Three Beautiful Lighthouses to Visit this Year

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Though in many cases lighthouses are no longer a necessity when it comes to travel by sea, they’re still fascinating landmarks and beacons to behold. Many have important histories and meanings, while others are significant simply because they’re beautiful sights to take in. While some coastal landscapes boast a high concentration of lighthouses, to me there are three that stand out as must-visit destinations in the warmer weather to come.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse, King Range National Conservation Area, California

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Image: Katie Levy

Nestled above a sandy beach and below rolling hills and mountains, the tiny abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse serves as a landmark for Lost Coast Trail backpackers. It’s also a perfect day-hiking destination for those willing to walk three miles one-way in the sand on one of California’s most remote stretches of coastal trail and also willing to pay close attention to tide tables.

Punta Gorda was once dubbed “the Alcatraz of Lighthouses” because of its inaccessibility and those sent there to operate it. Originally consisting of three two-story dwellings, a signal house, a concrete light building with a curved iron stairway, and more, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1951 in favor of an off-shore beacon. Punta Gorda has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and both the inaccessibility and history make it well-worth the visit.

Friends and I paid a visit to Punta Gorda on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast Trail, and our stop there made for some incredible memories. We climbed up what’s left of the lighthouse to hold court over the harbor seals basking in the sun on the beach, listened to the waves crash below, and saw miles of trail we’d covered already, along with what was to come. It’s a pretty special place.

Visit the BLM website for more information.

Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park, Maine

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Bass Harbor

Image: Katie Levy

Standing tall above Bass Harbor’s rocky coastline within Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Light has served as a beacon for travelers since the late 1800s. Today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but remains active and serves as a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.

On a trip to Acadia last summer, I had the lighthouse at the top of my must-visit landmarks list as a result of the number of stunning photos I’d seen. Unlike the remote Punta Gorda lighthouse, Acadia’s Bass Harbor Head Light is accessible via short concrete path from a small parking lot. A short walk takes visitors from the comforts of their vehicles to within inches of Maine’s rugged coastline. Friends and I stopped there after a long day of hiking, and despite not having to work too hard to get there, the Bass Harbor Head Light was a worthwhile visit.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information, and click here and here for some of my favorite hikes in Acadia.

Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, New York

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Tibbetts Point

Image: Katie Levy

I was lucky enough to spend many a summer during my formative years in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The Thousand Islands—a collection of close to 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River straddling the border between the United States and Canada—is also home to a number of big, beautiful lighthouses. My favorite? The lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, New York.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse was built in 1827, and in the 1990s, the lighthouse was formally acquired by the town from the Department of the Interior. I have fond memories of visiting the visitors center as a child, which was built in 1993. Over the past nearly two decades, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Society funded a series of renovations both inside and outside of the lighthouse.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is particularly special because it marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, and it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in that part of the state, in my humble opinion!

Visit the town’s website for more information.

There are so many beautiful lighthouses to visit around the country and around the world! Have you been to any of these? What others would you say are must-visit lighthouses, and why?

Life After Chernobyl: Wildlife Thrives

30 years after the Chernobyl disaster, wildlife thrives in the radioactive zone.

The Chernobyl disaster was a wildly catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. The accident occurred on Tuesday, April 26, 1986 and has since then been categorized as the worst nuclear disaster in history. It was also classified as a level seven, which is the maximum classification in the International Nuclear Event Scale.

chernobyl

The Chernobyl nuclear plant after the disaster. The catastrophe involved more than 500,000 workers, left 31 dead, cost approximately 18 billion rubles, and led to massive radioactive contamination that contributed to long-term effects, such as cancer. [Image: www.nytimes.com/]

The catastrophe was such that the city of Pripyat where the Chernobyl power plant was located was completely evacuated of all residents. It is now an abandoned city and is considered part of the 30-km Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation (also known as the “Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,” the “30 Kilometer Zone,” or “The Zone”).

Since then—with the exception of other structural collapses, contamination-limiting projects, and spontaneous fires in the vicinity—the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has been devoid of people. But 30 years after the disaster, in an area devoid of human occupancy, wildlife activity is seen to thrive.

bison herd in chernobyl

A bison herd near the abandoned village of Dronki, Belarus. [Image: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

While there may have been some immediate effects in wildlife, nature has since reclaimed the area. Moose, deer, European bison, hares, foxes, wild boars, and grey wolves are only a few of the animals that are thriving in the radioactive zone. Perhaps one of the greatest questions is: How are wildlife surviving in such a highly radioactive area?

chernobyl horse

The wild Przewalski’s horse (other common names include the Dzungarian horse, the Asian Wild horse, Mongolian wild horse, takhi, or the Przewalski’s wild horse) is an endangered species and extinct in the wild, but was introduced to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. After the introduction, the species rapidly thrived and grew to up to 200 individuals from only a dozen until they were reduced to 30–40 individuals as of 2011 due to poachers. [Image: Genya Savilov/AFP–Getty Images]

The answer may lie in different genetic makeups and some less contaminated areas of the seclusion zone. But the genetic effects are still evident in the Chernobyl animals. Many of the grey wolves, for instance, have cataracts in their eyes, and some birds have smaller brains. Though there are no other easily identifiable direct genetic consequences of just how much the radiation is affecting the animals in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in terms of genetic damage and injury, the animals are, for all intents and purposes, indeed thriving in a zone where humans have been removed.

With the exception of the occasional illegal hunting that occurs in the Exclusion Zone, wildlife’s numbers have been increasing impressively. The grey wolves’ numbers in Chernobyl are estimated to be more than that of the numbers present in Yosemite and are seven times bigger than the official Ukraine nature reserves.

Wildlife’s flourishing numbers are a testament to the damage that humans can do to them. Abandoned farms and hollowed-out hotels have given way to overgrown weeds and thick shrubs that are now prime for new animal homes. Because of this, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now considered one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in Europe. It is an important reminder of the extent of human influence and just how much we can affect wildlife’s populations.

With that, we leave you a video of an ingenuous Chernobyl fox making a sandwich. Sure shows how much they’re flourishing!

Let Thermacell Up Your Mosquito-Repellent Game

As avid outdoors people, who hate being mosquito candy, we at Pocket Ranger® are pleased to announce our new sponsor, Thermacell®!

Thermacell logo.

Image: www.thermacell.com/

Thermacell is, of course, an incredible mosquito-repelling technology that bears a 98 percent effectiveness rating. It is used by governmental agencies, on military bases, and by civilians in their yards and in swamps, meadows, and any outdoor space across the U.S. where mosquitos lurk. The product is vetted and championed by campers, hunters, hikers, boaters, and anyone else who’s used it where flying, biting insects attempt to invade our personal space.

Camper with mosquito-repellent lantern.

This camper, right in the thick of the mosquito’s native habitat, opens his tent flap wide. Why? Because of those awesome Thermacell® mosquito-repelling lanterns he’s using to clearly excellent effect! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

Thermacell’s Patio and Outdoor Lanterns, Torches, and “Repeller” Appliances all create the same noninvasive and virtually odor-free area of protection for stationary uses and mobile ones. “How does this work?” you might ask. Well, the (easily-researched) secret ingredient in Thermacell’s mosquito repellent is allethrin, a synthetic form of the insecticide that occurs naturally in chrysanthemums. Allethrin is essentially odorless and works in Thermacell devices through butane-operated diffusion. There’s no oily topical application or the usual bug spray scent, and the effect covers anyone within its 15’ x 15’ area of protection.

Hikers that AREN'T itchy!

Look at these guys! Taking a placid, dimly lit walk without worrying about the meal that would no doubt be their exposed arms and calves, were it not for that shining Thermacell lantern! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

The lanterns and torches have a convenient base or attach easily to a pole while emanating enough light to allow one to rummage through a fishing tackle or play a card game. The repeller devices easily attach to belts, backpacks, or a pocket for portable and hands-free protection against the bugs that pester even the best prepared hikers among us. If you’re changing the oil in your car, relaxing with friends around a bonfire, spending your day as a professional or recreational landscaper/gardener, or are just anyone who enjoys being outside as much as we do, this is the device for you. No more hovering pests looking to make a meal of you!

Grow food, don't BE food!

Here’s a representation (with some graphic embellishment) of how nice it can be to grow food and not BE food. Note: The svelte device working hard to keep the gardener’s hands free to work their green-thumbed magic! [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

Perhaps best of all, each of the repellent devices is designed to be lightweight and portable and are powered by AA batteries. So you don’t have to worry about cords or charging, and least of all, wrangling bulky lighting gear and bug spray out to your favorite campsite, tree stand, or fishing spot. It’s all compact and conveniently located within a single device!

To hunt and not be hunted.

Fun fact: Thermacell’s Earth Scent Mosquito Repeller is the only butane-operated mosquito repellent that doubles as a mask for human scent, which is as good a combination a hunter could hope for to keep the focus on hunting rather than being hunted. [Image: www.thermacell.com/]

If you think we’re stoked about our new sponsor, you’re right! We’re all about getting outside and doing what we love, and this device definitely adds to the quality of outdoor adventure. If you’re curious, you can find out more about this wonderful mosquito-repellent technology by visiting the Thermacell website here. You’ll learn about how the devices work, what they’re guarding against, and how to get your hands on your very own Lantern, Repeller, or Torch! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to use your favorite Pocket Ranger mobile apps to plan a perfect trip to give those mosquito repellers a whirl!

An Ode to Nature

With the passing of Earth Day, we’ve become introspective, and our appreciation for this beautiful world around us has flourished. We look around and marvel at Mother Nature, and especially so as trees bloom and spring wraps us in its warm embrace. So here’s to you, Earth. This post’s for you and all that you do for us on our good days (and even the bad).

Mother Nature.

Mother Nature, you crazy beautiful. [Image: http://hdwallpaperbackgrounds.net/]

Thank you for supplying us with your far-reaching and entrancing beauty.

Some days when life feels difficult or a day just seems to drag on, the best medicine tends to be a trip outdoors. With the sun warming our faces, the rain patting us on the back, or the breeze gently encouraging us along, it’s easy to find some kind of calming reassurance outside.

Thank you for introducing us to plenty of fun creatures to look upon (but not touch!).

Bear mother and cubs.

Peek-a-boo. [Image: http://www.shanemcdermottphotography.com/]

The wildlife around us is astounding—look up, look down, look left, look right, and you’re sure to see something wriggling about. On top of all the glorious animals we come across in our travels, we also get to see plenty of breathtaking wildflowers and trees. Living, breathing, and with tops pointed up toward the sun, it’s easy to admire the magnificent flora covering our world.

Thank you for making it so easy to explore your seemingly endless acres.

Whether it’s by hiking to new heights, swimming to dark depths, camping out under the stars, climbing a mountain on two wheels, or scaling a rocky surface, there’s so many ways to explore in the great outdoors. If you see something that intrigues you, there’s probably a unique way that you can become acquainted with it.

Man swimming near underwater bench.

There’s much to discover out there. [Image: http://www.agapevoyage.com/]

With so much around us to take in, it feels like there’s really no reason to not spend every free moment outside! If you’re interested in helping to preserve this beautiful world of ours, look into volunteering opportunities in a state or national park near you. Then make sure you bring our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to enhance your outdoor experience.

National Park Week Celebration

As previously mentioned in one of our posts titled “The National Park Centennial,” the National Park Service turned 100 years old this week! And in order to commemorate this momentous event, the NPS launched a National Park Week starting from April 16–24.

So what does the National Park Week entail?

Free Park Entrance

hiking in mt. rainier

A hiker absorbing the impressive views of the Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park. [Image: www.nationalgeograpic.com/]

That’s right! National Park Week offers free admission through the week of April 16–24. The National Park Service typically offers a couple of free admission days throughout the calendar year, but this is the longest offering in celebration of the centennial. There are over 400 national parks, 127 of which normally charge an entrance fee. With this week not only is admission waived, commercial and transportation fees are also included in the package. Take note that reservation, camping tours, concessions, and other fees that may be collected by third parties are not included unless otherwise stated.

National Junior Ranger Day

junior ranger program

Junior Rangers proudly presenting their Junior Ranger patch and a Junior Ranger activity book. [Image: www.nps.gov/]

The National Junior Ranger Day will be held on April 16 for children, usually between the ages of 5–13 (though people of all ages are welcome to join). What’s the NPS Junior Ranger program, you ask? The Junior Ranger motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” engages children all around the country to take an oath in protecting, learning, and sharing their knowledge and experience about parks and as acting rangers. Youth participants will have a chance to make lasting friendship with other youth rangers and obtain knowledge and interest, if not passion, for national parks. Upon completion of the program, youth rangers will receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate.

Earth Day and National Park Instameet

yosemite instameet

A great photo of exploring Yosemite in the winter by @m.gracecortez. [Image: https://www.instagram.com/m.gracecortez/]

Earth Day on April 22 and National Park Instameet on April 23 are two activities that would be great to combine together. After getting involved in activities for preservation and protection of national parks that would let you be in touch with nature, join the #Instameet event on the 23 to meet fellow national park enthusiast. Share your own personal snapshots on Instagram and other social media platforms via photos and videos using the hashtags #FindYourParkInstaMeet, #FindYourPark, #EncuentraTuParque, and #NPS100.

Park Rx Day

park rx

A group of friends hiking across the marshes of Auyuittuq National Park. [Image: www.flickr.com/ © Peter Morgan]

April 24, 2016 will be the first ever annual National Park Rx Day! The goal of Park Rx is to promote green spaces and public health in the park. It aims to not only increase the relevance of parks but to also improve people’s moods, increase physical activity, and combat obesity. This is a great way to get in touch with nature and also improve one’s physical and mental health.

National Park Week offers great experiences exploring the various national parks in the country. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in a community of enthusiasts eager to learn and share their knowledge about national parks and various endeavors by not only preserving these beauties but also to reducing their own stress in the process.

Want to get involved? Head on over to www.nps.gov for more information! And don’t forget to download the Pocket Ranger National Parks app available in the Apple Store and Google Play to have the information right within your fingertips. Have fun!

The Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County in Western New York!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

Spring is the best time to get out of the house, get on the road, and try something exciting! Perhaps you spent too much time indoors over the winter and need to get back in touch with nature. Well, the Enchanted Mountains of Cattaraugus County asks, “Where do you want to play today?”

Cattaraugus County photo of things to do

Warm up to Excitement

As the snow begins to melt and the creeks rise, Cattaraugus Creek becomes a whitewater rafter’s paradise. Head out for up to Level III Class Rapids in Zoar Valley with one of our great guide services. Spend the whole day there, taking in breathtaking beauty of the gorge and winding river. The abundance of well-stocked creeks throughout Cattaraugus County creates a great opportunity for the fishing enthusiasts, too, once trout season opens on April 1. Cattaraugus Creek has been named one of the northeast’s best top 10 steelhead fishing sites. 

Stretch those Legs

Hibernate over the winter? Smell the fresh air, watch the flowers start to blossom, and welcome the birds back. Get those weary muscles outside and on the move at Allegany State Park. Hike around the lake, drop a line in for fishing, or get the kayak out of the garage. Rock City Park opens in May, and you’ll see nature come back to life as you walk amongst the giant rocks. Griffis Sculpture Park also opens on the first of May, where steel sculptures welcome you and spring. To really warm up this season, climb through the trees and zip past the canopy lines at Sky High Adventure Park. Another Black Diamond Course was added this year, making a total of 13 different courses for you to try.

Plant New Plans

The backgrounds of New York’s Amish Trail become easy to travel on again in the springtime, which leaves you with a perfect driving tour to cure your cabin fever. Cruise quiet roads, view newly painted green fields and valleys, and purchase handmade products made by talented craftsmen. Cattaraugus County is home to Old Order Amish who adhere to strict guidelines and use no electricity, no running water, and dress in plain clothes of greys and blues. Adventure all around the western side of our county while making stops at different shops along the way that offer a variety of goods.

Renew and Energize

Spring is a time to feel rejuvenated. The Enchanted Mountains offers an excess of events when the cold weather starts to clear out. Thaw out with the Annual Maple Weekends on April 2–3, and watch the production of maple syrup right before you. The Olean Home and Garden Show on April 8–10 shows you all the latest trends and ideas for spring cleanup time in your home. Allegany State Park brings the fun in May with the Adventure Run on May 7, the GeoBash on May 20–22, and the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage the first weekend in June. Let your creative side blossom at Rock City Park’s Art and Craft Show during Mother’s Day Weekend, and make sure to have the motorcycle out of the garage in time for Gowanda’s Hollywood Happening the first weekend in June.

So get into the swing of spring ,and get outdoors in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

Volksmarching: A Sport for the People

On your mark! Get set! Go…at the pace that feels right for you! Today we’re all about a non-race where no one loses, everybody wins, and all you have to do is put your best foot forward and then the other one, and so on. Volkssporting, as the American Volkssporting Association puts it, “is an international sports phenomenon that promotes personal physical fitness and good health by providing fun-filled, safe exercise in a stress-free environment through self-paced walks and hikes, bike rides, swims, and in some regions, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.” A genuine choose-your-own-pace adventure, volkssporting’s most popular iteration is called volksmarching, where participants are tasked with hiking 6.2-miles (10km) of pre-marked paths.

[Image: www.ava.org]

A sport with no room for agism. All you need is a reasonable sense of humor and maybe a really emphatic “ta-da!” pose. [Image: www.ava.org/]

Volksmarching is characterized by flexible start times for events and lengths that can vary to accommodate participants of diverse abilities to complete the course. Hundreds of thousands of folks have participated in organized volksmarches in the last couple of years, many of them matured in years or mentality beyond the need to come in first or otherwise exert their prowess over their peers. Sounds amazing, right? Here are a few parks where the spirit of the “fun, fitness, [and] friendship” aspects of volksmarch is alive.

[Image: www.allblackhills.com]

This photo shows some of the turnout for the annual Crazy Horse Monument Volksmarch, just about 11 miles from Custer State Park. [Image: www.allblackhills.com/]

Custer State Park, South Dakota

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, the Seasonal Volksmarch Trail is open mid-May to September 30 annually. Volksmarchers at the park can register between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to hike the trail. After paying a small fee, those who complete the course are rewarded with a stamp in their distance-keeping book, called a “credit,” and for an extra dollar, a “B Award,” or a medallion from a previous year’s event. Not to mention a sense of accomplishment!

Hot Springs State Park, Wyoming

Hot Springs State Park has 6.2 miles of universally accessible trails and hiking trails, which, you may have noticed, is precisely the length needed for volksmarching. The accessibility of the trails makes Hot Springs an exceptionally fine park to enjoy the sights that come with a good walk in the West. You can access views of the Big Horn River and accompanying mineral terrace, a side effect of the hot spring that gives the park its name. The hot spring, by the way, is accessible at the park-maintained bathhouse and soaking in its free 104 degree pool is an outstanding way to relax after your volksmarch.

Volkssporting is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org]

Volksmarching is more about enjoying exercise and nature, and where better to enjoy that than along the Atlantic coast? [Image: www.floridastateparks.org/]

Sebastian Inlet State Park, Florida

Sebastian Inlet State Park is an exceptional park because it offers access to all the best things that Florida’s excellent state park system is known for: Watersport recreation, camping, fishing, biking with sea and sand abounding in an ecologically diverse and sensorial, vibrant setting. All this knitted in with the Volksport Trail, 6.2 miles on the park’s varying terrain and with elements of all its best scenery. Whether you’re ready to sprint the whole course or looking to take your time at it, you’ll have a great time at Sebastian Inlet.

We talk a lot about sports and activities that are geared toward individuals who maybe don’t have to wonder as often about the types of materials that make up a park’s trails or if there is an accessible restroom with transfer bars. But state and national parks (and indeed, the wonders of nature!) are for everyone, regardless of age or mobility. Volksmarching gets to the heart of the idea that it’s less about speed and competition and more about the journey and the companions we take or meet along the way.

For more on this and other activities where you might enjoy some fun, fitness, and friendship, download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and find a park to stretch your legs near you.