Do internet searches frustrate you? The first-ranked result just doesn’t give you enough of what you want. Your second choice isn’t as in-depth as what you were hoping for. The next possibility gets you the same information and more advertising. Back and forth you go, to no avail. The real meat of your question eludes you.
NaturePods has been offering a solution to the dilemma of in-depth nature-based information for two years. Today we announce a new partnership that provides this tremendous benefit to hikers.
NaturePods has teamed up with EveryTrail to offer detailed stories and insights for hiking trails across the nation. EveryTrail provides apps for your iPhone or Android of trail descriptions across the globe. Hikes include digital maps, photos of scenes and waypoints, descriptions of the trail, and now, NaturePods is one of the first to also provide audio and video guides. Not only can these guides help you plan hikes to places you’ve never been, but you can also contribute and share your hikes through EveryTrail.
A NaturePod EveryTrail Guide combines that digital map with a selection of our videos. As you hike with your phone by your side, your phone will notify you as you approach specific waypoints. A quick push of a button, and you’re listening to expert insight on the scene before you.
NaturePods has already produced 4 guides for EveryTrail.
The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park:
To understand the geology and get the most out of your views, download this challenging signature hike. Perhaps you might even catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon. Your NaturePods EveryTrail Guide will give you the background story of how the National Park Service has brought this magnificent bird back from the brink of extinction.
This hike will take you to one of President Thomas Jefferson’s favorite places. Along the way learn about the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in developing the park by building roads, trails, and planting thousands of trees. You will be delighted to learn the reason for Mountain Laurel’s complicated flower structure when you see these blossoms by the millions in summer. Winding your way off the ridge, you will become enchanted by this dynamic forest and its residents, from endangered salamanders to black bears.
Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park
Download this guide to explore the depth of the canyon. As one of NaturePod’s satisfied customers once told us, “your guides can make you an instant expert.” Along this scenic and challenging trail, you’ll stop to explore the wildlife of the canyon and the history of some its most wild pioneers.
Check out this guide for a hike in Cades Cove. You’ll enjoy videos covering geology, human history, and the ever-popular black bears of Cades Cove, allowing you to experience the Cove as it is today and as it once was.
As a co-author to the Hiking Trails of the Smokies, and an avid hiker, I know the importance of a good map, trail profile, and accurate description. EveryTrail offers all this plus interpretation and actual trail photos in the convenience of your own pocket device. A paper trail guide would never be able to include all these features and still be portable.
EveryTrail offers these NaturePod Trail Guides for just $1.99 each; a small price for the expertise to enrich your hiking experience. Why not get a few for the hiker on your holiday list? Watch for more guides here.
You’ll be missing lots of adventures if you hide inside this winter. New escapades are available for visitors to many national parks in the winter. If you enjoy winter sports, there are parks for that. If you want to escape the winter, there are parks for that too. Here is a sampling.
Death Valley National Park is open year-round, but most visitors avoid the fiercely hot summer months and schedule a visit in the milder winter. The 61st annual Death Valley ‘49ers Encampment is the unofficial season kick-off and a big crowd-pleaser with activities like a pioneer costume contest, wagon train parade, western-style music, craft show, and much more. It just took place November 10-14. With average August highs around 115 and January highs in the 60’s, winter is the time to hike, camp, explore and enjoy the Mojave desert environment.
Big Bend National Park encompases the Chisos mountains to Chihuahuan desert, so depending on where you go, winter temperatures range greatly. Generally, winter is the dry season, but storms can blow in suddenly with snow or cold rain. November to April is the popular season, peaking in March and April. Because of this diversity and latitude, birding any time of year here is fantastic. Over 450 bird species have been recorded. Hiking and camping and all sorts of activities are great here in the winter.
Grand Canyon National Park is also open for various winter activities. November 28th marks the seasonal close of the visitor center, campground, roads, and services at the North Rim, however primitive group campsites are still available to hikers and cross-country skiers with a backcountry permit. The South Rim’s amenities stay open year-round.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park reveals even more vistas in the winter when deciduous leaves are absent. The summer crowds are gone and locals enjoy this time of year most in the park where solitude is easy to find. Clingman’s Dome Road closes to vehicular traffic in winter, and becomes available to cross-country skiers or hikers. Periodic closures of other roads, especially Newfound Gap road is likely to occur due to snowy or icy conditions.
Acadia National Park offers a playground for winter enthusiasts. If you are looking for scenic drives in your car, better come in summer. Most of the Park Loop Road is closed to car traffic in winter, except two short sections. Sargaent Drive and Route 102A are also available to cars and take you to some scenic views.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing – The forty-five miles of carriage roads and the unplowed park roads provide fantastic opportunity for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Be aware that snowmobilers can also use the Park Loop Road.
Snowmobiling is permissible on the 27-mile Park Loop Road as well as the road up Cadillac Mountain. The carriage roads are for the skiers and snowshoers, with the exception of two miles as connector trails only.
Winter Camping – Blackwoods Campground is available for primitive winter camping from December 1 to March 31. A camping permit is required.
Winter hiking, ice fishing and even dog sledding and skijoring are winter sports enjoyed by Acadia visitors in the winter.
Shenandoah National Park is always open. Now when the deciduous leaves don’t obscure vistas and the cool temperatures improve visibility, it is a great time for some hiking and backcountry winter camping. That said, December through March you’ll find services such as lodging, food services, campgrounds, and visitor centers closed. Four picnic grounds: Elk Wallow, Dundo, Pinnacle and South River are open year-round. Inclement weather will occasionally close portions of Skyline Drive, which is normally open 24 hours a day. Even so, you can still enter the park on foot. Skyline Drive is also closed dusk to dawn mid-November to early January due to deer hunting season.
Don’t let winter close you inside. Your parks are still there awaiting your visit.
And, remember to download your NaturePod before you go. Northern parks with winter closures don’t have ranger programs available, so you’ll want to get the scoop from your own iPod or iPhone.
Go now. Drive along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Seldom a better fall show than one experienced there. Red maples, sugar maples, hickories, ashes, and more deciduous trees contribute to the collage of fall colors. But in this park, the tulip trees have a unique story.
In a survey done in Shenandoah in 1940, there were no tulip tree groves to be found. By 1990, tulip trees covered sixteen percent of the park.
Tulip trees, or yellow poplars as they are sometimes called, grow in moist sites. They are tall straight trees that have whitish bark. In late spring they blossom with large orange and yellow tulip-shaped flowers. They are not tulips at all but actually part of the magnolia family. They are frequently found in uniform stands. Because of their fast growth rate they shade out many other plants. Morel mushrooms and puttyroot orchid are some of the few understory life forms found in tulip tree groves.
Tulip trees are a “gap” species. This means that they can sit in the understory of a forest and grow very slowly until they get more sunlight. When an opportunity that allows enough sunlight to reach the forest floor occurs, they take advantage of it and speed up their growth rate. Events that open up the forest floor to sunlight would include a tornado, storm, fire, or human activity like lumbering. Tulip trees are often found in old home sites, along forest edges or former orchards.
One tulip tree grove is found at mile marker 8 in the northern section of the park. In the fall, the filigreed canopy of bright yellow leaves attract an abundance of leaf watchers especially in the evening when the sunlight streams through and highlights the leaves like golden Christmas ornaments.
(by Ann and Rob Simpson, excerpted with modification, from Shenandoah NaturePod)
As a park ranger and naturalist, I am often asked what are the most important things you should have should you get lost while hiking. So in collaboration with other rangers and outdoorsmen, we have created a top ten list.
1. Food – Don’t ever go out without something to eat in your pack, whether it’s a half or even full day hike. I like to pack those protein bars; you’re not likely to eat them unless you are in an emergency.
2. Water – Bring at least a quart for a half-day hike, more for a full day or on a hot and dry day. Know where water can be replenished on your hike and what to do to make it safe.
3. Shelter – Afternoon thunderstorms or an unexpected cold front can leave a lost hiker suffering from hypothermia. A good raincoat is a great shelter against unexpected rain or cold. I also keep a large trash bag in my pack for emergency shelter.
4. Matches/Lighter – A lost hiker will want to build a fire for warmth, comfort, and perhaps signaling. Although we see those survival guys on TV using flints or friction to build their fires, a lighter is lightweight and way easier to use.
5. Pocketknife –Most lost hikers are found within 24 hours, so you won’t need to be hunting or even fighting off the wild animals. A pocketknife with a sharp blade is all most hikers will need.
6. First Aid Kit – Pack along a few essentials: band aids, an ace bandage, your daily meds, and some antibiotics.
7. Map and Compass – Never go anywhere new without a decent map of the area. Learn to use a compass and keep it in your daypack. They’re cheap, reliable, lightweight, and work without batteries. GPS are great, but should the battery go, you’re lost.
8. Flashlight – Many lost hikers are what we referred to in the Smokies as simply misplaced. They have become delayed or took a wrong turn and wound up on the wrong trail. Rangers are sent backwards down the trail to catch the delayed hiker often finding them hiking in the dark. A lightweight flashlight or headlamp will make any travel after dark or the evening in your emergency shelter a lot more bearable.
9. Rope – 25 feet of parachute cord is light, small, and indispensable in an emergency. It can be used to whip up a shelter, hold a pot over a fire, or help rig a splint in an emergency. Throw a length into your pack.
10. Whistle – The blast from a good whistle will travel further than a human voice and won’t get absorbed by the forest. It is the best way to signal your location to searchers. Tie one onto your pack and if you hike with kids, put one around each of their necks. Years ago we had a 10-year-old boy lost in the Smokies for 3 days. When he was found, he told searchers he had heard them the first night, but they never heard his screams. A whistle would have had him home that first night.
Wait, no cell phone? Yup, of course there is the battery issue, but more important is that many locations in our national parks, forests, and wilderness areas are not cell-phone friendly. I carry mine with me, but I wouldn’t trade it for any of the things in my top ten list.
In your travels to a distant national park or from your own backyard, have you ever heard a strange nighttime sound? Whistling, screeching, howling, clicking, buzzing and things that go “bump” in the night have kept many a camper wide-eyed and sleepless. We humans are not at our best in the dark of night. If we can’t see it, we don’t like it.
Insects, amphibians, mammals and birds make themselves heard at night. No need being scared out of your wits unnecessarily. I thought I’d provide you a brief sampling of some nighttime sounds to change the “frightening” to “identifiable”. Once you know what you are listening to and decide you don’t like it, then you have my permission to be frightened.
Insects can fill a summer night with pleasant music. Members of the Orthoptera family are primarily responsible. These include crickets, grasshoppers and katydids. The following insect recordings are from the Singing Insects of North America (SINA) website. This fantastic site is still being compiled and is a great library of sounds. Click on the animal name to hear their recognizable sounds.
Southern Ground Cricket (Allonemobius socius) This is one of 900 species of crickets. Only the male cricket makes noise. It is done by rubbing the row of teeth-like ridges on the edge of a wing against the other wing edge. The wings themselves act as sounding boards.
Snowy Tree Cricket (Oecanthus fultoni) The chirping rate of this cricket can tell you the air temperature. The temperature in Fahrenheit is calculated by counting the number of chirps in 14 seconds and adding 40.
Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia) There are roughly 6,400 species of katydids, but this is called the Common True Katydid and one that you might recognize.
Northern Mole Cricket (Neocurtilla hexadactyla) The northern mole cricket burrows underground and comes out to chirp at the entrance of its burrow.
The following amphibian recordings all take you to one website, where you can hear these and more, thanks to Michael Benard. His excellent collection of photos and recordings are for reference and enjoyment.
Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) This arboreal frog is probably quite familiar to you if you live in the Eastern US; if not by his appearance, then by his song. Gray treefrogs can camouflage themselves according to the substrate they are sitting on almost as well as a chameleon. So anything from green to gray are normal on their mottled, warty skin. You’ll probably hear a number of treefrogs chorusing from treetops throughout the midsummer night.
Other frogs and toads are commonly heard in the spring during their breeding season.
Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) This little fellow ( yes, only the male sounds off) is heard in the spring when it is calling for mating rights from nearby marshes, streams, and ponds.
Green Frog (Rana clamitans) is abundant in the eastern US in pretty much any fresh body of water.
The following mammal and bird recordings are from Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.
White-tailed deer snorting – usually silent, deer may give a loud air-filled snort when alarmed.
Raccoon - an adult male
Coyote - howls and whines from a pack
American alligator – listen to the low rumbling and disregard the bird
Barred owl – A mnemonic for this nighttime singer almost sounds like, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. When two call at each other, people mistake them for monkeys, but of course no monkeys live in North America where these birds reside.
Barn owl – this spooky sounding character has the white color of a ghost to boot.
Of course this is not a complete list by any stretch. It is however, a fun sampling to help you become more atuned to what is happening in nature when humans are generally “out of it”. This concert will make a night around the campfire, on the back porch or in your tent an entertaining adventure.
Be aware that all rights are reserved for all these recordings. The sounds are property of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, Singing Insects of North America, and Michael Benard and can only be used for personal listening. Any other use requires you to contact them directly for permission.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. became interested in Mount Desert Island in the early 1900’s when he and his wife spent several summers vacationing in Bar Harbor. Their son Nelson, future vice president of the US, was born here.
In 1910 John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased a house in Seal Harbor and over the years converted it into a large 100 room mansion known as the Eyrie. He was very interested in the preservation of land on the island and became the greatest donor of land and money to the formation of what is now Acadia National Park.
In 1913 he began building the carriage road system. Initially it was just around his property but in time his interest expanded and construction continued until the early 1940s.
In the end John D. Rockefeller Jr. built 16 stone bridges, 57 miles of carriage roads and the two gate-lodges most of which have been given to the park. Along with over 10,000 acres of land and several million dollars for various other projects including the construction of the park loop road and restoration after the 1947 fire, John D. Rockefeller Jr. has been the single greatest benefactor to Acadia National Park.
To this day the Rockefeller family continues its interest and generosity to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.
The significance of the carriage road system is not simply a generous gift or an engineering feat but as a pathway into the heart of the park, where people can experience the full beauty of nature away from human influence.
Today, the carriage roads are wonderful opportunities to experience Acadia by bicycle. Your only companions may be pedestrians and horses. Find out more about biking in Acadia here.
What is camping without a campfire? Smores, ghost stories, cooking hot dogs on a stick – that’s what makes a campfire fun family time. Pack the marshmallows, lawn chairs, and creativity and have some fun with these games around the campfire:
1- Skin the Marshmallow – While toasting your marshmallows on a stick over the coals, see who can skin their marshmallow the most times. Toast your marshmallow to the point where you can pull off just the outermost toasted layer. Toast the remainder lightly until you can pull off its outer skin. Repeat until you have skinned your marshmallow down to nothing. Don’t forget to count how many times you skinned the same marshmallow. My personal record is 13 skins.
2- Circle Story – Everyone sitting around the campfire contributes to the circle story. One person starts the story with, “Once upon a time…” and for instance can say, ” a boy and his pet dragon went for a walk in the woods.” Then, the next person picks up the story and builds the drama. Each person can tell for as long as he/she wants, but cannot undo what previous storytellers said. Its fun to try to put in a twist for the next storyteller in the circle. The story ends when it completes the circle and comes back to the person who started it. (Or, keep it going round and round – it could go all night!)
3- A What? – This is a fun classic that is sure to make everyone laugh. One person hands an object to the person next to him in the circle saying, “This is a widget”. (Any word can be used, the weirder the better actually). The recipient asks, “A what?” and the response is, “a Widget”. The second person then hands the object to the 3rd person in the circle telling her, “This is a widget”, and the 3rd person asks, “A what?” and the 2nd person turns back to the first and asks, “A what?” and the first answers, “A widget”. The second then answers the 3rd with, “A widget” and the third can then hand it to the 4th person, saying, “This is a widget”, who of course has to ask, “A what?” which gets relayed all the way back to the starter. The object goes all the way around the circle with, “A What?” going all the way back to the original person as if no one has any memory at all, and “A widget” being conveyed back to the person with the object. Once you have that down, try passing a different object around the circle in the opposite direction at the same time. Then the confusion and hilarity really begins.
4- Rhythm Game – Everyone has to have their hands free for this one. Decide on a general topic, like animals. Then, start a rhythm by clapping thighs twice followed by two claps (slap-slap-clap-clap) Not too fast at first. To start, the first person names an animal beginning with the letter A on the claps. The next person in the circle then has to shout out an animal starting with the letter B on the very next claps. The third person in the circle then has the letter C to name an animal on the claps and so forth down the alphabet. If someone misses an animal or messes up the rhythm, he is out. Who of your group is the quick thinker and most coordinated? Other categories can include places, people’s names, food. You can come up with plenty others I’m sure.
5- Twenty questions – Another classic in which one person thinks of a person, place or thing. Others around the campfire can fire off questions with a “yes” or “no” answer to come up with what the person is thinking of. Narrow the focus with categories like movies, historical figures, famous people, astronomy, or whatever you want.
There are many games to play around the campfire. Make up some of your own. Those can be some of the best fun. Who knows, you may be up all night!
America’s National Parks and Preserves are featured in a new series of quarters to be issued by the US Treasury. Five quarters will be issued in 2010. Look for these in the palm of your hand this year:
1. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas – the first publicly preserved landscape, will be the first quarter issued. As early as 1807, people had begun using the springs for relaxation and health. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson set aside some of the springs for public use. Although not designated as a National Park, the Hot Springs became the first nationally preserved land. In 1921, Hot Springs was re-designated as the 18th National Park.
2. Yosemite National Park in California - followed a similar path to National Park status as Hot Springs. President Abraham Lincoln set aside the land as a national preserve, but the land was returned to California soon thereafter. It wasn’t until 1890 that Yosemite returned as a National Park.
3. Yellowstone National Park - the first official National Park will also be honored. In 1872, President US Grant established as the first National Park in the world. Established originally to preserve its scenery, some now refer to Yellowstone as America’s Serengeti for the exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities found here.
4. Mount Hood National Forest – although not a national park, the 100-year effort to make it so continues to this day. Mount Hood and its surrounding forests are managed by the US Forest Service. Although some land is preserved under wilderness designation, much of the land is managed for timber harvesting.
5. Grand Canyon National Park - was established as one of America’s first National Monuments. The US Antiquities Act gave the President the opportunity to set aside land without the approval of Congress. Originally meant to preserve important Native American archeological sites, President Teddy Roosevelt read into the act a broader mission. He used the act to create 18 national monuments, including setting aside over 800,000 acres as Grand Canyon National Monument. Learn more about the history of this special National Park with a Grand Canyon NaturePod.
Memorial Day is approaching fast. It’s the unofficial start of the summer season. If the weather is warm, you will find the beaches at Cape Cod National Seashore filled with waders, swimmers, and sun lovers. If the weather is cool and stormy, the waves will teem with wet-suited surfers.
Should you find yourself at the Cape, and need a break from the sun and surf, check out the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station at Race Point Beach. Park staff and volunteers recreate the techniques first employed by the U.S. Lifesaving Service back in the mid 1800’s.
A strong offshore current known as “The Race” caused numerous ships to flounder as they rounded the tip of the Cape. Surfmen patrolled the beaches during stormy weather to spot and assist these ships.
When the word went out that a ship was in trouble, surfmen would gather. When the weather was so bad that surfboats could not be launched, a canon would be fired to deploy a line to the struggling crew. As testament to the importance of these waters for trade, instructions were sent with the line in multiple languages. These instructed sailors to affix the line to their mast and ride a breaches buoy to shore, skimming across the tempest.
The lifesaving stations had a 99% success rate along the shores of Cape Cod, saving over 175,000 lives.
In 1915, the U.S. Lifesaving Service and the Revenue Cutters Service joined to create the US Coast Guard. Today, these men and women continue the tradition, going out in the worst of weather and under the most difficult conditions, to assist sailors in trouble.
President Obama is now vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the southern coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. These beaches have attracted vacationers and artists for many years. The constant surf, changing landscape, and persistence of life amid the harsh conditions of beating surf are indeed a wonder and a long attraction for those tending toward contemplation and inspiration.
A visit to any of Cape Cod’s or Martha’s Vineyard’s many encompassing beaches may inspire you to take up journaling, sketching a landscape, or composing a poem. You are not alone. Citizens and visitors to the Cape encompass a long history of artistic endeavor. Some Cape Cod artists have acquired international fame.
After studying impressionist painting in New York, Charles Webster Hawthorne traveled to Holland and discovered painting en plein air – a style of using outdoor light and color. He returned to the United States to start the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown in 1899. Provincetown is known for its light, and Hawthorne inspired many artists to take advantage of it.
Another artist who found nourishment in Provincetown was Eugene O’Neill, playwright. After a rough early life, involving depression and alcoholism, O’Neill recognized a love for the sea. He spent several years on the ocean, and based many of his later plays on these experiences. He began spending summers in Provincetown in 1916, and the Provincetown Players performed his first play, Bound East for Cardiff, a sea story. O’Neill purchased the old Peaked Hill Lifesaving Station, and lived there with his wife for several years. Here he found an inspirational place for writing.
O’Neill’s presence drew other artists to the nearby dune shacks, rustic buildings originally created for members of the lifesaving service. Artists discovered the dune shacks and moved in. In their artistic heyday of the mid-twentieth century, the shacks are said to have housed the poets Harry Kemp and E.E. Cummings, painter Jackson Pollack, and writers Jack Kerouac and Norman Mailer.
The shacks are now part of an historic district that recognizes the area’s historic association with the development of art and literature in America. They continue to beckon artists, writers, naturalists, solitude-seekers, and all who draw inspiration and renewal from the dramatic dune environment.
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