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How to Navigate Using Your Senses


Learn how to navigate using only your senses. Understanding this survival skill may help you someday if disaster strikes and you are lost in the wild. A basic knowledge of navigation is something every adventurer should have. Not only is it essential for your own safety, it can enhance your outdoors experience. Follow these simple steps to find your internal compass and learn how to navigate with your senses.


Mother Nature’s Compass

Pay attention to your surroundings! Mother nature is constantly changing her course. Knowing what’s going on around you is the first step. When you are at a high point, take a look around and examine what’s going on with a critical eye. Storm approaching? Dense vegetation? Is there a bear near the trail or just a memorable rock? Take mental snapshots of easily recognizable landmarks.

Use your eyes! Up! Down! And all around! Constantly monitoring what is around you is the easiest way to capture minute details that could be brewing into big consequences.

Use your ears! An echo can be used to approximate distance. A one second return is roughly 500 ft. away. Masters of this technique would tell you that cold moist air carries sound better than hot dry air.

Feelings do matter! The south sides of rocks are warmer than the north. Gusting wind may mean a storm is on the front! Look at the terrain under your boots. Wet canyons may translate to flashflood potential!

Learn the prevailing winds – the direction most wind generally blows in the area. This can help you get oriented if you lose your sense of direction. You may not need to call the weather station either – you can generally tell the direction of prevailing winds by looking at how vegetation in the area is shaped.  

camping recipe ingredients

Camping Recipes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars | Camping Snack


Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars are a wonderful snack for backpacking, day hiking or anytime really. This easy recipe takes a little bit of effort at home, but pays big energy and flavor rewards on the trail.


Below is everything you need to make homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars that are packed with energy for logging long days on the trail. 

Egg:  1 
Chunky Peanut Butter:  1/2 Cup 
Packed Dark Brown Sugar:  1/3 Cup 
Honey:  1/4 Cup    *Agave also works well. 
Canola Oil:  5 Tbl 
Old Fashioned Oats:  2 1/4 Cup 
Cinnamon:  1/2 tsp  
Vanilla Extract: 1/4 tsp
Chopped Toasted Walnuts:  1/4 Cup    *Pecans or Almonds also work well. 
Mini Milk Chocolate Chips:  1/4 Cup  
Mini Dark Chocolate Chips:  1/4 Cup  
Dried Coconut:  2 Tbl 

At Home Preparation

Assemble all of your ingredients.  Nothing is worse that trying to make something and realizing you are out of a key ingredient. First off preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 cup muffin pan or sheet pan with nonstick spray.

In a mixing bowl combine egg, peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, oil, vanilla and beat until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and gently stir until mixed. Spoon into muffin pan/sheet pan and bake until golden brown, about 16 to 20 mins. Let cool to room temperature then carefully remove.  

Place them in a Ziploc back until you are ready to enjoy. If you are car camping you can just leave them in the bag. If you plan on taking them backpacking, I highly recommend wrapping them cling wrap first.

Tip: Everything for this recipe minus the egg and canola oil can be bought in your local supermarket’s bulk section. The bulk section is every diy camping chef’s best friend.

Chocolate Oreo Pudding | Camping Dessert

Chocolate Oreo Pudding is just about the most rewarding treat ever after a long day on the trail. This recipe is easy to make and the prep time takes all of two or three minutes. Follow these simple steps for a camping dessert that is sure to please the whole family.


This is everything you need to make Chocolate Oreo Pudding in the backcountry or at the campground. 

Instant Chocolate Pudding:  1 pkg 
Powdered Milk:  3/4 Cup 
Crumbled Oreos:  8 oz. 
Cold Water:  ​2 Cups 

At Home Preparation

Place chocolate pudding powder and powdered milk in a Ziploc freezer bag. Crumble Oreos and place them in a sandwich bag, then put inside the  Ziploc with the other ingredients. 

In Camp Preparation

Remove Oreos from the Ziploc and set aside. Add 2 cups of cold water to Ziploc and seal. Next shake the bag vigorously for about 5 minutes. Place the bag in cold stream or snow for about a half hour. Occasionally give it a shake for a few seconds. Once it has thickened top with crumbled Oreos and enjoy. 

Cheesy Grits with Bacon | Campfire Recipe


Learn to make Cheesy Grits with Bacon. This tasty breakfast is quick and easy to make at a campground in the morning or miles out in the backcountry. It requires minimal prep time and is quite delicious. The measurements listed below are designed for one hungry backpacker or a couple of car campers. You can always adjust measurements as needed to feed more.


Cheesy Grits with Bacon Ingredients

This is everything you need to make Cheesy Grits with Bacon in the backcountry or at the campground. 

Serves: 1 really hungry backpacker or two not so hungry car campers. 

Instant Grits (plain): 2 Packages  
Shelf-stable Bacon:  2 Tbl
Powdered Milk:  2 Tbl  
Butter Powder:  1/2 tsp 
Onion Powder:  1 tsp 
Granulated Garlic:  1 tsp  
Crushed Red Pepper:  1/4 tsp 
Shelf-stable Parmesan Cheese:  1 Tbl 
Shelf-stable Cheddar Cheese:  2 oz. 
H20:  1 Cup 

At Home Preparation

Measure out all ingredients then combine all dry ingredients in a Ziploc bag. Wrap cheddar with plastic wrap and place in the Ziploc.

At camp boil water and dice cheddar. Place diced cheddar in Ziploc along with other dry ingredients and add boiling water. Wait about 5 minutes, stir and enjoy

Smoked Salmon Pasta | Camping Recipe


Learn to make a delicious Smoked Salmon Pasta. This hearty and savory dish is a great dinner after a day of grinding out miles in the backcountry or sitting around the campfire. The measurements listed below are designed for one hungry backpacker. If you are relaxing with the family and doing a little car camping this should feed two. You can alway adjust measurements as need to feed more.


Smoke Salmon Pasta Ingredients

This is everything you need to make Smoke Salmon Pasta in the backcountry or at the campground. 

Ramen Noodles (Flavor package removed):  2 Packages
Diced Sun-dried Tomatoes:  1/4 Cup
Butter Powder:  1 Tbl
Onion Powder:  1 Tbl
Dehydrated Capers:  1 Tbl
Chicken Bouillon:  1 Tbl (1 Cube) 
Granulated garlic:  1 Tbl
Olive Oil:  1 Tbl 
Crushed Red Pepper:  1 tsp
Shelf-stable Parmesan Cheese:  1/4 Cup
Smoked Salmon:  3 oz 
Water:  3 Cups

Materals Needed:  Ziploc Freezer Bag, Snack Size Sandwich Bag.

At Home

Remove Ramen from package and remove flavor pouch. Place in Ziploc freezer bag with the package of smoked salmon and olive oil packets or small container, your choice. Combine all other dry ingredients in a sandwich bag and place in Ziploc.

In Camp

Boil water and add Ramen. Combine salmon and all other ingredients in the Ziploc. Once the Ramen is nearly done (about 90 Seconds), combine all ingredients in Ziploc and seal. Wait about 5 minutes and enjoy!

How to make the perfect smore


Smores are the traditional camping treat and for good reason. With ingredients this simple (graham crackers, chocolate bar, and a bag of large marshmallows) it all comes down to technique. Read on to learn how we make the perfect smore.


Using your weenie/marshmallow roasting stick, stick one large marshmallow on. Extra points if you can pull this off with two.

Hopefully your fire has settled down into hot coals. If not, wait, and then make a nice coal bed about the size of a large dinner plate.

Hold your marshmallow over the coals (and no flames) at least 8 inches away (to start, you can move closer as you become more comfortable with the fire’s temperature). Slowly rotate the stick once each side has reached a light brown/caramel color. The goal is to not let the marshmallow catch on fire, brown evenly, and give it enough time in the heat to melt the center.

Once your marshmallow is ready, take your graham crackers and chocolate bar into a sandwich. Place the warm marshmallow on top of the chocolate, lower the top graham cracker, and slide the stick out. Enjoy!…

Arches National Park Hikes

Discover and explore the best hiking trails in Arches. Arches National Park has hiking trails that are perfect for every age and skill level. Many of Arches easy trails lead to picturesque viewpoints that have graced the cover of many magazines.  Some of the longer moderate and difficult hikes offer adventure far from the road and the crowds of people. Many of these hikes lead to stunning arches and other geological features that few visitors ever see.  Remember to plan accordingly for your hike. In the summertime temperatures can soar above 95 degrees and most trails in Arches have little or no shade. Make sure to carry plenty of water and know your limitations.

More Trail Collections

Best Easy Hiking Trails in Arches

Discover these easy hikes in Arches National Park. These trails are great for all ages and feature incredible scenery of some of the park’s namesake features. For the best photography opportunities, hike to Delicate Arch, Skyline Arch, Balanced Rock,The Windows and Courthouse Towers in the late afternoon. Hit the trail in the early morning for the best photography of Double Arch.

0.1 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Delicate Arch Viewpoint is a short family friendly and ADA accessible hike to Utah’s iconic arch.

0.3 (miles)

 Easy;

Loop

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Balanced Rock is a very easy ADA accessible and family friendly hike to a picturesque rock formation in Arches National Park.

1 (miles)

 Easy;

Loop

~200 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

The Windows in Arches National Park is an easy family friendly hike that leads to three massive and beautiful arches.

0.5 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Double Arch Trail in Arches National Park is a great hike for small children and adults alike that leads to the base of a giant arch.

0.4 (miles)

 Very; Easy

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Sand Dune Arch Trail in Arches National Park is a very easy hike to a secluded and beautiful arch. This hike a great choice for families.

0.4 (miles)

 Very; Easy

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Skyline Arch Trail in Arches National Park is a very easy family friendly hike that features stunning scenery.

0.5 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Courthouse Wash Rock Art Panel is a perfect hike for small children in Arches National Park. The trail features amazing history, wildlife and tremendous scenery.

Best Moderate Hiking Trails in Arches

These moderate trails in Arches are perfect for hikers looking to get off the beaten the path. For the best pictures, hike to Landscape Arch after your morning coffee. Head down the trail to Park Avenue later in the afternoon.

2 (miles)

 Easy;

Loop

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Broken Arch Trail in Arches National Park is an easy family friendly hike that leads to stunning scenery.

1.6 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

Minimal (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Landscape Arch Trail in Arches National Park is wonderful family friendly hike that leads to an amazing arch.

2 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

~325 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Park Avenue in Arches National Park is a family friendly hike that offers up close views of towering sandstone spires.

Best Difficult Hiking Trails in Arches

Looking for adventure in Arches? Look no further. These trails are for hikers who want to escape the crowds and explore the lesser known areas that are only accessible by foot. Tower Arch, Fiery Furnace and Delicate Arch are best hiked in the afternoon if you crave awesome pictures. Double O Arch makes for a great early morning hike and the Devil’s Garden Trail is spectacular anytime of the day.

3.4 (miles)

 Moderate;

Out & Back

~650 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Tower Arch Trail in Arches National Park near Moab is a short kid friendly hike that leads to an amazing arch.

7.2 (miles)

 Moderate;

Loop

~1200 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Devil’s Garden is a tough hike in Arches National Park that passes by 8 stunning arches. This hike kid friendly, but the entire length may be too much for young kids.

3 (miles)

 Easy;

Out & Back

~480 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Delicate Arch Trail leads the iconic symbol of Arches National Park and is great choice for families.Click for

4 (miles)

 Moderate;

Out & Back

~700 (+) (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Double O Arch is a moderate hike in Arches National Park that leads to several stunning Arches. This trail is great for families who want to explore the park.

Up to you! (miles)

 Moderate;

Out & Back

Options (Elev. Δ – ft)

Utah

Arches

Fiery Furnace in Arches National Park is a great hike for those that seek adventure, solitude and cross country travel.…

Review product picture

Therm A Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad Review

Lightweight/Compact  |  Self-inflating  |  Made in USA

Where to Buy/Quick Price Comparison

Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad Review

In the market for a lightweight sleeping pad?  Look no further than the Evolite! A combination of highly compressible foam and alightweight lattice-like frame allows this pad to achieve nearly 2 inches of loft while still packing down to the size of a football and weighing in at just over one pound.

Build Quality

The folks at Cascade Designs were thinking outside the box when they dreamed up the Therm-a-Rest Evolite sleeping pad.  By combining a highly compressible foam core with a lightweight lattice-like frame, this pad achieves nearly 2 inches of loft while still packing down to the size of a football. While this sleeping pad is not quite self-inflating, it does come close, and certainly requires less lung-power to blow up to adequate firmness. Testers were quick to note that this sleeping pad was unusually quiet compared to the crackling sound that can often be heard from many other lightweight pads.  Build quality is so far consistent with other Therm-a-Rest products, which means you can expect to own and continue using this pad for years to come (even if you are the type to leave your air mattress rolled up in its stuff sack for months on end).  

Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

 Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

Although relatively self-inflating, you’ll want to use Therm-a-Rest’s standard issue blow valve to reach this pad’s full potential.

Value

Value here is a highly subjective measure, as Therm-a-Rest products are seldom on the economical end of the scale. While it is certainly possible to find a sleeping pad for much less expense, you would be hard-pressed to find one that matches up to the Evolite’s ~ 1 lb. weight and compact size. Therm-a-Rest bills this sleeping pad out as a 3-season pad, but it would not be out of the question to take this out on your next winter camping trip, especially if you brought a solid foam pad to serve as a liner (a practice generally encouraged on winter overnight trips). Only you can put a price on a good night’s sleep, but we feel confident that a good sleeping pad is worth the investment.  

Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

 Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

2 inches of vertical loft keep you and your sleeping bag off the ground and sleeping comfortably.

Initial Review

A sleeping pad with 2 inches of loft is relatively unheard of in the backpacking world, particularly among those who endeavor to pack ultralight. The difference in comfort (and perhaps even sleep quality) was immediately noticeable, even as compared to Therm-a-Rest’s other offerings (such as the ProLite). Bedding down on the hard granite floors of Yosemite was made less painful, and princess-and-the-pea sleepers can take comfort in the fact that small rocks, roots or twigs are easily absorbed. If you’re looking for additional justification to pull the trigger on this sleeping pad consider that Leave-No-Trace principles rarely encourage sleeping on soft grasses patches. Heat loss to the ground was minimal, and sleeping bag ratings are bound to increase.  In short, the EvoLite has soared to the top of our testers’ mattress pad shortlist and for good reason.  

For more gear reviews and other outdoors news don’t forget to sign up for our email list!  CLICK HERE to sign up. 

Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

 Therm-a-Rest Evolite Sleeping Pad

Did we mention it’s compact? A regular pad will compress down to 7.5 x 5 inches and fits easily in the included stuff sack.

Lowest Price for


This gear was provided to TrailMob.com free of charge by the manufacturer in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.…

picture of one of the most popular trails in the USA

Appalachian Trail lightning strike survivor needs your help finding closure Archived Story

Feature

Author: Mike Smith
Date: 01.04.16


UPDATED: 7:45 1.4.2016 with additional and clarifying information.

On the afternoon of June 18, 2015 two sisters were backpacking together along the Appalachian Trail near Washington Monument State Park in rural Maryland when the weather began to take a turn for the worse. One hour later a single bolt of lighting would forever change their lives.

Sisters Mollyann Hart and Lauren Bognovitz had spent the weeks prior to June 18th getting ready for their first-ever backpacking trip together. Preparation was standard: knocking off day-hikes, testing out gear, learning their limits; and the pair could not have been more excited to hit the trail. Having grown up in Montgomery County, Maryland, the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail seemed like a natural choice for their first serious trip, a 3-4 day backpacking adventure.

The two decided to tackle the section between Pen Mar, Pennsylvania and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. With their destination set and a thirst for adventure ready to be quenched, Mollyann and Lauren hit the trail.  A quick review of the weather conditions revealed a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms for the duration of the trip; equipped with rain gear and weather apps on their phones if Mother Nature decided to not play nice, the sisters determined the weather was not enough to deter.

Day One of the trip went about as well as could be hoped for as they took in the breathtaking scenery with each step of the white-blazed trail. “It was a blast… It was our first time on a multi-day trip. The first 4 hours were hard as heck, because we were practically rock-climbing. And being a first timer, I way overpacked. I probably had enough food to last a week and a half at least.”  Said Mollyann.  Overpacked perhaps but filled with exuberance, in one short day she’d come to appreciate the AT as more than just a 2,190 mile dirt path and instead as a community stretching from Georgia to Maine. “Meeting all these wonderful people who are so pure and are all fearlessly hiking their own hikes was so liberating and inspiring… I felt honored to finally experience it.”

At sunset they settled down, equal parts tired and exhilarated. After a quick dinner and a few bites of banana bread given to them by trail angels at the Cowall shelter, the two crawled into their tent and chatted about the amazing scenery and just how spectacular it was to be amongst nature. That evening the skies opened up and rhythmic rain hammered their tent walls throughout the night, however, by morning the sisters awoke to the pleasant tune of birds chirping. With the rain stopped, skies looking exactly the same as the previous day, and their attempt to check the weather apps foiled by lack of cell service, the pair pressed on.

The morning of Day Two continued much the same as the previous the day, with the duo traveling the well-beaten path through the beautiful mixed-hardwood forest, bursting with deer, squirrels, chipmunks and set to the tunes of songbirds. As the miles passed and with the sun rising high overhead, rain again started to fall.  It was not a downpour like the previous night, more “steady rain…a little bit more than a drizzle” and with no lightning or thunder in sight or sound they were not particularly worried, thinking it just a little rain. Having just sloshed through South Mountain and Greenbrier State Parks they decided to take a lunch break at the old Washington Monument to get out of the weather.

View from an overlook in South Mountain State Park the day of the accident.

Right when they got inside it started to pour again, so the pair decided to hole up for a bit and wait it out. The old Washington Monument is normally a popular spot for hikers to climb to the top and take in the view, but today it was a much-needed shelter from the elements (one other hiker would also take shelter inside the monument). The perceived safety of the 34-foot high monument was short-lived; the weather took a serious turn for the worse and just as they started to realize they were in a very bad situation a thunderous boom rattled the walls and shook the ground of the stone tower.  “I turned to my sister and said well! That was terrifying!” Mollyann recalls.  Then before she could utter another word… A flash and a ferocious bolt of lightning scored a direct hit on the tower.  The force of the violent blast threw them like ragdolls out of the doorway and onto the steps outside.  “I landed head-first on the stone steps.”  The next roughly half an hour was nothing short of complete chaos with Mollyann’s life hanging in the balance.

The blast, electrical shock and crushing blow to the head had left Mollyann unconscious.  Lauren, however, did not lose consciousness – instead finding herself in something of a daze. Upon gathering herself, she realized Mollyann had been badly hurt. The massive gash in Mollyann’s forehead was gushing blood like a fountain, and to her horror she was not breathing. “My sister had to give me CPR… I was blue,” recalled Mollyann succinctly. With Lauren at her sister’s now breathing but still unconscious side the shelter’s other hiker, who had not been badly injured, took off down the trail to get help. The second soon-to-be Good Samaritan had by now made his way up trail and upon seeing the terrified look on Lauren’s face dropped his pack and took off sprinting down the trail–all with no words exchanged.  It was around this time that Mollyann regained consciousness: “I don’t remember the accident, I remember waking up and having no idea where I was or who I was, my sister kept telling me that I had fell, but I didn’t understand…” All she knew was “everything hurt.”  

Lauren stayed by her sister’s side waiting for help to arrive.  The wet stone steps washed red with blood when rescuers arrived via four-wheeler to take her off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance. The entire time Lauren tried to keep her sister calm but the confused Mollyann had heard her “whisper to the [Rangers/paramedics] that [she had been] hit by lightning.” Mollyann remembers, “it was then that I started freaking out. I touched my head and I could feel bone, I was certain I was going to die…” As the rescuers loaded Mollyann onto the ATV to get her off the mountain, “I kept telling the woman paramedic that she needed to call ahead and get the CT scan ready, I couldn’t answer any questions about where I was but I was demanding a head-CT as if I had any clue what I was talking about.”  

An excerpt from the journal of a thru hiker who was passing through at the time provides more perspective on the severity of the storm:

“Thursday, June 18, I was in George Washington State Park in rural Maryland, when in the late afternoon a crazy thunder and lightning storm broke open in full fury. I had nowhere to run and hide. There was no time separation between the flashes and the bangs – if you know what I mean. And I was hiking in the water up past my ankles. All I could do was keep walking. Then I heard sirens, and they kept getting closer and closer. Finally the emergency vehicle speeds past me (I’m on the road/trail leading to the summit now). when I get to the top I found out that the lightning had struck the monument, blowing one 24 year old girl out of the structure (not hitting her directly) and down the front steps onto the stone front entry area. She was bleeding from a serious head injury” ~ ThruHiker Warren “Bull” Burbury’s Trail Journal

Mollyann in the hospital.

Mollyann was taken by ambulance to the Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown. “The next couple days were rough and filled with lots of doctors, lots of tests.” Mollyann remembers.  She would learn that she was not directly struck by lightning but instead by a side flash strike. A side flash strike occurs when a lightning bolt strikes a taller object and portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim. The National Weather Service says “in essence, the person acts as a ‘short circuit’ for some of the energy in the lightning discharge.”  In this case the bolt struck the monument and Mollyann was the short circuit. The side flash strike left her with a laundry list of injuries: a traumatic concussion, a damaged optic nerve, intracranial hypertension, and permanently damaged vision. “Electricity definitely conducted in my head, because it burned a hole in my retina in my right eye – as a result I won’t be able to see much of anything out of it anymore… I can see fragments of the world but not all… I have no peripheral vision in that eye at all and am missing some of the peripheral vision in my left.”

Mollyann’s life was permanently changed by the accident. “The next couple of months were pretty tough, I stayed in bed and slept for about 3 months straight.” More than 6 months after the tragedy the effects are still being felt “obviously, I had a really bad concussion, which is still healing, but I’m able to participate in the real world now.” Surviving such an ordeal has left more than just physical scars on Mollyann, it’s left unpaid emotional debts. “There were a lot of people involved in saving my life… I want to thank them all… My sister obviously first and foremost, she breathed the life back into me when the lightning had knocked it out.” The hiker who was in shelter with them when the accident happened (and who ran for help) came and visited her in the hospital and they are now friends.  But one question mark remains for Mollyann…the mystery hiker who also ran for help.

“Knowing that some stranger literally dropped his pack to run down the mountain to find help without even missing a beat warms my heart… Because when my sister saw him, he gave her some hope to hold onto, knowing that someone was coming to help and that my survival wasn’t going to depend completely on her… I want to give him a big hug.”

Mollyann has been searching for the mystery Good Samaritan, but so far to no avail.  Please share this article in the hopes of tracking him down and giving Mollyann the chance to finally thank her trail angel.

For more articles and updates from TrailMob, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. …

Hiking Trails in City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho

Hiking Trails in City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho

City of Rocks National Reserve in south central Idaho is an incredible place to visit. This off the beaten path reserve is famous for its incredible rock spires that offer world class rock climbing and bouldering opportunities and stunning campsites spread out along the backcountry byway that bisects the reserve. If climbing is not your thing, don’t worry about it.

There are trails spread throughout that are great for all ages and abilities and range from very easy to a bit more moderate with some slight elevation gain. Click on any of the trails listed below for a complete trail guide.…

Picture of a Wolf

Wolf sighting in the Black Hills ?

Author:  S.; Jefferson
2015


BLACK HILLS, South Dakota –  Wolves in South Dakota, in this day and age?  Impossible right?  Well, apparently not – a video obtained by TrailMob clearly shows a gray wolf allegedly roaming the Black Hills.

Earlier today, TrailMob spoke with the man who shot the video. He asked to only be identified as Lance. Lance told us that he and a buddy were out driving around the Black Hills on Friday, August 14th “scouting for elk” when they saw the wolf and that he “just happened to have a video camera handy.”  While a wolf in the Black Hills comes as a surprise to most of us, it is no surprise to Lance who says he has “seen three in the past two years and has heard of numerous others seeing them in the area.”

So an elk hunter spots a wolf in an area where they are not supposed to be…  “I could have shot it if I wanted to” he observed, and judging from the video he most surely could have landed the shot. But he didn’t. Lance insists he “does not have problem a with wolves… I don’t mind seeing a few here and there, I just don’t want them to get out of hand.” 

Lance says if wolves are going to be in South Dakota, they need to be managed to keep their numbers from exploding. When asked what the best management strategy was, he simply answered “hunting and trapping” but was also quick to point out that right now he would never consider killing a wolf because they are considered endangered. Admittedly, as an avid hunter Lance was not thrilled about the prospect of wolves in the Black Hills, but maintains that so long as their numbers are managed he does not really care, even going as far to say it is very cool seeing them in the wild, and judging from his friend’s reaction in the clip he’s not the only one.

TrailMob reached out to the Center for Biological Diversity after seeing the video. We wanted to make sure the animal was in fact a wolf and not a coyote (see graphic below for help in distinguishing between the two). The Center released us this statement after we showed them the video:  “Gray wolves lived in the Black Hills since time immemorial, and now this beautiful animal has returned …. Most people, regardless of their feelings about wolves, strive to follow the law, and it is incumbent on federal and state wildlife authorities to educate the public about this protected wolf’s presence so it can’t be mistaken for an unprotected coyote.” (Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity)

The wolf debate has been raging across the country for more than twenty years. Since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and the wilderness of central Idaho in 1995, wolves have slowly reclaimed pieces of their historical territory. Currently there are self-sustaining packs in Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Lone wandering wolves are not anomalies; often young non-dominate males will leave their pack in search of a mate. This is also the likely explanation for South Dakota’s newest predator.

Oregon did not reintroduce wolves; they reintroduced themselves from Idaho, forming packs in the remote and rugged Blue and Wallowa Mountains. Eventually, those packs grew and young adults splintered in hopes of establishing themselves as the Alpha males. That was the case for perhaps the world’s most famous wolf, OR-7. In September of 2011, OR-7 left his pack in northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains near Joesph. OR-7 wandered into western Oregon, becoming the first wolf to do so in many decades. By year’s end, his search for a mate took him into northern California. For the first time in nearly 90 years a gray wolf ran wild in the Golden State. For the next couple of years he traveled… making headlines… hanging out with coyotes… essentially looking for love in all the wrong places. OR-7 eventually returned to Oregon and in 2014 finally found a mate and has since settled down in the Siskiyou National Forest in the southern Cascades. The two formed the Rogue River Pack and have had pups. This marked the first time in nearly 70 years western Oregon had wolves. Today the Rogue Pack remains healthy with OR-7 sitting at its head.

While lone wolves in new territory are not uncommon, a violent death for them is all too common. Take the case of “Echo.” Late last year a lone female wolf wandered all the way to the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Echo, as the wolf became known garnered international headlines for making such an incredible journey. Schoolchildren from around the world participated in the process of naming her. Fish and Wildlife data show that Echo was collared near Cody, Wyoming around the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park in January 2014. As the crow flies, she traveled well over 700 miles in under a single year. Echo was shot and killed outside of Beaver, Utah by a young hunter who mistakenly thought she was a coyote (see our graphic below). The hunter was never charged, but thousands around the world were heartbroken.
OR-7 Credit: USFWS

The future of the gray wolf is currently in flux. Wolves have been taken off the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana and both states now have wolf hunting seasons. Soon wolves in eastern Oregon may share a similar outcome. A Center for Biological Diversity study notes that wolves have only returned to roughly 10 percent of their original range. The study goes on to say “there are approximately 530,000 square miles of suitable wolf habitat in the lower 48, of which roughly 171,000 square miles are currently occupied, meaning wolves have recovered to only roughly 30 percent of known suitable habitat.” To put that into perspective, the amount of vacant suitable wolf habitat is roughly the size of Texas and Colorado… combined. Large swaths of land with familiar names such as California’s Sierra Nevada, the Grand Canyon, Colorado’s Rockies, Washington’s Cascades and even back east in New York’s Adirondacks and Maine’s great north woods to name a few.

So what’s the hold up? It’s no secret that the mere mention of wolves in an area where they are not currently established (or where they are) is a volatile cocktail. One part a shoot, shovel and shutup mentality … One part they are going to kill all of our wildlife…. One part they are going to put all of the ranchers and farmers out of business… shaken and strained into a chilled glass of fear.

Wolves are predators; yes they are going to kill and eat wildlife. However, wolves are not after a trophy buck!  Scientific studies show wolves tend to prey on the very young, old, injured or generally unfit. Bringing down an elk or a moose is no easy task for a pack of wolves; in fact it is actually quite dangerous for them. A single kick from an elk can kill or mortally wound an adult wolf. Common sense in conjunction with science dictates that wolves will predate on those easiest for them to kill. A study conducted in Yellowstone National Park illustrated this point, it concluded adult elk killed by wolves were roughly 7 years older than elk harvested by hunters. YouTube comments from the video (original publishing) illustrate the misconceptions here. “C. Pederson” writes “Shoot every one of the killers, no use for them and how they decimate entire herds of deer, elk, etc!” and “Dakota Tree Surgeon” echoes the sentiment “… we don’t need them here. Our elk and deer herds are already decimated by mountain lions and disease. You introduce another major predator and you will see further decline of these populations. They need to be shot on site.”  “Brian Spears” says “Our Moose population in Wyoming has been decimated due to the introduction of the Canadian Grey Wolf and the protection of the Grizzly Bear. I hope that’s the only one.”  How to tell a Wolf from a Coyote

These comments are based on fear, not science. Gray wolves are not going to huff and puff and blow houses down. When one looks at the facts, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s use Minnesota as an example state. Northern Minnesota is home to about 3,000 wolves. The state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife manages successful populations of both wolf and white tailed deer, which are wolves’ primary prey in Minnesota. A report published by Fish and Wildlife reasons “within the Minnesota’s wolf range, the current wolf population relies on a relatively small portion (10-13%) of the deer population to sustain itself annually. That and the rather extraordinary population performance of white-tailed deer in most of northern Minnesota, dependent largely on a high capacity for survival (particularly after one year of age) and high reproductive success, allow deer to thrive.” Wolves in Minnesota have been protected since 1978. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says “[t]he years 2005 through 2007 produced the highest deer harvests ever, with Minnesota deer hunters harvesting over 250,000 white-tailed deer during each of those hunting seasons – an approximate five-fold increase in hunter deer harvest since wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1978.”

Another study in Yellowstone shows the devastating effects overgrazing elk had on the park’s meadows – a true Tragedy of the Commons scenario. Yes, there is no denying elk numbers are down in Yellowstone because of wolves, however beavers are returning to historical numbers now that there is adequate growth to build dams, carrion loving raptors are again soaring overhead… the list goes on.

Gray wolves’ relationship with ranchers and farmers has been troubled at best since the settlement of the West. Yes, wolves kill livestock from time to time and perhaps the federal government should compensate ranchers who lose livestock on private property to wolves. However, if ranchers lose a cow or sheep on public land that is a different story. Ranchers don’t own the land, rather they chose to rent land the American taxpayers own. Fees to graze on Bureau of Land Management grounds are $1.69 per head per month. Such cheap fees should indicate tacit approval of risks associated with grazing on public lands. Sportsmen, environmentalists, ranchers and you and I all own that land equally. If someone goes into Yellowstone’s backcountry, they understand there are inherent risks with their choice. The same should hold true for ranchers who choose to graze on public property.

There is no black and white when it comes to wolf management, there needs to be compromise in order for all needs to be addressed. To be sure, wolves will never return to all of the land they once called home (or even those regions still suitable for them). They will also likely lower game numbers once there and ranchers will lose some livestock every now and again. Without compromise it’s a lose, lose and lose situation for all parties involved. Regardless of where you stand, leave us a comment below and share with your friends.…

Alligator

How to avoid alligator attacks

Understanding how to avoid alligator attacks is a necessity of hiking in the deep south. Hiking in alligator country can be a thrilling experience, but can also be dangerous! Gators are common in the south and generally found from the North Carolina coast to Texas. While alligator attacks on humans are rare, they do happen – most often because of a lack of common sense. Follow these simple steps for an enjoyable hike and avoid becoming gator bait.



Alligator facts

The first step to avoiding becoming an alligator attack victim is understanding some basics about alligators (alligator mississippiensis).

  • The largest alligator on record was nearly 16 long and weighed more than 1,000 lbs.
  • An alligator lifespan in the wild is between 35 and 50 years.
  • There are two types of alligators, the chinese alligator and american alligator, which is obviously the only one found in North America.  
  • Are alligators endangered? The IUCN Red List considers alligators a species of least of concern. They are listed as threatened on the U.S. Federal List.
  • How many teeth do alligators have? Alligators have between 74 and 80 teeth, but when a tooth is worn down it is replaced. During its lifetime an alligator can have a total of 2 to 3 thousand different teeth.
  • Additonal information and other alligator facts can be found in our field guides. 

Where do alligators live?

Alligators live from the Virginia-North Carolina border down the the Atlantic coast, around Florida to Texas and as far north as southern Arkansas. Alligator habitat is generally characterized by calm freshwater marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes.

What do alligators eat?

Only humans, JUST KIDDING!  Alligators are essentially carnivores. They generally hunt by night and eat small prey such as turtles, fish and small mammals whole. They will clamp down on large prey and drag it under water, drowning it.

A fed gator is a dead gator

A fed gator is a dead gator. Never feed an alligator! Sounds like common sense right? Well it’s not, each year gators have to be killed because they learned to associate humans with food. It’s more than just blatantly feeding them however; feeding wildlife which are alligator prey can have the same effect and attract alligators.

Avoid alligator attacks with the rule of thumb

Use the “Rule of Thumb” trick to make sure you keep an appropriate distance. How close is too close? With an outstretched arm hold your thumb up in front of the alligator.  If you can see any part of the alligator you are too close and should back up until your thumb blocks it.  If an alligator hisses or lunges in your direction that is a clear cut sign you are too close. Remember, while alligators appear slow and clumsy, some fish and wildlife departments suggest they can run as fast as 20 miles per hour for a short distance.

Baby alligators means protective momma gator is nearby

Avoid nests and baby alligators at all costs. If there are eggs and little ones there is sure to be a mama gator nearby and she could become aggressive if you are near her young.  

Do not unintentionally attract alligators

If you are camping, don’t wash your dishes in or near any body of water.  The splashing, smells and food attracts gators. If you are fishing in alligator country, don’t throw the guts into the water; and if you are catch and release fishing, don’t release a fish if you suspect a gator to be nearby.

Alligator attacks most often occur on children and pets

Alligators prefer easy meals. That is one of the reasons attacks on adult humans are so rare. However, children and pets can be different story.  When hiking in gator country always keep a close eye on kids and pets. No swimming in waters where alligators may be present and always keep your pets on leash.

Don’t harass alligators

If you come across a gator along the trail, wait until it passes. It is illegal and very dangerous to annoy them by trying to get them to move. Meaning, don’t throw rocks or harass an alligator.…

Orange Screw product

Orange Screw Gear Review

Indestructible  |  Versatile  |  Very Orange

Orange Screw Gear Review

Meet the last tent stake you’ll ever need: Orange Screws. This Washington state start-up advertises its product as the “ultimate ground anchor” that can handle hundreds of pounds of pressure. It’s a lofty claim that we decided to put to the test. Here’s what we found out.

How to use Orange Screws

Remove the screw from the hard clear sleeve (if it has one). Push the tip of the orange screw in the ground and rotate in clockwise direction. Once you get the stake firmly in the ground, you can slide the hard clear sleeve through the eyelet at the top of the screw and continue driving into the ground, taking advantage of the increased leverage.

Our testing experience

The TrailMob editors decided to go camping in eastern Washington on a particularly windy March weekend. We found a nice ridgeline after a few miles and decided to pitch camp and test our fate with the winds.

Having earlier decided a compare and contrast approach was the best way to settle the Orange Screws vs. other tent stake debate, I got the Orange Screws while my partner in crime got a grab-bag of other tent stakes (if you’re like us you have a bunch of incomplete sets of tent stakes). Being that it rarely rains where we were, the ground felt like one part cement and one part bedrock, with a sprinkle of light gravel. I opted for the smaller 9.5 inch Orange Screws. Not going to lie, the ground was so hard it was a bit of pain getting them started, but after that they screwed right into the hard soil with minimal effort with the benefit of the the sheath, which surprisingly helps generate quite a bit of leverage.

With the tent pitched, I lassoed my disobedient dobie Klauss, who at this point was convinced he was going to finally be fast enough to catch a rabbit – he wasn’t, the only thing he caught was a couple of goatheads. I screwed in another Orange Screw and tied him to it for a bit while I poured myself a nice nip of scotch and sat back to relax, getting ready to take in the sunset. About 15 minutes had passed at this point. I got a warm belly and smile on my face. I glance over to offer my buddy a drink and he is cursing, bleeding and in general seems like he definitely could use a little Macallan. By this point he had chased various parts of the tent down the hillside, had bent two tent stakes, and cut himself trying to drive another into the rock-solid ground. He was in general rather frustrated. We’ve all been there. He got three metal stakes in before he decided to just use the large Orange Screws for the rest.

Orange Screw Lever in use

 Orange Screw Lever in use

Initial Review

As far as we can tell Orange Screws are just about indestructible. We’ve been using them for four straight months. They’ve been used in soggy California this spring, on the beach, in the frozen ground in Idaho’s mountains and perhaps where they came in most handy, the rock-hard ground in eastern Washington.  If you’ve ever been to eastern Washington you will understand when we say the wind does not just blow, it relentlessly howls and anything that can be blown away will find a way to do just that. 

While Orange Screws kept our tents secure, there is at least one drawback we need to mention, on the large screws in particular. The large Orange Screw weighs in at 3.6 ounces, a piece. That is simply too heavy for backpacking. The smaller Orange Screws, at 1.8 ounces a piece are still a little heavy, but perhaps justifiable. In the end what we decided the larger ones are DOA for backpacking but the smaller ones are worth the extra weight in exchange for their usefulness. Additionally, we decided there is no absolutely need to carry a half dozen of them and that two would be the optimal number for weight-conscience backpackers: one as a guaranteed tent anchor, the other for miscellaneous needs such as: additional tent anchor, a dog anchor, or hanging a bear bag.

Obviously our primary use for Orange Screws is camping, but there are many other uses which come to mind (securing dogs, mules/horses, tarps, bear bags, etc.). What we’d really like to see is a little paracord loop added to the smaller eyelet on the head. But that’s not a big deal and something we did ourselves. Perhaps most importantly however, if you are going to be throwing them in your backpack, make sure you tape the point of the screw with a little duct tape. It’s a fairly sharp point and I was a little nervous about potentially ripping my pack on accident. A set only comes with one of the cylindrical sheaths, which is not a big deal but we would like to see perhaps some sort of rubber covering for the tip of the screw (but then we’d just lose that…).  

Orange Screws are made in the U.S.A out of 100% recycled polycarbonate plastic.  They are available in two sizes, a 12.25” larger version and a smaller 9.25” version.  Orange Screw sent us us four of each to test and get a feel for what this new Kickstarter-fueled product was all about.

The larger 12.25” Orange Screws are sold in packs of two and come with one cylindrical sheath (which doubles as a crank/driver) for $22, or, you can pick up a single large Orange Screw for $12.  The small 9.5” screws are sold in packs of four for $22 and come with one of the sheaths.


This gear was provided to TrailMob.com free of charge by the manufacturer in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.


Let us know what you think

North star

How to find the North Star


Knowing how to find the North Star will not only impress your friends, but is also a skill that can help you orient yourself at night when visibility may be limited. Follow these simple steps to learn how to find the North Star.


Find the Big Dipper Constellation

First, locate the Big Dipper. It’s the constellation generally described as a frying pan and is composed of 7 stars. The stars found in the Big Dipper and the North Star are some of the brighter stars in the night sky.

The Big Dipper points to the North Star

The Big Dipper’s last two stars are called the pointers, because a straight line connecting to two stars points to the North Star. Follow the straight line from the pointers about 5 times the length of the distance between them, and you’ll have found the North Star.

The North Star is apart of the Little Dipper

Double check that you found the North Star by tracing it up the Little Dipper constellation. The North Star is the last star in the Little Dipper’s handle.…

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