Posts Tagged ‘camping’

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dan Crane: Backpacking Through Middle Age

Facing middle-age is a traumatic prospect for many people, more so for those who enjoy exploring the Adirondack backcountry. During this period of life, the wear and tear of many decades begins to erode the physical abilities of youth. This physical erosion puts increasing demands on the body from backpacking, making enjoying the backcountry more arduous, but not impossible.

Backpacking, with its heavy lifting, long hikes over aggressive terrain and precarious stream crossings, is typically regarded as an activity of youth. There is no reason this must be the case though. With a little determination, some minor adaptations and a sizable portion of luck, it should be possible to continue exploring the backcountry throughout middle-age and beyond.

Many changes within the aging human body negatively impact the ability to backpack through the backcountry. Collagen fibers within muscles and tendons become less supple, cartilage in the joints wears down and becomes more brittle, and back issues, such as degenerating disc disease, are just a few of the changes brought on with age. Although it may be impossible to reverse these negative changes (for now), there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects.

Training is important for anyone engaging in strenuous exercise, and especially important for older hikers. Preparing the muscles for the arduous physical activity accompanying backcountry exploration is a necessity for exploring the backcountry, as much as map and compass skills, properly fitting hiking boots and prodigious amount of mosquito repellant.

Regular aerobic exercise (such as running, cycling or swimming), combined with weight training (especially those strengthening the core and legs), should be performed for months before lacing up the hiking boots. Although these activities prepare the muscles for physical activity, there is no substitute for getting on the trail and doing some day hiking. If coming off a long down period, start out slow with shorter distances and lower backpack loads, working up to farther distances and heavier loads over time.

Stretching before exercising is increasingly important as the years advance. Stretching prepares the less supple muscles and tendons for the rigorous activity required on the trail. It is especially important after spending hours riding in a car before reaching the trailhead. Concentrate the stretching effort on the legs but do not forget other important area such as the back, neck and arms.

Another important way to deal with the negative physical effects of middle-aged involves reducing the weight of the backpack. The weight of a backpack places an enormous amount of stress on the joints of the hips and legs. By reducing its weight it is possible to reduce the amount of stress placed on these joints so they stay healthier over the long haul. Plus, a lighter pack is a major advantage when trying to outrun a hungry bear.

We are living in an age of technological proliferation, and the backcountry products industry is not immune. Many of the improvements include a reduction in weight, due to stronger and more advanced materials. Anyone who owned a backpack from the 1980’s and 1990’s can attest to their impenetrable yet weighty materials, like carrying a tank on one’s back. Although these heavy materials prevented the occasional rip or tear, they put a lot of stress on the back and knees. Today, the trend is using more advanced materials to reduce the weight of equipment including clothes, sleeping bag, tents, and backpacks.

Despite the best effort to train, stretch extensively and reducing backpack weight, issues pertaining to middle-age can persist. Middle-age is accompanied with some inevitable slowdown, which can manifest itself in a slower speed on the trail, a reduction in the distances traveled per day or greater weakness in carrying heavier loads.

All the squatting, stooping and crawling associated with backpacking takes a serious toll on the back and joints of middle-aged backpackers. Crawling in and out of a tent or other shelter, cooking hunched over a small stove and squatting while answering natures call are just a few of these activities leading to back, neck or leg strains. And there is nothing worse than losing one’s balance due to a muscle cramp while squatting over a cat hole.

Sleeping on hard surfaces such as hard-packed ground found in heavily used areas and inside lean-tos becomes more difficult with age. Anyone waking after a restless night without the ability to stand up straight is familiar with this pain. Thankfully, this pain can be ameliorated with the addition of a couple different sleeping pads. Camping in areas rarely (or never) used by others may be helpful in providing a more comfortable sleeping experience due to thick layers of leaf litter and other detritus not highly compacted by many years of use.

In addition to the physical changes accompanying middle-age, there is the inevitable decrease in eyesight. This decrease in performance due to age is called presbyopia. Presbyopia is a perfectly normal loss of close focusing ability due to hardening of the lens inside the eyes and usually begins occurring around age 40. Just in time to accompany the other physical limitations brought on by middle age.

Presbyopia can be compensated for by initially holding reading material further away but over time requires wearing reading glasses.

Presbyopia affects backcountry enthusiasts mostly through the reading of topographical maps. The faint print on these maps, especially the elevation numbers, are often difficult for even youthful eyes in the best lighting, let alone those in middle-age. The print on many handheld GPS units often proves difficult to read as well.

Reading glasses are useful for compensating for the effect of presbyopia. Unfortunately, transporting reading glasses through the backcountry is often difficult due to their fragility. Folding reading glasses are useful in compensating for this fragility.

Middle-age is definitely a difficult time for backcountry enthusiasts with its many physical changes. If you are dreading the coming of middle-age or frustratingly dealing with its impact on the ability to enjoy the backcountry, take heart, there is some hope as backpacking during old age is going to be much more challenging.

Photos: Middle-aged trees at Sand Lake by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dan Crane: Solo Backcountry Exploration

One of the central tenets of backcountry exploration is never venture out on your own. The conventional thinking is hiking/backpacking is a group activity, where individual achievement must take a backseat to safety. This remains a well-held belief, but is it valid? Do the risks of solo backcountry travel outweigh the benefits?

There are many reasons for traveling through the backcountry in a group. Communal meals, sharing equipment, division of camp duties and basic human companionship are just a few advantages of trekking through forests and over mountains with other individuals. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adirondack Lean-to Etiquette

Lean-tos are three-walled shelters scattered throughout the backcountry of the Adirondack Park. Typically, they are conveniently located near picturesque lakes, ponds or streams. They are often convenient substitutes for tents (except during bug season) and especially popular with backpackers on a rainy day. Unfortunately this popularity often leads to overuse and sometimes downright abuse.

For example, this past summer I visited and revisited the Sand Lake lean-to within the Five Ponds Wilderness during a bushwhacking trip. Over the eight-day period the lean-to went from clean and well-kept to having garbage strewn within the fireplace and abandoned equipment scattered all about.

Obviously there is a need for some rules of lean-to etiquette. These rules need to be adopted and promoted by all backcountry adventurers. They should be posted on an attractive sign in a prominent place on each lean-to to remind those users that seem to forget their obligations when visiting the backcountry. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest Essay: Wintertime Backcountry Sanitation

What follows is a guest essay by Jim Muller, a regular Almanack reader and an avid winter camper who edits the site WinterCampers.com. Muller noted that Dan Crane’s recent post on Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene assumed summertime conditions and he wanted to provide us his take on camping sanitation in winter.

Let’s face it – it is tough to contemplate washing up when winter camping, but that doesn’t mean that sanitation should be ignored. Especially keep your hands clean. Backpackers are more likely to become sick from improper hand sanitation than from contracting Guardia from untreated water. Use a multi-purpose soap or hand cleaner. Don’t touch shared food. Pour snacks and trail mix into your hand as opposed to reaching in a bag to grab a handful. Use food utensils when portioning out dinner rations. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dan Crane: Adirondack Backcountry Hygiene

Exploring the backcountry of the Adirondacks is hard work. Regardless of whether it is exclusively done on well-worn trails or way off the beaten path, hiking generates a lot of sweat and stirs up plenty of dirt. When the stench emerging from a sleeping bag in the morning instantly brings tears to the eyes, there can be no doubt; some backcountry hygiene is now a dire necessity.

Adding some backcountry laundry to the usual camp chores can mitigate this smell to some degree, but often more extreme measures are necessary. Although everyone’s tolerance to intense body odor, sticky skin and slimy hair may wildly vary; it is inevitable that at some point the sickening smorgasbord of filth will exceed even the hardiest individual’s ability to ignore it.

Although personal hygiene may be optional for the solo backcountry enthusiast, it becomes a downright necessity for those traveling in groups. One of the few things worse than smelling one’s own overpowering body odor is enduring the stench of someone else’s natural aroma.

Some people prefer the simplest solution to a dire body odor situation. Just a dip in a nearby lake or stream does the trick for these trepid souls. Unfortunately, finding a rocky-bottomed water body in the Adirondacks is not always an easy task. Plus, there is the threat of leeches, snapping turtles, overly enthusiastic fish and a whole menagerie of other creepy organisms to deal with.

For those looking for a more traditional bathing experience, only a little planning and a few pieces of extra equipment are required. The ultimate goal of backcountry hygiene is to deal with the stench and other associated issues without over burdening the weight of the backpack.

Soap is an important component of any backcountry adventurer’s personal hygiene system. Simple biodegradable soaps work best as they have less impact on the environment than the more aggressive, heavily marketed alternatives made by the major manufactures.

Using soap with insect-repellent properties, like Sallye Ander No-Bite-Me, allows for added protection against all blood-craving insects. Having a single piece of equipment satisfy two purposes, such as these repellent soaps, is a weight-conscious backcountry explorer’s dream.

A small sponge comes in handy for rinsing off the soapy residue or engaging in a sponge bath. Currently, I use an ecotools™ cellulose facial sponge. These sponges come in threes, are made of cellulose, contain no petroleum by-products, are minimally packaged and the limited packaging is printed on recycled paper.

Use some type of basin filled with water to wet and rinse the sponge. Backpacker’s Pantry’s collapsible pack bowl works extremely well. It is lightweight, flexible, and extremely packable as it folds down completely flat. Just make sure to dispose of the waste water 150 feet away from any stream, lake or pond.

After cleaning with soap it is important to hold off the inevitable stink as long as possible. Typically, deodorant sticks are used back in civilization to accomplish this task. Deodorant sticks are typically too bulky for backpacking into the backcountry.

An alternative I use is a deodorant powder, such as Thai Crystal & Cornstarch Deodorant Powder. It claims to be free of aluminum chlorohydrate, controls wetness, offers 24-hour protection and is unscented. I typically pack it in a small plastic film container (you do remember film, right?). Since it is a very fine powder I usually place the film container in a small plastic bag, just in case.

Nothing spurs the desire to take a shower more than the slimy feeling of greasy hair in the backcountry. This is especially true at night when it is often no longer possible to cover it up with a convenient hat. Unfortunately, this feeling cannot be fully alleviated by just wetting your hair in a convenient lake or pond; only a thorough shampooing can alleviate this situation.

Despite their utility back in civilization, liquid shampoos are inconvenient in the backcountry. They are not lightweight, require a sturdy container (which often seems to leak despite all attempts to the contrary) and are often heavily scented (which attracts all types of insects, including the biting and stinging kinds).

An alternative to liquid shampoos are solid shampoo bars. Although they typically come in large sizes, they can be cut to a convenient small size for an extended backcountry adventure. They do not leak, can be easily placed in a plastic re-sealable bag and tend to have subtle scents. My favorite is J.R.Liggett’s Shampoo Bar, which I like so much I use it at home fulltime.

The dirty water reservoir of an inline water filter system can be helpful for rinsing shampoo from hair. The reservoir, with the inline filter removed and the hose tied off in a loose knot, when filled with water makes an effective shower. Just be sure not to tie the knot too tight since undoing it with eyes closed is a daunting task.

I use an old Platypus 3L Big Zip Reservoir with some surgical tubing for my inline filter system. The surgical tubing is supple enough to be easily tied and untied regardless of whether my eyes are open or not. Three liters is more than enough to rinse the shampoo from my hair with enough left over to rinse my back and arms. Make sure the water is not too cold or risk having an intense headache after the shower.

Do not forget to have a lightweight and highly absorbent pack towel handy for all of the above activities. They are not only handy for drying but become an effective defensive weapon when wet against crafty biting flies that have discovered the sweet spot on the back where few people can reach. I currently carry a MSR Ultralite Pack Towel for just such occasions.

Spending many days in the wilderness often requires taking steps to perform some backcountry hygiene. Fortunately, personal hygiene in the backcountry does not have to be another tedious chore and can deliver sizable dividends when exploring the backcountry in groups. Otherwise be prepared to spend much of the trip alone with a stench of your own making.

Photos: A perfect place for a late summer bath on Moshier Reservoir by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Preparing For Your Winter Adirondack Adventure

What follows is a guest essay by NYS Forest Ranger Julie Harjung a Lead Instructor for Wilderness Medical Associates and contributor to the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

I have been a Forest Ranger for over 15 years and have spent all of it in either the Catskills or the Adirondack Mountains. Rangers respond to just about every emergency you can think of and probably a few you haven’t thought of. Many of the incidents are true accidents, a slip on the trail causing a broken leg, a dislocated elbow, a fall causing a concussion etc. Accidents can and do happen all the time in the backcountry. As a responsible outdoor enthusiast you need to be prepared for the “what if” scenarios. That means following a few cardinal rules. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dan Crane: Backcountry Laundry

Backcountry exploration is an extremely dirty business. Hiking long distances with a heavy pack takes a lot of effort and generates a lot of sweat. Frequently scrambling under downed trees, climbing over logs, trudging across beaver dams and pushing through dense thickets just exacerbates the problem. Mix in insect repellent and sunscreen residues, and hiking clothes are typically filthy, clammy and all-around disgusting after just a single day.

Unfortunately, the nearest washing machine is many miles away. Although laundry is often a forgotten chore out in the backcountry, it does not have to be that way. Backcountry laundry can be almost as convenient as at home with the proper planning and equipment. In fact, I perform the following laundry procedure frequently during my backcountry adventures, most recently at Cracker Pond during a bushwhacking trip through the deep interior of the Five Ponds Wilderness this past summer.

Proper planning starts well before ever hitting the trail or entering the forest. In fact, it starts while shopping for hiking clothes. This is especially true for the clothing worn while hiking as these will likely be in the greatest need of cleaning during any trip.

Lightweight clothing made of synthetic fabrics work best. The synthetic fabrics tend to hold water less and therefore dry quicker. Quick drying is important since only the sun and the wind will be available for any drying. Do not attempt to use a fire for drying except in the most extreme situations, as the risk of melting is too great.

Very little specialized equipment is required for laundry in the backcountry. The necessary equipment is relatively inexpensive or typically carried already for other purposes. Forget about hauling an old-fashioned washboard, all that is needed is a re-sealable, plastic zipper storage bag (Ziploc bags for those not brand name averse), some detergent, a water basin, a super-absorbent towel and a clothes line. Do not forget the filthy clothing too.

The zipper storage bag should be a heavy duty bag, such as a freezer bag. A gallon-sized bag works well unless you plan on cleaning only small articles such as socks and/or underwear. The bag thickness is especially important if it is to be used multiple times on a single trip since small holes can develop easily.

Select a biodegradable and environmentally-friendly detergent for use in the backcountry. Powdered detergents work best as they weigh less than the liquid alternatives. If the temperatures are forecast to be high during your trip then consider supplementing the powdered with a small amount of liquid scent destroying detergent.

My favorite liquid scent-destroying detergent is Sport-Wash. Only a half-ounce is necessary per gallon of water. The label indicates it rinses completely, leaving absolutely no residue or scent. Plus, they claim it restores loft and effectiveness to down and synthetic insulation, improves wicking of fibers and maintains breathability of waterproof fabrics. The only downside is the instructions indicate to let clothes soak for thirty minutes prior to agitation.

When selecting water for washing laundry, try to find the cleanest source available. This may pose a difficult task in some places within the Adirondacks, especially in those ponds with mucky bottoms and indistinct shorelines. Streams often provide the easiest access to relatively clean water.

The water should be scooped up carefully from its source if the plastic bag has had prior use since getting detergent (or any other cleansing agent) into the water can have adverse consequences for aquatic life. Pouring water into the bag from some other receptacle sometimes works well, though at some point you will wish you were an octopus; the extra arms come in handy!

The detergent should be added after the water is in the plastic bag. It is best to place the cleaning agent in first before the clothes since it is easier to get it to mix uniformly. Take care not to use too much; it only takes a little to get the job done.

After adding the clothes, seal the bag and either soak the contents for a while or shake to simulate agitation. Feel free to use your imagination here, alternating between soaking and shaking as time allows. Although it is tempting to open the bag and agitate with one’s hands, be careful not to puncture the bag when doing so.

Depending on how dirty are the clothes, multiple loads can be washed using a single batch of water and detergent. But be warned, the water may be so dark and dirty after just washing a single article of clothing that you may feel a little ill. When the dirty water is finally ready for disposal make sure you are at least 150 feet from any water source, if such a thing is possible in the Adirondacks.

After washing is completed, the rinsing can commence. Although the plastic page could be used for rinsing, I typically use a self-standing water basin for that purpose. The water basin allows for more vigorous ringing and more frequent water changes.

My rinsing basin of choice is a Backpacker’s Pantry collapsible pack bowl. This pack bowl is extremely lightweight, flexible and very packable; it folds down completely flat. This bowl could double as a washing bucket but I only carry one and I prefer washing and rinsing simultaneously.

Dispose of the rinse water in the same manner as the wash water; at least 150 feet from any water source. Try not to dispose of all the water in a single location; spread out any possible impact.

After the clothes are completely laundered, they need to be dried. Although a majority of drying is performed by the sun and wind, there are several procedures that can minimize the amount of time required.

A clothes line is essential for drying laundry in the backcountry. The food bag rope used to foil hungry bears, rodents, etc. can easily double as a clothes line. The only complication of this duel use is it is not possible to dry laundry AND hang food simultaneously.

The clothes line should be tied between two trees where the rope gets as much sunshine exposure as possible. If available place the rope in an area where it takes advantage of any cross-breezes. If you want to avoid your rope getting sticky from sap residue make sure to tie it off to hardwood trees only.

Although throwing the clothes right on the line and waiting for the sun and wind to do all the drying is an option, a super-absorbent pack towel can cut the amount of drying time down significantly. One of these towels should already be in every hiker’s backpack for drying after fording streams, swimming and personal hygiene purposes.

I carry a couple MSR Ultralite pack towels of different sizes for personal hygiene purposes. The larger of these towels doubles for laundry duty when necessary.

Just lay out the wet (and presumably now clean) article of clothing on top of towel and roll the two up together. When completely rolled up, just give a couple gentle twists to transfer the moisture from the clothes to the towel. Unroll and ring out the towel into the rinse bucket or at the proper distance from any water body. Repeat until the clothing is merely damp and then hang it out in the sun to finish the job.

The next time you slip on that hiking shirt and the stench makes you dizzy just be thankful you have the necessary equipment to do your laundry out in the backcountry. Afterwards you will be delighted at how clean are your hiking clothes. Just do not get used to it; after an hour carrying a heavy pack over who-knows-what you will be smelling your own body odor all over again.

Photos: Drying laundry at Cracker Pond by Dan Crane.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Late Autumn – Early Winter in the Adirondacks

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Late autumn can be a great time to recreate in the Adirondacks. Leaves have fallen from the trees providing more scenic views, there are a lot fewer people on the trails and waters and there are no insects! However, variable weather and trail conditions and shorter days require that you be prepared to deal with a variety of circumstances.

Days may be sunny, with temperatures above freezing or you may experience rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow and temperatures well below freezing. Sometimes you can experience all of these weather conditions on the same day or even within a short period of time, particularly if you are hiking into higher elevations.

Darkness comes early and the temperatures drop quickly. Trails will likely have ice in the morning but may be muddy in afternoon. Water temperatures are cold and ice begins forming on the shores of ponds and in the backwaters of rivers.

Mountain tops and high elevations will have snow and ice, and snowstorms may blanket all of the Adirondacks at any time. Hypothermia is a real danger at this time.

Many people in the Adirondacks stay inside at this time. Either waiting for the enough snow so they can ski, snowshoe or snowmobile, or waiting for spring. However, if you are properly prepared you can still enjoy the outdoors.

Whether you are hunting, hiking, camping, paddling or boating, be prepared for the wide variety of conditions you may encounter:

* Check the weather forecast and trail conditions during the days before and just before setting off into the woods (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7865.html);

* Wear good quality waterproof hiking shoes or boots, with cold weather hiking socks;

* Wear layers of synthetic, fleece or wool (not cotton) clothing;

* Pack and/or wear water proof outer wear and fleece or wool hat and gloves or mittens;

* Pack additional synthetic, fleece or wool clothing & socks – take off and put on layers of clothing to regulate body heat;

* Carry plenty of water (2 liters/person), high energy foods and any needed medications;

* Carry crampons, snowshoes, and/or skis and use when appropriate;

* Carry a flashlight or headlamp and fresh extra batteries;

* Pack an ensolite pad and bivy sack or space blanket; and

* If you are on the water, wear an approved personal flotation device (PFD) – it is required by law for anyone on a boat less than 21 feet in length between November 1 and May 1

As always on any backcountry trip:

* Know your physical abilities and the terrain you will be hiking and plan your trips accordingly;

* Carry and use a map and compass, even if you have a GPS;

* Let someone know where you will be going and when you expect to return; and

* Contact DEC Forest Rangers at 518/891-0235 to report lost or injured hikers

It is also important to remember to be prepared to turn back if conditions worsen, to prevent hiking in the dark or if someone in your group is weary, cold, sick, injured or otherwise distressed. The mountain or the water will always be there to come back to another day.

Proper preparedness and good judgment will ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable trip, even during this fickle and unpredictable season.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dan Crane: Leaving Bushwhacking Breadcrumbs

Solitude and isolation are two reasons for journeying into the backcountry of the Adirondacks. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of modern life to spend some time in nature has a soothing and regenerative power unmatched by the likes of books, movies or video games. Unfortunately, the remoteness can prove a challenge if for some reason a backcountry enthusiast must be located in a timely fashion.

Although rare, situations may arise that require locating an individual in the backcountry. An emergency at home, failure to return on a given date or some other reason may require initiating a search with little information to go on. Such a search may be difficult to perform within the confines of a trail system; it may require a Herculean effort in a bushwhacking situation. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Black Bear Encounters: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

What follows is a guest essay from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

The black bear is one of the most fascinating wildlife species in the Adirondacks. Residents and visitors are constantly introducing human food and garbage into the home of the black bear. Wild, non-habituated bears forage for foods such as berries, nuts, insects, and grasses.

These bears will not normally show an interest in our food unless they are first introduced to it through our careless behavior. If they cannot easily get to our food they will look elsewhere. When we store food and garbage poorly, bears are attracted to this easily accessible food rather than the natural foods they must work to acquire. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adirondack State Campground Camping

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

Picture this… the weather forecast is for a beautiful weekend, spring camping has begun and you have a reservation for your favorite site at the campground you camped at as a child. Your grandparents have reserved the site next to you and they will have their boat in the water and the fishing poles put together before you arrive. Your kids are excited about getting to the perch hole they fished last year.

When school is out for the summer, you’ll spend even more time camping and your kids will earn the newest patch in the Junior Naturalist Program. In the past they have had so much fun completing the activities and the bonus is how much they have learned about conservation and the environment. Someday they’ll be bringing their children camping and you will be the grandparent.

In the Adirondack Park there are 42 public campgrounds administered by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. These campgrounds provide a wide variety of experiences, including island camping, tent and trailer camping, boat launching facilities, hiking trails, beaches and day use areas with picnic tables and grills. There are no utility hook-ups at these campgrounds.

For more information about DEC operated campgrounds call (518) 457-2500 or www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/camping.html. To make a reservation call Reserve America, at 1-800-456-CAMP (1-800-456-2267), or reserveamerica.com

More than 100 private campgrounds are also available in the Adirondacks. They generally offer a wider variety of services, including utility hook-ups. For a listing of private campgrounds contact the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council at (518) 846-8016 or www.VisitAdirondacks.com and click on the camping link.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Understanding Forest Rangers and ECOs

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

While fishing a fairly remote brook trout pond, a man in an official looking green uniform approaches and asks to see your fishing license.

While camping on a lake, a woman in a green uniform – a little different from the uniform you had seen before – comes into camp and makes some inquiries about your plans and practices for storing food and waste. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adirondack Backcountry Preparedness

What follows is a guest essay contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy:

If you are traveling into the backcountry beyond the trailhead these tips are important to keep in mind:

* Be prepared, consider what you need to do to protect yourself and to protect the park.

* Plan ahead. Let friends of relatives know where you are going, when you plan to return and what to do if you do not return on time.

* Avoid traveling alone.

* Dress in layers to protect yourself from the wind, rain and cold. Wear clothing made of synthetic fibers or wool and do not wear cotton in cold or rainy weather.

* Carry a lightweight, waterproof tarp for use as an emergency shelter. A storm proof tent is necessary for overnight trips.

* Carry lightweight foods and cooking gear. Use trail food such as nuts, dried fruit, candy, and jerky for nibbling. Carry extra food and water.

* Carry a portable stove. Stoves heat more quickly and useful in wet weather.

* Stop to make camp well before dark or at the first evidence of bad weather.

* Do not take unnecessary chances. Abandon the trip if anyone becomes ill or if bad weather sets in.

* If you think that you are lost, stay calm. Stop and try to determine your location. Do not continue traveling until you know where you are. Use your head, not your legs!

* Three of anything (shouts, whistles, fires, flashes of light, etc.) is a standard distress signal. Use these only in an emergency situation.

* In a backcountry emergency contact the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Dispatch at 518-891-0235

When traveling in the backcountry, be sure to take these essential items along:

* Sturdy boots, fleece layers and rain/wind gear (even on a sunny day!)

* In winter included snowshoes, hat and gloves or mittens

* Map and compass

* Flashlight / Headlamp

* Water bottle, water purification tablets or other means of purifying your water

* Extra food

* Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool

* Bivy sack or sleeping bags

* Matches and/or lighter with fire starter (such as a candle)

* First aid kit and insect repellent during bug season

* Whistle – Three blasts is a distress signal. Please use only in an emergency

* Pencil and paper – to write notes in an emergency

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Long Overdue Recognition of Ranger Douglas King

What follows is a guest essay by one of the founders of Lean2Rescue, Paul Delucia. Lean2Rescue volunteers have recently completed rehabilitations of lean-tos in DEC Region 6, and are now beginning to work on those in Region 5. The Almanack asked Delucia to tell our readers how he got involved in rehabbing lean-tos in the Adirondacks.

As the original organizer of Lean2Rescue, I have been asked many times how our group, which has renovated nearly 40 lean-tos across the Adirondacks, developed such a cooperative relationship with the DEC. Simply put, it boils down to a sincere trust in both directions. In the beginning, we needed to earn the trust of the DEC; to show that we would carry through on our (rather aggressive) commitments while respecting the rules that govern the park. Of equal importance was my instinctive trust of the DEC which is based on the privilege of knowing Ranger Douglas King. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jamie Savage: Have Kids Will Recreate

What follows is a guest essay by Jamie Savage, professor of forest technology at the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry Ranger School at Wanakena, part of our series of essays from the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership (AFPEP).

Kids just want to have fun. They have fun when they feel safe and comfortable, when they’re well rested and well fed, and when they’re with family and friends in a stimulating environment. The key to getting kids involved with outdoor activities—and keeping them involved—is remembering and providing for these fun-damentals.

The following tips for successful adventures are based on my own experiences as a father, Outing Club advisor, and former summer camp counselor and those of several of my friends who regularly spend time outdoors with their kids.

Fun-damental #1: Kid-Centered Activities

My friends Caren and Brian allow their three children to take turns choosing their activities. They also encourage their kids to help plan each outing, offering maps, guidebooks, etc. as assistance. My friend Bill warns that what we adults consider a “good day’s outing” may not be appropriate for small children. Instead of hiking the Great Range in a day, consider something less ambitious—OK, a lot less ambitious—like a hike to the top of Roaring Brook Falls or up Mt. Jo. Start easy, he suggests, and let them grow into it; “They’ll soon grow up and you’ll be trying to keep up with them!”

My friend Celia, who regularly hikes, skis, camps, and paddles with her two children, adds, “Be willing to turn around—remember that these days are not about you.” Kathy, also a mother of two kids, could not agree more: “Take your time, and if your children are tired, take a break or cut short your day. Remember, this is not a race to a destination; it is all about what happens on the way.” Allow ample time for exploring and enjoying a waterfall, glacial erratic, or, if paddling, a clear, shallow bay where underwater flora and fauna can be observed.

Fun-damental #2: Safety and First Aid

As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and free from harm, but also give them some freedom to experience, explore, and learn from their surroundings. Accordingly, pick locations that are accessible and secure. Choose a trail that will allow you to let the kids run ahead a bit without fear of a cliff or dangerous stream crossing. Choose campsites that don’t present obvious dangers nearby, so that you feel comfortable letting your kids explore. The more kids feel free to do what they want, the more fun they will have.

My friends Bill and Sue do a lot of camping with their three children. Bill says that successful outings require some negotiation, particularly with his nine-year-old son. “If you want him to learn how to build a fire,” Bill says, “then you have to let him use the small hatchet. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but if you say ‘no’ to everything, you may as well not take him.”

Minor cuts and bruises are inevitable, especially on the knees and palms of our “four-wheel drive” kids, so I always bring a small first aid kit. I agree with my friend Kathy on some essentials: moleskin for blisters, small and large adhesive band-aids (including some big enough for knees and palms!), anti-bacterial cream like Neosporin, and sunblock. It’s also nice to have some wipes and/or a clean bottle of water in reserve for wound cleaning.

Fun-damental #3: Comfort

The more comfortable your kids are while they recreate, the more fun they are going to have, and the more positive their memories. Footwear is a critical piece of gear when it comes to staying comfortable in the outdoors. For many outdoor activities, I think it comes down to two kinds of shoes:

• Each year, Claire and I outfit our sons with a decent pair of hiking boots. They need to fit well, come up over the ankle, and be of decent quality. They will be outgrown before they wear out, so investing in the top of the line is not necessary.

• I also like our kids to have some type of water shoe, like a reef-walker type of pull-on. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals need not apply! I look for something that will protect toes and the bottoms of our kids’ feet. Water shoes are great for paddling, swimming in rivers and lakes, and just wearing around a grassy or sandy campsite. In general, try to choose footwear that is easy to put on and take off, and that dries out fairly quickly. And always bring extra socks! Once the kids’ feet are wet, it isn’t long before they start complaining that their feet are cold and/or sore.

Pesky insects can ruin anyone’s day, and they may even cause rashes, swelling, or other allergic reactions in younger children. If you’re out during the buggy season, or buggy time of day, encourage your kids to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. I try to use as little bug spray as possible. If it’s really necessary, I use repellents with low amounts of DEET (25% or less), and apply it sparingly to hats, necks, and other places where the kids can’t reach to fend off attackers. Bug nets fitted over wide-brimmed hats also work quite well, if your child will tolerate such headgear. If using accessories like child carriers, jog strollers, or bike trailers (I recommend combination stroller/bike trailer rigs), invest in models that have good bug netting. Don’t let a few bugs keep you and your kids inside!

Fun-damental #4: Plenty of Good Food

Caren and Brian say that a BIG part of their family’s outdoor adventures is the planning of the food. They plan food together, assigning fun names to their infamous dishes (like the “outhouse wrap”). They even have traditional “camp meals” that they incorporate into every trip, like a special breakfast oatmeal.

Gorp (a.k.a. trail mix) is popular with many kids. Kathy and Bill’s crew get to make up their own the night before a hike, ski, or paddle. It gets the kids excited about the next day, and ensures that certain ingredients aren’t left uneaten at the bottom of the bag. Some of their favorite contents include Cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, peanuts, cashews, chocolate chips, and M & Ms (of course!). One of my tricks is to bring along a bag of Starbursts, or something similar. I “award” them at the completion of a certain section of trail, and/or at the top of the mountain. It’s a great motivator. I do a similar thing with my college students by offering “S.M.A.F.C.R.s” (smafkers): Sweet Morsels Awarded For Correct Responses!

Fun-damental #5: Stimulating Environment

The fifth and final tip is to give kids fun things to do and fun people to do them with. Try brewing up some hot chocolate along the ski trail, give the kids ‘walkie talkies’ to play with, bring binoculars, write/sing songs about your adventures, conduct scavenger hunts, or hold plant identification contests. Don’t just take your kids to the outdoors—engage them in it.

My kids seem to have an even better time on our adventures if they are with some of their friends, or even just with other kids. They tease, challenge, and teach each other…and they smile and laugh a lot. No friends available? Try a puppy! Caren says that their dog Lily “gets them out and she is a blast to hike with.”

Bottom line: the more time you spend outdoors, the more comfortable your kids will become, and the more fun they will have.

This guest essay was contributed by the Adirondack Forest Preserve Education Partnership, a coalition of Adirondack organizations building on the Leave No Trace philosophy. Their goal is to provide public education about the Forest Preserve and Conservation Easements with an emphasis on how to safely enjoy, share, and protect these unique lands. To learn more about AFPEP visit www.adirondackoutdoors.org.