Tag Archives: survival guide

The Nitty Gritty About Survival Kits

Survival kit essentials and backpack [Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit]

Image: thenexttrailhead.com/post/45569963707/diy-first-aid-wilderness-survival-kit

Heading into the great outdoors? In addition to your first aid kit, don’t forget to pack a survival kit! While everyone has preferences of what they like to include in their personal survival kit, here’s a list of our 11 must-haves.

1. Lighter

A small plastic lighter can make all the difference in an emergency. Also consider packing a magnesium starter or a book of matches as back-up.

2. Cell Phone

Cell phones are practically mandatory survival items these days. Just don’t forget to bring a charger. For more remote locations, a satellite phone may be necessary.

3. Iodine Tablets

In addition to bringing enough water, fill a small pill bottle with iodine tablets. Iodine tablets are perfect for survival kits because they are way easier to pack than a water filter. These tablets don’t add the best taste to water, but they will get you through those areas where drinking water isn’t readily available.

Two hikers on the trail in the evening [Image: Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review]

Image: outdoorgearmadness.com/petzl-myo-rxp-review

4. Flashlight

What you thought was a day hike turns into an overnight affair. That’s when you’re really going to need your flashlight and/or headlamp. Just don’t forget to pack extra batteries!

5. Knife

A pocket knife is good. A multi-tool knife is great.

6. Tinder

Whether you bring along some homemade fire starter or a vial of emergency tinder tablets, dry kindling will be a godsend when you’re looking to start a fire.

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you'll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image:  www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

If your day hike turns midway into a camping trip, you’ll be glad you packed a survival kit. [Image: www.exposureguide.com/outdoor-photography-tips.htm]

7. Energy Bar

Stash an energy bar or two into your survival kit. When the going gets rough, an energy bar will feel like a feast.

8. Compass & Maps

Even the best technology can fail, which is why bringing along a compass and map is so essential. Before hitting the trail, be sure that you are packing the most up-to-date map!

9. Waterproof Shell

Even if the forecast says sunny, pack a light, waterproof outer shell. This shell should also act as a windbreaker.

After a day like this, you'll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

After a day like this, you’ll be so glad you packed extra socks. [Image: treelinebackpacker.com/2014/08/09/backpacking-in-the-rain]

10. Water Bottle

If you’ve got the space, bring an extra water bottle. You never know when you’ll need an extra container.

11. Extra Hiking Socks

Knowing you’ve packed a pair of dry hiking socks may be the ticket to getting you through those downtrodden moments on the trail. Thick socks can also double as mittens.

Many of these items and more can be found within our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store! Or take our 2-minute Pocket Ranger® Survey and you could win a $350 gift certificate to Backcountry.com!

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!

Go Emerald Coasting this Spring!

Contributed by Emerald Coast Tourism, proud sponsor of Florida State Parks & Beaches Pocket Ranger® app

It’s hard to say what season is best on the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast. Summer, of course, is an absolute paradise there. In winter, you can trade frigid snow for sugar-white sand. And when it comes to fall color, nothing beats emerald green. But spring… there’s just something about spring. Many consider it the perfect time to go #EmeraldCoasting.

So what exactly does Emerald Coasting in the spring mean? Where do we start? In the springtime, Emerald Coasting is parasailing and jet skiing. It’s boating adventures and world-class golf. It’s marine shows at the Gulfarium. It’s dining al fresco on fresh seafood while watching a gorgeous sunset.

Little girl emerald coasting runs along a beach [Image credit: Peter A. Mayer]

Emerald Coast Tourism [Image credit: Peter A. Mayer]

Emerald Coasting in the spring is catching sight of newborn baby dolphins while you are on a dolphin cruise. It’s watching your kids get wet and wild in the fountains at Destin Commons while you indulge in some retail therapy. It’s the thrill-ride fun of Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, reopening May 2 after a long winter break. And if you’re an angler, spring is a great time to try your luck in the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”

To find out what’s best about spring in Destin, Ft. Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, visit EmeraldCoasting.com. There’s a 100% chance of flip-flop weather, so why wait? Start planning today!

An Ode To Turning Around

Contributed by Michael Restivo of Mike off the Map

Rocky mountaintop [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

We stood before an icy couloir that divided Mt. Meeker from the Diamond Face of Longs Peak. Behind us, up a desolate, cold valley, the sunrise illuminated the rock in a brilliant gold hue. We huddled with the wind at our back, barely trying to stay on our feet, ice axe in hand and crampons firmly gripped to our boots. In the brief moments of calm between gusts funneling through the couloir, we pondered our chances on the Dreamweaver Route. Our plan was to climb in alpine-style: fast, light, no rope, and relying on our tools and efficient movement to ascend the 60-degree ramp to the summit ridge. As we stared up the face and came to a decision, a blast of spindrift – swirling, icy crystals of snow, had us pulling our hoods over our mouths. I turned to my partner and I said the words that no climber likes to hear:

I don’t think this is a good idea.

Rocky mountain summit with snow [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Alpine climbing is always a gamble and never a certainty. Unlike a day at the crag where you have ample time to relax and take in the view, alpine climbing is about efficiency and constant movement. In the mountains, you’re fighting against the weather, the condition of the snow, the movement of other parties ahead of you, and a variety of factors that are determined to slow down the climb. The best alpinists became that way because they knew when to make the call to turn back from the summit. During the ascent, there’s a constant state of awareness regarding the changing conditions. A bluebird day turns into storm clouds and blasting winds within minutes. The snow softens, becomes too warm, and risks sliding. If you’re within yards of the summit, you know to ask yourself:

I may make it to the top, but do I have the ability to make it back down?

This is the question that should plague every hiker, backcountry skier, climber, or snowshoer. During high-intensity backcountry excursions, self-assessment and condition awareness is crucial. How fast is the party moving? What’s everyone’s condition regarding altitude and overall fitness? How much daylight is left in relation to the summit’s distance? There’s always that desire to be bold, be the superhero, and have that story about beating the odds to make an objective, but at what risk? The mountain is always going to be there and the trail will live for another day. Unwarranted criticism about the decisions that anybody makes in the mountains should be taken with a massive grain of salt.

Yellow tent on rocky mountain summit [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

In 2012, on my first attempt of Mt. Rainier, we got caught in a storm on the upper reaches of the mountain. Despite the stinging cold, blinding snow, and unbearable wind, I was determined to make it to the top. Because of my ego and personal pride, I overlooked my condition and kept forging ahead, putting at risk my life and that of my teammates. The fault in my actions that day was due to the fact that I had under-assessed my own condition and tried to push ahead with all my strength despite being already exhausted on the upper slopes. The next few trips, I learned to treat climbs not as a reach for the summit, but instead to enjoy the beauty and the athleticism behind alpinism as a whole. On subsequent trips, such as getting turned back from Mt. Hood due to the warming weather and soft snow, or a turnaround on Washington’s Forbidden Peak because our timing at the base of the route was way off, I learned to respect these decisions for what they were. Not a representation of what I couldn’t do, but just the luck of the draw. An unfortunate side effect of what we do as climbers.

Sun sets over mountain range in Pacific Northwest [Image Credit: Michael Restivo]

Image Credit: Michael Restivo

Every climb is a learning experience. You learn how to read different conditions, how to gauge good movement, and take that into future ascents. During the climb there should never be any kind of doubt or “I don’t know” about the route. Ultimately, the decision of turning around will always be the right one.

Five Tips for Beginning a Garden

Spring is finally here, making this the absolute best time to finally start that garden you’ve been meaning to get around to. Whether you’re looking to plant a lush garden full of wildflowers or you want to grow some of your favorite veggies, this is the prime time to lay some seeds down and watch your beauties grow. Here are five tips to get you on your way toward your dream garden.

A huge flower garden near a lake.

A gorgeous flower garden to get you inspired. [Image: theunboundedspirit.com/the-sacred-art-of-gardening]

1. Find the perfect spot.

Sunlight coming through trees.

Make sure you find a sunny spot for your garden. [Image: skyway-es.com/sunlight-therapy-heliotherapy]

When deciding on the perfect spot for your garden, you’ll want to use a place that’ll give your plants everything they need to flourish. Most flowers and vegetables need between six and eight hours of full sunlight to grow to their fullest potential. When choosing your spot, make sure trees, buildings, or any other types of obstructions don’t block the sunlight. Similarly you’ll want to ensure that the plants will be protected from windy days as well as the impending cold. Some plants are able to survive in a shady spot, but make sure you check the tags or with a local garden just to be certain. Make sure you can easily bring water to the spot—if it’s easily accessible, tending to your garden will be much more enjoyable and more difficult to neglect doing. Additionally it’s helpful to have your garden in a place that you’ll be able to easily notice if there are any issues. Put it right outside a window you look out of every day or right near your back door for instance.

2. Get to know your dirt.

A hand holding soil.

Get acquainted with the soil you’ll be using in your garden. [Image: www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/building-super-soil.aspx]

The soil you use in your garden is the most important factor that determines whether you’ll have healthy, abundant growth or if your plants will perish. Before anything you’ll have to clear the present sod and any large rocks, which will prevent your garden from becoming immediately overgrown with various weeds. Make sure to dig when the soil is moist so as not to ruin the structure of the area.

From there you’ll want to start improving the quality of your existing soil. Soil tests can be done through your county cooperative extension office or at a nearby nursery where they’ll tell you exactly what your soil needs and how to remedy the situation. The best course of action is to mix compost (dry glass clipping, decayed leaves, etc.) or mulch in with the soil, ensuring a healthy starting point for your garden. Don’t be confused between fertilizer and compost—fertilizer feeds your plants while compost feeds the soil.

3. Choose your garden.

Vegetable and flower garden with a scarecrow.

Maybe this could be in your yard! [Image: www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/containers/designing-your-container-vegetable-garden.htm]

Now is the time to finally decide on what type of garden you want to cultivate. Before you start buying plants, make sure to educate yourself on what can/cannot grow in your local environment. There’s a lot of research required in this step of the game, but it’s also the best part! Look into drought tolerant plants, annual plants that need to be replanted every season, perennials that come back year after year, easy care plants, plants that will attract the most amount of bees, and any other specifications you can think of. What it’s going to boil down to is choosing the types of plants/vegetables that you like the most and bringing them home to your garden.

4. Purchase your gardening gear.

Various gardening tools.

A list of must-have gardening tools. [Image: gardeningtoolsplus.com/garden/garden-tools-their-meaning.html]

It’s important to at least have some basic tools on hand, but try not to go overboard on a purchasing frenzy. You’ll want to have a spade, garden fork, shears, hose, hoe, gloves, rake, shovel, hand weeder, and a basket for moving around your soil/mulch at the very least. After awhile you’ll develop a preference for certain tools and will have a better idea of what you absolutely do and do not need.

5. Set a schedule.

A drawn gardening schedule with pictures of various vegetables.

However you want to draw it up, a schedule is incredibly helpful when gardening. [Image: urbangardencasual.com/2012/04/11/successful-gardening-101-how-much-do-i-need/]

After you’ve planted your seeds and the seedlings start to peek their faces out from the soil, you’ll want to solidify a schedule as to properly care for your new plants. From weeding to staking to trimming to watering, you’ll always find something that needs to be done in your garden. As time progresses it’s important to keep a record of your garden successes and failures. In this way, you’ll be able to learn what’s working and what isn’t. A concrete schedule will help you remember what time of the year certain plants will bloom so you know when to give what plants your attention.

This list should at least put you on the path toward developing your own dream garden. Get down and dirty, and embrace spring with open arms. Make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to visit a local park near you for some inspiration!

Wildlife Rescue 9-1-1

Family of opossums [Image: Missouri Department of Conservation]

Image: Missouri Department of Conservation

With so many wild animals migrating, nesting, and raising new broods, you are bound to come into contact with wildlife this spring. Of course, nothing in Nature ever runs smoothly. Thanks to the efforts of Fish and Wildlife, wildlife rescues, and people like yourself, injured and orphaned wildlife can receive extra care that will see them through those rough spots.

Common Wildlife “Emergencies”

When it comes to wildlife, we like the Center for Wildlife‘s motto: Don’t rescue unless rescuing is needed. While some wildlife injuries require expert medical attention, there are other injuries or situations that either do not need human intervention or can be treated or resolved at home. Here are three common wildlife emergencies and what you can do to help.

Situation 1: You heard or saw a bird strike a window.

From raptors to tiny songbirds, when the sun strikes a window just right, a bird in flight may not see it in time or believe it’s a valid flight corridor. Some birds succumb to the injuries sustained from such a collision. Others may survive the collision, but — due to shock — become easy pickings for a predator. It’s these disoriented survivors that could use a little help! Below are six steps for rescuing just such a stunned bird:

  1. If you have seen or heard a bird careen into a window, the first thing you can do is find a box with a lid. Poke holes in the lid for ventilation and add some paper towels as bedding.
  2. Bring the box with lid outside and begin looking for your bird. Most likely, the bird will be directly under the window in a dazed state. If the bird is in this condition (dazed, on the ground, easily caught), it could use your help.
  3. Gently scoop up the bird and place in the box. Take a moment to assess the bird’s condition. Is there any blood, and if so, how much? Do the bird’s wings look broken? If there is a lot of blood or the bird appears to have broken bones, call your local wildlife rescue for guidance. If the bird only appears dazed, secure the lid over the box and bring inside.
    A goldfinch in flight [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/fixersphotos]

    A goldfinch in flight. [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/fixersphotos]

  4. Find a quiet, warm, dark space inside your home, such as a closet or a kitchen cabinet. With the lid still in place, leave the box with the bird in this quiet place. The quiet darkness mimics nighttime, which puts the bird in a restorative sleeping state.
  5. After thirty minutes to an hour, check on your bird. Quietly and carefully pull up the lid on the box. If the bird seems more energetic, take the box outside, remove the lid and let the bird fly away.
  6. If the bird does not leave the box or if you can easily catch him again, place the bird back in the box, secure with lid, and return to that quiet place within your house for an hour more. When another hour is up, take the box outside again, open lid, and give the bird another chance to fly away. If the bird still shows signs of injury, contact your local wildlife rescue. The bird may be suffering from internal injuries that need to be professionally treated.

Situation 2: You’ve found a baby bird on the ground.

Finding a baby bird outside it’s nest may be disconcerting, but don’t sound the alarm just yet! A chick outside the nest doesn’t always mean that it’s in danger. First, assess the situation. Does the chick look injured? If the chick looks healthy, decide if it is a fledgling or a nestling. For most birds, the key difference between the two is that a fledgling is feathered, closely resembles an adult bird and can easily perch on a thumb or finger. A nestling is too young to perch and is often more fuzz than feathers. If you’ve come across a nestling, locate the nest and carefully place the chick inside. Unlike the old wives’ tale, the parents will return to the nest to care for the chick. If you can’t find the nest or the nest appears damaged, call your local wildlife rescue. They will have the staff and facilities for successfully raising a chick.

Grackles are a common backyard bird. On the left, is a nestling grackle; to the right, the fledgling grackle. [Image:  www.eastvalleywildlife.org & wildobs.com]

Grackles are a common backyard bird, often amassing in large, raucous flocks. On the left, is a nestling grackle; to the right, the fledgling grackle. [Images: www.eastvalleywildlife.org & wildobs.com]

While it may appear incapable of survival, a fledgling outside the nest is oftentimes perfectly okay. Even when on the ground, the parents will continue to feed a fledgling, and within a few days, the fledgling will be flying. Give the fledgling space; keep children and pets away so the parent birds will not be deterred from caring for the chick. Also keep in mind that not all bird species raise their young in trees. Some birds (such as shorebirds, pheasants and certain owls species) raise their young in scrapes on the ground.

Situation 3: You’ve found baby squirrels out of their nest and/or on the ground.

With the nice weather comes construction projects, and oftentimes this means cutting down old or nuisance trees. Trees provide valuable habitat for a variety of species, such as birds, porcupines, and squirrels. When a tree is cut down, these animal inhabitants have to re-home themselves.

Don't create orphans! Here is a mother squirrel relocates her baby to a safer spot. [Image:  wildlifecoalition.com]

Don’t create orphans! Above: a mother squirrel relocates her baby to a safer spot. [Image: wildlifecoalition.com]

Nests of baby squirrels are frequently found within these logged trees. If the nest is in a relatively safe spot on the fallen tree, resist the urge to scoop up the baby squirrels and rush them to a wildlife rescue! Instead observe the nest from a distance for about an hour. Oftentimes, the mother squirrel is busy locating and reassembling a nest in a nearby tree. Within an hour, this mother squirrel will have moved all of her babies to the new location. Only if the mother squirrel does not appear or if you can confirm that the mother has died, call your local wildlife rescue for guidance. Raising baby squirrels is immensely time-consuming and should only be done by professionals to ensure that the squirrels can be released back into the wild when they are old enough.

Ways You Can Keep Wildlife Safe

  • Be prepared for wildlife rescues by storing a box with a lid, heavy work gloves and blankets in the trunk of your car and/or a closet at home. Save contact information for the nearest wildlife rescue and Fish and Wildlife office in your phone. Remember all wild animals are potentially dangerous and when injured, their first means of defense may be to attack. Keep yourself safe by adequately judging the situation first, approaching and handling injured wildlife only when absolutely necessary.
  • Keep birds from striking your windows by breaking up their external reflection. You can do this by drawing the shades or adhering stickers of hawks, crows or owls to the glass. If you have bird feeders in front of your windows, consider relocating them to a safer area.
  • Don’t throw food scraps from your car window! All this time you may have been chucking banana peels and apple cores from your car window thinking you were helping the planet when in reality you’re setting a deadly trap for wildlife. Trash brings all kinds of wildlife looking for a snack onto the roadways. Keep wildlife safe by throwing away your trash in the proper receptacles.
A wildlife rescue treats an injured screech owl. [Image:  www.yorkcenterforwildlife.org]

Volunteer your time at a local wildlife rescue! [Image: www.yorkcenterforwildlife.org]

  • Keep your cat indoors! Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year in the United States! Give birds and the small mammals in your neighborhood a fighting chance by keeping your cat indoors.
  • If not endangering your property, consider leaving construction projects until after the spring. From birds to squirrels to skunks, each spring wildlife locates quiet shelters to raise their young, and this may be the very shelter you are gearing up to renovate or demolish. Delaying your construction project a few weeks keeps you from disrupting or harming wildlife. Also, wildlife viewing opportunities abound when you temporarily provide habitat for these wildlife families.
  • Volunteer at a local wildlife rehabilitation center! Wildlife rescues often need assistance with cleaning enclosures, caring for orphaned baby mammals, and repairing on-site structures.

Looking for wildlife? Discover wildlife viewing opportunities near you with our Pocket Ranger® apps. Share your bird and wildlife sightings with fellow outdoor enthusiasts on our Bird Feed® and Pocket Ranger Trophy Case® apps!

Dreaming of an Outdoor Wedding? 10 Tips You Need to Know!

The words "Marry Me" in daisies [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

For those having outdoor weddings this year, the time to start planning is now! We’ve spoken with Carolyn Elliott and Kaela Gray, co-owners of Spring Hill Designs who have handled their fair share of outdoor weddings in the often turbulent weather of New England. Here are these outdoor wedding gurus’ top 10 tips that are sure to make your big day a hit and not a shrug.

1. Think seasonal.

When it comes to floral arrangements and bouquets, consider what type of flowers are growing at the time of your wedding. “While a florist may be able to find a flower that’s well past its local growing season, these out-of-season flowers may spend months in a cooler before they end up in your bouquet or centerpiece,” Elliott warns. For the freshest, best-looking flowers, talk to your local florist about the kinds of flowers that are in season at the time of your wedding. We also like the idea of incorporating wildflowers into your bouquet and centerpieces. (Be sure to check with the venue or state park before collecting wildflowers! There may be endangered species of wildflower in the area that are protected.)

Arbors are perfect for outdoor weddings [www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Arbors are perfect for outdoor weddings. [www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

2. Think local.

Local growers, local florists, local flowers, local food: Gray can’t stress local enough! Local growers, farmers and vendors can often help keep your wedding costs down. To get you the best deals, these vendors will know who to talk to and chances are they know the venue, which makes a big difference in keeping your plans perfectly aligned. Likewise, if you decide to hold your wedding at a state park near you, introduce yourself to the staff and ask for planning tips. Most likely, they’ve have seen it all and can impart valuable advice on the do’s and don’ts for that particular space.

3. Embrace the elements.

The views, the smells, and the landscape all combine to create the unique atmosphere that will set your wedding apart. Gray says to keep those sights, sounds and smells in mind when planning your big day. For example, if you envision your nuptials on a hill overlooking a lake, it could be windy that day. Gray’s advice? “Don’t fight it,” she says, “Keep flowers, hair, and your veil whimsical and a little wild, and you’ll find you’re much happier than if you had tried keeping things very formal.”

Pansies along a tractor for a wedding [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

4. Leave the heels in the car.

Fact: Stilettos will sink into the grass and are not meant to be worn on woodsy paths. Instead, rock the day with a pair of flats, sandals or even your trusty hiking boots.

5. It’s all about the fabric.

Choose the best fabrics for the season. If you’re getting married in the dead heat of summer, go with light, airy fabrics. Since you’ll be outdoors for most of the day and probably into the night, consider wearing (or at least, bringing) layers. A nice scarf or light jacket can be a godsend when the sun goes down and you’re out under the stars. And don’t forget about the guys! Men should also carefully consider the fabrics of their formal wear. As Elliott puts it, “We see too many couples physically melting in the summer sun dressed in heavy gowns and tuxes.” Choose wisely!

A wedding in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

6. Less is more.

No matter the season, when thinking about make-up, less is more. Under the sun, make-up melts, and on humid or rainy days, it runs. When it’s cold out, make-up can over-dry your skin and make it appear flaky. Before applying make-up, make sure to moisturize your skin and apply sunscreen. Consider using long-lasting make-up products, such as waterproof mascara and lip stain.

7. Remember your guests.

While all the attention will be on you, don’t forget your guests. Keep them comfortable during the outdoor ceremony and reception by supplying seasonally appropriate accoutrements. For spring or summer weddings, think fun straw hats, parasols, sunglasses, and herbal bug sprays. For fall and winter weddings, leave out hand-warmers, and consider draping blankets or scarves over the backs of chairs. This will add visual interest to your seating arrangement, and also provide needed warmth for your guests.

Make sure there's an indoor or tented space available in case of inclement weather. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Make sure there’s an indoor or tented space available in case of bad weather. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

8. Hydrate!

During a summer wedding, keep your guests cool during the service and cocktail hour by having a self-serve drink station. Have pitchers of cucumber water, iced tea, and lemonade available. Or keep your guests warm during those early spring, late fall, and winter weddings with hot beverages, like hot chocolate, coffee and tea.

9. No one likes runny cake.

Just like what you wear, the food you serve at an outdoor reception should be seasonally appropriate. For summer weddings, Elliott suggests avoiding foods that melt, and choosing cheeses and cake frostings wisely. If you’re having the big day catered, make sure your caterer knows beforehand about your outdoor wedding plans. This will help you avoid having a puddle for a wedding feast.

Stuck indoors? Bring nature indoors with decorative arrangements [Image:  www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Rained out? Bring nature inside with decorative floral arrangements. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

10. Have a backup plan.

Most importantly, have a backup plan! Holding your wedding outdoors means you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so your contingency plan should include a sheltered space where you can carry out the nuptials and/or reception. When looking for a wedding venue, try to find one that also offers a large tent or sheltered picnic area or an indoor space, such as a barn or hall.

Have you said “Yes” and are now on the hunt for wedding venues? Stay tuned for an upcoming Pocket Ranger® post about great outdoor wedding venues at state parks across the country!