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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
So we’re coming at you with ways for you to find your fitness while you’re visiting our resort!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
With recent passenger scuffles and power struggles, air travel has lost its luster. But sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. If travel is your least favorite part of a family trip, why not consider an RV – otherwise known as a “home on wheels”?
Going camping in an RV allows you to slow down, kick back, and savor family time “in flux” from one stop to another. There’s no need to worry about unpacking your luggage, missing your connection or placing your pet in a kennel – your entire family travels with you. And just as homes and hotels run a gamut of shapes, sizes and styles, so do RVs vary, from the palatial to the petite to the pop-up trailer.
But no matter the level of amenities and creature comforts, RVs can boost the power of your vacation budget. Most RVs excel at weight and wind resistance—translating into fuel economy between eight and 20 MPG, depending on the RV you select. Here are tips to maximizing your RV muscle:
If your family enjoys home-cooked meals, make sure your RV has kitchen options. If you prefer to dine out, look for two-for-one coupons and early-bird specials while rolling by restaurants. And if you fall somewhere in between, consider eating out at lunch and eating dinner in. To trim even more from your food budget, think beyond the big box supermarkets: buy food and sundries at discount stores, dollar stores, church bazaars, flea markets, roadside veggie stands, thrift bakeries, and u-pick orchards.
Exploring the wonders of the outdoors is all about empowerment and freedom, but it’s easy for even experienced hikers to let excitement and fatigue cloud their judgement and lead them to some costly mistakes. We’re not trying to rain on any camper’s enthusiasm, but there are a few all-too-common issues that can lead to dangerous outcomes.
Failing to Stay on the Path
Whether it’s a brand-new hike or a patch of rugged country you’ve hiked a hundred times, it’s important to stay on the trails. Not only does hiking off-trail contribute to erosion and damage the local ecosystem, hikers are more likely to risk dangerous encounters with wildlife and even become downright lost when venturing down the path less traveled. Fallen trees, hidden holes or debris are everywhere off of the trails, and not only could these things injure even experienced hikers, but finding help in a hurry becomes that much more difficult when rescue works can’t get to you.
It’s true that nature can offer peace-filled solitude, but trekking into uncharted territory by yourself is a dangerous gambit. Anything can happen out on the trail, and without a fellow hiker nearby to go for help it’s far too easy to get into trouble with no hope of rescue. Traveling with a companion is just good safety, not to mention having someone to share the experience of hiking makes it all that much more fun!
While many hikers consider it a mark of personal pride to overcome every obstacle they encounter, it’s important to pay attention to the limitations of the hiking party overall. Because not everyone will be at the same level of physical fitness or possess the same amount of experience, it’s important to know everyone’s real capabilities and to minimize risk. It might seem like fun to push on to the campsite after dark or take a shortcut across a stream, remember the old saying: short cuts make long delays!
Much of the land in the United States and North America is rich and fertile. As the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” state of the landscape of the US, “…amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain!” When settlers from Europe came to this “new world” they were rewarded with beautiful views of lush greenery and rich soil. So what happened to the landscape of North America since the settlement of people from all over the world and are we at risk of losing the trees and fields that are left on this continent?
It can be difficult to grasp the sheer size of a country like the United States. If you take an early-summer flight from New York City to Los Angeles and look out the window along the way, you might be tempted to say that most of the country is full of green- green trees, green fields and farms, even green on most of the hills and bases of mountains. You will also notice some huge brown areas as well as rocky highlands. One thing that surprises many first-time flyers is how little of the country is covered by cities. You might expect that a country with over 300 million inhabitants living in hundreds of cities and thousands of towns would have to clear most of the land in the country for living space. But looking down from the sky what you will NOT see is a giant, paved metropolis spreading from coast to coast.
So how much of the US is actually covered by trees and how has that changed over time? The total land area of the US is about 2.3 billion acres. Since that number is big and difficult to picture, let’s use a graph. The chart, provided by the US Forestry Service (USFS) shows the number of acres of “forest” between 1760 and today. The term “Forest” as defined by the USFS covers most of the stands of trees in the country, excluding those in residential yards.
As you can see, before the major migrations of Europeans and the population boom that followed, the US was covered by a little more than a billion of the 2.3 billion acres of land. That’s about 46% of the total land area of the US covered in trees. By comparison, the land covered by forests at the start of this century was about 749 million acres or 33 percent. The amount of forested land dropped from the 1760’s to its low point around 1920, which coincided with the height of immigration to the US. But from the 1920’s onward, the amount of forest has leveled out and even increased slightly on average.
While the percentage of forested land changed more dramatically in some areas of the country than other (see chart 2), there are still many trees in the US, covering about one third of the country and the amount of trees remains fairly steady each year since new trees are planted as they are harvested. Of course, areas that were once forested may now be farmland and vice-versa, but there are still over 750 million acres of forests in the United States, and much more than that in Canada.
If you are interested in learning more about the forest use in the US, check out this site with more charts and data from the USFS.