Archive for March, 2012

Escape the Crowds at a National Forest

Monday, March 26th, 2012

It’s a typical scene: A sea of crackling fires amid rows of eight-person tents, dogs run loose, a child is crying, somewhere in the distance an acoustic guitar strums the chords of Sweet Home Alabama.

The truth is that camping in National Parks rarely offers an authentic out-of-doors experience. Sure, you can find solitude on a long day hike, and most parks offer backcountry permits, a fine option for the more adventurous. But spending a night in designated campgrounds can be a frustrating and crowded experience.

A good option to avoid whirring RV generators, rowdy family reunions and cramped quarters is to check out a National Forest instead of a park.
With 155 National Forests in the United States containing nearly 190 million acres of land, there are plenty of options. Most of these destinations, often bordering National Parks (and just as stunning), don’t have the same nation-wide appeal as parks — or the same crowds.

Aside from certain guidelines – e.g. the distance between your campsite and a water source – dispersed camping is allowed and welcomed in most forests. You can explore the public land on your own terms and camp wherever you see fit, or you can stick to developed campgrounds of which there are many. Not to mention, fees are usually small or nonexistent.

Here are a few options to consider:

Dixie National Forest

Southern Utah is jam-packed with incredible national parks — eight in total. I am not saying they shouldn’t be explored; some of my favorite camping memories are from time spent in Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches. But Dixie National Forest offers a great alternative. It’s less commercialized, less crowded and equally breathtaking.

This forest straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River. One gem that stands out is Red Canyon, an oasis of crimson sandstone formations that shoot up out of a forested area. Plenty of great hiking opportunities to be had.

There are 26 developed campgrounds to choose from, with drinking water, restrooms and fire pits available.

Sierra National Forest

When I think of Sierra Nevada, the first thing that comes to mind is a delicious beer. Then I’m struck with images of one of the most captivating mountain ranges in the country.

This national forest is nestled on the western side of the mountain range in California. Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are all nearby. This may be a great place to camp in solitude before checking out some of the parks.

Dispersed camping is certainly an option, along with more than 60 developed camping areas. You’ll also find thousands of miles of hiking trails at your fingertips. That’s another thing about so many National Forests: they’re huge. Sierra National Forest encompasses more than 1.3 million acres. Yosemite National Park is 761,268 acres to put things in perspective.

From John Muir himself, a man who explored the Sierra Nevada’s more than most: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
–From John of the Mountains (1938)

Bridger-Teton National Forest

You could just call this forest “The Greater Yellowstone Region.” And I mean that in a good way.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks seem to have about as many photo-snapping tourists as elk, or bison during the peak summer months. If you are interested in avoiding those Yellowstone traffic jams and the hustle-and-bustle of one or our nation’s most popular parks, the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming offers the same expansive skies, and stark, looming mountains. You’ll find more than 40 peaks, with hiking trails ranging from novice to “you better know what you’re doing.”

There are 17 campgrounds among clear mountain lakes, rushing streams, lush vegetation and a diverse wildlife.

About the author: Eric Voorhis is a journalist, photographer and blogger living on Long Island. As a reporter and freelance writer he?s covered everything from education and local politics to recreation and the environment. He has been camping in nearly every state of the contiguous U.S., from the backwoods of Maine to the beaches of California, and hates it when people burn marshmallows.

Camping Ideas for Kids

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Camping can be a wonderfully rewarding, enjoyable, character-building activity for kids. But when you have a pandemic at hand, camping can get challenging, which is why I introduce you these 5 Ways to Keep Kids Entertained During Quarantine. It can also be one heck of a challenge! Taking children out into the woods away from their PlayStation and Wii while insisting they leave their handheld PSP behind already puts you in quite the hole in terms of helping them have a good time and keeping them entertained. Thankfully, as you and I both know, once they get out there and brighten up their attitude, they'll see that camping can actually be quite fun!

Here are some ways to help make camping rewarding and enjoyable for your kids and their friends.

1. Build enthusiasm about the trip by including them as part of the planning. Take them to the grocery store so they can choose what snacks to bring and what games to play.

2. Make them have some modicum of responsibility during your camping excursion. Even if it's something as simple as helping set up the tent or collect firewood. Give them some type of task that will help them feel like they're a contributing hand in making the camping a success. Reassure them that there will be plenty of time for fun and games but that before you can do that, a little work must be done. This work-reward pattern is something many kids in this generation miss out on which is a shame because it's very character building. You can make the camp chores fun by having awards for most sticks collected, fastest clean-up, etc.

3. Have these activities ready for your kids to enjoy. When I was a kid, my Dad brought out a bb-gun and had us shoot at empty cola cans from 30 feet away. I was only about 7 at the time and still remember how awesome it was to shoot a "real gun"! There are so many possible camping activities for kids and many of them are things they never get the chance to do in the city. Consider some of the following:

  • Scavenger hunt (first kid to find all items on list wins)
  • Rubbing souvenirs (place a leaf vien-side-up under a piece of paper, rub a crayon over the leaf)
  • Frisbee, baseball, or football to toss around
  • Camping races (one-legged race, sack race, backwards race with teams and partners)
  • Alphabet nature hunt (have to find something that starts with each letter)
  • Constellation and satellite search at night
  • UNO, checkers or other picnic-table games
  • Camping Olympics (organize a series of games with points awarded based on finish)
  • Hide and seek (nature makes a great place to play hide and seek, just be sure to establish boundaries)

With any competitive event, be mindful of everyone and keep it fun for all. Winners should not be praised too much nor losers chastized. After all, it's just camping!

4. Use your time out in nature to instill valuable skills with your kids. Teach them about fire safetey. Show them poisonous leaves so they know what to avoid.

5. When in doubt, have fun! I think you could agree that some of the best memories you form as a child take place while camping, so have a blast!

Camping Games Aren’t Just For Kids

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Who says games are for kids? Some of best times I’ve had while camping have been during a game of ladder golf and nobody would mistake me for a kid anymore!

Give the gift of fun to your friends and family who go camping by giving them a great camping game! Here’s my favorites: ladder golf game picture

Ladder Golf
(also called blongo ball, hillbilly horseshoes, hillbilly golf, redneck golf, and a few other names that I can’t put in print). It’s my all time favorite camping game. It’s also a great game to play when tailgating. The game is played by throwing bolos (2 golf balls connected by a string of rope) at a three-rung ladder with different points values awarded depending on which rung (if any) the players hook their bolos on. The first person or team to 21 points wins.

cornhole game picture
Cornhole – It’s another tossing game where beanbags (traditionally ones filled with hard corn kernels hence the catchy name of Cornhole) are tossed at a hole on a board and points are scored for getting the bean bag through the hole, and also usually for getting the bag to land on the board. Yes, this list of my favorite camping games will be heavily weighted with tossing games but that’s because it’s not exactly a good idea to play a tossing game in your living room.

washers game picture
Washers – yep, it’s another tossing game but this time it’s large oversized washers that are thrown at a target. There’s a lot of different variations of the game but I like the version pictured here because the two boxes used in the game hook together and close up with enough room inside to store the washers which makes it a great game to take camping, tailgating, or for a day at the park.
bocce ball game picture
Bocce Ball – It’s a lawn bowling game that originated in Italy. It’s meant to be played on a flat grassy surface but we’ve found it’s more fun and more challenging when the terrain is uneven, hilly, and has obstacles in the way like stones or trees. We can pretty much make any surface we have available to us at the campground work. If we went back to playing it on a flat grassy lawn we’d probably think it was boring.
frisbee golf picture
Frisbee Golf – Our family plays it by choosing whatever targets are available to us whether it’s our camper, a picnic table, a tree, etc. Then whoever can get their frisbee disc to the target first wins that round.

It’s important to have some indoor games handy when camping as well because those rainy days will happen which means you and your family will want something to do besides stare out the camper window and wishing for the rain to stop.
camp board game picture
Camp Board Game
is a fun outdoor themed game for kids as well as adults. The goal is to get to camp first. Along the way players learn fun facts about the great outdoors.
planet earth monopoly game picture
If you want to give a more traditional board game with an outdoor twist, how about the Planet Earth version of Monopoly? Instead of buying properties players buy, sell and trade the earth’s more beautiful environments and mysterious creatures.

So don’t delay. Gift the gift of fun today!