Tag Archives: backcountry

Thanksgiving Dinner To-Go

Contributed by Michelle Shea of Adventure Dining Guide

Thanksgiving Dinner in a bowl in front of water

Image Credit: Michelle Shea

Have you ever eaten your Thanksgiving dinner while enjoying uninhibited views of snowcapped peaks, crashing oceans, pristine valleys, or crystal clear lakes? No? How about starting a new tradition this year: Get outside, and ditch the crowds! Indulge in your favorite outdoor adventure, and enjoy one of the most underrated exploration days of the year.

For many Americans, a traditional Thanksgiving consists of eating, cooking, watching football, and staying indoors. While everyone else is at home, why not take your Thanksgiving Dinner “to go” with a holiday-inspired, backcountry-friendly recipe. Invite family and friends to join you outside for a Thanksgiving meal they will never forget!

Here is everything you will need for your adventure-inspired holiday dinner:

  • Turkey Jerky
  • Rachel Ray’s “Apple and Onion Stuffin’ Muffins”
  • Cream cheese and dried cranberries
  • Adventure Dining Guide’s “Pumpkin Backcountry Bites”

This meal is pack-friendly and filled with nutrition to fuel your journey. The best part is that you can prep everything at home, so when you’re in the wilderness you can just relax and enjoy a fantastic meal.

Before you hit the trail, this is what you need to prep at home:

For an ultralight alternative, try dehydrating the muffins and the pumpkin filling.

This backcountry Thanksgiving meal is best served with a view, so get adventurous this Thursday! Happy holidays, and happy trails!

Go Exploring with Adventure Archives

The Pocket Ranger® video channel is the place to visit before you head out on your next outdoor trip. The video channel is easy to access, updated weekly, and is a great companion whether you are at work or just hanging out. Watch thrilling adventures from contributors like Adventure Archives where you’ll get in-depth videos into some of the best wilderness sites in North America.

Adventure Archives Member on a Canoeing at Mammoth Cave

Andrew Lin, Bryan Lin, and Bobby Huang take you to the backcountry for fun and education. Here is a teaser below for what’s in store with them:

With Adventure Archives, you’ll learn not only where to go for amazing experiences, but also how to prepare for the unexpected. Learn the important difference between edibles versus poisonous flora while meandering into the deep woods with your hosts. The show takes viewers through all of nature’s elements, from a torrential rainstorm in Red River Gorge to winter camping in Monongahela National Forest—their videos are filled with never-ending surprises. While it might not always be cotton candy and ice cream on the trail, Adventure Archives’ documentary style and original music compilations bring beauty into any outdoor adventure.

To give you a bigger taste of what they’re all about, watch the team tackle Red River Gorge here:

Want to learn more? Adventure Archives is a contributor to the Pocket Ranger® video channel. You can also subscribe to their YouTube channel and like them on Facebook. Enjoy listening to the tunes? Their Bandcamp showcases soundtracks from every one of their videos so you can continue to nod your head to their beats.

Before making plans for your next outdoor trip, be sure to download the Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for the latest information on weather, road conditions, and local activities in the area. Whether you are an avid adventurer or enjoy relaxing weekends in your backyard, the Pocket Ranger® video channel with Adventure Archives is essentials for fun, knowledge, and adventure.

Leave No Trace

How do you keep the wilderness wild when millions of outdoor enthusiasts visit state and national parks each year? The Center for Outdoor Ethics created a solution to this problem with their national educational program, Leave No Trace. The Leave No Trace program promotes and inspires good ethical practice when in the backcountry. By following these guidelines, you ensure a gratifying and lasting outdoor experience for all.

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

Like any trip, planning before you arrive at your destination is key.

  • Acquaint yourself with park regulations. You can easily access this information through any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps.
  • Be prepared for extreme weather and emergencies. Pack a first aid kit and a survival kit that includes a flashlight with extra batteries, whistle, multi-tool pocket knife, maps, lighter, fire starters, and iodine tablets.
  • Respect the physical limits of your hiking group by planning a trip that’s compatible with the group’s skill level.
Backpacker in sunlit field [Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com]

Image: sojourningabroad.wordpress.com

  • Careful meal planning and packaging is so important when out in the backcountry. Pack only the food you need to minimize waste while you’re out on the trail.
  • Try to visit the outdoors in small groups. This is especially applicable to backpacking trips. If you are a larger group heading into the wilderness, break off into smaller groups to reduce impact on the environment. Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use on the trail.
  • Refrain from marking your trail with paint, cairns or flagging, and instead use a map, compass or your Pocket Ranger® app. In addition to a compass feature, the Pocket Ranger® apps offer users advanced GPS features that can even be used offline!

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

Trampling down an area’s vegetation can result in some undesirable results, such as barren areas and soil erosion. Help preserve the environment by following these tips:

  • In wilderness areas of high use, stick to established trails and campsites. Established campsites can come in a few different forms, such as raised wooden platforms, rock, gravel, dry grasses and snow. Walk single-file on trails and try to stick to the center of these trails. This prevents the trail from further eroding the surrounding landscape.
Hikers on a trail in the woods [Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles]

Image: www.tripleblaze.com/blog/2013/07/14/how-to-follow-leave-no-trace-principles

  • However, when camping and hiking through pristine or fragile environments, the opposite is true. Avoid making established trails or campsites by dispersing your impact on the environment. Do not camp or travel in places where impacts are just beginning to show.
  • Whether in high use or low use areas, always make sure to camp at least 200 feet from lakes and streams. This protects the waterbody and riparian areas (the land near a waterbody) from damage and contamination.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

This principle could be the golden rule of the backcountry: Whatever you pack in, you must pack out! This includes all trash, leftover food, toilet paper (both used and unused), and hygiene products.

  • Before leaving a campsite or rest area, check around for any trash or spilled food you may have missed.
  • Solid human waste should be deposited in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep. These catholes must be at least 200 feet from water, campsite and trails. After use, cover and disguise catholes.
Always clean up after yourself when outdoors. [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

Always clean up after yourself! [Image: bartramcanoetrail.blogspot.com/2013/10/people-fish-camp-trash.html]

  • Got dishes? Need a shower? To clean either yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lake, and use only small amounts of biodegradable soap. When finished cleaning or bathing, do not dump this dirty water back into the stream or lake! Doing so would contaminate the natural water source. Instead, strain and then scatter the water at least 200 feet (or 80 to 100 strides) from its source.

4. Leave What You Find

Look, but don’t touch! Preserve the past by leaving natural and historic structures and artifacts as they are. This ensures that other visitors to the area will have the same sense of discovery.

  • Leave rocks, plants, feathers and other natural objects just as you find them.
  • Don’t transport non-native species with you! Non-native species frequently become invasive. These invasive species can critically damage the ecosystem.
  • A good campsite is found, not made. Do not dig trenches or build structures, such as lean-tos, tables or chairs.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

While many believe that a roaring campfire is essential to a great camping trip, fire is not always permitted in backcountry area. Before lighting a fire, always check with park regulations.

  • If fires are allowed, use only established fire rings, fire pans or mound fires. Keep your campfire small and manageable.
  • Hold off on the huge logs! The Center for Outdoor Ethics recommends using sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
Can you spot the two campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

Can you spot the campfire faux pas in this photo? [Image: lnt.org/blog/campfire-challenge]

  • Burn all the wood and coals in your campfire to ash and put out the fire completely. Then scatter the cool ashes.
  • As for cooking outdoors, use a lightweight camp stove. A lightweight camp stove (rather than a bulky camp stove) will also be a blessing for your back!

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s certainly exhilarating to come across wildlife when outdoors. For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, follow these guidelines for wildlife sightings:

  • Always observe wildlife from a distance. Never approach or follow wildlife.
  • Never feed wildlife! Feeding wildlife can make wild animals dependent on humans, creating opportunities for potentially dangerous encounters.
Black bear takes over picnic at campsite [Image: http://forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

Don’t let your favorite breakfast cereal become theirs. [Image: forum.wakarusa.com/showthread.php?11815-ARTICLE-Black-Bears-Tear-Into-Tents-at-Wakarusa]

  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing food rations and securely.
  • If you bring pets with you, make sure you have control of them at all times. In many places, leashes are required.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

While you may head into the backcountry to be alone in the great outdoors, chances are you may come across a few other outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Respect other visitors to the area. Be courteous and yield to other hikers on the trail.
  • Take breaks and camp away from the trails and other visitors. Avoid making loud noises or speaking in loud voices when in the backcountry. Keeping your voice low not only helps others enjoy their time in the wilderness, but also increases your chances of seeing wildlife.
  • If you encounter pack stock in the backcountry, step to the downhill side of the trail.

Any adventure in the outdoors is going to require some quality gear. By taking the Pocket Ranger® State Park Visitor Survey you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

Safety 101: How to Cross a River

Nothing can ruin a backcountry adventure like a surprise appearance by an unexpected river. When an unforeseen waterway appears along the path, those formerly soothing sounds of the rushing rapids will start to sound a lot like, “Ha ha ha ha, you have to either cross me or turn back!” Unfortunately, crossing a river is one of the trickiest and most dangerous challenges that can arise in the wilderness. Don’t believe us? Just ask Bear Grylls:

Even the mighty battler of the wild was no match for the river, and he’s made out of lion strength and courage dust. Believe us then when we say that knowing how to safely cross a river is a must-have skill when venturing into the great outdoors. If you don’t want to end up like poor Bear, you’re in luck, because we’ve got these helpful tips to safely guide you across surprise rivers:

To cross or not to cross?

As we’ve seen, Mother Nature likes to laugh in the face of expertise, experience, and preparedness. Sometimes all of the guides, tips, and practice in the world still can’t stand up to the power of nature. Therefore, one of the most important skills in surviving in the wilderness is realizing when it’s best not to challenge it. In this case, that means knowing when it’s safer to just turn back. Some signs you’re better off forgoing the crossing:

  • There’s a lot of debris in the river. Those logs and branches whizzing by aren’t going to politely move out of your way should you decide to cross. It’s more likely that they’ll strike you, and if that weren’t rude enough, they may even knock you on your rump and send you on your way down the river. That would be bad.

If the river looks like this, it may be wise to turn back.
(Image Credit: http://blogs.wsj.com)

  • The current fails the Branch Test. Never heard of the Branch Test? That’s because I just made it up. It’s pretty easy and lets you gauge the speed of the current. Simply toss a branch into the river. If the branch gets swiftly and violently swept away, chances are good that you will too.
  • Flows are above your knees. This much water can knock you off balance, and it’s awfully hard to cross a river when you’re being whisked downstream.
  • You’re wearing long pants. Since it’s not always practical or warm enough to wear shorts, convertible pants are a must. One zip and they’re shorts! Two zips and they’re pants again! Long pants will increase resistance to the river’s current. Even if you manage to make it safely across, you’ll be wearing soaking wet pants all day, which is right up there with “Being the People in The Blair Witch Project” on the list of things that can ruin an outdoor adventure.

Gearing up for the crossing

Okay, so you’ve scoped out the scene, unzipped your convertible pants, and the water is shallow and debris-free so now it’s time to cross, right? Not so fast! We know you’re anxious to get on with your hike, but before you shuffle on in, there are some steps to take to minimize the risks:

  • Scout the river in search of an ideal crossing place. There may be bridges or shallow braided channels where the current is less intense. If not, search for a straight, wide, shallow stretch of river. Imagine the river winding along in the shape of an ‘S’. The safest crossing spot would be between the bends in the middle of the ‘S’. Should you lose your footing, the current may sweep you into the bank of a bend.
  • Find a low, open exit point on the opposite side so that you can scramble out of the river with ease. You don’t want to do all the hard work of crossing safely just to slip down a steep bank and end up back in the river.

Probably not the best exit spot.
(Image: images.publicradio.org)

  • Tend to your pack. Make sure important items are stored in waterproof areas. Then, loosen the heck out of the chest and waist straps. If you lose your footing, a tightly secured backpack may snag or hold you down, whereas a loose backpack can be easily removed and used as a flotation device.
  • Keep your shoes on! It may be tempting to remove them and avoid a day of soggy feet, but resist. It’s always wise to pack an extra pair, but even if you haven’t, you need that good shoe traction. Plus, a barefoot crossing can seriously injure your feet, and all the dry shoes in the world can’t soothe a broken ankle.
  • Fashion a trekking pole (assuming, of course, that you haven’t brought an actual trekking pole). Find a sturdy branch about five or six feet long, and voila! Instant trekking pole that you can use to measure depth and steady yourself against the current.

These would be perfect if only they weren’t still attached to the tree.
(Image: www.fanpop.com)

Going for it

Once you’re ready to enter the water, it should go something like this:

1. Place the trekking pole on your upstream side.

2. Face upstream and take sideways, shuffling footsteps as you cross diagonally downstream.

3. Make sure to always keep two points of contact on the river bend for maximum stability.

4. Don’t look at the flowing water, which can set you off balance.

*If you’re traveling with others, you’re in luck! It’s safer to cross in numbers than to go it solo. Interlock arms and cross in a line with the strongest person in the upstream position.

Victory Dance

Usain Bolt having just crossed a river.
(Image: www.captionwit.com)

When you emerge successfully and safely from the river, show Mother Nature who’s boss with an in-your-face victory dance.