CategoryOutdoors

A Wildlife Refuge Can Be Beneficial to Both Animals and Humans

There are over 3,000 different species of animals that are considered endangered. A wildlife refuge can make a huge difference in helping these creatures. It gives them a place where they can live naturally and breed. They are safe in a controlled environment like this because there is no fear of hunting or being killed by chemicals. Such sanctuaries are essential for getting the numbers back up, moving more species off of the endangered list, and preventing extinction.

Teaching the Next Generation

In this technologically based society, children often grow up away from nature in a fast-paced world. While technology is certainly important, children also need to experience and appreciate nature. At a wildlife refuge, they can learn about different types of animals firsthand. They will be taught how to identify birds, insects, and mammals. They will find out about the cycle of life and learn respect for other living creatures. A trip to a sanctuary provides a fun and educational experience in nature.

Returning the Natural Balance

Unfortunately, humans have caused many of the problems facing our planet today. Forests have been stripped bare, leaving behind no place for the animals to live. The atmosphere is now filled with chemicals and poisons, making it difficult for some species to survive. A wildlife refuge can help to reverse this damage. The animals have a safe place to live, and the natural balance of the wild is restored. It may not be possible to undo all of the damage, but every little change can make a lasting difference.

A Chance to Get Back to Nature

A wildlife refuge offers more than a safe place for endangered species to live. It can be great for humans as well. Many of the sanctuaries have walking and hiking trails, which allow people a chance to enjoy animals and nature in a beautiful setting. There are more than just endangered animals on a wildlife refuge. There are also plants and insects to examine up close and common creatures, such as squirrels and snakes. It is important that anyone who visits a sanctuary be respectful of those who live there. Guests can look and take pictures, but it is crucial not to touch the creatures. It is also essential that guests clean up after themselves. They need to leave the space as beautiful and clean as it was when they arrived. It is also a good idea to visit at different times during the year. Each trip will be unique.

The Tower of the Bad God: Devil’s Tower

According to Kiowa legend, seven little sisters and their brother were out playing one day. Suddenly the boy was struck dumb and turned into a bear. The bear chased the girls until they came to the stump of a great tree. The tree spoke to them saying that they could climb it to safety. As they did, The stump rose into the air. But the bear didn’t give up. He jumped as high as he could scoring the tree as he fell back to Earth but he still couldn’t reach the girls. Eventually he died of exhaustion and the maidens became the stars of The Big Dipper.

And what of the great tree that saved the maidens? The Indians called it Mateo Teepee, meaning “Grizzly Bear Lodge.” We know it today as Devils Tower. Another Indian legend claims that Satan himself beats his drum on the summit of the Tower and creates thunder during the summer thunderstorms. It’s present name was given to it by Colonel Richard I. Dodge, commander of a military escort for a United States Geological Survey party in 1875, who referred to it as “One of the most remarkable peaks in this or any country.” In his book The Black Hills, Dodge explained: The Indians call this shaft the Bad God’s Tower. The name adopted with proper modification, by our surveyors.” Located in northeastern Wyoming, Devils Tower is the United States’ first National Monument.

The place to begin your exploration is the monument visitor center near the tower. Exhibits tell of the natural and cultural history as well as the geology of the area. Although not as charming as the Indian legend, the geological story of the towers’ origin still holds its own fascination. Actually it’s origin isn’t definitely known, but the most widely accepted explanation is that 60 million years ago a mass of molten material oozed up into deep sedimentary beds. In this area, these beds appear as layers of shale, sandstone, gypsum and limestone. It is thought that these layers forced the hot liquid rock to cool slowly. As it cooled the igneous (fiery) rock contracted creating a series of joints or cracks. The Devil’s Tower appears to be made of polygonal columns.

But then how did Devil’s Tower come to stand so starkly on the landscape? It is after all the tallest and largest rock formation of its kind in the United States and on clear days it can be seen for 100 miles. It owes its prominence to the fact that the sedimentary rocks are so much softer, so much more easily eroded than the igneous rock of which it is composed. Plus the Belle Fourche River nearby has been an active erosional agent for millennia. The river along with other agents of erosion – wind, frost and rain – has stripped away thousands of feet of sedimentary layers to expose the hard resistant core of solidified magma. These agents have also given the tower its present shape. Freezing and thawing of water in joints and crevices has broken off many columns and sent them crashing into the talus slopes at the tower’s base below. Although the frost heaving still goes on, no columns have fallen in recorded history.

You can see the effects of these forces for yourself by taking the Tower Trail for one mile around the base from Devil’s Tower. What you see is a monolith of fluted columns rising some 867 feet from the base covered by a jumble of broken blocks. From its 1,000-foot wide base, the tower tapers to a flat top of 275 feet across and 1.5 acres in area. You’ll notice that the tower seems to sit atop a shield. This is due to falling columns that have been covered over with soil and have slowed the rate of erosion directly around the base of the Tower.

Devils Tower is located where the ponderosa pine forest that clothe the Black Hills to the east intermingle with the grasslands that carpet the rolling plains to the west. The monument is also a natural exhibit of plant succession. For instance, the multi-colored lichens on the rocks at the tower’s base represent nature’s first step in the process, while the ponderosa pines that line the trail represent the last step. Lichens not only grow on rocks, they also gradually break down the rock into small particles and collect windblown dust that form a base for higher plants such as liverworts and mosses. As more soil forms, the grasses move in and gradually form a thick mat of roots that builds the soil. This in turn provides the proper conditions for wildflowers such as cinquefoil, yarrow and prickly pear. Next shrubs like sagebrush, currant, squawbush and serviceberry get a root hold. Finally, forests of quaking aspen, juniper and ponderosa pine become established.

Keep an eye out for chipmunks and cottontail rabbits while you’re on this trip. If you’re hiking it in early morning or at dusk, you might be lucky enough to see whitetail or mule deer. Keep an ear open too for the descending slurred whistles of canyon wrens and the “drumming” of hairy woodpeckers. The monument has more than 90 species of birds including bald and golden eagle, prairie falcons (which nest on the tower), Audubon warblers, mountain bluebirds, Western flycatchers and black-capped chickadees.

During your walk, you’ll also notice the remains of a wooden ladder on the tower. On July 4th 1893, before a crowd of 1,000 people, William Rogers and Willard Ripley made the first recorded ascent up Devil’s Tower. They managed this feat by driving hard wooden pegs into a crevice and securing them with a continuous wooden strip. The ladder was 350 feet long. (Actually their first ascent was probably earlier than July, since a flagpole was awaiting them at the top.) Two years later, during an annual picnic on the 4th of July, Mrs. Rogers became the first woman to reach the summit and she used the same ladder. A party of three climbers, led by Fritz Wiessner, made the first conventional ascent of the Tower, in 1937. More than 1,000 climbers from around the world now come to Devil’s Tower each year to try the more than 80 routes to the top.

Another trail that starts at the visitor center’s parking lot is the Red Beds Trail. It loops around the tower for 2.8 miles and goes through several of the monument’s life zones, like the ponderosa forest and the grassland. It eventually overlooks the Belle Fourche River and the Red Beds, which is one of the sedimentary layers that the river is currently eroding. The bright orange-red layer is part of a prevalent outcropping of sandstone and siltstone in Wyoming and South Dakota. Because they are so easily eroded, the beds have gentle slopes.

Still another trail that starts near the tower is the Joyner Ridge Trail. This 1.5 mile loop takes hikers through grassland and ponderosa pine forests like the others but also through one of the few deciduous forests in the monument. This would be a good trail to hike in the fall as the box elder, wild plum, chokecherry and bur oak herald the coming winter.

The last trail within the monument starts at the campground. The Valley View Trail also forms a loop by connecting with part of the Red Beds Trail. For much of its length, the Valley View Trail parallels the Belle Fourche River.

It also encircles a prairie dog town. Prairie dogs are the most frequently seen mammals in the monument. Their town is about 1/2 mile from the monument entrance and is bisected by the entrance road. So you can also enjoy watching the animal from a roadside exhibit. The Great Plains used to be home to millions of these critters but they’ve almost been exterminated due to conversion of the native prairies to ranch and farmland.

To reach the park, take Wyoming Highway 24 for 7 miles north of US Highway 14 which loops off Interstate 90. The entrance is 33 miles northeast of Moorcroft, Wyoming and 52 miles southwest of Belle Fourche, South Dakota. The entry fee is $10 but is free for holders of the Golden Eagle Passport or the Golden Age Passport. They usually start charging in mid-April and stop in September.

The visitor center is about 3 miles from the east entrance. It has exhibits on the Tower’s history, natural history, and geology. The park is open all year.

The monument has its own campground which is open from May 15th through September 3rd. There are no hookups, use is first-come first-serve. Two private campgrounds are located near the park. The Devil’s Tower KOA is just outside the entrance to the monument. Their season is mid-May through mid-October. The other campground is the Devil’s Tower View. It’s less than a mile from the monument entrance at the junction of Highway 24 and Highway 112. It’s open year-round but there’s no water when it gets too cold late in the season.

Climbing the tower is strenuous and exhausting. The average time for climbing to the top is between four and six hours. In the interest of safety all climbers must register with the park ranger both when starting the climb and when returning. That’s also your opportunity to get safety hints and the latest information on the conditions on the tower before you go.

Whether or not you climb it, the central feature of the monument is that awe-inspiring tower. “A dark mist lay over the Black Hills and the land was like iron,” wrote N. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa writer. “At the top of the ridge I caught sight of Devil’s Tower, upthrust against the gray sky as if in the birth of time, the core of the Earth has broken through its crust and the motion of the world was begun. There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man. Devils Tower is one of them.”

How To Get Ready For Your First Hill Country River Tubing Trip

Nothing spells more fun in Texas than hitting the road and heading out for some river tubing in the Texas hill country. Whether it is the Frio, Nueces, or Sabinal River, it gives you a chance to enjoy a crisp, refreshing dip and gently float down the river while hanging out with friends & family. More importantly, it gives you a chance to enjoy the natural splendor of the hill country in an up close, unique, and personal way.

For first timers, though, it can be a little difficult knowing what you need to make the trip a smashing success. Here are a few tips for someone taking on a tubing trip for the first time:

1. Check the Weather – Nothing will spoil a good time on the river than bad weather. Take the time to check local weather reports online. Depending on where you travel, the local chamber of commerce may have a “weather ticker” available for prospective visitors. Even if the weather does look nice & clear, plan your packing to anticipate some adverse weather. After all, as the saying goes, “In Texas, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes.”

2. Check River Levels – All too often, people assume that if there is a constant, dedicated flow in a river, and while that is true, remember that your in Texas. Scorching heat waves and a lack of rain can make for very low lake and river levels. Low water levels make for a trickling flow, making a tubing trip down the river take much longer than it should. The U.S. Geological Survey has a site link for some of these levels directly on the Uvalde County website for your convenience.

3. Find Out What is Allowed/Not Allowed – When your tubing down the river, you undoubtedly will have coolers with you containing both food and drinks. You want to be sure you are following the rules on what you can have. Research your trip, and find out about regional & state “dos and don’ts.” You’ll be in areas such as Garner State Park, Utopia Park, and the Lost Maples State Natural Area, so having access to these regulations should be relatively easy.

4. Don’t Travel During Peak Times – It is paramount that you find out when peak times are for visitors. While you cannot completely count on perfect solitude on the river, you don’t want to run into “morning gridlock” while sitting in a rubber tube in your bathing suit. Memorial Day weekend, for example, is the unofficial start to summer, so you can expect very large crowds at the river. Moreover, you may be traveling with your family, and though tubing can a great family activity, peak times can often bring non-family groups that may not suit your fancy.

This is your first time river tubing in Texas hill country, so you want to be sure you have a good time and want to go back again. A vacation of any kind, weekend trip or otherwise, is supposed to be a way to leave the worries of the world behind. By taking some time to do some research while planning out your trip, you increase your chance of having a smoother outing and can ultimately have the most fun possible.

The Rubies of the Silver State

It’s the Yosemite of Nevada. Lamoille (“luh-MOY-uhl”) Canyon in northeastern Nevada’s Ruby Mountains is a glacier-carved feature in the middle of an arid land. The Ruby Mountains themselves are a surprise, as they support aspens and mountain goats and other critters that one doesn’t expect to find in the desert. The many lakes in this area are also home to many kinds of trout. These creatures thrive here because the Rubies are among the highest and wettest of the Great Basin’s mountain ranges.

The best place to begin your visit to the Rubies is in Elko, Nevada, off Interstate 80. This is the seat of Elko County, one of the largest counties in the United States. The friendly people of the Elko Chamber of Commerce at 1405 Idaho Street can help you plan your visit and arm you with plenty of literature. You’ll also want to check on what events will be taking place in Elko. For instance, the town hosts the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in January, the Elko Western Festival Days and the Elko Mining Expo in June, and the National Basque Festival (the oldest and largest of the Basque celebrations in Nevada) in July. And in September the Elko County Fair and Livestock Show takes place, as well as the Man-Mule Race, a 20-mile jaunt from Lamoille to Elko.

To gain an even better understanding of the region, visit the nearby Northeastern Nevada Museum at 1515 Idaho Street in Elko. Perhaps one of the best local museums in Nevada, this facility exhibits local artifacts, slide shows, and traveling displays of the winners of an annual photo contest.

A third excellent “first place” to visit is the Humboldt National Forest office at 2035 Last Chance Road, in Elko. You can find out where to camp and picnic in the Humboldt National Forest, which encompasses the Ruby Mountains.

Once armed with knowledge, head west from the Elko Chamber of Commerce or the museum on Idaho Street until you reach 12th Street. Turn left and follow the signs for state routes 227 and 228. After proceeding 1.3 miles from the museum, turn left at the junction with the state routes onto State Route 227. After another 3.2 miles you’ll reach Elko Summit and can look ahead to your destination, the Rubies. Stay on Route 227 toward Lamoille; before reaching the town, turn right onto Lamoille Canyon Road, approximately 19 miles from Elko.

The Ruby Mountains, like other ranges in the Great Basin, are long and thin; they measure 100 miles long and a maximum of 10 miles wide. The Rubies are geologically complex, consisting of ancient metamorphic rocks such as gneiss (metamorphosed granite), slate (from metamorphosed shale), and quartzite (from sandstone), all found in the northern two-thirds. Mixed in with these major rock types is garnet, a semiprecious stone that is usually red. The garnet was mistaken for ruby by early settlers, and thus the range acquired its name. The southern third of the Rubies consists of limestone, which makes for a drier-looking landscape. Rain tends to soak through the limestone. The mountains also have a steep eastern face and a gentle western slope, which, from a mountain-range-type perspective, puts the Rubies in good company. Many of the Great Basin mountain ranges, as well as the Sierra and the Tetons, sport this profile. And as do the Sierras and Tetons, the Rubies offer ample evidence of being ground down by glaciers, especially in Lamoille Canyon.

Lamoille Canyon Road – the 13.5 mile drive from the junction of state routes 227 and 228 – takes you from the sagebrush plains at an elevation of 5,800 feet; enters the Forest Service Scenic Byway; and continues another 12 miles up along Forest Service Road 660 to the subalpine zone at the Roads End trailhead, situated at an elevation of 8,850 feet. As you drive to Lamoille Canyon, look for the four road signs that demarcate the forest’s self-guided natural history auto tour.

The Rubies were subjected to glacial carving during the Pleistocene Epoch between 10,000 and 3 million years ago. The glaciers in this range were some of the largest and deepest in the Great Basin, and were some of the few that actually reached the adjoining plains. The first indication of Lamoille Canyon’s glaciated past is its U-shape. As you continue up the canyon, you’ll also notice side canyons that hang high up on the walls. These hanging canyons are another glacial feature. The main glacier in a canyon carves downward faster than the smaller tributary glaciers, thereby leaving the canyons hanging after the glaciers recede.

Besides glacial evidence, Lamoille Canyon offers many recreational opportunities. Among them are camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, nature observation, and picnicking. The first picnic location you’ll come to is the small but attractive Powerhouse picnic area. A particularly good time to visit this spot is when the creek is full from springtime snowmelt. It offers five sites for families and one group site for 25 people, but no piped water.

If you’re traveling with motorhomers, your first opportunity to camp is where the Right Fork of Lamoille Canyon meets the main canyon – a campground managed by the Elko County Lions Club. Groups of at least 25 people are accepted here; the facility is not designed for single-family camping. To make reservations, contact Heidi Draper at (775) 934-2096. From the Right Fork, the Forest Service offers camping in dispersed primitive sites downstream of the Powerhouse Picnic Area. The canyon’s only developed campground is farther up at Thomas Canyon. It offers 42 sites with water and rest rooms. All of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis; however, 19 RV non-electric sites and 16 standard non-electric sites can be reserved online. (see resource box)

A highlight of your canyon tour along Lamoille Canyon Road comes next on the Lamoille Hanging Canyon Nature Trail. One of several hiking trails within the forest, this half-mile-long trail starts at the Avalanche Overlook and leads through aspens, whose yellows and oranges can be enjoyed during the fall. You’ll learn that the Ruby Mountains began as sediment in an ancient ocean that covered much of the West a half-billion years ago. Later, magma intruded into these sediments, leaving pockets of granite when the magma cooled. By the time the Rubies were uplifted 15 million years ago, these rocks had been metamorphosed into the gneiss, marble, and schist that we see today. The glacier that carved Lamoille was 700 feet thick at times, and exerted almost 40,000 pounds of pressure per square foot on the rock.

Combine that with the fact that the glacier flowed one to three feet per day, and you can imagine how much grinding the rocks were subjected to. The creek that flows through this canyon bottom now is home to beavers that feed on the inner bark of the aspens. The canyon bottom boasts the best soil in the area and has the most luxuriant plant and animal life. As you look up at the canyon slopes, you’ll notice that they’re much different from the bottomland. The north-facing slope lacks the good soil but is cooler and moister than the opposite canyon wall, so it supports aspens, limber pines, and other scrubby growth. The south-facing slope receives sunlight more directly year-round, and so it is hotter and drier. This type of climate supports sparse growth dominated by mountain mahogany, and limber pines at the highest elevations.

Another good place to enjoy aspens is the Terraces picnic area, situated approximately 1/2-mile farther up the canyon from the nature trail. This is the most complete picnic spot in the canyon, with piped water, toilets, tables, and grills. It also provides an aspen-framed view down into the canyon.

From there, the byway gradually curves southward, reaching its end at appropriately named Roads End trailhead. At this point, you’ll be in the subalpine zone at 8,850 feet above sea level. The two picnic sites here lack fire pits but otherwise can serve as a spot for a snack before heading off on the Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail. This 40-mile-long trail heads south to Harrison Pass and covers much of the 90,000-acre Ruby Mountains Wilderness Area.

This wilderness actually extends from near Secret Pass at the northern end of the Rubies and reaches almost as far south as Harrison Pass. It preserves the character of most of the higher elevations, including the largest area of alpine habitat in the Great Basin. The region’s flora has more in common with the alpine country of the Rockies or the Sierra than with other Great Basin ranges. In the 1960’s, mountain goats were introduced here, and beginning in 1989, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were reintroduced, thus giving the Rubies a faunal touch of the Rockies.

Roads End is a popular trailhead for hikers and backpackers who want to enjoy the highest elevations of the Rubies. Incidentally, the highest point in the range, Ruby Dome, at 11,387 feet, is not along the crest trail, but is actually situated just south of Lamoille Canyon. But the crest trail takes the adventurous near many peaks that are more than 11,000 feet tall. This trailhead is also popular with anglers who enjoy fishing in the many lakes of the wilderness. All of the trails are open from late June through September, depending on how long the snow lingers.

If you want to see one of those Ruby Mountain lakes, then head up the trail near where the loop at Roads End begins. Take the steep hike for a four- to six-hour round trip to Island Lake, which sits in a cirque at the 9,672-foot elevation. Brook trout lurk under the lake’s 7-1/2 acre surface.

Enjoy the different perspective you’ll get of the canyon on your drive back out. Once you’ve returned to State Route 227, turn right and proceed approximately 1/2-mile to the little ranching town of Lamoille. The town was named by Thomas H. Waterman, who, along with John P. Walker, first settled there in 1864. The area reminded Waterman of his home in Johnson, a town in Lamoille County, Vermont.

As you head back toward Elko on State Route 227, take State Route 228 toward Jiggs to continue your Ruby Range exploration. Three miles beyond Jiggs, turn left, or east, toward Harrison Pass. After 3.5 miles, the pavement ends, but the dirt road is well maintained. In another 1.2 miles, you’ll cross the Humboldt National Forest boundary. Then, in 6.3 miles, you’ll reach 7,248-foot Harrison Pass. Ruby Valley will be ahead. Go down the other side for 3.4 miles and turn right into Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge headquarters is 7.6 miles from the Harrison Pass Road junction. At this facility bird lists and other wildlife information are available, as well as information about fishing, camping, and boating.

Ruby Lake owes its existence to the Ruby Mountains in this southern third of the range. Remember, this section is mostly limestone, which absorbs rain and snow. Well, that water doesn’t just disappear. It emerges as springs at the base of the mountains and forms this lake. The national wildlife refuge was established around the lake in 1938 and is home to ducks, geese, wading birds, and shorebirds. It is also one of the few refuges that boast nesting sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans among their occupants.

The lake’s greatest attraction is that it harbors trout and bass. Anglers can be numerous on the water at times, but regulations keep fishing from getting out of hand. Nevada state fishing licenses are required, and season, boating, and bait regulations should be checked before you head out. Fishing for bass is most productive in the middle of summer, and fishing for trout peaks in June and in the fall.
The refuge offers its own 35-site campground south of the headquarters with no-hookup sites; a dump station is located nearby.

From this campground, you’ll have 60 miles to return to Elko over Harrison Pass. That will give you a chance to see much of the length of the Rubies on your way – a chance to reflect on what you’ve seen and learned about the Yosemite of Nevada.

The Guide to Getting Anyone to Love the Outdoors!

Obviously today’s society is a very stay at home, anti social group of individuals who see the outdoors as the equivalent of running a marathon. Well over the years I’ve come to understand that the wild IS for everyone, they just don’t know it yet. In many cases, a camping trip is one outdoor enthusiasts trying to talk someone, usually of the opposite sex, into joining them in the great outdoors. And in most cases the person who has never been camping usually has a difficult time adjusting to sleeping outside. I believe every person has that primeval wild side inside them, it just needs to be drawn out slowly. So from my experience, turning many city dwelling individuals into wanting to be the next Bear grills, I’ve put together a simple guide to help get your friends or significant other to take a walk on the wild side with you.

The Guide to Getting Anyone to Love the Outdoors!

Question Their Experience

First and Foremost find out what experience your guest has with the outdoors. Did they grow up in a rural area or in a downtown apartment? Have they gone camping in the past? What are the details of the trip? Did they stay in an RV with a TV and shower, or was it in a tent and they used baby wipes as their shower. Usually people always say they have been on a camping trip where they were “roughing it!” Obviously err on the side of caution because roughing it for some people may be a full blown survival situation and for others it may be going without Phone Service.

Start Small and Simple

Once you have an idea about how far you can push them, you have to use the acronym KISS to plan a trip! Keep It Simple Stupid! You might be a survivalist badass who can climb Everest in a single bound, or pull salmon out of the river with your beard, but remember, your guest probably don’t even know what a beard is. Start small with what I like to call “cheater camping!” Rent a Cabin, a Yurt, an RV, or find a campsite with all the amenities like hot showers, temperature controlled clean bathrooms, etc. The shorter and simpler the outdoor adventure is, the less chance for things to go wrong, and more likely that your guest will return. Plan short hikes that aren’t difficult, or drive to the great view instead of hike. Avoid any areas with mosquitoes or really cold weather! Those two things will end a great trip real quick.

Make Them Overly Comfortable

Now that you have the perfect plan and you’ve got them outside, make their outside experience as cozy as their home. Whatever everyday items your guests just can’t live without, find a way to bring that into the outdoors. Maybe your guest can’t go a day without brushing their teeth, blow drying their hair, Starbucks coffee, checking their email or missing a home cooked meal. Many campsites offer electrical hookups, and showers which can be a life saver for someone who isn’t use to roughing it. Bring pillows and extra blankets to place in the tent to keep it soft and warm instead of just the old ground pad and sleeping bag. Bring a French press for Starbucks on Trail! Get creative with the cooking and take the kitchen outside. This also gives you the chance to show off your cast iron cooking skills, your guest will rave about. Nothing smells better than bacon and eggs on a cast iron grill over an open flame!

Teach and Be Taught

Be a Mentor, a supporter, and then learn. Teach the student, then have the student teach the teacher. Most people like to learn new skills, and are excited, but people are usually nervous or embarrassed when trying something they don’t know. Get your guest involved in the trip, don’t act like a know it all, be humble and teach them the cool skills you know and love. Show them the best way to pack a bag, build a tent, bait a hook, or make a fire. Then on the next night give them at a shot at making the fire, or building the tent, but don’t let them get discouraged and make sure you are always motivating them. Explain the calls of the wild to them. People see the outdoors as something to be feared instead of embraced. Explain that the sounds you hear at night are beautiful and not to be feared. Sounds like the howling of coyotes, the hoot of an owl or the call of a moose are all to be enjoyed. Explain the different animal tracks on trail. Nothing is cooler than your friend heading into work on Monday to brag about all the new stuff they learned.

The WOW Factor

This tip is the icing on the cake! Make sure that first adventure has a WOW factor somewhere in the trip. Find one visual scene that will burn a lasting memory in your guest’s mind that will have them itching to come back for more! Whether it’s a beautiful sunset/sunrise, a splendid mountain view, endless night sky or close encounter with wildlife, make it EPIC! A picture worthy shot of your friend with the special scene will go a long way.

Surprise and Reset

The Surprise and Reset part of the trip can be as simple as extra candy on trail, to a night at a 5 star hotel. It’s up to you, depending on the difficulty or duration of your adventure, to determine when the best time to use this will be. It may be earlier than later depending on how hard you pushed your guest. Once you have hiked all day, camped multiple nights in the back country, or lived off mountain house meals, execute the Surprise and Reset tip. Take your guests into town to grab a beer and a sit down meal, order a pizza, have an extra box of chocolates for them that you pull out when they run out, or ditch the tent for a warm cabin to cap off an amazing trip. Whatever you do, surprise your guests so they aren’t wondering when all this nature will stop. Let them have a brief, relaxing moment that will reset them from all the new outdoor experiences.

Prep and Push The Envelope

The Final stage is to prep and push the envelope. Once you are on your way home, reminisce about the great times you had and the funny mishaps. Motivate your guest, explain how impressed you were with how they handled their first camping trip and prep them for the next adventure. Now that they have experienced a small piece of the outdoors, ask them what they are willing to give up in the future. Maybe they can shower in the stream, eat a mountain house, or bring a solar panel to check their emails on trail. Push them a little further each time and do whatever it takes to get them back in the outdoors. Follow this guide and you will have given someone the greatest gift of all. A Love for the Outdoors!

I hope this helps you get that significant other, friend or family member off the couch and into the great outdoors. Feel free to send me some ideas you’ve used in the past to make someone fall in love with the outdoors.

Best Survival Knives Available

Imagine yourself getting caught in an unfortunate and unexpected survival situation. Now, think about what kind of survival knives you want to be on your side in this situation. Maybe you would be happy enough to have any knife with you. But since we have learned how being prepared has always been better, of course you would want to have the best one possible.

Here, we have laid out the best survival knives and a short description of each one that will help you decide the best one for you.

Best Survival Knives Available

  • Gerber BearGrylls Ultimate Knife, Serrated Edge

Gerber’s 70 years of expertise brought about a collaboration with Bear Grylls which resulted in the development of the 4.75-inch Gerber Bear Grylls Ultimate Knife that can help you withstand even the toughest environments. Some of the best features are its ergonomic grip which makes it comfortable to hold.

The dependable stainless steel blade is composed of a versatile serrated edge. The half-serrated blade is designed for a quick work of cutting rope and other fibrous materials. It has a full-tang construction and hard stainless steel in order to serve overall durability and excellent edge retention. This is highly recommended to every adventurers, backpackers and hunters in the wilderness.

  • Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Companion Fixed Blade Knife

KA-BAR Knives, Inc. has been known for their high quality military, hunting, sporting as well as outdoor survival knives and any all-purpose utility. You can bring this with you for your next hunting or camping trip as it is lightweight, durable. It is made of 1095 cro-van steel blade that is suitable for outdoor activities such as splitting kindling, skinning game or even chopping spices and herbs for your campfire grill.

  • Gerber 22-01629 LMF II Black Infantry Knife with 4.8-Inch Blade

Decades of innovation has made Gerber unstoppable when it comes to survival knives. They have engineered the 10-inch Gerber 22-01629 LMF II Black Infantry Knife with 4.8-Inch Blade to help you survived any conditions even the worst ones. You can use it for cutting firewood, building a survival shelter or even cutting through your seat belt since this knife has been designed to adapt a wide variety of situations.

  • Cold Steel SRK Kraton Handle, Black Blade (Concealer Sheath)

This one has 3/16 inches thickness made of AUS 8A Stainless steel which is fine enough for any of your delicate work, yet efficiently capable of cutting, slashing and skinning strokes at the same time. It provides the sturdiest potential point and edge configuration, without sacrificing sharpness.

Survival knives are not only a tool for every outdoor enthusiast who have happily adapt to an extreme lifestyle in the wild. However, it is a tool that everyone should keep and carefully consider since it has proven to be very useful in a range of situations. Moreover, we will never know what Mother Nature might bring and how it can get so much rougher on us.

The Adventures and Risks of Geocaching

Have you ever gone treasure hunting? Do you remember playing hide and seek growing up? While on vacation, do you enjoy sightseeing, but sometimes like doing it independently instead of the being held hostage by the constraints of tour groups? An old game called letterboxing has influenced a modern, digitized and mobile game, using GPS-enabled devices, called geocaching.

Geocaching, a recreational outdoor activity gives participants the ability to use their mobile and other GPS-enabled devices to hunt for geocaches. Geocaches, or caches (waterproof containers) can be placed anywhere around the globe. These caches can contain a logbook and writing instrument, allowing the seeker to sign the log and return the container exactly as it was found. Sometimes these boxes contain items that can be used for trading. The geocacher, the person participating in geocaching, enters the date they found the cache and by using an established code name, signs the log. There are several types of geocaches depending on whether or not you want something traditional or daring. The different types include a multiple locations cache, an event cache with multiple participants, or an initiative involving a geocaching community, just to name few.

This techie-driven adventure can introduce unique experiences, while exploring new and exciting destinations. There are also risks involved that geocachers must be aware of. In light of local and national security, law enforcement officials find the placement of certain caches problematic. They may be placed in hidden spaces where the container looks suspicious or threatening. Depending on locations, other risks tag searchers appearing to look a little shady especially if they are seeking around buildings, structures, residential areas or near schools. Placement of these containers could also be considered in some situations as littering. Precautions must be taken when placing these containers in designated areas so that geocachers are not encouraged to trespass or find themselves in harm’s way (near high voltage or risky locations).

Could geocaching become the new modern-day tour guide? Clues are used to reference landmarks and other caches. For the independent, recreational tourist this will certainly introduce them to a new adventure, by discovering unique destinations locally and around the world.

5 Ways How Outdoor Adventure Relates To Entrepreneurship

When I first braved myself to embark on the entrepreneurship journey, I was soon facing a daunting question: Do I have the qualities to be an entrepreneur?

I am purely an outdoor educator. There were numerous instances when people told me that this passion of mine will not bring me far. But here I am, until today, staying stubborn passionate with this hobby of mine.

So I did take a step back to analyse if I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And I found 5 key qualities. Here they are:

1. Decision Making

Being in the outdoors requires me to make decisions. This is especially so when I have a group of participants. There are countless decisions to make before, during and after a programme.

For example, have I sorted out all the contingency plans? Have I brought sufficient food and equipment?

As an entrepreneur, I have to make countless decisions. No one is there to tell you what to do.

2. Risk Taking

I have to be used to take risks in the outdoors. If I do not risk falling, I will not know how high I can climb. If I do not risk making a wrong decision at a junction, I will not know if that is even the correct path to take.

I have started out a few businesses. Some worked while some failed. But still, I will not have known all these if I had not tried.

3. Safety Mindedness

However, people often misunderstand that being a risk taker means that we do not bother about safety. In the outdoors, the safety factor has actually been considered multiple times.

A climbing rope, for example, could withstand about 12 times more than an average climber’s weight. Safety procedures are everywhere. Where there is none, we are taught to make conservative judgement calls.

The very reason why I do not focus only on one single business is based on the wise saying: Do not place ALL your eggs in one basket. There has to be a safety net.

4. Perseverance

This is a classic nature of an outdoor adventurer. We are used to toughing it out. We know that words don’t count without actions. And the effort required is normally superhuman. We are trained to go the distance.

No one ever said being an entrepreneur is easy. It took me 6 months before I made my first dollar. Thankfully I have been trained to persevere.

5. Creativity

Facing problems is a staple diet of an outdoor adventurer. No one day or one activity is the same. Hence, we have to always think outside the box. Speak about being a maverick. I myself am amazed at what I or my participants do to solve problems.

I started out with minimal capital. Hence, I needed to be creative in planning my effort, energy and money. Be creative in using the many Softwares work for me instead of the other way round.

These 5 qualities inherent in an outdoor adventurer definitely fits the bill of being an entrepreneur. Well, if you lucky, you could turn the passion into your profession. If not, you sure would have picked up enough tools to run a business!

Four Scenic Utah Wonders for Wheelers and Slow Walkers

Known for its five stunning national parks, Utah is packed to the brim with scenic beauty. From Zion’s expansive canyons and the majestic formations in Arches National Park, to the spire-like Bryce Canyon hoodoos, there’s no shortage of natural wonders in the Beehive State. At first glance this rugged terrain appears inaccessible to people with mobility issues; however, upon closer examination a number of barrier-free options are revealed. Although not every trail, attraction or outdoor area in the state is accessible, these sites are good choices for wheelchair-users and slow walkers.

Newspaper Rock

Located 20 miles from the entrance to the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, Newspaper Rock is worth a quick stop on the way to the park. Not only is the site located right along Highway 211, but this massive rock contains an impressive collection of historic petroglyphs. Accessible parking and accessible pit toilets are located in the paved lot. From there, a hard-packed dirt trail covered in crushed granite leads over to the petroglyph panel. The level trail is just 30 feet long, so it’s doable for most people. The older petroglyphs date back 1500 years, and are attributed to the ancient Puebloan people; while the lighter petroglyphs are more recent, and are believed of Ute origin.

Snow Canyon State Park

This popular state park, which is located 50 miles west of Zion National Park, makes a nice side trip for people staying in nearby St. George. The three-mile Whiptail Trail begins near the park entrance and runs along the base of this sandstone canyon, before it terminates at the Upper Galoot Picnic Area. The trail is wide, paved and mostly level, and it’s a good option for most wheelchair-users and slow walkers. There’s also a shaded picnic table, an accessible restroom and water available in the lower Galoot Picnic Area. Although the picnic table isn’t technically accessible, it requires a short roll over a level grassy area, and is doable for most folks.

Bryce Canyon Shared Use Path

This nicely accessible trail begins outside of Bryce Canyon National Park at the shuttle staging area at Ruby’s in Bryce Canyon City, and travels 2.4 miles to the park entrance. After that it continues another 2.6 miles to Inspiration Point. And the good news is, the entire five-mile length is paved, level and wheelchair-accessible. It also connects with the shuttle system at the visitor center, general store, lodge, Sunset Point, Sunset Campground and Inspiration Point, so you can do as much of the trail as you like, then hop on the shuttle and return to your car.

Pa’rus Trail – Zion National Park

Last but not least, the 1.8-mile paved level Pa’rus Trail in Zion National Park follows the Virgin River, and runs from the Zion Canyon Visitor Center to Canyon Junction. The trailhead at Zion Canyon Visitor Center is located to the left of the visitor center shuttle bus stop, while the Canyon Junction trailhead is just a short level walk from shuttle bus stop 3. Some manual wheelchair-users will require assistance on the Canyon Junction end of the trail, as the grade is a bit steeper than 1:8 for a short stretch on that end. It’s best to start the trail on the Canyon Junction end, as it’s much easier to go down this stretch with assistance, than it is to climb up it.

A Seaplane Adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, only about 60,000 visitors get to Dry Tortugas National Park each year. Compare that to the more than 300 million people who visited America’s national parks last year. But it’s really no surprise when you consider what’s involved just getting there. The jumping off point is Key West, Florida, and from there, you can choose between an all-day boat ride, and half- or full-day seaplane trips, assuming you don’t have your own vessel.

Pre-Flight

I opted for the seaplane flight and checked in at the Key West Seaplane Adventures office at 7:30 for an 8:00 am flight. Even though it was late March, the sun was just rising, filtered by wisps of pink and orange clouds. When the remaining nine passengers arrived, we received our briefing, were introduced to our pilot, Gary, and then walked out on to the tarmac together to board the DHC-3 DeHavilland Turbine Otter Amphibian. The plane can carry 10 passengers plus the pilot… and when Gary offered up the co-pilot seat, I literally jumped at the opportunity!

Gary has been flying to and from Dry Tortugas for years. He would make five trips to and from Dry Tortugas that day… and his early morning return flight to Key West would be a solo one.

Ready for Takeoff

Once we had our seat belts fastened, and perhaps more importantly, our headphones on, Gary began to narrate our early morning adventure as we taxied out on to the runway. I fired up my video camera… and before I knew it we were airborne heading due east into the morning sun, and just as quickly banking south, then west for a bird’s eye view of Key West. It was only then that I had the exhilarating realization I would be setting down in a place I’d only been able to conjure in my imagination – turquoise waters, green sea turtles, bright coral, frigatebirds, shipwrecks, and a coastal fortress nearly 170 years old.

The co-pilot’s seat offered the perfect view of Key West, its hotels, Duvall Street and Mallory Square, which quickly faded from view. Gary pumped some music into our headphones… though I wasn’t quite sure what to make of his first selection: Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'”!

Flying to Dry Tortugas

Flying at at 130 knots, we were quickly over an area called the “Flats,” a body of shallow water just 3-5 feet deep extending almost 20 miles to the west. Flying at just 500 feet above the water, these shallows are teeming with Loggerhead turtles and you could clearly see dozens of them swimming about as we cruised overhead.

25 miles out, we flew directly over Marquesas Islands, a coral atoll… and then over an area called the “Quicksands.” Here the water is 30 feet deep with a sea bed of constantly shifting sand dunes. This is where treasure hunter Mel Fisher found the Spanish Galleons Antocha and Margarita – and more than a half a billion dollars of gold and silver strewn across an eight mile area. They continue to work the site, and even today, there are regular finds of huge Spanish Emeralds.

But it wasn’t long from my vantage point in the cockpit before I could begin to make out Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, Bush Key and further west, the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key.

A Little History

Once Florida was acquired from Spain (1819-1821), the United States considered the 75 mile stretch connecting the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean important to protect, since anyone who occupied the area could seize control trade along the Gulf Coast.

Construction of Fort Jefferson began on Garden Key in 1847, and although more than $250,000 had been spent by 1860, the fort was never finished. As the largest 19th century American masonry coastal fort, it also served as a remote prison facility during the Civil War. The most famous inmate was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the leg of John Wilkes Booth following the assassination of President Lincoln. Mudd was convicted of conspiracy and was imprisoned on the Dry Tortugas from 1865 to 1869. The fort continued to serve as a military prison until 1874.

Almost There

Gary banked the De Havilland to the right, providing a spectacular view of the islands and Fort Jefferson, heading the seaplane into the wind for the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced – on land or sea – gently skimming the surface and we glided effortlessly across turquoise waters and headed towards shore. One more roar of the engines, a quick turn, and we were up on the beach ready to disembark.

We arrived about 8:30 AM… and aside from the 10 passengers on board, a half dozen campers at one end of the Garden Key, and a few National Park Service employees, we had the island to ourselves.

As I watched the seaplane take off, heading back to Key West, it struck me just how isolated we were in this remote ocean wilderness.

It was still reasonably cool, but the sun – and the temperature – was rising fast. Taking advantage of the early morning light, I headed inside the fort, making my way up the spiral staircase, and stepped out of the old Garden Key lighthouse built in 1825. The lighthouse is no longer in use, since the “new” 167 foot tall lighthouse on Loggerhead Key, completed in 1858, continues to flash its beacon to mariners, warning of the shallow waters.

The view from atop of Fort Jefferson provided a spectacular 360 degree panorama. And besides the few spits of land that make up the park, there was nothing but sky and sea in every direction.

About the Park

Dry Tortugas National Park, situated at the farthest end of the Florida Keys, is closer to Cuba than to the American mainland. A cluster of seven islands, composed mostly of sand and coral reefs, just 93 of the park’s 64,000 acres are above water. The three easternmost keys are simply spits of white coral sand, while 49-acre Loggerhead Key, three miles out, marks the western edge of the island chain. The park’s sandy keys are in a constant state of flux – shaped by tides and currents, weather and climate. In fact, four islands completely disappeared between 1875 and 1935, a testament to the fragility of the ecosystem.

Final Approach to Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson

The surrounding coral reefs make up the third-largest barrier reef system outside of Australia and Belize.

The Dry Tortugas are recognized for their near-pristine natural resources including seagrass beds, fisheries, and sea turtle and bird nesting habitat.

Bush Key, just 100 yards or so from Fort Jefferson is home to a vast assortment of birds that frequent the islands and features a mix of mangrove, sea oats, bay cedar, sea grape and prickly pear cactus, reflecting the original character of the islands.

A great wildlife spectacle occurs each year between the months of February and September, as many as 100,000 sooty terns travel from the Caribbean Sea and west-central Atlantic Ocean to nest on the islands of the Dry Tortugas. Brown noddies, roseate terns, double-crested cormorants, brown pelicans and the Magnificent frigatebird, with its 7-foot wingspan, nest here as well. Although Bush Key was closed to visitors, hundreds, if not thousands of birds filled the skies and the sounds of their screeches and calls filled the otherwise tranquil surroundings.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Fort Jefferson National Monument under the Antiquities Act on January 4, 1935. Expanded to it’s current size in 1983, the monument was re-designated by an act of Congress as Dry Tortugas National Park on October 26, 1992 to protect the island and marine environment, to preserve Fort Jefferson and submerged cultural resources such as shipwrecks.

There is no water, food, bathing facilities, supplies, or public lodging (other than camping on Garden Key) in the park. All visitors, campers, and boaters are required to pack out whatever they pack in, so the National Park Service has created a wi-fi hotspot – only at the dock – where you can scan a QR code and download a variety of PDFs to your phone or tablet. It’s an idea that’s bound to catch on with so many mobile devices, reducing the need to print (and throw away) paper brochures. Inside Fort Jefferson, a small visitor’s center has a few exhibits and shows a short video. I stepped across the entranceway, and found an equally small office that houses the National Park Service employees who maintain and manage the park.

Almost 500 Years Ago…

I imagined the islands didn’t look much different to Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, credited for discovering the islands in 1531. He named them Las Tortugas, or “The Turtles,” as the islands and surrounding waters were aswarm with loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback, and green turtles. For nearly three hundred years, pirates raided not only passing ships, but relied on turtles for meat and eggs and also pilfered the nests of roosting sooty and noddy terns. Nautical charts began to show that The Tortugas were dry – due to the lack of fresh water – and eventually the islands were renamed as The Dry Tortugas.

Shipping, Trade, and Riches from the New World

Explorers sailed through the Dry Tortugas and the route was frequented by Spanish ships returning to the European mainland from the Gulf Coast of Florida, Veracruz and the Caribbean. The Dry Tortugas proved to be an important trade route… and served as a significant marker ships used to navigate the Gulf’s coastline. While Florida remained under Spanish rule, merchants used this route transporting coffee, tobacco, cotton, meat, livestock and merchandise across the Atlantic in exchange for silver and gold from the New World.

Some of the best snorkeling in North America

Although I was only on the half-day seaplane trip, I still had enough time for a quick swim and snorkel on the west side of Garden Key.

In the late 1800s, the US Navy built piers and coaling warehouses for refueling, but strong storms destroyed them, leaving only their underpinnings. These pilings, and the deeper water of the dredged channel, now offer an excellent opportunity to see larger fish like tarpon, grouper, barracuda… as well as the occasional shark.

I’ve had my GoPro for years, but had never used it underwater and I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the water. Multi-colored sea fans swayed in the gentle current. Colorful reef fish – with their vivid and boldly patterned reds, yellows, greens and blues – are camouflaged amongst the bright coral and sea grasses. Today, turtle populations have diminished, but you may still be able to see green, loggerhead, hawksbill, and leatherback sea turtles.

As I walked back to the changing rooms at the dock, the seaplane for my return flight was just landing and I realized my time at Dry Tortugas was coming to an end. If I ever have a chance to get back, I would definitely opt for the full day trip.

A week later, after returning home to Colorado and was shoveling snow off of the driveway, a small plane passed overhead and I suddenly thought of my flight to Dry Tortugas – the bright sun, the crystal clear waters, the abundant life – above and below the water’s surface – a surreal landscape that seemed much farther away now. So captivating, so remote, that even having seen it with my own eyes, I still somehow could barely imagine it.

Rob Decker is a photographer and graphic artist who is currently on a quest to photograph and create posters for all 59 National Parks in time for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in August 2016.

But Rob’s professional training really started at age 19, when he had the rare opportunity to study under Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park during the summer of 1979, less than five years before Mr. Adams passed away.

Since then, he has visited and photographed nearly half of the national parks, and has plans to visit as many as he can during the next 12 months

© 2021 Traveling Outdoors

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑