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Camp Games and Activities

8 Holiday Reads About Wild Places

December 19, 2016
camp read
camp read

©istockphoto/maxphotography

When it comes to the holidays, you and yours probably have garages and basements full of gear. So let’s inspire the mind. Here are some outdoor literary gifts to spark adventure with your loved ones and outdoor pals. When it’s dark and cold outside and craving the wild open landscape of exploration instead of holiday events, they’ll take you their, at least in spirit. Fire up the woodstove and put your feet up.

arcticArctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
Few books have embraced such a large, forbidding, and poorly understood region as Lopez’s sweeping masterpiece. He brings his reader along on a journey across the Arctic, following herds of caribou, native villages straddling traditional societies and modern life, polar bear biologists who rely on equal parts science and native knowledge of the landscape, oil surveyors, muskox, and ice, an migratory birds. Lopez, the pre-eminent living nature writer, saw in 1986 the beginnings of transformations of the Arctic region that is accelerating today. His writing is as captivating as the landscape.

nakedBorn Naked by Farley Mowat
The preeminent nature writer in Canada, Mowat, spent a lifetime writing both about how nature affected his life on a personal level. Born Naked is part childhood hilarity, part origin story, and unadorned recollection of outdoor adventures and misadventures. From childhood vacations, ill-conceived river trips that lacked a river, cavorting with owls, and sailing adventures with Mutt, Mowat’s now-famous family dog, you’ll be laughing and reminiscing about your own childhood the whole time.

homelandsHomelands: Kayaking the Inside Passage by Byron Ricks
There are two journeys in Ricks’ and his wife’s kayak journey from Alaska’s Glacier Bay to their home in the southern edge of Puget Sound. The first is tan actual paddle trip through the string of islands and fjords that cling to the western edge of the continent from tidewater glaciers to Seattle’s glass and steel towers. The second “inside passage” is a journey into their own psyches. Recreational paddlers more than serious adventurers, Bryon and Maren bring their insecurities, fears, joys, and discoveries of the landscape and themselves to the page as they adapt to life on the water, only to be thrust back into civilization as they paddle south. Many have taken this journey and written about it. Few have done so in the same way.

silenceInto the Silence by Wade Davis
Countless books have been written about Mount Everest, and even more about the conflagration that was the First World War. Few have linked them. Davis looks deep into the spirit of George Mallory and the 1924 expedition to climb Everest in 1924, where they seemed to vanish into the sky. (Mallory’s body was found in 2007). Davis starts their climbing journey in the trenches of Europe and a nation traumatized by war. Davis makes a rare and insightful glimpse into what motivates people to great height, and the haunting lure of mountains on the human spirit.

alaskaLeaving Alaska by Grant Sims
Alaska has always evoked idealized visions of various paradises: wilderness, frontier ruggedness, endless resources like fish, oil, or timber, or refuge for those trying to “Light out for the territories ahead of the rest.” Then the Exxon Valdez shattered both its hull, and the innocence of that vision on Bligh Reef. Sims takes in the effect on the souls of Alaskans in the wake of both the spill, and all the while he wrestles with his own sense of place. He brings the reader along with his heartache as few can. You won’t look at Alaska the same way again.

riverThe River of Doubt by Candace Millard
Most former Presidents work the lecture circuit and write the memoirs. One decided it would be fun to explore an uncharted river in one of the most dangerous places in the world. After leaving the White House, Theodore Roosevelt joined an expedition to explore an uncharted tributary of the Amazon, a journey on which he nearly died multiple times. A portrait of a river, and expedition and the Amazon itself, Millard’s account is thrilling, terrifying, and inspiring at the same time.

whyThe River Why By David James Duncan
Written as the coming-of-age tale of a fish-obsessed kid in Portland, Oregon, Duncan’s book is much more. At times hilarious and at times transcendent, the reader absorbs a deep love of rivers, the desire of a growing child to break free, and how landscapes shape people. Duncan weaves a potent mix of obsession, quest and self-examination familiar to any outdoor adventurer. Hint: skip the movie.

tigerThe Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
When an Amur tiger kills a subsistence hunter in an isolated corner of the Russian Far East, the leader of a team of anti-poaching conservationists, is called in. With tigers, and with Valliant, nothing is quite as it seems. Vaillant pulls the lid off of a complex stew: tigers, conservation and livelihoods in post-Soviet Russia, and the rare characters that inhabit the endless taiga of a forgotten region, and the eons-long interactions between humans and big cats. You won’t forget Yuri Trush or Vladimir Markov for a long time.

Camp Games and Activities

How to Pan Like a Professional

October 24, 2016
gold panning
gold panning

©istockphoto/Robert Gubbins

Gold panning is an American tradition and a great family pastime to share with the kids! It’s a fun way to explore our country’s history, get outdoors and, if you’re really lucky, maybe make yourself just a little richer in the process. Of course, the most important part is having fun. Here are some great tips on how to pan like a professional on your next trip.

Get the Right Gear
Every prospector needs the right gear if he’s going to bring home the goods. There are numerous toys to play with in the world of gold panning, and the more you explore the hobby the more you’ll find yourself collecting various odds and ends. To start out you’re going to need, at minimum, a basic gold prospecting kit. One of these puppies has everything you need to get started, including two separate pans and a mess classifier, hand trowel, snuffer bottle and a book to teach you the ropes.

If you live near rough terrain you might also want to invest in a sturdy rock pick that’ll help you dig through the debris.

Pick Your Place
The single most important decision you’ll make as a prospector is where to pan for gold! The shiny stuff can actually be found in nearly every creek bed in the continental U.S. (and around the world) but some spots are bristling with more than others. In fact, most areas have so little available that you could spend weeks panning and still never find a drop.

Look for creeks and streams and be sure to start your panning downstream. Most gold deposits come from up above and will wash down with the flow of the water, so you want to find a spot where the current isn’t too rough and it might’ve had a chance to settle into the ground. If you’re willing to travel a bit the best spots in the country are definitely out west. Just make sure it’s legal to pan in your area before you begin.

Practice Your Technique
One of the greatest things about panning is there’s no one right way to do it, so you have plenty of room to work on your technique. There are a few basic steps to follow, though, if you want to effectively pan for gold.

First, you’ll want to dip your pan into the stream and fill it roughly ¾ of the way up with sand and gravel. Be sure to shake it in a clockwise motion while under the current so that the heavier metals can find their way to the bottom of the pan. You’ll also want to shake it under a section of the stream where the current is actively moving to aid in the removal of lighter sediments and dirt.

Once you’ve pulled the pan out of the water there should only be a couple of inches of dirt left behind, if done properly. Dip a little water back into the pan and swish the contents around unless you have just black sand and gold. Some kits include a magnet so you can pull the sand to the bottom of the pan and separate it from the gold more easily, but you can also pick through with tweezers or just use your fingers.

Have a glass vial on hand so you can place any gold flakes you find into quick storage, since constantly walking back and forth from the water to land can get exhausting.

As you progress in your panning you’ll develop your own techniques and discover what tools you prefer and which you’d rather leave behind.

Camp Games and Activities

Geocaching: The Outdoor Game for Literally Anyone

July 7, 2016
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobnrenee/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobnrenee/

As a kid, you probably imagined going on a treasure hunt, maybe battling some pirates or thieves and ultimately finding a chest full of gold and jewels. While geocaching won’t provide you will any gold coins or high seas expeditions, it is a thrilling treasure hunt.

For those unfamiliar with the game, geocaching is, essentially, a worldwide scavenger hunt. All you need is a smartphone or GPS to help you navigate your way to a set of coordinates. Sometimes there are clues to decipher and trails to climb. Sometimes the geocache is carefully hidden in the trees. Sometimes it can be as small as a thimble, an sometimes it will be a large container. Most contain a logbook to sign your name in, and many have little trinkets like figurines, marbles or coins that you can collect. Be sure to bring something of your own to leave behind! With more than 2 million geocaches all over the world, there are endless opportunities for a variety of ages and skill levels. If you want to join the hunt, here’s how to get started.

 

Join a Geocaching Community

There are many geocaching groups and online communities across the world. If you’re a newcomer, you may want to go with a group or learn more about it before you set off on your trek. Joining a geocaching community can help you learn some skills, make friends and get connected to your new hobby. The biggest online community is Geocaching.com, and there are many forums and local groups you can also join.

 

Select a Cache

You can find a geocache to hunt for based on distance, difficulty, terrain or other features. Simply copy or print the coordinates and let the hunt begin! Many caches are listed with users’ comments or stories about the cache or items inside. Be sure to prepare for your trek, as some caches are difficult to find and require hiking long distances. However, there are many very simple geocaches, and there are likely a few in your own neighborhood!

 

The Rules

While there are no official rules of geocaching, some government websites or groups list their own sets of guidelines. Most are common-sense pieces of advice: do not trespass on private property, minimize harm to nature, do not deface or remove the geocache from its location and do not endanger yourself or others. If you decide to bring a trinket to leave with the cache, make sure it is something that will not spill, leak, rot or attract animals. If you decide to plant your own geocache, make sure you use a watertight container that cannot be eaten or carried of by wildlife. You should also be aware of any geocache placement restrictions, as some cities and states forbid placements on certain lands.

Next time you’re camping, take an hour or a full day to join the world’s largest scavenger hunt by getting outside, making some memories and finding some treasure!

Camp Games and Activities

Tips for Taking Your Kids on Their First Hike

June 30, 2016

bb9f9777Every outdoor parent’s dream is to raise a little hiker of their own, but too many missteps out of the gate can cause your kid to hate heading outside the rest of his life. There’s no better way to introduce him to the beauty of nature than that first hike. To make sure he enjoys himself so much that he wants to do it all the time, keep these tips in mind.

Get him his own pack
Children, even the small ones, love feeling like they have a little autonomy. Your kid will enjoy his first hike more if you give him a toy to take along in the form of his own backpack. There are plenty of kid-size varieties available and you can make a game of it by allowing him to help pack his own bag before you go.

Stay level
A lot of folks try to take on too much their first time out the door with their kids, which can turn them off to hiking indefinitely. Focus more on having fun than completing a challenge. Shorter, level hikes that don’t take too much out of them are perfect starters that’ll help make them want to push a little further the next time out.

Work in rest stops
Children wear out quickly on long hikes, so make sure you add in time for extra pit stops along the way. You don’t want to end up carrying your toddler half the trip, so help him stay on his own two feet by working in rest stops every mile or so, or whenever he lets you know his legs need a break.

Bring their friends
As much as we all want our kids to think we’re the greatest, most exciting people in the world, it’s a sad fact that they tend to get bored of our old-people antics pretty quickly. To help keep him entertained try inviting along some of his friends. They’ll keep each other occupied while you can relax a little on the hike.

Camp close to the trailhead
In case of emergency you want to have an easy exit plan. Rather than choosing a campsite way off the beaten path make sure you stay within a mile or so of the trailhead. If your child gets himself into trouble in the middle of the night you’ll have an easier path out to get him help.

Share chores
When setting up camp for the night make sure to include the kid (or kids!) in the fun. Have him help set up the tent, maybe cook a little dinner or just collect wood for the fire. The key is to make him feel included and like he’s contributing, otherwise he’ll just feel like a nuisance and wonder why you brought him along if you didn’t want his help.

Give him a whistle
Safety is tantamount to a good hike. It’s okay to let your kid wander around on and off the trail a bit, exploration is part of the adventure, but give him the tools to keep himself safe if you’re going to let him off leash, so to speak. A whistle is a great way to give him a little space. If he stumbles upon something dangerous he can blow it and you’ll know to come running. It’s also great for him to have on hand in case something happens where you get separated, or you’re injured and he needs to make noise to draw in help.

Practice at home
Before heading out onto the trail you should practice camping at home to get your child used to sleeping in a tent. Some kids are uncomfortable resting their heads anyplace other than their own bed, so camping out in the backyard will help him get used to the idea. Plus, if you teach him how to set up camp at home that’s less you have to do yourself on the trail!