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.


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!


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

Image: www.cummer.org

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

Image: www.caitlynch.com

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

Image: www.plus.google.com/106123815768039352314/posts.com

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.

Spring Hiking at Delaware’s White Clay Creek State Park

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

One of my favorite things about spending time outdoors is the fact that there’s always something new to discover. You’d think that living in a major metropolitan area would limit my ability to find new places to play outside close to home, but after nearly eight years in Philadelphia, I’m still discovering nearby state parks.

A few weekends ago, I visited Delaware’s White Clay Creek State Park for the first time. I loved it so much that I went back the following weekend. Located just north of Newark, about an hour from Philadelphia, White Clay Creek’s 3,300 acres provide a multitude of opportunities for a variety of activities.

Things to Do

Chestnut Hill Trail

Chestnut Hill Trail

The park’s scenic trails were what drew my hiking partner and me to White Clay Creek State Park for two weekends. On our first visit, we parked at a small fee-free pullout on Creek Road near the edge of the University of Delaware’s campus. We followed the wide, flat White Clay Creek and Tri-Valley trails around the edges of the creek, which was muddy as a result of spring’s impending arrival. We found traces of snow and ice left over from cold winter days and nights. It was a perfect, leisurely afternoon walk.

Judge Morris Estate

Judge Morris Estate

For our second visit, we parked near the beautiful Judge Morris Estate off of Polly Drummond Road. The house, built in the late 1700s, is the former home of Judge Hugh M. Morris. Tours are available, but our goal was to explore the trails near the estate on a short hike. We followed the Chestnut Hill trail, a 3.3 mile loop, through the woods behind Judge Morris’s house. The trail, which ranges from a 5% grade up to 25%, was predictably muddy, but signs of spring were visible everywhere.

My hiking partner and I didn’t even see a third of what’s available in the park over two weekends, and I’m excited to go back! In addition to over 30 miles of hiking trails, White Clay Creek State Park is known among my circle of friends as an ideal mountain biking destination. The park is also home to a nature center, fishing spots in appropriate seasons, picnicking opportunities, and even allows hunting in certain cases. In addition to the trails and other features covered above, the park also has horseshoe pits, a nature store, a playground, restrooms, and a volleyball court available for visitors.

Things to Know Before You Go

White Clay Creek State Park and White Clay Creek Preserve are day-use areas and are open from 8:00 am to sunset daily. If you’re planning to visit the Judge Morris Estate, or park in any of the large parking lots, be aware that some parking lots require a small fee.

Download the Delaware State Parks Pocket Ranger® App before you leave with you. Maps are also also available at the park office at 750 Thompson Station Road, Newark, DE. You can keep up with all park happenings via their Facebook page.

If you’re biking, be sure that the trail you choose is a multi-use trail. The trails are also pretty muddy in the spring. In an effort to prevent erosion and to keep the trails in good condition, wait until things dry up a bit before you head out.

Overall, I can’t wait to see the rest of White Clay Creek State Park. If you’ve been to White Clay Creek, what are some of your favorite activities? What should I do on my next visit?

State Park Ruins

Ruins may have originally been regarded as obstacles to progress, but now they’re admired for their aesthetic and historical properties.

Kinzua Bridge State Park – Ruins of the Kinzua Bridge

State Park Ruins

Kinzua Bridge Ruins
[Image: www.upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Collapsed_Kinzua_Bridge.jpg]

Ruins are physical remains of deliberate destruction, lack of maintenance over many years, or in the case of the Kinzua Bridge, natural disaster. During restoration operations in 2003, the bridge was destroyed by a tornado, leaving some dramatic ruins.


Built from iron in 1882 (later rebuilt with steel), the Kinzua Bridge briefly enjoyed the status of world’s tallest railroad bridge (for two years). Now it is the keystone attraction of Kinzua Bridge State Park. This is the only park in Pennsylvania’s state park system that has a man-made structure as its centerpiece.

The tornado brought down 11 of the 20 bridge towers. Now, the park has the Kinzua Sky Walk, made up of an observation deck and a walkway on the still-standing section of the bridge. When getting ready to check out these cool ruins, be sure to download the free Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests Guide!

Sweetwater Creek State Park, New Manchester Manufacturing Company Mill Ruins

State Park Ruins

Textile Mill ruins at Sweetwater Creek State Park, by photographer William Haun
[Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/42432421460526093/]


These are the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company. This building was a textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. During the Atlanta Campaign in the summer of 1864, General Joseph E. Johnson left the New Manchester Mill exposed when he moved with his confederate army away from the location. Union cavalry units commanded by Major Thompkins and Colonel Silas Adams approached the factory, shut it down, and arrested the employees. Several people have later said that Major Thompkins burned the mill. The ruins still standing today are the brick walls and millrace, a channel that carries water to the water wheel. 

State Park Ruins

Image: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewManchesterManufacturingCompanyRuins.jpg

A lot of professional photographers like William Haun (above) take compelling pictures of ruins. Ruins can also make great visual metaphors, reminding us of decline in other ways. These classes below at Sweetwater give visitors a great opportunity to explore the ruins as a subject for visual art and creativity!

Upcoming Sweetwater Events

Art In the Park
Sunday, Apr 6, 2014 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM
Friday, Apr 18, 2014 1 PM to 3 PM
Bring your canvas and paint, clay, camera, or oil pastels for exclusive access to the interior of the five-story New Manchester Mill. Create your own artwork while you enjoy beautiful views of the Sweetwater Creek rapids alongside the dramatic mill ruins as we welcome spring. Reservations required.  $10 plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871.

Photography 101 (Class 1-Lighting)
Saturday, Apr 19, 2014 11 AM to 1 PM
Join Georgia State University professor Nancy Floyd, the artist-in-residence at Sweetwater Creek, as we learn about lighting. You don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures. A simple point-and-shoot will do. Bring your manual.  $15 plus $5 parking. 770-732-5871.

Photography 101 (Class 2-Composition and Point of View)
Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 11 AM to 1 PM
Saturday, Apr 26, 2014 11 AM to 1 PM
Join Georgia State University professor Nancy Floyd, the artist-in-residence at Sweetwater Creek State Park, as we learn about Composition and Point of View. You don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures. A simple point-and-shoot will do. Bring your manual.  $15 plus $5 parking.770-732-5871. Of course you’re going to want to have your free Pocket Ranger® Georgia State Parks app when you visit here!

Ha Ha Tonka State Park Ruins

State Park Ruins

The ruins of Robert Snyder’s mansion
[Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/216735800790097777/]


The stone ruins are what is left of the mansion of the wealthy business man who originally developed the area. Modeled after castles of Europe from the 1500s, the mansion was destroyed by fire in 1942. Originally bought by Robert McLure Snyder in 1904, he was quoted as saying this about the area: “Here I will spend my leisure, secure from the worries of business and the excitement of city life. I will fish and loaf and explore the caves of these hills, with no fear of intrusion.”

State Park Ruins

Image: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ha-Ha-Tonka.jpg

Now you can check out the area and the caves yourself! See what might have attracted this successful business man here in the first place. For the best way to explore, head over to the Pocket Ranger® Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites app page for the free download. Anybody have any suggestions of other cool state park ruins to visit and photograph?