Archive for July, 2010

Fun Food Fridays: Peanut Butter Cinnamon S’mores

No more boring s'mores!

This camping recipe was sent in by Anna D. She says: “my camping recipe was discovered the last time I went camping.”


  • Cinnamon graham crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Large marshmallows
  • Hershey chocolate bar

Use cinnamon graham crackers instead of regular. Spread some peanut butter on one half of one cracker.

Put some aluminum foil on the grate over the fire or the coals. In the foil, place the graham cracker (with peanut butter side up), then the Hershey bar and allow it to melt a bit.

While the chocolate is melting, roast the marshmallow. Place the marshmallow on the heated graham cracker/chocolate stack, and top with the other cracker. (If you make the sandwich and THEN pull your roasting fork out of the marshmallow, you’re less likely to get burned!)

Let the s’more cool a bit before eating.


Readers Weigh In:

  • What’s your favorite s’more recipe?
  • Do you have any cooking techniques that you can’t live without?

Set Your Hook

The Best Way To Fish With Worms

ESP Boss discovered a worm threader about three years ago while on vacation in the White Mountains. NOTHING was working to catch fish; not PowerBait, not salmon eggs, not corn: NOTHING. But, there was one “old geezer” who seemed not to be effected by the lousy fishing conditions.

He told ESP Boss and The Queen Mother his fishing secret:


But not just sticking a worm on a treble hook and tossing it in. Nope, the man explained that he was fishing with night crawlers and a worm threader.

Of course, like most good fishing tips, there was a part of the worm threader tip that the man didn’t explain: how to USE the thing. Now, a worm threader seems pretty simple, but there is defiantly a technique to making it work well.

You’ll need:

  • Night crawlers or other live fishing worm
  • Worm threader
  • Single hook with a leader (as opposed to double, or treble)

Everything you'll need to fish with worms!

For all these photos, I use a whole nigh crawler so you can really see what is going on. When I’m using this set up for trout of sunfish, I usually use 1.5″ to 2″ of worm.

The first step is to insert the threader through the body of the worm. You don’t want to go from end to end, rather begin by puncturing the worm about 1/4 of the way up from on end.

This can be difficult since the worm will slide on the tip of the threader and try to curl around your fingers.

Once you have inserted the threader, you will slide it along the mud vein and out the end of the worm. The threader is now encased in the worm. You’re not “sewing” the worm onto the threader but rather sliding the theader through the body of the worm.

3/4 of the worm is on the threader

The tip of the worm threader has a small hole in it. That is where you will place the point of the hook.

The hole is deep enough to hold most of the tip and barb.

Holding the worm threader in one hand and the leader of the hook in the other hand, you will then slide the worm OFF the threader and onto the hook and leader. This is where it can get tricky!


You’ll be forming a V with the threader and leader. It’s a lot easier to do if you keep the leader taut to maintain the V shape.

If the tip of the hook comes out of the tip of the worm threader, you’re best bet is to take the worm off and start again. You can’t really fix it at that point.

The hardest part (once you get the worm started) is getting it over the knot and eye of the hook. The fishing hook is thicker there. You might want to use a shorter section of worm.

See the V shape this makes? Keep tension on the leader to maintain that shape.

Once you have the worm threaded onto the hook, you can cast like normal. Since the hook is incased in the worm, you’re less likely to have a fish steal the worm. And, it makes it very difficult for the worm to fall off. (Always a plus!)

Keep sliding the worm down the leader. See how much is left on the threader? That's why I like to use a smaller piece of worm. Plus, worms tend to get longer & thinner when you're working with them!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What’s your favorite way of fishing a worm?
  • Have you ever used a worm threader? What are your tips for making it work well?
  • What is your go-to bait (or technique) when the fish just aren’t biting?

Pitch Your Tent: Video

Video: Wind Test for Camp Stoves

After the first video, that compared these stoves head-to-head, I had a viewer email me asking how the stoves preformed in the wind. Here is your answer!

For more information about camp stoves, or to purchase any of the stoves featured in the video, please visit

Readers’ Opinions

  • How does your stove preform in windy conditions?
  • Have you had to alter your cooking (how or what) because of wind or weather?
    What advice would you give to a fellow camper if she were going to buy a new camp stove?

Find Your Geocache

7 Tips For Night Caching

Did you realize that you can geocache 24-hours a day? Yep, unlike mountain biking which is TOTALLY limited to daylight, or hiking or kayaking which are NORMALLY limited to daylight, geocaching can be done in the middle of the night!

Hope you're not afraid of the dark!

Here are 7 things to consider if you’re hunting a geocache after the sun goes down:

1. Make sure you’re allowed to go for it after dark!

Even though you CAN geocache after nightfall, there are some caches where you’re not allowed. Some parks don’t allow access after dark so be sure to read all posted signs. I don’t recommend snooping around in some urban areas after dark either unless you want to explain geocaching to Officer McFriendly. Most cemeteries prohibit caching after dark as well.

2. Read the cache description really well.

Darkness adds a whole other factor to geocaching so be sure to read the description carefully before you set out. You’ll want to know in advance about container size, if there are thorns, cactus, or poison ivy around, etc.

3. Bring the correct gear.

Like any cache, you’ll want to bring your gloves, writing utensil, GPS, and geosense. But, be sure you also bring a flashlight or headlamp and plenty of extra batteries! I recommend having BOTH a flashlight and a headlamp; the flashlight for peering under rocks and bushes, the headlamp because it keeps your hands free while you’re walking.

4. Tell somebody where you’ll be.

Let a trusted friend or family know that you’ll be geocaching at night and what time to expect you back. If your GPS fails and you get lost, if you twist an ankle, or just otherwise have a mishap, you’ll want to know that somebody is waiting for you to get home safely. Don’t forget! has links to nearby caches accessible from our attraction pages!

5. Dress appropriately.

Even more than warm clothing, good shoes or boots, and bug spray, be sure to wear reflective clothing. Nothing is creepier than seeing a man-sized SOMETHING poking around in the dark. By wearing something reflective you’ll look more like you’re supposed to be there and less like some scary prowler.

6. Carry ID.

One of my fellow geocachers, hollora, sent me an email suggesting that I remind you to remember to carry your id. She says: “Make sure if you’re trekking you are carrying ID with you. Many women, particularly, never have a wallet in their pack. Vital information should be carried as you never know when cell phone service may not be available.” Good point, hallora! You should always carry ID but in night caching, it’s really important so if you’re stopped by Officer McFriendly or even a cautious person in the backcountry, you have an ID on you.

7. Write up a GREAT log post on when you get home.

Okay, this one is more of a suggestion than a requirement! Cache-Chaos, who found some of the geocaches I’d placed on a middle of the night run. This is what he wrote about one of my favorite caches: The Groaning Gate:

FTF #3 so far for the early morning! 4:05am. The gate groan takes on a whole new perspective in the dark, a little bit creepy!!! I recently saw a mama bear and her two cubs very near this cache, so of course that was on my mind while walking in the dark. Made quick work of it and was on my way T: $1 coin L:75cents SL.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you ever geocache at night?
  • What’s your favorite part of night caching?
  • Have you ever encountered something, while caching at night, that freaked you out?

Mystery Mondays: Guest Author

You might remember that back in April, ESP Boss & I attended the Overland Expo 2010, near Tucson. While there, we met some really amazing people, not the least of them Mark & Brooke Stephens of Mark & Brooke take their young daughter, Chloe, on just about all their outdoor adventures.

Since I’m not a parent, I asked them a few questions about their experiences. I’m really curious to see if all you parents out there have had similar experiences!

Brooke, Chloe, and Mark in camp.

1. You go camping with a toddler! Wow! Why didn’t you & Brooke say “We’ll wait until Chloe is older before taking her camping?” What was the number 1 reason you didn’t want to wait?

Mark: When Brooke and I began dating, we enjoyed a lot of backpacking, rock climbing, trekking, back road driving, and those types of things. We had fun and accomplished some significant achievements together; particular hard or significant hikes and climbing routes especially. We made some good memories together in the outdoors, which really shaped our relationship. We believe that spending our time doing active things together, completing goals together, was good for us as individuals and as a couple. So we simply decided that we’d raise our children while showing them how much fun we can have outside, and also using an active lifestyle to teach goal setting and personal achievement. So, the number one reason? It was a lifestyle choice.

Brooke: I think Mark even bought the domain when I was still pregnant with Chloe! We both knew it might be challenging camping with an infant and toddler, but we understood it can become too easy to wait for “the right time” to get out and do neat things. It’s good for our marriage, and therefore our daughter, to keep doing the things that brought us together as a couple to start.

2. If you could give one piece of advice to families that are just getting started with outdoor adventures, what would it be?

Mark: As parents, we are typically way off base about what will get our children’s attention and hold it. It’s pretty normal to think you have to bring along 4,000 lbs of toys from home and make sure the backseat DVD player is running top notch. It’s just not true. Kids find more entertainment in a fallen log and and some open space than we can fathom. St. Exupery even wrote, “Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes. Only the children know what they are looking for.” He wasn’t full of crap. It’s true.

Brooke: On another side, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable while you camp. In fact, it’s far more enjoyable when you are comfortable. It doesn’t have to be like bad memories of a boy-scout backpacking trip. You can cook good food, and sleep on very comfortable bedding arrangements if you want. Mark has engineered a water tank and shower on our Frontier. Nothing makes me happier than being somewhere beautiful and exploring all day, having a great time with friends around a campfire, and then to top it all off with a shower. Added bonus: if you’re comfortable, your kids will pick up that vibe and have an enjoyable time, too!

3. What items are on your “Can’t have an adventure without _______” list?

Mark: Chloe’s purple blankey, a topo map, a camera, and a bright attitude.

Brooke: Swimsuit, s’mores fixings, headlamp, and a good mixture of music (currently we alternate between Dora and Friends, and Counting Crows)

4. What is the scariest thing about taking a toddler on your outdoor adventures?

Mark: Having to come home. She hates that part. No kidding! How many times have we been out on a little hike or bike ride and if she senses us turning around she’ll say, “We’re not going home!”

On a serious side, getting too cavalier about her safety, or oblivious to potential danger, is a constant thing we watch out for. Chloe recently fell into the coals of a dead campfire and burned the skin on her lower back. There were three adults within an arm’s reach of her and it still happened. Chloe wasn’t running or jumping or anything like that; she simply tripped over her own feet while walking and tumbled in.

Brooke: I have a fear sometimes that we are ruining all of the routines we work so hard to put in place at home. Sleeping through the night, eating well, having good playtimes inside and outside, and most recently, using the toilet like a big girl. It just seems so dangerous to mess with those things when they’re going so smoothly at home. It’s no different than every parent feels taking the kids on vacation, though. Just throw the routines out the window for a while, keep what semblance of normalcy you can, and then get back on track at home later.

5. What is the best thing about taking a toddler on your outdoor adventures?

Mark: The absolute best part? We don’t have to put our travels on hold. We get to expose her to the world, to wildlife, to plant life, to culture. We’ve taken her to Mexico a few times and she’s played with local children there, eaten the food, seen 17th Century missions, learned a few words of Spanish. Chloe knows that cacti have spikes that can hurt her, she knows what a California condor looks like and can see a picture of one and call it out. To some degree, I’m just a parent bragging about my child right now. But she’s experienced some cool things and we can see that she’s learning from them.

Brooke: I love seeing her eyes light up when we talk about getting the tent and truck ready for a road trip. And it’s like that when we’re someplace new, too, she is eager to see and play and talk about everything. I think about how many types of experiences she is getting and as a teacher, I can appreciate how that will help her future learning in school. Also, I like the slower pace we are “forced” to take on with a toddler along. We might spend a long lunch at the park, just so she can stretch and play for a while before our next drive. Having a child with us gives us a need to immerse deeper into where we are and to interact with more people along the way.

6. How do you plan your trip? What resources do you use? What steps do you take to make sure the trip is fun?

Maps! I like to look for the empty spaces on the Arizona map. Other times a trip just kind of unfolds as an attachment to something else. One time we were at home and got to talking about our dishes and how we wanted something new in the cabinets. I suggested we drive down to Nogales on the Mexican border for a day and buy some Mexican glasses. That flourished into a fun three-day weekend near Patagonia; we camped in the mountains down there, did a little biking, and made some tasty meals. Eventually, we made it to Nogales and bought those glasses.

I also like to read Arizona Highways and get specific ideas for destinations or things to do that I’ve never been to or done. Sometimes it just serves as inspiration to go find my own backcountry drive.

We just discovered and look forward to using that as a resource as well. (We met Kim at the Overland Expo 2010.)

To maximize fun for everybody, we try to keep the driving time down, eat meals at funky small town restaurants, find hikes or geocaches to find. Chloe can’t hike much more than hour on her own two feet before she starts asking to be carried, so that’s limiting. One of the best formulas for maximum fun is to go someplace and set up camp by about 3:00 or 4:00; that gives us plenty of decompression time for exploring, relaxing, and getting dinner ready before the sun goes down.

However, I think for a trip to be really fun is that both Brooke and I have to be on board with the whole idea. If she or I really don’t want to be on the trip, it’ll contaminate the spirit of things and deteriorate everything else. So, it’s best if we all have a good attitude. Chloe just wants some open space to go play. That’s easy.

Background / About

Mark and Brooke run their website as a source of inspiration and advice for other parents who enjoy adventure travel with their children – or parents-to-be who have that understandably typical fear of being forced to trade their active lifestyle for something dull. They enjoy the outdoors with their daughter Chloe by traveling throughout Arizona, the southwestern U.S., and Mexico.

Fun Food Fridays: 3 Trail Mixes

Trail mix is a camping favorite, either for a fun snack or to take with you on a hike. The goals of trail mix are to:

  1. Be yummy
  2. Provide a quick energy boost
  3. Travel well

Some people use trail mix to replace a meal, especially while hiking. I’ve never been able to do that but I do eat trail mix as an easy, non-messy, portable snack! (And I ALWAYS bring lunch too!)

Fantastic Trail Mix


  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit pieces
  • Goldfish® crackers
  • M&Ms® (optional)

For nuts, you want something that is not too oily and that holds up well in a plastic bag at the bottom of your backpack. I prefer almonds or pecans. Even though pecans are a soft nut and will crumble, they’re easy to eat. I don’t use peanuts or cashews, but I don’t like them anyway!

Dried fruit is the quick, healthy way to get a bit of sugar into your blood stream. Good choices are raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, chopped prunes, banana or apple chips.

Goldfish® or other small crackers will add salt (as will nuts) to the trail mix. Nothing tastes better to me than when my raisins get salty! Goldfish are a good choice because they don’t break easily. Also good would be Wheat Thins® or Triscuits® . I don’t recommend Ritz or Saltines since they will both crumble easily.

M&Ms® are a good candy bet since they don’t melt easily. I don’t like candy in my trail mix- there’s enough sugar from the fruit.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with a big spoon. Then, spoon into snack size baggies. Store your trail mix in a cool dry place.

Cheesy Trail Mix

This is a quick trail mix that can be thrown together in camp or mixed up at home. Its low in sugar since there’s no candy.


  • 2 cups mini pretzels
  • 1 cup cheese snack crackers (either Goldfish® or Cheez-it®)
  • 1 cup honey roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup raisins

You can also substitute dried cranberries for the raisins. Place all ingredients into a plastic baggie, seal, and then shake.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the amounts of the ingredients – it’s your mix, fix it the way you want!

The Outdoor Princess’ Favorite Trail Mix

A quick trail mix that I take just about everywhere


  • 1 handful of Ocean Spray® Craisins® Sweetened Dried Cranberries
  • 1.5 or 2 handfuls of pecans

I eat about three Craisins® with each nut to balance out the flavors.

Set Your Hook

3 Advantages To Using A Bobber

Bobbers are some of the most popular fishing tackle ever. They’re easy to use (and easy to use incorrectly!), inexpensive, and perfect for a multitude of fishing conditions. Don’t let the bright colors fool you into thinking bobbers are only for kids!

3 Advantages To Using A Bobber

  1. You can float your bait in the middle of the water column. Unless you’re boat fishing, it’s pretty difficult to suspend your bait 5 feet off the bottom and 5 feet down from the surface of the water WITHOUT using a bobber.
  2. You can see if a fish is interested in your bait. When a fish has your bait, the bobber might start “swimming” in a direction, jerk, or completely disappear! How great is it to not only FEEL the line moving but also see evidence that a fish is interested in the bait!
  3. Bobbers can make it easier to cast out. Contrary to popular belief, having additional weight on your line usually makes it easier to cast your line. Having more weight means your line will cast farther, with more accuracy, and be less likely to be blown off course mid-cast.

Types Of Bobbers

Ball Bobber

Ball Bobbers
Ball bobbers are those iconic read & white bobbers that always seem to come with the Snoopy fishing pole kiddie kit. But don’t underestimate their value! Ball bobbers range in size from small enough to catch little sunfish to large enough to fish for Northern Pike (and suspend a 10 inch bait minnow!)

The ball bobber has a spring-loaded button on the top. When the full button is pressed down it releases a wire hook at the bottom of the bobber. If the button is pushed down around the edges, just the button goes into the body of the bobber and the wire hook at the top of the bobber is revealed. Place your line through BOTH hooks and the bobber is fixed into position — perfect for fishing at 5 feet off the bottom!

Stick Bobber

Pencil Bobbers or Stick Bobbers
Pencil bobbers are the longest and thinnest bobbers. They also might have a bulge in the center of the bobber (round or egg shaped.) Like a ball bobber, a pencil bobber clips directly to the fishing line, but the pencil bobber only has one clasp. If the bobber is weighted on one end (typical) then the bobber floats upright in the water. If the bobber isn’t weighted, then it will float horizontally in the water and will stand upright when the fish pulls on the hook.

Slip Bobber

Slip Bobbers
Slip bobbers are used when an angler is fishing in deep water. Slip bobbers are also perfect for when you need to change the depth of your bait frequently. Slip bobbers have a hole through the center so they can slide up and down the fishing line. There is usually a small knot tied on the fishing line to stop the bobber from sliding up the line. Whatever the distance is between the bobber stop and the hook is the depth at which the hook will hang.

How To Use A Bobber

The first thing on your line (closest to the pole) will be your bobber. When you clip it on, pull about 5 feet of line off the tip of your pole and attach the bobber. You can adjust the length of the line based on where the fish are AND how much line you can handle to cast out. I recommend having the bobber a bit closer to the hook until you learn how to cast it out! (Speaking from experience here!)

Then, you’ll want some weights. I typically put my weights about 12-15 inches away from the hook. You can use clam shell weights that clip to the line or slip sinkers. You want enough weight to suspend the line below the bobber, but not enough to drag the bobber under!

Lastly, you’ll want your baited hook. Make sure you have enough bait to just cover the hook. Much more and a fish will just eat around the hook and leave the hook hanging there! (Again, speaking from experience!)

When you cast out, let the bobber settle, and then reel in so there is very little slack in your line. Too much slack and the breeze will move the bobber. And if you have too much slack, you won’t be able to set your hook when the bobber does go under. You want the line slack free, but not so tight that the bobber is floating at your feet!

5 Final Bobber Tips

1. Size matters. You want to choose the smallest bobber that will float your bait and a weight. The smaller a bobber is the more sensitive it is and the less chance a fish can feel or see it. If the bobber sinks after you cast it out, you have too much weight on it. If this happens use less weight or a bigger bobber.

2. Make sure it’s attached! I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen somebody cast out their line only to have the bobber and line part company mid-air. When you’re casting 25-30 feet off shore, there’s no way you’ll swim out to retrieve a bobber!

3. Start Inexpensive But Quality. I recommend buying ONE high quality bobber. Don’t get the most expensive bobber but stay away from the cheapies too. You want a bobber that is well made enough to perform as it’s supposed to, but not so expensive you’ll never take it out of the tackle box. (Or yell if you lose it!)

4. Bobber Colors. Colors don’t matter at all to performance or to the fish. They do matter to the angler though! Some colors are easier to see in some lighting conditions. I recommend buying your favorite bobber style in a multitude of colors and sizes.

5. Cut Off Your Line. Since the bobber attaches to the line in one form or another, you always run the risk of shredding the fishing line. Most tears are too small to see with the naked eye and only become apparent when your line breaks as you’re trying to land a MONSTER fish. I recommend removing the last 6-10 feet after ever fishing trip anyway since you can’t see any damage caused by bobbers, rocks, or weeds.

Readers Weigh In:

  • Do you ever fish with a bobber?
  • What is your favorite bobber style?
  • What tips do you have for fishing with a bobber?

Pitch Your Tent: Campsites

9 Tips to Pick A Great Campsite

Have you heard that there’s more interest in camping this year that ever before? Due to changes in how people budget for vacations, camping is suddenly ‘in vogue’ and people are heading to the hills.

Look at the slope of that tent! Might not be a very comfortable night's sleep.

So, here’s a question that’s being asked over and over:

How do I pick a great campsite at a public campground?

Good question! Here are 9 tips for you.

First off, decide what you’re looking for:

  1. Do you need trees for shade?
  2. Will it be windy?
  3. Tent or RV?
  4. If you have a tent, do you want a tent pad? Tent pads are usually mostly level and free of rocks and roots to tear the bottom of the tent.
  5. If the campsite doesn’t have a tent pad, is the campsite level enough for you to be comfortable?
  6. If you have an RV, do you need a pull-through spot or are you comfortable backing in? What about slide- or pop-outs; is there enough room?
  7. Can you bring your pets?
  8. What is the placement of the fire ring in relation to your tent or camper? Will the (prevailing) wind blow the fire at your “living” space?
  9. How close do you want to be to your neighbors? The bathroom? The water faucet? The camp host?

Lots of shade, but not much of a tent pad.

Some campgrounds have lights that stay on all night — especially near the camp host or the restrooms.

Obviously, you can’t really tell ANY of this information about a specific campsite from a website. If at all possible, go to the campground that you want to stay at and drive around. A family favorite campground here in Arizona is Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff Arizona. I know that the sites that are located on top of the hill, while pretty, are subject to wind. The sites just off the hill are much more sheltered. Another campsite is raked by headlights all evening long since it’s on a curve of the road. I really studied the layout of the campground during a pre-trip drive-through.

How to pick a great campsite:

If possible, visit the campground and come up with your first, second and third choices. Most campground hosts have a map of the campground that you can take with you. Make notes on it! Write down sites you’d love to stay at and sites you don’t want to have.

Not a lot of shade here. That might be fine if you don't spend a lot of time in camp.

Ask around. The camp host is the expert about that campground. Tell them what you’re looking for in a perfect site and then have them make site recommendations. If there are people in the spot that you’re thinking of using, ask them how they like the spot.

Reservations can be a good thing! Some public campgrounds offer reservations rather than first-come first-served. Often, not all spots are available for reservations. I recommend reservations when:

  • You’re going for an extended stay and want to make sure you’ve got a spot
  • Your trip is months ahead and you want to be guaranteed a spot
  • You have a favorite campsite
  • You’re going camping over a busy weekend like Memorial Day or Labor Day
  • Book really early if you can; especially over holiday weekends!

Look at all the big trees! But, how close are the neighbors?

If you are going to do a first-come, first-served campsite, then here are some additional tips:

  • Campgrounds are busy on the weekend. If you can, plan to arrive on a Wednesday or Thursday to get your spot.
  • If you can’t get to the campground mid-week, arrange to arrive at check out time. I’ve actually sat on a picnic table as a family was leaving to make sure I got the LAST space in a campground. (Um, I asked the family if they minded first!)
  • Be flexible!

Readers Weigh In:

  • What are your suggestions for finding the perfect campsite?
  • Do you have any funny (or horror) stories about a campsite?

Find Your Geocache

Geocachers Fight Weeds

Most of the time, when we see an article about geocaching, it’s because the news media has “discovered” this fantastic hobby and has decided to spread the word. I think that’s always a good thing since it helps bring new cachers to the hobby.

But, in doing a Google search for “geocaching articles” today, I found a totally new spin on “geocaching in the news.”

County Recruits Geocachers in Battle Against Invasive Weeds

This article is by Russell Nichols, staff writer for

Geocachers in Ada County, Idaho, have a new mission, should they choose to accept it: tracking down hidden containers that hold data on noxious weeds.

This is part of an ongoing operation set up by the county’s Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department to pinpoint expanding noxious weeds before they wreak havoc on the environment. In years past, the department used informational brochures and fliers to educate the public on harmful weeds. Now they’re taking the high-tech, hide-and-seek approach known as geocaching to spread the word.

“There are a lot of people in the county who do this,” said Jake Mundt, the department’s administrative operations manager. “We put in a more formal mechanism to allow geocachers, if they find the same weed in another area, to report where it is. This helps us develop our action plans to help us control or eradicate noxious weeds in the region.”

Geocaching is a global phenomenon in which recreationists use GPS receivers and other navigational tools to locate any of the million-plus containers, called caches, hidden in rural and urban areas around the globe. For the past 10 years, devotees have declared that geocaching forces you to go to places you’ve never gone before.

Seeking to attract visitors and inspire residents to go exploring, more state and local governments have been looking to “cache” in. Georgia reportedly launched a high-tech treasure hunt in May, hiding caches at state parks for seekers to find. In Palm Coast, Fla., the GIS division planted containers in parks, trails and natural reserves with “a treat” inside each cache.

“We’ve taken the time to plant 10 geocaches in locations we feel are the hidden gems of Palm Coast,” according to the city’s website. “Just plug the coordinates into your GPS receiver and start hunting.”

In Ada County, local officials took a different path. Bounded by two rivers and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the county already lures recreationists out of their homes to explore the great outdoors: hikers, mountain bikers and, of course, the geocachers, according to Laura Wylde, the Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department’s public outreach coordinator.

But of the 64 plant species the state lists as noxious weeds, 32 of them can be found in Ada County, local officials said. These weeds threaten public health, crops, livestock and land. To help keep them from spreading, the county hid four caches throughout the county, stocked with information about weed infestations and weed control efforts. Officials plan to hide more in the future.

Armed with handheld GPS receivers and maps, geocachers can track these containers, learn about the weeds, and log and submit the coordinates of any other infestations they come across. It makes sense to recruit geocachers. For them, going new places and discovering new things comes with the territory.

“It’s the challenge of going new places you may never have gone,” said Clint Hutchison, webmaster for Idaho Geocachers, which has more than 1,000 members. “There’s a lot of things to see that people don’t realize are there.”

Ed Lenhart of Boise has lived in Idaho for 35 years, but since he started geocaching nine years ago, he said he’s seen more of the state and country than ever before. Retired from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Lenhart was the one who pitched the geocaching idea to the county’s Weed, Pest and Mosquito Abatement Department.

He said he goes on geocaching expeditions four times a week and he even bought a few nature books for research, but wanted a way to report his findings. He believes this program will help local geocachers get active in the fight against noxious weeds.

“It’ll be a lot more eyes out there looking for this stuff once we educate geocachers on what to look for,” Lenhart said. “I just want to see more counties and states get involved, and maybe even a federal agency. If geocachers can help, I think we can spot a lot of weeds.”

I wish the article mentioned a few TYPES of weeds and why they are noxious.

I think this is an excellent premise to have geocachers help fight the spread of an invasive species. (I JUST wrote about that in the fishing world! See my article about stopping invasive species.)

I’ve seen articles complaining that geocaching is bad for nature since geocachers hide containers, create paths to the containers, and generally clutter up the forests. (I guess those people don’t know that we practice CITO!)

This is the first article I’ve found that doesn’t just highlight the fun of geocaching as a hobby, but also points out how geocachers help out in their communities.

Readers Weigh In:

  • What do you think of Ada County’s geocaching promotion?
  • Would you participate in logging sites of the weeds?

Mystery Mondays: Night Kayaking

Fireworks in Prescott, AZ 7/4/2010

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you all had a safe, fun holiday. I think that ESP Boss & I have just found a brand-new holiday tradition that I wanted to share with you.

Kayaking by LED lantern light to watch fireworks!

ESP Boss saw a flier in a local sporting goods store about renting canoes to go out on Willow Lake in Prescott, Arizona, to watch the fireworks. Since that sounded like our type of outdoor adventure, we left the barbeque a bit early to load the kayaks.

Besides the kayak, life vest, and paddle, here are some supplies that you’ll need:

  • Insect repellent. We used Off! Clip On Mosquito Protection and it worked great. There were bats swooping all over munching down on the skeeters but we didn’t get a single bite!
  • Coleman LED lanterns (2 for the front of the kayak, 2 for the back)
  • Battery operated LED light stick (2)
  • Long-sleeve tee-shirt or button-up tee (for when it gets chilly!) I was really glad I had brought mine because just before the fireworks started, a slight breeze came up and I got chilled. With it, I was able to enjoy the show and not be too cold.

Before you launch, be sure that you turn on the LED lanterns and push them as far into the bow and stern of your kayak as they’ll go. For extra glow, we had two lanterns in both the front and the back.  We had these really cool red, white, and blue, LED light sticks that were about 10 inches long and ran off 2 AA batteries. They fit perfectly under the knee pads of the kayaks for 360 degrees of glow. (We picked them up on clearance at Walgreens; when we went back to get more, the store was sold out!)

Isn't this a cool photo of ESP Boss?

In fact, David, a new friend we met at the lake called us the red fireflies. And we had several people tell us how cool the two kayaks looked floating on the water during the fireworks!

You can ONLY get amazing photos like this if you're on the water. (And lucky with the camera!)

For all you kayakers, if you’ve never kayaked in the dark, you are totally missing something. If you are going night kayaking, here are some tips for you:

  1. Check your local boating regulations to find out what the rules are about night boating. Here in Arizona, you must have a bow and stern light for any boating after dark.
  2. Check the batteries before you leave! Nothing is worse that getting to the lake and having a dead flashlight.
  3. Bring warm clothes — just in case you get chilly.
  4. Wear your life vest! In many states just having it in the boat is enough. But if you tip out in the dark, you want to be wearing that life vest not having it float away in the black!
  5. Bring a headlamp so you can use it to light up that path you’ll be paddling along.

A few more photos of fireworks:

We were close enough to hear the "WHUMP" as the fireworks were launched.

Happy Independence Day!

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