Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fall Back on the Basics

Do you think that just because summer is almost over that you have to give up your weekend camping trips? With a little proper planning, you can camp well into the fall. For those of us that can take the cold, you can even camp during the winter months. During this time of year, the nice warm days make for a great time for the family to spend hiking and exploring the wilderness. The cooler nights are perfect for sitting around the campfire eating S'mores and banana boats and sharing stories and songs with your family, long time friends, and new acquaintances. When the leaves start changing colors the experience is even more worthwhile. So grab a sweatshirt, your tent, and head on out there to enjoy one of the most favorite seasons of the year!

Here are 3 more great examples of Fall camping in unlikely palces :

1. "Blackwater river State Park"
A favorite destination for canoeists and kayakers, Blackwater River offers opportunities for a variety of outdoor recreation. The river is one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the nation, making this park a popular place for swimming, fishing, camping, and paddling. Shaded campsites are just a short walk from the river, and visitors can enjoy a picnic at a pavilion overlooking the river. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy strolling along trails through undisturbed natural communities. Located 15 miles northeast of Milton, Florida off U.S. 90.

2. "Sweetwater Creek State Park"
Minutes from my home town the woodlands surrounding Sweetwater Creek are a peaceful tract of wilderness only minutes from downtown Atlanta. The river and rock basins are stunning as you hike and enjoy the sights and smells of the forest and wildlife.
The most popular trail (red) follows the free-flowing stream to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill burned during the Civil War. *A must see* Beyond the mill, the trail climbs rocky bluffs to provide views of the beautiful mile-long stretch of white-water rapids below. As a child and into tmy teen years bringing a bikini and sunning on the over sized rocks with friends was a favorite way to savor the sun.
The 215-acre George Sparks Reservoir is popular with anglers and provides a pretty setting for feeding ducks and canoeing. Fishing supplies are available in the park's bait shop, while wildlife and history displays, trail maps, snacks. This is an adventure you wont want to miss and the camping locally is inexpensive and pristine.

3. Ozarks Mountains Camping - yeeehaaa

Missouri state parks include thirty-nine, yes I said 39, state parks and historic sites. Thinking the movie Deliverence and OMG where the hell are we ? .... smiles ....
Ok near enough but far from the truth in 2009.

Nearly all state park campgrounds in this beautiful state are open year-round. You will have avail electric hook-ups year-round, and water and showers are usually available from April 1 through Oct. 31 (in-season) in most state parks.
Roaring River, Bennett Spring and Montauk state parks are operational as early as Feb. 25th. then some of the other more northern parks are operational by April 15.
All water hydrants are available by May 1. *Remember that a two-night minimum stay is required on the weekend, and yes that does mean (Friday and Saturday)folks, But now a days it is like that at most state parks.
Just rememebr they use a placard system and you should be all good -
If the color bar on the campsite post is:
Green -- it is a basic site
Yellow -- it is an electric site
Blue -- it is an electric/water site
Red -- it is a sewer/electric/water site
The road posts with the color strip may be your only contact and FYI - so write it down. Colors dont mean much if you just think its a nice stripe for a paost and are unaware it may be your lifeline to what will save your life in inclimate weather in the forest.
It is lush forests and wildlife in that wraps you in a cacoon of moments when you feel awestrck to know few may have or ever will step where you are that day. Be Safe - Call ahead and Enjoy!!

Ok there ya have it folks- Another blog quick and painless... but...You must admit - A few beautiful spots in the USA that really should be savored - Are inexpensive ways to maintane your sanity - and over all... We all need to remember to just breath and I love taking you there.

Thanks for stopping in, and I look forward to educating and entertaining you with more of
"Elsi- Surviving the Outdoors", very soon.

Friday, July 3, 2009

RVs & Camping - Traveling Tips 101

A night sky so full of brilliant stars that you can actually point out the constellations to your kids. Marshmallows stuck on sticks, bubbling over a campfire. The chocolaty, gooey-goodness of a real s'more. It's easy to envision the ideal camping experience-but not everyone has actually experienced it. If your best recollection of camping is frozen toes, a deflating mattress and a large rock in the middle of your back, take heart! Camping has changed, and there's something for everyone.

From RVs to Tents in the Wilderness… Whether your idea of camping out is a tent under the stars, your own RV, a three bedroom, two-bath cabin with satellite TV or something in between, today your options for the perfect camping and RVing adventure are practically limitless. Add to that the wide variety of activities available-from hiking to kayaking, horseback riding, water parks, fishing or even snowboarding, plus specialized programs for all ages, and it's easy to see why camping continues to be the new world summer favorite pastime.

Traveler's Tips
The following tips include some helpful advice, ideas, and guidance to guide you in your future camping excursions... try some of these for extra percs and little widgets to make the trip a bit more travel friendly on a shoestring.

Take a 5 gallon white plastic bucket. Take the housing off of a droplight. Cut a hole in the bucket lid and secure the light into it and put the lid back on. Then just hang from the bucket's handle. Lots of light and hardly any bugs.

When you go to the shower and you prefer to use a bar of soap, just take a extra knee-hi panty hose with you and it will be just like having a soap-on-a-rope. Also make sure to take a clothes hanger and plastic bag with you to the shower, as most shower stalls have no place to hang your clothes. Just put the hanger on the shower bar and put your old clothes in the plastic bag while showering. A fresh & clean camper is a happy camper when CLEAN & wet can often be a welcome respite from the heat ~ smiles ~!

When camping with a toddler, Try using a booster seat that has a snap on tray. Some have even been able to then strap it to a good solid folding lawn chair. This way the little one has thier own table that is just his/her size.

I always prepare the menu ahead of time. That way I can prepare extra meals (spaghetti, chili, beef stews, etc.) and freeze them in vaccum sealed or freezer lock bags ahead of time so they are ready for the trip. Individual servings or family size the extra time will be savored later. Smaller size packages takes less room in the freezer or cooler and stay cold longer as well.
Being in the bush doesnt mean you cant eat well if you plan well ahead of the trip. A pan with water and a fire make prefrozen vaccum sealed bag meals heaven after a long day hiking or sight seeing.

Use bungee cords for a quick clothesline at the campsite. Just find 2 fairly close trees and loop a couple of cords around the trunks and hook together. Voila! Instant drying spot for wet swimsuits, towels, etc with no damage to the trees.
I also use bungees to strap down the cooler to the picnic table. This became part of my routine after some night visitors managed to pry open a cooler and make off with bacon, a london broil and potato salad!
Deep (about 15") tubs with snap-on lids make wonderful storage for just about anything: food, clothes, kitchen stuff, etc. These are waterproof, stackable and even seem to foil the critters!
I get mine at a local grocery store, Walmart or 5 and dime, but I've seen similar ones at all the big discount stores.

To stay in touch with family consider the purchase of a pocketmail. Most have computers now a days and email or cell phone email. This unti is a battery powered, portable email system. It can be used on any phone. From any local with a signal. It will also receive messages, and is user friendly. http://www.pocketmail.com/

An inexpensive pair of two-way walkie-talkies can be invaluable when you camp; wonderful for guiding the driver of a 5th wheel back into a tight spot without shouting loud enough for the whole campground to hear, or for keeping in touch while backpacking and out of sight of each other. Anywhere you may get temporarily separated!

2 Great unusual but very handy tips for moms and dads:

First: to save space in the cooler, If I make KoolAid, instead of using jugs, I put it into Zip-Loc bags and freeze it flat. Then it fits nicely into the cooler and helps with the cooling.

Second: Those expensive fire starters ... Dont bother! "I recycle and so should you when you can.
Take a carboard egg crates you have saved and put it on your dryer as the lint comes out, lay it in the egg crate. After the crate is full, find some old candles and melt wax all over the crate. The small forms once popped out in the camping zone make a great fire starter and doesn't cost a dime. Store easily and help give back to nature with no noxious fumes or chemicals.

Anyone have Asthma or allergies to pesticides?!
If so you know you cant use ant granulars around the hitch, leveling jacks, or anywhere the critters might get in. So try this trick from the doctor for a natural ant repellent that won't affect her condition; cayenne (ground red) pepper around the tires, hitch, etc. really works

*Please if you rememeber nothing else I offer DO REMEMBER THIS ONE in case of the unforeseen emergency:
Photocopy ALL your travel arrangements and leave them with a friend or relative so that they can reach you at any point along your journey in case of an emergency.

And that folks is the next installment .. I hope you enjoyed it and will look for you in the great outdoors. email me of you have any questions and thank you for reading "Surviving the Outdoors with Elsi"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Want to get away for the 4th ?

Want to get away from it all this Fourth of July?

Does your idea of a vacation involve crowded parks or baseball stadiums hoping to get a decent view of fireworks with 50 of your closest friends?

How about days of heart-pounding adventure in the great outdoors? I have scoured the travel guides, combed the Internet and sought out word-of-mouth recommendations to bring you the best of the best. Ive traveled the globe and here in the USA I have visited each state in the USA and I have explored the out of the way, the expensive and non expensive to allow it to culminate into whatever I can say or do to help you get up and live again.
Lets try this... Lets start here this holiday and let me ring you now a bit of 10 of a multitude of the great money saving ways to get outdoors quick, inexpensively and with the only goal right now being my desire to push you out the door, pry you off your couch and to show you just how great it can be take a deep long breath of air away from the normal routines of life.

To coax your " I cants " into one or two " Wow this is amazing why havent I tried this before."
I want to know just a few of you - smiled and looked in the mirror saying " I " did that for me!
Ok Lets get started:

Try this for the top 10 adventure on a shoestring budget, EASY outing trips in your area:

1. Camping at Big Bend, Texas - Cheap Cheap and Stunning Beauty
Load up your RV (or your pick up, or even your sedan), and head to the southernmost tip of the Lone Star State, where there really is an outdoor adventure to suit anyone’s interests and fitness level. Like roughing it in the wilderness? Pitch a tent. Prefer the amenities of a comfortable lodge? You can do that too. You can also hike, go horseback riding, rock climb and bird watch. Whatever you do, make sure to enjoy Texas’s endless night sky.

2. Fly Fishing the Madison River, Montana
Pack up your hoppers, flying ants and beetles – it’s time catch some fish. Also known as the “50 mile riffle”, this fly-fisher’s paradise boasts expansive, calm waters, free from boulders and fallen trees. What you get instead is a pool full of wild rainbow trout and large brown trout. And the river is novice-friendly, so even if you’re new to fly-fishing, you can come away with a cooler full of loot. What’s more, you’ll be surrounded by some of Montana’s most picturesque scenery while you cast your line. Tip: Try evening fly-fishing! The best month to do so is July, and the best time of night is 8:30-11pm.

3. White water Rafting the Chatooga, in 3 states. (Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, in case you were curious).
It’s one of the wildest and most beautiful whitewater rivers in the country. In fact, it’s been designated as “Wild and Scenic” by the U.S government, thus protecting it from development. It flows freely through the Appalachian Mountains, and spans approx 180,000 acres ). The river also caters to different adventure thresholds. If your looking for something mild and scenic (section III of the river), you’ll have time to swim, sun or lunch along the way. Prefer something a little more intense? Conquer section IV of the river for an equally scenic, yet heart-pounding thrill ride. Either way, this Southeastern waterway is a “must do”. There are a number of outfitters in the area. Try Wildwater Rafting or Southeastern Expeditions.

4. Hunting Whitetail in Missouri - I know it may not be for all of you.... but ... for some, this will be heaven in camo.
The “Show-Me” State boasts over a million Whitetail Deer, including plenty of trophy-sized Bucks. Thanks to vast wooded areas, open fields, and large expanses of water, deer are drawn to this region. And the success rate? In the 2008 firearm season, hunters took home 238,819 deer! Missouri is also one of America’s top Turkey hunting sites, and hosts a variety of other game including Elk, Wild Boar and Quail. And whether you’re a seasoned hunter or new to the sport, consider a guided hunt to get the most out of your adventure.

5. Hiking Through the Garden of Gods - Ok this is more my style for a long weekend away people - Cheap - Fresh Air and Sunshine.
Nestled within Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest, this wilderness area (and geological masterpiece) is alleged to be over 320 million years old. Come here to see the unusual rock formations — you’ll be amazed by some of the intricate designs. There are two main hiking trails: the Observation Trail and the River-to-River Trail. The first is famous for its spectacular views of the local geology. The latter — and longer — path stretches 30 miles from the Ohio River, is equally scenic, and offers a few camping stops along the way (just $5 a night). Park entrance is free. Tip: Bring a compass and a map. Trails are marked by painted wooden signs, but it’s easy to miss one if you’re not paying attention. * Google it and get there fast daylight is wasting.*

6. Kayaking the Russian River - Or any river near you - Cheap thrills - outdoors and no suits.
Spend a full day cruising the Russian River, an 11-mile stretch around Northern California’s wine country. And you don’t have to be a skilled boatman to conquer it. The rapids are mild enough for your aunt, but the journey is anything but boring. Pack a picnic and take a break at one of the beaches along the way. Pack a six-pack and throw back a few local beers while you paddle. And when you’re done, venture into downtown Healdsburg (where the ride ends) to enjoy some of the local cuisine and world-famous wine (if there’s any room after all that beer).

7. Whale Watching in Boston - This is a lways a family favorite when Im there and it is inexpensive - once in a lifetime fun depending on your marine visitors - No 2 trips will ever be the same. ( try this 3 hour adventure on a catamaran)
Boston Harbor Cruise's Whale Watching cruise is both an unforgettable and educational experience. Our professional researchers from the Whale Center of New England, the region's foremost authority on whale populations, are onboard for every trip to provide narration. They'll teach you about everything from whale behavior and migration patterns to the local ecology so you can better understand our deep-sea friends. Im partial to a catamaran so try these people for a unique journey and to get out of the regular mode of group charter experience for just a little more http://www.bostonharborcruises.com/boston-whale-watch/

8. Caving in Kentucky - Im a caver from way back - This is a great summer activity when its hot above ground its always cool below ground.
Living up to its name, this Kentucky attraction is the largest cave in the world, stretching 350 miles long and plunging 379 feet deep. Even its runner up, Ukraine’s Optimisticeskaya cave, is just a quarter of Mammoth’s length. Take a discovery tour and explore the colorful stalactites and stalagmites, underground rivers and giant vertical shafts. And the natural wonder doesn’t end there. You’ll also get to see some of the world’s weirdest creatures, including eyeless fish, white spiders and blind beetles. Tip: If you’re not claustrophobic, or afraid of the dark, try the Spelunking tour — you’ll get a more authentic experience and see parts of the cave not normally accessible to the public.

9. Tree Climbing in Atlanta, Georigia ( Ok yes its close to my heart and my birth city - but trust me- Its a trip you wont forget and will smile about for decades after)
Remember how much fun it was as a kid? Guess what — it still is! And now that you’re all grown up, you don’t have to climb back down before dark. Turns out there’s no better place to try it than Atlanta, Georgia — America’s tree climbing capitol. Unlike the free climbing you did in your youth, you’ll use a rope, a helmet and a harness to make your way to the top of 100-foot-tall trees. Your kids will love it too! With their lighter weight and lower center of gravity, they’ll be giddy as they speed past you up the trunk. Many guided tours offer the opportunity to camp way up in the branches. To plan an Atlanta tree-climbing adventure and learn more about the sport, contact the Tree Climber’s Association.

* cue drum roll please*
Last but not least- What summer vacation would be complete if your near the ocean without water sports?

10. Scuba Diving (or *Snorkeling* cheap route - easy easy) the Florida Keys
Just off the coast of Florida lie The Florida Keys, a cluster of 1,700 islands and the longest living reef in the Western Hemisphere. The Keys offer calm seas and a kaleidoscope of bizarre shapes and colors, sea creatures from sharks to marlins, breathtaking coral formations and over 500 wrecks to explore, including Spanish galleons and remnants of the Civil War. With waters this clear, you can see up to 120 feet ahead of you, so it’s no wonder divers come from all over the world to explore this underwater paradise. Tip: For a more off-the-beaten path diving experience, explore the Lower Keys’ 5.3 nautical miles of marine life and coral reef. Contact the tourism board for more information and scuba shop suggestions..

Well there you have it folks. I hope you enjoyed this small dose of what is to be many many more installments of "Elsi - Surviving the Outdoors". We will see you again at this same Blog channel and same web address.
Questions - or idea minded.... send me an email or a notation. I love to help and your smile is reward enough for me.