Tag Archives: Wilderness

Lace Up a Pair of Hi-Tec Boots and Get Ready to Explore

Hikers, campers, backpackers, and outdoors enthusiasts rejoice—we just partnered up with Hi-Tec Sports and are excited to share the news! Whether you’re looking to get down and dirty on some muddy paths or are investigating the amenities of your local state park, Hi-Tec’s V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite is what your feet have been waiting for.

V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite [Image: http://us.hi-tec.com/]

V-Lite Altitude Pro Lite [Image: http://us.hi-tec.com/]

Hi-Tec uses the revolutionary Vibram® outsoles in its boots to continue the high standard they’ve set. The soles are put through intense testing in the lab and field by diligent Vibram® Tester Team members. This leads to a reliable shoe that’s sure to last from top to bottom through any sort of outdoor activity.

An extreme resistance to water also compliments their sleek design. Water slides right off the shoes, making them the perfect companion for a rainy backpacking trip or an exploration through a damp area. These shoes are waterproofed to the point that Hi-Tec’s creators claim that the shoes simply dislike water. In fact, you might even be tempted to walk with them on water and try the fictional sport of “Liquid Mountaineering.”

Whether you prefer wet or dry terrain, you still need a pair of hiking boots with a proper fit. Hi-Tec boots are just the thing! Fortunately, Hi-Tec’s waterproof boots and comfort-inspired design drastically reduces your chances of pain or injury to your feet—like those pesky blisters that can ruin the fun of any outing. To ensure an even better hiking experience, don’t forget to lace up. The laces lock to provide a snug fit that is durable and nonrestrictive. More information about the benefits of hiking, blister avoidance, and properly fitting your boots can be found under our Hiking section when you Search by Activity in the Washington app!

A girl hiking.

[Image: http://us.hi-tec.com/]

As the summer heat fades away, we’re prepping ourselves for some serious fall and winter hiking ventures. Check out our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to see what state parks near you will be accessible for year round exploring.

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!

Say “I Do” to a Wedding at the State Parks!

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Celebrate your love for the outdoors by having your wedding at a state park! We are not lying when we say there are hundreds of breathtaking wedding venues offered at state parks across the country. In addition to getting incredible views and unbeatable wilderness ambiance, holding your wedding at a state park may be the best way to keep your budget in check. Below is just a taste of the kind of unique venues you can reserve.

Oceanside Wedding

If sandy beaches and open ocean are must-haves for your wedding day, here a few venues from both coasts that we think will fit the bill.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park, Florida

Arguably Key West’s best beach, Fort Zachary Taylor is the place for couples looking for a tropical wedding. Hold your wedding on the beach at sundown for the most epic sunset photos.

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Looking for lighthouses? Cape Disappointment State Park has two! If you have a small wedding party, hold your ceremony in the lantern room at the top of the park’s North Head Lighthouse. In addition to lighthouses, this park has an ocean-facing beach, which also makes for a spectacular ceremony location.

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding, California

For a show-stopping scenic vista, go big with a wedding at Big Sur. Choose from one of the three Big Sur state parks (Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park), and contact California State Parks weddings/special events coordinator at 831-525-5060 for more information.

Odiorne State Park, New Hampshire

With immense views of the Atlantic Ocean, Odiorne State Park is the perfect place for a warm-weather wedding. Hold your ceremony outdoors by the water, and then mosey across the lawn to a reception under the park’s large, sleek tent. During cocktail hour, your guests can pop into Odiorne’s Science Center to check out aquariums of lobster and native fish. There’s even a touch tank with starfish! This is a popular wedding location, so reserve early.

Woodsy Wedding

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

These wilderness venues have plenty of rustic chic ambiance plus great hiking trails. Don’t forget those hiking boots!

Custer State Park, North Dakota

One of the premiere destinations for wedding venues in the Black Hills, Custer State Park offers beautiful countryside and Sylvan Lake as a backdrop for your ceremony. Hold your nuptials outdoors and then bring the party indoors to the banquet hall at the park’s resort. If you’re lucky, maybe the park’s herd of wild buffalo will amble by, giving your wedding photos extra pizzazz.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Nebraska

Located just outside of Omaha, Mahoney State Park is the place for sweeping views of picturesque Platte River. With its many fireplaces and log-cabin atmosphere, board your wedding party at the Peter Kiewit Lodge or have guests stay over in the park’s lakeside cabins. Summer wedding? Cool off at the park’s Family Aquatic Center, which has pools and water slides. In the winter, the park is home to an exciting toboggan run, which may be the best way to warm up before taking the plunge into matrimony!

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Waterfalls, bluffs, caves, forests, and lake: There are so many ceremony options at this park! Get married by Fall Creek Falls, a 256-foot waterfall or at the base of the 95-foot tall Piney Creek Falls. Or exchange vows at bluffs like Rocky Point Overlook, which has an exposed cliff that looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge. Hold your reception at the Fall Creek Falls Inn, which offers panoramic views of Fall Creek Falls Lake. Staying the weekend? Tee off at the park’s 18-hole golf course! For information about planning your wedding at a state park in Tennessee, submit an Event Information Request Form or call Cassie Rapert (Group Sales Manager) at 615-920-3432.

Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana

Palmetto Island State Park is perfect for those couples looking for a true southern Louisiana wedding. Located on the Vermillion River, the park’s beauty comes from its interior lagoons and coastal forestland that is abundant with palmettos. A great location for larger wedding parties, reserve the park’s visitor center to host your reception.

Garden Wedding

Holding your wedding at one of these state parks means you won’t need to fuss about floral arrangements. And don’t worry about elaborate décor! The historic estates found at these parks will give your wedding all romantic, vintage flair it needs.

Vaughan Woods State Park, Maine

Once the summer retreat for New England’s poets, writers, and artists, the historic Hamilton House and gardens at Vaughan Woods State Park are a fully-realized romantic vision. The estate and perennial gardens are found atop a hillock that overlooks the Salmon River. Different flowers bloom throughout the spring and summer. Vaughan Woods State Park is perfect for engagement photos, too!

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens in Maine. [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Ridley Creek State Park, Pennsylvania

If you’re looking for a grand entrance, look no further than Ridley Creek State Park’s magnificent Hunting Hill Mansion. Originally, a stone farmhouse built in the late 1700s, the Jeffords family modified the estate into an English Tudor-style mansion-house in 1914, adding a ballroom and grand staircase room. The grounds are just as stately as the stone façade mansion, including several formal gardens, horse stables, tennis yard and scenic overlook. We recommend getting hitched in the formal gardens and then kicking up your heels in the ballroom.

Saint Edward State Park, Washington

Once a Catholic seminary, the stately architecture and beautiful shoreline make Saint Edward State Park an immensely popular wedding venue. The Grotto is a charming garden alcove surrounded by woods, just the place for an intimate wedding ceremony. Hold your reception at the park’s Grand Dining Hall. This beautiful space has floor-to-ceiling arched windows, dance floor, and glass chandeliers, a perfect balance of elegance and function.

Eclectic Wedding

An outdoor wedding is one thing. An outdoor wedding with mermaids, that’s a whole other thing! Give your wedding that much more character by having it at one of these three parks.

Mermaids at a wedding [Image: marrymetampabay.com]

Image: marrymetampabay.com

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida

Complete your tropical wedding with a few special guests: the world famous Weeki Wachee mermaids! For more than 60 years, the mermaid show has enchanted thousands of visitors to the park. Exchange vows at the Mermaid Theater, which dips 16 feet below the surface of the park’s legendary spring. Occasionally, native wildlife, such as turtles, fish, manatees, otters, and every now and then an alligator swim alongside the mermaids in the spring!

Bannack State Park, Montana

Dreaming of a gold rush wedding? The Old West lives on at Bannack State Park, the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery in 1862. This historical landmark includes 50 well-preserved buildings that line Main Street of the ghost town. At different times of the year, the park hosts historical re-enactments. In stark relief next to Montana’s open countryside, this ghost town makes for some stunner wedding photography.

Get hitched in Bannack State Park’s ghost town [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Get hitched in a ghost town! [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Maudslay State Park, Massachusetts

With its plethora of gardens, Maudslay State Park is an excellent late spring and summer venue. However, Maudslay’s haunted-look in the fall is perfect for couples planning a Halloween-themed wedding. In addition to the pet cemetery and remains of the estate’s original mansion, there are rumors that the park is haunted by a few spirits. Fall foliage combined with looming pines that line the paths of the once grand estate hit just the right gothic note in September and October. Hold your ceremony outdoors in the gardens and then move the party indoors to the park’s historic barn, which boasts high ceilings, large windows and rustic charm.

Share your outdoor wedding pics with us on Instagram and Facebook!

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

Wilderness Short Stories

Recently, we gave you PBN’s Top 5 Books About Being Outdoors. Books are fine, books are great—but sometimes you need something a little shorter, a little more compact. That’s why we’re dedicating this post to our favorite wilderness short stories. They’re all the action and adventure of the great outdoors, experienced in the comfort of your own home (or anywhere).

1. Virtually anything by Pam Houston

Ah, Pam Houston—the best wilderness writer you’ve probably never heard of. Houston is the director of not one, but two writing programs: Creative Writing at UC Davis, and the Tomales Bay Workshops. Fittingly, she is a master of the short story, as evidenced by her popular collections Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat. Since she believes in the fluidity of genres (all of her work starts out as autobiographical fiction, and then goes from there), Houston’s characters are usually river guides, rafting through whitewater rapids, (she’s a licensed river guide herself), sheep hunting guides in Alaska, camping in incredible conditions, (she spent three summers in Alaska with a boyfriend who was a hunting guide) and cowboys and horsewomen, riding on ranches in the west (she’s an accomplished rider).

wilderness short stories

Don’t be fooled by the title; these stories are wilderness literature at its best.
[Image: www.gemm.com]

Some favorite wilderness stories include: “Cataract,” “Selway,” “Highwater,” “Dall,” and “Cowboys Are My Weakness.” She’s also edited a collection of stories and essays called Women on Hunting, with pieces by other wonderful writers like Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood.

2. Ernest Hemingway, The Nick Adams Stories

We all know Hemingway was a macho, macho man, but many of his brilliant short stories are overshadowed by his brilliant novels. Like Houston, much of his fiction comes from an autobiographical place— Hemingway grew up hunting and fishing and camping, just like Nick Adams does. The stories revolve around the woods, and the wilderness is not only the setting, but traces Nick’s path to becoming a man.

Some favorites include: “Three Shots” and “Fathers and Sons.”

Nick Adams Wilderness Short Stories

The Nick Adams Stories
[Image: www.barnesandnoble.com]

3. Ivan Turgenev, Sketches from a Hunter’s Album

Russian writer Ivan Turgenev was born in 1818 in the Province of Orel, where he often hunted in the woods. These excursions gave him material for the future writings in this collection: 25 vignettes about the people he met along the way, including peasants, landowners, families, etc. Also called A Sportman’s Sketches, his work criticized the serf system, influencing social change. Another of his great works, Fathers and Sons, seems to have influenced another person on this list: Hemingway himself.

Wilderness Short Stories

Image: www.huffingtonpost.com

Some of these wilderness short stories may be short, but we’re sticking with our top three picks, because we’re recommending so much of each author’s work. So, when the weather outside is frightful, live vicariously with these wilderness stories! (Or, if you’re really brave, prepare yourself and bring these stories along.)

What are your favorite wilderness short stories? Let us know in the comments!

Wilderness Safety

So long as you use some good ole’ common sense, follow park rules, heed any warnings, and use your Pocket Ranger® app to guide your visit, we know you’ll have a blast exploring the outdoors. But what if you do all that and things still go awry? Fortunately, there are people like Joey Vulpis. Joey is the founder of Northeast Mountain Guiding (NMG), a company that provides outdoor education, professional level training for aspiring climbing guides, and guiding services to outdoor enthusiasts. Joey is also a team leader at Bayshore Wilderness/Ground Search & Rescue and a volunteer EMT.

We wanted to get together with Joey to talk about wilderness safety, and we couldn’t think of a better place to meet than at Allamuchy Mountain State Park in New Jersey, a site he frequently visits with NMG for their introductory rock-climbing course.

Joe D'Agastino, Joey Vulpis and Mike Grice guiding at Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

Joe D’Agastino, Joey Vulpis and Mike Grice guiding at Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your experiences with outdoor safety and how you got started.

A: Like most guides, I wanted to make my hobby my career. It was a tough road but after 4 years and some chance taking we (NMG) are one of the largest in the Eastern US. We staff some of the most highly credentialed guides in the industry. The organizations that train and certify rock and/or trail guides (mountain leaders) were started by some of our employees. The Professional Hiking Guides Association, which trains and certifies trail guides at an international level recognized by the UIMLA was started by myself and some of our employees. One of our per-diem guides, Alan Jolley, is a co-founder of the AMGA. Our Gunks guide, Paul Curran, is the President of the Professional Climbing Guides Institute, which trains and certifies rock climbing guides. I am a board of directors member with them, as well.

Q: What are some of the more common injuries that you encounter?

A: We see a lot of simple injuries with our clients like scrapes, bruises, etc. Most of the major injuries we see out there are from recreational climbers who lack experience/knowledge of the terrain. Indoor climbing gyms give climbers a false sense of security because they climb so well indoors, and that’s not the case outdoors. Structural geology, dendrology, physics and metallurgy are major factors with outdoor climbing focusing on top-rope climbing.

I’m a team leader at Bayshore Search & Rescue and a volunteer EMT and we see some crazy injuries there from long bone fractures to head traumas to simple injuries like sprained ankles or dislocated bones. Most are from bad choices and lack of experience in the outdoor environment. Taking formal training from an outdoor education company is very beneficial and will provide the proper knowledge for the activity they are doing.

Q: All Pocket Ranger® apps have built-in safety features:

Alert Button: Allows users to send an alert to pre-selected contacts with the user’s longitude and latitude positions. A link to Google maps is also supplied so the recipient can view the user’s position on the map. (New Jersey residents have the option to notify State Park police through the Alert Button.)

Friend Finder: Users can sync devices with a friend to view and keep track of each other within park grounds. Multiple users (up to five friends) are acceptable—data reception required.

Waypoint Button: Drop a waypoint on your current position. You can even take a photo and use that as your waypoint. Name your waypoint and add notes before sharing it with your friends or simply viewing it on your GPS map.

Which of these safety features do you find most valuable and why?

A: I like the Alert button feature idea. It is similar to the SPOT device, which we use on international expeditions. Although, the Friend Finder is a pretty cool idea! But the Alert button feature is invaluable.

Q: What outdoor safety courses are offered by Northeast Mountain Guiding?

A: All of our courses focus on safety in a particular discipline in some aspect. Our rock and ice climbing courses, beginner to advanced and on to guide training, are all focused on safety in the rock discipline and how to be efficient as a climber while staying safe on the cliffs.

Our backpacking and mountaineering courses are also focused on safety in the trail/mountain discipline–picking out the proper campsite, non-lethal bear management, water filtration & purification methods and trail etiquette.

Q: Joey, we know you love the outdoors just as much as we do. How has Northeast Mountain Guiding helped others to develop an appreciation for the outdoors?

A: Everyday we’re amazed at what our clients and students accomplish after taking courses with us! Most of them come back again and again and follow us religiously on Facebook and other social media venues. Every year we have a half a dozen or more of our clients who attempt thru-hikes on the Appalachian Trail or other long distance trails in the US. Some of our clients have advanced so quickly that they are now employees with us.

We offer affordable rates for the general public and pay our employees very well. I didn’t start NMG to make a ton of money or to become rich, I started NMG to introduce people to what I love so much…the great outdoors! The paperwork involved with running a guiding business isn’t always fun, but seeing the faces of our clients when they tackle a hard climb or a rough trail or an international mountain is amazing.

Q: We think it’s great that you run guided trips/outings throughout the Northeast. Why do you love New Jersey’s State Parks?

A: I’ve been to many US states and have guided in many of them as well. But I call New Jersey home for a reason and it isn’t called the Garden State for kicks. NJ offers some amazing landscape and has some pretty good climbing for the mid-Atlantic region. North central and Northwest NJ is an old glacier area so the terrain that was carved by the glaciers is just beautiful. The topography that the glaciers left when they receded left us with some great climbing areas and hiking trails.

Q: Have you had to put your skills to the test while in the outdoors?

A: We put our skills to work daily while out there guiding. We have a lot of risks to manage when taking clients into the wilderness. Most of us volunteer or work part-time as CPR instructors, Lifeguards, EMTs, Paramedics, Nurses, etc. to keep our medical skills current for the safety of our clients. Most of us have also upgraded our urban medical certifications to wilderness medicine levels like Wilderness EMT and Remote Paramedic. We staff some of the most highly trained wilderness medical personnel in the country.

I’m a very big advocate for Wilderness Medicine training at the professional or recreational level. It will make the avid day-hiker or climber much more confident being out there. For an outdoor guide, well, it comes with job training.

Outdoor Adventures: 4 Great Camp Movies

No, not that kind of camp. We’re talking about tent, compass and hiking camping. Here’s a list of 4 great camping and outdoor films from the past 30 years.



Image: www.nzfilmfreak.wordpress.com

The Blair Witch Project

Perhaps the most infamous camping movie, The Blair Witch Project was a small independent film released in 1999 with a $22,000 budget. A strong promotional campaign coupled with rumors of being a true story catapulted the film into a major box office success, earning a massive $248 million.

The film follows three film students, Heather, Joshua and Michael, as they venture in to the woods of Maryland in the quest to find the Blair Witch, a local urban legend. This turns into two-day horrifying hike, which ends tragically for all three. The backdrop of the forest and the hand-held camera really puts viewers on a horrific camping journey.

(Image: bibliojunkie.wordpress.com)

Image: bibliojunkie.wordpress.com

Into the Wild

Into the Wild is a 2007 big-screen adaption of the book of the same name. The film is based on the true story of Christopher McCandless, an Emory University graduate who left his privileged life behind to live in the wilderness of Alaska. McCandless encounters an array of colorful characters along the way, most notably Ron Franz, played by Hal Holbrook, who received an Oscar nomination for his role.

In the movie, McCandless, played by Emile Hirsch, encounters dangerous animals, harsh weather conditions and famine in his quest of independence and self-analysis. Without any resources, McCandless is left up to his own devices to survive. He learns to hunt and fish, but it isn’t enough to save him from the poisonous berries, which eventually took his life.



The Edge

Released in 1997, The Edge, starring Anthony Hopkins Harold Perrineau and Alec Baldwin, is about three men who become stranded in the wilderness when their plane crash lands. The men try and hike back to civilization, but find out they are being stalked by a Kodiak bear. The bear then kills Perrineau’s character. Although not an experienced outdoorsman, Hopkins’s character uses his encyclopedia survival knowledge to stay alive.

A search helicopter eventually finds the two after being stranded for some time, but it’s a little too late for Baldwin’s character, Bob.



Stand by Me

Stand by Me is the tale of four friends on a quest to find a dead body, but soon realize the meaning of friendship and survival.

Released in 1986, Stand by Me has become an American cinematic classic. The movie follows Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern as they venture from the fictional Castle Rock, Oregon down train tracks to an adventure of a lifetime. Along the way, the boys have run-ins with a scary junkyard dog, are almost killed by a train and encounter leeches in one memorable scene.