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Help Stop State Park Closures

by JP on Sep.27, 2009, under Camping, Cycling Trails, Disc Golf, Environmental Issues, Gear Review, Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails, Outdoor Travel

Help Save My State Parks
Last year I wrote about the distinct possibility of our State Parks losing funding, and the need to volunteer at them to help save money.

As I predicted, that time is very near. I recently wrote my state representative stating my opposition to the possibility of future state park closures/funding cuts. My representative responded with what I believe amounted to a statement saying that times are bad, and somethings just had to be cut.

My fellow Georgians, times may be economically tough, but our we willing to sacrifice our state’s beauty for tough times? If not, I encourage you to take a very simple action now.

The simple fact is, Georgia’s state parks are not any type of drain on our economic system, the cutting of these will save the state very little money and are legislators attempt to put a band-aid on a bullet wound. While legislators may believe this is a possible solution to part of the economic problem, we need to encourage our legislators to find funding elsewhere. Perhaps these legislative/executive bodies should stop spending funds on travel to distant places? Maybe if they spent a little more time in Georgia’s parks they would recognize the beauty and historical significance they have to their real constituents.

Go to SaveMyStateParks.org, and click on advocate to sign their petition. In addition to signing the petition, you can click here

and send a letter to your state representatives, the Lt. Governor, and Governor Perdue stating your concerns about state park closures.

I cannot encourage you enough to take the very simple action of emailing this letter. This does work, my state representative wrote me back within 48 hours of me sending the letter out. If we can get people from every district writing on this then we will virtually assure protection of some of the nation’s best state parks. All it takes is a click or two, so get that email sent out quick before we lose our parks forever.

Help Save My State Parks

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The Epic Summer Roadtrip – Day 1

by JP on Sep.22, 2009, under Day 1, Roadtrip

The Epic Summer Roadtrip

Roadtrip Map

School had just ended for my wife and I. After 190 days of screaming kids, we were ready for a vacation. Less than a day into summer break, and we had packed for our ultimate roadtrip across the United States.

Setting out from Rome, Georgia we immediately made a wrong turn towards Fort Payne, Alabama, making the mistake of following MapQuest directions. Our plans included two weeks on the road, but we consciously decided to only plan ahead a few days at a time to allow maximum opportunity to visit sites, and yet remain flexible not to miss anything. First on the list,  to reach Yellowstone in 4 days and see as many interesting US sites/cities as we could. We made one reservation ahead of time, 2 nights at a campground in West Yellowstone, Montana. Besides that, we decided we’d stop when we felt like it and car camp across the country.

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Our first planned destination was St. Louis, Missouri. We hoped to be there by Day 2. After a wrong turn, we quickly decided that we wouldn’t stop in Tennessee, as we could see most of Tennessee on shorter trips from Rome. Instead, we drove North across the state into Kentucky. By 11:00 p.m. we decided we’d better find somewhere to camp. Unfortunately, no state parks would allow us to check in so late. As such, we opted for a KOA in Paducah, Kentucky that was closing in five minutes. Pulling in, we could tell, even while pitching the tent in the dark, the campground was nearly empty. I don’t know why we were surprised to find that Paducah would have an empty campground (kampground for those KOAers). A light rain started coming down just as we checked in, making tent set-up a little cool, temperature wise. We set up camp quickly hoping for a good night of rest, only to find out why the campground was empty. Our campsite was too close to the highway and traffic would make sleeping a little difficult.  If this had been a weekend trip, all of the cold, rain, and noise would have been a spirit breaker, but we had just embarked on a trip I had dreamed of since graduating high school. Nothing would spoil my mood, not even a difficult night of sleeping.

Paducah KY Campground

Waking up in the morning, we were rewarded with some very pleasant views of a small pond separating us from the highway. We also discovered some nicer campsites deeper in the woods, and much further from the road. This KOA was very cool, just don’t arrive at 11:00 p.m., or don’t forget to request a site away from it all. Turns out, the staff were just wanting to make sure we didn’t wake up the campers that were likely asleep, and I can’t blame them for that.

Paducah KY campground

Day 2 will be our first roadside stops, and St. Louis.

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Camping and Hiking with the Family Dog

by JP on Sep.21, 2009, under Camping, Environmental Issues, Hiking Trails, Outdoor Travel

Hiking and Dogs

Hiking and camping with man’s best friend can be a lot of fun, a good bonding experience with your pet, and great exercise for both of you.

If you’re like me, you may feel a little bad having to leave man’s best friend at home when heading out on a trip. Not to mention finding someone to feed your pal and take care of him. So why not take him along?

On one of my most recent camping trips, I decided that it was time to bring the family dog along for some hiking and camping. Even before setting out, I quickly found that camping and hiking with a dog presents several new issues to be dealt with. Now, many of the guides out there for having a dog on a trip presumes that you have one of these great, obedient dogs that always follows your every command. I will presume, that is not the case for most of us. My dog is a great dog, but not trained to listen to my every word, as some may suggest it should be.

Planning

When bringing a dog along on the family camping trip, or on a backpacking/hiking trip, you are essentially bringing an extra person that can’t talk or plan for themselves. As such, one needs to make sure not only to bring their own food, water, and gear, but also those essential needs of the dog. This includes not only dog food, but water, bowls for eating, a collar, a leash, and potentially a lead that can be easily tied to a tree while you setup camp. For long hikes, I also suggest a dog pack to distribute some of the weight.

Transportation

One of the reasons I do not typically bring my dog camping with me, is that I typically camp far away from home. Transporting a dog can be really problematic. Cars are not really designed with dogs in mind. As such, one needs to make sure to have some method of allowing the dog to sit and lie in a way that prevents them from sliding and rolling on a quick turn or brake. Allowing a dog to roam in a moving car can be dangerous for the dog, the driver, and to other drivers on the road, due to how distracting the dog can be, and the likelihood of injury when the dog is able to move freely. Manufacturers have designed all sorts of dog seat belt harnesses, as well as various types of crates made for transportation in a vehicle.

Making Stops to and From

Another issue you may quickly realize when traveling with your dog is how much more difficult it becomes to make any stops on the way to and from your camp site, especially in the summer. Summertime temperatures in the South can easily reach 100 degrees. In a vehicle these temperatures rapidly go up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes. DO NOT leave your dog in the car in the summer. Countless dogs die each year from being left in a sweltering vehicle. Leaving the windows down and/or parking in the shade help very little.  As such, make sure you have planned your trip to minimize stops, try to plan for cool, shady areas when stops are necessary, and never stay out of the car for more than five minutes if the dog must be left in the vehicle. Do, however, allow time for your dog to get out of the car and eliminate waste, otherwise your drive will become a smelly mess. Dogs also need to stretch their legs, just like humans do.

Campsite Arrival

Once you and Fido make it to the campsite, you will likely want to setup your tent and campsite. Almost all campsites will require that dogs remain on a leash. As such, I suggest hooking your canine pal up on a lead that will allow him some room to roam within the campsite, while not bothering other campers. Typically a lead of around 10 feet ought to allow our dog some freedom while you set up camp, while simultaneously complying with park regulations on dog restraint.

Also, after a long drive, make sure to put some water out. Dog’s get dehydrated and over heat easier than most would think, and at a much quicker rate than most humans.

Hiking

Once camp is setup, you may decide to take a hike, literally.There are a few things to keep in mind, especially if your furry friend has not done a lot of hiking with you.

Low Mileage Dogs

People often forget that dogs have muscles that need conditioning just like humans. It is easy to assume that an animal can naturally walk for miles at a time, but this is simply not true for the average domesticated animal. As such, know your dog. If your dog hasn’t been walking several miles a day with you at home, don’t assume that he is keen to hike those miles up a mountain. Let your dog get acclimated to hiking in the same way you did, a few miles at a time.

Check the Paws

Many trails in the south have extremely pointed rocks. While you are wearing hiking boots to protect your feet, dogs simply have a hard padded foot. These pads are not impervious, nor are they as strong as your boot sole. Watch your dog’s steps, and make sure that the ground is not injuring him. Dogs have strong feet, but you don’t want to have a 100 pound injured dog five miles out.

Stop and Smell the Roses, Trees, Plants, Sticks, Rocks, and Everything Else

Dogs love to smell and explore, and mark territory. These are natural instincts for dogs. Plan on taking more time when hiking with a dog. They may not enjoy the beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail, but they may enjoy the smell of a new tree. This may work in your benefit as well. Who knows what wildlife or plant life you may see if you were to slow down and look around while your dog is sniffing the ground.

As far as allowing your dog to mark his territory, I suggest keeping it to a minimum. One wants to explore the woods and leave no trace. With that said, let’s face it, hundreds of animals are “marking” areas in the woods. A little dog liquid isn’t that likely to cause more damage. Just use common sense, dogs won’t hurt a tree, but could kill fragile wildflowers.

Do not, however, allow your dog to dig, or trample in plant life. Dogs should be allowed to smell and enjoy, not destroy. Keep them on a leash, and make sure they are enjoying nature within the limits of responsible use.

Leash

Another reason one needs to plan more time when hiking with a dog is to give him or herself some protection from injury. Dogs must stay on a leash when hiking. Unless you have a dog that never pulls, and always listens, this can potentially lead to injury. Hiking along a precarious ridge, or when crossing a creek or river is tough enough without something pulling you forward the entire time. Holding on to a leash also limits your body’s natural kinesthetic balance. Take your time when hiking with a leash, it could prevent you from rolling your ankle or off a cliff.

Water

One final thing to remember when hiking with your pal, is that he cannot really sweat. As such, Fido has a much harder time keeping his body temperature down. Your dog needs water, and more of it than  you. While you can go without water for a long time on a hike, your dog cannot, and should not have to. Anytime you take a dog on a long walk, carry an extra bottle of water for him, and a bowl for him to drink it from. Do not rely on running water that may be on a trail. Just like you, dogs can get sick from drinking unclean water, do him a favor and take care of his body like you would take care of your own, if you were covered in a coat in July, and could not sweat.

A Hard Day’s Night

After a long day of traveling and hiking, you and your pal may be ready to get some sleep.  Sleeping in a tent with Fido presents a whole new set of issues, some of which may not be overcome on the first trip.

As I said earlier, I do not have a dog that listens to my every word. As such, getting him to move over in a tent is not easy. Be prepared to shift around in the tent before sleeping, as big dogs tend to sleep in a big way. This can make it hard to sleep.

The second major issue is that dogs hear everything. While you may have learned to ignore the crunching leaves, or the sound of a mouse/ opossum / racoon/ bear in the woods at night, your dog probably has not. This can make for a scary and annoying experience for you and your dog. Your dog can’t see out of the tent, but knows something is out there, whether he’s simply curious, afraid, or wanting to protect you, Fido may decide that in the middle of the night he cannot sleep with all the wildlife. I don’t know how to overcome this issue, other than to take your pal camping more often and allow him to get acclimated to the new sounds. Nevertheless, that first night of sleeping under the starts with your pet can be a sleepless night.

Bring Him Along

With all of these issues to deal with, hiking with a dog can still be worth while. Dogs make great companions, and are a lot of fun to watch when exploring a new area. I highly suggest that you take man’s best friend on your next family trip to the great outdoors. Just make sure you plan for him, and he will likely love every minute of it and only serve to increase the positive memories you have of your hiking and camping trips.

If you have any other suggestions, or ran into any other issues let us know what they were and how you took care of them in the comment section below.

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Tuscawilla Disc Golf Course- Daytona, Florida

by JP on Sep.20, 2009, under Florida Disc Golf

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Tuscawilla Disc Golf Course is an 18 hole course stretching across a semi-urban park close to downtown Daytona, Florida (not Daytona Beach). Despite its location at the intersection of two major roads, however, the course is not a crowded location. even on a typical vacation weekend in July. Sadly enough, most of the visitors to the park when I played appeared to have stayed in the park overnight, leaving me initially uncomfortable with the course. The course itself, however, provides an excellent variety of long drives, difficult tree obstacles, and lots of drainage ditches and ponds filled with water. Additionally, the course offers multiple tees identified by large stone markers, and routinely rotates the locations of its baskets allowing for repeat visitors to get a different experience almost every time they play.

Hole 1

Hole 1 begins at the far end of the park if entering  along Orange Avenue.  The first hole can be found just in front of the first picnic pavilion, along with a 19th hole putting basket.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf Tuscawilla Disc Golf

The first hole doesn’t pull any punches. Right off the bat players are forced to throw across a small pond, offering opportunities, however remote, to lose a disc quickly. Across the pond, players will then be required, depending on the placement of the basket to make it through a series of trees.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 2

Hole 2 is a long straight shot across the open field in the park, just be aware of the narrow tunnel of trees right near the tee box.

Hole 3

Hole 3 is really the first difficult water hole of the course. Players will be required to make an early decision about whether to try and drive over the water, and avoiding the trees on the island in the center, or lay up to the outside of the small pond.  These decisions will become a frequent point of strategy on this course.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 4

Requires a careful drive through a semi-densely wooded area to the basket, be aware of the small drainage ditch that cuts several feet in front of the basket. You probably wouldn’t lose your disc in it, but who wants to go fishing in a drainage ditch.

Hole 5

Hole 5 is a little difficult to find, but if one leaves Hole 4, crosses over the road running through the park, and heads towards the large pond sitting close to the first section of the triangular shaped road, the tee for Hole 5 sits just before that pond.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Yet again, players will have to drive over a small pond of water being careful not to nail one of the two trees that outline the “fairway” to the basket.

Hole 6

Hole 6 begins just across another large drainage ditch from Hole 5, and requires a tight throw running parallel, if not over the drainage ditch before cutting back towards the woods on the left.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 7

Hole 7 is one of the two holes on this course where losing a disc is likely even with a decent level of skill. Hole 7 requires players to make a long throw over a fairly large pond into a dense area of trees that could very likely cause your disc to bounce back down into the water.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 8

If you have any discs left after Hole 7, Hole 8  is a simple long shot through a wide tunnel of trees.

Hole 9

Hole 9 is a little difficult to find from the 8th basket, but if one walks across the bend in the road back towards the pond where Hole 1 was located. the tee to Hole 9 is on the opposite side of the pond from Hole 1’s tee. The hole does not offer much of a challenge, as it is simply a long drive back towards the picnic paviliion.

Hole 10

Hole 10, however, can present quite a challenge for the average right-handed thrower as it requires a very sharp hook along the tree line to the right. This hole appears almost like a fish hook on the map.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 11

From Hole 10, Hole 11 is very hard to find. Follow the road through the park towards its exit. As the wooded area on your right dissipates,  Hole 11 begins at the small pond. Once again, players must throw over another body of water to a basket sitting just to the right of the opening in the woods.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 12

Hole 12 is a somewhat narrow shot along the edge of the park that hooks naturally to the left for most right-handed throwers.

Hole 13

Hole 13 runs perpendicular to the park entrance, and contains an interesting monument as an obstacle in the middle of the wide open hole. I have been told, however, that numerous discs rest atop that monument because it is perfectly flat on top with no way to get up there.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 14

Hole 14 can be found by hiking back through the woods towards Nova Road, and the hole runs parallel with the road for another somewhat easy, long drive.

Hole 15

Hole 15 has to be simultaneously every players’ nightmare and dream come true for a challenging hole. Most of the time, the basket for Hole 15 is located right on the middle of a very small, hilly island in the park. To make the basket, players must have a delicate drive, and a delicate putt. Otherwise, your disc will be in a swamp that you will probably want no part of going into. Read my tips on disc retrieval at the end of this article, because I know many discs are lost here, I have been one of them, as was every person I played with.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Hole 16, 17 and 18

After Hole 15, Hole’s 16, 17 and 18 are all rather boring. All three of these holes require throws running parallel to, or crossing over a very narrow drainage ditch. Other than the ditch, and a few trees, however, these holes are fairly simple holes to par or birdie.

Tuscawilla Disc Golf

Tips for Disc Retrieval, and other General Warnings for this course

Due to the number of discs lost here, I have been informed there is a retired gentleman that makes a small supplemental income fishing discs out of the water. If you write your name and number on your disc, I have been told he will call you when he finds your disc. Give a few bucks for his services. Discs without names and numbers, I have been told he sales.  My advice is to write you name and number on discs for any course you play, lots of disc golfers are willing to go the extra mile and give you a call if they find your disc. Do the same for them!

Other Warnings: On the morning I played this course, there were several homeless, unemployed, and other groups of people of questionable behaviors. I am not passing any judgements on people, but be aware of your surroundings when you play, and I do not recommend playing alone on this course, especially if female. The course was safe for me, and no one even presented the slightest problem, but the people that I play with and I am somewhat large males. Just be aware.

Directions

From Daytona:

1. From International Speedway Blvd. /Volusia Ave. towards Daytona Beach (toward the Ocean), turn right on Nova Road, which is just past University of Central Florida .

2. On Nova Road, take next right onto Orange Avenue. Turn right again into the entrance of the park.

3. The entrance road makes a triangular loop through the park. The first tee can be found at the far end of the park near International Speedway Blvd.

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