Showing posts with label hiking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hiking. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Monday, December 3, 2018

Reviewing the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore Review
Anker is becoming a brand name that I trust and depend on. And the PowerCore portable charger is no exception. Whether you travel and do not want to have the security risk of plugging in to public charging stations or you spend time off-grid but still want to keep that cell phone charged for emergencies, the Anker is an excellent choice for portable, secure, and dependable charging.

I bought one for myself but I think this little gadget would be a great gift idea.


What is an Anker PowerCore Portable Charger?


My description of the PowerCore is a rechargeable battery that is small enough to fit in my coat pocket but holds enough power to fully recharge my phone (and Kindle) many times. 

Even though it is an electronic gadget, it is foolproof. 

Three easy steps:

  1. Plug it in to charge the battery using the USB cord (using my laptop or the same plug I use to charge my phone and my Kindle)
  2. Remember to put it into my purse, coat pocket, or camping tote
  3. Plug my phone (or Kindle) into the PowerCore to charge as needed.



The Description from the experts:

  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 (24w) with Anker's proprietary PowerIQ and VoltageBoost technology - fastest possible charge to almost any USB device. 
  • 7 days of power (fills the iPhone 7 almost seven times, the Galaxy S8 more than four times, and iPad Air 2 one and a half times) 
  • Quick Charge input, a full recharge is over in half the time of standard portable chargers. (written by Anker about the PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0)

Why I Chose the Anker PowerCore 20000 Quick Charge 3.0


I go camping at my cabin for days on end. I own the Anker PowerPort Solar charger and love it. It is dependable and perfect for off-grid living (see my review here). Perfect, except for when it isn't. 

This year was a record-breaking rainfall year in my area. Rain means solar charges aren't able to work properly (if at all). Lack of sunlight was causing either no charge on my phone or a walk (in the pouring rain) to the Jeep to charge (slowly) my phone. Due to all this rain, I bought the PowerCore "battery".  I charge it fully at the apartment, throw it into my camping tote, and I have a dependable way to charge my phone - rain or shine.

I depend on the Anker PowerPort Solar charger - except during a season of record rainfall.

I chose the 20,000 based on the higher number of charges it provides (compared to some of the more compact PowerCore chargers) and the price tag was as high as I wanted to spend that day.  

My PowerCore came with the charger, the USB cord to charge it, and a slightly padded travel bag. It did not come with the plug that is used in a wall outlet. But I already had several of those. 

There are many Anker PowerCore choices, smaller/less expensive and larger/more expensive.  I love that Anker provides so many options.





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Monday, September 11, 2017

Emergency Preparedness: Headlamp Review

Headlamps for emergency lighting
Recent events have caused many of us to think about emergency preparedness. Hurricane Harvey only recently exited Texas and Hurricane Irma is in Florida as I am typing this. There are almost too many wildfires in the western United States to count -forcing people to evacuate their homes. Whether we are talking about emergencies as devastating as these or emergencies as small as a flat tire on the side of a dark highway, we need to be prepared. There is a list of things that need to be included in our preparations, but today I want to talk about headlamps. I believe that headlamps are a required item when talking about safety and being prepared.


What is a Headlamp?


Headlamps are battery operated, hands-free "flashlights" that attach to your head by an elasticized headband. 

Why is a headlamp important when we all probably own flashlights or candles?  I too own an assortment of candles, flashlights, and lanterns (gas, battery, and solar operated). So why do I highly recommend purchasing an additional item for emergency lighting? 


Headlamps are important and unique for the following reasons:


  • hands-free 
  • flame-free
  • safe
  • battery operated with a long battery life
  • AAA batteries are easy to keep on hand
  • headlamps are small enough to have with you everywhere 
I depend on my headlamps when I am camping at The Shack. I carry one with me in the Jeep, in the event of a break-down on the side of the road. The headlamp attaches to my head and I can use both hands for whatever I need to do. Imagine changing a tire in the dark, while trying to hold a conventional flashlight. Now imagine changing a tire in the dark, while a beam of light automatically shines on whatever you are facing. 

I love candles and always have a large selection on hand. But there are times I do not want to risk an open flame.  

Lanterns are great for lighting large areas, such as rooms, but more difficult for any activity that requires light focused on a specific area or activity. My lanterns also seem to burn through fuel or batteries very quickly.

Ladies, for many of us, headlamps initially feel silly. But if you are stranded in the dark and want to use your hands, if you need an inexpensive and reliable lighting source, or if you find yourself outside in the dark, you will very quickly become accustomed to the feeling of having a light strapped to your head. 

I have had really good luck with the Energizer brand of headlamps. The elastic band is adjustable for my big head. It is also more durable than the bands on other headlamps I've purchased. The plastic pieces on my Energizer are durable. I have broken the piece that attaches the light to the headband on an off-brand of headlamp.

I have had this Energizer headlamp for two years or so. I've changed the batteries once. And I use it for every trip up to the Shack as a primary lighting source as well as for short periods of loss of electricity in my apartment. I highly recommend that we all have immediate access to a headlamp as a part of our emergency preparedness.

Related Emergency Preparedness Reviews:


Heather shares the importance of Emergency Survival Kits (aka Bug Out Bags). In the event that you should not shelter in place, it is important to have your emergency items packed and ready to go in an instant. Heather lists the contents of a good bug out bag.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse reviews an emergency power failure light that doubles as emergency lighting that turns on automatically as soon as the power turns off and a nightlight every other evening.

Barbara Radisavljevic reviews a battery operated LED light source that she uses: the MalloMe LED lantern. She liked her lantern so much that she was sorry she hadn't bought more. Read why she recommends that particular LED lantern.




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Friday, July 7, 2017

Review of Women's Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boots

The author with her best hiking buddy, Toby.
When it comes to high adventure in the mountains I call home, there is nothing more important than gearing up my feet for action.  Having just purchased my fifth pair of women's Keen Targhee II Mid boots, I think it's pretty safe to say I am very keen on these hiking boots.

Four-Wheel Drive for Your Feet

When climbing Colorado's 14ers (peaks over 14,000 feet in elevation), it is easy to spot the rookies.  These are the hikers in flip-flops (no-wheel drive) who are heading back down the trail with painful blisters and major regrets.

The difference between an exhilarating day on the mountain and a day that will go down in infamy is, for me, the difference that is made in wearing what Keen refers to as "four-wheel drive for your feet."




Let's Get Real

First, let me confess that I have the world's most sensitive feet.  Before discovering Keen hiking boots, I experienced the most epic blisters and endured heel pain that can make a grown woman cry.  When you add weak ankles to the mix, I wasn't exactly extreme hiker material.

Why I Need Keen Boots in the Rocky Mountains


The Nitty-Gritty Details  

These Keen boots work for me in several critical ways:

  • They are comfortable from day one.  Unlike other hiking boots, there is no extended break-in period.
  • The mid height of the boots provides my ankles with much-needed support.
  • Waterproof leather uppers and breathable mesh lining make blisters a thing of the past.  Dry feet are happy feet.
  • Lug soles offer up confidence-inspiring traction in even the most challenging terrain.
  • Given that every ounce matters while hiking and backpacking, I find the weight of these boots to be just perfect (significant enough to protect my feet, while light enough to keep my legs fresh all day).
  • Have I mentioned that the price is right?  Many hiking boots will set you back a few hundred dollars.  With the Keen Targhee II Mid hikers, you are getting a quality boot for far less.

Not a Mountain Mama?

Crossing a slippery log bridge over rapids in my Keen boots.


Let me conclude this product review by saying you don't have to be a mountain mama or an extreme hiker to enjoy these boots.  I wear mine every day just because I find them to be my most comfortable footwear.  

And besides, it's pretty awesome to have four-wheel drive boots for extreme grocery shopping.  I have been known to summit the fresh produce aisle in record time.  There's no stopping me now!







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Carhartt Socks for Women Review

If you are familiar with the Carhartt brand, there is a good chance you think only of men's clothing. Or more specifically, men's coveralls, coats, and hats. I depend on the Carhartt brand and I have two pairs of their wonderful women's Carhartt wool blend socks. As I was browsing online for a few more pairs, I realized that I should share my Carhartt women's socks experience with you. I paused my shopping in order to review these warm, durable, and comfortable socks. 


Warm and Thick Women's Socks by Carhartt


I have to start by stating, I really hate wearing socks and shoes. Period.  When I do wear shoes, boots, or socks, they must fit well, be comfortable, and serve a purpose. If I could live my life barefoot, I would. Unfortunately, I must wear shoes and socks.

Last year, I needed some suitable socks for camping and hiking at The Shack during cold weather.  I chose two pair of Carhartt socks and couldn't be more pleased.  I am so pleased with the socks that I was browsing with the plan to order another couple of pair to keep here at the apartment.  

These are a few of the many reasons I recommend these Carhartt socks
  • keeps my feet warm but not sweaty
  • durable
  • the acrylic/polyester/nylon/wool/spandex blend (probably responsible for the two items above)
  • built-in arch support
  • heels that stay in place
  • the style creates a good fit and a sock that doesn't slide around my foot
  • top of the sock stays in place

There are few things I hate more than socks that slide around your foot, slide down your calf, and bunch up under your arch.  So uncomfortable and annoying!  But these Carhartt socks stayed in place whether I was using them as "slippers" while in The Shack or as warm socks under my rubber boots or hiking boots.  Those sewn "ribs" at the arch hug my foot and are so very comfortable.

Unfortunately, the exact pairs (the pink ones) that I purchased are currently out-of-stock and seem to be difficult to find. 

Carhartt Women's All-Season Crew Socks

The good news is that very similar pairs are still offered and are easy to find.  In fact, it seems the only difference is that the blends are ever-so-slightly different.  These purple "hiker crew" socks have similar heels, toes, and arch support. Not sold on the color purple? Don't worry, there are several other colors to choose from.

Carhartt Women's Merino Wool Blend Hiker Crew Socks

I will be ordering a couple pairs of these textured crew socks with confidence that I will love the new socks just as much as I do my pairs that are waiting for me up at my place in the woods. I like these as they are a bit higher on the calf. Slightly more coverage as I am tromping around in snow or outside in cold weather.

Carhartt Women's Merino Wool Blend Textured Crew

Related Link:


If you are in need of soft and comfortable socks, be sure to read our Barbara's article about the World's Softest Socks. In her review, she describes why her soft socks and the absence of bulky seams is her choice. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Carhartt brand, I encourage you to take a peek at their official site. For as long as I can remember, the men in my life have depended on the durability and quality of their coveralls and coats. I find that their sweatshirts, hats, and socks are always a good choice and meet my own cold weather needs. 







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Monday, March 21, 2016

The Best Hiking, Camping, and Tiny House Pillow Ever Made

Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow
The Therm-A-Rest pillow is an amazing little pillow. It is marketed and highly recommended as a lightweight pillow for hikers.  I had purchased mine to meet the immediate need of a comfortable and easy-to-pack travel pillow -- with eventually using it for camping trips.  And now, as it turns out, I have found that it is also the best little pillow for tiny home living! 

The Therm-A-Rest compressible pillow comes in a variety of sizes and colors. My pillow is the medium "denim" style. While I will be referring to that pillow specifically, each of the pillows are "compressible" and have the built-in draw string storage pocket.


Compressible for Easy Travel 


I want the comfort of my own pillow when I travel. Even in hotels. It's not so hard to drag your own pillow along if you are taking a roadtrip. But you might as well forget about taking your own pillow on a plane.  

I have tried several different "travel" pillows that can be purchased in airports. You know, the kind that loop around your neck and are considered convenient for naps during flights.  I hated them.  I didn't like the material, the snugness around my neck, and it drove me crazy that they often gave my hair static.  I have to admit that looping them around my carry-on handle as I boarded and disembarked was handy. But that was the only thing I liked about those travel pillows. Those annoyances were what led me to purchasing the Therm-A-Rest pillow.

The little Therm-A-Rest pillow compresses and rolls up into it's built-in storage pocket. It is then small enough to fit into my carry-on bag easily.  It was just large enough to fit behind my head or between my head and the plane window.

I am including a video that shows just how small this "medium" pillow is when it is rolled up.





Lightweight and Durable for Hiking, Camping, and Outdoor Activities


While my pillow is the medium "denim" pillow, it is not made of denim.  I suppose that is the color descriptor.  The material is a durable - but comfortable -  "brushed polyester".  Because it is machine washable, it is easy to wash and dry after camping trips.  

I am not a true back-packer, but I carry a pack on many of my walks.  This pillow fits nicely into my backpack. I've carried it along to the woods and to the beach.  



Perfect for Minimalist and Tiny Home Living


Living in a small home can be a wonderful thing.But it is also challenging to downsize both the amount of your belongings as well as the actual size of each item.  I spend time in a small camping "Shack" as often as possible and I plan to retire there.  Space is limited.  Between the air mattress, sleeping bag, and this Therm-A-Rest pillow, I am very comfortable at night.  

When I leave the "Shack", I place all of my textiles - and all other items that are tempting to mice for nests - into containers.  The beauty of this little pillow is that it is wonderfully comfortable when in use and then rolls up to a small roll that takes up little space in the storage container.  

I imagine that tiny homes with miniature loft "bedrooms" would be the perfect place for these pillows.  If I remodel my place to include a tiny loft sleeping area, I know I am already prepared for it.




Related Links:

How I Stay Warm at Night. The cold weather sleeping bag I use in combination with this amazing pillow.

Tips for Traveling Light.  How to pack for vacation. The trick is knowing how to pack light. 


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

I have many favorite places to visit in the mid-Atlantic, but Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a special place. I wish I could visit every weekend.  Frankly, I wouldn't mind living in the area.  But so far, I've only taken day trips to the beautiful little town. 

Photographic print by Jeffrey D. Walters
Personally, I go to Harpers Ferry in order to enjoy the scenery and to climb the hill to the Maryland Heights overlook.  Or I spend the day walking around the town among the old buildings.  Occasionally, I stop before I get to the town, and sit at the river's edge and watch the flotilla of humans, enjoying the river in innertubes, kayaks, and canoes. I love the look and feel of this little water community; tucked in at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Where the states of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland meet. 

Recommending Harpers Ferry as a place to visit is easy for me since I think everyone can find something they like while there. People who like historical towns, architecture, outdoor recreation, civil war and black history will especially enjoy their visit.  

Hilltop Church Harpers Ferry by Greg Dale
A bit of trivia, Harpers Ferry was originally spelled with an apostrophe (Harper's Ferry) and continues to be found this way in literature. However, It is now correct to spell it without an apostrophe. I don't know what caused the change but I do know that I tend to revert to the apostrophe version frequently.  I am trying to break that habit.  But you will likely see it spelled both ways. 

Outdoor recreation 
Tour the area by raft, zipline, horseback, or bicycle.  There are several different adventures and outfitters to choose from
Indoor recreation (a.k.a shopping)
There is no mall or superstore type of shopping located in this town. Not that I have seen. But there are many little shops offering beautiful items for sale. Shop-a-holics can find great gifts or treats for themselves. 

Appalachian Trail  (AT)
Harpers Ferry is considered the "psychological halfway point" by the AT thru-hikers. Because of the close proximity to the AT trail, Harpers Ferry is also an excellent place for day hikes on the AT

Maryland Heights Trails
The Harper's Ferry National Historical Park is a highly recommended walking park and offers 20 miles of trails. There are riverside paths, battlefield trails, and my favorite Maryland Heights trail.  Maryland Heights is across the Potomac river from town and up that giant hill.  It is miles long and a steep and difficult (for me anyway) trail. But it is well worth the effort when you are able to see the town from the overlook area.  The first photograph in this article shows the breathtaking sight from that area. 

Civil War and Black History 
Abolitionist John Brown Wax Museum Photo by Joel Sartore
I can't even being to share the importance of this town to both civil war history and black history, and history in general.  The John Brown raid precipitated the civil war in Harpers Ferry.  Three civil war battles occurred here. Harpers Ferry was the site for the first academic college for freed slaves (Storer College) as well as the site for the US of the Niagara Movement (which later became the NAACP).  I was aware of the civil war history in the area but only became adequately aware of the importance in shaping history for freed slaves when I accidentally parked in a parking lot between the Storer college buildings in order to get my bearings.  I was there that day to hike, I will return to look more closely at these buildings and the self-guided tour.

Maybe you can begin to understand why Harpers Ferry is one of my favorite places to be.  This is just the smallest peek at what this town has to offer.  

Replica of John Brown's Fort by mamaGeek cc by 3.0
If you go, I have two important bits of advice. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring water. Parking in this area is limited because of the layout of the town.  Tourists have several parking lots to use but the closest fills up early.  I have seen days where there is no parking in the park or at the train station. There are shuttles from the more distance parking lots. Also, if you plan to walk or hike, pack plenty of water.  I always walk farther than I meant to.  Being thirsty is not safe or comfortable when you hike. 

If you ever have the chance to visit Harpers Ferry, I hope you take it.  It is a wonderful place to experience.

Written by Dawn Rae
Disclosure: In affiliation with AllPosters.com, Dawn Rae is a blogger and content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of AllPosters products.  



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Monday, April 28, 2014

Primitive Camping in the Mid-Atlantic: Green Ridge State Forest


Have you ever known about a place or a thing so special that you wanted to keep it all to yourself?  You were afraid to let others know about it?  Well, that’s how I’ve felt about Green Ridge State Forest in Flintstone, Maryland for several years. 

I’m now ready to share my special place with you.


As compared to all other places I’ve gone camping, and there have been many, I rate Green Ridge State Forest as a 10 out of 10. 

I am aware that anyone who goes camping will have their own criteria for rating campgrounds.  As a woman, I am aware that many of my female friends require parking spots large enough for their RV, electricity for their curling irons and blow dryers (their statements, not mine), and modern bathroom facilities complete with hot running water.  I do not share these sentiments with my friends. 

My top requirements for a campground include:

  • Privacy – I don’t want my site right on the road or in close quarters with others.
  • Natural setting – I want to see the plants, birds, and wildlife.  I don’t want the only four-legged thing I see to be a lawn chair.
  • Cooking over an open fire.
  • Low-cost. If I am spending just a few dollars less than a cheap hotel room (and I’m that close to the campers next door) I’d rather be in the hotel room.
  • Amenities that include only the great outdoors. Pinball machines and putt-putt golf are not reasons I go camping.

I’ve experienced primitive camping at Green Ridge as a lone woman and as part of small groups.  My favorite times were the times that included my son.

I have shared information and my photographs about Primitive Camping at Green Ridge State Forest and will soon share my last  personal adventure there that was a solo and minimalist overnight stay.

If you love camping, and are in the Mid-Atlantic states area, you must consider seeing Green Ridge State Forest.  And remember, whenever you are in an outdoor setting, especially natural settings, practice the art of “leave no trace”.  The earth is good to us, let’s keep it clean.





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Monday, April 21, 2014

Experience the Mid-Atlantic Region a Few Steps at a Time.

Driving through the mid-Atlantic, you can get a bit of a feel for the beauty of the area.  This is especially true if you stray from the Interstate 95 corridor.  However, I don’t think a person can know what an area is like without pulling over and getting out of the car.

For example, I can say I’ve been to St. Louis, Missouri.  I’ve seen the arch.  But I drove through, looking out of the windows at 65 miles an hour.  Even though the kids (they were young then) put Nelly’s CD in the player all of the way through Missouri, and we watched from the windows pointing out different things to each other, I didn’t leave the state knowing the area.

A rugged portion of a Baltimore County, MD trail.
Getting outdoors in an area is the best way to know an area more intimately. I think hiking is the best way to do this.  Understand that I use the word “hike” loosely.  I say I hike.  But what I do is walk along paths for a short period of time.  I participate in what are called day hikes.  All through the mid-Atlantic there are great places to take day hikes.  There are great places to take even shorter walks.  Best of all, the Appalachian Trail runs through part of the mid-Atlantic region.  That means the best of the best hikers do section or thru-hikes here. In terms of trails, there is something for every level of hiker (walker) here.

A lush portion of the same trail.
Whatever type of hiker you are, I encourage you to get out there and see the land. It is possible to hike here in all four seasons, in a variety of terrains, and I love them all. 

MysticTurtle shares her thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). While thru-hiking the AT is a very serious adventure, there are many places to jump on the trail and do a short hike.  Beginning hikers, like myself, can still enjoy sections of the AT trail.

Hiking more difficult terrain in western Maryland.
In 2012, Clare Lochary wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun, listing the 10 best Mid-Atlantic hikes for fall foliage viewing.  I’ve been to many of the places on Ms. Lochary's list and the rest are on my too-see list.  I agree with her list and think she’s chosen some really great places for day hikes, no matter the time of year.  Be advised, if you use her list, do some research because some of the entry fees may have increased. But the information in the list itself is very helpful.

I hope you find a way to get out and really experience an area, whether it’s the mid-Atlantic region or your own. The following photographs are from a few of my experiences in this area.



Walking the islands and beaches in the mid-Atlantic.

Hike the tidal rivers in Maryland.



Sidling Hill, Maryland in the wintertime.

Tidal marsh areas.

Michaux State Forest, PA


Near the Western Maryland/Pennsylvania state line.





Image Credit: Images are mine ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)













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Monday, March 10, 2014

The Squidoo Community Sharing Mid-Atlantic Tales

When I was an “aspiring writer” I imagined writing as a solitary endeavor.  That image in my mind has changed from pecking away at a clacking typewriter to the quiet whispering clicky-click of a laptop. But the image of the tousled-haired hermit bent over a desk has continued in my mind.

Since discovering the Squidoo community, I am learning that writing does not have to be a solitary thing.  Sure, I can’t chat away while doing the actual writing of a piece, but I know that my fellow Squidoo writers are only an instant message or email away.  It’s an amazing feeling to have all of this support while writing. I highly recommend that writers join the Squidoo community.

While I currently hold the title of Mid-Atlantic States Travel contributor on Squidoo, there are plenty of other writers who write amazing lenses about the area. While it’s hard to know exactly where to start, I’d like to share a few of these remarkable lenses with you today.

I’d like to introduce you to Ramkitten on Squidoo.  She is also known as Deb Kingsbury and is a hiking expert.  I have been interested about the Appalachian Trail and have read a variety of articles and books about the subject over the years. Some weren’t helpful and some were helpful but weren’t very entertaining.  Ramkitten gives information with a sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud for real.  I especially like her descriptions and humor in her lens Hiking the Appalachian Trail: What You Really Need to Know.

While lighthouses are not limited to the mid-Atlantic region, you can find Chesapeake Lighthouses by mbgphoto on Squidoo.  I had a hard time choosing just one of her lenses to share because she is an accomplished writer and photographer. All of her lenses are beautiful..

Angelatvs on Squidoo made me feel like a very happy writer when she jumped on my Review Your Favorite Assateague and Chincoteague Island Items and did a wonderful book review of  Aassateague Island of the Wild Ponies. If you like wild ponies, you should definitely check out this book review.

Speaking of Chincoteague, I am hosting a Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry book giveaway at my blog to help celebrate the magic of the islands. You can enter by filing out the raffle form on my blog until March 14th.

Until next Monday, happy and safe travels to you all. 


Image Credit: ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)






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