Tag Archives: California

Take a Note from a Wildfire

Photo taken on 9/20/16

The Soberanes Fire started burning the morning of July 22. In early August, fire officials determined that the fire began as an illegal campfire, that was started around 8:45 a.m. and left unattended near a trail in Garrapata State Park, about 20 miles north of Big Sur. The fire, 100% contained on October 12th, burned for 83 days and spread over 132,000 acres of California’s central coast, particularly in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest. The fire cost more than $230 million in fire suppression response and damages to private and public property, in addition to the death of a bulldozer operator whose rig overturned while fighting the blaze in steep backcountry. [Image: inciweb.nwcg.gov/]

Historically speaking, even though it may be one of the most expensive, the Soberanes Fire is not the most destructive wildfire to decimate thousands of acres in North America. In terms of area burned and lives lost, it isn’t remotely close—the Miramichi in New Brunswick, the Big Burn that scorched Idaho and Montana, and even the Great Chicago Fire all dwarf the Soberanes Fire, despite the fact that the latter burned for two-and-a-half months, and consumed 11 outbuildings and 57 homes in remote areas.

The bulk of the credit for the fire’s relative containment is due to better technology, research and wildfire-fighting science than was available at the time those terrible fires raged—to say nothing of the heroic, well organized, and supremely-trained fire response crews who fly, drive, hike, and parachute into the affected areas to combat the fire from every possible angle. There is however a key factor that connects the fires: their preventable and shared likely geneses, human intervention.

All of the destruction of Soberanes Fire—and the resources expended by heroic efforts imparted by wildland firefighters who battled its disastrous march up steep, secluded mountainsides—started with a single campfire set and abandoned by a careless human. If anything instructive can come from the Soberanes Fire, it’s the importance and reinforcement of good campfire safety and etiquette.

Seriously… Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires!

The first rule of thumb is of course to heed warnings: never start fires where they are banned by the town, county or state you’re camping in, or when the U.S. Forest Service gives you Smokey-the-Bear eyes. They’re very judgmental if you don’t pay attention.

Failure to adhere to the bans is not only dangerous for adventure seekers, but for wildlife, and the native flora. The Forest Service uses the Fire Danger Rating System to communicate this succinctly. When the fire danger is high or very high to extreme, fires burn quickly and intensely, and can be difficult and dangerous to control. A small spark or ember, hoisted on even a slight breeze, can set a hillside ablaze. Clearly someone wasn't paying attention when this si[Photo by Lance Cheung. Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

Failure to adhere to the bans is not only dangerous for adventure seekers, but for wildlife and the native flora. The USFS uses the Fire Danger Rating System to communicate wildfire danger succinctly. Particularly when the fire danger is “high” to “extreme,” fires burn quickly and intensely, and can be difficult and dangerous to control. A small spark or ember, hoisted on even the slightest breeze, can set a hillside ablaze. [Photo by Lance Cheung. Source: commons.wikimedia.org]

Where fire danger is low to moderate and there isn’t a ban in effect, responsible, attended campfires in designated campfire rings and pits can provide a charming, immersive and educational look into outdoor living and our ancestral past. And also s’mores. When fires are permitted, it is best to use developed, designated fire rings or fire pits.

If fire rings are not present, as may happen when backpacking in undeveloped areas or wilderness, and fires aren’t illegal, still use caution: fires should be as small as possible and only be started when completely necessary. Consider the surface where the fire will burn, and be sure to clear away duff, brush or other combustible material, including your shelter, from the immediate area. Before starting a fire outside of a developed fire ring take steps to minimize the fire’s impact.

Enjoy the Campfire, But Don’t Be Rude!

Whether or not a fire is created in the backcountry or in a fire pit in a designated campsite, materials that enter the fire should be entirely, naturally combustible, as with tinder, kindling, wood and charcoal. Non-combustibles or pollutants like cans, tin foil, plastic and Styrofoam shouldn’t be burned, let alone left in the pit. (Pro tip: Leave No Trace principles are helpful whether you’re tucked away in dense, wooded backcountry, or staying at a KOA. Leaving garbage for the next camper to pick up is always a disappointment and detracts from the enjoyment of nature they and we all seek when we head out for a night of sleeping under the stars.)

Fire: Wouldn’t Want to Live Without It

Fire is a necessary component of life, whether we are in the wilderness or not. It cooks our food, warms our homes, propels our cars and busses, and even provides entertainment along with its warmth, as when we enjoy fireworks or a festive Yule log. But wildfires iterate in stark terms the danger of mistaking fire as a tamed resource. In our homes and in the wilderness, fire will always have a power that requires vigilance and attention for safety. As long as we remember to be mindful of that, campfires and fireplaces will remain as integral and warming as they have been for a million years.

[Image: recreation.gov]

“Gee, we really are lucky,” this camper seems to think, “both to enjoy this campfire as recreation rather than necessity, and because there are so many ways to enjoy a good fire safely!” [Image: recreation.gov]

National Get Outdoors Day

Want an excuse to have an outdoor adventure? Well, to be honest, you really don’t need an excuse—if anything, you probably need a reason not to get out there instead! Whether you’re looking for a reason or an excuse, though, it is now here in the form of National Get Outdoors Day.

Saturday, June 11 is this year’s National Get Outdoors Day, and you can partake in some amazing outdoor adventures at a local state or national park. Here are just some of specific events that you can enjoy with your loved ones!

People outdoors.

It’s time to explore the great outdoors! [Image: http://theadventureblog.blogspot.com/]

Upper Kern Cleanup, California

The Sequoia Recreation, which is a division of the California Land Management within the U.S. Forest Service, meets every year on the second weekend of June (this year, they’ll be meeting on June 11) to join together and clean the Upper Kern area. The Kern River is a valuable resource as a clean and safe waterway, and volunteers work relentlessly each year to ensure that its remains as such.

Learn more information here.

Get Outdoors Family Fishing Picnic, Pennsylvania

Bring your whole family out for a relaxing fishing trip on Sunday, June 12 at the Tussey Mountain Pond. They’ll provide the tackle for anyone who wants to join in on this idyllic Sunday afternoon. So bring your rods and see what you can hook!

Learn more information here.

Kid in a log.

Peek-a-boo! [Image: http://www.getoutdoorscolorado.org/]

Loop Lake Shelbyville Bike Ride, Illinois

If you’re searching for an end of spring bike-venture, then look no further than Loop Lake Shelbyville ride! There are three options for cyclists of all levels: a short 22-mile ride, a medium length 46-miles, and a longer 65-mile trek. So whether this is your first time around the lake, so to speak, or you’re a seasoned bike tourer, this is a great way to get outside and enjoy yourself!

Learn more information here.

Family biking.

Nothing like a family bike ride! [Image: https://totalwomenscycling.com/]

Get Outdoors Adventure Awaits Expo, Washington

Looking to try a new outdoor activity? Then look no further than the National Get Outdoors Day Outdoor Expo at Millersylvania State Park on June 11! It’s a fun day for the whole family, filled with prizes, demos, kid activities, and the chance to learn about (or even try!) a new outdoor activity. It’s the perfect place to be if you’re looking to fill your summer up with outdoor fun.

Learn more information here.

This is just a sample of all the many parks that will be holding events this weekend for National Get Outdoors Day. You can find more participating areas here. And before you go, don’t forget to make sure you download your state’s Pocket Ranger® mobile app so you can make the best of your adventure. Happy travels!

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?

Death Valley National Park in a Day

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

A week is hardly enough time to truly enjoy a national park like Death Valley. I mean, you could spend an entire lifetime exploring the millions of acres there and still leave stones unturned at the end. And spending one full day in Death Valley National Park is hardly scratching the surface.

Sometimes all we have is a finite amount of time, and we have to make the best of it. That’s what I did a few weeks ago. It was an all-out blitz trying to see the desert peaks, salt flats, wildlife, craters, and everything else Death Valley has to offer all in one day. While it wasn’t easy, I left the park feeling accomplished and satisfied having seen what I saw. These are some of the best sites you need to hit at Death Valley National Park, whether you have a couple weeks to kill or just a day.

Zabreski Point

Zabreski Point at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

A major tourist point is Zabreski Point. The ease of access up to the top with its stunning views of the surrounding park and Sierra Nevada Mountain Range out in the distance make this place a go-to spot for anyone who visits the park. Hit it early in the morning for a glorious sunrise or even go there real late and watch the stars twinkle high above the sky with virtually no one around.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High points are always most talked about, but no one ever mentions the low points. The lowest point in North America is right here in Death Valley National Park! It’s a salt flat that you can walk on and even lick the salt if you want.

Everyone parks at the parking lot, and to get away from the crowds, drive past the parking lot, coming from Furnace Creek, and park alongside the road. It’s also a shorter walk out to the salt flat.

Dante’s View

Daunte's View at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

High above Badwater Basin is where you’ll see what Dante saw. No one knows who Dante is, but what he saw is amazing here. Grab a postcard from the visitor center and snap a photo of where the photographer who snapped that postcard view was standing. Make sure you look down to the road to see the cars driving by the salt flat. They’re so tiny they look like little ants running around!

Artist’s Palette

Death Valley National Park at Artist's Palette

Image: Justin Fricke

Ever see a color palette that painters use to create something remarkable? That’s what the rock features look like here. The desert is full of beige and orange colored rocks, but come here to see rocks that are purple, turquoise, and loads of other colors you wouldn’t expect to find in the desert.

Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon at Death Valley National Park

Image: Justin Fricke

Clean canyon lines and steep vertical features all over—that’s what you go to see at Mosaic Canyon. The road in is a bit of a bear and people flock to this place, but hike in a little further for some secluded areas that are completely worth it. Hey, the best things are worth fighting for, right?

If you only had one day to visit Death Valley National Park, where would you go? What would you try?

One for the Ladies: Parks Named for Inspiring Women

There are more than a handful of women whose contributions toward parks did not go unnoticed, which sometimes ends with a dedication to them in the form of a state park name. It’s a pretty big honor, and it also goes to show that women have done a lot to help the outdoors industry expand as well as contribute to our beloved parks. So this Women’s History Month—and really, what should be the standard all year round—we’re tipping our hats to these awesome female-inspired parks.

Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, New York

Suffragists at Seneca Falls.

Just some suffragists doin’ their thang. [Image: https://whitmansyawp.wordpress.com/]

This glorious national historic park represents the area where men and women first gathered to discuss the possibility of women’s rights, the location of the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. You can watch a film talking about the amazing women who fought for women’s right to vote, then head to the museum and the Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held. There are also tours of the homes of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Ann M’Clintock, and Jane Hunt. It’s a great place to start when looking to gain more information about the importance of equal rights in America.

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, Kentucky

Jenny Wiley State Resort Park.

Beautiful park with a rather dark history. [Image: http://eastkyecho.com/]

Originally named Dewey Lake State Park, this park was renamed in the late 1950s shortly after becoming an official Kentucky State Park for badass frontierwoman Virginia “Jenny” Sellards Wiley. Jenny was a tough woman who endured an accidental Indian attack that was meant as revenge against her neighbors; she watched her attackers kill all of her children, and was then taken hostage by them for 11 months. Although she faced horrors that many cannot even fathom, she remained resolved to escape from her captors. After almost being killed by a tribe, she eventually escaped and found her way back home. Now that’s a strong lady and an aptly named park!

Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, California

Hearst Castle.

Now that’s a heck of a castle designed by a heck of a woman. [Image: http://www.parks.ca.gov/]

Although not necessarily named for a woman, the famous Hearst Castle was designed by an awesome female designer, Julia Morgan. In 1894, she was the first woman to graduate from the University of California’s School of Engineering. She went on to design more than 800 buildings in California, including the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel. If that isn’t impressive, we’re not sure what is.

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, Florida

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.

Certainly no one is complaining that so many fought to protect this area. [Image: http://www.flickriver.com/]

This park gets its name from environmental activist Anna Dagny Johnson, who was the leader of many groups (including the Upper Keys Citizens Association and the Izaak Walton League) that worked to stop planned developments in north Key Largo. They rallied together under Johnson’s leadership to preserve onshore communities and protect offshore coral reefs. Now that’s an admirable lady!

Even though Women’s History Month is over, you’re free to enjoy these lovely parks still—we won’t judge you for your late arrival. Make sure you have our handy dandy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to make your trips more enjoyable and easy.

Looking to State Parks during Black History Month

State parks are steeped in history, and as such, there are many that come to mind as important during Black History Month. While utilizing parks for the plethora of activities and outdoor fun available are great ways to get involved, it’s also important to recognize the work that went into their foundation and the history behind the grounds that you’re traversing over. Here are just a few that are worth a visit during this iconic month.

T.O. Fuller State Park, Tennessee

T.O. Fuller State Park.

[Image: http://tnstateparks.com/]

Known as a park full of great birding and hiking opportunities, T.O. Fuller State Park is certainly a site to behold. What makes it especially notable, however, is its ties to black history. It was the first state park open to African Americans east of the Mississippi River and was originally known as Shelby County Negro State Park in the 1930s. The name was later changed to honor Dr. Thomas O. Fuller who empowered and educated African Americans during his lifetime.

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, California

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth.

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

Colonel Allensworth SHP preserves the town of Allensworth, which is the only California town to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. It was a farming community founded with the intention of improving the economic and social status of African Americans in the early 1900s. One of the founders, Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth, created the town with the hopes of it becoming known as the “Tuskegee of the West,” modeled after Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute. It was a place for blacks to live and start a life outside of the confines of segregated society.

Fort Mose Historic State Park, Florida

Fort Mose.

Tour the salt marshes at Fort Mose while learning about its rich history. [Image: http://audubonoffloridanews.org/]

Found in St. Augustine, Florida, Fort Mose is possibly one of the most important pieces of black history in America. It was founded in 1738 and was the first legally sanctioned free community comprised of ex-slaves. The park includes an interactive museum that helps visitors dive into the history of this site, complete with staff reenacting history while dressed in traditional garb.

Underground Railroad Heritage Trail, New York

Underground Railroad map.

Map of various Underground Railroad routes. [Image: http://newyorkhistoryblog.org/]

New York was a haven for many slaves seeking freedom, and it was accessed best through the Underground Railroad. With the help of abolitionists, the Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses and secret routes that slaves would use to escape to free states or Canada. New York was often sought out due to its proximity to water and Canada. It was also home to many free slaves who fought for equality since New York’s manumission of slaves in 1827. There are many sites across the state that delve further into this part of New York’s history.

Make sure you use our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to help aid you in your adventuring this month. Our handy park history section can help inform you on the early days of your favorite sites.

State Parks Named for Historical Figures

Some park names are derived from geographic, geologic, or topographic features in their regions while others are based on names given to those features by Native Americans. Still other parks are named for state and national level politicians, landowners, celebrities, pioneers, and war heroes. Almost always, park names are steeped in local tradition, lore, or landmarks. While a park’s primary purpose is to provide protection to important resources and wildlife habitats, there is also a place for historical preservation or legacy in nature in the long list of benefits that our state and national parks give us. Here are a few parks named for historical figures to whet your appetite for adventure!

Colonel Allen Allensworth in military dress. [Image: thewright.org]

Colonel Allen Allensworth in military dress. [Image: thewright.org/]

Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park–Earlimart, CA

This park is named for Lieutenant Colonel Allen Allensworth, a man born into slavery who escaped and fought for the Union during the Civil War. Allensworth was the first African American to rise to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army. In 1908, he founded the town of Allensworth, CA in the hopes of establishing a “Tuskegee of the West.” Allensworth succeeded, and California’s first African American founded, financed, and governed city blossomed for a few generations. Though the sudden passing of Colonel Allensworth in 1914 ultimately caused the decline of the town, its importance in California is unmistakable. It’s been a state park and in the National Register of Historic Places since the 1970s, and its 240 acres of preserved buildings and open space are an excellent place to take in some American history as well as the vast and fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Patriotic Pulaski, as imagined before charging with abandon into battle on a horse. [Image: polishamericancenter.org]

Patriotic Pulaski, as imagined before charging with abandon into battle on a horse. [Image: polishamericancenter.org/]

Pulaski State Park and Recreational Area–Chepachet, RI

Casimir Pulaski was a Polish nobleman and one of two “fathers of the American cavalry.” As a young man in the 1760s and ’70s, Pulaski fought for the Bar Confederation in Poland as the country resisted Russian control. While his participation in the Polish uprising got him exiled from his homeland, Pulaski remained sympathetic to the tones of rebellion and freedom, and was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to fight in the American Revolution. In addition to many instances of valor, Pulaski saved George Washington’s life and later gave his own for the American cause in the Battle of Savannah. In all, this rambunctious champion of liberty has a number of things named after him in the United States, but perhaps best of all is the 100-acre Pulaski State Park and Recreation Area in Rhode Island. It provides a pleasant and secluded place for relaxing, contemplative activities like hiking or fishing, a far cry from the battlefields of its past.

The Lindbergh House, built by C. A. Lindbergh circa 1906. [Image: minnesotaseasons.com]

The Lindbergh House, built by C. A. Lindbergh circa 1906. [Image: minnesotaseasons.com/]

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park–Little Falls, MN

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is named for the famous aviator’s father who was a Minnesota Congressman during the early part of the 1900s. The park features a museum made up of the farm and boyhood home of the younger Lindbergh as well as an additional 560 acres of Minnesotan forest and prairie to admire as one hikes, cross-country skis, camps, or picnics. The park also bears access to the shoreline of the Mississippi River where, except for dams raising the water level, not much is altered from the days when young Lindbergh may have seen it shortly after observing an airplane for the first time or the statesman experienced it as he took in the morning paper.

If you’re feeling motivated to go out and see for yourself the many historical sites and features preserved at a park near you, download any of our Pocket Ranger® apps! Many of the apps feature park histories that detail the park or geographic region where the park is situated, putting not only outdoor adventure but thousands of years of human history right at your fingertips. Start planning your trip today!