Tag Archives: campfire

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]

Homemade Fire Starters for Your Camping Trip

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

On a recent winter camping, two of my trip companions managed to get a fire started in the snow with only fallen, dead, wet branches and the kindling we could find around us. When the temperatures started dropping, I was incredibly grateful to have a warm blaze for us to gather around. It takes some serious skills to do what my trip mates did; location choice, careful planning, and a good foundation were key. But when you’re headed out camping, take a few of these tools to use as fire starters.

Winter campfire outdoors in snowy field [Image: www.notyouraverageordinary.com]

Image: www.notyouraverageordinary.com

My List of Homemade Fire Starters for Your Camping Trip

100% Cotton Ball Soaked in Vaseline

Cotton balls are among the easiest things to carry on a trip because they’re incredibly light and don’t take up much space in your pack. They also burn quickly, and so does petroleum. Take a handful of cotton balls, rub Vaseline or petroleum jelly on them, and seal them in a plastic bag. These will work well as fire starters.

Dryer Lint or Sawdust

Dryer lint stuffed into empty toilet paper rolls to be used as fire starters  [Image: myloveforideas.blogspot.com]

Stuff dryer lint into empty toilet paper rolls for easy transport! [Image: myloveforideas.blogspot.com]

It’s a nuisance when it comes to doing laundry, but dryer lint is among one of the most flammable materials I discard in my house. I get a treasure trove’s worth every time I take care of my dirty clothes hamper. Before you think about throwing out what’s in your lint trap, consider keeping it in a sealed plastic bag for your next outing. Sawdust, another easy-to-discard material, works just as well.

Phone Book, Magazine, or Newspaper Pages

On a backpacking trip this summer, my trip partner brought an entire phone book along for us to use as a fire starter. (Don’t worry, we didn’t take the entire thing on the trail with us!) Grab some old reading materials, rip out a handful of pages, and keep them in a sealed plastic bag so they’ll stay dry.

Natural Cord or Rope

Cord and rope are among the emergency items I try to always have around on camping trips. If your cords or ropes are made with natural fibers, they can also double as fire starters. Fibers like jute, hemp, and sisal are great options. Simply take the cords or ropes, unravel them, and you’re on your way to building a beautiful, warm blaze.

Greasy Snacks

Who knew Doritos were so flammable? [Image: lifehacker.com]

Who knew Doritos were so flammable? [Image: lifehacker.com]

Though I don’t advocate burning food unless you really need to, or carrying things like cheese puffs on backpacking trips, if you happen to have them around, some of our favorite greasy treats have proven to be remarkably effective fire starters. I’ve seen cheese puffs, Fritos and every variety of Doritos work well.

Of course, starting a fire when you’re camping comes with great responsibility. Read rules and regulations for fires where you’re headed before you go. Some campgrounds require you to refrain from gathering wood around your campsite in an effort to protect trees, and some parks and forests restrict fires depending on conditions.

Choose a location far from underbrush and other large areas of flammable materials. Keep your tent, tarp, and other synthetics far, far away. Use pre-built fire pits whenever possible. Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave; check it at least twice to be sure.

What are some unique, homemade fire starters you’ve used in the past? Or tried and true methods you’ll always turn to? We’d love to hear from you!

Camping in the Wilderness

Setting up camp can be a hassle. But even more so when camping in the wilderness or a totally isolated place! Many campers want privacy and choose areas beyond the multitude of campers that station themselves in popular, often crowded spots. Check with you’re national or state park to see where you’re allowed to camp; some wildlife habitats are restricted from human-use. In case you don’t want to be totally stranded or lost, go for primitive camping!

If you don’t already have the items to sleep comfortably outdoors you have to purchase or borrow them. It would be ideal to sleep in the woods without needing anything, perhaps on a tree, but let’s be realistic. When a torrential downpour comes our way we want a comfy tent protecting us, and a warm sleeping bag for those high mountain winds. But we don’t want to overwhelm ourselves by carrying a tons of stuff we don’t need. The best policy is travel lightly, live simply, and learn to improvise.  Here’s a basic guide on what you’ll need to camp in the wilderness.

A girl, alone, camping in the wilderness.

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/+%23woman+%23camping

Camping Items:

Tent: Know weather conditions, number of people to find the tent with the right space, weight and price. You want a tent that is roomy, light, and moderately-priced. Is it easy to set up? Tents are separated by number of sleepers and seasons. 3-season tents are good for spring, summer and fall. If you’re anticipating humidity, make sure your tent has ventilating mesh panels. If you’re expecting to face harsh weather, a 4-season tent is best.

tent camping in the wilderness

Why not? [Image: www.tumblr.com]

Sleeping Bag: When choosing a sleeping bag, make sure it fits your body size. Check the temperature rating; most bags go between 15°F to 50°F. For example, if it says ” 30-degree bag,” the temperature should not fall below 30°F, otherwise your sleeping bag will not warm you. Bags can also differ by gender. There are three sleeping bag shapes to choose from: rectangular, barrel-shaped bags and double-wide bags that sleep two people.

Sleeping pad: Don’t let the bitter cold get you! A sleeping pad keeps your sleeping bag away from the cold, hard ground, and adds a cushioning layer. Think about weather, style of travel, thickness and weight when choosing the right sleeping pad. On the heavier side there are air pads and self-inflating pads. The basic foam pads are lighter, inexpensive, but somewhat stiff.

Two hikers on their way to camping in the wilderness.

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/wilderness+camping

Backpack: Depending on length of travel, preference and body size, you can pick between a variety of backpacks. Go with a lighter bag if you plan on climbing or hiking 1 to 2 nights. Consider the size of your torso when choosing a backpack. There are backpacks especially designed for women. Check for extra pockets, compartments, and water reservoirs (some backpacks come with this feature).

Food: You need to decide whether you’re cooking. Are you fishing or hunting? Otherwise take protein bars, freeze dry food, and food that can easily be cooked. Salad, fruit, vegan-food, burgers, hot-dogs, and sandwiches are the easiest to cook up when camping.

cast iron skillet and kettle on a stove outdoors

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/campfire+cooking

Food Storage: If you’re camping in bear country make sure to take a bear canister with you to keep your food safe. You don’t want bears attacking your tent! Some parks have large food storage compartments at each tent site. For light-use, try picnic coolers with shoulder straps and backpack coolers. For larger groups, try chest coolers.

Lighting Materials: If you’re cooking, you’ll need matches and lighter fluid. You can’t eat chips and peanuts all day! Gasoline is not a good idea; it will make the fire uncontrollable. Make sure open fires are allowed, since campfires may not be permitted in certain parks. If campfires are permitted and a fire grate or pit is not present at the campsite, scout out your campsite for an appropriate place. Pick an area that is not bushy or full of low-lying branches, and keep your campfire low. You can also make fire by using the battery/wool, or the flint/knife method as seen below.


Cooking Equipment: If campfires seem too stressful, try using a campstove or a solar oven. To experience old-timey outdoors cooking, try cooking with a cast iron pot, dutch oven or a grill.

Cooking with a cauldron on an open fire

[Cauldron Image: www.tumblr.com/search/campfire+cooking]

Wood: The best wood is the small, thin stuff (twigs, small branches, leaves, birch bark), but it must be dry. Most parks don’t allow outside wood, since it might contain invasive species, so you’re better off buying it at the campground or finding fallen wood far from your site. Never cut live trees at the campground. Make sure to fully put out the fire when you’re done. Campfires can deplete soil nutrients, so be aware how and where you build your campfire.

Thermo/Canteen: You’ll be needing this for water, juice, tea or coffee. BPA- free, stainless steel insulated canteens are best for hot and cold insulation for many hours.

First Aid: You can make you’re own first-aid kit by storing band-aids, antibacterial ointment, large bandages, alcohol packets, gauze pads, fabric bandages, and medical adhesive tape or safety pins in a small receptacle.

Flashlight: LED flashlights are now smaller and brighter. When buying a flashlight, consider its use, battery type, size, ruggedness, and if it’s water resistant. Solar-powered flashlights and headlamps are also advisable.

Multi-use knife: Ideally, you should have two: one for cutting food and the other for doing manual work. If you don’t have two, one knife will be sufficient.

Wilderness camping knife on a rock

Image: www.tumblr.com/search/outdoors+knife

Biodegradable Soap: It’s important to leave a light footprint when going to these secluded places. Try a soap that is organic or biodegradable. Make sure to use it far away from the water source.

Hiking Boots: Sneakers are often too light and provide little cushion. Hiking boots can take you through rocky trails and slopes without much damage to your feet and knees.

Wooden utensils, plates and cups: Choose lightweight over bulkiness. These are easy to wash and don’t contain chemicals.

Tarp: It’s extra protection in case you encounter heavy rain or your tent rips.

Check out our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and more! And remember to breath, take in the scenery, and write about it. There’s nothing like recording your thoughts while being surrounded by nature.

girl writing in her notebook in the wilderness

Image: www.tumblr.com

7 Awesome Photos to Get You Psyched for Summer

The first day of summer is this Saturday, June 21st, and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by hanging out in the great outdoors! But since we’re sitting at our desks right now, we’ll do the next best thing: show you photos of people hanging out in the great outdoors!

Without further ado, here are 7 awesome photos to get you psyched for summer!


Image: www.tumblr.com

Up for some tubing, anyone? Relaxing in the water, surrounded by huge, gorgeous, green trees, and floating around with all your friends sounds like a perfect summer plan.

roasting marshmallows

Image: www.tumblr.com

Summer=camping in our minds, and what’s camping without s’mores? The fire, the logs, the mallows roasting; well, it just makes us more excited than ever for this season.

guy surfing a blue wave

Image: surf4living.tumblr.com

Yes; waves really are that blue in nature. Being active is our main jam, so you know we’re planning some surfing trips to catch some killer waves.

picnic at the beach

Image: high-like-in-aquarius.tumblr.com

At this point, we feel like we’re planning your perfect summer day, so after you’re done surfing, you might as well have a lovely picnic on the beach.


Image: www.tumblr.com

After looking at this photo, who wouldn’t want to canoe down this beautifully scenic river?

fire on the beach

Image: www.tumblr.com

This fire on the sand is just waiting for a season full of camping, s’mores, and bonfires galore!

girl in the water

Image: www.tumblr.com

If you aren’t excited for summer by now (seriously, who are you?), just look at this amazingly stunning photo. You’re bound to want to get wading in the water.

Don’t forget your Pocket Ranger® app! It’ll help turn these photos into your real-live excursions.


5 Great Books to Read This Summer

Girl reading book by campfire at night

Image: www.travelblog.org

Summer 2014 is finally here! Time to kick back by the campfire with a great book. We’ve paired these 5 outdoorsy reads with 5 tremendous state parks, just in time for summer vacation:

1. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
(Nonfiction, 337 pages)

Cover of Edward Abbey's book Desert Solitaire

Image: www.adventure-journal.com

“Wilderness. The word itself is music.”
-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Hailed as “the Thoreau of the American West” by the Washington Post, Edward Abbey chronicles his experiences as a park ranger in Utah in Desert SolitaireFirst published in 1968, Abbey’s passionate (and sometimes polarizing) musings about the stewardship of our wild places ring just as true today. Alongside his rousing thoughts, Abbey captures the harsh beauty of the Southwestern desert and the creatures that call it home.

Snow Canyon State Park in Utah with red rock canyon, desert plants, brown tent

Snow Canyon State Park, Utah [Image: stateparks.utah.gov]

Hearing the siren call of the Southwestern desert? Check out Snow Canyon State Park using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Utah State Parks & Recreation. Located at the intersection of the Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and Colorado Plateau, you’ll be experiencing some of the same striking landscapes that inspired Edward Abbey!

2. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
(Fiction, 576 pages)

Book cover for Pet Sematary by horror writer Stephen King, scary cat, green eyes, fangs, dark

Image: stephenking.com

“The soil of a man’s heart is stonier; a man grows what he can and tends it.”
– Stephen King, Pet Sematary

Who knew the woods could hold such evil?! When tragedy strikes the nearly perfect Creed family, the dark Maine woods nearby offer a terrifying solution. A resident Mainer himself, this Stephen King classic includes an ancient curse, salt-of-the-earth neighbors, and the undead (of course). We don’t want to ruin any of Pet Sematary‘s surprises, so you’ll just have to be brave and read it for yourself!

Baxter State Park, Maine, rocky landscape and pine trees, still pond, Mount Katahdin, rocky beach

Baxter State Park, Maine [Image: www.backpacker.com]

What better place to read Pet Sematary than in the Maine woods? With Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Maine State Parks & Lands in hand, check out Baxter State Park. Baxter State Park is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mount Katahdin, and part of the Appalachian Trail’s famed “100 Mile Wilderness.” Curious where the movie version of Pet Sematary was shot? Check out our blog post about movies filmed in state parks!

3. The Meadow by James Galvin
(Fiction, 240 pages)

Book cover of The Meadow by James Galvin, yellow, fence, dry brush, Wyoming

Image: buddiesinthesaddle.blogspot.com

“The history of the meadow goes like this. No one owns it, no one ever will.”
– James Galvin, The Meadow

A hundred vignettes for a hundred-year history of a hay meadow tucked away in the arid mountains of Wyoming, The Meadow reads like a Robert Redford film (think: A River Runs Through It). A native of Wyoming, poet/novelist James Galvin masterfully writes of the stark beauty of the landscape: its brutal weather, abundant wildlife, and the intrepid homesteaders committed to surviving in such an unforgiving land.

South Pass Historic Site, Wyoming, winter, snow, old buildings, mining camp, blue sky, clouds, dark trees, ghost town

South Pass City Historic Site, Wyoming [Image: wyoparks.state.wy.us]

Want to see a homesteader’s cabin for yourself? South Pass City Historic Site in Wyoming has 17 restored original structures from an abandoned 19th century mining camp. Visitors can tour these buildings and pan for gold in Willow Creek. This area is perfect for glimpsing moose, antelope, and eagles, making it a great place to snap a photo waypoint using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites & Trails.

4. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
(Fiction, 316 pages)

Swamplandia! book, novel by Karen Russell, girl with pigtails, blue hat, hopping, alligator, reeds, swamp, fangs, jaw

Image: www.theparisreview.org

“The alligator is an anachronism that can eat you!”
– Karen Russell, Swamplandia!

Alligator wrestling, anyone? After the death of their star performer, the Bigtrees are about to lose the family business: an alligator wrestling theme park in coastal Florida. No stranger to the area, Karen Russell wields her knowledge of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands to create the verdant, often menacing world of Swamplandia!. Russell spikes this Everglades odyssey with humor and magic: an albino baby gator, a sister’s paranormal boyfriend, a foreboding Bird Man, and a competing theme park known as the World of Darkness.

Boardwalk, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida, Cypress trees, green, ferns, swamp

Corkscrew Swamp Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida [Image: www.johnwise.com]

To see the lush beauty of Swamplandia! for yourself, visit Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in the Everglades of Florida. Home to hundreds of orchids and bromeliads, this hauntingly beautiful Cypress swamp harbors endangered Florida panthers, black bears, rare Everglades mink, otters, alligators, wood storks, and bald eagles. Feeling really adventurous? Try slogging through the swamp on a guided tour to see the wonders of Fakahatchee up close! Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Florida State Parks allows you to cache maps for those Wi-Fi-less moments in the swamp.

5. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
(Nonfiction, 288 pages)

Annie Dillard book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, green, trees, pulitzer prize, sepia

Image: www.adventure-journal.com

“It has always been a happy thought to me that the creek runs on all night, new every minute, whether I wish it or know it or care, as a closed book on a shelf continues to whisper to itself its own inexhaustible tale.”
– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

A quiet power, Annie Dillard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is a series of essays dabbling in biology, philosophy, entomology, and theology. After surviving a nearly fatal bout of pneumonia, Dillard spent the year exploring the woods and waters of her southwest Virginian neighborhood. Surprise encounters with birds, weasels, muskrats, and monarchs lead to inner discoveries about the human condition. Dillard is a master at coalescing scientific fact with exhilarating meditations on life.

New River Trail State Park, Virginia, tunnel, green, trees, pathway, gravel, ferns, walkway, forest, railroad

New River Trail State Park, Virginia [Image: virginiatrailguide.com]

Also located in southwestern Virginia, New River Trail State Park roams 57 miles of abandoned railroad track. This park’s picturesque trails include woodsy walks, with old railroad bridges and tunnels now strictly for pedestrian, bicyclist, and equestrian use. Use Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation to mark waypoints, leave tracks, and take notes about your own Annie Dillard-inspired nature walk in the woods.

Looking for more great books about the outdoors? We’ve got plenty to keep you busy this summer!

June 2014’s Best State Park Events

Two Adirondack chairs on deck, lake, forest

Image: blog.weneedavacation.com

Looking for something to kick off your summer? Here are five rousing state park events that we think will fit the bill:

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Point State Park, Pennsylvania, crowds, music, festival, summer, river, trees, audience, park, green

Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pennsylvania [Image: www.3riversartsfest.org]

Three Rivers Arts Festival
Point State Park, Pennsylvania
June 6-15, 2014

For 10 glorious days, this large, bustling art and performing arts fair takes over Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. Listen to top-notch touring musicians, behold the work of acclaimed visual artists, and participate in creative hands-on activities and art installations. Best part about the Three Rivers Arts Festival? It’s free! Artwork from over 1,000 artists will also be on display, and this year’s top performers include: Lucinda Williams, Jeff Tweedy, Sam Bush, Amos Lee, and Trampled by Turtles. When your ears have had enough music for the day, make sure to check out Point State Park’s iconic, 100-foot tall fountain. Better yet, use Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Pennsylvania State Parks & Forests to take a photo waypoint selfie in front of it to share with all of your Facebook and Twitter friends.


Map of 400 Mile Yard Sale, Kentucky

Image: www.kylandsales.com

“400 Mile Sale” Yard Sale
Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park, Kentucky
June 5-8, 2014

Get your bargain-finding game face on! From June 5th – June 8th, Kentucky will burst at the seams with yard sale goodies across 400 miles of its scenic and historic Highway 68. Camp at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park to put yourself at the heart of the thrifting. Not sure if you’re ready to pay for a treasure you’ve uncovered at one of the hundreds of yard sale tables? Mark it as a waypoint using Pocket Ranger®’s Official Guide for Kentucky State Parks, so you can find your way back to it at the end of the day! While in the area, don your leather jacket for the Elkton Bike Night or pull on the family tartan for the Highland Scottish Games in Barren River State Park. And don’t forget to pick up your 400 Mile Sale t-shirt! There’s a limited supply of them!

Utah Lake Festival, Utah, mountains, lake, lawn, summer, boat, tents, forest

Utah Lake Festival, Utah [image: www.enjoyutah.org]

Utah Lake Festival
Utah Lake State Park, Utah
Saturday June 7, 2014

Like boats? How about scenic mountain views? How about a boat tour on a lake with scenic mountain views? The 10th Annual Utah Lake Festival at Utah Lake State Park has all of that and more. With a unique boat show, sailboat regatta, lake tours, and activities for the kids, there’s something for everyone at this festival. Admission is free, and in past years, we’ve heard the park’s provided free hot dogs and popcorn!

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, Killens Pond Water Park, Delaware, bathing suits, pool, kids, summer, lifeguards

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson, Delaware [Image: catodayblog.wordpress.com]

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson
Killens Pond Water Park, Delaware
June 20, 2014

Wanna help break a Guinness World Record? Killens Pond Water Park will host the “World’s Largest Swimming Lesson” with the hopes of breaking the Guinness World Record for largest simultaneous swimming lesson conducted. This event is part of a global effort to raise awareness and encourage education for drowning prevention. In 2011, over 20,000 people representing 15 different countries participated! The lesson lasts 30 minutes; after that, spend the day lounging poolside. Or take a spin on Killens Pond State Park‘s new twisty pool slide!

Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey , dusk, sunset, sky, light, bridge, ocean

Barnegat Lighthouse, New Jersey [Image: www.familyvacationcritic.com]

Lighthouse Campfire
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, New Jersey
June 28, 2014

What better way to close the month of June than on a sandy beach making s’mores and listening to live music with friends? On June 28th, listen to the Basement Musicians Guild play some country and folk favorites and take an evening stroll down the beach. Afterwards, climb to the top of Barnegat Lighthouse for the best view of the night sky. You’ll be glad you did.

Roasted & Toasted: 5 Campfire Gadgets To Get You Cookin’

We’re suckers for nostalgic activities like chasing fireflies, skipping stones, and of course, hanging around the campfire. We enjoy the simplicity of these activities, and we can’t help but recall how they made us feel as kids, and all the fond memories we have of those times. That being said, we wouldn’t mind a little upgrade to our tools of childhood—a trade-in for all of those years of searching for the perfect stick or sacrificing your marshmallow to the campfire gods. In celebration of adulthood and our unofficial permit to play with fire, we’ve rounded up a few roasting and toasting gadgets to trick-out your camp-out.



1. GSI Outdoors Titanium Kung Foon and Chopsticks Set

Long enough to scoop hot and taste treats from the campfire, this convertible spoon-fork-chopstick  set is the gourmet camper’s go-to utensil. From fire to plate, this 3-in-1 utensil is both a space and time savor, not to mention it’s perfect for campfire ramen! Available at REI.com, $19.95

2. Rome’s Chestnut Roaster and Fireplace Popcorn Popper

Nothing goes better with a tall tale or scary story than a fist full of salty popcorn. The sound of this bad boy popping kernels is sure to have fellow campers running fireside just to sneak a few bites of crunchy, buttery goodness. Available at Amazon.com, $22.73

3. Rome’s Marshmallow Tree Fork

Become a roasting machine with this stainless steel tree fork that lets you toast several marshmallows or weenies at once, so the kids can keep their cool while waiting for their snack. This multi-branched metal roasting stick mimic’s Mother Nature with only a few sturdy improvements, so you can have the perfect roast every time! Available at Newegg.com, $17.25

4. Rome’s Cast Iron Square Pie Iron

You’ve never lived until you’ve sunk your teeth into your first campfire pie. This pie iron makes whipping up tasty desserts and savory sandwiches as easy as, well, pie! Available at Dickssportinggoods.com, $16.99

5. Light My Fire Grandpa’s Fire Fork

Maybe, just maybe, you’re not ready to give up the stick, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a grown-up upgrade. This nifty fork attaches to just about any branch you’re able to scavenge, so you can mellow out with your ‘mallows instead of spending precious hours hunting down sticks and shaving them to a point. The best part of this genius gadget is its size. It can fit in just about any pocket, leaving your pack free for the goods stuff. Available at REI.com, $4.95