5 Great Reasons to Go Camping

2 Jul campstockfire

By Sam Williams

Camping, on face, doesn’t seem like a logical way to spend your time. You work hard all week to afford a place to live so you don’t have to sleep outside on the ground in a park, and then you spend the weekend sleeping outside on the ground in a park. Luckily for all of us, fun is never logical; if you only did logical stuff you would never play sports or eat cake, and you’d only read non-fiction books and everyone would be kind of scared of you.

At The Outdoor Campus, we love camping because it combines our favorite place—outside—with the perfect opportunity to do all our favorite activities, from fishing to kayaking to hiking and more. We want everyone to get as much joy from camping as we do, so we’ve put together a list of reasons why you’ll want to head out to the campground sometime soon.campstockfire

  • Switching It Up

A good way to convince yourself to give camping a try is to consider your alternatives. The vast majority of us have a routine for our weekends, spending one after the other at the golf course, downtown, in a buddy’s basement or wherever else you’ve grown comfortable. A weekend outside and away from the familiar can be a perfect way to inject some much-needed excitement into your life.

  • The Great Outdoors

Ditching the beauty of a big-screen TV and indoor plumbing for a weekend offers the opportunity to instead take in the beauty of the great outdoors. It turns out the trees and the sunset and the stars are a lot more vivid in person than they are on Instagram, no matter how skilled you are with filters.

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  • Fun with the Fam

Family, friends, partners, whomever; they’re all great candidates to bring along on a weekend of fun. The kind of shared experiences one can only have with a group of loved ones in the great outdoors are those that become lifelong memories. It’s also a great way to get kids active in the short term while also instilling a love of healthy hobbies like hiking and rock climbing that they can take with them into the future.

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  • Fire and Food

Health isn’t everything, though, and no camping trip is complete without a little open fire-roasted gluttony. Hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheese and s’mores are essential meals when it comes to crafting a perfect camping trip. And you’ll need that energy for a long night around the campfire telling spooky stories about the group of campers who went missing on a night just…like…tonight…

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  • Reflect and Recharge

Apart from the simple joys of getting out, getting active, eating s’mores and terrifying children, there’s a profound personal benefit that comes with leaving the worries of the week behind, both physically and mentally. Planning a weekend of camping can help you deal with stress from both directions; it gives you something to look forward to at the end of the work week, while also giving you a chance to recover and recharge once the weekend finally comes. Having a simple, enjoyable time with your favorite people can both relax you and help remind you about what’s really important in your life.

Sam Williams is a public relations intern this summer at The Outdoor Campus, and spends his free time reading non-fiction books and terrifying children.

Buy It Where You Burn It: Protecting our Ash Trees

23 Jun

By Rachel Öltjenbruns

 

By now, most residents in South Dakota are aware that there are invasive species threatening the health and well-being of our native trees and forests. The most deadly plagues include the emerald ash borer, mountain pine beetle, the gypsy moth, and the virus known as Thousand Cankers disease. It is absolutely critical to prevent the spread of these pests for as long as possible, due to the significant economic impact from these losses. One of the most important ways to prevent the introduction of the EAB is to stop the spread of firewood across state borders. As the program states, “buy it where you burn it!” Firewood should be kept local; even the spread of firewood within state boundaries poses a risk to forest health.

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South Dakota has great value invested in our ash trees; along with their obvious aesthetic qualities, they provide the structure for thousands of urban and rural shelter belts. Emerald ash borers originated in Asia and probably arrived in the United States on solid wood packing material carried in cargo ships or airplanes. The beetle was discovered in Michigan in 2002 and, since then, has spread to over twenty states and regions throughout the northeastern United States and southern Canada. Its spread is likely linked to the movement of infested firewood and nursery stock. The larvae of the beetle have killed tens of millions of ash trees already by stopping the trees’ ability to transport water and nutrients. There is no species of ash that is safe from this invasive species.

The best initial step to take at your residence or in your community is to identify where all ash trees are located. Recognizing the emerald ash borer is also vital: the adults are slender, green metallic beetles about 1/2 inch long. The adult lays eggs on the trunks of ash trees in the summer months. In the fall, the eggs hatch and become larvae that bore into the tree, feasting on the tree’s cambium layer, thereby cutting off the tree’s nutrient supply, which ultimately causes the tree’s decline. The following signs or symptoms are indicators of the EAB’s presence:

  1. D-shaped exit holes
  2. Crown dieback
  3. Bark cracks & splitting
  4. Water sprouts/suckering
  5. Serpentine galleries
  6. Excessive woodpecker activity

If you suspect EAB infestation, contact the South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation & Forestry.

Field Offices:

Hot Springs 605.745.5820

Huron 605.353.7187

Lead 605.584.2300

Mitchell 605.995.8189

Rapid City 800.275.4954

Sioux Falls 605.362.2830

Watertown 605.882.5367

Pierre 605.773.3623

For further questions or information, visit the following sites:

https://sdda.sd.gov/legacydocs/Forestry/publications/PDF/EAB-Brochure-R.pdf

http://www.emeraldashborer.info/index.cfm#sthash.lK7932SG.dpbs

http://sdda.sd.gov/conservation-forestry/forest-health/emerald-ash-borer/

http://www.dontmovefirewood.org/the-problem/state-state-information/south-dakota.html

Fresh Air Fashion Show

18 Jun

The first of our Show and Tell Sunday events went down last weekend, and it was a big success. Now we’re even more excited for the bevy of offerings we have planned for the rest of the summer’s Sundays.

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Next weekend’s event is quite a departure from the usual Outdoor Campus fare, but we know it has the potential to be a smash hit. In conjunction with Scheels and Sioux Falls native fashion journalism student Maddy Ryan, we’ll be presenting an outdoor apparel fashion show featuring outfits tailored to activities like kayaking, camping, hunting and more. In addition, we’ll be making sure to inform the audience about important safety tips to go along with each outfit.

Keep scrolling for more info regarding specifically what kind of activities we’ll be showing you how to dress for, as well as lots of pictures of us putzing around in Scheels.

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20150617_140242One sure-to-be featured form of attire is comfortable camping gear, both for the daytime and for the evening. The day calls for lighter clothing, comfortable shoes and plenty of sunscreen, while the evening asks for warm, loose clothes with long sleeves to keep the bugs at bay.

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Another activity we’ll be showing off a style for is kayaking. The number one tip here is simple: ALWAYS wear a life jacket.20150617_141108If there’s any time you’d want to be following safety rules to the letter, it’s while out hunting. Camo clothing is a must, but be sure not to overlook the blaze orange that will keep you visible and un-shot for the entirety of the trip.

This is only a sample of course, and you can expect a style relevant to you no matter how you choose to spend your time outside. Be sure to drop by and take in a great show this Sunday!

Show and Tell Sundays

12 Jun

The Outdoor Campus has put together a number of events that we’re hoping will yank you off the couch for a short time each of the next six Sundays.  These events are one time, all ages affairs, all starting at 2 p.m. with no pesky pre-registration required. They give us a chance to provide some new, unique offerings, and we want everyone else to be as excited about them as we are.

June 14: Meet a Conservation Officer, Nate Stukel

Conservation officers are important folks. Their job is to serve people and manage wildlife, which means they’re constantly focused on keeping you, local wildlife and the local environment safe from harm. Nate will be here to share important information and some cool law enforcement tools while answering any questions you might have for him.

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June 21: Fresh Air Fashion

To ensure that you stay looking fresh in the fresh air, we’ve teamed up with Scheels to do a fashion show featuring all the latest outdoor styles. It promises to be a fun time, and you might just see something on the runway that could complete your outdoor outfit.

June 28: Glamping

Our last blog post went into great detail about what glamping is and how to get started, but if you’re too lazy to scroll that far down, just know that “glamping” is short for “glamorous camping.” We’ll have a display set up for anyone to come and take a look at, and TOC Director Thea Miller Ryan will be here answering all of your glamping questions.

July 12: Bubo’s Place – Raptor Rehabilitation, Lynn Purdy

Sorry, no dino-nurses, but we’ve got the next best thing. Perfect for bird lovers, this class will feature certified raptor rehabilitator Lynn Purdy showing off some of her birds and speaking about birds of prey, like owls and hawks.

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July 19: TBD

That means “to be decided,” which means we don’t know yet, but it’ll probably be something cool.

July 26: Antarctica on Foot, Kathy Anderson

Kathy Anderson explored Antarctica, and then she came all the way back here to tell you about it. She’ll be presenting some amazing photos of glaciers, penguins, and all sorts of other Antarctic wildlife. Come learn something new about a little known region of the world.

An Introduction to Glamping

4 Jun

Consider this: right now, you’re inside, online, reading a blog, but the blog is about the outdoors. That mixture of appreciation for both outside and inside fun marks you as a perfect candidate for a new fad known as “glamping,” or glamourous camping!

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Wait, hey, come back, it’s not as weird as it sounds. Like any camping trip, you pack up a tent, mosey out into the wilderness and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing and s’more making with your friends, family or partner. The important differences are on the inside, just like people and calzones.

DIY glamping setups typically consist of large tents stuffed with quality furniture, comfortable bedding and plenty of amenities. The key is comfort, and having a cozy place to come back to at night after an exciting day outside. It’s like making a home-cooked meal versus grabbing a bag of grease from a drive-through; the emphasis on preparation and quality over convenience and savings makes for a far more enjoyable end product. No expense should be spared in crafting a luxury hotel-like atmosphere in the tent, and elaborate interior designing is a huge part of the fun, as well as a great way to flex some creative muscles.

Now, since we’ve already established that you were born to glamp, let’s get right into some guidelines for getting the most out of your experience.

  • Find a comfortable mattress, and don’t scrimp on the sheets!

There are plenty of portable air mattresses out there, but for your glamping trip you want to focus on those that put you high above the floor, either by placement on legs or by virtue of their thickness. Throwing on a mattress pad can further increase the comfort factor, as can investing in quality linens that won’t leave you itching all night.6576700

  • Prepare meals in advance, and get fancy with your snacking.

By preparing homemade meals in advance, you can camp out without suffering through dinners of hot dogs and beans. You can prepare a meal that can be heat up over a campfire, or even invest in a portable oven. Jazzing up the snack options is a fun idea as well: ditch the granola bars and trail mix and bring along cheese and crackers, finger sandwiches, shrimp cocktail and chocolate strawberries. You can even gussy up your s’mores by adding ingredients like fresh fruit, caramel, cinnamon or coconut. Finally, leave the paper plates on the shelf and bring along your glass dishware to complete the gourmet dining experience.

  • For furniture, strike a balance between portability and comfort.

A big bonus of glamping is lounging around on a cozy chair or couch rather than on the dirt, and eating off a table rather than your lap. Hauling a recliner or a dining table out into the wilderness can be a tall task, though, and it’s probably wisest to compromise on comfort a little for the sake of practicality. There are plenty of options out there for folding wooden dining tables and chairs, as well as for attractive inflatable couches and lounge chairs. The wooden furniture, along with being foldable and portable, adds a rustic look to the campsite.3608862

  • The right lighting makes for the right atmosphere.

Dragging a generator out to provide portable electricity is an option, but it’s likely going to be bulk, noisy and ugly to look at. Portable or battery powered lights may be the better option. The trick is to avoid harsh, white LED lamps and to instead find lamps that produce softer yellow light that create a relaxing atmosphere and can be left on near a campfire without overpowering the more natural light source.

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  • Decorations and extra amenities help you personalize your glamping experience.

One great beauty of spending time outdoors is the multitude of activities to explore, and the beauty of glamping is that it gives you access to these activities while simultaneously giving you the option to say “no thanks, nature, I’m gonna kick it inside a while.” Along with the bikes, hiking gear, kayak, and whatever else you bring along to enjoy the outdoors, you can also pack for those moments when you’re rejecting the wild by filling your tent with amenities like a portable DVD player, a speaker system, a bookshelf or even an outdoor projector screen to watch movies on as a group. Glamping embraces excess, and it lets you enjoy the comforts of the indoors and the excitement of the outdoors all in a single outing.

Photos courtesy of Killarneyglamping.com and Katrina Horner

Sam Williams is a public relations intern this summer at The Outdoor Campus.  He’s an Augustana College student in the not-summer, and spends his free time searching the house for snacks. 

Baby Animals – If You Care, Leave Them There

20 May

10982035_10205537892659236_3706015615851795486_nIt’s only May 20, but our offices have been answering a LOT of phone calls about baby animals already. Our advice is always going to be, “If you care, leave it there.”

Sometimes mother nature isn’t kind. Animals are different than humans – they leave baby animals behind for reasons we can’t always see – they may be ill or diseased. Nobody wants to think about what happens to those babies, but they usually end up playing a role in another animal’s circle of life. Sad, but factual.

So far this year, we’ve received phone calls regarding these animals:

Ducklings – 8 calls

Squirrels – 3 calls

BIrds – 2 calls

Rabbits – 8 calls

Raccoons – 2 calls

Groundhog – 1 call

We don’t want to give you the bad news, but baby animals picked up by humans don’t end up well. Tell your kids, your neighbor kids and your friends – If you care, leave them there. 

The Real Butterfly Lady

3 Feb
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This bench was dedicated to Jack and Marjorie Carlin by their children. It sits at the top of the butterfly garden at The Outdoor Campus, giving visitors a view of the incredible garden their parents created.

By Thea Miller Ryan

In the 18 years we’ve been open, you meet a lot of colorful folks. None are so colorful as our volunteers, who have splashed us with a pallet of vibrancy over the years.

Today our world lost a little bit of color. We found out Marjorie Carlin left us here, taking a bit of every color of the rainbow with her. Marjorie was our original butterfly garden lady.

In 1997 we trained our first group of volunteers – Marjorie and her husband Jack among them. The two Carlins didn’t take long to approach me. “We can’t have a nature center without a garden,” they insisted. I was up to my eyeballs in this new place,and the thought of even planting a pot full of flowers was more than overwhelming. “We’ll do it. We love gardening. We’ll make it for butterflies,” they promised.

Their promises were their word.

Soon, 6,000 sq. feet of park grass was an amazing, thriving, growing butterfly garden. You’ve never seen the likes of it. It even inspired an annual festival, Butterfly Garden Day, that carried on until the butterfly house across the road was built and took over butterfly education.

Marjorie and Jack were here, every single day (even Sundays!) for hours. When they “retired” from the garden, Marj had put in 1,665.39 hours and Jack had 1,159.27. That’s 2,824.66 hours… the equivalent of a full-time person.

All our volunteers continue to give, and will continue to bring us the colors we lost today. We will miss you, Marjorie. I hope Heaven is full of flowers.

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