Friday, July 23, 2010

Operation Purple at Camp Campbell Gard

July 21, 2010 (Hamilton, Ohio)

We arrived on Tuesday night in a misty rain to a warm and friendly welcome by the Director, Jim Sexstone, and Asst. Director, Pete Fasano. The YMCA camp, beautifully situated on the banks of the Great Miami River in southern Ohio, was established in the mid-1920s for boys and girls of all races and faiths. The motto of the camp, “Character through Camping,” underscores how deeply our experiences in the out-of-doors can inspire us in developing a personal ethic. Leave No Trace shares this same sentiment, and it is based on a respect and love for the outdoors.

This week Camp Campbell Gard is hosting Operation Purple, a camp program of the National Military Family Association for children of active duty US military personnel. Our program was one of several activities on the camp’s Military Day, which included a flight simulator, military vehicles, tug-of-war and pilot-rescue obstacle course. Undaunted by such entertaining competition, we pulled out our big guns: the poop tube, bear canister, Bigfoot feet and our most popular games for teaching the principles of Leave No Trace. Nearly 200 campers and staff visited our learning station during the morning. After a great barbecue lunch, campers participated in service projects of trash collection, trail maintenance and removal of invasive species on the camp property.

We can only guess whether today’s experiences have given the campers a stronger sense of kinship with Camp CG and a deeper appreciation of the camp’s philosophy. What we do know is that tonight there are sleeping bags spread out in the field under the starry sky, fireflies are busy in their ancient choreography, and the river is silently flowing along its timeless course to the sea. Children’s sleepy voices are drifting across the night air, no doubt debating one of life’s enduring questions: “Does Bigfoot really exist?” All is well, and for the moment, life is good indeed at Camp Campbell Gard.

Hope to see you down the road,

Barrett and Peggy

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rodeo Roundup at Land Between the Lakes

July 18, 2010

Land Between the Lakes (LBL) is a fascinating story of human experience interwoven within the fabric of a distinctive ecoregion. LBL is administered by the US Forest Service, and is a hugely popular recreation destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. By natural circumstance, the land itself is distinctive. The Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers converge around a 60 mile-long peninsula on the border of western Kentucky and Tennessee. The history of the area is deeply etched into the landscape, and the story stretches from the Native Americans to modern times. What was once known as the “land between the rivers” became the “Land Between the Lakes” with the completion of Kentucky Dam by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1944.

We spent our first night at LBL camped out at Wranglers Campground, a 200-site campground set up exclusively for horseback riders. Who would have guessed that we would leave Colorado and drive all the way to Kentucky to attend a rodeo? Wranglers Rodeo, set up in an arena under lights, featured calf-roping, barrel racing and bull-riding. The horsemanship was mighty fine, particularly that of the cowgirls in the barrel racing. Especially memorable were the powerful bulls that effortlessly shed one after another of the hapless riders. We fell asleep in our camper on Friday night to the bark of the late-night PA system commentary on the calf-roping competition.

On Saturday we awoke to discover that throughout the campground, more folks were riding than walking: bare back and bare footed, 2 and 3 kids per horse or mule, wagons and carts… whinnies and neighs mingled with jangling stirrups and spurs. The campground was packed for the two nights of rodeo competition and daytime activities, including our 3-hour Leave No Trace program on Saturday morning in the campground pavilion.

Over the next couple of days we explored other parts of the park, from the north end at Hillman Ferry Campground, then 50 miles south to Piney Campground in Tennessee. On Sunday we visited LBL’s only surviving historic structure, a tiny, restored church, St. Stephens, set way, way back in the woods and dating from the late 1800’s. Each day of our visit we did programs for campers and for staff members of LBL, along with lots of informal interactions with fellow RVers. We were impressed with the serenity of the place, even when busy with campers, and it’s clear that the forests and shorelines of LBL offer truly outstanding exploration and recreation opportunities, whether by horse, bicycle, kayak, or bass boat.

Many thanks are due to Jared, Alex, Jamey, Rick, AK, Will, and James for being great hosts during our visit.

Happy Trails Until We Meet Again…

Barrett and Peggy

(No doubt about it… the “e-word” addition for our LBL visit is definitely “equestrian.”)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Konza Prairie Panorama


We are halfway across the country tonight after driving from Leave No Trace base camp in Boulder, CO, across Kansas and Missouri to Illinois (Benton). Early in the day we stopped off at the 8,600-acre Konza Prairie Nature Preserve near Manhattan, Kansas. The Konza Prairie is a virgin tallgrass prairie (never tilled) in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Peggy had read and heard a lot about the site, as it is a United Nations “Man and the Biosphere” site and jointly owned by the Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University.

It is a beautiful preserve, well managed by KSU and a support organization of one hundred volunteers. We walked half of a loop trail before we came across Earl Allen, a volunteer and botany enthusiast who gave us an immersion course about the tallgrass prairie in record time. He shared his wealth of knowledge and answered questions about grasses and wildflowers, birds and reptiles, geology and history, and his enthusiasm for Konza was infectious.

At the end of our hike Earl invited us for a tour of the old stone barn and Dewey Ranch house and barn, built of Cottonwood limestone, beautifully restored a few years back to serve as education and research support facilities. Earl, upon hearing about our work with Leave No Trace, was eager to learn more about the “Packing with PEAK” and “Connect Grant” programs that are designed to support the kind of youth outreach programs that he will be involved with later in the summer at Konza Prairie. We left him with a packet of information about Leave No Trace and he left us with a new appreciation for the story of Konza and the dedication of the volunteers like Earl who are instrumental in preserving places of rare and endangered natural and cultural heritage like the native tallgrass prairie at historic Dewey Ranch.

Friday, July 9, 2010

It's a Jellystone 4th of July!

July 4, 2010 (Lyons, CO)

It’s been a memorable 4th of July weekend at Jellystone Park of Estes, near Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. We made presentations on Saturday and Sunday in the Jellystone open-air pavilion, and engaged our audience in Leave No Trace PEAK Pack games of “What Principle Am I?” and “How Long Does It Last?” The younger generation had spirited debates with their parents as to how long it takes a wool sock (2-5 yrs.), orange peels (1-5 yrs.), and a disposable diaper (10-20 yrs.) to decompose, and everyone was pretty amazed to learn that a plastic bottle decomposes in 200 to 400 years. Based on the audience response, we’re thinking that there will be a few more folks carrying trash bags on their next hike, prepared to pick up litter along the trail. We talked with the chief Jellystone Ranger after our Saturday presentation, and he welcomed the chance to use Leave No Trace materials on future nature hikes with campers.

Faith models the Bigfoot feet.

On Saturday afternoon we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park to take a heart-pumping hike up Deer Mountain (elev. 10,013 ft.). At the top were panoramic views of the Estes Park Valley, Beaver Meadows, and Moraine Park, with Long’s Peak (elev. 14,256 ft.) dominating the view to the southwest. As we hiked back down to the trailhead we were accompanied by the melodious song of the hermit thrush as the sun set over the Mummy Range.

Back at Jellystone Park on the 4th of July we attended the flag-raising and cheered on the “Pots and Pans” parade with Yogi Bear leading the way. Several campers asked about our brand new Coleman E-1 pop-up camper and we compared notes and got some useful tips from our neighbors who were long-time Coleman pop-up owners. Our Jellystone hosts were really hospitable and helpful, and the Jellystone community was most welcoming!

Peggy and her new friend, Yogi Bear!

Hope to see you down the road,

Numbered ListBarrett and Peggy

PS: Our new e-words are “ethics” and “eternity.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

e-tour Visits CORE Service Learning Project Team in Outlaw Country

July 2, 2010

Today we drove from Casper to Kaycee, in north central Wyoming and then into the Middle Fork of the Powder River Management Area. We met with a great bunch of young folks who were working with Wyoming’s Conservation, Outdoor Recreation and Education youth program (one of Leave No Trace’s Connect Grant recipients). They are doing a service project for the Bureau of Land Management: trail maintenance and eliminating social trails, trash collection, new interpretive signage, and many other projects to protect this beautiful canyon rim campsite and surrounding environment. It was inspiring to hear about how the group was living and practicing the basic tenets of Leave No Trace while actively engaged in healing the damaged landscape.

After our presentation, CORE participants prepare to hike into Outlaw Canyon.

The campsite is high on the rim of Outlaw Canyon and offers great views up and down the Middle Fork of the Powder River. Across the canyon, we could see the cave where various outlaws of the Old West, including the Sundance Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Hole-in-the-Wall outlaw gang, laid low after their episodes of banditry.

Our presentation turned out to be a couple of highly interactive hours with a good mix of dialogue and games. Before we departed, we watched as the group descended the steep trail into the canyon to swim, fish and explore. We could imagine the sense of accomplishment and pleasure that they felt, knowing that the improved trail was largely a product of their own efforts, and that they had contributed to preserving the integrity of this historic and awesome site for others to enjoy.

CORE Team Members Amber and Ed are ready to test their
fishing skills in the Middle Fork of the Powder River.

Our latest addition to define the “e” in e-tour is “electronic” (yes, if you are reading this, you are following us electronically).

Hope to see you on the road,

Peggy and Barrett

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Leave No Trace e-tour Visits Camp Sacajawea

July 1, 2010

The e-tour has officially begun! After months of anticipation, we traveled from Baton Rouge to our Boulder, Colorado rendezvous with Leave No Trace tour coordinator extraordinaire, Dave Winter. We spent several busy days meeting with the friendly and dynamic Leave No Trace staff, and getting oriented to our e-tour Subaru Tribeca & Coleman E-1 pop-up camper, which will be our home-on-wheels for the next four months.

Then, on Wednesday the real fun began. We drove with Dave Winter to Camp Sacajawea located high in the mountains overlooking Casper, Wyoming and gave a presentation to an enthusiastic group of girl scouts. The girls were eager and active participants throughout the presentation. It was a great experience for our first e-tour presentation.

Throughout the tour we will be asking our audiences to help define the “e” in e-tour. The Camp Sacajawea group added the words “elated” and “everybody” to our “e” list, and they were “excellent” hosts indeed for our first workshop.
Hope to see you on our travels,
Barrett and Peggy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010