Low Loonie Expected To Bring More RVers to Canada

It doesn’t take an economist to understand what’s happening with the Canadian dollar.

The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The loonie is under pressure and that is not great news for Canadian snowbirds. But it is good news if you’re a Canadian in the export business.

RVers and other traveling visitors to Canada is another group that will benefit from the currency exchange. At present, one US dollar is worth $1.25 Canadian. With the loonier being lower than it has been in years, many RVers and travelers from out of country will no doubt view Canada as a place where they can stretch their money further and get more out of their vacation dollar than in other destinations.

While a deflated loonie will entice more people to visit Canada, Canadians thinking of traveling to the U.S may rethink that trip this summer and keep their dollars at home. That’s bad news if your kids are keen to head to Disney World or Southern California this year. But it’s welcome news for Canadian tourism, which can expect more domestic travelers and a long-needed increase in American visitors, who will take advantage of the lower loonie.

Another boon to RV travel this summer is the exceptionally low fuel prices.

The beautiful Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia is a summer tourism mecca. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The beautiful Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia is a summer tourism mecca. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada’s greatest tourism partner is the United States. According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, Canada welcomes approximately 10 million overnight visitors from the US each year. In recent times, no other country has contributed more than 1 million travelers.

Tourism is an $84-billion industry in Canada that directly employs more than 600,000 workers and supports another 1 million jobs, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. That’s 9.2 per cent of all jobs in the country. Anything that can boost the industry is viewed as a pleasant change after a flurry of events since the start of the century caused headwinds.

Gabor Forgacs, associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Tourism and Hospitality at Ryerson College, explained that Canada lost half of US visitors because of a much higher dollar and new passport requirements that were introduced in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks. Canada also had to withstand the negative news around the SATS crisis in 2003-04 and, like the US, and just about every other country, was adversely impacted by the global economic recession from 2008-12.

A major travel destination renowned for its vast natural landscapes and stunning scenery, Canada is a great place to create RVing memories for you and your family.

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s northern neighbor offers visitors a truly unique vacation experience with a exceptional diversity of natural attractions. Whatever adventure you may seek, Canada has a destination.

From the rugged Pacific coastline and ancient rain forests of British Columbia, across the majestic Rockies and the rolling wheat field plains of the prairie provinces, past the great waterways of the east and on to historic sites and small fishing villages along the Atlantic coast…Canada has it all!

Some of the finest National Parks anywhere in the world are found in Canada. The peaceful serenity of the parks, the unique wildlife, and the jaw-dropping scenery create magical RVing memories.

The Canadian Rockies are stunningly beautiful and immense, with spellbinding views of snowcapped peaks, glacial lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and endless forests. Within the Canadian Rockies is some of the most beautiful, serene and, at the same time, breathtaking scenery on the earth’s surface.

You will never tire of RVing in Canada because over the next horizon there is something amazing to see and experience.

Tourism centers in British Columbia and Alberta are also expecting the low Canadian dollar will bring more American travelers through the region on their way to Alaska.

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Samantha Gibeault, tourism development coordinator for Dawson Creek, British Columbia, says the spin-offs this year for the local economy in the Mile Zero City could be bigger than in previous summers.

According to Gibeault who recently attended a travel convention in Florida, the low dollar has many on the East Coast of the United States talking about making the trip to Alaska.

“Because they are on the East Coast, it’s different because it’s a long haul trip, but there were a number of people who said the (Alaska Highway) trip has gone from number five on their list to number one, because they now have more money the second they cross the border.”

Although last summer’s numbers were strong, Gibeault is hoping for as much as a 15 per cent increase in 2015.

Worth Pondering…

I always thought of this as God’s country.
—Jack Granatstein

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The Top Five Best Adventure Travel Tours in North America

Please note that the following post is written by guest author, Peter Smith.

The national parks of Banff, Jasper, Olympic, and Yellowstone will take your breath away, as you immerse yourself in great outdoors, discovering a world that is as diverse as it is spectacular. Pictured above Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks in Banff National Park. (Source: grandamericanadventures.com)

There’s no need to travel abroad to see dense rainforests, explore lava fields, or kayak with orcas. North America is full of amazing sights waiting for adventure travelers to discover them. Learn about the five best tour destinations in the U.S. and Canada.

Adventure travel is the best choice if you prefer mountain biking or hiking to the comforts of a luxury resort. You can explore some of the most beautiful areas in North America by taking a tour deep into the wilderness. There’s no need for expensive international air travel if you are willing to stay on the continent for your adventure vacation. Consider one of these thrilling tour packages for your next trip into the wild.

Exploring the High Sierras

The northern region of California is home to the High Sierra mountain ranges. These rock formations were shaped by the movement of glaciers, creating peaks like the Matterhorn and Dunderber.

Rugged and unspoiled, Northern New England and Canada’s Maritime Provinces reveal their unique charm, rich history, and hidden secrets. (Source: grandamericanadventures.com)

Fans of hiking can take expeditions deep into valleys with their packs on the back of llamas. These nimble pack animals browse as they travel and can carry up to 80 pounds. Some tours also involve fly fishing activities in the thousands of rivers and creeks running through the mountains. Travelers can catch rainbow trout and cook it over an open fire for dinner.

Head North

Your options for great Canada and Alaska holidays include plenty of amazing hikes and kayak trips. Visitors to British Columbia can paddle through the coastlines around the Great Bear Rainforest. Five days of sea kayaking will give an unparalleled view of this newly protected temperate rainforest. You can also see the best parts of Alaska from the back of a kayak.

See the Volcanic Ridges of Tropical Hawaii

You don’t have to camp and hike through temperate forests on every vacation. Hawaii has plenty of adventure travel for people who prefer tropical climates. Book a tour to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the lava flows and black sand beaches.

The relatively small size of the Hawaiian islands make it easy to spend the day snorkeling or hiking within just a few miles of a luxury resort. This is one of the reasons it is considered to be the best destination for family adventure holidays in USA.

Climbing in New England

Trace the roots of American music along the mighty Mississippi and experience the unique cultural landscape that gave birth to the Blues, Country, and Rock-n-Roll. (Source: grandamericanadventures.com)

New Hampshire and Maine are home to steep mountain ranges that provide challenging climbing and hiking adventures. The White Mountains are the perfect vacation spot if you want to learn the exciting sport of ice climbing. You can explore sheer and smooth walls of ice and learn to ascend them with minimal equipment. Fans of winter travel should book a snowshoeing excursion through these mountains as well.

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail

Anyone living on the East Coast can easily find a tour starting on the section of the trail nearest to their home. This cuts down on travel costs and time when you only have three or four days for your vacation.

Many adventure travelers enjoy starting a long backpacking trip in Tennessee. They see wonderful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as they travel north into Kentucky and Virginia. Southern treks are also popular when started in Maine or New Hampshire.

Everyone can find an adventure travel package that meets their needs if they look in the right places. There’s no need to spend a lot of money or leave the country just to have an exciting new experience. Canada and the USA are home to hundreds of natural attractions for the adventurous traveler to explore.

Peter Smith has been covering Canada and Alaska holidays and family adventure holidays in USA destinations for a variety of blogs and websites. He has spent many weeks hiking and biking in North America.

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50 Places to Discover in an RV

You might have read it or seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Much of Capitol Reef is an inviting wilderness of sandstone formations such as Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge, and Temple of the Sun and Moon in the backcountry of splendid Cathedral Valley. The central geologic feature, the Waterpocket Fold, is a bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone “reefs” and canyons.

Rock art petroglyphs are abundant and tell the story of the early indigenous people, the Fremont Culture. Close by are the orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement—and now headquarters for the park.

Continue reading →

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The Chihuahuan Desert, studded with spiky plants and lizards, offers little hint that what Will Rogers called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it” waits underground. Yet, at this desert’s northern reaches, underneath the Guadalupe Mountains, lies one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found.

Water molded this underworld four to six million years ago. Some 250 million years ago, the region lay underneath the inland arm of an ancient sea. Near the shore grew a limestone reef. By the time the sea withdrew, the reef stood hundreds of feet high, later to be buried under thousands of feet of soil.

Continue reading →

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It’s the deepest lake in the U. S. and its reputation as a spot of overwhelming, sublime natural beauty—the “Gem of the Cascades”—extends around the globe.

Approximately 7,700 years ago, 12,000 foot Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed on itself, forming a large, bowl-shape caldera. Remaining lava flows sealed the bottom and, after a long period of cooling, the caldera filled with rain and snow, creating the sapphire-blue lake.

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park gives new meaning to the word extreme. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Park, rises 11,049 feet and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in the United States in the Badwater Basin salt pan, 282 feet below sea level.

Hemmed in by nine mountain ranges, Death Valley is cut off from rainfall and cooling Pacific winds, making it one of the driest and hottest places in the world. The highest temperatures in the United States are regularly recorded here with a record high temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park is home to North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, towering over 20,300 feet tall. The 6 million acre National Park will also give you one of your best opportunities to see Alaska’s wildlife such as grizzly bear, moose, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou.

The main cavern is located 754 feet below the Visitor Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The main cavern is located 754 feet below the Visitor Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 90-mile road into Denali Park has restricted access and private vehicles are only allowed on the first fourteen miles. You will almost certainly want to travel further into the Park on a narrated bus tour or Park Service shuttle.

Everglades National Park, Florida

The park is at the southern tip of the Everglades, a hundred-mile-long subtropical wilderness of saw-grass prairie, junglelike hammock, and mangrove swamp that originally ran from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

The park’s unique mix of tropical and temperate plants and animals—including more than 700 plant and 300 bird species, as well as the endangered manatee, crocodile, and Florida panther—has prompted UNESCO to grant it international biosphere reserve status as well as World Heritage Site designation.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
—Susan Sontag

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RV Tourism to Alaska Declines

The once-common sight of a meandering, RV-driving summer tourist is becoming more of a rarity in Alaska, according to a new survey of visitors.

Alaska Beyond Your Dreams - Tourism Ad

Dubbed the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, the survey is commissioned by the Alaska Department of Commerce every five years, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports. The 2011 survey was released March 19.

Border crossings at the Top of the World Highway, the Alaska Highway, and the Haines Highway slipped a combined 26 percent from 2006 to 2011, according to the comprehensive study.

The only border crossing to challenge the trend was the Klondike Highway between Skagway and Whitehorse, which saw a 17 percent increase in traffic.

Of an estimated 1.56 million out-of-state visitors, only 69,300 were highway and ferry visitors—a dip of 18 percent since 2006. Overall, the money they spent fell from $111 million to $71 million between 2006 and 2011, according to the study.

Heather Haugland, project manager of the survey conducted by the McDowell Group, said the drop in road traffic disproportionately affects communities in the Interior, which rely more on highway visitors.

“Certainly, Fairbanks has been a victim of that (shift),” Haugland said.

Rising gas prices are part of the reason for the dip in road travelers, tourism officials say, but time also appears to be an issue, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports. Even among retirees, fewer people have a month to spend on a leisurely drive to Alaska and back.

Alaska is one of the last true frontiers left on Earth and has something for everyone. (Source: trails.com)

“Americans have a time deficit, even retirees,” said Deb Hickok, executive director of the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The reality is the consumer is changing.”

Scott Reisland, the owner of Denali Grizzly Bear Resort, said he’s seen the effects of those changes on his business, and that it stretches back much longer than 2006.

RV traffic has plummeted so much in the past decade that he closed down a 98-space park near Denali National Park at the end of last summer. Only a second RV park he owns, with just 24 spaces, will reopen.

“There’s a lack of long-term time to go on a vacation in Alaska,” he said. “It’s a long-haul destination, and people are staying closer to home.”

What does Hickok make of the bigger picture? It’s hard to say, she admits.

Since the number of visitors peaked in 2006, the industry has gone through unprecedented times. The global recession saw Alaska visitor numbers plummet in 2009, and those numbers have only gradually recovered.

Since visitors to Alaska peaked at about 1.7 million in both 2007 and 2008, they’ve slipped down to about 1.56 million in 2011. Those declines have stopped for the first time since the recession, however, with a 1.6 percent increase last summer from 2010.

Because of that, Hickok said, gleaning information from visitor numbers in 2006 and 2011 leaves out a lot of upheaval in between. She’s wary to read too much into the figures, saying the numbers are better read as a snapshot in time rather than a gauge of future trends.

“People ask me how things are going to be in the next few years, but I won’t even venture a guess,” she said. “It depends on who you talk to.”

An estimated 325,000 visitors made it to Fairbanks in summer 2011, according to the survey, making it the eighth most popular destination in Alaska. Juneau, fueled by heavy cruise-ship traffic, topped the list with 917,000 visitors.

Denali National Park is especially popular, because it contains the highest mountain in North America, Mount McKinley. (Source: alaskathemajestic.com)

Fairbanks visitors were more likely to participate in cultural activities than people in most other regions, with tours of gold panning, mines, museums, and historic attractions claiming a large share of attention. The average visitor spent $354 in Fairbanks.

Fairbanks’ share of Alaska-bound tourists dipped slightly from 2006 to 2011, from 24 percent to 21 percent. Much of that change is because of decisions by some cruise ship companies to cut back on Interior side trips, Hickok said.

Hickok said she’s eager to see what an upcoming report on winter tourism reveals. Although the four-month summer visitor season brings about 70 percent of visitors to the state, there are indications that Alaska is making big gains as a winter destination.

“For winter, we’ve seen steady growth even through this recession—that’s our sense of it,” Hickok said.

Worth Pondering…

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.

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Camping Opportunities in National Forests & Grasslands

As summer camping season approaches many families will rely on ForestCamping.com for camping opportunities in national forests and grasslands.

Mendenhall Glacier from the campground in Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Source: forestcamping.com)

Old man winter may have made a late arrival in your area but summer and the family camping season is just around the corner.

Camping is a good way for families to reconnect, to help strengthen family bonds, and counter the stressful effects of a busy lifestyle.

Many national forest campgrounds were designed, developed, and are managed for families, making them outstanding and affordable family vacation destinations.

Each year more families are discovering great family vacation destinations in national forest and grassland campgrounds. Whether camping with pre-school or older children, there are Forest Service campgrounds that will fit the family.

Using ForestCamping.com, with more than 2,400 developed campgrounds in 175 national forests and grasslands scattered across the country in 44 states, families can be assured they’ll find a Forest Service campground with what they want to see, do, and enjoy.

Canoes at Sawbill Campground in Superior National Forest, Minnesota (Source: forestcamping.com)

Whether close to home or for a cross-country trip, ForestCamping.com provides families—new or experienced campers—a source to locate an affordable camping experience.

Several examples follow:

Mendenhall Campground in Tongass National Forest, Alaska – Full hookups, a Visitor Center that is outstanding, fishing, hiking, hot showers, and a glacier right there. And it’s Alaska, the Land of the Midnight Sun, an ultimate family camping adventure destination. Details here>

Sawbill Campground in Superior National Forest, Minnesota – Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is just steps from every campsite. The adjacent outfitter has everything needed for a memorable one day or week long canoe trip into the BWCAC including canoes and guide. Imagine listening to loon calls while eating pancakes stuffed with fresh picked blueberries. Details here>

Glacier View Campground in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho – One of 37 developed campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Centrally located, it is convenient to the breathtaking Sawtooth Wilderness with fabulous hiking trails, Redfish Lake with Rainbow, Brook, and Mackinaw trout, historic Redfish Lake Lodge offering a boat shuttle to Sawtooth Wilderness, trail rides, and a cook’s night out, and interpretive programs throughout the summer. Details here>

Lake Powhatan Campground in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina– Full hookups, modern bathroom facilities, beach and swim area, fishing, hiking

Redfish Lake near Glacier View Campground in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho (Source: forestcamping.com)

, educational programs, and convenient to a number of attraction such as Cradle of Forestry Visitor Center, Blue Ridge Parkway and the Biltmore Estate, this campground has been popular with families for decades. Details here>


ForestCamping.com, the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide website, is a complete and comprehensive guide to developed campgrounds in national forests and grasslands.

It provides detailed information to campers looking to experience the great outdoors.

In addition to managing a website, Fred and Suzi Dow also self-publish Ebook CDs and downloads of eleven U.S. National Forest Campground Guides, which can be purchased online at their website.

Fred and Suzi Dow, authors and publishers of ForestCamping.com, have devoted 17 years to visiting, personally researching, and providing the public with free, detailed information about 175 national forests and grasslands and more than 2,400 personally surveyed campgrounds.

Website: forestcamping.com

Worth Pondering…

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

—John Muir

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Happy Holidays from the National Park Service

The National Park Service is rolling out videos carrying holiday greetings from national parks across the country. The videos feature rangers from Joshua Tree National Park in California to Arches National Park in Utah to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

The Joshua Tree is just one of hundreds of plants native to this national park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Every day through December 31, one of the videos will be featured on the National Park Service’s YouTube channel and announced via Facebook and Twitter, according to a recent news release.

“We welcome more than 280 million visitors to their national parks every year,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The videos are a great way to send our best wishes for the holidays to those folks who spent time in a national park this year or may be thinking about a trip in the future. Our rangers are a creative bunch, and their greetings reflect the spirit of the parks they care for on behalf of the American people. I hope people enjoy them.”

A handful of these videos were shared with more than 20,000 people assembled on the Ellipse in Washington, DC, on December 1 for the National Christmas Tree Lighting in cooperation with the National Park Foundation.

The schedule:

December 13 – Yosemite National Park, California
December 14 – Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (video #1
December 15 – Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
December 16 – Biscayne National Park, Florida (video #1)

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

December 17 – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (American Sign Language)
December 18 – Glacier National Park, Montana
December 19 – Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
December 20 – Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia
December 21 – Everglades National Park, Florida
December 22 – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (Spanish)
December 23 – Biscayne National Park, Florida (video #2)
December 24 – Arches National Park, Utah
December 25 – San Juan National Historic Site, Puerto Rico
December 26 – Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands
December 27 – Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
December 28 – Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Georgia
December 29 – Biscayne National Park, Florida (video #3)
December 30 – Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska (video #2)
December 31 – Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Tennessee

Related Stories


National Park Service

The Native Indians named the valley Shenandoah, mean¬ing Daughter of the Stars, for the expansive firmament that roofed their world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for 84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites in America’s 397 national parks.

Website: nps.gov

National Park Service’s YouTube channel

Website: youtube.com

National Park Service Facebook

Website: facebook.com

National Park Service Twitter

Website: twitter.com

National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation is the national charitable partner of the National Park Service.

Website: nationalparks.org

Worth Pondering…

The nation behaves well when it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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2011 National Park Holiday Celebrations

‘Tis the season! From Alaska to Georgia, there are countless holiday activities to enjoy in America’s national parks.

The National Park Foundation and National Park Service kicks-off the holiday season in Washington, D.C.’s President’s Park with the National Christmas Tree Lighting. This annual event can be seen LIVE December 1, beginning with the pre-show at 4:30 pm ET.

In addition to this 89 year-old tradition, the National Park Foundation reveals some of not-to-be-missed holiday festivities for national park visitors around the country this holiday season:

Alaska – Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

December 2, 2011: Join in the holiday cheer with performances by local talent, sing along carols, stories, poems, and refreshments at the Yuletide Christmas Concert in the National Park Service Auditorium.

Colorado – Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site

December 2-3: Witness the joys, pleasures, and pastimes of the 1840s at an isolated trading post with candlelight tours of the fort.

Georgia – Fort Pulaski National Monument

November 27: Fort Pulaski will commemorate the 149th anniversary of the Grand Thanksgiving Fete and Festival of 1862 by recreating the 48th New York Infantry first Thanksgiving in the fort with activities for all ages including foot, sack and wheelbarrow races, demonstrations, and a Civil War garb burlesque parade.

Indiana – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

December 10: Visitors can take part in Holiday Traditions in the Dunes including activities in four different park locations, tree decorating, and a live performance from Nordic Kids.

Iowa – Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

December 2-4: The birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, will host A Christmas Past.

Louisiana – Cane River Creole National Historical Park

December 10: Stop by the Magnolia Plantation Overseer’s house for Christmas crafts and live music by the LaCour Trio. The entire plantation complex will be open for self guided tours.

Missouri – Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

December 3, 10, 17: Enjoy the 2011 Historic Holiday Traditions Weekend Series. The Historical Old Courthouse will feature music and activities that will take place in the rotunda, which will be adorned beautifully with Victorian decorations. Complimentary cookies and juice will be served during all weekend events.

Montana – Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

December 4: Explore the elegant Kohrs’ family ranch house. It will be decorated to reflect a Victorian Christmas.

Nebraska – Homestead National Monument of America

November 25-December 31: The Winter Festival of Prairie Cultures celebrates the winter traditions of people who lived on the Great Plains during the homesteading era.

New Mexico – Petroglyph National Monument

November 26: Visitors can celebrate the beginning of the 2011 winter season at a Holiday Open House in the Visitor Center. Light holiday refreshments will also be served. A traditional horno oven Pueblo Indian bread baking demonstration will take place.

Let's Go RVing to Petroglyph National Monument. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New York – Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site

November 25-December 21: Visit the Vanderbilt Mansion to view the holiday decorations; or kick off the holiday season at the special Holiday Open House on December 4.

Ohio – Cuyahoga Valley National Park

November 17-December 20: Journey to the North Pole on The Polar Express Children’s Holiday Train. Enjoy hearing a reading of The Polar Express en route to the North Pole. Passengers are encouraged to wear their pajamas. Cookies and hot chocolate are served.

Pennsylvania – Steamtown National Historic Site

November 23, 24, December 1: Join in the merriment and festivities aboard the steam-powered Holiday Express rides to Moscow, Pennsylvania. Enjoy holiday songs, stories, and other fun activities for the children at both the former passenger station and freight depots.

Utah – Golden Spoke National Historic Site

Let's Go RVing to Vanderbilt National Historic Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

December 28–30: Visitors can take part in the annual Winter Steam Festival and watch one of their locomotives in action at the same spot where the transcontinental railroad was completed over 142 years ago.

Washington – Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Friday evenings through mid-December: Visitors take park in a guided lantern tour through the Fur Store, the Counting House, and Bake House. You will learn what activities would have occurred once the sun set at Fort Vancouver


National Parks Service

84 million acres of the world’s most treasured memorials, landscapes, ecosystems, and historic sites are protected in America’s nearly 400 national parks.

Website: nps.gov

National Park Foundation

The National Park Foundation is the national charitable partner of the National Park Service.

Website: nationalparks.org

Worth Pondering…

We didn’t inherit the earth; we are borrowing it from our children.

—Native American Proverb

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Are You Bear Aware?

Wildlife is a huge part of the mountain and wilderness regions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Deep snowpack, more grizzlies

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit: talktocanada.com)

Numerous encounters between grizzly bears and humans have been reported this spring, attributed to a growing bear population stuck in the low country as a result of the deep snowpack. High winter snowpack levels mean bears are moving to lower elevations and are likely to stay there longer than in previous winters.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but their numbers have been growing in recent years, increasing the chance for encounters with humans, according to Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, heavy snowfall this winter has taken longer to melt in cool spring weather.

“You have more bears, and then you have these high snow levels so the bears can’t be in the mountains where they want to be,” Servheen said.

In a nonfatal encounter, two hikers were mauled by a bear in the Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when they came across a young grizzly bear and a sow chasing an elk. The 36-year-old woman tried to climb a tree when the sow bit her in the leg. The man was bitten in the forearm when he tried to fight off the bear. Neither injury was life threatening. They were not carrying pepper spray.

Servheen said it served as a good reminder for people to be bear-aware and make noise and always carry pepper spray while hiking in Bear Country.

Bear Concerns near Yellowstone

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit: firstpeople.us)

The Gallatin National Forest says grizzly bear experts have recommended banning tent camping in three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July. The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter, and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, reports the Associated Press.

Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley says the requirement is in place this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy. Hard-sided vehicles include those made of metal or strong composite plastic. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible.

Bear Safety

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Bears are naturally wary of people and are reluctant to come close to humans. However, if you do encounter a bear there are some important things to remember:

  • If the bear is spotted in the distance and has NOT seen you, back away (without running) the way you came while keeping the bear in view; remain calm and avoid direct eye contact
  • If the bear is at close range, back away slowly
  • If you need to move forward, give the bear as much space as possibly
  • If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you; talk softly so it knows what you are; if its snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening its ears, growling, or making ‘woofing’ signs, it is displaying aggression
  • Never come between a bear and its cubs or animal carcass, as the bear will protect them; slowly back away and leave the area the way you came
  • Carry pepper/bear spray when venturing into the wild
  • Report all sightings to Park Staff

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Black bears typically have black fur over the main part of their body with a tan colored muzzle. (Credit: bearsforever.com)

Don’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Wildlife experts say having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears

Food-conditioning of bears can be prevented by heeding the following simple precautions:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife
  • Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep your campsite clean
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
  • Obey all closures and warnings

The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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