Fall Camping Is Fall Foliage, Pumpkin Patches & Much More

It’s that time of year again and fall means pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and hay rides.

Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia.
Sunrise with mist rising at our campground near Unadilla, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of course one of the most compelling reasons to camp in fall is the burst of color on the trees as the leaves change to their autumn hues. Depending on the latitude and elevation, fall foliage is usually most stunning from September through October, but can linger into November. The reds, yellows, and oranges of the fall foliage will amaze you.

With the hot muggy days of summer behind us, camping takes on a new life. Chilly mornings, perfect hiking weather, and warm comfort food all come together to make fall camping a must-do for all camping enthusiasts.

The autumn season has always been a great time for camping. Few to no mosquitoes, cooler temperatures, beautiful colors, and quieter campgrounds all make it ideal. Winter will be calling before you know it so get out there this weekend and enjoy before the snowflakes start to fall. Many campgrounds close around Thanksgiving but many also have extended seasons so you can take advantage as long as possible.

In most areas of the country beautiful colors reign supreme during the fall season, which makes it a picturesque time to go camping. Though the northeast is known for its array of seasonal hues, there are a number of places from east to west and from north to south to go for an autumn camping trip.

If you’re not convinced, here are more good reasons to keep your RV or tent out just a little bit longer.

When camping in the fall, try apple picking, pumpkin picking and carving, attend local harvest festivals like Oktoberfest, Halloween events, and fall fishing derbies.

Cherohala Skyway
Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons especially along the Cherohala Skyway Scenic Byway, North Carolina. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit a farm market or u-pick orchard and discover the country’s harvest bounty.
Get out on a river for a paddling adventure.

Play a round of golf, where the rates, crowds, temperatures and bugs, are all lower.
Hike the backwoods trails and enjoy the quiet tranquility of the season.

Elk, moose, and deer are regulars in the mountains and migrating birds are everywhere.

Take your kids to a corn maze or haunted house.

Enjoy the fall beauty at a public garden or nature center where the autumn colors are in full display.

Take your adventures to the digital level by geocaching for treasures.

Look for roadside attraction such as the World’s Largest Cherry Pie (Traverse City, Michigan), World’s Largest Baseball Bat (Louisville, Kentucky), World’s Largest Pumpkin (Circleville, Ohio), World’s Largest Ham (Smithfield, Virginia), or World’s Largest Jackrabbit (Odessa, Texas).

Attend one of the many fall festivals and events being planned around your state—from art events to harvest celebrations and car shows to historical reenactments—there’s something for everyone.

Farmers market
Visit a farm market or u-pick orchard and discover the country’s harvest bounty. Pictured above a market in Holmes County, Ohio. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And don’t forget the pumpkin patch.

To fully enjoy your fall camping trip, plan ahead and prepare a fall camping checklist.

Check the weather before you go: Don’t let the challenges of fall weather spoil your camping plans. Remember that warm weather can quickly turn. Depending on where you go, be prepared for the chance of snow, rain, or other severe weather.

Fall is known for temperature fluctuations, so pack layers of breathable, water-resistant clothing.

Even if the weather is predicted to be warm, pack a winter jacket, extra blankets, boots, and a snow shovel, just in case.

You don’t have to put your camping stuff away just yet.

Pack up the tent or RV, some cozy sleeping bags to keep warm, and hit the road for one of the many campgrounds across the nation.

Pumpkin Patch
And don’t forget the Pumpkin Patch. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons so come on out and enjoy a camping trip and take in some of that fall color.

Start your fall camping experience NOW! Create memories and go camping!

Worth Pondering…

There is magic in the air as September turns into October.

There is a ripening of the season as fruit trees grow heavy with red apples; leaves turn golden to reveal a harvest of pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and peppers in the field; and grape vines hang heavy with clusters of newly turned black and golden grapes.

Enjoy your days and love your life, because life is a journey to be savored.

Grab the keys and let’s go RVing

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Warm Deals for Snowbirds at Georgia State Parks

The seasons have changed and winter has arrived, which means that Georgia State Parks has one for the birds — the sun-seeking snowbirds, that is.

SnowbirdSpecialIt’s time for the annual migration when residents from points north seek warm southern sunshine.

Georgia State Parks is offering some cool deals to RVers to nest for a while in the Peach State by offering a 50 percent discount off the regular campsite rates of $25 to $32 per night with a minimum of a 30-day stay from now until February 28, 2014.

To take advantage of this fine-as-a-feather offer when making reservations, use promotional code SnowBird50% (SEE Website below for details).

This snowbird of happiness half-off special discount is valid for campsites at six participating state parks peppered across South Georgia, including Florence Marina, Kolomoki Mounds, Magnolia Springs, Reed Bingham, Seminole, and Stephen C. Foster.

The parks offer unparalleled natural surroundings, quietness and serenity, historical perspectives, and something uniquely different about each one for discerning cold-weather escapees.

Each offers Snowbird rates ranging from $12.50 to $16 per night.

At Georgia State Parks, it’s all about the outdoors for singles, couples, or families. For an extended stay with great rates, everyone can easily escape the cold and bask under the Georgia sun with a wide range of activities.

Florence Marina State Park

Florence Marina State Park Campsite
Florence Marina State Park Campsite

On the western edge of Georgia lies Florence Marina State Park in Omaha. While its primary design is for water lovers and water sports, it offers a natural deepwater marina, boat slips and boat ramp, and a fun fishing pier where the fishing is as fabulous as the birding.

Kolomoki Mounds State Park

Farther south is Kolomoki Mounds State Park, a historically significant park near Blakely that is the oldest and largest Woodland Indian site in the Southeast.

Magnolia Springs State Park

Wedged between Interstates 16 and 20 is Magnolia Springs State Park in Millen. While it is primarily known for its wildlife and crystalline springs that gush an astounding 7 million gallons per day, the dramatically beautiful site is historically significant in that it was once a Civil War stockade.

Adel’s Reed Bingham State Park

Near the major north-south corridor of Interstate 75 is Adel’s Reed Bingham State Park, another veritable zoo of rare and endangered wildlife such as gopher tortoises and indigo snakes. The park is also home to one of Georgia’s most bizarre natural spectacles when thousands of buzzards congregate here to roost for the winter and is truly a sight to behold.

Seminole State Park

On the 37,500-acre Lake Seminole in the far southwest corner of Georgia close to Donalsonville is Seminole State Park, which has the distinction of having one of the largest longleaf pine forests in a Georgia state park. The park is the place for myriad opportunities for boating, fishing, birding, and wildlife watching.

Stephen Foster State Park

Stephen Foster State Park Campsite
Stephen Foster State Park Campsite

For a taste of the enigmatic, darkly beautiful Okefenokee Swamp, an array of wildlife not found elsewhere, and melodic folk music, Stephen Foster State Park near Fargo is a remote and rare jewel. Here the nights are dark and quiet so that stargazing is an unreal experience.

Details

Georgia State Park System

Waterfalls and lakes, salt marsh and mountains are just some of the environments of the 48 state parks.

Georgia State Park Golf Courses offer eight golf courses to choose from. Most state parks offer fishing, boating, hiking, camping, geocaching, birding, and more.

Accommodations include campsites, cabins, lodges, even yurts, and vary by park.

Among the 15 Georgia State Historic Sites are presidential homes, ancient Indian mounds, battlefields, plantations, and even a gold museum.

Georgia’s public libraries have ParkPasses and Historic Site Passes that can be checked out like a book.

Annual ParkPasses are $50 (or just $25 for seniors 62 and older). Even better, membership to Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites includes a free ParkPass and more discounts.  Campers can pick up loyalty cards that earn them every 10th night for free.

Georgia State Parks: gastateparks.org

Snowbird Special: gastateparks.org/snowbird

Georgia State Parks Things To Know: gastateparks.org/thingstoknow

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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Rand McNally Launches 2013 Best of the Road

The most successful tourism campaign to discover Small Town America is back!

RandMcNally-62265-rm-botr-logo-new-mdOnce again, Rand McNally is searching for the Best Small Towns in America. This year, Rand McNally teams up with two new partners, Good Sam Club and Geocaching.com.

With these new partnerships, the Best of the Road program kicked off this week and is sure to provide excitement, inspiration, and an increase in travelers interested in visiting America’s best small towns, according to a news release.

Winning towns in six categories will receive a FREE custom iPhone App and online travel guide developed by Rand McNally, coverage in the 2015 Road Atlas, billions of media impressions, and thousands of new visitors.

In 2012, with over 700 towns participating and over 1 billion media impressions generated, thousands of road travelers and small town residents encouraged friends, family, and fellow residents to vote for their favorite town in five different categories: Most Beautiful, Most Fun, Most Patriotic, Friendliest, and Best for Food.

“The Best of the Road program put us on the map in a way that no amount of traditional advertising could,” said Kim Huston, President of the Nelson County Economic Development Agency, representing Bardstown, Kentucky.

RandMcNally-62265-rm-botr-banner-original“We have received so many national accolades, visits, and notoriety because of Best of the Road. Best of the Road showcased what our community is truly about, and why it should be part of your journey. People are driving 100 miles out of their way to visit with us. Local businesses shared that the recognition of our town as the ‘Most Beautiful’ in 2012 has led to significant increases in revenues, and our residents are even more proud to hail from Bardstown, Kentucky—the Most Beautiful Small Town in America!”

This summer, Best of the Road will again ask America to vote for the small towns that everyone should visit. But this year will be better than ever, with a new category and more online and social media interaction as Best of the Road goes all-virtual! Enhancements to Best of the Road 2013 include:

  • New website featuring a simple path to registration and easy voting features
  • Increased integration with social media
  • New category—Best for Geocaching, sponsored by Geocaching.com

“The addition of two new partners this year brings a great combination of inspiration and trip-planning, and a new way to experience a small town—all via technology,” says Dave Muscatel, CEO of Rand McNally.

“Our new digital product offerings for CVBs and DMOs, in addition to our partnerships with Good Sam and Geocaching.com provide tools to optimize the trip experience. Between Good Sam’s online trip planner, where travelers create a road trip and download it to the Good Sam GPS device for navigation, and Geocaching.com, which promotes pre-planned GeoTours within a location to attract the Geocaching community, we’ve combined forces to help destinations showcase the best that their towns have to offer.”

Program Details

Rand McNally 2014 Road AtlasJuly 1 through September 3, 2013, nominations will be accepted, and the competition to capture the most votes in each of the six categories (Most Beautiful, Most Fun, Most Patriotic, Friendliest, Best for Food, and Best for Geocaching) will take place.

Five finalists will be selected in each category by a panel of travel experts based on a number of criteria.

Finalists and winning towns will be featured in Good Sam Club’s Road Trip Planner, a new online tool that helps road-trippers organize and plan their trips and the stops along the way.

Also new this year:  the winning town in each category will receive a FREE custom online travel guide and iPhone app developed by Rand McNally and powered by Best of the Road. Additionally, the winning Best for Geocaching town will receive a FREE GeoTour, courtesy of Geocaching.com. Geocachers from around the world will be able to use the Geocaching smartphone app to learn about the town’s best places via strategically placed geocaches.

Note: Small towns for the Best of the Road program are defined using the 2010 U.S. Census definition of “Places” (Towns, Cities, Villages, CDPs, Municipalities, etc.) and having a population under 150,000.
Details

Rand McNally

Rand McNally logoRand McNally is the most trusted source for maps, directions, and travel content.

Products and services include: Road travel review site bestoftheroad.com, America’s #1 Road Atlas, RVND GPS for RVers, IntelliRoute truck routing software and navigation devices, TPC 7600 and TND 760 mobile fleet management solutions for the transportation industry, and leading geography-based educational resources for the classroom.

Website: randmcnally.com

Best of the Road website: bestoftheroad.com

Good Sam Club

Website: goodsam.com

Geocaching

Website: geocaching.com

Worth Pondering…

Every exit is an entry somewhere else.
—Tom Stoppard

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Geocaching Made Simple with Newbie Kit from Cache Advance

Spokane, Washington-based Cache Advance, an outdoor supplier of geocaching equipment, has developed a Newbie Kit that provides all the basic equipment needed for families to begin geocaching adventures.

This geocaching kit has everything needed to get started in the fun and entertaining adventure game for GPS users, according to a news release.

All people need to do is add a handheld GPS device and start tracking hidden treasures.

Many RV parks and campgrounds are embracing geocaching as low-cost entertainment for its guests.

The Newbie Kit Contains:

  • Micro cache (engraved geocache for easy identification in the wilderness
  • Trackable tag
  • Rite in the Rain log papers
  • Rite in the Rain logbook
  • Rite in the Rain stash notes
  • Official geocaching sticker
  • Decryption key
  • Geo creed
  • Permanent marker
  • Pencils
  • Assorted plastic bags

Price: $21.95

“We think that our Dr. B’s Newbie Kit would be a perfect product to introduce campers and campground managers to geocaching,” said Lisa Breitenfeldt, president and CEO of Cache Advance.

“It’s a perfect gift for new cachers, teachers, group leaders, or if you are just getting started in your new addiction…er… hobby.”

Happy Caching!!

Details

Cache Advance Inc.

Cache Advance Inc. is an outdoor gear company specializing in Geocaching Repair Kits, Newbie Kits, and other caching gear/items such as camouflage paint and tape, and Official Geocaching gear, sneaky caches, gear for your geo-dog, and more.

Cache Advance

Cache Advance carries over 200 outdoor gear products for geocaching and related activities.

Based in Spokane, Washington, they ship to locations all over the world—they’ve shipped to six continents.

Their warehouse in Spokane has affectionately been named the Cache Cave and are available for tours/shopping by appointment.

Phone: (509) 720- 8382

Website: cache-advance.com

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Worth Pondering…

There is a peculiar pleasure in riding out into the unknown. A pleasure which no second journey on the same trail ever affords.
—Edith Durham

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Geocaching Avian Adventure

A new geocaching program offers modern-day treasure hunters an exciting adventure filled with a variety of challenges, rewards, and bird-brained fun!

The Minnesota State Parks and Trails Geocaching Avian Adventure will take you across Minnesota—discovering the hidden gems of the state and revealing exciting facts about Minnesota’s favorite friends of flight.

Centered on Minnesota bird life, Geocaching Avian Adventure will begin this Saturday, June 9 (National Get Outdoors Day), offering long-time and novice geocachers the chance to learn about native avian life and the challenge of finding new caches in state parks, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Adding to the incentive, all state park admissions will be free on Saturday, in celebration of Get Outdoors Day.

A Geocaching Avian Adventure Bird Cache has been hidden and waiting to be discovered in all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, as well as on one state trail. Your challenge is to locate the Bird Cache using a hand-held GPS (global positioning system) unit.

Most sites have multi-caches featuring several hidden caches with quizzes and puzzles to solve; all have a collectible Bird Card in the final cache.

Each camouflaged Bird Cache includes an instruction card, the Bird Guestbook (logbook), and a collectible Bird Biome Card specific to the state park, recreation area, or state trail.

Each Bird Card is color coordinated to one of the states four distinct natural communities or biomes. Also included in the cache may be small trinkets left by a previous geocacher. If you find a trinket, it’s your to keep. If you choose, leave a trinket in return for the next Avian Adventure geocacher to find.

The clues to their exact whereabouts will be posted at 8:00 a.m. June 9 on the DNR website, mndnr.gov.

“The Geocaching Avian Adventure will be fun for new and experienced geocachers alike,” said Kathy Dummer, interpretive services coordinator for the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails.

“Everyone who participates will get a little better acquainted with Minnesota’s birds and biomes along the way.”

GPS demonstration parks provide free tips and equipment for beginners.

At 25 designated geocaching demo parks, GPS units can be checked out for free, and Geocaching 101 workshops will provide hands-on instruction for first-time geocachers.

Geocaching 101 programs are scheduled in each region of the state:

  • Northeast Region – Friday, June 8, 1:00-1:30 p.m. at Gooseberry Falls State Park (Two Harbors)
  • Northwest Region – Saturday, June 9, 2:00-3:00 p.m. at Buffalo River State Park (Glyndon)
  • Central Region – Saturday, June 9, 10:00-11:00 a.m. at Interstate State Park (Taylors Falls)
  • Southern Region – Saturday, June 9, 1:00-4:00 p.m. at Camden State Park (Lynd) and 7:00-8:00 p.m. at Sibley State Park (New London)

Since the Geocaching Wildlife Safari began in 2009, the interpretive naturalists at Minnesota state parks have offered 325 Geocaching 101 programs that have reached more than 9,000 participants. GPS units were checked out from the demo parks more than 2,754 times in 2011 alone.

What Is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure-hunting game played by people with GPS devices throughout the world. The object of the game is to find the cache and then sign the logbook to show other geocachers that one has found the location. Some geocachers leave items near the cache for others to have.

What Is a Biome?

Minnesota is rich in natural diversity, providing essential habitat for a variety of plants and animals, especially birds. Minnesota is home to four major biomes, named for the dominant or most common plants that grow there: prairie grassland, deciduous forest, coniferous forest, and tallgrass aspen parkland.

Some birds are found in only one biome while many move between or across different natural communities. Minnesota State Parks and Trails preserve and manage significant fragments of these essential natural landscapes, making them great sites for birds, and for parks and trails visitors, too!

Worth Pondering…
There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting;
It’s luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
—Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon

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Geocaching: An Outdoor Adventure for RVers

Living life on the road in an RV brings fresh and exciting experiences.

Whether scanning the trees for an elusive bird or hiking local trails, RVers across the country are always on the lookout for new outdoor adventures. One of the newest ways RVers can get out and enjoy nature is geocaching.

This modern-day treasure hunting combines old-school puzzle work with some of the newest GPS technology and is a great activity for all ages and physical abilities.

A Geocacher can be any person seeking fun and adventure in the outdoors. From families with children and seniors to rock climbers and hikers, geocaching is one of the fastest growing, live, recreational social media activities.

Seth Rosenberg, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc., owner and operator of Encore and Thousand Trails RV Resorts and Campgrounds, agrees geocaching is an interesting activity for RVers.

“Geocaches are as varied as people’s imaginations,” Rosenberg said.

“We have found there are geocaching sites near several of our properties. Some of the cache containers are just small tubes with logbooks, while larger caches may contain trinkets and knickknacks for swapping. It simply adds another fun dimension for RVers.”

With more than 4 million users, geocaching.com is the most popular geocaching website. Members of this community use GPS-enabled devices and their wits to find containers hidden by other geocachers. Users can search by city, state or zip code to find cache locations within a particular area.

Having an error factor of up to 30 feet, GPS devices will only take the geocachers to a general area. Camouflaged into the surrounding area, caches should be difficult for an unsuspecting person to spot.

A sample geocache

Geocachers use the provided clues and their own intuition to find the caches.

Rules for the sport are basic. If a geocacher takes something from a cache, they need to leave something of equal or greater value. Sound ethics, like respecting private property, minimizing the impact on nature and not endangering people, are encouraged and vital to the continuation of the sport.

A common practice of geocachers is to “Cache In, Trash Out.” By picking up trash on the way back from a geocache location, geocachers help keep natural areas clean.

Cache listings include ratings for difficulty and terrain. From 1 to 5, the listings give seekers an idea of what to expect before heading out on their find. A listing with a rating of 1/1 will be easy to locate and on easy terrain. A listing of 5/5 will not only be difficult to locate, it may entail climbing rocks, trees or even rappelling from heights.

With the ability to pick and choose geocaches of different difficulty ratings in virtually any location, geocaching is a perfect sport for RVers. Geocaches rated as an easy find on flat terrain are perfect for families with young children or seniors with limited mobility. Although many of the geocaches are easy to discover, there are more than enough difficult caches to satisfy the more adventurous RVers.

Since its inception in 2000, geocaching has given people the opportunity to visit new and interesting locations, enjoy the outdoors and make new friends. RVing has been doing the same for decades. The curiosity and inherent sense of adventure of RVers makes geocaching a natural fit.

With geocaching becoming more popular among RVers, it is no surprise to find cache locations close to RV resorts and along highways. Whether RVing the deserts of the Southwest or the dense forests of New England, thousands of geocaches are waiting to be discovered.

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Details

Encore and Thousand Trails
With locations across North America, Encore and Thousand Trails provide the best in outdoor vacation destinations. Catering to the RV customer and outdoor enthusiast, Encore and Thousand Trails combines the beauty and relaxation of nature with resort-style amenities.

Encore and Thousand Trails feature 173 RV Resorts across North America. Owned and operated by Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc., Encore, Thousand Trails, and its affiliates offer RV and outdoor recreation enthusiasts opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in top vacation destinations, complemented with resort style amenities.

Phone: (866) 730-0637

Website: rvonthego.com

Worth Pondering…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

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Alabama State Parks 2012 Geocaching Challenge

Alabama State Parks kicks off its 2012 Geocaching Challenge at Lakepoint Resort State Park in Eufaula next Friday, April 13.

The kickoff event is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. with a reception in the Magnolia room at the park Lodge. The event continues Saturday morning, April 14, at 9 a.m. with Geocaching activities planned at pavilions two and four in the campground day use area, according to a state park news release.

Geocaching is a real-world outdoor treasure hunting game in which players hunt for hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and can share their experiences online.

For the Alabama State Parks Geocaching Challenge, geocaches are being hidden at each of the 22 state parks. The caches will have a log book, trade items, and all are kid friendly.
Each cache will also contain clues to a puzzle cache.

When geocachers complete the statewide challenge and successfully open the puzzle cache they will be rewarded with a specially designed Alabama State Parks Geocaching coin. The only way to receive this coin will be to complete the challenge.

A second Alabama State Parks coin is being produced and will be sold in each park gift shop.

A special Alabama State Parks geocaching coin is being produced during the challenge and will be sold in each park gift shop. There will be two versions of the coin available, a trackable and non-trackable coin.

There will be two versions of the coin available, a trackable and non-trackable coin.
During the kickoff event, geocahers are invited to participate in a cache contest to be held at pavilion four on Saturday, and a Cache In-Trash Out (CITO) event at 9 a.m. at pavilion two.

Registration for the cache contest is at 9 a.m., the contest begins at 10 a.m.

Various prizes will be awarded for the best cache including a free weekend at Lakepoint Resort State Park, and a weekend of free camping in the Chewacla State Park Campground during football season.

Attendees will vote on the best cache, and winners of the contest will be announced during the noon event as well as the cache coordinates for all 22 state parks.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching (pronounced GEE-oh-cash-ing) combines treasure hunting with outdoor recreation and hiking, as well as technology (a handheld global positioning system, or “GPS,” device is needed).

Weatherproof boxes are hidden in specific locations (caches) marked with GPS coordinates, and individuals navigate to hidden locations using the provided coordinates to find each box and its contents.

Details

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Address: 64 N. Union Street, Suite 468, Montgomery, Alabama 36130

Website: outdooralabama.com

Alabama State Parks

Lakepoint Resort State Park has a lodge, convention center, modern campground, vacation cabins and lakeside cottages, picnic areas, 18-hole golf course and a marina complete with launch facilities and boat slips. (Source: alapark.com)

Alabama State Parks have it all…

golf, fishing, boating, swimming, camping, hiking, nature craft, biking, horseback riding, family fun, and just plain ole’ relaxin’. There are great places to stay and great places to eat plus beaches, mountains, and everything in between.

Do a little or do it all!

Phone: (800) ALAPARK (1-800-252-7275)

Website: alapark.com

Geocaching in Alabama State Parks

Website: alapark.com/Geocaching

Worth Pondering…
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

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L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools Promote Outdoor Activities

Freeport, Maine-based L.L.Bean announced plans to launch over 40 new course offerings through its popular Outdoor Discovery Schools.

Ranging from multi-day expeditions to free clinics in the store, all programs are designed to help families discover new outdoor activities and learn fresh skills in outdoor recreation.

With activities such as geocaching, day hikes, and stargazing, to overnight kayaking excursions and programs for corporate and private groups, the Outdoor Discovery Schools courses have been enhanced to celebrate the company’s 100-year legacy with the outdoors.

According to a recent survey from L.L.Bean and the National Park Foundation, 60 percent of parents say their children spend less than an hour a day outdoors.

As we leap into spring, L.L.Bean reminds families that longer days and warmer weather provides great opportunities for families to get outside and discover something new.

“Getting your children outside does not have to mean going for a long hike or needing expensive equipment, it can often be as simple as pitching a tent in your own backyard,” said Rob Hutchison, Outdoor Discovery School Instructor at L.L.Bean.

“By engaging your kids in the outdoors and making activities both educational and fun, they are more apt to develop a love of the outdoors and a desire to stay active.”

L.L.Bean offers the following tips for several popular springtime activities that will help your family have more fun the next time you venture outdoors together:

The Sunny Day Rule: Now that the weather allows, encourage the “sunny day rule.” When the sun is shining, unplug. This will get kids (and parents) away from the television, computer, and video games and into the backyard.

Clouding and Stargazing: These activities can be done from your own backyard with no equipment required. Pique your children’s interest in weather, the atmosphere, and space by creating a game identifying the various types of clouds and going out into the night to gaze at the stars and constellations overhead.

Birding: Turn your backyard into a bird-friendly habitat. Birding is a family-friendly activity for those living in the city, suburbs, or country. Back yards are a great place to create a safe place for birds to feed and nest. In addition to getting your family outdoors and identifying the various birding species, the maintenance aspect of this activity, including cleaning out feeders and nesting boxes, provides a good lesson in responsibility for children.

Biking: Fun, not fitness, should set the pace for family cycling. Teach good road habits and hand signals in an empty parking lot. Play follow-the-leader on the painted lines to practice accurate steering, control, and balance. And, always remember to wear a helmet.

Family Camping: It’s important to involve children early in your plans for family camping, allowing them the opportunity to engage in exploring different possible destinations and the trip prep process. Practice setting up a campsite in your backyard and teach the importance of “Leave No Trace” principles.

Discover the National Parks: The U.S. National Park Service National Park Week is April 21-29. During this week, more than 350 national parks offer free admission.

Let's Go to RVing to Joshua Tree National Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

L.L.Bean offers a great opportunity for children and families to participate in a wide range of outdoor recreation with its Outdoor Discovery Schools. Expert guides provide instruction at all levels, providing an easy and affordable way to learn more about a favorite activity or try something new for the first time.

Opportunities to learn new outdoor skills are also available—for free—at L.L.Bean retail store locations every week through in-store clinics.

L.L.Bean is on a year-long mission to re-ignite America’s love of the outdoors during its 100th Anniversary year in 2012. To help encourage families to explore the outdoors together this spring, L.L.Bean is giving away more than $100,000 in outdoor gear and Outdoor Discovery Schools experiences through the Get Out(fitted) Gear Giveaway. As part of the Get Out(fitted) Gear Giveaway, for every day in 2012, a deserving group or individual will be selected to receive L.L.Bean gear or an Outdoor Discovery Schools experience (valued up to $500).

In addition to the Get Out(fitted) Gear Giveaway, L.L.Bean is donating $1 million to the National Park Foundation through its Million Moment Mission—a year-long campaign designed to encourage individuals to share their outdoor “moments” with L.L.Bean.

Details

L.L.Bean, Inc.

L.L.Bean, Inc. is a leading multichannel merchant of quality outdoor gear and apparel. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe.

The 200,000 square foot L.L.Bean retail store campus in Freeport, Maine, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and welcomes more than 3 million visitors every year.

Website: llbean.com

Worth Pondering…

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.
—Claude Bernard

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Can State Parks Become Self-Sustaining?

Can South Carolina State Parks Become Self-Sustaining?

South Carolina has set a goal that no other state has been able to consistently achieve—create a self-sustaining park system.

Gov. Nikki Haley asked Duane Parrish, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism director to get the Palmetto State’s 49 state parks running in the black, without the assistance of the general fund, News Channel 7 WSPA reports.

Parrish and Phil Gaines, the director of the State Park Service, are confident that by the end of 2013 that long-discussed goal will be reality.

For years, only the state’s five coastal parks brought in more money than they cost to run, but now that number is up to 10.

“We’ve been building toward this for a while, becoming less dependent over the last ten years. Now we’ve just taken that final step and focused and narrowed that goal by defining a finish line,” said Gaines, who became director in 2005 after 23 years in the park service.

Presently the parks make $20 million in revenue each year which is about 83 percent of their budget. The general fund accounts for the last $4 million. But that’s half of what tax payers contributed in 2002, when the $8 million accounted for 66 percent of the parks budget, according to News Channel 7 WSPA.

There have been staffing cuts in that time, but Gaines attributes recent headway to the online reservation system that launched in 2005 where people are able sign up for campsites and cabins more easily, while freeing up park rangers to focus on helping the public in person.

From 2005 to 2010, annual reservations jumped from 93,500 to 124,500. Plus, like any hotel, the parks are able to change prices based on demand, which according to Gaines makes self-sufficiency attainable.

South Carolina State Parks locator (Source: southcarolinaparks.com)

“We’re set up to be flexible and market-driven and not all states are that way. When we talk about market-driven pricing people are concerned about us raising prices, but one of the most important things about it is it also allows us to run specials and reduce our prices when demand is not at its peak,” Gaines said.

That means if there’s a cancellation, instead of a cabin sitting empty all weekend, the parks department will reduce the rate and use social media to get the special out to eager campers.

But one fee has gone up. In January the cost of a statewide parks passport, which grants holders free entrance for the entire family for a year at any park, was increased from $50 to $75. The department also added an “in-land only” pass for $50 that excludes the five coastal parks.

Gaines said those prices won’t go up again in an effort to meet the goal, and noted that individual entrance fees are still $2 and are unlikely to increase in the next few years.

“While the price may have gone up, I really think that if you go to even a few of these places, it’s really the best value out there,” he said.

Gaines acknowledges that the parks cashed in on the Great Recession when people had less money to spend on vacations. But he thinks the new visitors were “surprised, impressed and want to come back.”

He said trying to get repeat visitors is more important to becoming self-sufficient than focusing on revenue. Different parks have the freedom to try creative ideas, like renting out space at the Caesars Head overlook on Fourth of July at night, when the park is normally closed, to view several Upstate cities’ fireworks shows.

Cheraw State Park offered free golf one slow weekend last year, but made a profit on lodging and the gift shop, News Channel 7 WSPA reports.

Plus the parks department just introduced its own Geocache Challenge. The popular scavenger-hunt-like game has players find hidden boxes with clues using GPS technology. Gaines said there are now geocaches in all 47 parks and the first few people to reach them all will get a prize.

Table Rock State Park exquisitely captures the beauty of the vibrant fall foliage. (Source: southcarolinaparks.com)

He said exciting events like that are what make family memories and keep people coming back.

“We have to manage these state parks, not for the next quarter or fiscal year, but the next generation and we think this is a good model so that we can survive any economic downturn or challenges ahead,” Gaines added.

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Worth Pondering…

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.

—Tom Landry

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Rx for Fitness: Where Fitness is a Walk in the Park

Everyone knows that exercise is one key to being healthy, but not everyone enjoys going to the gym. Georgia’s State Park system has teamed up with the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) to make healthy living a bit more fun.

Through the new “Rx for Fitness” Program, physician assistants can prescribe healthy hikes in the great outdoors, and patients can turn in their “prescriptions” for FREE state park passes.

“Rx for Fitness” is part of the State Park system’s new Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge which encourages citizens to use outdoor recreation as part of their regular exercise. Park visitors may find that exploring a canyon is more fun than a step machine, and that hiking along a waterfall burns more calories than a treadmill.

Georgia State Parks also offer less traditional exercise, like lake swimming, geocaching, and disc golf. Even some state historic sites offer walking trails in beautiful settings.

Members of GAPA will be able to help their patients in a new way, by identifying those who need more exercise and suggesting they go for a hike. By trading their “prescription” for a FREE park pass, patients will not need to pay the $5 parking fee on their first visit.

Those who decide that regular hikes can help them meet weight-loss goals can choose to buy an Annual ParkPass. The 2012 Annual Georgia ParkPass is currently available for $50.

“We are so excited to offer a new and unique way of showcasing the benefits of outdoor recreation,” said State Parks Director Becky Kelley. “When exercise is fun, people tend to stick with it for much longer. It becomes part of their daily lives, and they have a better sense of wellbeing. Another benefit of visiting state parks is being able to bring your friends and family along with you.”

“Rx for Fitness” launched February 2 at the GAPA winter meeting. It is funded by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation.

“Rx for Fitness is a creative way to give more kids and families access to healthy outdoor activities,” said John Bare, vice president of the Blank Family Foundation. “Better fitness is a walk in the park.”

Details

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

Georgia’s 63 state parks and historic sites preserve the state’s environment and history. Through these sites, Department of Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks & Historic Sites provides important habitat for plants and animals, gives people a place to enjoy the outdoors, and protects historic places where future generations can learn about the past.

Phone: (800) 864-7275 (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Website: georgiastateparks.org

Tons of Fun Fitness Challenge

Nature has always held the key to fitness, through exercise and nutrition. Georgia State Parks has added personalized technology to make it even easier. Once you’ve joined FREE, you can customize your entire fitness program by setting your own goals and level of support. You can start by signing up for news about upcoming events, healthy recipes, and local groups. If you’re ready to commit to more of a change, select the journal, which will allow you to keep a daily diary, log your weight, track your activity, and record your meals.

Website: tonsoffun.org

Rx for Fitness

Through the new “Rx for Fitness” Program, physician assistants can prescribe healthy hikes in the great outdoors, and patients can turn in their “prescriptions” for free park passes.

Website: tonsoffun.org/Rxercise

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

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