National Parks Depot Blog
Ah, the Fall… out here in California, November means that the leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the stuffy heat of the summer is nothing more than a distant memory. I’m a fall person, myself – nothing beats the feeling of waking up in a cozy bed, or relaxing in a warm apartment after a day outside. Plus, it’s easier to tolerate than the heat of summer. As I’m fond of saying, it’s always easier to put more clothes on.
Fall also means that it’s time to put the summer camping gear away, and to dust off the cold-weather bags. Fall camping, to me, means insulated tents, a thicker sleeping bag, some extra firewood, and a warm jacket that looks like a marshmallow.
I love camping in the fall. The scenery is beautiful, the parks less crowded, and the skies clearer from the occasional rain. Even my family’s tempers cool down, making a week-long excursion to the coast or the Sierras a delightful experience.
This week, though, the focus here at National Parks Depot is shifting to some Fall camping foods. Since, let’s be honest: food is one of the best parts of camping! Being able to prepare something from scratch, and making use of your limited resources is one of the coolest parts of a camping trip. Being able to create something for my family with nothing but an open fire and some supplies out of my icebox is the foundation for some of my best camping memories.
Earlier this week, though, I decided that maybe there was more to camping food than I was expecting. So, I asked some of my coworkers for other recipes. Everyone around me camps at least once or twice a year, and that means there’s a lot of tradition and nostalgia tied up in their own recipes. With this in mind, I wrote down the top 10 recipes from around the office, and put them together with some pictures in an e-book.
Some of these I’d heard of or even tried before, but others were new ideas for me. I absolutely love potatoes while I’m camping, but I’d never thought of cooking an egg in one! There’s a lot of great recipes that I can’t wait to try, and I’m sure you’ll be able to find something new as well.
Later this week, I’ll be back with my two-parter. In addition to these recipes, I also took the time to research and write down some of the most present hazards to eating while you’re camping. That post will be up on Monday, along with some recommendations on some of my favorite cooking gear from NPD. Stay tuned!
While reflecting upon last week's post where we discussed bear safety, we realized that there was so much more we wanted to say on the topic. We dug deep into safety precautions and touched on important preventative measures, but we began to wonder just how many people really know the difference between the North American black bear (Ursus americanus) and the North American brown bear (Ursus arctos)―a difference that could mean life or death in a survival situation. Although it's true that bear attacks are quite rare, it's crucial to understand how bear behavior varies between species. Just like humans, animals have personalities and predictable tendencies that ought to be recognized in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and to, in turn, peacefully co-exist.
Black bears, despite their name, are not always black. (Nor are brown bears always brown.) Even the ones that actually are black will often times have hues of brown in their coat. Their colors range from black to brown, and sometimes even hints of blue and white will be evident. Brown bears, more commonly known as grizzly or Kodiak bears depending on their region, are known to have various shades of brown in their fur, and some may even be a light blonde. For this reason, fur color is not nearly as reliable as body structure when it comes to differentiating between bears. Black bears and brown bears each have distinctive features that should be learned, memorized, and stored in the back of your mind for future reference.
Brown bears are typically larger than black bears, with a prominent shoulder hump that makes them easier to identify. This protruding muscle mass aids them in digging and gives them extra strength for bursts of speed and as they run to catch their prey. (Grizzly bears have been known to reach speeds of up to 35mph! An indelicate reminder of why it would be foolish to try to outrun one, should you ever come face to face.) Unlike their black bear cousins who have a straighter and more sleek profile, brown bears have a "dished" face and shorter, fuzzier ears. They also have longer, straighter claws, whereas black bears have shorter, curved claws, making them excellent tree climbers.
Physical features aside, there are also many behavioral differences between bear species. In general, bears are solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers watching over their cubs. And unless they see or smell food on you, they will try to avoid human interaction. If you were to encounter a black bear in the wild, it would most likely retreat and leave you as you were. On the other hand, a grizzly bear is more likely to react aggressively if it views you as a threat. (Yet another reason why it would be beneficial to know exactly who you're dealing with!)
If a bear locks eyes on you, quickly ask yourself what kind of bear it is. Do you see a visible shoulder hump? How big are its ears? What shape is its nose? If you find yourself facing a black bear that does not retreat and you need to defend yourself, fight back with all you have. On the contrary, if you find yourself face to face with a grizzly that won't back away, immediately drop to the ground face-down, cover the back of your neck with your hands, and play dead. Do not attempt to fight a grizzly bear―you won't live to tell the tale.
Okay... Are you ready to test your knowledge? Take this bear identification quiz and see if you can tell the difference!