by the early 1900s. Thanks to the efforts of many conservationists, new hunting laws and habitat restoration in the mid-20th century ensured the survival of America’s turkeys. Wild turkeys are now found throughout the country, and there are five subspecies: Eastern, Osceola, Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and Gould’s.

5. Simply Delicious

A pioneer woman hunting turkey in West Virginia

A West Virginian Huntress [Image: www.improvisedlife.com]

Turkey hunting is a favorite pastime of hunters countrywide. All states except Alaska hold turkey hunting in the spring and fall. Wild turkeys are difficult quarry, providing a challenge even for the most seasoned hunter. Turkeys are known to be exceptionally skittish and elusive whenever hunting season rolls around.

While most of us will have farm-raised turkeys on our table this Thanksgiving, a lucky few will have called in a wild gobbler just in time for the feast. For more information about how to prepare the perfect wild turkey roast for your Thanksgiving dinner, check out this great blog post from our sister site, Trophy Case® Fishing & Hunting.