Tag Archives: winter

Winter Camping and Outdoor Recreation at ‘Base Camp Oswego County’ Feb. 25

WILLIAMSTOWN –Outdoor enthusiasts can learn winter survival skills and the basics of winter camping while exploring the grounds of Camp Zerbe at the second annual Base Camp Oswego County, a winter outdoor expo, Saturday, Feb. 25.

The event is sponsored by Pinnacle Builders USA Inc., Oswego Expeditions, the Oswego County Search and Rescue Team, Oswego County Division of Parks and Recreation, Oswego County Tourism Office, and several volunteers who are experienced in outdoor recreation.

Workshops will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the lodge and on the grounds of the Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe, 253 State Route 104 East in the town of Williamstown.

Outdoor winter camping on the grounds of Camp Zerbe near Williamstown.

OUTDOOR WINTER CAMPING ADVENTURE – The second annual Base Camp Oswego County will take place Saturday, Feb. 25, on the grounds of Camp Zerbe near Williamstown. A variety of field trips and workshops will be held during the day, with optional overnight camping. For event information visit www.facebook.com/BaseCampOswego or call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223. (Photo by Mary Ellen Barbeau.)

“The purpose of Base Camp Oswego County is to introduce people to the basics of winter camping and Oswego County’s great resources for outdoor recreation,” said event chairman and County Legislator Jake Mulcahey of Oswego.   “We have a full day of field trips and workshops scheduled. Overnight camping will be available Saturday night, Feb. 25, for those who bring their own winter camping gear and register in advance. This year we’ll have designated areas for family camping and adult only sites.”

Workshop topics include cross-country ski and snowshoe hikes, snow shelter building, winter survival skills, GPS and orienteering, working with sled dogs and skijoring, camp cooking techniques , fat bikes, and ice fishing. Admission to the workshops is free. There is a $10 registration fee per tent for overnight camping.

Food vendors will be on site during the day. Participants should dress for the weather and bring their own sleds, skis and snowshoes if they have them. A limited number of snowshoes will be available for loan.

Overnight camping will be available for those who pre-register and bring their own winter camping gear. To register, call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223 or visit http://bit.ly/2kb8TJr

Two clinics will be held prior to the event for first-time winter campers. Jake Mulcahey and Barb Hartman will conduct “Introduction to Winter Camping” clinics at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at the Mexico Public Library, 3269 Main St., Mexico; and Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at Murdock’s Bicycles and Sports, 177 W. First St., Oswego. Those planning to camp overnight should bring all of their own gear and food for Saturday night dinner and Sunday morning breakfast. Overnight campers will be asked to register and sign an insurance waiver.

The Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe is owned by Oswego County and overseen by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau, Division of Parks and Recreation. Any proceeds from the event will be donated to the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau for youth recreation programming.

For information, visit www.facebook.com/BaseCampOswego or call Oswego Expeditions at 315-561-0223.

A Last Hurrah for Winter Adventures

As March rolls around, winter season is indeed melting away. Soon, the snow blanketing everything in sight that previously transformed the ground into a wondrous, pristine white, will retreat to give way to the flourishing green of trees, various vegetation, and the cheerful movement of wildlife. But before we say our final goodbye to winter season, here’s a last hurrah for winter adventures that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Cross-country Skiing

cross country ski

Miles of icy, snowy open terrain are ready to be explored while cross-country skiing. [Image: http://spgweekends.com/]

Cross-country skiing is one of the more popular winter sports in the country. It’s a form of skiing that utilizes one’s own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain. Fun fact: Did you know that this form of skiing was actually first practiced around 600 BCE in China? Incredible how far it has gone since then!

While it’s now generally practiced for fun, some still use it for transportation, just as it was originally utilized. It’s now generally considered a popular recreational activity for individuals and groups who want to explore the snow-laden country with friends and family.

Ice Fishing

ice fishing

Ice fishing in the middle of a frozen lake. [Image: www.adventure.howstuffworks.com/]

Ice fishing can be a fun activity to do during the winter. Many local wildlife and park departments even offer free fishing activities for their visitors to participate in. While ice fishing requires some skill and knowledge, pretty much anyone can enjoy this sport with some research and guidance beforehand.

This sport requires only a couple of key pieces of equipment: Lines and fish hooks or spears. With the weather heading on to the milder March where spring will soon step in to take the chill away, now is the perfect time to go ice fishing on a frozen body of water. As a precaution to protect oneself from frostbite, dress comfortably with layers (heavy shirt, pants, socks, and a wool or fleece sweater). Research some cold survival tips before going out to stay safe and warm while outdoors.

Ice Skating

ice skating

The ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center, New York is a seasonal landmark during the winter season. [Image: www.indiatimes.com/]

Ice skating is a popular sport for all ages—who doesn’t love the thrill of being on ice? Challenging one’s balance and coordination, it’s one of the oldest winter recreational sports. It’s particularly popular among children, which makes it a great family activity.

Snowboarding

snowboarding

A snowboarder showing off some moves. [Image: www.snowbrains.com/]

Snowboarding is another activity that can be done during winter. The sport originated as a game created by an engineer in Michigan, which later transformed into an actual sport. It was originally called “snurfer” (snow + surfer), and since then, it has grown and has been a winter sport in the Olympics since 1998. This activity is popular with everyone from beginners to seasoned pros.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

A snowmobile tour group. [Image: www.michigan.org/]

Snowmobiling is a fun activity that you can do solo or with a group. Depending on the vehicle, it can hold up to two people, which is perfect for group adventures across winter’s shining white terrain. And if you find that you’re good enough, you might want to head over to your local park for a snowmobiling competition.

If you’re interested in finding which state parks are the best venues for these winter sports, head on over to our Pocket Ranger® state park apps, but do it quickly because it’s getting warm out there. Using our explore feature, you’ll have this information at your fingertips in no time. Happy winter adventuring!

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Every time rumors of a snowstorm circulate, children (and even some adults, if we’re being totally honest here) across the afflicted areas have one collective thought: “Let’s build a snowman!” It’s an activity that crosses oceans, demolishes language barriers, and completely disregards age. We’ve pretty much been seeing an onslaught of snowmen since Thanksgiving in the States, so we’re used to their quirky carrot noses, round button noses, and adorable top hats by now. But where exactly did this fun snowy tradition come from?

Snowman.

Now that’s a well-made snowman! [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

It’s hard to track when the first snowman was first crafted, but author of “The History of the Snowman,” Bob Eckstein, found documentation of snowmen dating back to medieval times. The earliest depiction he found was from 1380 and was a marginal drawing from a piece called, “Book of Hours.”

There’s also plenty of proof showing that people were building snowmen since the Middle Ages where they were searching for an outlet for creative expression. And what better way to show off your artistic skills than crafting a temporary human sculpture! Couples often took a chilly stroll to see what new creations sprouted up overnight, a tour de snowperson, if you will. There were even snowmen created by some famous artists, like the time that Michelangelo commissioned a snowman in Florence’s ruler’s mansion courtyard in 1494.

Snowmen.

Watch out for the snowman army—coming to your neighborhood this snow day. [Image: http://thingsaboutportlandthatsuck.com/]

Snowmen have also popped up during plenty of historical events. During the Winter of Death, a period of six weeks of subzero temperatures in Brussels, they saw what came to be known as the Miracle of 1511. Snowmen took over the city, and they even had their own personalities to go along with their presences with some designed in a political way while others were a bit raunchier.

Many years later, history saw another sighting of snow art when a pair of snowmen guards stood watch in Fort Schenectady as the actual guards fled inside to avoid the blizzard. This event became known as the Schenectady Massacre of 1690, as the snowmen did not do too good of a job warding off the French Canadian and Native American forces that had already braved three weeks of traveling through the snow.

Upside down snowman.

Who said there was a formula to snowman building? [Image: http://theverybesttop10.com/]

So whether you’re looking forward to impending snowstorms as a way to get outside and let some of your inner-creativity out, or you’d rather hunker down and preoccupy yourself indoors, our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps are the best aid for whatever adventure you choose. With whichever option you go with, just make sure you have fun doing it!

Tips for Staying Warm and Dry During Winter Adventures

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop adventuring, but it does mean that you have to prepare more. Staying warm and dry when you’re out on a long winter bike ride, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the wintery landscape in another way is essential. You definitely won’t have a good time with numb fingers and toes, and a negative experience will make you less likely to get outside during winter in the future. Plus, hypothermia and frostbite are not laughing matters and should be avoided at all costs.

Woman shivering.

Brr! Bundle up—winter is officially here. [Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/]

Dress Appropriately

Winter calls for certain gear that you obviously don’t need in other seasons, and while it may seem excessive at times, it’s all necessary. From top to bottom, there are a few essential items to make sure you have in stock.

Couple snowshoeing.

The couple that dresses warm together, probably goes on to do lots of fun outdoor adventuring together. [Image: http://www.active.com/]

  • Socks, socks, and more socks. And not just thin cotton socks, but at least one pair of heavy-duty wool socks to keep your tootsies snug. You’ll also probably want a pair of thinner wool socks to put on underneath the thicker ones. Layers are essential for keeping your extremities toasty warm.
  • Large, breathable, waterproof boots. To account for the thicker socks and extra layers, you’ll need a pair of boots that are larger than your normal shoe size. You’ll also want a pair that can breathe and that are waterproof because wet, sweaty feet lead to wet boots, which will eventually freeze and lead to your feet getting colder quicker.
  • Kneewarmers or tights/long johns underneath snow pants. Your legs will probably be one of the warmest parts of your body as you’ll typically be exerting yourself by using your legs. Tights, long johns, and kneewarmers are all helpful in providing a bit of extra warmth, though. And these, of course, go underneath any heavier snow pants or thicker pants you may be wearing—unless you’re trying to create a new fashion trend, that is.
  • Jackets for days. There’s a general “rule of three” when it comes to layering. An insulated jacket is essential, and depending on the temperatures and how long you’ll be outside for, an extra jacket as well as a breathable, non-cotton shirt might also be necessary.
  • Fingers are like toes and should be treated similarly. What we mean by this is that fingers, like toes, are extremities and often get cold first as your body concentrates heat on your torso for your vital organs. Therefore it’s appropriate to layer and invest in some extra linings. There is also a lot of talk that mittens are more effective than gloves, but that’s usually up to your personal preference—if you absolutely hate mittens for some reason, then it’s probably not worth the investment. Hand (and foot!) warmers are also helpful and are available in bulk on many sites.
  • Protect that beautiful head of yours. A hat and scarf combo are great for winter exploring and help to keep your ears, neck, and face comfortable. There are other items—like a buff, balaclava, or earmuffs—that you might also want to look into, but as long as you’re covered then you’re good to go. It’s also important to remember that if you start becoming warm, the scarf and hat should be the first items to be removed.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold Spongebob.

Trust me, this is not the life you want. [Image: http://media.tumblr.com/]

There are more than a few ways to know if you’re suffering from hypothermia or frostbite as well as plenty of ways to treat both. With frostbiteyou’ll start out feeling a cold, prickly feeling in your body parts and they’ll turn red (as mentioned before, extremities are the first areas that typically become afflicted with frostbite). From there, the body part will grow increasingly numb and will turn white, and may even turn blue or purple. You’ll know you’re in trouble if your body starts feeling warm and you experience stinging or burning. At this point you may also experience blisters a day or so after warming back up. If your frostbite advances even further, all layers of your skin will be affected by the freezing temperatures. You might lose functionality in your joints and will become completely numb in the frostbitten areas, which will eventually turn black in the days following the exposure.

On the other hand, hypothermia is a whole other monster to deal with. A few signs of hypothermia are shivering, dizziness, confusion, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Although it’s usually difficult to notice hypothermia as the symptoms are gradual, the more it sets in, the more apparent the symptoms become. However, the shivering will cease in extreme cases. Wearing breathable, non-cotton clothes during your winter adventures is very important as cotton absorbs sweat and can freeze, making you more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Stay Hydrated

Woman drinking water.

Drink up! The water’s great! [Image: http://thoughtfulwomen.org/]

It’s easy to overlook drinking water when your teeth are chattering and your muscles twitching with the cold, but it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during wintertime exercise. When your body is cold, your mind ends up preoccupied, and you simply don’t feel thirsty as often, even when you’re on the brink of dehydration. Water also helps you generate heat easier and quicker, which is especially important when you’re covered in tons of layers. It’s important to drink water often (and not a swig of whiskey, as some movies may have you believe).

Hopefully with these tips you’re feeling a bit more inspired to head outside and explore, despite winter’s chill. And nothing can make that easier than our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, which are available for download in the iTunes and Google Play Stores!

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!

Winter Never Gets Old in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

People walking on snow at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

Do you tire of winter before it even begins? Or how about just after the holidays? Think that there is nothing to do when it’s cold outside besides sit under a blanket and try to keep warm? That’s not what we think here in Cattaraugus County, the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY. We have many reasons to love winter and all four seasons of the year. We are in the top of the list for counties who receive the maximum snowfall in NY state. It’s no wonder we know how to have fun in the snow! How does cascading over the snow on a trail-dominating snowmobile sound? Or exploring the back woods? Or breaking your own trails on snowshoes? You can do all that right here and will soon be warming up to winter as well!

December is here, and that means snow can happen at any time! The trails open up right after hunting season ends (December 22), the week before Christmas vacation. Plan ahead to enjoy the upcoming season of fun by calling for a FREE snowmobile map. Our trails will take you through deep woods freshly covered with snow, around small towns with businesses that welcome snowmobilers, and sometimes even over a frozen lake! The map will guide you throughout our miles and miles of trails (almost 400!) in our county and into the neighboring counties as well. You won’t have to worry about getting lost! And if you don’t feel like traveling far, our trails offer more than enough dashing through the snow. The number to call for the map is 1-800-331-0543.

Trail of people on snow mobiles at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

If you don’t have a snowmobile, we can recommend where you can rent one—even ones that will be delivered right to where you are staying. We can also recommend places for you to stay right off the snowmobile trails. Allegany State Park has winterized cabins that range from rustic to high-end cottages that include all the amenities of home besides food. You can spend the day out riding in the snow and then come back to a comfy cabin warmed just to the temperature you like. If you have a large family or your snowmobiling club wants to vacation together, try one of the newly restored group camps at Allegany State Park. The cabins are all located together with plenty of bathroom space (handicap accessible also) and a large kitchen/dining area so you can all have meals together.

Prefer the slower paced enjoyment of the wintry outdoors instead of riding snowmobiles? You can take up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. We have plenty of places for that as well! Allegany State Park has a large trail system for cross-country skiing: the Art Roscoe Trail System. It’s almost 25-miles worth of loops, giving you opportunities ranging from a casual walk to an all-out workout. You can rent skis right across from the system at the Summit Warming Hut. Snowshoes are not permitted on this trail system, but are allowed anywhere else in the park. Find your favorite summer hiking trail and attempt it in the winter. Compare the differences of the seasons and add even more memories to your favorite hikes. You can also cross-country ski at Holiday Valley, known for its downhill skiing. Cruise the ridgelines at the top of the mountain or circle around the golf course down below—both offer spectacular views. They also rent out cross-country skis if you are in need.

Pfeiffer Nature Center has miles of trails just waiting to be explored. The trails are well-groomed and kept clean all winter long. They have rentals, but the number is limited so call ahead. There are two properties of Pfeiffer Nature Center: the Lillibridge Property and the Eshelman Property. The Lillibridge Property will take you through an old growth forest with red and white oaks estimated to be around 150 years old. Thorton Thruway leads you to the southern border of the property where you can see one of the oldest Black Gum trees in the East, which is more than 500 years old! The Eshelman Property offers hikes of shorter distances, going along a creek then up a hill for a great view of the valley, before meandering by the meadow. It’s a great place to see animals!

Of course we also have ice skating, ice fishing, and plenty of indoor options for you as well, which can be discovered on EnchantedMountains.com, including upcoming events! No matter what you decide to do in the Enchanted Mountains during winter, you will find yourself shouting, “Let it snow!”

People riding snow mobiles banner from Pocket Ranger app

Fire and Ice Festival Brings Magic to Streets of Somerset

Contributed by Sheena Baker of Somerset County Chamber of Commerce

Fire and Ice Festival Sign at Somerset County

Image: Sheena Baker

Dazzling, intricate ice sculptures of all sizes have drawn thousands of visitors to the streets of Uptown Somerset, Pennsylvania each January since 1995.

Now in its 21st year, the annual Somerset Fire and Ice Festival has grown to offer more than just frozen works of art. Hosted each Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend by Somerset Inc., the event features something for everyone—from the young in age to the young at heart—with both indoor and outdoor activities held throughout Somerset over the three-day weekend.

The 2016 Fire and Ice Festival, set for January 15–17, should prove to be a magical weekend as this year’s event theme is “Fairy Tales Can Come True.” The geniuses at Mastro Gourmet Quality Ice will create more than 50 fairy tale-themed sculptures to line the streets of Somerset and will be on hand throughout the weekend to demonstrate just how they create such detailed works of art from blocks of ice. It’s truly fascinating to watch these artists fashion elaborate sculptures using chainsaws, grinders, chisels, and other heavy-duty tools. Over the years, Mastro’s maestros’ creations have included palm trees, teapots, dentures, a replica of the USS Somerset, and everything in between.

Palm Tree Ice Sculpture at Somerset Fire and Ice Festival

Image: Sheena Baker

While the ice sculptures take center stage at this popular event, they are far from the only draw to the Fire and Ice Festival. On Saturday, kids will enjoy the Fire and Ice Children’s Area located at First Christian Church and its youth activities, special displays, and appearances by and photos with princesses Anna, Elsa, and Cinderella. (We hear Spider-Man may also make an appearance.) The annual Teen Band Blast Friday evening at Somerset Area High School and a Teen Pool Tournament Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club of Somerset County will entertain teenagers, too.

kid next to ice sculpture of a car at the Somerset County Fire and Ice Festival

Image: Sheena Baker

For those with a competitive spirit—or anyone looking to shed a few holiday pounds—the festival offers a 5K Walk/Run Saturday morning. Shutter bugs can enter the Fire and Ice Photo Contest and then view the entries on display Uptown. Other competitions include a photo/trivia Scavenger Hunt and a fairy tale-themed Window and Interior Decorating Contest for area businesses.

Be sure to come hungry. Not only does Uptown Somerset boast a number of great restaurants and coffee shops, but the festival itself offers a multitude of opportunities for tasty treats and venues with good food. The Kiwanis Club of Somerset will host its popular Pancake Breakfast at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Saturday morning. Local service clubs, organizations, and restaurants will vie for top honors in the Fire and Ice Hot Stuff! Chili and Soup Cookoff at the American Legion later in the day. First Christian Church will serve up a soup sale, and the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary will offer a Sunday Roast Beef Dinner. Food vendors will also be set up throughout the weekend.

Pancakes Ice Sculpture from Fire and Ice Festival

Image: Sheena Baker

The ever-popular Michael O’Brian Band headlines the festival’s entertainment lineup, taking the stage Saturday evening at the American Legion. The Roof Garden Barbershop Chorus will also be providing strolling entertainment throughout the weekend.

An eclectic array of vendors and crafters will fill the basement of Newberry Place at the festival’s Marketplace, and a number of silent auction items will be up for grabs at Fire and Ice Headquarters (also located in the Newberry Place basement). Uptown Painting Parties, held in the neighboring Glades Court Mall, are scheduled throughout the festival weekend, and the Laurel Highlands Model Railroad Club will have its winter display available for viewing at its location on West Main Street.

If all these activities weren’t enough, the festival also includes a fireworks display set off on the Diamond at the center of Somerset’s Uptown district at 6 p.m. Saturday. The vibrant pyrotechnic display puts the “fire” in the Fire and Ice Festival each year.

man making an ice sculpture at the fire and ice festival

Image: Sheena Baker

For a detailed schedule of events, visit the Fire and Ice Facebook page or the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce’s calendar of events. Also be sure to pick up an official 2016 Fire and Ice Festival Guidebook (available at area businesses) for a map of sculptures, discount coupons, and additional information on the event.

Want more winter festival fun? The Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce will hold its 25th Ligonier Ice Fest January 23–24, bringing back-to-back weekends of icy excitement to Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands!