Finding the Spirit of Nature “on the Cheap”

Finding the Spirit of Nature “on the Cheap”

By Emma Lucchesi

Summer is usually filled with laughter, lake trips, boat rides, loads of sunscreen, town festivals and leisurely walks in the sunshine. With the age of social media on the rise,  we can’t ignore pictures and posts of all of these summer activities as well as the extravagant trips and adventures our friends are taking. Whether it’s a family vacation, honeymoon or a trip with a group of friends, vacationers’ pictures always cause me to think of two adjectives: “fun” yet “expensive.”


Last year, my blog post focused on finding local places to explore. I ended my post with this advice,

            “There are always places to explore, you just might have to look a little harder.”

While true, many of us want to experience the awe of different landscapes. So how does one go about planning a trip without breaking the bank? Below are three pieces of advice that have helped me along my travels:


  1. Be Open to Simple Adventures

Your high school friend Hilary posing in front of Buckingham Palace in her recent Instagram post doesn’t mean you should book a plane ticket to London. I’m guessing a spontaneous trip to England isn’t in your budget right now. Instead, look for neat national parks near you and take a road trip or hop on a cheap bus to a park in the region. I use the REI Co-op National Parks Guide app to plan my adventures. The app shows you parks in your vicinity. Summer is a time to know your limits in terms of time and budget, but still go on adventures!


  1. Airbnb is Your New Best Friend

Move over, Airbnb is taking your spot! Airbnb is a great traveling tool that shouldn’t be overlooked. is a website that allows travelers to find affordable, fun places to stay. Most Airbnbs are cheaper to stay at than hotels and are sometimes closer to your destination. Staying at an Airbnb can be an adventure in itself! Stay in a yurt or go glamping for a change. When looking at Airbnbs, be sure to check out the reviews and comments of past travelers who stayed there.


  1. Be an Adventurous Penny Pincher

You can be adventurous while being budget conscious. Instead of making impulse buys throughout your trip, be smart and plan ahead. Buy that pack of gum before you get to the airport. Bring an empty water bottle through airport security so you can fill it up afterwards. See if your Airbnb has a kitchen, and if so, eat out one night and plan meals for the rest! Make a tentative itinerary with all of the activities available and their price ranges. While one should be a penny pincher, allow yourself to splurge on some fun activities as well. Just know that everything is a tradeoff. The kayak rental may be great, but you might have to give up snorkeling for it.


Every trip has opportunity costs whether it is your time, money, or sanity. Just know your limits, and plan a trip around your desires. This summer, I traveled to Zion National Park in Utah. All of the pictures on this blog post are activities and places I was able to see without breaking the bank. The three tips listed above allowed me to explore while staying under my budget. I hope they do the same for you!

Safe and Cheap Travels,

~Emma Lucchesi


The Ever Patient Fisherman: a Father’s Day Tribute

The Ever Patient Fisherman: a Father’s Day Tribute

By: Jessie Jensen

Growing up, I had the most excellent nature teacher; I called him, “The Ever Patient Fisherman,” a.k.a. my dad. Through years of lessons, my dad was there to equip me with all kinds of outdoor skills, which now translate into my everyday life. What is so cool about working at The Outdoor Campus, is that I have been given the opportunity to share these talents with the next generation of families. And to think it all started 22 years ago with me, as a kid, fishing with my dad.


As father’s day approaches, I am even more aware of what I have learned from my dad. Busy fishing, canoeing, hiking and teaching this summer, I put together a photo gallery and appreciation letter for my dad this father’s day, to show him how his lessons (have and will) stick with me forever.

Dear Dad,

Thank you. For as long as I can remember, all of our free time has been spent together, in the great outdoors. I wouldn’t change that for the world. You were there for my first fish, my first deer, and everything after that. If I remember correctly, I was NOT the quietest child growing up. Even though fishing and hunting should be relatively silent activities, you always encouraged my creative stories and never complained about my constant conversation. One of my favorite memories growing up was catching fish, and then naming them. I would name almost every fish that came onto the boat! Remember, “Billy the Bass” or “Walter the Walleye”?  They always had lively conversations and you heard them all! Rather than getting frustrated or annoyed with me, you would just smile and keep on fishing.


You have always been encouraging and supportive of my outdoor endeavors, and I am forever grateful for you. As a dad teaching his daughter, you always made it clear that I could be just as successful in my fishing and hunting as any other person. You were so proud to raise me to be a strong outdoors woman. I want to be just like you when I grow up, and even now, I am starting to walk in your shoes.


I recognize that not everyone growing up had someone like you to introduce them to the great outdoors; and it is really unfortunate. Working as a Naturalist at The Outdoor Campus, it has become my goal to help everyone develop a love for the outdoors; sharing what is deeply instilled in my heart because of you.

I am so grateful now that it is my job to be the “Patient Fisherman” for other families. And it’s all thanks to you dad, you have me “hooked” on the outdoors forever.



Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you. Let’s go fishing.

– Jessie


Moths ARE Cool!

Moths ARE Cool!

By Chloe Litzen

Let’s talk about moths. When it comes to the Lepidoptera family, butterflies seem to get all the attention. We here at The Outdoor Campus think moths are just as special and cute as butterflies. Still not convinced? Take a moment to learn about our new moth friend we helped raise through the winter months.


Introducing the cutest, fuzziest (rarely seen by humans) cecropia moth. We met this one back in September when one of our young visitors brought it in as a caterpillar after finding it in his yard. “It was literally the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen,” said Naturalist Intern Emily Oyos. “Like, straight out of the movie Bugs Life!”

The cecropia moth has a very unique life cycle spanning one whole year. The moth undergoes five transformations as a caterpillar and spends a very long time in its cocoon. In the beginning of summer, cecropia moth eggs hatch about ten days after being laid. Very young cecropia caterpillars are black with yellow spores and black bristles.





*young cecropia caterpillars*

After eating a ridiculous amount of leaves (usually maple, apple or willow), the cecropia caterpillar becomes very fat and literally bursts out of its original skin, looking like a big green blob with red, blue and yellow horns.


*Adult cecropia caterpillar*

Imminently after being brought into our facility, the cecropia caterpillar began to build its new winter home. Once the cecropia caterpillar has stored enough fat, it begins to spin fine strands of silk for the cocoon from its jaw. Looking closely at the picture, you can start to see the beginning of this home-made cocoon.

Since the cecropia caterpillar is preparing for an entire winter in its cocoon, TOC Community & Special Events Coordinator Sandy Richter decided the best place for the moth was in the garden shed outside.

“This moth needed to develop in the environment it was designed to be in. That’s why I decided the garden shed would be a cold, safe place for our friend to temporarily occupy” said Richter.


As an adult, cecropia moths only goal is to mate; they are even born without mouths because they do not need to eat! It is rare to see these kinds of moths as they only live for about three days after leaving the cocoon. So, as you can imagine, this was a fun and exciting day for our staff at The Outdoor Campus.