National Trails Day: Let’s Take a Hike

In 1993 the American Hiking Society sponsored the first National Trails Day hike.

Hiking around Swan Lake in Sumter, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking around Swan Lake Iris Gardens in Sumter, South Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Over the next 20 years the event has grew to more than 2,000 events ranging from guided hikes to paddling excursions and similar outdoor adventures.

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is the country’s largest celebration of trails.

This year’s 22nd annual celebration will be held on Saturday, June 7. Mark your calendar to prepare for this year’s big celebration.

National Trails Day events include hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects, and more.

Many national parks, state parks, county parks, USDA Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuges, BLM, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish & Wildlife Service, outdoor learning centers, land trusts, and state trails associations have scheduled special events to mark this special day.

To find an event near you, click here.

In a single day in 2013 on National Trails Day…

2,255 activities took place in all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico, engaging more than 134,000 people on trails.

24,300 trail volunteers participated in 528 projects and maintained 2,084 miles of trail, resulting in $2.4 million of sweat equity.

69,000 hikers attended 1,132 hikes and covered a cumulative distance of 313,000 miles.

11,000 bikers attended 140 bike rides and covered a cumulative distance of 172,000 miles.

Hiking the trails at Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Blanco State Park in the Texas Hill Country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6,400 paddlers attended 57 paddling trips and covered a cumulative distance of 38,000 miles.

1,400 equestrians attended 35 horseback riding trips and covered a cumulative distance of 16,000 miles.

Why Celebrate Trails

America’s 200,000 miles of trails allow us access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration, and much more. Trails give us a means to support good physical and mental health; they provide us with a chance to breathe fresh air, get our hearts pumping, and escape from our stresses. All it takes is a willingness to use them.

National Trails Day also aims to highlight the important work thousands of volunteers do each year to take care of America’s trails. Trails do not just magically appear for our enjoyment; their construction and maintenance takes hours of dedicated planning and labor. So give thanks to your local volunteers and consider taking a day to give back to your favorite trail.

National Trails Day evolved during the late ‘80s and ‘90s from a popular ethos among trail advocates, outdoor industry leaders, and political bodies who wanted to unlock the vast potential in America’s National Trails System, transforming it from a collection of local paths into a true network of interconnected trails and vested trail organizations. This collective mindset hatched the idea of a singular day where the greater trail community could band together behind the National Trails Day moniker to show their pride and dedication to the National Trails System.

Details

National Trails Day

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day is a nationally recognized trail awareness program that occurs annually on the first Saturday of June and inspires the public to discover, learn about, and celebrate trails while participating in outdoor activities, clinics, and trail stewardship projects.

Hiking the trails at Guadalupe River State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Hiking the trails at Guadalupe River State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Individuals, clubs, and organizations from around the country host National Trails Day events to share their love of trails with friends, family, and their communities.

National Trails Day introduces thousands of Americans to a wide array of trail activities: hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, trail running, and bird watching and more.

National Trails Day is a registered trademark of American Hiking Society.

To find an event near you, click here.

American Hiking Society

As the national voice for America’s hikers, American Hiking Society promotes and protects foot trails, their surrounding natural areas, and the hiking experience.

Address: 1422 Fenwick Lane, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Phone: (301) 565-6704

Website: www.americanhiking.org

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir

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Redesign of Recreation.gov

Recreation.gov, the interagency website that guides visitors to 90,000 sites on federal lands such as national parks, wildlife refuges, waterways, forests, and recreation areas, has a new look with expanded content and improved navigation tools.

An updated logo and new look and feel have been created to reflect the evolution and future vision for Recreation.gov.
An updated logo and new look and feel have been created to reflect the evolution and future vision for Recreation.gov.

The redesign is an initial step in a multi-year strategy to engage visitors with enhanced interactive content and more multimedia, mobile, trip-planning tools, according to a doi.gov news release.

The seven million visitors who use the web site every year will be able to make reservations, see ready-made itineraries for destination cities, and search for activities on an interactive map.

“Tourism and outdoor recreation are powerful economic engines in communities across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

“With the redesign of Recreation.gov, we are making it easier for people to plan trips, find outdoor adventures, and explore activities at our public lands across the country.”

“Outdoor activities contribute an estimated $646 billion to the U.S. economy, according to independent estimates, and this enhanced website will provide a gateway for Americans to enjoy their great outdoors,” Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

“If we can provide visitors both here and abroad easily accessible information and itineraries at the click of a mouse, we will increase the number of people who choose to vacation and travel in the United States,” Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said.

This section includes more in-depth articles and destination spotlights featuring activities, places, events and experiences found only in America.
This section includes more in-depth articles and destination spotlights featuring activities, places, events and experiences found only in America.

“From hotels to restaurants to taxis, small businesses across the nation stand to benefit from this new website.”

“Recreation.gov is a ‘one-stop’ website to find places that close to home for a day’s fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and much more. There are so many sites within a short drive of urban areas that people don’t know about,” Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said.

“At Recreation.gov people can find parks, swimming beaches, boat ramps, and other places to get away to for a few hours, days, or weeks.”

Highlights of the updated site include:

Branding and Navigation: An updated logo and new look and feel have been created to reflect the evolution and future vision for Recreation.gov. Navigation links from the home page and throughout the content have been added to make it easier to find activities and places of interest.

Explore Trip Ideas: Recreation.gov now features Explore Trip Ideas with interactive maps to help visitors discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities like Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.

Go Lists: Created to encourage more people to get active outdoors, Go Lists provide highlights of places to go, events, and activities at federal sites across the country with topics including “Day Hikes for Weekend Warriors” and “Civil War 150th Anniversary: Places and Events that Shaped Our Nation.”

Discover Great American Adventures: More in-depth articles and destination spotlights can be found in Discover Great American Adventures which feature a wide variety of experiences and adventures found only in America.

Future Vision

This new evolution of Recreation.gov is just the beginning of a multi-year strategy aimed at delivering an enriched customer experience by engaging visitors with enhanced interactive content, more multimedia, mobile, and a variety of helpful trip-planning tools.

Interactive maps to help visitors discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities in the U.S. including Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.
Interactive maps to help visitors discover points-of-interest on public lands when planning trips to popular destination cities in the U.S. including Atlanta, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and more.

The Recreation.gov website update is a joint initiative between federal agency partners that include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, National Archives and Records Administration, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Details

Recreation.gov

Recreation.gov is your gateway to discover America’s Outdoors and more!

Recreation.gov is your one-stop shop for trip planning, information sharing, and reservations brought to you by 12 federal Participating Partners. Seven of these partner agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Archives, offer advance reservations at 2,500 federal areas for over 60,000 facilities and activities.

Customer Service Toll Free Line: (888) 448-1474

Reservation Toll Free Line: (877) 444-6777

Website: recreation.gov

Worth Pondering…

There is something very special about the natural world, and each trip outdoors is like an unfinished book just waiting for you to write your own chapter.

—Paul Thompson

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Tips for Choosing RV Parks/Campgrounds

Choices for RV parks and campgrounds include luxurious RV resorts, activity-filled family destinations, 55+ parks, secluded natural settings, and basic parks conveniently located for an overnight stay. Prices also run the gamut.

Campsite at Devil’s Garden Campground in Arches National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is a variety of campgrounds, each offering different amenities and activities. These include private RV parks; casino camping; membership parks; national, state, and county park campgrounds; Army Corps of Engineers parks; national and state forest campgrounds; and service club facilities.

Consider Your Needs

What are the best tips for choosing a campground and campsite that you and your family will love?

Nothing can make or break your RV trip like choosing a campground not suited to your family’s needs and interests. When selecting a park, think about your camping style and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you camping with a young family?
  • Are you an active couple looking for outdoor adventures?
  • Are you snowbirds who enjoy on-site activities and the opportunity to meet new friends?
  • How large is your RV?
  • What amenities do you require? Full hook-ups? 30- or 50-amp electric service?
  • Are you looking for a rural or urban setting?
  • What is your nightly/weekly/monthly camping budget?
  • Do you travel with pets?

Locating and Researching Campgrounds

Bay Colony RV Resort, Dickinson, Texas (located between Houston and Galveston). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The photos on the RV park website and brochure look amazing. Too bad they didn’t show the busy railroad tracks 50 feet away, the biker club next door, or the “shopping plaza under construction” sign.

Whether you plan to stay one night, a weekend, a week, or longer, there are campgrounds throughout the U.S. and Canada to meet your needs. All are unique. No two parks are the same. Each campground will provide something a little different.

There are numerous ways to locate and research campgrounds. A good place to begin is a campground directory such as Woodall’s or Trailer Life Directory.

Ratings help you select the appropriate park for your particular needs and interests. Keep in mind that the final ratings are a composite of several different areas of interest.

Woodall’s assigns two ratings to each privately owned campground/RV park. One rating is assigned to the facilities at the park—sites, roads, service buildings, restrooms, and hookups. A separate recreation rating is also assigned. Both facilities and recreation ratings range from 1 W to 5 W with 5 W being the best.

Trailer Life Directory uses a triple-rating system—completeness of facilities, cleanliness and physical characteristics of restrooms and showers, and visual appearance and environmental quality. All three ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Less than one percent of parks or campgrounds receive a rating of 10. Campgrounds with a 10/10/10 rating have more facilities, are better maintained, and are more visually appealing than 5/5/5-rated campgrounds.

Camping at Catalina State Park, near Tucson, Arizona.© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contact the Campground

Contact the campground and ask specific questions about their policies and their park. Questions to ask include:

  • Rental rates (nightly, weekly, monthly per your needs) including taxes? Any discounts available?
  • Availability of Wi-Fi and cable TV?
  • What is included in the above rate—full hook-ups, 20-30-50-amp electric service, Wi-Fi, cable TV?
  • What are the park’s amenities—club house/activity room, pool, spa, rest room and shower facilities, laundry?
  • Is the park big-rig friendly? Length and width of sites?
  • Are sites relatively level?
  • Do the sites have concrete pads, grass, gravel, or dirt?
  • Will I have difficulty obtaining a satellite TV signal?
  • What is your pet policy? Restrictions on certain dogs breeds?
  • What is your reservation policy? Is a credit card required to hold a site? If so, is it processed immediately?
  • What is your cancellation policy?
  • What are your office hours? Check-in procedure for late arrivals?
  • Make note of the name of the person you talked to.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Selecting an RV Park/Campground

Part 2: Selecting a Campground/Campsite Checklist

Worth Pondering…

But do not ask me where I am heading,

As I travel in this limitless world

Where every step I take is my home.

—Eihei Dogen

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Good News from Texas State Parks: Lake Whitney

A study by the Texas Coalition for Conservation found Texans spend upward of $1 billion every year when they visit the state parks.

Activities at Lake Whitney State Park include camping, hiking, mountain biking, picnicking, boating, fishing, scuba diving, water skiing, nature study, birding, and swimming. Photo courtesy TPWD

For every county with a state park, on average the park generates almost $3 million in annual retail sales and $1.5 million in residential income within that community.

Lake Whitney State Park

Nearly $3 million in improvements is scheduled for 45-year old Lake Whitney State Park. Thanks to bond funding authorized by the Texas Legislature and approved by statewide voters, Texas Parks and Wildlife is boosting electrical services in several Lake Whitney camp loops, adding new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant restrooms in the recreation hall, building a brand new restroom in one camping area, adding new sewer lines in another, and upgrading four screen shelters and their amenities to meet ADA standards.

ADA upgrades to the recreation hall and screen shelter area have already been completed.

Most of the electrical work in Big Trailer Park camp loop and several others consist of upgrading 30-amp outlets into the 50-amp pedestals. Lake Whitney State Park has numerous camping areas and four will get 50-amp outlets. Many sites get more than upgraded. Eight current “water only” sites will also get 50-amp electrical pedestals and sewer capability. All the water lines are being replaced in the Big Trailer Park camping loop.

Camping at Lake Whitney State Park. Photo courtesy web-connection.org

The park is located in the Grand Prairie subregion of the Black land Prairie natural region. It has open disturbed tallgrass prairie remnants with scattered groves of live oak and a small area of post oak/blackjack oak woodland. During spring, over 40 species of wildflowers including bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes cover the landscape. Common animals include white-tailed deer, raccoons, and squirrels with fox, coyote, and bobcat occasionally being spotted.

For swimmers and boaters, the park—only 61 miles south of Fort Worth and 38 miles northwest of Waco—is a doorway to almost all of 23,560-acre Lake Whitney on the Brazos River.

The Lake was formed in 1951 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river. Most of its camping areas are directly along the shore. In fact, many of the park’s 131 campsite spaces are on small fingers of land jutting into the lake.

Nature lovers will find a wildlife observation blind on the east side of the park and an interpretive trail on the west side.

Lake Whitney is one of the few Texas State Parks boasting a private plane airstrip.

The Lake

Lake Whitney is a beautiful lake with a lot to offer in recreational activities. Photo courtesy lake-whitney.net

Lake Whitney is located on the Brazos River. Brazos de Dios means “in the arms of God.” Lake Whitney is a large lake with 225 miles of shoreline and 37 square miles of coverage. Lake Whitney is 45 river miles long and is up to four miles wide at the widest point.

Bird watching is another great hobby in the Lake Whitney area. Since Lake Whitney is in the North American Flyway, more than 300 species of birds can be seen at various times during the year.  Swallows have made the holes and cracks on the unique rock formations along the lake their home and hundreds of the birds can be seen at one time. Be on the lookout for the American bald eagle. Every year, the bald eagle increases in number around Lake Whitney.

Details

Lake Whitney State Park

Elevation: 533-574 feet

Entrance fee: $3/person

Camping fees: Campsites with water, $14; campsites with 50-amp electric and water, $20; campsites with 50-amp electric, water, and sewer, $24

Location: 3 miles west of Whitney on FM 1244 on the shore of Lake Whitney

Directions: From I-35, take the Hillsboro exit; in Hillsboro take Highway 22 west to Whitney; then follow the signs to Lake Whitney State Park.

Address: Box 1175, Whitney TX 76692
Contact:
(254) 694-3793

Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…
I am humbled by the forces of nature that continuously mold our great state of Texas into a beautiful landscape complete with geological diversity, flora and fauna. It is my goal as a photographer to capture that natural beauty and share it with others.

—Chase A. Fountain

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Army Corps Campgrounds Upgrades: Arkansas Ozarks

Improvements to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ campgrounds around Norfork and Bull Shoals lakes south of the Arkansas-Missouri state line have been upgraded, the Baxter Bulletin recently reported.

The shoreline of Norfolk Lake is extremely erratic as it follows the rugged Ozark ridges and valleys. The result is coves, creek arms, and valley runs offering a thousand secluded spots. Photo courtesy Norfolk.com

Most of the improved campsites can now accommodate 50-foot recreational vehicles and offer 50-amp electrical service in addition to the basic amenities.

Along with the bigger, reconfigured campsites, 2011 parks’ visitors will find new toilet and shower facilities at the Corps’ major parks—Jordan, Cranfield, Robinson Point, Tucker Hollow, and Lakeview—in places before served by pit- or vault-type toilets that did not include showers.

Money for the upgrades came in part from special federal appropriations to restore parks following 2008 record floods and a major ice storm in 2009 that brought down trees on lakeside fixtures around both lakes. By stretching the money the Corps has created a more aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly camping environment.

Campers will also experience a complete reworking of the popular Robinson Point Recreation Area on Norfork Lake. There the swimming beach and boat launch areas will trade locations.

Fall days are warm, colorful, and shirt-sleeve comfortable. Photo courtesy Norfolk.com

The new beach area offers better shelter for swimmers and gatherings on the shore away from waves and wind coming from the larger channel of the lake. The new boat launch facilities provide boaters with deeper waters in which to launch.

April 1 is the official opening date for the Corps parks. The Corps maintains campsites totaling about 800 on the two lakes.

The Corps anticipates an increased number of destination campers this year as people look for recreational opportunities closer to home in this recovering economy.

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. And the upgraded campground and recreational facilities provide yet another reason to visit this area brimming with scenic beauty and outstanding recreational opportunities. We’ve just added the Arkansas Ozarks to our “bucket list”.

Corps of Engineers and Outdoor Recreation

With so many hidden coves solitude can be yours anytime on Norfork Lake. Photo courtesy Norfolk.com

The Army Corps of Engineers is one of the nation’s largest providers of outdoor recreation, operating more than 2,500 recreation areas at 463 projects (mostly lakes) throughout America and leasing an additional 1,800 sites to state or local authorities and private interests. Projects vary from small flood control projects to large lakes with multiple purposes, such as hydropower, navigation, water supply, flood control, and, of course, outdoor recreation. Most projects have a full range of recreation facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor centers, boat ramps, and marinas.

As with the campgrounds provided by the US Forest Service, your searching is simplified by Recreation.gov.

You can search for a campground by entering your personal preferences and then choosing a campground from the results.

Each campground page will tell you a little bit about the area and show a detailed map of that campground’s layout. You can then choose the area of the campground that interests you and read specifics about each campsite to find one that meets your needs. Information about special events, services and amenities is also provided. Once you have found a campsite you like, just a click of your mouse and you can make a secure online reservation.

You can also plan your camping adventure at the Army Corps of Engineers website.

Worth Pondering…
We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in, for it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

—Wallace Stegner

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Head for the Arkansas Ozarks

If you plan on just passing through Arkansas on your route north this spring, take a second look.

The Ozarks begin its color makeover at the end of September and early October, with several trees implementing brilliant flush tones. Photo courtesy Ozark Mountain Region

The true identity of Arkansas lies in the riches Mother Nature has endowed on the region. The self-proclaimed “Natural State,” Arkansas delivers with a real outdoor lovers’ paradise.

Flanked by the Ouchita and the Ozark mountain ranges in the west and the Mississippi River to the east, The Natural State also spills with its famed natural hot springs, 600,000 acres of lakes, 9,700 miles of rivers and streams, and 2.4 million acres of national forests.

Forests cover about half of the state, and there are about 300 hiking trails. Across Arkansas you’ll find a vast variety of trees including oaks, willows, maples, plums, elms, dogwoods, ashes, wild cherries, hickories, and magnolias. During autumn, the mountains and valleys turn a vivid palette of hues, while wildflowers bring color to the landscape in spring.

The name Arkansas means south wind, or land of the downstream people, which was a term used to describe the Quapaws, an early Indian tribe that resided here.

Arkansas is sectioned into five main regions: the Ozark Plateau, the Ouachita Mountains, the Arkansas Valley, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, and the West Gulf Coastal Plain.

The Ozarks

Located above and below Bull Shoals Dam, Bull Shoals-White River State Park stretches along the riverside and lakeshore. Photo courtesy freshare.net

The Ozarks are home to some of the state’s most popular national and state parks, including the Ozark National Forest, which features the state’s highest peak at Mt. Magazine (2,753 feet); and Devil’s Den, which includes caves and bluffs. Eureka Springs in the Ozarks has nearly 65 springs.

There’s an old folk saying about the Ozark Mountains: “It’s not that the mountains are so high, it’s just that the valleys are so deep”.

The Ozark Mountains in Arkansas are a heavily eroded plateau, pushed up eons ago and carved out by hundreds of streams over thousands of years. Nature worked wonders, and today the diversity of these highlands is endless.

The rugged beauty and fascinating natural wonders of the Ozark Mountain Region provide visitors with an exciting and inspiring array of outdoor adventures.

Lovely Ozark mountain towns and villages offer unique shops, historical sites, museums, and some of the best ‘down-home cooking’ in the nation. Chances are, whenever you visit the Arkansas Ozarks, one of their famous festivals or community celebrations will be in full swing.

Bull Shoals Dam

The free-flowing Buffalo National River. Photo courtesy freshare.net

Bull Shoals Dam, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project, located in north central Arkansas on the Missouri-Arkansas state line was completed in 1951. It is the fifth largest concrete dam in the United States.

Bull Shoals Lake

Including the portion located in Missouri, Bull Shoals Lake totals some 45,500 surface acres of clear blue water. Almost 1,000 miles of rugged mountain shoreline is open to visitors and 60,000 acres of public land provide a variety of opportunities for family, fishing, and group vacations.

Glass smooth surfaces make Bull Shoals Lake perfect for clear water skiing and wake boarding. The lake’s incredible visibility for scuba diving has earned it the title, “The Caribbean of the Midwest”. Visitors enjoy sailing, skiing, and boating on the hundreds of miles of lake arms and coves.

Over 20 parks developed through the cooperative efforts of local, state, and federal agencies are located on the lakeshore. These have both camping and picnicking facilities. There are grills, firewood, tables, and drinking water at the picnic sites. Commercial docks on the lake have boats, motors, and guides for hire.

Norfork Lake

Located on the North Fork River in the Ozark highlands, the magnificent Norfork Lake covers some 22,000 acres and features deep, clear waters with more than 550 miles of shoreline. There are 19 developed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks that provide ample opportunities for camping and water sports. Boating, water skiing, diving, and swimming are all extremely popular on the lake. Commercial docks on the lake have boats, motors, guides, and equipment for diving.

Worth Pondering…
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will flow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

—John Muir

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