Tag Archives: swimming

Beach Safety

Ah, springtime, how we’ve missed you and your warm embrace so. With spring comes, of course, the warm weather, longer daylight hours, and eventually the long-awaited summer.

Sometimes it feels like summer is years away (especially lately here on the East Coast where we’ve been experiencing some not-very-spring-like temperatures and lots of rain), but in fact, summer is actually pretty close. And with summer brings two of our favorite things: sun and sand.

If you’re planning to make your way to the beach this summer, there a few things to keep in mind so you end up having a relaxing time outdoors. After all, what else is more relaxing than spreading out under an umbrella on the sand in front of the water? Beaches are practically made to be stress-free!

California beach.

Seriously, this photo just radiates “relaxation.” [Image: http://fineartamerica.com/]

Friends that swim together don’t get separated in dangerous riptides together.

Probably the most dangerous thing you can encounter at the beach are rip currents. They’ll pull and push you around, and before you know it, you’re farther from the beach than you feel comfortable being. A rip current can be deadly, so knowing how to look out for one and what to do if you find yourself caught in the tide is important for all beach-goers.

From the shore, you can see where riptides are occurring due to the sandy-colored areas where the current is pulling sand from the bottom as they form. You can also see darker water, which tells you that it may be a deeper area that a rip current has formed in. Oftentimes, you can see choppy water in those areas, and you may even see seaweed and foam moving in lines.


What are you waiting for? Get in that water! [Image: http://www.asiantour.com/]

The most important thing to remember if you get caught in a riptide is to not panic. If you feel yourself being pulled, you should swim perpendicular to that pull (typically this is parallel to the shoreline) until you don’t feel its tug any longer. If you can’t swim away from it, float until you no longer feel the pull and then make your way back to shore. Or if none of these options is feasible, wave your arms and call out to a lifeguard that you need help.

Relax. “Jaws” is not at all indicative of a normal beach experience.

Shark attacks are incredibly rare—you’ve probably heard the comparison that you have a higher chance of being struck by lightning or of being in a fatal car accident than you doing being attacked by a shark. In the U.S., there are an average of 16 shark attacks each year, with only one being fatal every two years.

But maybe it’s not the unlikely odds that scare you; maybe you’re just afraid of being unprepared, which is totally reasonable. So here’s what you can do if you find yourself near a shark.

Sharks with human teeth.

Another tip: Picturing sharks with human teeth makes them way less intimidating. [Image: http://distractify.com/]

Before you head into the water, you should avoid drawing attention to yourself in a way that might be appealing to a shark. That means don’t go into the water if you’re even slightly bleeding or menstruating, don’t wear bright colors or jewelry that could catch a shark’s eye, and don’t splash around excessively.

If you take all the proper precautions and still find yourself facing off with a shark, your best bet is to hit them in one of their sensitive areas (snout, eyes, or gills). Unlike how people say you should play dead if you’re attacked by a bear, you should fight against a shark with everything you have.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for sunscreen.


Putting sunscreen on might feel like a pain to do, but it’s even worse dealing with the aftermath of a bad sunburn. [Image: http://ryot.huffingtonpost.com/]

Melanoma is no joke, and beach-goers should be especially keen to apply generous amounts of sunscreen throughout the day when spending time at the beach. SPF 15 or higher is advised, depending on how easily you tend to burn. Additionally, keeping yourself in shady areas or wearing a hat are also helpful for avoiding excessive sunburn.

Prolonged exposure to the sun as well as dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or even sun poisoning. You’ll know if you’re experiencing one of these illnesses if you feel dizzy, fatigued, have a headache, have muscle cramps, your skin is pale, you’re sweating a lot or not at all, your heart is racing, you have a fever, and through many other symptoms. If you think you have one of these conditions, remove unnecessary clothing, drink more water, cool off in a bath or shower, or seek a medical professional.

Fish are friends, not food. And also not something you should really mess around with in general.

Even though going to the beach is usually reserved for vacations or days off, it’s best to keep in mind that you’re in the home of many different ocean animals and plants. As always, go into a park or beach with respect for the wildlife that live there and for the environment that you’re also enjoying.

That being said, there are plenty of creatures that you’ll come across at the beach that you might want to avoid. This includes crabs, jellyfish, mussels, clams, and barnacles to name a few. If you don’t want to get scraped, stung, or pinched, then be careful of where you tread and swim!

Crabs everywhere.

Just watch where you step! [Image: https://www.reddit.com/]

Hopefully these tips are early enough to prepare you for beach season this year. Stock up now on sunscreen, sandals, bathing suits, umbrellas, and all the other fun things to take to the beach. And, as always, make sure to bring your Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to make exploring and relaxing even easier!

An Ode to Nature

With the passing of Earth Day, we’ve become introspective, and our appreciation for this beautiful world around us has flourished. We look around and marvel at Mother Nature, and especially so as trees bloom and spring wraps us in its warm embrace. So here’s to you, Earth. This post’s for you and all that you do for us on our good days (and even the bad).

Mother Nature.

Mother Nature, you crazy beautiful. [Image: http://hdwallpaperbackgrounds.net/]

Thank you for supplying us with your far-reaching and entrancing beauty.

Some days when life feels difficult or a day just seems to drag on, the best medicine tends to be a trip outdoors. With the sun warming our faces, the rain patting us on the back, or the breeze gently encouraging us along, it’s easy to find some kind of calming reassurance outside.

Thank you for introducing us to plenty of fun creatures to look upon (but not touch!).

Bear mother and cubs.

Peek-a-boo. [Image: http://www.shanemcdermottphotography.com/]

The wildlife around us is astounding—look up, look down, look left, look right, and you’re sure to see something wriggling about. On top of all the glorious animals we come across in our travels, we also get to see plenty of breathtaking wildflowers and trees. Living, breathing, and with tops pointed up toward the sun, it’s easy to admire the magnificent flora covering our world.

Thank you for making it so easy to explore your seemingly endless acres.

Whether it’s by hiking to new heights, swimming to dark depths, camping out under the stars, climbing a mountain on two wheels, or scaling a rocky surface, there’s so many ways to explore in the great outdoors. If you see something that intrigues you, there’s probably a unique way that you can become acquainted with it.

Man swimming near underwater bench.

There’s much to discover out there. [Image: http://www.agapevoyage.com/]

With so much around us to take in, it feels like there’s really no reason to not spend every free moment outside! If you’re interested in helping to preserve this beautiful world of ours, look into volunteering opportunities in a state or national park near you. Then make sure you bring our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps with you to enhance your outdoor experience.

Take the Polar Bear Plunge

You may have seen people recently congregating on the beach around the holidays, clad in bathing suits and trying to stifle their shivers. Excitement and nervousness floods the air, then suddenly, people make a mad dash for the water. “They’ve lost their minds!” you may have thought. Actually, they were probably just taking part in the local Polar Bear Plunge where participants hop into the freezing waters to see how long they can last. Some brave souls swim around for a bit (usually until they’re limbs are numb, which surprisingly doesn’t take too long), but often people just go in quick enough to immerse themselves once and then head straight for a warm towel.

People dressed as polar bears for the Polar Bear Plunge.

Polar Bear…Plunge. Get it? [Image: http://theweek.com/]

So where exactly did this quirky tradition originate from? It actually dates back to over 100 years ago in Scandinavian bathhouses where overheated sauna-goers would plunge into icy waters to get immediate relief (this can still be seen if you visit a banya or other type of bathhouse today). Now, however, it has transformed into a way to ring in the New Year, a way to challenge yourself, and a platform for raising money for various charities.

Cold man in Polar Bear Plunge.

Probably an appropriate reaction. [Image: http://www.seattle.gov/]

In the United States, the tradition dates back to the early 1900s. Boston is the oldest, starting in 1904, with Milwaukee’s Bradford Beach not far behind, beginning in 1916. They’re in plenty of other places, as well—especially around the New Year. Since 1993, Seattle has held an annual plunge; both Lake George and Coney Island in New York have plunges; there’s a plunge in Evergreen, Colorado; the plunge in Minnesota raises money for the Special Olympics; and there are also plunges in New Hampshire and New Jersey! Maryland’s plunge, called Plungapalooza and located in Sandy Point State Park, is the largest in the country. It has raised over $2 million for the Special Olympics and seen more than 7,400 participants in the past.

Even if you miss ringing in the new year with an icy swim, there are a few plunges that take place after the holidays. Long Beach, New York hosts one of the largest plunges on Super Bowl Sunday and donates all its proceeds to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You can also head to Great Slave Lake in the Arctic Circle in March for “Freezin’ for a Reason.”

 Pat Hallor lays in the frigid ice filled water during his dip. The annual Polar Bear Plunge in Milwaukee was held at Bradford Beach on Wednesday, January 1, 2014. Photo by Mike De Sisti / MDESISTI@JOURNALSENTINEL.COM

This picture gives us chills—literally. [Image: http://www.jsonline.com/]

If you’re looking for goals to add to your bucket list or are keen on swimming in chilly temperatures, then you should probably check out the Polar Bear Plunge. Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to see what parks host them near you, too!

Thousand Islands Region of New York: Three Beautiful Waterfront State Parks

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Cool breezes, sunsets to die for, and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation are among the many reasons to visit the Thousand Islands region of New York. Stretching from Lake Ontario to the west along the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain to the east, it’s one of the most beautiful places, in my opinion, to spend a warm weather weekend.

I grew up visiting the Thousand Islands with my family and have fond memories of playing Capture the Flag with my brother, raging bonfires on the banks of the St. Lawrence with my cousins, learning to fish with my father, and visiting family staying at nearby campgrounds.

Though you won’t find solitude or quiet during the high season at any of these campgrounds, there’s just something special about sleeping next to the river. The three options below are great places to start when you’re planning your next trip to the Thousand Islands.

On the Boat  - American Narrows [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

On the Boat – American Narrows [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Burnham Point State Park

If you’re looking for a relatively small, quiet campground with easy access to local attractions and towns, start your search with Burnham Point State Park. Located just east of Cape Vincent, New York, Burham Point is home 47 campsites situated right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. Waterfront access and unobstructed views are available for a lucky few who make reservations far enough in advance, but the most choice sites go quickly during peak season.

This year, the park is open from May 22nd through September 6th with peak season beginning July 25th and ending August 7th. Campsites start at $15, but be aware of additional charges for electric hookups, out-of-state reservations, prime and waterfront sites, and weekend/holiday visits as well as vehicle entry fees.

Once you’re there, the park hosts boat launches, boat docking, a playground, showers, grills, pavilions, picnic tables, and more for visitors. Fishing and boating are popular activities at Burnham Point. Plus the park is close to local shopping, grocery stores, and other activities.

Bonfires on the St. Lawrence in Thousand Islands NY  [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Bonfires on the St. Lawrence [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Cedar Point State Park

If you’re looking for a bustling campground with a sand beach, plenty of docking for boats, and plenty of room for children to run around, Cedar Point State Park is an ideal option. Like Burnham Point State Park, Cedar Point is a popular, beautiful campground nestled right along the St. Lawrence River. Located just north of Burnham Point in Clayton, New York, Cedar Point hosts 165 sites, including RV-accessible sites as well as tent sites.

The season at Cedar Point is a bit longer than at Burnham Point, stretching from May 1st through October 11th this year. Sites start at $15, but additional charges apply for RV hookups, out-of-state reservations and more, as with Burnham Point State Park.

Cedar Point is always busy during the summer season, and with good reason. The park is home to baseball fields, a boat launch, dump and comfort stations, fishing opportunities, picnic amenities, a recycling station, volleyball courts, and best of all, a sheltered sand beach for swimming and relaxing. Even if you’re not staying in the campground, paying the day-use fee for access to the beach is highly recommended!

Sunset Over Carlton Island [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Sunset Over Carlton Island [Image Credit: Katie Levy]

Wellesley Island State Park

Technically part of the Town of Orleans in Jefferson County, New York, Wellesley Island hosts the largest camping complex in the Thousand Islands region. With over 400 sites available, visitors can stay in tents, RVs, trailers, even fully outfitted cottages with porches ideal for sunset watching. Though it’s a massive complex, you can still find a handful of secluded sites accessible only by foot or by boat.

Wellesley Island is open for year-round visitation, but not all campground loops and cottages stay open all year. Be sure to look at Reserve America for dates and availability as well as site prices and additional fees. The best part? As the name suggests, if you stay the night, you’ll be camping on an island.

The park hosts four full-service boat launches, docks, dumping stations, showers, food concessions, golfing, fish cleaning stations, nature trails, a museum, baseball fields, a camp store with laundry facilities, and much more. Miles of hiking trails and granite outcrops are ideal for sightseeing and sunset-watching. If summer isn’t your favorite season, drop by Wellesley Island in the winter for cross-country skiing and ice fishing.

Find out about any of these state parks in the Thousand Islands region and more by downloading the free Pocket Ranger® Guide for New York State Parks mobile app!

Have you been to any of these state parks or to the Thousand Islands Region? We’d love to hear from you!

Learn How to Swim

Bald Eagle State Park beach by the lake

Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Swimming is an aerobic workout, but unlike other types of physical exercise, it works the body without harsh impact on the joints. There are pools, lakes and even the ocean where you can go swimming while being in a state park. Check out these steps to learn how to swim before summer is over!

Step 1: Let Go of Fear

Swimming in pool with lifeguard

Image: www.pritish-sehzpaul.blogspot.com

You might be afraid of drowning, which is a natural feeling, so don’t try swimming alone. Always go swimming with another person who knows how to swim such as a lifeguard on duty.

Step 2: Get Used to Floating

Woman holding on to pool wall, kicking

Image: www.feelforthewater.com

Start out in the shallow end. While in the water, hold on to the side of the pool or dock, allowing your legs to float behind you. Practice floating on your stomach and back like this until you become accustomed to floating in the water. When you feel you are ready, let go of what ever you are holding onto. To remain stable, put out your arms at a right angle so that your body is in a “T” shape. Remaining in the shallow end allows you to stand up if you feel unsafe. In time, you will get used to water being around your ears, nose and mouth. As you progress, move towards the deeper end to attempt floating from there.

Step 3: Practice Exhaling Underwater

Take a deep breath and put your face underwater. Slowly exhale out of your nose until you’re out of breath and then come back up. If you are uncomfortable exhaling through your nose, you can hold it closed or wear a nose plug and exhale through your mouth while swimming.

Step 4: Swim with a Kickboard

Swimming with kick board in pool

Image: background-pictures.vidzshare.net

Use a flotation device in this step. It’s better not to use arm support or anything around your waist because it may interfere with your swimming. Hold the kickboard or noodle in front of you with straight arms. Push off from the wall and scissor kick with your legs straight out behind you. Rotate your head to the side to breathe.

Step 5: Laps Using Arms

Continue doing step 4, but now lift one arm off the kickboard, pulling down through the water and lifting, and then returning your arm to its starting position. Switch arms and repeat. Rest and repeat.

Step 6: Letting Go of Kickboard

One person swimming laps

Image: www.active.com

If you are ready and confident enough, push the flotation device out in front of you and start swimming towards it. Begin your freestyle stroke, scissor kicking, straight arms in front of you and side breathing. Practice this for a few times. The more practice you have, the better you will be able to swim.


  • If you are swimming in the ocean and get caught in a riptide, swim sideways, parallel to the shore. Swim with the longest stroke, allowing plenty of room to breathe. Keep swimming until you are out of the riptide and call out for help if you can.
  • It is important to know how to get out of a river current. Aim to swim diagonally toward the shoreline that goes with the current.
  • Try to eat an hour before you go swimming.
  • Use a floating device or life jacket if you are nervous about the water.
  • Swimming goggles can be useful if you want to swim underwater.
People swimming in lake with trees in background

Image: www.openwaterpacific.org

To find a state park with a pool or a swimming area close to home, download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app and use the “Nearest Me” feature.

Suggested Gear List:

  • Sunscreen
  • Swimwear
  • Life Jacket

Check out Pocket Ranger® Gear Store for these items and so much more!

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.

In It to Swim It: Summer Swimwear Picks for an Active Lifestyle

Just as all footwear isn’t designed to withstand the wear and tear of the outdoors, not all swimwear will fit the bill for an active outdoor lifestyle. We like our string bikinis and baggy board shorts just fine, but when it comes to tearing it up on a surfboard or competing in swim heats, we need a suit that can keep up with us and not just become food for marine life. Today we’ve rounded up our top picks for active swimwear that won’t leave you high and dry this summer when you finally get the guts to try your hand at waterskiing.

ActiveSwimwear1. Men’s Solid Splice Jammers – Whether you’re ripping it up at the beach or doing your best Lochte impression at the local swimming pool, these jammers offer great coverage without adding any drag, so you can beat the heat in more ways than one! Available at Adidas.com, $48.

2. Sweetheart Crossback – This one-piece swimsuit lets you have your wake and surf it too. Both fully functional and flattering for almost every body type, this suit offers support and slimming features so you can perform and look your best while enjoying your favorite water sports. Available at Speedousa.com, $89.

3. Men’s Striped Surf Runner Volley – From surf to turf, these shorts offer protection from the harsh elements and their quick-dry fabric helps transition from one sport to another seamlessly. Available at Speedousa.com, $36.

4. Zoot Performance Tri Racesuit – This one-piece racesuit is no joke, offering maximum performance and low-profile features for the true champions of summer. Ideal for swim heats, this suit is comfortable enough to make a splash at the beach during more extreme sports like Jet Skiing or waterskiing. Available at REI.com, $120.

5. Men’s Team Check Jammer Swimsuit – These jammers from swim authority TYR offer full coverage and compression for maximum aerodynamics when gliding through the water or tearing through waves. This competitive swimsuit is ultra durable and lightweight so you can swim your fastest without resistance from your suit. Available at TYR.com, $39.99.

6. Reversible Aliam Top – Keep your pack light and your options simple with this two-in-one bikini top. This supportive, made-to-move swim top is reversible, making it ideal for longer trips or times when packing multiple suits isn’t an option. This active suit looks great on land and out on the water, making it one of our best finds for the summer. Available at Patagonia.com, $55