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20
May

Are the Forests in the US Shrinking?

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.

Chart showing the trend of total Forest Area in the US

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.

 

1
May

Six Essential Knots to know!

Knot tying can be a surprisingly valuable skill when camping. From setting up a tent to performing first aid, you never know when you may need to tie a strong knot. Knowing six of the most important knots will prepare you for many common situations that may arise while camping.

 

1.  Square Knot

 

square knot

Square Knot

One of the most basic knots is the square knot, which is a type of end knot. This knot is useful tying up bundles and packages. It is also used for first aid, where it can be used to tie a bandage around a wound to stop the bleeding quickly. The square knot is also known as the reef knot, from when sailors used it to reef sails, or tie down part of the sail in high winds.

 

2. Bowline

One of the most important knots to know for emergency situations when out in the wilderness is the bowline knot. A bowline knot is used as a rescue knot in cases of mountain climbing, fires, or water accidents. This knot forms an open loop that is easy for someone to grab onto and be pulled up out of a dangerous situation.

Bowline knot

Bowline knot

3.Sheet Bend

The sheet bend knot is used for tying ropes of different materials together. In this knot, the loop of one rope is tied around the loop of the other.  Its name comes from its traditional use of holding a sail in place. The rope for holding a sail in place was called a sheet, and using this knot was referred to as “bending” or tying the sheet.

 

4. Two Half Hitches

The two half hitches knot is used for tying a rope to a post, such as a tree, or a ring. This knot can be easily tightened or loosened based on the situation, which makes it ideal for making a clothesline or tying a boat to a dock. This knot consists of wrapping the rope around a support and looping the rope around itself in a half hitch, two times.

three knots: clove hitch, half hitch, sheet bend

Clove hitch, half hitch, sheet bend

5. Clove Hitch

The clove hitch is an important pioneering knot that can be used for starting and finishing lashings. Lashings consist of sticks or poles held together with twine, rope or cord. Lashings are used in overnight camps to make the site more sturdy and can be used for things such as a towel rack, a table, or a tower.

 

6.  Taut Line

A taut line hitch is used on ropes that are pulled taut. A common use of this knot is for rope that holds a tent secure to the ground. The taut line hitch can be tightened or loosened by pushing it up or down on the part of the rope that is standing.

Tautline knot

Tautline knot

While there are hundreds of types of knots, each useful for different situations and activities, knowing these essential six is a good start for campers and anyone heading out into the wilderness. Get a head start on your knowledge of tying knots and you’ll be prepared for a multitude of situations.

 

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.