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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

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!

13
Sep

RV CAMPING AT ITS FINEST

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.

 

 

Father and Daughter in front of their RV

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:

  • Rent before you buy. It’s the only way to explore and define your comfort level. Find an RV dealer who rents out the type of rig you’re interested in; and try your home on wheels for a weekend. Try finding a realtor who will let you do that with a house!
  • Bigger isn’t always better. The bigger the rig, the more complex the maintenance, and the larger your insurance bill. Shop around for the best rate and service before you buy.
  • When you’re crunching numbers, remember: camping fees may vary according to your RV’s size and style. Also, when you’re not traveling, you may need to store your rig at a facility for a fee.
  • Make sure you have the right equipment. That includes everything from a trailer hitch (for safe towing) to the GPS and Wi-Fi Booster to keep you connected.

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.

13
Aug

HIKING SAFETY AT CAMP

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.

 

Couple hiking

Hiking Alone
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!

Overestimating Yourself
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!

20
Jul

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.

 

13
Jul

HOW TO SPOT (AND AVOID) POISON IVY WHILE CAMPING

Summer is one of the best seasons for exploring the outdoors, but even the most experienced hiker or camper can fall victim to that dreaded rash-inducing menace: poison ivy.  Though the plant itself can be identified with its three-leaf growth pattern, there is no other guaranteed-easy method to proving that this itchy irritant is loose in your area.  Even when dead, a poison ivy vine is capable of holding oils that can cause an allergic reaction!  But don’t despair: even those with allergies to poison ivy can fight back by learning the science behind how the itch occurs, and with these tips you can keep yourself from ever having to suffer that dreaded rash ever again!

How it Occurs
Urushiol (the chemical name for the itchy oil) is found in poison ivy, poison sumac a poison oak, and is especially harmful to humans due to the autoimmune reaction is creates on the skin.  Over 85% of people are naturally allergic to urushiol, and even those who aren’t can still show symptoms from enough exposure.  The oil itself is greasy, nearly invisible and hardly water-soluble at all, transferring to surfaces like skin, hair and clothing with ease.

 

poison ivy

Why it Itches
Just touching poison ivy by itself isn’t typically enough to cause the allergic reaction, but rather leaving behind or not completely removing the oils off of your skin is what inevitably causes the red, blistering itch.  Once the oil has remained on your skin for any length of time, the body metabolizes it through the skin before recognizing the urushiol as an antigen, which in turn sends white blood cells to fight the intruder.  The problem is that the white blood cells attack the surrounding tissue as well as the oil, damaging the body and causing inflammation.  With that knowledge it’s clear that the trick to beating the itch actually lies in the oil itself, and how to keep it at bay.

How to Prevent P.I.
If you think you’ve been exposed to poison ivy (or even after a hike through the woods), the first step to preventing a reaction is to remove your clothing and immediately wash it in a degreasing detergent.  NEVER sleep or sit on furniture in clothes that may have been exposed to poison ivy, as urushiol easily rubs off on to other surfaces and can remain a danger for years.  Next wash your hands and forearms with degreasing dish soap, being careful to attend to the creases and spaces between your fingers and on your hands as these areas are the most common places for urushiol to collect.  Once your hands and forearms are washed, repeat one more time to make sure the oil has been completely removed.  Next it’s a good idea to carefully wash your face, ears, and neck with degreasing soap as well since these areas may have been exposed to accidental contact.  Follow up the whole cleaning regiment with a shower, and you can be sure the last of that nasty oil runs down the drain!

13
Jun

WHAT IS GEOCACHING AND HOW DO I GET STARTED?

What is Geocaching?

Maybe you have heard this term before and maybe it’s new, but geocaching has been popular for several years now.  Basically it is an activity in which you use GPS locations to search for, discover, and place items for others in a network across the country.

this fun trend combines the wonders of nature with the thrill of high-tech gadgets.  Move aside hikers, because this incredibly fun hobby is outdoor treasure hunting with a twist, i.e. using a GPS to navigate to specific locations and track down hidden collections of items and prizes.  Geocaching is great on your own or with a group, but no matter how many people come along you can rest assured that nature-lovers and technology-lovers alike will get to bond in the outdoors and have a great time doing it!

 

young-man-with-telephone-riding-mountain-bike

Getting Started

Finding hidden collections of items (known as caches) is the name of the game, and that means using your GPS or GPS-enabled mobile device to enter in coordinates.  To begin your geocaching experience, sign up for a free account at www.geocaching.com to gain access to the millions of caches all across the world and the coordinates to find them.  Once you have access to the database, it’s only a matter of deciding what kind of device you’d like to use in order to track down your caches and start having fun!

With the age of the smartphone in full swing, most geocachers today make use of their phone’s internal GPS to track and locate caches at the swipe of a finger.  Geocaching has a few great apps that allow you to access and discover new caches on the go, but manually downloading the data is fine too.  And don’t despair if you haven’t jumped on the smartphone bandwagon; there are plenty of personal GPS devices made specifically for geocaching and hiking that are available for sale.

Once you’ve decided what GPS style you’ll use, it’s time so search the geo (earth) for some caches (item collections)!  For the most part geocaching is rule-free, but there are a few unspoken yet highly-honored practices you must observe when on the hunt:

  • If you remove an item from a cache, you must exchange it with an item of equal or greater value.
  • Always log your finds both in the log (placed within the cache) and online, but be sure not to give away the secret to finding the cache for those that haven’t hunted it down.
  • Once the cache is found and your log made, always re-hide the cache in as close to the original location as possible.
  • If a cache has been disturbed, broken, or you could not find it, be sure to log that information online as well so that the original owner of the cache can fix it.

aching is all about having fun and enjoying the outdoors!  Head out and enjoy this summer!

That’s right campers: we had such a positive response from our first post on geocaching we wanted to make another, but this time instead of an introduction to the fun, we thought we’d dig a little deeper and offer some beginning advice.  Part of the fun of geocaching is learning all of the little quirks involved in the process though, so we won’t be giving everything away, but hopefully if you or another camper wants to convince some yet-to-be-christened geocachers out there, you will have a good place to start!

The Geocacher’s Toolkit

While there’s no set requirements beyond a GPS device, there are a few things that can make life easier for a budding geocacher just learning the ropes, or for long-time geocachers that are looking for some tips.

  • Writing Utensils
    1. Part of the geocaching experience is logging your name and the date on which you discovered the cache, but sometimes this can be tricky to accomplish. Not all caches include a writing utensil, and those that do can become waterlogged or unusable because of rain and other ravages of being left out in the wild.  Bring a variety of utensil types with you such as a fine-tipped marker, pen, and pencil and you’ll be prepared for any situation!
  • Sprockets and Trinkets
    1. As we mentioned in our last post, one of the rules of geocaching is that to remove an item from a cache, you must exchange it with an item of equal or greater value. Keep a small assortment of items on hand for exchanges such as marbles, old coins, action figures and stickers, and you’ll never be caught unawares.  Granted the value of objects is relative, but geocachers generally expect their fellow cachers to use their best judgement.
  • Extra Batteries
    1. There’s nothing worse than preparing for a fun-filled day of geocaching only to discover that your reliable GPS doesn’t have the juice to track your targets. Keep some extra batteries either in the car or in your pocket so that you never miss out on a choice cache and wonderful weather.  For those that use their phones for geocaching, purchasing a power bank or extended phone battery works too!

Every geocacher has his or her own way of tracking down caches in the wild, but for the geocacher that’s just starting out, this list should help you hit the ground running! Caching is all about having fun and enjoying the outdoors- so head out and enjoy this summer!