Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pre-season Planning

So far it's been a typical March in Southern Ontario; snow, blizzards, freezing rain, rain, and +10 to -15 in the same day. Combine all that into one soggy, muddy mess and it's hard to get excited about anything to do with camping. But there is a way to drag your thoughts to babbling brooks and the warmth of summer and get a jump on the upcoming camping season at the same time. Head to the basement or garage and start taking inventory of your camping needs so that you're ready when warmer weather finally breaks through.

Here are 5 tips to help you through the late winter and early spring:

  1. Take Inventory – That's right, take a good look at what you have, what you need, and what you want for your summer adventures. Check things like bedding, dishes, tent pegs, fabric repair kits. Now's the time to replenish those non-perishable supplies.
  2. Examine Fabrics – Take the time to check your tents and sleeping bags for broken zippers, split seams, etc. Also check for rodent damage. Mice just love the fabric of your tents and sleeping bags for a cozy winters nest. It's not a pleasant discovery but it's better to find out now than when you're ready to leave for that long awaited first camping trip of the season.
  3. Check Appliances – Fire up your portable stove, lantern, BBQ, etc. to be sure that insects haven't decided to make a home in the tubes or burners over the winter.
  4. Lights – this is a good time to check all your flashlights, electric lanterns, etc. to be sure they're in good working order and that you have a good supply of replacement batteries. Have you ever arrived at a campsite after dark only to discover that your lantern batteries are dead?
  5. Plan your Trips – This is a great time of year to pull out the camping maps or check the Southern Ontario Outdoors camping destinations page and start planning your warm weather adventures. A glass of wine, some roadmaps, and campsite brochures are sure to make the final gasps of our Southern Ontario winter more bearable.

Remember that you don't have a timeframe for all this work. Don't think of it as a job, but rather as a precursor to your summer fun off the beaten trail. Take your time and make pre-season planning an enjoyable part of your camping experience.

©2011 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Brantford – A Treasure Trove of Outdoor Activities

When we think of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, paddling, and cycling our minds usually tend to wander to remote vistas and wilderness solitude. You know the old saying, "Perception is reality!" Well, the reality is that you often don't have to go very far to find the perception of wilderness solitude. In fact the City of Brantford is one such hidden Southern Ontario gem.

I always thought of Brantford as the home of Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Brant, and of course Wayne Gretzky, but I was thrilled to discover another side to Brantford. Nestled along the banks of the Grand River Brantford is a treasure trove of activity for outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the highlights include: the Grand Valley Trail, Brant Conservation Area, and the Grand River Exceptional Waters Region. Fishing in this area is second to none with an abundance of species from small mouth bass, pike, and channel cats, to walleye and rainbow trout. There are many access points and the river can be fished from shore in many locations, or wade and cast the shallows. If you're looking for something a bit more leisurely you can drift the lazy current in a canoe or kayak.

Whether you hike, fish, or paddle, the perception of wilderness solitude is very real, especially on and around the Exceptional Waters region that runs from Brantford to Paris. Even though you are surrounded by everything from towns and cities to farmland and major highways, you'll likely never know it. All you will experience is that tranquil feeling that only comes from a wilderness experience, but with all the advantages of being close to a major urban area.

Depending on your interests and pocket book, accommodations range from 4 star hotels to B&Bs to tranquil campsites along the Grand River, and local attractions are abundant and varied. If you're feeling lucky why not head to the OLG Casino, or take a side trip to the Canadian Military Heritage Museum, Chiefswood National Historic Site, Bell Homestead National Historic Site, the Woodland Cultural Centre, or take in a show at the Sanderson Centre for the Performing Arts.

Be sure to put the City of Brantford on your list of must visit places in Southern Ontario.

©2010 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Monday, September 27, 2010

Treepedo – A Logging Tool That’s Ideal for Hunters, Campers, and Paddlers

Sometimes you have to think outside the box and every once in a while, even in my foggy world, the lights come on. Recently I met Thomas Amorium, the inventor of a device called Treepedo. In short this is a neat little gadget intended for use by loggers and tree removal experts to throw a messenger line that is used to pull a rope into the tree to isolate tree branches for safe removal or to direct a falling tree when working in tight quarters. It was really cool and I thought that at least it would be worth a mention to some of my friends that own large woodlots; but what has this got to do with our outdoors adventures?

First let me tell you what this device does and why it is unique. In order to tie off a tree or a limb in a given direction a light line (messenger) is attached to a weight (typically a bag filled with toxic lead shot), the weight is then tossed into the crown of the tree and maneuvered into position to obtain the desired pull angle. A heavier rope is then attached to the messenger line, pulled back through the crown, and then anchored. If you're like me the wheels are already turning.

The problem with the traditional method is that it can be time consuming and frustrating. The lead filled bags get stuck in the branches or snag and break, spilling their lead shot contents onto the ground. Treepedo is a three part, aerodynamic, environmentally friendly device that easily worms its way through tree branches and virtually never gets hung up. It's easy to see because of the bright stainless steel finish and, in the rare instance that it does break off, it is easy to find and non toxic to the environment.

Although this was really cool my interest stopped at the purpose it was designed for; then the lights came on! Being one that's always on the lookout for new gadgets that can potentially add to my enjoyment of the outdoors I began to see new applications.

Hunters, have you ever struggled to find a secure and safe way of hoisting your tree stand, or tried to lasso a branch to hoist up a deer to keep it safe from varmints until the next morning?

Campers and paddlers, have you ever gazed longingly at that tree branch 30' off the ground and thought "If only I could get a rope around that branch to keep my food away from animals?"

Well Treepedo just might be the answer to your prayers. It's small enough, and light enough, to pack along on any hunting, camping, or paddling trip. It's easy to use and will allow you to safely, accurately, and easily secure a rope exactly where you want it.

For full details check out

©2010 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Keep Kids Busy with Geocaching

Geocaching – that high tech game of hide and seek – isn't just for adults. "I'm booorrrred", a refrain that all parents dread…especially during the family vacation! Let's face it, it isn't easy keeping the kids entertained all day long and how about some time for you too. So why not get creative and break out the GPS for the kids.

Kids these days tend to grasp the intricacies of electronic devices like we used to grasp kicking a beach ball or throwing a Frisbee. Set up a course around your cottage or campsite with treasures hidden in each place. You can make the course as long or short as you like but it will keep idle minds active for quite awhile, especially when you know just what treasures will pique their interest. Here are a few suggestions that will make it a bit easier:

  • Let the age of your kids determine the length and complexity of the course.
  • Pre-program all the waypoints and show them how to navigate from one to the other.
  • Choose an area that is relatively free of biting insects.
  • Give them a list of things they will find at each set of coordinates.
  • Encourage them to use navigational terminology like coordinates, waypoints, etc.
  • Be sure the last set of coordinates is your home base…we just want them busy for awhile and want them to find their way back home easily.
  • Give them a set of clues for each cache and, again, let their ages determine how well hidden the caches will be.
  • Give them some questions to answer about each location that will help them learn about the outdoors

Make his a fun experience and you'll not only get the kids active but they will be learning about our great Southern Ontario outdoors at the same time. Have a safe and happy summer season wherever you are in Southern Ontario.

©Lloyd Fridenburg - 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Don’t Put That in Your Mouth

There is simply no better gift that you can give your child than to share Southern Ontario's great outdoors. Even infants will love the chance to explore new territory and getting dirty is a bonus. But parents of toddlers and infants also need to be vigilant to ensure that children are safe in their surroundings.

This can be a difficult task even at home, but on the trail or in the bush it is essential. Of course there are the obvious dangers that can result in scrapes, bruises, or sprains but there are also those that can result in severe illness or even death. Many of these dangers are hidden under the guise of beautiful plants or insects. You as a responsible parent need to take the time to educate yourself about the hazards in your area and what to do about them.

Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus; ticks can transmit Lyme Disease; and the venom from wasps, bees and hornets can cause a life threatening allergic reaction, especially if multiple stings are inflicted. Plants to watch out for include daisy, periwinkle, poison ivy, poison oak, nightshade, morning glory, some varieties of mushroom, arrowhead, and milkweed. Some of these plants – or parts of them – are edible at certain times of the year and some are even medicinal, in the correct proportions, but unless you are an expert it is best to avoid them all together.

Here are a few tips to help keep your kids safe:

  • If they have eaten any form of vegetation remove any pieces from their mouth and try to identify it.
  • If you are able to identify it and it is amongst the poisonous varieties seek medical attention as soon as possible, or call the Ontario Poison Centre at 1-800-268-9017.
  • If you can't identify it or even if it is something you believe to be harmless watch the child closely for several hours so see if any symptoms arise. Symptoms can include being lethargic, trouble breathing, fever, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Don't hesitate to call the Ontario Poison Centre, they can tell what symptoms to watch for.
  • Know the risk category of the region for things like Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus. There is actually a very low risk of contracting one of these diseases and an even lower risk of serious symptoms developing, but know the symptoms. Take precautions, but don't live in fear of mosquitoes and ticks.
  • If your child is stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet watch closely for any signs of a reaction. In the event of multiple stings or if symptoms arise, seek medical assistance immediately! For more information read the article titled Bees in the Bush on the Southern Ontario Outdoors camping blog dated June 2009.

"Knowledge is Power"! It simply isn't practical to think that you can protect your kids from all things that may be harmful, but a bit of research will help you keep them safe and happy in our great Southern Ontario Outdoors.

©2010 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change and Wildlife Habitat

These days we often here talk of climate change and the potential impact that global warming will have on our society. But what about the affect of climate change on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

According to Dr. Paul James, Director of Environmental Monitoring for the Province of Saskatchewan and a research fellow at the University of Regina, many of our wildlife species are completely dependant on a very narrow band of acceptable climactic and environmental conditions in order to survive. Serious study of the effects of climate change on habitat must be undertaken and planning models must be tuned to reflect the new reality.

In short, when an ecosystem undergoes a dramatic change it can no longer sustain resident and migratory wildlife populations. New species of plant and animal life take over and indigenous species disappear.

So why don’t animals and birds simply move as their habitat changes? The fact is that they do, and much can be learned by the studying the slow migration of species into regions where they were previously unknown. But what happens if they can’t move? Take the animals and birds of the northern tundra for example. They rely on food sources that are only produced in regions of permafrost. As the permafrost vanishes due to sustained periods of higher than normal temperatures new types of vegetation will take over. These species simply cannot move further north to find food sources because it will simply cease to exist.

Species like the ptarmigan, arctic fox, and polar bear will simply cease to exist. And guess what? It is very likely to happen in our lifetime. Many scientists firmly believe that this is a “when”, rather than an “if” scenario.

There are other fragile ecosystems like the prairie pothole region that runs from the north central US through Southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and into Southern Alberta. This ecosystem provides a stopover for almost every migratory bird along the Mississippi flyway accounting for 80% of the waterfowl in North America. This ecosystem is already at risk due to improper farming and development practices. Over the next 50 years the potholes that provide a safe secure stopover for a wide variety of waterfowl will simply cease to exist.

Don’t take my word for it! Do your own research and form your own opinion, but you will find that in spite of government rhetoric many of these changes are inevitable. Dr. James stated “Wildlife studies must now focus on how to plan for the new reality and forget about sustainable management models of the past.”

While governments dither, wildlife habitat disappears!

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©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

10 Wet Weather Camping Tips

Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall and if you’ve camped pretty much anywhere in Southern Ontario this summer you know exactly what I mean. There was a time when I would plan a camping trip and come what may we’d be on the road. These days I tend to watch the weather a bit more and often defer until I have at least a reasonable chance at good weather, but still if you wait for the perfect weekend you may never go anywhere.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; is a mantra that I have uttered for many years. It has often made the difference between a miserable weekend sitting in the tent and an enjoyable experience in the great outdoors.

Here are a few tips that will keep your next camping trip dry and happy:

Personal Apparel

1. Waterproof hat with a brim that goes all the way round. Ball caps are great but don’t keep the rain from running down your neck. Rain coats with a hood are OK but the do impair your peripheral vision and hearing.

2. A waterproof jacket is essential. I prefer something made with a breathable material so perspiration doesn’t build up on the inside during warm summer rains.

3. Waterproof pants are another essential. Again a breathable fabric is my preference.

4. Waterproof footwear. This can range from lightweight, but expensive, hiking boots if you plan on hitting the trails to a simple pair of rubber boots. Rubber boots are fine for around camp but remember that rubber boots + hiking = blisters.

Around Camp

5. A kitchen shelter with flaps all around is a wise investment. They’re big enough to enjoy games around the picnic table while the rain falls and are more comfortable than sitting in your sleeping tent, especially when it comes to keeping the kids entertained.

6. Dig a trench around your tent so water will drain away and won’t form puddles around, or under, your tent.

7. Cover your firewood. There’s nothing like a warm fire after a downpour but fighting to get wet wood to burn can be a frustrating experience.

8. Bring games along. Whether it’s a deck of cards for the adults or snakes and ladders for the kids, the rain becomes nothing more than a slight distraction if everyone is happy.

9. Look up…particularly if the storm is severe. Falling branches can destroy your tent or worse if it happens to land on someone. Taking refuge in the car is often the best option in a severe storm.

10. Rainy days are a great time to check out the local sites and attractions, perhaps even a trip to the theatre. Save the hike or paddle around the lake for tomorrow.

A bit of preparation and forethought will see you through a few damp dreary days, but know when to cut your losses and head for home. There comes a time, especially if you have kids along that it’s just not worth it. Retreat in the face of overwhelming odds is an honorable strategy.
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©2009 Lloyd Fridenburg – All rights reserved click here for copyright permissions