Category Archives: outdoor activity

10 wet weather activities on the Sunshine Coast

THE Sunshine Coast is renowned for its beautiful, great outdoors, from beaches to mountain trails and everything in between.

For many locals, weekends are spent at the sports field, in the surf, at the park, four-wheel-driving on the beach or in the hinterland, or in the pursuit of any number of outdoor adventures.

But what happens when the weather turns?

Maybe you’re happy to stay in on the couch and watch Netflix, but for those who are itching to get out and about, there are plenty of options.

1. Bounce

Head to The Big Boing at Birtinya to burn up endless amounts of energy on wall-to-wall trampolines. Go with or without the kids, it’s fun for everyone.

2. Climb

Want to try rock climbing in a controlled environment? You can start with the basics at Rockit Climbing Gym at Birtinya, where they will harness you up, give you the safety run down, and set you on your way. Take a partner to man the rope while you climb.

3. Bowl ’em over

An oldie but a goodie, 10 pin bowling is still a great option for wet weather fun. Head toSuncity Tenpin at Alexandra Headland, Spinners Bar and Bowl at Caloundra or Noosa Tenpinfor a few games.

4. Get cultured

When was the last time you checked out some of the Sunshine Coast’s incredible art exhibitions? Art galleries across the region showcase some fantastic works. A rainy day is the perfect time to expand your horizons. The USC Art Gallery, Caloundra Regional Gallery, Art on Cairncross, The Secret Gallery in Montville, Art Nuvo in Buderim and Noosa Regional Gallery are just a few to check out.

5. Go stealth

One word: Lazerzone. If you’re bored of shoot ’em up video games try out one of the nearest things to it in real life, without the injuries of course. Lazerzone is at Warana. Or try Lazer Tag in Noosa.

6. Skate

Even if you haven’t been on eight wheels since you were a child, roller skating (or roller-blading) is just like riding a bike. Relive your early teens at Rollerdrome Caloundra.

7. Hit the ball pit

If you’ve got really little children indoor playgrounds, like Chipmunks Playland and Cafe, are a great option. Take the kids, and enjoy a cup of coffee where you can see them having a ball.

8. Long lunch

With hundreds of cafes and restaurants on the Sunshine Coast serving up delicious savoury dishes and sweet treats, a rainy day is the perfect time to take a long lunch and watch the world go by.

9. Nature’s power

If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, watching the hinterland transformed by the rain can be a real treat. Head to Wappa Dam or Baroon Pocket Dam when the lakes are overflowing and watch the water roar over the spillway. The volume of water flowing over and the sound it makes can be pretty amazing.

10. For the bookworms

Here’s one you might not have thought of – go to the library. Half of the joy of going to the library is exploring the shelves and finding the books, not just taking the books home. Plus there are plenty of events happening at local libraries. Check out the websites for details.

Rediscover quality time in the outdoors

EVEN camping experts can forget vital equipment for a bush holiday. Tony Tanner, who has owned or managed camping shops for 10 years, said he had that sinking feeling at a camp site when he realised he had remembered everything – except the tent.

He said double-checking equipment, before leaving, was important. Mr Tanner also said three camping vitals were fresh water, a stove (the type depends on the type of camping) and sunscreen.

“Check that your water container is clean and has been sterilised, otherwise everyone gets sick,” he said.

The expert camper said anyone travelling remotely, or even overseas, should also invest in a LifeStraw. It works by sterilising the water at the source with no boiling required and could be a life-saver if a vehicle broke down.

He also said a good sleeping bag, a good mattress, and a good waterproof tent was also important, along with kits for first-aid and snake bite.

For those who cannot live without their devices, there are solar-power battery charging options.

“I tend to go somewhere where there’s no service,” he said.

“Otherwise my other half sits on her phone, and my daughter plays with her iPod. No service, no phones, no Facebook.”

Many parents attest that an inability to turn on devices is one of the biggest pluses of modern-day camping. And the experts agree.

The Federal Government Australia’s Physical Activity Recommendations suggest that children aged 5-18 accumulate no more than two hours of screen time per day and children under the age of two do not spend any time viewing television or other electronic media.

Child psychologist Nicole Pierotti said in a press release that most children spent many more hours than this in front of screens, sometimes up to 12 hours per day. Parents sometimes struggled to limit their child’s screen time because of their own busy schedules.

Destination NSW chief executive officer Sandra Chipchase said a device-free camping trip was the perfect chance to get the family talking to each other, and spending quality time together in the great outdoors.

“The simplicity of a caravan and camping holiday is that it gives you the freedom to enjoy the very best of New South Wales, with our holiday parks located in stunning natural surroundings by the beach, in the bush, on a lake or by a river,” she said.

So families arrive at their camp site, and the devices are off or no longer in service, but how does one keep the kids entertained? Although hard for a new generation of littlies to imagine, there once was a world without the internet and online games.

Mum-of-three Karen Wren turns to her own childhood as inspiration when camping with her children. She revives old favourites like card games, spotlight (played with torches in the dark) and roasting marshmallows over the fire.

“Bikes are always a hit,” she said.

“They also love to bust out old school toys like hula hoops, yoyos, sparklers, glow sticks etc.”

Fellow mum Sabrina Clair makes her children a “treasure hunt page” before they left.

“When we get up and are setting up, if they aren’t being helpful, they take the page and start discovering where everything is,” she said.

She also said mini UHF radios often proved a big hit.

And for those with an adventurous spirit, and older kids not as reliant on fixed amenities, Queensland and New South Wales has more national park camp sites to choose from than the always-popular-at-Easter Fraser Island.

A Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service representative said there were many lesser-known but beautiful camp sites throughout the state (see sidebar).

“Some less-used camping areas do have fewer facilities, but their lower usage often relates more to accessibility – whether you need a four-wheel drive, and how long it takes to get there,” they said.

The representative said campers should make dependable communication and a first-aid kit top of their priority list if travelling to remote places.

“You may need everything to be totally self-sufficient so the list could be long. Water and a portable toilet might also be needed,” they said.

The representative also said it was important to book camp sites, and check park alerts and the weather forecast.

If campers were considering going to north Queensland camp sites following Cyclone Debbie, it was important to check the latest information about the areas online.

Why four blokes trekked across the desert

IN BETWEEN pushing himself to the limit with bold adventures, Kristin Fischer worked as an outdoor guide and skydive instructor.

The plan to cross the desert with his mates, the Silk Road Pirates as they called themselves, came about on a mid-winter trip through Siberia to the Arctic Circle.

“When we came out of that my buddy and I turned to each other and we said ‘right, the next place we do is going to be a nice warm area, maybe like a nice hot desert’,” he said.

War and bureaucracy foiled their plans to cross deserts in African and the Middle East, leading them instead to China and the Taklamakan Desert.

He said being able to see things no one else had was a big motivator for trips like this one, but personal growth and mateship were part of the appeal too.

“There’s a lot of time to get your head down and thinking,” he said.

Fischer said traversing the desert was not fun at the time, but the boys had a unique way of looking at their experience.

“It’s terrible at the time and we call it Type Two fun; It’s something that’s only fun once you get out of there,” he said.

“It’s something nice that we can share together, achieve together and share those same hardships and help each other out. It’s really quite special.”

Horn Pond Reservation Hiking & More

Introduction
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I have been coming to Horn Pond Reservation since the late 70’s. My major activities include sailing lessons, trying kayaks, and hiking alone or with groups year around. The hiking varies from flat and easy to steep and strenuous. The ledge part of the mountain may have parts that need rock climbing gear. The other parts of the ledge side of the mountain is a challenge although for only a short distance. A condensed sample of many of the types of trails encountered in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There is variety in the wet areas to include a bog, marsh, lagoon, stream, and a lake with island and dam.
Horn Pond Reservation is changing both by people and nature. Some of the man-made changes include added protection to prevent accidents, memorials. As usage, increases minor trails appear, and some minor trails go back to nature takes the trail back with growth.
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Description
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Horn Pond Reservation consists of 633 acres of which 133 acres of it is Horn Pond. Mount Towanda overlooks this reservation and is 287 feet above sea level. Some of the key features of the reservation include bird watching, use of non-motorized boats, fishing, walking and hiking trails. Some glacier rocks, a place where Native Americans ground grains. Swimming is not allowed.
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Location
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Located in the Woburn Massachusetts. The approximate boundaries of Horn Pond Reservation are Pleasant Street on the northern side, Arlington Road on the eastern side, Lake Avenue on the southern side, and the Woburn Country club on the western side.

Horn Pond

The Native Americans called this pond Innitou, translated means “Mirror of the Spirit.”The pond covers 133 acres. The pond has the greatest depth of 40 feet and an average of 10 feet. The pond receives its water from a stream. The Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game stocks Horn Pond with trout in spring and fall. A survey from 1982 recorded 13 species of fish.
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Mt Towanda

The name Towanda was the name used by the Native Americans. The mountain has a height of 287 feet above sea level and covers an area of 40 acres. The top of the mountain has a lot of flatness, a few trees and excellent views of the surrounding areas including Boston. Other points of interest include an
abandoned reservoir, Indian bowl, ski jump, lunch rock, and the Nolan trail.

Community Gardens

The Community Garden plots are 28 feet by 28 feet ( 784 square feet)and leasing available on a yearly basis. One does not have to be a Woburn resident. Organic plots are also available. This is something I would find desirable if it were close to where I live.

The Interactive Map of Horn Pond Reservation

This interactive map provides the best resource for quick access to information about the Horn Pond Reservation. A few places are still under construction.

The major parts of the Horn Pond Reservation

    • Horn Pond
    • The lagoon or North of the Causeway
    • Cattail marsh and community gardens
    • The area between the lake and the Woburn Country Club
    • Mount Towanda
    • The Main Entrance

The Main Entrance

Although there are many ways to walk into Horn Pond Reservation most people arrive in cars and park in the main parking lot off Lake Avenue. From the parking lot, there is easy access to the restrooms. The electric substation is visible behind the restrooms. To the west, the water works pump station is visible. Looking north is Horn Pond and the one of two boat launches. Walking east out of the parking lot we pass by Scalley Dam. Our tour will start by heading east toward Scalley Dam.

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Scalley Dam

Scalley Dam controls the water level in Horn Pond and the overflow goes into the Horn Pond Brook which flows to Winchester center. Now heading to Old Foley Beach. At one time it was possible to walk over the dam, now one can look at it through a high chain link fence. The fence completely surrounds the dam including adjacentoverflow area.

William J Scalley Dam memorial

Old Foley Beach

The next point of interest is Old Foley Beach. About all that remains of a former public beach from are a few stone and concrete steps. We now continue to Lynch Park.

Lynch Park

Lynch Park has added some memorials since my last visit. The water level has increased and vegetation is taking over the once sandy beach used for swimming. It is now a good place for fishing.

Thousand Yard Interplanetary Walk

We now head toward Thousand Yard Interplanetary Walk. I have a couple pictures of the stone markers on this walk. I either missed the others or they are no longer there. Our next point of interest is Hudson Grove.

Hudson Grove

The path goes through the Hudson Grove area with large trees between the path and the shoreline, the other side of the path is a large flat field surrounded by some trees. I have often seen young children with their parents in this area.   Our next area is the smaller boat launch to a small parking lot.

Smaller Boat Launch

This launch is at the junction of Beacon and Sturgis Street. A small parking lot is next to the boat launch. This parking lot when full has about 10 cars. There is also parking along Sturgis Street. Our path now leads to Ice House Park

Ice House Park was once the home of an ice producing plant, storage facility, and home heating oil depot. It is now a field of grass with a few scattered trees. The trees and grass have completely overgrown the history of the past. This is a favorite place for the geese when not in the water.  They tend to leave scat also in this area. As we continue our walk following the shoreline there is a Kiosk and a pet waste station. The path splits, we take the left and walk over the causeway. The causeway is a man-made road that separates Horn Pond from the lagoon. At the end of the causeway the path branches. This is a favorite for bird watchers to view the many varieties of birds. We take the left branch to Lions Park.

Lions Park

Lions Park was a former paved parking lot named for and maintained by the Woburn Lions club. There is a bronze statue of a lion in this area along with a gazebo and a few memorials. As we continue we take a left and head toward the Winitihooloo statue. I did not see the statue on this visit

As we progress, along the walkway the path branches left to Strawberry Point at the tip of the peninsula. Strawberry Point is a good spot to view the tiny island. We continue on the main path till there is a junction and take a left at the electric substation and head back into the main parking lot.

Returning to the point where we walked over the causeway, we will now go north of the causeway on the trail to the right of the lagoon. This area is less frequented and we are more likely to see birds which are the predominant wildlife of the reservation. The trail is narrower than the previous trail. There is a bridge at the northern end of the lagoon. There is where something that resembles a stream feeds water into the lagoon. As we head north there are several wooden bridges for crossing wet areas. These are good places to view wildlife like fish, turtles, and birds. Walking north there is Cattail Marsh on the right, a sand pit, and marsh on left. Going right after the bridge at the northern end of the lagoon leads to the other side of Cattail Marsh and the Community Gardens.

Arethusa Falls And Frankenstein Cliff Trail

Many years ago I worked with a fellow named Dave Anders.  He was a crazy Italian guy who loved hiking and was amazing to work with taking care of the juvenile delinquents where we both were employed.  My first experience hiking the Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff Trail was with Dave and a group of those wonderfully behaved kids (cough cough!!).  This hike was one of Dave’s favorite short hikes and he had done it numerous times.  He always did it “backwards”, or going up Frankenstein Cliff first and then ending at the falls to cool off and then down to the vehicle.  Unfortunately, Dave has since passed away due to cancer from the many not so healthy things he did when he was younger.  I miss Dave and his humor and whenever we do that hike, we do it “backwards” and when we get to the top of the cliffs, I have a little chat with Dave.  I’m actually getting a little teary typing actually.

Two summers ago, 2013, our little family decided to hit the trail and do our favorite hike.  Given that we had done it with kids before, we didn’t really think about how terribly out of shape we all were.  Our daughter was 10 then and well within the age to handle the hike.  When we had previously done the hike, it was somewhere around 4 miles.  Well, what we didn’t realize, was when that area got hit by tornadoes, they had to reroute the trail which made it 6 miles!!  We paid dearly for that lack of information!!!

The complete 6 mile hike is pretty rugged.  We passed numerous folks coming the other direction that were seriously under-geared and in inappropriate dress and footwear.  I can’t count the number of college aged boyfriends dragging their girlfriends along for a hike, with their soon to be ex-girlfriends dressed in tanktops, flipflops, and carrying their useless gear in string satchels on their shoulders.  I would guess you could take some pretty heartbreaking but amusing video at the parking lot of the interactions between these doomed relationships, and of course the blood and scrapes from slipping and sliding on the rock faces below Frankenstein Cliff.

Well, we all survived the hike, despite our terrible physical shape and our daughter having bronchitis (we didn’t know at the time).  We packed the appropriate gear, water, and food and dressed appropriately for the hike.  Despite our extreme physical pain after the hike, we enjoyed it as usual and I got to chat with Dave again, which is important to do every so often.

As to the hike itself, many people just hike up to the falls, which is not an easy hike, but not hard either.  It is all up hill basically but worth getting to.  The water is super clean and cold, but once you get to the falls, the rocks are big and the trail is very rugged.  We passed numerous folks on our way down who clearly had health problems, were overweight, and were not prepared for even that short hike, which I believe is a mile.  For us that day, the mile down to the car was BRUTAL!!!  Our muscles were outraged at our treatment of them and told us so repeatedly.

Ancient Lakes In The Spring

On the edge of the Columbia River, in central Washington, is a fascinating landscape. Carved by floods of unimaginable proportions, one finds the dry remains of Ancient Lakes sitting in what were once the plunge pools of enormous but brief waterfalls. Standing below the sheer walls of basalt it is hard to comprehend what it must have been like when the Missoula Floods roared across the landscape carving out channels, in some places hundreds of feet deep, in the basalt that covers most of central Washington State. At the base of these dry falls, fed by small streams lies the small lakes named Ancient and Dusty Lakes.

After a long winter and a cold wet spring I was itching to get out on the trail. So with the excuse of having some gear to review, and despite having a tight schedule, I headed out. The plan was to hike the 3 miles into Dusty Lake late on Friday, spend Saturday hiking and exploring, then hike back out Sunday morning in time to pack and head across the mountains (3hrs drive) to start work on a major project by 8PM. Yeah, a recipe for disaster…but I needed to recharge my batteries after a few difficult weeks at work, and in preparation for what I knew was going to be another long and difficult week.

So I get off work a bit early, load up my gear, and head to the trailhead. On a whim, I thought it might be nice to have a few sips of something in the evenings so I picked up a small bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. At the trailhead, the day was warm and clear, one of the few nice days so far this year, and the hike into the lake was mostly uneventful. The terrain was easy to walk, with most of the trail following old jeep roads.

Along the way I spotted one small rattlesnake in the shade of a large sage bush right on the edge of the trail, so when I met up with a couple of folks with a dog, I warned them they should probably keep the dog close as they pass that area. Upon reaching the lake, I found there did not look to be many good campsites. I found a nice spot near a few tents and hung around till the owners returned and asked if they minded if I camp near them. They said they were OK with it, but that they were expecting a few more people and they might get rowdy.

I said I did not mind and set up my camp. As it turned out, I was more tired than I thought and ended up falling asleep rather early, completely missing any roudyness that may have occurred, but not before I discovered a good size rattlesnake not far from our camp area.

I got up late the next day, chatted with the guys in the adjacent camp (mentioning the snake I saw) and headed out for a day of hiking. My only footwear for the trip was my Vibrum Five Fingers Sprint shoes and I was wearing shorts. With a light pack (the Platypus Origin 9 that I was reviewing), minimal gear, and my MP3 player, I was off for a day of easy but fast-paced hiking (about an 8-mile loop down to the Columbia River and back). This trail was much narrower than what I had been on the previous day and in some places partially overgrown.

The day was cooler and slightly overcast, combined with the cold nights it was ideal conditions to encounter rattlesnakes out during the day. It was not long after leaving camp that I decided the MP3 player was probably not such a good idea, so I put it away (probably the only smart thing I did the entire trip). Before long, I encountered my first snake of the day…by almost stepping on it. I was glad I was not wearing my headphones as my first indication was the rattling next to my foot.

During the day I encountered many more snakes, most by almost stepping on them. One particular snake refused to get out of the trail until I prodded it with my trekking pole, and even then it simply coiled up under a sage bush directly adjacent to the trail and started rattling, forcing me to bushwhack around it (praying there were no other snakes in the low growth I was walking through, and contemplating the irony of getting bit by an unknown snake while avoiding a known one). The day remained cool and overcast with a few light showers, quite pleasant for hiking, and despite the snakes was enjoying myself immensely. About 2 miles from camp, the trail I was on reconnected with the old jeep road I had hiked the day before.

Energized by a day of easy hiking, and relieved by the relatively (but false) safety of a more open trail, I decided to run the rest of the way back to camp…but it was not to be. Within about a half a mile I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked just in time to see a snake shoot out of the brush and narrowly miss my leg. I let out a few choice words that I can’t print here and decided maybe running in these conditions was another bad idea.

I returned to camp to find a few kids who were searching the area for snakes, spiders, and scorpions (all of which they found in abundance). Not long after I got there, they turned over one of the rocks only yards from my tent and discovered a small rattlesnake! They were nice enough to capture it and move it quite a distance from our camp.

That evening after dinner, I went over to chat with the guys in the adjacent camp. They were drinking and playing a game that one of them invented, and invited me to join them. One thing lead to another and the next thing I know my whisky is gone and I find I am drinking some vodka they poured for me. I have no idea what time we finally turned in for the night, but I am sure it was quite late, and I was feeling no pain.

 

Hiking In Harold Parker State Forest

Hiking in Harold Parker State Forest

Description

Harold Parker consists of 3,300 acres with more than 35 miles of logging roads and hiking trails. The forest is almost all hardwood, hemlock, and pine.Ten ponds are available for the water enthusiast, using non-motorized boats

Location

Harold Parker State Forest is in Massachusetts north of Boston close to Interstate 93. To get there from Interstate 93, head east on route 125 for about 4 miles. Harold Parker road is on the right just after the State police barracks. This is one of the several entrances to the forest. Harold Parker road leads to the intersection of Jenkins road, then taking a right leads to the Lorraine campground which is open during the summer. (check for dates). Going left leads to the intersection of Middleton Road. Going right on Middleton Road leads to the main headquarters of the park, on the left side of the road.

Historical Background

  • 9000 BP to 1676: Area inhabited by Pennacook people (BP Archaeologists term for before the present)

  • The 1750’s: Dispersed farmlands in the area

  • 1914-1916: Harold Parker Chairman of the State Forest Commission

  • 1916: Commission acquired 800 acres forming Harold Parker State Forest

  • 1933 -1941: CCC constructed ponds, roads, trails, and recreation areas (CCC Civilian Conservation Corps).

Lorraine Park Campground

The campground has 89 spacious sites that are well spaced out. I have camped there several times. The bathrooms and shower area may be old, but everything functions well. The showers are clean and provide adequate hot water. The restrooms are clean.

There is a swimming area at Frye pond, which is non-supervised. A section of the shoreline is sandy. This is a popular play area for young children.

Near the campground entrance is a small self service free library.

Hiking and Walking Trails

When the park was first settled it was farmed. Since the soil was not suitable for farming, thus, it was abandoned The area reverted to being a forest. The forest has some stone walls, remaining stone foundations of buildings and a few stone-lined wells are still visible. The ruins of a soapstone quarry as well as a power generation from water are still visible.

Forest Resources

  • 35.7 miles of trail

Trail condition

  • Good 12.5%

  • Fair 83.6%

  • Poor 3.9%

Existing roads and trails

  • Paved Access Roads 15 ft wide 8.2 miles

  • Unpaved Forest Roads 5-10 ft wide 12.4 miles

  • Forest Trails 3-5 ft wide 35.7 miles

Horse riding trails

I have seen horses as well as horse skat on some trails while hiking. Horseback riding on the some trails. Please check for locations.

Mountain Biking

I have seen some sign of bikes riding but have rarely seen any bikes on the trail. I would prefer to bike on trails that are less challenging as these trails. I have not done much mountain biking. I am seldom hiking when mountain bikers are on the trail.

Picnicking

The picnicking I have seen is with a blanket and finger food. It was a wonderful place to visit when my children were young.

Fishing

This is a popular fishing area as launching a small boat, canoe, or kayak is easy as several ponds are accessible by motor vehicle. There is an inactive fish hatchery in this area, which may someday become activated.

Hunting

Hunting isn’t allowed on Sunday in all portions of Harold Parker State Forest in the Town of Andover, west of Jenkins Road. Please refer to the Harold Parker Forest website for complete details on all hunting restrictions.

Historical Points of Interest

Soapstone Quarry Site

The soapstone quarry consists of stone remnants with tool marks scattered over an area. The appearance varies from almost finished to raw material. The forest is hiding the items of interest. Without intervention nature may take over completely.

Jenkins Sawmill Mill Site

The Jenkins site consists of a pond, dam, stone-lined waterways, stone walls, mill foundation, and an intact wheel pit. There is enough of a drop in elevation to provide power for this sawmill. Starting in 1630 sawmills used a single technology for about 200 hundred years. This consisted of a waterwheel with a crank connected by a “pitman” arm to a wooden frame connected to a straight saw blade. This resulted in the saw blade moving up and down in a vertical motion. Without intervention, nature will take this site over.

Timothy Eaton Homestead

This site consists of a cellar hole with stone foundation, livestock enclosure, stone walls, a well, and the remains of a kitchen garden. Nature is taking over this site.

Robert Mason Homestead

Only a few things remain at the site of the Robert Mason Homestead, a large field stone, and bronze marker. The plaque is well oxidized but readable. We know it was the home of Robert Mason, a Revolutionary Soldier (1759-1821).

CCC Dynamite Storage Shed

Construction of the dynamite storage shed was by the CCC.(Civilian Conservation Corps) A simple shed sits on a poured cement foundation. Corrugated metal covers a wooden frame. Steps lead to an entrance which once had a door, that no longer remains. Metal vent sits on top of a side-gabled roof. The structure has bullet holes, with rust taking over.

Collins Pond Fish Hatchery Buildings

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built Collins pond and the dam associated with it. The hatchery is most likely a result of the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife wanting to supply fish for stocking ponds and lakes of Massachusetts. The hatchery is a small concrete building with a wooden roof. All that remains of the roof are the rafters. I visited this place in the late 60’s with my wife and 3 children, but can’t remember if it was a working hatchery at that time.

An Encounter With Wildlife In New Mexico

As I was walking alone at night on the mesa, all I could think was I don’t want to be eaten, but then I remembered some good advice I once heard; ‘Be kind to wildlife because you’re alive when they start eating you.’These kind words reinforced my decision to reach for the nearest ‘cat bat’, which essentially resembles a lengthy branch with which one could defend themselves from a vicious predator such as a mountain lion.

In my opinion, one of the creepiest things to see in the woods at night is eyes glowing back at you in the faint light from a headlamp. Those not very well accustomed to the outdoors may not be able to distinguish between which are the deadlier pair of eyes. In the event that any reader happens to encounter a glowing pair of eyes, this may be useful information. When reflecting light from a headlamp or flashlight, deer have green eyes and they are spaced farther apart. Mountain lion eyes are yellow and closer together, also generally closer to the ground. A black bear’s eyes are silvery and very close together. Feel free to use this information and allow it to coincide with any instincts of ‘fight or flight’ because if any friends see you running away in sheer terror from a mule deer, you’ll never hear the end of it.

I have personally had multiple encounters with all three of the animals listed above. One thing to keep in mind if you do happen to spot a mountain lion is that he saw you long before you saw him. The typical reason for encountering one at all is that they want you to see them, unless the encounter involves a sneak attack from the bushes, in which case just remember the advice from earlier about how to behave whilst being eaten alive.

This encounter begins with my walking alone at dusk in mountain lion infested territory; already not such a great idea but I was on my way back from Inspiration Point after visiting so I knew the way to take for sunrise the next day. While I scrambled down the rocky outcropping back toward the trail, I spotted a mule deer standing near the trail grazing on a Gambel Oak sapling. As I continued to hike down toward the trail head, before my eyes could comprehend the scene, a cougar streaked from amidst the foliage and pounced on the mule deer in a horrific yet graceful reminder of the food chain. The cougar quickly drug its kill out of sight into the foliage as I stood shell-shocked, trying to grasp what I had just witnessed.

I knew I was nearly a mile from the camp I had left earlier and now I had to make that journey back without any headlamp at night with a predator very near. Given the carnage that had transpired on the trail I should have taken, I chose to follow the flat of ground I was already atop above the trail thinking it would lead to the camp which also resided on a flat meadow on the side of this mesa. I soon found out how wrong my decision was. The terrace I had followed quickly angled with the rest of the mesa’s side and became a steep cliff side. It was very dark, near impossible to see under the trees at this time of night and as I stumbled along I suddenly heard a very large branch crack, then snap not twenty ahead. It seems the cougar had returned, as deer lack the ability to sinisterly break tree limbs in the dark for added effect.

It was at this point I tried shouting to scare my unseen adversary on an alternate hunt. I picked up and threw rocks toward the direction the sound had originated hoping to hit what I could not see. After a few moments of silence that seemed to drag on for hours, I fumbled around trying to grasp any branch I might possibly use as a ‘cat bat’ in the event of an attack. Luckily I discovered an adequate limb that I felt could withstand more than a single strike to the cougar’s head and also provided the comfort of false security. I stood ready to swing my weapon in that spot for what felt like a lifetime, given the situation at hand. Off in the distance I could barely discern the faint sound of clapping at what must have been the evening program at my destination in camp. I slowly crept downhill toward the clapping with my hands raised, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

After a few moments I heard the shrill blast of a whistle and a voice shouting. A friend, Rosy, had hear my yelling from at the program fire and had run up the side of the mesa along the trail I had lost looking for me with a headlamp. I yelled back to Rosy and his light soon appeared in the dark giving me a view of him running with a hand-axe raised at the ready. I recounted the events that had transpired to him and the situation at hand as we set off in the direction of camp. We found and followed the trail with aide from his light. As we hit a switchback and turned the corner in the trail, not even fifteen feet ahead was the cougar bathed in the headlamp, crouched half behind a large Ponderosa right off the trail waiting to ambush the two of us. This was the one time I was actually glad to see those glowing eyes staring back at me.

That cougar must have stretched about seven feet from nose to tail and I would put him around 250 pounds, easily too much for either one of us to handle if it pounced. The two of us stopped at that corner waiting to see what would happen next, each with our weapons raised. The cougar let loose a guttural growl that would have sent a novice running, which is exactly what the cat wanted; a delightful game of chasing prey for a meal. We stood our ground as the cougar slinked toward us from his concealed position, presumably to be within pouncing distance. Suddenly the mountain lion broke into a full-on sprint whilst snarling its piercing cry into the darkness of the night. As the cougar closed the gap between us, Rosy asked me, “Ready?” to which I responded, “You know it.”

Getting Started Geocaching

Getting started geocaching,
just how do you do it?
It’s really quite simple,
there is nothing much to it.
Just get online and create an account
How many caches?
It’s an amazing amount!

Ok, sorry for channeling Dr Seuss. I guess I read The Sleep Book to my kids a few too many times.

But getting started geocaching really is quite easy. All you need is a GPS, and then log into one of the geocaching web sites to obtain the Latitude & Longitude (Lat/Lon) of a cache near you. Then go out and find it! It really is that simple.

The hook is that once you find your first cache, you will want to find more. And you will probably want to log your finds so you and others will have a record of it. You also, might like to be able to load a bunch of caches for a given area directly into your GPS rather than have to print out the information and/or manually enter it in. And if you are like me, you want to be able to geocache and any time or place, so being able to access caches in your current location with your phone is an absolute must…ok maybe not a must, but it sure is cool!

So I have assembled a few links that I think could be helpful for new cachers (see below). The geocaching.com FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and Wiki (Wikihow & Wikipedia) are good places to start.

Geocaching.com by Groundspeak is probably the most popular geocaching site there is. It is where I got my start, but there are other sites that maintain their own lists of caches, and I have tried to include a few in the links provided.

My recommendation would be to visit a few of the sites, see which you like and/or have caches near you and sign up. To my knowledge they all have some sort of free signup, and then some offer additional services for a fee.

Once you sign up you can search for caches in your area or someplace you intend to visit, and you are ready to go. When you find the caches you can log your find to the site and it will keep track of the ones you have visited making it easer to find new ones. Some will even send you e-mails when new caches are created.

What do you need? Well besides a GPS, not much. GPS’s are much cheeper than they were only a few years ago, and some even have dedicated Geocaching features! I reciently had the opertunity to try out the Geomate Jr and found it ideal for kids and/or someone who wants to jump into Geocaching quickly. Good footwear is kind of important. You could end up walking quite a bit while looking for the caches or exploring the area. Many caches are placed in a location for a reason. Sometimes while looking for a cache you will find a new place to explore. A pen/pencil is a good idea for signing cache logs and taking notes. Some catchers like to trade small trinkets. This is my kid’s favorite part! So I keep a small bag or pouch with little trinkets that they use to trade. The basic concept is that what is in the cache is available for trade, simply take something and leave something else in its place (preferably of equal or higher value). There are also sometimes items in the caches that are intended to be picked up and moved to other caches. These range from custom made coins to items with tags (know as “travel bugs”). Some of these items are intended to just be moved around, while some have specific places they are trying to get to or tasks they are trying to accomplish (e.g. my daughter created a travel bug with the objective of getting its picture taken with as many cat lovers as possible).

Some caches are hidden in out of the way places. So basic items one would take on a trail hike can also be a good idea (simple first aid kit, jacket or poncho, water, snacks, maps, etc), what you bring depends highly on you, your location, as well as the conditions. Personally I also like to bring a walking stick, if for no other reason than to make sure there are no ‘surprises’ (such as a snake or poison ivy) when I reach for a suspected cache.

After you have found a cache…or 20, you just might start thinking that you wished you had a cache of your own. This is natural, don’t worry or feel embarrassed, it happens to most cachers. Creating your own cache is a bit more involved than finding your first cache, but it is still quite simple. Unfortunately, I am not going to go into the details in this article but will save that for a follow up article I plan to post very soon.

US Swim School Association’s Guide To Surviving A Fall Through The Ice

It is never a good idea to walk onto a frozen lake without following the proper protocols and knowing how long it takes and what temperature must be hit for that body of water to freeze. Each year, it’s estimated that nearly 8,000 people die from drowning. Even though ice may appear safe, some areas can be thinner than others. Unfortunately, when venturing onto ice, not everyone has a friend nearby or carries an item such as an ice pick to help them out of the water. The United States Swim School Association, the leading swim school organization in the country, has created a list of what to do if you fall through ice.
Falling Through Thin Ice – What to do…

Brace Yourself: This may be difficult to do at first but due to the immediate change in body temperature and shock from the cold water, the body’s immediate reaction is going to be to gasp for air and hyperventilate. Breathing in the freezing water increases the chances of drowning.

Keep Calm: Do not flail your arms; this will release more body heat. The body loses 32 times more heat in cold water than in cold air. Panicking will do nothing, keep your head above the water, grab onto the ice in the direction you came from. This ice should be strong enough to help you out of the water.

Do Not Undress Winter Clothes: Keep winter clothing on while in the water, it will not drag you down. It will help keep in body heat and any air inside the clothing will help you float.

Get Horizontal: Once you’ve gotten most of your upper body out of the water, kick your legs as strongly as possible in hopes of getting yourself out of the water and onto the ice.

Roll Onto The Ice: Do not stand up, roll over the ice once you’re out to help prevent more cracks in the ice and from falling in again. Always stay off ice that’s only 3 inches thick or less.

Retrace Your Steps: Once out and far enough away from the hole, trace your footsteps back to safety. Take it slow because your body is still dealing with the affects of the freezing water.

Throw, Don’t Go: Never enter the water to rescue someone. If someone is there to help you it is safer for that person to throw a lifesaving device, branch, coat, or rope into the water, wait until you grab hold and then tow you to safety. Otherwise you could both end up in the water.