State Park Independence Day Celebrations

Fireworks, delicious barbecue, and a healthy dose of American pride are the perfect ingredients for a successful Independence Day celebration. And what better way to show your nationalism than heading out into gorgeous nature and supporting a local state park? Here are just three parks that offer a fun way to spend the upcoming Fourth of July.

Gorgeous fireworks.

Nothing says Independence Day like an amazing fireworks show! [Image: http://sf.funcheap.com/4th-july-fireworks-show-san-pablo/]

Sunset Patriotic Paddle Parade

Paddle along the peaceful shores of Texas’ Martin Creek Lake State Park or their Sunset Patriotic Paddle Parade. Limited amounts of rentals are available, so arrive early or bring your own kayak. And don’t forget those decorations—make sure you and your boat arrive decked out in your red, white, and blue-est!

More info: 903-836-4336 or lisa.male@tpwd.texas.gov

A boat covered in American flags and a huge Statue of Liberty.

Refer to this photo as inspiration for your patriotic boat. [Image: http://houseboats.com/photo-galleries/american-spirit-patriotic-photos/]

Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration

Nothing says love for your country’s history like taking a trip back in time at California’s Wilder Ranch State Park for their Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration. Join in on the parade that travels through the complex to the front lawn where speeches, a flag raising, and patriotic music await. Dress in your early 1900s best and bring some musical instruments, then exchange your present-day bills for some neat 1900s tokens! Afterwards stick around for food or pack a picnic and relax at the park.

More info: 831-426-0505

Three women dressed in old fashioned 1900s clothing in a carriage being pulled by horses.

Past participants in the Old Fashioned Independence Day Celebration. [Image: http://www.santacruzca.org/events/index.php?evtid=7793]

Independence Day Fishing Rodeo

Bring your kids over to Georgia’s Reed Bingham State Park where the Friends of Reed Bingham are hosting an Independence Day Fishing Rodeo. Prizes will be awarded, and anyone under 12 is urged to compete. There’s really no better way to celebrate America’s independence than going fishin’!

More info: 229-896-3551

Two kids fishing holding a fish.

Bring the whole family out for an exciting day of fishing! [Image: http://www.hukgear.com/blogs/news/20038915-tips-for-taking-kids-fishing]

Don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® Mobile Apps to find out about other Fourth of July events at a state park near you!

The Beehive Hike, Acadia National Park

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Acadia National Park is special for many reasons. Between the historic carriage road system, and its history as the oldest park east of the Mississippi River, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. But it’s also easily accessible, easy to get around in, and home to one of my favorite hikes of all time – the Beehive.

Earlier this spring, Pocket Ranger covered a multitude of things to do and reasons to visit. Among one of the most pressing reasons to visit the Park is simply that it’s home to Cadillac Mountain, one of the most stunning places I’ve had the opportunity to watch a sunset, in addition to the iconic Jordan Pond, fascinating natural features like Thunder Hole, and opportunities to camp on an island accessible only by boat.

On a trip to Acadia with my family a handful of summers ago, one of the things I felt most excited about was exploring the area trails with my mother and brother. I’ve hiked all over the east coast with friends, but it was an opportunity for us to experience the outdoors together as a family. We camped on Isle Au Haut, hiked around Jordan Pond on the Jordan Pond Nature Trail, and explored the trails up the North and South Bubbles. But one of my favorite moments of the trip remains reaching the summit of the Beehive with my brother.

man on the cliff at Acadia National Park

Image Credit: Katie Levy

The Beehive is described as one of the most strenuous trails in the park, and at first glance, I had no idea why. The Beehive itself is just over 500 feet tall and the Beehive Trail itself is less than a mile long. We parked near Sand Beach, which gave us easy access to the trail. Visitors can also take the free Island Explorer bus during the busy season; it’s an easy way to get around, and roads can be full of traffic in the summer.

Man scrambling at Acadia National Park

Image Credit: Katie Levy

We started up the trail, located right before the parking lot entrance, and the beginning of our 1.5 mile round trip hike looked like any other Acadia National Park trail. It was rocky, wooded, and easy to follow thanks to frequent bright blue blazes and signs showing us the way.

Blue blaze at Acadia National Park

Image Credit: Katie Levy

The trail did get steep, and at one point, I peeked through the trees amazed to see tiny figures hundreds of feet above us picking their way along exposed ledges. I’d read about strategically placed iron rungs to help hikers scale parts of the trail that would otherwise be impossible on foot, but wasn’t quite prepared for what we’d find.

The Beehive Trail got steeper and steeper, and eventually, some hand-over-hand climbing was required. At one point along the trail, we clung to slipper iron hand holds and crossed an iron ladder with only air below us. My brother led the way, occasionally stopping to make sure I was still behind him and in one piece. He frequently reminded me not to look down, though the views of Sand Beach were tough to pass up. When we reached the top, I breathed a sigh of relief, particularly because we could take the much tamer Bowl Trail back to the bottom.

Looking down at the end of a trail at Acadia National Park

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Bottom line? If you’re looking for a quick hike with a bit of an adrenaline rush, you’re not going to want to miss the Beehive. It took us a little over an hour, including stops at the top and along the way, and the views were absolutely spectacular. Keep in mind the Beehive Trail isn’t recommended for children, but the top and the views are accessible via a handful of other trails.

Have you been to Acadia National Park? Have you hiked the Beehive? We’d love to hear from you!

Five Interesting Trees from Around the World

The world is filled with a plethora of awe-inspiring, wondrous trees. Whether they’re staggeringly tall, far older than most living humans, or made a wave in Hollywood, each has a unique story behind them. As we come to the end of spring, we want to pay homage to some of the most interesting trees in the world.

1. Old Wisteria, Japan

A huge Wisteria tree in Japan.

Tour underneath the magical canopy of Old Wisteria. [Image: http://iwastesomuchtime.com/]

This miraculous 144-year-old Wisteria tree can be found in the Ashikaga Flower Park in Japan, a space that it totally transforms and takes over. Although not the largest Wisteria, it spans about half an acre and is a sight to behold. Its vines (not branches) are held up by steel rods to make it easy for tree lovers to walk underneath its alluring canopy.

2. Rhododendron Tree, Canada

A gigantic Rhododendron shrub.

This Rhododendron has moved from shrub to tree territory. [Image: http://lowboredom.com/]

Normally only seen in bush form, this 125-year-old Rhododendron has grown into an expansive tree in front of a house in Canada. Now that’s a healthy looking shrub!

3. Pirangi Cashew Tree, Brazil

A huge tree that takes up over two-acres.

Brazil’s Pirangi Cashew tree takes up over two-acres! [Image: http://ifactss.blogspot.com/]

Planted by a fisherman in 1888 that didn’t realize that the plant would grow to take up so much space (almost two-acres!), the Pirangi Cashew tree in Grande do Norte, Brazil is the largest cashew tree in the world. Genetic mutations made it possible for this tree to grow as fast and large as it did, and it’s now a popular park that locals and tourists alike enjoy.

4. The Tule Tree, Mexico

An enormous tree trunk in Mexico.

The Tule Tree is an impressive and gigantic Montezuma Cypress tree. [Image: http://www.grayline.com/]

Found on the grounds of Santa María del Tule in Oaxaca, The Tule Tree is one of the oldest and largest Montezuma Cypress trees in the world. The tree measures at 114-feet wide and 116-feet high and is thought to be approximately 2,000 years old. Grab some friends and try hugging this behemoth!

5. The Tree of Life, Bahrain 

A tree in the desert in front of a setting sun.

The isolated yet marvelous Tree of Life is a worthwhile sight! [Image: http://www.bahtaxi.com/]

It’s hard to miss this beauty as it’s the only major tree in the area and is a huge tourist attraction in Bahrain. The tree is about 400 years old atop a sandy hill that formed over a 500-year-old fortress and is approximately 32-feet tall. Many artifacts have been uncovered around the tree, including some that may date back to the Dilmun civilization.

6. BONUS: Tree of Ténéré, Niger 

An isolated tree in the desert.

The Tree of Ténéré was a fascinating tree with an unfortunate end. [Image: http://knowledgenuts.com/]

This last one is a bit of a stretch since unfortunately the Tree of Ténéré is no longer alive, but it was a phenomenal tree with an unfortunate, somewhat heartbreaking end that deserves recognition. It was the only tree for more than 250-miles in the Sahara Desert, reaching about 108-118 feet underground into the water table to sustain life. Unfortunately a drunk truck driver crashed and destroyed the tree in 1973, literally the only structure to be found for miles.

Now that you know where to find these marvels, there’s no reason not to head out and track them down! Download our Pocket Ranger® State Parks Apps and National Park Passport Guide App to find gorgeous trees near you.

A Rocky Mountain Classic Trail

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Mountainous view of Rocky Mountain National Park

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Rocky Mountain National Park is one of America’s most treasured landscapes, covering almost 250,000 acres of forested hills, icy peaks, and pristine alpine lakes. Bear, moose, and elk spread across this wilderness, making a majority of Colorado’s Front Range. The Rockies are beloved among hikers and mountaineers, featuring some of America’s most well-known peaks, trails, and scenery. When first entering the park, the ice-glazed walls rising over the pine-covered forests appear intimidating, but what makes Rocky Mountain National Park special is that its most iconic views are so easily accessible.

The trail that leads from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake is one of the easiest yet scenic walks in the park. The path follows a series of alpine lakes surrounded by glaciated walls, towering peaks, and lush verdant forests. Just off Highway 36, the trail starts in a fir and aspen wooded forest, following a well-maintained path which opens to Bear Lake, just under a tenth of a mile into the hike. Surrounded by forests and mud-colored stone, the lake is especially spectacular in the early morning or evening, when the light filtering through the trees shimmers off the calm waters.

After making a loop to the right of Bear, the trail begins an ascent up a tree-lined ridge, and as it winds around the corner, the forest suddenly drops below, and hikers are rewarded with a mesmerizing vista of jagged Longs Peak and pyramidal Hallett’s Peak, two iconic Rocky Mountain summits. The trail loops around the smaller Nymph Lake, and keeps climbing through the forest before coming to the shores of Dream Lake, set in a breathtaking granite bowl under the dramatic point of Hallett’s Peak. In the winter, the entire lake freezes over just enough to walk into the center of the ice and revel in the quietness of a Rocky Mountain winter. In the early morning, the sun shines through from the valley behind and bathes the granite walls in a delicate golden sheen. For the best views, get here at sunrise or early evening and watch for bear, elk, and moose who frequently come down to graze on the shore.

Man on frozen Nymph Lake at Rocky Mountain

Image Credit: Mike Restivo

Looping around the east shore of Dream Lake, the trail loses its definition, as it ascends through boulder-strewn fields, dense woodlands and rocky cliffs, which begin an ascent above the tree line. Hiking turns to scrambling and Longs Peak rises menacingly in the distance, as the trail begins to feel like an alpine wonderland of ice-covered walls, soaring, sharp architecture, and an eerie winter silence. While in the summer, the trail crowds with hikers, under the snow it feels remote and secluded, with rushing streams of melting snow, thin patches of ice, and a trail that has hikers clawing through the trees and post-holing through fresh powder.

Entering the basin of Emerald Lake reveals the fortress-like Flattop Mountain on the left, with Hallett’s summit rising just behind. In the late spring, as the Tyndall Glacier begins to melt, several waterfalls rush down the face. In the winter, the ice provides opportunities for some of Colorado’s most classic alpine climbing.

Man beneath trees in front of the water at Rocky Mountain

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

While it’s a beloved Rocky Mountain trail, Bear Lake to Emerald lake takes on two distinctly different atmospheres in the summer and winter. In the summer, it’s a warm, green trail with enticing cool lakes, spectacular views across the valley, and sun-kissed paths. In the winter, it takes on a calm, almost meditative like environment of cold wind filtering through the mountains, ice-covered lakes, and walls of cascading glaciers. While it is a classic and beloved trail, it’s also not one that’s loved to death. Nonetheless, it provides a little something for everyone.

Poems for Summer

Whenever a new season comes along we like to celebrate with poems (winter and spring). If you haven’t had the time to peek out your window yet— summer is here! To liven up the first days, we invite you to read our poems for summer, and bask in the images.

Image: www.noelalva.com

Image: www.noelalva.com

Reverie in Open Air
By Rita Dove

I acknowledge my status as a stranger:
Inappropriate clothes, odd habits
Out of sync with wasp and wren.
I admit I don’t know how
To sit still or move without purpose.
I prefer books to moonlight, statuary to trees.

But this lawn has been leveled for looking,
So I kick off my sandals and walk its cool green.
Who claims we’re mere muscle and fluids?
My feet are the primitives here.
As for the rest—ah, the air now
Is a tonic of absence, bearing nothing
But news of a breeze.

Image: www. etherealplant.tumblr.com/post/118795783134

Image: www. etherealplant.tumblr.com/post/118795783134

Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child
Darcy Cummings

One summer afternoon, I learned my body
like a blind child leaving a walled
school for the first time, stumbling
from cool hallways to a world
dense with scent and sound,
pines roaring in the sudden wind
like a huge chorus of insects.
I felt the damp socket of flowers,
touched weeds riding the crest
of a stony ridge, and the scrubby
ground cover on low hills.
Haystacks began to burn,
smoke rose like sheets of
translucent mica. The thick air
hummed over the stretched wires
of wheat as I lay in the overgrown field
listening to the shrieks of small rabbits
bounding beneath my skin.

My Mother on an Evening in Late Summer
Mark Strand

When the moon appears
and a few wind-stricken barns stand out
in the low-domed hills
and shine with a light
that is veiled and dust-filled
and that floats upon the fields,
my mother, with her hair in a bun,
her face in shadow, and the smoke
from her cigarette coiling close
to the faint yellow sheen of her dress,
stands near the house
and watches the seepage of late light
down through the sedges,
the last gray islands of cloud
taken from view, and the wind
ruffling the moon’s ash-colored coat
on the black bay.

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/258957047293303545/

Image: www.pinterest.com/pin/258957047293303545/

Tropical Courtyard
Joe Bolton

It is a rage against geometry:
The spiked fans of the palmetto arcing
Like improvised brushstrokes in the light breeze;
Like shadowplay, somewhere a dog barking.

Against the height of new and old brick walls,
Confounding stone, transplanted pine and palm
Lift in imperfection, as heavy bells
That would force order fade into the calm

Of azure and a faint scent of musk.
(Is it eucalyptus or just the past?)
There’s nothing in this warm, vegetal dusk
That is not beautiful or that will last.

Summer Fun at Waldameer Park & Water World in Erie, PA

Summer is almost here, which means breaks and vacations and longer days with more daylight. And that means fun in the sun at pools, beaches and amusement parks!

One of the best places where you can find summer fun for the whole family is at Waldameer Park & Water World in Erie, PA.

Girl smiling while riding on a carousel at Waldameer Park & Water World. [Image Credit: VisitErie]

Image Credit: VisitErie

One of America’s oldest amusement parks, Waldameer features more than 75 great attractions including thrilling coasters and family classics as well as rides for the little ones. There are also challenging midway games, tasty summertime foods and great, free entertainment with 3 musical shows daily at the Showtime Theatre.

Thrilled riders on the world-class Ravine Flyer II coaster at Waldameer Park & Water World. [Image Credit: VisitErie]

Image Credit: VisitErie

Among its most popular rides is the Ravine Flyer II, the roller coaster that gained national attention when it opened in 2008. Ranked as the 6th best wooden coaster in the world, it boasts a 120-foot first drop and over 3000 feet of track. With speeds over 60 mph, this classic coaster sends thrilled riders soaring on a 165-foot arched bridge over Peninsula Drive.

Happy boy having fun on a water slide at Waldameer Park & Water World. [Image Credit: VisitErie]

Image Credit: VisitErie

In addition to the amusement park, Waldameer also features Water World, an entire water park full of unique slides and attractions for all ages. Visitors can find 16 slides of different thrill levels, Kiddie Pool areas for little ones, an Endless River and a Heated Relaxing Pool. But the main attraction is the water park’s latest one that recently debuted – a giant outdoor wave pool.

The biggest wave pool in the tri-state area at Waldameer Park & Water World. [Image: www.facebook.com/Waldameer]

Image: www.facebook.com/Waldameer

The largest of its kind in the tri-state area, Waldameer’s $10 million Wave Pool holds nearly 500,000 gallons of water and can accommodate 1,000 people. A modern marvel of engineering that mimics the ocean and nearby Lake Erie, the pool slopes gently to accommodate small children and reaches a maximum depth of 6 feet. Designed to have plenty of variety, it can generate two dozen different wave patterns ranging from gentle to rough waves reaching four feet high. The waves occur in intervals, with 10 minutes of breakers and 10 minutes of calm, to avoid fatigue. Behind the scenes, the state-of-the-art attraction uses 2 filtration tanks that cost $100,000 each. Not surprisingly, the Wave Pool is the most expensive ride in the 119-year history of the family-owned Waldameer. It is the centerpiece of an expansion plan that includes more water park attractions, a tramway, a boat ride and more.

Young girls enjoying ice cream at Waldameer Park & Water World. [Image Credit: VisitErie]

Image Credit: VisitErie

Summer is the best time to go exploring and have an adventure, or find a quiet, secluded place to de-stress and relax. Either way, be sure to put Erie, PA and Waldameer Park & Water World on your list of places to visit. Regardless of where you end up this summer, don’t forget to download our Pocket Ranger® Mobile Apps to get the latest information about the parks and recreation areas near you.

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at a State Park Near You

Two hands that look like they're holding the sun.

Welcome back, summer! Oh, how we’ve missed you. [Image: http://www.care2.com/]

Although the warm weather has arrived, summer hasn’t officially begun until this weekend during the summer solstice. Typically falling between June 20th and June 22nd, the summer solstice is the longest day and shortest night in the northern hemisphere (the opposite occurs simultaneously in the southern hemisphere during their winter solstice).

The summer solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is farthest from the equator and is also known as the “estival solstice” or “midsummer.” Around the world and across many different cultures, the summer solstice has been recognized as a time to celebrate through holidays, rituals, and festivals. So what better way to welcome the warmth than heading out to a state park? Here are just three of the many state park summer solstice activities occurring this weekend.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Florida

A group of people in a circle in the woods holding drums.

Grab your bongos and drum in the season! [Image: http://projectavalon.net/]

A Tequesta Drum Circle will be held from 7 p.m. until midnight at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Florida hosted by the Moon Path Circle. The event is named to honor the Tequesta Indians, and there will be belly dancers, a gigantic bonfire, nature poems, and, of course, drums. It’s a holistic, environmentally aware way to celebrate summer and connect with the planet as it flows along its natural path.

More info: 954-564-4521

Old Stone Fort State Park, Tennessee

Sun shining through daisies.

Visit a spot that had prime views of the summer solstice sunrise. [Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/longint57/539260752]

Tennessee’s gorgeous Old Stone Fort State Park is full of exciting fishing and hiking opportunities. The main trail follows the walls of Old Stone Fort and traverses through areas that were once used as Native American ceremonial gathering places. At the original fort entrance, there was a perfect view of the spot on the horizon where the sun rises during the summer solstice. Learn about the fort through interpretive panels, check out the gorgeous waterfalls, and end your tour at one of the best spots for greeting summer.

More info: 931-723-5073

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park, Arkansas

Toltec Mounds in Arkansas.

Tour the gorgeous Toltec Mounds and ring in the summer. [Image: http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/toltecmounds/]

Bring the whole family out to Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park in Arkansas to celebrate the summer solstice and official arrival of the season. There will be primitive-styled weapons to play around with and crafts. At 6 p.m., the park staff will explain the correlation of the mounds’ alignment with the summer solstice sunset and then provide a guided sunset tour of the mounds at 7 p.m. Ease into the summer’s inevitable heat by relaxing at the Toltec Mounds.

More info: 501-961-9442 or toltecmounds@arkansas.com

We’re thankful that the cold months are behind us for now, and we’re fully ready to soak up the sun this summer. Make sure you’ve got all your summer gear, and start making plans to head out to a state or national park near you!