13
Apr

What’s the Difference Between Pine, Spruce and Fir Trees?

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! When you think of a Christmas tree or any “evergreen” tree, do you ever wonder what the difference is between the types, or species?  You may have heard the terms pine and spruce, hemlock and fir but never really could tell one from the other.  Well, let’s take a look.

Common “softwoods”, these trees are relatively less dense than their hardwood counterparts, such as oak, maple, hickory and ash.  What makes a hardwood versus a softwood is a little more complicatedly and can be found here, but let’s consider the cone-bearing, or coniferous, trees as softwoods and look at some of the differences.

You will find a variety of what are often called “evergreen” trees, but are actually types of pines, firs, spruces, and hemlock trees.  All these trees are evergreen, meaning they are never without some green “leaves”, no matter the season, but not all evergreen trees are pines, spruces, firs, etc.  To be more accurate we will refer to them as conifers.  Common across the US and Canada, these trees are the traditional “Christmas Tree” types with needles and cones and mainly shaped like a pyramid.  Most of Canada’s trees are conifers.  In fact, over 50% of all Canadian trees are spruce species and if you’ve ever flown over Canada, you may have found yourself in awe at the sheer number of the green spires that stretch from coast to coast.            

The woodlands of the United States are somewhat more diverse in composition and distribution.  The eastern half of the United States has a greater percentage of hardwoods, led by oak and hickory forests, whereas the western states enjoy a majority of pines, firs and spruces covering their woodlands.

To tell the difference between a pine tree, a fir and a spruce, you can start by looking at the needles.  Needles are found either in clusters or individually attached to the stem of a branch.  Also, they will be either round or flattened.  Further, you will find them either attached to the stem or to a small wooden peg.

Pine trees will have needles grouped in clusters- either 2, 3 or 5 needles.  Interestingly, a red pine will have three needles and a white pine will have five needles, which can be remembered by the fact that RED has three letters and WHITE has five.  Pine cones are very hard, woody and rough.

Spruce trees are the most numerous conifer in North America.  They can be distinguished by their needles, which are squarish, rather than flat or round and which attach to little wooden pegs.  Spruce cones are smoother and more flexible than pine cones and usually “drape” downward from the trees.  Allegedly, the oldest living tree in the world is a Norway Spruce tree in Sweden, at over 9,500 years of age!

Fir trees have cones that stand up on branches instead of hanging.  The cones are similar to spruce cones, softer and more flexible than pine cones.  The major difference can be found in the needles of the fir which stick out individually from the branch.  The Douglas fir is the most numerous of the fir tree varieties in North America and is a popular choice as a Christmas tree.

A couple other conifers of note include the hemlock and the sequoia.  The hemlock tree will have branches that stick out horizontally from the trunk.  The needles are typically much softer and laid out is a flat pattern.  The sequoia is the family to which the Coast Redwood belongs.  These redwood trees, found on the west coast of the US produce some of the tallest trees in the world including one named Hyperion, which hold the current record as the tallest know living tree, at more than 380 feet!

2
Apr

Staying Safe in the Sun!

The sunshine can be an integral part of our camping experience in the summer, and during the summer months, it will usually factor into camping preparation. While sunshine can bring joy and fun to your day, too much of a good thing can be harmful, and it is important to be careful of the sun’s adverse effects. Too much sun can be dangerous in the case of sunburn, heat exhaustion, and dehydration. Overheating, along with dehydration, is a serious risk, especially for children and older adults. Keep your cool by reading our tips:

Fluids

It’s always important for our health to drink enough fluids, but this is especially true when spending the day in the hot sun. Our body loses more fluids when it’s hot out, so drinking extra water is necessary. Proper hydration can prevent dehydration symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Dehydration can also contribute to heat stroke and other health conditions. To add some flavor to your water, consider adding slices of lemon, orange, or mint, or even berries and other fruit slices for a sweeter drink. Another option is bringing an iced tea mix to enjoy. The key is to drink something; even coffee is better than nothing.

Sunscreen

Keep your sunscreen close at hand! Avoid the red, sore, blistered or peeling skin that comes with severe sunburn. Packing sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection is essential for preventing sunburn and staying safe from the sun’s harmful rays. Remember that sunscreen chemicals often degrade in the sun or rub off on towels and clothing, so re-apply frequently. It’s essential throughout the year, not just on scorching summer days; clouds and snow actually intensify rays. The best sunscreen is a broad-spectrum version, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or higher. And don’t forget lipscreen to avoid disruptive chapping!

Two people looking at the setting sun

Heat exhaustion/heat stroke

Learn how to spot the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Goose bumps, skin tingling, muscle cramps, dull headache, shallow breathing and nausea are all warning signs of heat exhaustion, caused by the body losing salt through exertion and perspiration. In cases of heatstroke, the body’s temperature rises to 104 degrees, causing impaired mental states such as agitation, confusion, or lethargy. That’s because the nerve cells in the brain and body are the most vulnerable to heat damage. As heat stroke progresses, blood flow to the skin increases; which, coupled with copious amounts of sweat, poses serious danger to the heart. Avoid a medical emergency by spraying your camper with cool water and applying wet clothes or ice packs to the armpits or groin.

Staying in the sun or in a hot environment for extended periods of time can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, so it’s important to take breaks from being outside in the direct sunlight. The most oppressive heat of the day occurs from 10 am to 4 pm. To avoid heat exhaustion during this time, it is important to not stay out under the sun for too long without finding shade or a shelter. Consider hiking first thing in the morning or in the early evening to be even safer.