Houston Leisure RV Resort Blog - Latest Camping News

11
Jan

U.S. Mountains: Rockies and Appalachians

The United States is a vast and geographically diverse country that is home to several different climatic zones and landforms.

There are five main major mountain ranges in the United States, including the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Sierra Nevada Range, the Cascade Range, and the Coast Range. Today we will be taking a look at the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies.

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (part of Appalachians)

The Appalachians

The Appalachians, not to be confused with the European Alps, are an Eastern mountain range located parallel to the Eastern coast of the United States and Southeastern Canada. They stretch from the Canadian island Newfoundland to Central Alabama, a total length of about 2,000 miles. The range is split into Northern, Central, and Southern regions longitudinally and marks a boundary between the Eastern and Midwest areas of the U.S. latitudinally.

The Appalachians are home to a variety of both flora and fauna. The land surrounding the mountains is heavily forested and full of wildlife. The trees that make up this rich landscape consist of firs, pines, hardwood, and spruces. At the ground-level of the forest are shrubberies and herbs, as well as various berries. Animals common to the Appalachians include small and large mammals, large cats and wolves, birds, and snakes. Most well-known are rabbits, deer, wolves, moose, beavers, bears and many species of tree squirrels.

Running through the mountains is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail which connects Mount Katahdin in Maine with Springer Mountain in Georgia.  Hikers that complete the trail through separate trips are called section-hikers, while hikers who complete it in one season are called thru-hikers. The latter group usually hikes from South to North and starts in early spring so they get to the North when the spring does. In total, this 2,000 mile trail usually takes five to seven months to hike.

The Rockies

The Rocky Mountains are a western mountain range located in the United States and Canada. They stretch an impressive 3,000 miles, starting in northern British Columbia and sloping off in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Eight states and provinces are host to the Rockies, including British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The Rocky Mountains were formed around 60 million years ago as a result of the gradual shifting of tectonic plates. A fascinating landform that runs through the Rocky Mountains is the Great Continental Divide, which acts as a boundary that diverts water to the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic on the other. The Triple Divide Peak diverts water to the Arctic Ocean as well as the Pacific and Atlantic.

Because of the wide range in latitude that the Rockies encompass, the climate is highly variable. The variability of altitude also affects the climate, as the temperature decreases the higher you travel up the mountains. Snow is characteristic of the highest peaks, even in the summer months.

While the human population in the Rockies is limited, the wildlife population is thriving. The Rocky Mountains are home to a variety of animals including mammals, birds, and fish. Among the wildlife in the area are grizzly bears, wolves, moose, elk, bison, otters, and mountain goats, as well as bald eagles and cutthroat trout.

11
Jan

On The Trail: Packing Your Bag

One of the most important things when going hiking is to be prepared. Hiking can be a fun, refreshing way to reconnect with nature but it can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. It is better to hike with other people instead of on your own and before heading out to the trails, your bag should be packed full of tools to aid you on your journey. It should be noted that the longer and more complicated your trail, the more items you will need. The items listed below are just some basic essentials to bring on every hike.

1. Water

The most crucial tool in your backpack is water. Anytime of year, but especially in the warmer months, staying hydrated is a necessity of hiking. Whether on a straight, paved path, or on the rugged terrain of a mountain, hiking is a lot of exercise and you can get dehydrated pretty fast. It is important to replenish not only water but electrolytes as well. Consuming electrolytes help you maintain a good water-salt balance. Good sources of electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, include bananas, salty snacks (in moderation), and sports drinks. Drinks with caffeine, like coffee, soda, or tea, or alcohol, can cause dehydration and should be avoided on the trail.

To be environmentally-conscious and also for the ease of refilling, a reusable water bottle is your best bet on a hike. If you plan to purify water from natural sources, make sure to bring all the tools you need for purification, whether that’s iodine drops, ultraviolet filters, or tools for boiling water. For more information on finding and purifying water on your hike, check out the article On The Trail: Water Purification.

2. Snacks

Another key to a successful hike is keeping up your energy. Hiking can use up a lot of energy and it’s hard to focus on connecting with nature when you’re hungry or tired out. Rather than stopping for a long lunch break, pack small, energy-boosting foods for regular snack breaks. Eating smaller portions more frequently is healthier for your body and helps to sustain you for the duration of your hike. Foods rich in carbs and proteins are the best way to gain energy during your hike. Some snack suggestions are granola bars, nuts, fruits, peanut butter and bananas, energy bars, and trail mix. You can make your own trail mix through a combination of nuts, dried fruits, and seeds.

3. Sun Protection

If you are going to be hiking out in the sun, sun protection is a must. The sun can do a lot of damage to your skin, so it is important to take precautions every time you are hiking outside. The sun’s rays are generally strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so be extra careful of sunburn and heat stroke during these hours. However, sun protection is important despite the

time of day. Apply sunscreen before leaving and bring extra in your bag to reapply. Other items to bring include SPF lip balm, sun-protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat.

4. First-Aid Kit

The trail may seem harmless, but there is always the possibility of getting injured in the wilderness. Rugged terrain in particular offers more dangers than a smooth path, but it is always best to be prepared. A great tool to pack in your bag is a first-aid kit. You can buy an already-made kit or make your own. A few things to include in your first-aid kit:

➔ Band-aids

➔ Gauze

➔ Antibiotic Ointment

➔ Aspirin

Always make sure your first-aid kit is stocked and replace anything you use before your next hike.

5. Directional Aid

Depending on the type and length of your hike, you may need tools to help point you in the right direction. GPS on your phone is a great tool if you get lost, but you may not always have service on the trails. For longer hikes or for hikes through more rough terrain, a compass and map can be helpful to aid your sense of direction. And remember, while it is highly recommended to hike with others, always let people know where you are going and when you expect to be back if you choose to hike alone.

11
Jan

On the Trail: Water Birds

Birds are beautiful and diverse animals that inhabit nearly every ecosystem on Earth. There are thousands of different species of birds, ranging from the tiniest hummingbird to the vibrant peacock to the 9 ft tall ostrich. In this article, we will explore the world of water birds. These birds have adapted to life in the water through flattened bills, webbed feet, and waterproof feathers.

Waterproof feathers

Aquatic birds give their feathers water-resistant properties by coating them with waxy oils. This process is called preening, in which the bird distributes oils from the preen gland at the base of its tail to the other feathers. Water birds must continually preen their feathers to keep them water-resistant. Another way these birds stay protected from water is through a dusty powder in their feathers. This powder comes from the breakdown of special feathers called ‘powderdowns’ and adds to the water-resistance of the feathers.

The following birds are examples of North American water birds you may see on the trail:

    1. Waterfowl

Waterfowl is a classification of aquatic birds that live in freshwater. The main types of waterfowl are ducks and geese, who are both commonly found in North America.

Ducks

Ducks can be found in practically any type of body of water including marshes, ponds, rivers, and lakes. They are omnivores and their diet varies by species. Ducks may be shovelers, who eat insects, snails, and seeds, diving ducks, who are able to dive deep to catch fish, or dabbling ducks, who feed on land or at the water’s surface. Dabbling ducks eat plants, grasses, insects, and small animals.

Geese

There are several types of geese, a common example being the Canada Goose. Canada Geese can often be found flying overhead in a V-formation or around water or grassy fields. These birds are herbivores and eat grass, berries such as blueberries, seeds, and grains.

Geese can sometimes get violent both with other geese and with humans. When threatened, they will hiss or honk and may chase after people. If they’re fighting with another goose, they may attack and hit each other with their wings.

Two geese flying in the sky

Geese flying in the sky

     2. Common Loon

The common loon lives mainly in lakes and ponds. A lake populated with loons is often a good indicator that the water is very clean, even crystal-clear. Loons prefer crystal-clear water so they can see their prey easier underwater, which is mainly small fish. They will also eat crustaceans, snails, or leeches if there’s not enough fish around.

Loons are excellent hunters in the water and powerfully dive after their prey with the help of the feet located at the back of their body. They have the unique talent of being able to flip around 180° in less than a second to follow their prey. After lurking in the water looking for fish, they will suddenly dive down and use these skills to their advantage.

     3. Pelicans

Pelicans are relatively large birds with a weight of 30 pounds and a wingspan of up to 10 feet. They can be found on islands in freshwater lakes where they breed or in shallow marshes where they go foraging for their food. During a migration, they may stop at lakes or inland rivers.

Pelicans are very social and often hunt prey together. This is accomplished by using their collective wings to drive fish toward the shore where it will be easy to catch them. Pelicans also travel together in flocks and will occasionally fly in a V-formation like geese over long distances.

The most characteristic feature of the pelican is its throat pouch, called the gular, which they use to catch and drain fish. They mainly eat small fish but will also hunt crayfish and tadpoles; their diet can vary based on the water levels and which types of fish or other creatures are available.

Two pelicans standing in front of a tree

Pelicans standing by some trees

Next time you’re at Houston Leisure, see how many water birds you can spot.

19
Jan

On The Trail: What socks should I wear hiking?

When packing for a trip to the great outdoors, items like a tent, cooking supplies, and hiking gear are the main things people think about, while socks usually fall to the bottom of the list. It’s important to pack socks both for staying warm during cold nights and for protecting your feet during long hikes. When it comes to hiking socks, you want them to keep your feet cool and dry. The main properties to focus on are the socks’ height, cushioning, and fabric type. Based on the following guidelines, you can find the best socks to keep you cool and comfortable during your hiking trips.

 

Sock Height

Socks can be found in a variety of heights, including no-show, ankle-length, crew-length, and knee-high. The height of your socks often depends on the height of your shoes and serves to prevent shoes from rubbing against the skin. For hiking, crew-length socks are a popular choice because they prevent hiking boots from forming blisters on the ankles. If your hiking boots are lower cut, ankle-length socks are a better choice.

 

Sock Cushioning

When hiking in the summer, it is important to keep your socks lightweight to stay cool. A lighter sock will also lessen perspiration and keep your feet dry and comfortable. Specialized hiking socks may have extra cushioning at the heel and ball of the foot for comfort during long hikes.

 

Fabric Type

The best fabrics for hiking are wool and specialized synthetic fibers such as Coolmax fibers and Olefin fibers.

  1. Wool is one of the best materials for hiking socks because it prevents your feet from getting too warm and it also cushions your feet so they don’t get sore and blistered. Wool is naturally good at wicking away moisture and allowing it to evaporate, as well as keeping you warm in cold weather. A common type of wool used in socks is merino wool, which comes from merino sheep. This wool is antimicrobial which prevents bacteria from growing and it can absorb a good percentage of its weight in water before becoming wet.
  2. Coolmax fabric is an engineered synthetic fiber made of polyester and is often mixed with wool, cotton, and nylon. This fabric was invented specifically to wick away moisture from the feet. Coolmax fibers are hydrophobic and push water away from the feet to the outside material.
  3. Olefin fibers are similar to Coolmax fibers except they are made from polyethylene instead of polyester. These fibers work the same way as Coolmax fibers and wick away moisture while also drying quickly. Olefin fibers have antimicrobial properties as well and can limit bacterial growth.

When picking out hiking socks, one type to avoid is 100% cotton. Cotton is very absorbent and will keep your feet sweaty instead of wicking away the moisture. It doesn’t take long for cotton to become soaked with moisture, but cotton socks will take a long time to dry off, during which time bacteria can grow on them. Socks often contain a small percentage of cotton, but socks completely made of cotton are best left for more casual use.

 

Note: This is the first installment of a new series called On The Trail. These articles will explore the world of the trails including how to prepare for hiking, what you can see and discover in the natural world, and how to stay safe when hiking.

19
Jan

Bonfire Safety

Bonfires are a classic staple of a fun camping trip; they keep you warm and were the birthplace of s’mores. However, it’s always important to practice good fire safety when you start any kind of fire. Follow these guidelines to stay safe while enjoying your camping trip and roasting marshmallows.

 

Only start fires in a safe environment.

Before starting any kind of fire, make sure that there aren’t any fire restrictions in place. If current conditions make wildfires more likely, a fire restriction may be implemented which may ban bonfires in certain conditions. Some areas such as parts of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area never allow campfires in order to protect the area from potential wildfires. You can read about fire restrictions at fs.usda.gov.

You should also check the weather conditions to see if it’s safe to start a fire. If the area is hot and dry, your fire is more likely to grow into a forest fire. High winds can also cause fires to spread, so it’s best to avoid bonfires when it’s windy out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

 

Only use designated fire pits.

If you’re staying at a campsite, only use designated fire pits for a bonfire. These pits are either made of a metal material or surrounded by stones so the fire is contained. If you’re making your own fire pit, build it at least 10 feet away from any buildings or flammable materials. Make sure there isn’t anything in the fire pit that shouldn’t be burned before using it and make sure there’s no surrounding wood or vegetation it could spread to.

 

Only burn safe materials

When making your fire, stick will dry kindling and wood. Burning other materials such as plastic may release toxic fumes into the air, harming both yourself and other campers. Putting accelerants like gas or other flammable liquids in your fire is also a bad idea. Doing this will cause your fire to get out of control and may even cause an explosion.

Even if a fire is only built from safe materials, flying embers are a possibility and may be dangerous if you sit too close to the fire. In addition, smoke can be dangerous to your lungs, so it’s recommended to avoid breathing it in whenever possible.

 

Never leave a fire unsupervised.

Leaving a fire unattended is a recipe for disaster. Not only can your fire get out of control, it could also cause the start of a forest fire. Never leave a fire that’s still burning and never leave children unattended by the fire. When you’re done with the bonfire, extinguish it with water and wait until it’s completely gone. After dousing the flames, cover the pit with dirt to prevent any remaining sparks from being reignited.

19
Jan

The Forest Fire

Forest fires are devastating natural disasters that can destroy large amounts of land very quickly. Due to their size and the speed at which they can spread, forest fires have been a force of destruction worldwide, most recently in California and Australia. In the U.S., there have been an average of 67,000 wildfires per year over the past 10 years.

 

Forest Fire Conditions

All forest fires start with a spark. This spark may be human caused or naturally caused, with human-caused fires making up the large majority of all forest fires. Human causes may include cigarette stubs, bonfires, land-clearing fires, and other accidental fires. On the other hand, naturally-caused fires generally burn the most total area because they may not be detected as quickly and may not be contained as easily. Natural causes may include volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes, and the rare spontaneous combustion of dry sawdust or leaves.

All fires require fuel, oxygen, and heat, each part of the “fire triangle”, to start and to continue burning. As a result, the ideal environment for a forest fire is a dry forest on a hot and windy day. Western states and dry states such as California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona are at the most risk for wildfires. California and large parts of Australia have both recently experienced wildfires due to very high temperatures and dry conditions.

Forest fires increase in severity the higher up in the forest they burn. The three types of forest fires by vertical location are ground fires, which take place below the leaves, surface fires, which can be up to 1.3 meters high, and crown fires, which take place in the treetops. Crown fires are the most dangerous and can spread faster than the other types of fires. After reaching the tops of the trees, crown fires may be able to move from tree to tree and are difficult to extinguish.

 

How They’re Extinguished

The very first step in fighting forest fires is the notification that the fire exists. If a fire gets out of hand or a potential forest fire is spotted, it’s important to tell the authorities as soon as possible so they can start containing and extinguishing it.

After learning of a new fire, there are a couple of techniques that firefighters use to put it out. The main goal is to take away one or more sides of the fire triangle so that the fire can’t be sustained.

 

Firebreaks

A firebreak is a strip of land that has been stripped of anything that a fire could use for fuel such as brush or debris. Firebreaks are built around the fire to prevent it from spreading further. This is the job of firefighters called hotshots who work in teams to contain the fire.

 

Backfires

Backfires may also be used to get rid of any fuel in the fire’s path. A backfire is a fire that is meant to burn up fuel so the larger fire is contained. These fires are set by the ground crew who are able to contain the fire.

 

Air Support

Planes called air tankers are able to drop thousands of gallons of water and fire retardant from above. Helicopters can also douse the flames by dropping water bombs and by getting firefighters to the site of the fire.

 

Suppressing Small Fires

While the larger fire is being extinguished from above, specialized firefighters called smokejumpers suppress small fires on the ground so they don’t grow in size. Smokejumpers are able to get to the small fires away from the action by jumping out of planes.

 

For more information on wildfires and how to stay safe, visit American Red Cross Wildfire Safety.

19
Jan

How to Build the Perfect Sandcastle

Stopping at the beach on your camping trip? Besides relaxing by the water, one way to spend your beach day is playing in the sand. Follow these steps to build the perfect sandcastle.

What you’ll need:

  • Shovels
  • Small and large buckets
  • Pencil
  • Shells/feathers/driftwood pieces found on the beach

 

Use wet sand

In order for sand to form into the perfect castle including towers and moats, it must be wet enough to stick together. If you don’t add enough water, your towers will come crashing down before they’re even finished. A good way to make sure your sand has the water it needs is to gather water in multiple buckets and have them ready when you start building.

On the other hand, adding too much water will cause your castle to slip out of place. The key here is to form the perfect ratio of sand to water, mainly through trial and error. Once you get the perfect consistency of sand, you can start building.

 

Build a foundation

Dry sand is very loose and can be a shaky ground for your castle. Before you start building your sandcastle,  make sure it has a sturdy foundation to rest on. You can do this by tracing out a circle and digging a passage around where your castle will stand. Then, add water to the sand in the middle and pack it together until it’s stable.

Make sure your foundation is flat enough for your castle to stand tall. You may want to smooth it out with your shovel or your hands. After the groundwork is laid out, it’s time to start building!

 

Add towers

The main part of your castle is the towers which stand will stand the tallest. To begin, start filling your buckets with the sand-water mixture. You can use buckets of different shapes and sizes to give your castle a more varied look. Place your buckets upside down on the foundation to build up your castle empire. You can put them as close together or as far apart as you want.

After your castle is done, you can use a small shovel or a pencil to carve in some details. For example, you can add windows to the towers or give your castle a made-of-rocks appearance.

 

Add other elements

Other parts of the castle include walls, bridges, stairs, and rivers or moats. Walls and stairs can be made be sculpting sand in the shape you want, then using a shovel or pencil to add detail.

To make a river, use your shovel to carve out a passage surrounding your castle. Although it may dry up fast, you can pour water in the passage to keep your river realistic.

 

Be resourceful

Items you find on the beach such as shells, feathers, pieces of wood, and rocks can all be used to add a special finishing touch to your castle. A feather may be a flag or a shell may be a pathway to your fortress. The most important part of your sandcastle experience is to have fun!

 

If you feel up for a challenge, get inspired by theses images from the annual American Sandsculpting Championship held each year in Fort Myers.

https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/visit/editorial/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-annual-american-sandsculpting-championship

13
Dec

HOLIDAY TRADITIONS…AND DELICIOUS TREATS!

Family, friends, holiday traditions…memories that will last a lifetime! Special family traditions are a great way to celebrate the holidays, spend time together, and link across generations. Every family has different traditions, unique in their own way. We’re here to discuss some holiday traditions that your family may or may not celebrate. Maybe you’ll pick up some new ideas to start this holiday season!

Family Pictures
There is no better way to capture the holidays! Taking family photos are a wonderful way to get the family together and document those special moments. And you can print out the pictures and put them up in your home to enjoy all year long! It’s wonderful to look back and see how each person has changed over the years.

 

 

gingerbread-cookies-with-cocoa

 

Gingerbread House Contest
You can buy fairly inexpensive gingerbread house kits. Pair up your family members and friends and build away! The family gets to spend good, quality time together – laughs and a bit of a mess are almost guaranteed, but it’s all part of the fun!

Cookie Exchange
Everyone makes a few dozen cookies and then you get together to share them with your friends! Each person gets a taste of each cookie. It’s a delicious way to spend time with friends. And, don’t fret – you can find super easy-to-follow and easy-to-make recipes online!

Elf on a Shelf
This one is a BIG one! Kids just love the idea behind Elf on a Shelf, and parents do, too. Santa’s elf spends the month in your home, watching the children to make sure they behave and that Santa can put them on the ‘Nice List’ so they get lots of awesome presents. After, all the Elf reports right back to Santa!

Holiday Movies Marathon
Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Home Alone (1 and 2!) are just a few of the movies to put on your must-see list! Plop down on the couch with pillows, blankets, and popcorn and let your errands and chores wait. It’s all about relaxation and togetherness with this tradition!

Tell us: What are your family traditions during the holiday season? Happy Holidays!

13
Nov

AUTUMN CAMPING IS AWESOME!

With the heat headed south, campers that have avoided the great outdoors are now in for a treat! Gone are the bugs and the sticky humid nights, meaning that now a hike through the woods or a drive through the countryside is 100% enjoyable. But if that isn’t enough to convince all of those hesitant campers out there, we thought we’d give you a few more reasons. Just because!

Sensational Scenery
There isn’t anything wrong with a forest of green, but there’s nothing quite like the amazing and colorful foliage that nature provides for the happy camper in Autumn. From mountainsides glowing orange and gold to the bright-red orchards set against blue skies, the Fall scenery draws out even the most stay-at-home individuals to the great outdoors. If you need a reason to spend some time at a campsite, just look out your window.

marshmallow roasting over camp fire

Happy Harvests
Besides the obvious aesthetic amazements, Fall is that magic time of year when farmers are bringing in their harvests and sharing them with the community. That means campers can enjoy a whole new selection of outdoor activities that only happen in Autumn including apple-picking, farmer’s markets, pumpkin-patches, corn-mazes and oh-so-much more. Adults can enjoy Oktoberfest while the kids jump into piles of leaves, and campfires are so much cozier when there’s a cool breeze at your back.

Cool Accommodations
We’ve already touched on this already, but the fact that Fall brings on cooler temperatures means that campers can expect to have all the fun of summer without the hassles. It’s much easier to grab a good night’s sleep if the nighttime air isn’t sweltering, and unlike summertime hikes and picnics, Fall campers aren’t constantly battling the swarms of bugs, mosquitoes and other insects that make the outdoors a nuisance. Even swimming is a lot more fun in early Fall, as the water is still warm from Summer’s heat but the algae and water creatures have all gone dormant. In the words of an anonymous camper: Fall is fun and autumn is awesome.

13
Oct

WAYS TO GET YOUR EXERCISE WHILE CAMPING

Hello Camping Family! We hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday and are soaking in the long, dog days of summer. Isn’t camping season the best?

Families and friends visit our resort to relax, unwind, and spend quality time together! And where does everyone always end up? Around the ‘kitchen’ table because we all love to laugh, share memories, and EAT! There are TONS of delicious camping recipes out there (some that we plan to share at a later date) but balance is key to a healthy lifestyle.

 

young-woman-playing-badminton

 

So we’re coming at you with ways for you to find your fitness while you’re visiting our resort!

  • Take a hike (or walk)!

Hiking is a great way to explore, and a great way to burn calories – on average, 250 calories per hour. Hiking and walking can improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. It’s also a great way to exercise your mind and clear your thoughts!

  • Go for a run!

If your body can handle this high-impact workout, running is a great cardio option! The benefits of running include stress relief, weight loss, and it has been shown to decrease your risk of certain diseases. And, like hiking, it’s a great way to explore your surroundings!

  • Take a dip in the pool or lake!

Ahhh, swimming! It’s low-impact so it’s easy on the joints and can be a great workout option for people of all ages. It’s a great total body workout, good for your heart, and can help tone all of your muscles!

  • Play games!

Watch your kids play together and you can learn some great workout tips. A friendly game of tag, a little basketball, riding bikes….They’re constantly running and jumping, lunging and squatting; they sure do keep it interesting. Follow in their footsteps – literally!

The most important thing to take away from this post is to choose a workout option that you’ll enjoy – that way it won’t feel like “work”. Stay active, have fun, and Happy Camping!

Many campgrounds have tennis courts, badminton courts, and basketball courts- see what at or nearby your camping resort!