Category Archives: A to Z

Best Movies About the Great Outdoors

We’re almost reaching the end of the summer. It’s one of the best times of the year to enjoy the outdoors while also preparing for the coming colder months. What better way is there to relax and also be reminded of the beauty of nature then to kick back with some of these classic movies about the great outdoors? Here’s our pick of the best movies about the wilderness, complete with the good, the bad, and the ugly:

Walkabout, 1971

Image Credit: https://www.lewiswaynegallery.com/walkabout-1971-lobby-cards-7-jenny-agutter-p-11755.html

Image Credit: https://www.lewiswaynegallery.com/walkabout-1971-lobby-cards-7-jenny-agutter-p-11755.html

Walkabout contrasts mainstream, air-conditioned Australian society with the isolation and beauty of the Australian outback. Well-known and popular in Australia, the movie tells the story of a teenage schoolgirl and her brother stranded in the wilderness and then meeting an Aboriginal boy. The unlikely trio soon become friends and start living off the land together. Unfortunately, their paradise is short-lived. Cosmopolitan life soon very forcibly breaks apart the new friends, and their experience and connection with nature seems like a dream.

Badlands, 1973

Image Credit: http://1001movieman.blogspot.com/2014/07/560-badlands-1973.html

Image Credit: http://1001movieman.blogspot.com/2014/07/560-badlands-1973.html

For outdoor and road tripping enthusiasts who love the American landscape and have always wanted to drive cross-country, Badlands is the movie for you. This classic follows the relationship between a 25-year-old former garbage man, now full-time criminal with a 15-year-old whose hobby is baton twirling. As their literal journey unfolds through prairies, small towns, forests, and plains, the charms of rural America and the clear, expansive sky are on display. Think of Badlands as possibly one of the best travelogue-crime love stories you may ever watch.

The Last Wave, 1977

Image Credit: http://movieretrospect.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-last-wave-mystical-thriller-about.html

Image Credit: http://movieretrospect.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-last-wave-mystical-thriller-about.html

This is another Australian movie, but this time about nature as a dangerous and mysterious force in Australia. In fact, the Aboriginals and lawyer connected by their intuitive powers sense that civilization as Australia knows it, is about to be purged and rebuilt through a big natural disaster—hence, “the last wave.” Nature is the overriding and unstoppable force throughout the movie, pounding Australian cities and outlying territories with relentless rain, and disrupting modern lives and routines.

Deliverance, 1972

Image Credit: http://hawkensian.com/2014/09/26/deliverance-1972/

Image Credit: http://hawkensian.com/2014/09/26/deliverance-1972/

Deliverance is an American favorite because of its story of drama and danger amidst the Georgian wilderness. Four Atlanta businessmen intend to explore an idyllic river valley, but their trip turns into a nightmare after encountering gun-toting and sadistic hillbillies. Views of the river, gorges, and small town during overcast weather contribute to the movie’s gloomy and suspenseful atmosphere. While the thriller isn’t exactly a walk in the park, it may definitely get your heart racing.

Picnic at Hanging Rock, 1975

Image Credit: http://nymphalie.blogspot.com/2015/06/picnic-at-hanging-rock-1975.html

Image Credit: http://nymphalie.blogspot.com/2015/06/picnic-at-hanging-rock-1975.html

Picnic at Hanging Rock showcases scenic Australia, with the movie centered around a group of schoolgirls and their teachers’ picnic to Hanging Rock, a distinctive geological formation in Central Victoria. As the students explore the Hanging Rock and the surrounding area, eventually one member becomes abandoned, and cause the remaining members of the party to panic. The sunny weather and apparent peacefulness of the scene only adds mystery to the disappearance.

Many movies feature nature prominently. Hopefully, these movies spur you to experience the outdoors yourself, and be sure to download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps beforehand to make your adventure that much more comfortable.

A Day Well Spent at Wekiwa Springs State Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

There’s something missing in Florida—National Parks. We only have one and that’s down south. Way down south in the everglades. What we lack in National Parks, we greatly make up for in State Parks. We have 161 State Parks in Florida and one of the closest to Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park. Wekiwa Springs is in Apopka, FL and it’s only 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando.

Wekiwa Springs is basically an outdoor oasis amongst an urban jungle. It’s the perfect year-round getaway from the madness of the city.

Scenic view at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Image Credit: FloridaSprings.org

The summers are brutally hot here in Florida, and Wekiwa Springs has one killer spring to help the locals and tourists cool off. The spring is at the center of the park. The grassy area where you can throw down a blanket is sloped, creating an amphitheater effect. The spring itself is crystal clear and 72 degrees year-round.

Springs can be inherently dangerous to swim into. A lot of them are just massive cave systems and it’s very easy to lose direction and get lost in them. The spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park is simple and only 15 feet deep. Just swim down along the rock walls and once you hit the sandy bottom you can look underneath the rock walls to see where all the water comes screaming out of the earth.

English: An Alligator on the Wekiwa Springs Ru...

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Florida winters is prime time for hiking with the onset of cooler weather. Wekiwa Springs State Park has miles on miles of nature trails. The shorter trails are just a couple of miles and the longest trail is over 10 miles. Serious hikers love the long trail, and who wouldn’t? It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon by yourself or with a few of your close friends. Long distance runners, and all sorts of runners for that matter, love the trails. They’re great to train on with a softer running surface than the road. The trails are also well maintained, and it’s a wonderful change of scenery from running in urban landscapes.

In addition, any season is perfect paddling season in Florida. Throughout most of the year, it stays warm in Central Florida and one of the best places to paddle is the Wekiwa River. The State Park rents out canoes and kayaks for a nominal fee and the beach where you launch them onto the river is right near the spring. Right after launching your paddling vessel you should keep a wide eye out in the bay. Gators love to hangout in the area (don’t worry, it’s impossible for them to get into the spring where you can swim). Just admire them from afar and they’ll admire you from afar as well.

Entrance to Wekiwa Springs State Park

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Further down the Wekiwa River are tons of opportunities for exploration. There are so many little canals where you can paddle to; you’ll be occupied for hours. Just keep in mind that water levels do play a key factor in where you can go. When there’s been a lot of rain, like during the summer, it’ll be easy to paddle through all the different canals. However, when there hasn’t been much rain, like in the winter, they tend to run a little dry. The only way to find out which canals you are able to explore and which ones are meant to be explored for another day is to simply explore for yourself.

The next time you’re feeling a little claustrophobic from the city of Orlando, just know there’s a natural oasis waiting for you. Wekiwa Springs State Park is the perfect place to get away from the city to experience nature, without having to pack and drive for hours.

Explore Rockaway Beach!

Boardwalk stroll at Rockaway Beach

Image: http://www.nycgovparks.org/facility/beaches/beach-recovery

New York has lots of beach options, each with its own unique flavor and crowd, appealing to beachgoers of all ages and interests. For a mix of urban, hipster, and family-friendly New York sensibilities, Rockaway Beach in Queens is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the ocean, all with tasty and affordable food options nearby.

Some of you may already know the beach, at least by name, because of the eponymous 1977 Ramones song. Since then, and especially since the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Rockaway Beach has undergone extensive changes.

View of the ocean at Rockaway Beach

Image Credit: http://www.glenwoodnyc.com/manhattan-living/rockaway-beach-2014/

The boardwalk, portions of which were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, have mostly been replaced with new and beautiful sections that make your walk or jog that much more comfortable and scenic. Everyone can enjoy the new boardwalk’s more modern appearance with its sand-colored decking, bright ramps, and clearly designated bike lanes.

In fact, the bike lanes were renovated and improved in the aforementioned way because of the local community’s specific request for safer and more convenient spaces for cyclists and roller skaters who may have competed with pedestrians for space before. There were initial complaints about the city’s slow progress in improving the boardwalk. However, nonetheless the city projects that all boardwalk construction will be complete by the summer of 2017.

Post-hurricane Sandy destroyed boardwalk at Rockaway

Image Credit: http://www.wnyc.org/story/290429-future-rockaways-hinges-summer/

Besides the relaxation that Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk offers, this beach in particular attracts local and visiting surfers alike as it’s the city’s only legal surfing beach, located between 67-69 street and 87-92 street. While surfing is limited to certain sections of the beach, swimming is generally permitted during beach season, when lifeguards are on duty daily, from 10 am to 6 pm. Conversely, swimming is prohibited when lifeguards are not on duty and in closed sections, marked with signs and/or red flags.

Safe swimming at Rockaway

Image Credit: http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/rockaway-beach-and-boardwalk/photos

As the crowds returned to Rockaway Beach post-Hurricane Sandy, more boardwalk food options also began to appear. Some of the more recent boardwalk vendors include: Rippers offering burgers and dogs, crispy fries, and spicy lemonade; La Fruteria with a cafe and juice bar; Rockaway Taco featuring Mexican street food; and Lobster Joint with New England style seafood with lobster rolls and seafood sandwiches. The diversity of the food options perfectly captures the similar diversity of the crowds at the beach.

Different eats near Rockaway 97th

Image: Credit: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/where-to-eat-rockaway-beach-breakfast-lunch-dinner-drinks.html

With Rockaway Beach offering a plethora of beach time activities, scenic views, and crowds and cuisine with something for everyone, it’s the perfect place to unwind. To top it all off, the Beach is easily accessible via car, the A train, and several Queens buses, including the Q22 and Q53. If you’re planning to head over to Rockaway to enjoy the rest of the summer, don’t forget to download our New York Pocket Ranger® app here!

The Sawtooth Traverse: The Worst (and Best) Hike In Colorado

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Typically, I talk about the best of the best. The challenging, scenic, spectacular and rewarding trails. When my friend Sofia asked if I’d like to climb Mt. Bierstadt and Mt. Evans in a single day via an exposed traverse, I jumped at the idea without a moment of hesitation. It seemed like the perfect way to knock off my first two Colorado 14ers. But, this isn’t a story about triumphantly climbing two proud summits.

This is the story of the best, and most dismal 12 hours of my outdoor life.

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

We barreled towards the trailhead, trying to beat the time so we could catch some sleep in Subaru before waking up in three hours to start towards Bierstadt, one of the easier of Colorado’s famed 14ers. A quick nap and a snooze alarm later, we set off under a Milky Way bathed sky and tread the dark trails between a sea of spindly trees and sage bushes of Guanella Pass. Sofia was headed towards her third 14er after having climbed Grays and Torreys the previous day, and with Rainier under my belt, I was on my second. By the time we reached the switchbacks that followed a gently angled slope towards the summit, the morning illuminated the Front Range in a delicate purple and gold alpenglow. After three hours of hiking, we reached the summit of Bierstadt just after 6 AM and reveled with several other parties from the top. We looked West and that’s when I first noticed the Sawtooth Traverse, a Colorado classic.  My climbing partner was pumped to go. With one eye on the growing clouds to the East, I gave in and took the plunge into the serrated ridge that separated the two peaks.

The route appears pretty straightforward. Descent under 13,000-feet, scramble some heinous boulders, climb back onto the ridge, and follow straight on to Evans. Less obvious are the sharp knee-gashing stones, Class 3 or 4 climbing that we lovingly described as ‘Honnolding’ or the judgmental mountain goats who may or may not be ready to charge. Sofia led the charge down the Boulder field avoiding two sketchy snowfields and gaining the notch that crossed to the opposite side of the ridge.

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

A thin sidewalk-width trail separates the wall of the Sawtooth from a sheer vertical drop into the Talus below. Not for the faint of heart or vertigo induced, we snaked through protruding boulders, single-file catwalks, and more climbs of dubious protection than I’d like my mother to know about. Knees sore and several “did that just happens” later we emerged into a lush stony meadow under Evans’ east-facing ridge. With the clouds rapidly closing in and the fear of stormy conditions, we moved nervously across the barren trail towards the hikers shelter at the tip of Evans’ lookout. After a quick lunch and our amusement of baby mountain goats, we started to make our way down and back through the plains towards the car. Now, there are two ways off of Evans. One is through Mt. Spalding and a relatively gentle descent towards the parking lot. The other descends a steep gully of rotten, wet rock, route finding, and finally a three-mile romp through shin deep swamps. In the rain.

Guess which one we chose.

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Being the thick-headed, directionally challenged hikers that we are, we came to the edge of a vertical cliff before realizing that we were completely going the wrong way. Looking for something that vaguely resembled a trail (I think) we traversed across the meadow and started to make our way down a steep and punishing gully already torturing our exhausted knees. The dreadful crumbly rock gave way to trails, and the trails gave way to swamps.

This is where the fun began.

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

The last three-miles are merciless hikes, treads, and trudges through near-knee deep mud and seven foot willows so thick that you can either lose your partner completely or jump out and scare them out of their fatigued mind because they decided to join this trip in the first place. Under a steady rain, which had stopped when and only when we had actually reached the car, we pioneered rudimentary trails, plowing through the glue-like muddy monstrosity that would traumatize anyone who saw The Neverending Story.

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

We reached the car nearly 12 hours later, mud-soaked, exhausted, and mildly hungry. After an epically long day of mud, sketchy climbs, mountain goat stares, and two 14ers, we sat down for the first time in what felt like days. While the Sawtooth mud crawl was by far on the negative spectrum of hiker experiences, it goes to show that some of the worst days make the best stories. As some of my friends have described, it’s a Colorado rite of passage.

But it’s still awful.

Hiking to Sunfish Pond – New Jersey’s Beautiful Glacial Lake

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

With several glorious weeks of summer left, there’s still plenty of time to get warm weather hiking in. Sunfish Pond, a quiet glacial lake nestled deep in the Worthington State Forest near the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, is the perfect place to plan to head on your next area adventure. Hikers can reach Sunfish Pond via a variety of trails, but hiking up through the forest on the Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of my favorite ways to explore the area.

Sunfish Pond via Dunnfield Creek Parking Area and the Appalachian Trail

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Typing “Dunnfield Creek parking area” into my phone’s map program has always worked for me as a way to get directions, but if all else fails, GPS coordinates 40.971778,-75.125531 work as well.

To access the AT, head to the far end of the Dunnfield parking lot and look for trail signs. Take the bridge across Dunnfield Creek and pick up the white blazed AT, climbing slightly with the creek on your right. Continue to follow the Appalachian Trail passing a blue blazed Blue Dot Trail on your right under one mile into the hike. You’ll also pass the yellow blazed Beulahland Trail on your left just shy of the halfway point of the route up to Sunfish Pond, and the blue blazed Douglas Trail on your left less than a mile from the pond along with a backpacker campsite.

When you reach Sunfish Pond just before the four mile mark, you’ll have the option to follow the AT to the end of the lake and follow a fire road back around it, continue following the AT all the way to Maine, or relax at the end of the pond, one of my favorite scenic lunch spots in the area. The AT around the northern side of the pond is rocky, but worth exploring if you have time.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

When you’re ready to head down, backtracking along the AT is an option, but hikers can make a loop by following the green blazed Dunnfield Hollow Trail back to the parking lot. The AT and the Dunnfield Hollow Trail converge right at the western tip of the pond. Follow the green blazes, which can be hard to spot in the summer, east past the pond, then southwest back toward the Delaware River. You’ll cross the creek a number of times and pass the red blazed Holly Spring Trail on your right heading down, which connects to the yellow blazed Beulahland Trail. Eventually, the Dunnfield Hollow trail joins the blue dot trail less than a mile from the parking lot, leading you back to your car.

Things to Know Before You Go

The parking lot fills up extremely quickly on fair weather weekends; if you arrive past 10am, expect to park at the Kittatinny Point Visitor Center (40.970188, -75.128242) and walk back to the Dunnfield Creek Parking area, a trip to which requires getting back on I-80 and paying a bridge toll. But there are well-maintained bathrooms at the visitor center (seasonal) – a bonus if you have to park there.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image Credit: Katie Levy

The AT climbs gradually over the course of the nearly four mile one-way journey to Sunfish Pond, and it’s rocky and rugged at times. Wear sturdy hiking shoes, leave the sneakers and sandals at home, and consider hiking poles if you’re uncomfortable on uneven ground. You’ll climb 1,000 feet on the way up to Sunfish Pond.

The route described in this post is approximately eight miles round trip, so be sure to bring enough food and water for a full day’s hike. It’s a manageable route for beginners, but plan on the hike taking at least four hours with stops, and know your fitness limits. Though it might be tempting to take a dip in the pond once you’re there, keep in mind that swimming is prohibited.

Though this map shows the trails described in this article, they’re not in great detail. So, stop by the Kittatinny Visitor Center for a park bulletin and trail maps and be sure to download Pocket Ranger apps for New Jersey and Pennsylvania before you go. Investing in a Kittatinny Trails map isn’t a bad idea either.

Have you done this hike, or visited Sunfish Pond by other trails? We’d love to hear from you!

Strike Gold Along the South Yuba!

Mountain View of trees and lake from South Yuba

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

This post is contributed by Lindy Sexton.

Tucked in the heart of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the South Yuba River is a treasure for history buffs and thrill seekers alike! Visitors enjoy learning about the lives of the Native people long ago and how miners struck it rich on the riverbanks of the South Yuba. From around the world, determination brought hundreds of thousands of men and women who dreamed of striking it rich, and you can follow in their footsteps with gold panning demonstrations at the visitor center in South Yuba River Park. Other historical sights in the area include Donner Historical Visitor Center and Empire Mine State Park.

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

The riverbanks of the South Yuba also provide endless fun and relaxation for families and individuals. Several beaches sprinkled down the river see weekly visitors of all ages. Purdon Crossing and Edwards Crossing are just two of the entry points to the beaches, though established trails can lead to more secluded beaches further downstream.

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

Feeling more adventurous? The area is one of the best places to hike and mountain bike with trails running for hundreds of miles through the mountains. It is a good idea to stop into the visitor center or check out one of the local outdoor shops for up-to-date information on trail conditions and for detailed maps.

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

For nature lovers, the South Yuba River provides year-round opportunities to see American Dippers, black-tailed deer, Flame Skimmer dragonflies, and even California Quail! Spring is the best time to catch sight of the colorful blooms and guided wildflower tours are held from March until May. For more information on tours and other events contact the South Yuba River Park Association by calling 530-432-2546 or by visiting their website http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org/. Include the South Yuba on your next vacation plans and don’t forget to use your PocketRanger® App for up-to-date information on your next get-away!

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

Image Credit: Lindy Sexton

45th Annual Somerset Antique Show

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.08.58 AM

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

By Sheena Baker, Somerset County Chamber of Commerce

For decades, thousands of visitors have flocked to Somerset County, Pa. each August in search of unique collectibles and hidden treasures. This year proves to be no different. The 45th Annual Somerset Antique Show is on tap for Saturday, Aug. 8 on the streets of Uptown Somerset, and as always there is something for everyone.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

This popular event, open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of August, draws more than 100 antique vendors from three states displaying everything from furniture, sports memorabilia, jewelry and quilts to glassware, books, paintings, toys, coins and more. An estimated 5,000 people attend the street fair each year.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

In addition to the antiques on display, the event also includes an Antique & Classic Car Show from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Somerset Trust Co. parking lot along West Main Street, as well as various food and drink vendors set up throughout the fair.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

While perusing the antiques along the streets of historic Somerset, visitors also have the opportunity to stop in at local eateries, coffee houses and shops, each one unique and quirky in its own way.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Somerset and the surrounding region boast a number of antique stores that are also a draw for antique enthusiasts, and other area attractions – resorts, outdoor recreation opportunities, the Flight 93 National Memorial, Fallingwater and more – could easily entice visitors to spend an extended weekend in America’s County®.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Admission to the Somerset Antique Show is free to the public and free parking is available in the Somerset County parking garage on East Catherine Street. The event is held rain or shine.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

For more information on the 45th Annual Somerset Antique Show, contact the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce at (814) 445-6431 or visit www.somersetpa.net. Somerset is located in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania, one hour east of Pittsburgh at exit 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Image Credit: Sheena Baker

Image Credit: Sheena Baker