"We like camping better!" --Raymond Alexander Kukkee

view of the north shore Critter Pond, KOA Canandaigua NY [c] 2009 jcb

Product reviews: Tundra™ Fire Extinguisher, "campfire control!"

Hey, do you smell something burning?!

by Kimberlee Ferrell guest writer

[Editor's note - Kimberlee is a freelance writer, outdoors enthusiast and author of Freedomwriting]

campfire goes beyond cozy at summer party I have been on a number of camping adventures in the past few years. One that stands out was in 2001, in the woods of Southern Missouri. Some friends and I decided to have a cookout under the stars and grill some hamburgers.

One of my friends decided to try out the new stick-resistant aluminum foil that came out that season. Unfortunately, they did not read the label, which did not recommend using the special foil for campfires.

The result was a grill with burning aluminum foil, and raw hamburger dripping through the grates. Despite the fact we were only left with potato chips to eat, we could have had a safer grilling experience if we had the Tundra™ Fire Extinguisher with us.

The Tundra™ is a small, lightweight extinguishing device, easier to carry along on a camping adventure than traditional bulky fire extinguishers. They can also be kept in your car as well as every room of your house.

Tundra Fire Extinquishing spray, from First AlertWhat is truly amazing is that this little device sprays four times longer than other extinguishers, allowing you to fight the fires more effectively. The spray is as simple to use as window cleaner, and sprays over a large area. If you need to fight a fire quickly, the Tundra™ is ideal. It is also easy to clean up, with just a simple towel the mess from the spray is gone.

The only downside to such a small device is that, if you are like me, you are more likely to misplace it during an emergency. However, for only $19.95, you can get one for every room of your house.

You also do not need to worry about what kind of fire you are dealing with. The Tundra™ works on electrical fires, grease fires, and fabrics. You can safely put out fires without fear of making the fire spread faster.

With the holiday season upon us, the Tundra™ makes a great gift for the camping enthusiast, or anyone who could deal with fires on a regular basis. It also makes a good gift for yourself, and brings peace of mind.

The Tundra™ fire extinguisher could have made our camp out a little less eventful. Or my friend could have just followed the directions on the aluminum foil package.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Kimberlee Ferrell for Just Camping Out

Tom Russo, representative for First Alert, explains about Tundra™ Fire Extinguishing Spray:

"Fires can double in size every 30 seconds (U.S. Fire Administration) and it is during those precious seconds a household fire can spread, putting lives and even your home at risk. Tundra™ Fire Extinguishing Spray is a strong, accurate, fast and effective home safety tool to extinguish fires. Tundra is designed for you if you're looking for a safety product that is easier to handle during an emergency." [~Jim]

"Deer Santa, Please spare me from camping and hunting"

by Grace Alexander guest columnist

[Editor's note - Grace is a full-time freelance author and editor.
This is her fourth installment, and is exclusive to Just Camping Out]

Grace Alexander, columnist for Just Camping OutOh, Deer Me….

All together, friends. "I hate camping!" I can't hear you! "I HATE -" OK, OK - whatever, I can see the only person joining in is the old lady in the corner with the church dress. Hey, when I get done ranting do you want to split a cab back to civilization?

It's December here in Texas, and that means camping and deer hunting to my hubby. He can't understand my aversion. It's not like he's asking me to get out of the tent at dawn and climb up into a deer stand where my toes and fingers go numb and fall off and I have to pee into a beer bottle. His point of view: I get to stay in the nice cozy tent. He can't see what my problem is.

My problem is that once he is done tramping in and out of the tent ten times looking for stuff he left in the truck, the tent is no longer either nice or cozy. Mud is tracked all over, the cold is flowing in, and he is no longer in said tent to warm it up with his insanely high body temperature (the sole saving grace of camping, and still not as good as a nice hotel with bed sheets and CH/A). Puhleeeze.

three deer elude hunters and campers by hiding in Jim's backyard
Photo: three deer elude hunters and campers by hiding in Jim's backyard

Sigh. See, I hate hunting, too. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a 'you're killing Baaaaambi, waahhhhhh' advocate. I could care less, especially if you plan to eat it. Just spare me the draaaaaaama. The intrigue. The sneaking through the bushes, freezing if a twig snaps and doing that little thingy where you point two fingers at your eyes, then jerk a thumb at two o'clock, like you're deep in enemy territory. C'mon. It's not like the deer are planning a sinister counterattack.

The whole deal about covering yourself with doe pee, baiting a clearing with corn and waiting in the screened hideaway with a high-power rifle and a sniper quality scope just strikes me as a little lame. Seriously. When did they take the 'sporting' out of sport?

I used to know this old guy from Colorado. You know all Texans think they are the world's greatest hunters, macho redneck he-men, right? This little scrappy guy was laughing, and told me how they hunt deer in the Rockies.

"You ride a fast pony" he said, "and you use a heavy pistol. You HUNT them, you don't lure them in and pick them off! What the heck is wrong with you people?!"

I had to spirit him out of earshot before some good ole Texas boys took offense… but I thought he had a point. Shhh! Don't tell hubby!

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved - Grace Alexander for Just Camping Out

Read Grace's Profile on Helium.com

Sorry, Grace, but I couldn't resist adding a shot of the deer that visited our backyard this past Thanksgiving. Seemed to fit your topic quite nicely. Here, hold my gun for a minute while I find the camera for another picture. -grin- ~Jim

Product reviews: SanDisk slotMusic™ player, "beyond MP3"

The slotMusic™ Player from SanDisk - a truly unlimited MP3 for hip campers!

by Sarah Pendleton guest writer

[Editor's note - Sarah is a full-time freelance editor and writer]

Sansa's slotMusic Player in red I got my hands on a product the other day that I was skeptical about at first. I knew SanDisk Corporation makes audio/video products; I own a 4GB flash drive and I have a regular Sansa brand MP3 player, so I was curious to see what this new 'slotMusic' was all about.

The SanDisk slotMusic™ Player uses tiny flash memory cards, or microSD cards to play back preloaded music. I was puzzled. Why should I want to step backwards into the world of CDs and cassette tapes? Isn't that basically what needing a card to insert into your player means? I mean, I guess if you don't have a computer...

Well, wait a minute. The preloaded cards you can purchase featuring top artists also contain a lot of extra space, so you can add and mix your own music. I thought when I first got my MP3 that I would never fill it up to its 1,000 song capacity, but it was only a year before I had to start going through and deleting stuff to make room for more. Also it can be annoying to be in the mood for rock and have to keep filtering out the country, or want to croon and keep getting interrupted with rap. (Yeah, Ms. Eclectic Tastes, that's me.)

With the slotMusic™ Player, I can have my genres separated - and my player's capacity really is unlimited. What's more, I can yank the card, slide it into a USB port adapter, and stick it in my mobile phone, PC or any other compatible device.

Sansa's slotMusic Player stock image My 7 year old son was begging for an MP3 for Christmas. I've already put his favorite songs off of our CD collection onto a microSD card for him. His own personalized mix of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' (his all time fave) is buddied up next to 'The Year 3000' by the Jonas Brothers. He is going to absolutely freak out.

I'm going to have to get one for my daughter, too, so she can mix and match her Taylor Swift, Reba and Kelly Clarkson. She'll need a second card for Evanescence, Demi Lovato, and Avril Levigne; she's like me that way. What happens in the country, stays in the country.

The MSRP of a Sansa branded slotMusic™ Player is just $19.99. The preloaded artist branded packages (stylish trendy players featuring likenesses and names - oh, look, there's Taylor Swift now!) include a top album on a 1GB slotMusic card with additional content from the artist; they retail for about $34.99. This is a definite win for the friend without a PC (since it makes downloading unnecessary); for the adolescent or teen in your life that needs a hip new player - or for the guy who has everything but more space left on his MP3.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Sarah Pendleton for Just Camping Out

Kaity Ocean, representing Sansa's slotMusic™ player, explains:

"I wanted to let you know about something that’s different and fun that people may take camping for those “down time” moments or to use during walks or hikes, the Sansa slotMusic™ player. Super easy to use and operates off a AAA battery so it can just be kept in the camping box ready to go for when people want to enjoy some music (it plays up to 16 hours of music)." [~Jim]

Product reviews: Bin Buddies® , "camp organized"!

Even campers can be organized.

by Molly O'Shea guest writer

[Editor's note - Molly is a freelance writer, versatile country girl, and channel steward at Helium.com]

Bin Buddies make packing for camping simpleWhen I go camping, I'm often surprised at the last minute. "Hey, you want to go camping this weekend?"

"Sure. When are we leaving?"

"In an hour or two. OK?"

So I pile everything into a storage bin, put on the lid and haul it outside, only to have it jostled and rearranged on the road trip.

We reach our campsite and I can't find a thing. We need to start the campfire, but can't find the matches. I know they're in the storage bin, but now they seem to have disappeared. Just like magic… gone.

We dig and dig, but with every piece and parcel moved, something else falls to the bottom. Finally we give up and just dump the entire thing upside down on the ground, only to glimpse the matches as they, again, slide to the bottom of the pile.

Now, there is a solution to that problem! Enter the Bin Buddies® storage bin organizer, made by PacEasy. Yes, this is an actual organizer that fits inside a storage bin. Made of sturdy nylon, it slips over the top of the bin, fits down inside and fastens on the outside. The bin lid still snaps closed, and all of those small, easily lost items can be placed in the pockets, safe from disappearing into the depths of the bin.

organized camping storage made simple with Bin BuddiesComing in a variety of sizes, Bin Buddies® will fit bins from 3 gallons on up to 25 gallons. Completely washable, they come in the colors of black, hunter green or royal blue. Most of them have open top storage pockets, although some do have elastic around the top. At the reasonable price of $15 to $28, I plan on having a collection.

By keeping my camping supplies in a Bin Buddies® organizer, I can be ready with less fuss and packing next time I am surprised with a weekend in the woods. My closets and storage room are much easier to navigate, now too, since I've exchanged my lack of organization for a few Bin Buddies®. I can walk in and reach right for that small paintbrush or extra flashlight, instead of digging in the bottom of some big bin.

The Bin Buddies® storage bin organizer is one of the best things I've found in a long time. It can be used to store almost anything, without losing any of the valuable space in your bin. I plan on having many, now that I've discovered them.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Molly O'Shea for Just Camping Out

Gretchen Frankenstein, co-founder of PacEasy, remarks:

"With a BIN BUDDIES® storage bin organizer, you won’t have to share spoons any more because the little stuff won’t get lost in the big stuff. Better yet, you can quickly check to make sure you have everything before you go just by taking the lid off the bin. No more surprises." [~Jim]

NASCAR does Camping: Camping World #33 race car visits Victor NY

NASCAR Nationwide Series #33 Harvick
NASCAR's #33 race car, piloted by KHI driver Kevin Harvick and sponsored by Camping World, made a pit stop at Eastview Mall in Victor, NY last week. Mall patrons were encouraged to take the hot rod for a test drive around the spacious mall concourses. Unfortunately, the fuel used by race cars is not allowed indoors, so the engine wouldn't start.

NASCAR Nationwide Series #33 Harvick
Camping World sponsors both #33 race vehicles for KHI: NASCAR Nationwide Series and now the Truck Series, replacing Craftsman as the primary backer. In addition, the firm hosts the Camping World 300 (presented by Chevrolet) Nationwide Series race. Founded in 1966 and hailing from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Camping World now offers RV, camping, and outdoors enthusiasts products and accessories at more than 130 stores around the country. The company also provides RV sales, service, and rentals at more than 85 locations.

NASCAR Nationwide Series #33 Harvick
Browse Camping World's website for internet-only specials on its extensive selection of RV and outdoors products. RV sales include Fifth Wheel, Classes B and C motorhomes, travel trailers, haulers and cargo trailers. Their outdoor store section offers RV awnings and accessories, camping gear and grills, racing and tailgating gear, and even pet supplies. You can also find RV maintenance items, towing and performance products, electronics and interiors upgrades.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved. Photos donated to public domain - copy and save as desired
I receive a couple major mailings each year from Camping World and almost always find something in their flyer that I really must have. Fortunately there are a couple of nearby Camping World locations for my camping products instant gratification!

Product reviews: Automatic Chef "better grilling"

What's cookin' on the campfire tonight?

by Kimberlee Ferrell guest writer

[Editor's note - Kimberlee is a freelance writer, outdoors enthusiast and author of Freedomwriting]

Automatic chef rotating campfire grill While camping, at family gatherings, or on a warm summer night, we will fire up the grill and make delicious steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. There is nothing like the taste of fresh grilled food, combined with the companionship of close friends and family. From the moment the fire is lit, I know that a memorable evening is about to begin.

As any griller knows, being the cook for the evening does have its disadvantages. Uneven grilling temperature can cause your meat to be either under- or over-cooked, which will ruin your steak. Hovering over the grill constantly as your food is cooking can greatly cut into your family bonding time. Once your food is cooked, you then have the perilous job of retrieving your steaks while avoiding burns from the grill and the fire.

With the Automatic Chef, you will have a far more relaxing and enjoyable grilling experience. The hanging grill will slowly rotate, ensuring even grilling temperatures. Once your food is done, you can then rotate the grill away from the fire, to remove your food with ease.

Setup is fairly simple, especially for anyone who has set up a tent single-handed before. If you are new to the outdoors lifestyle, it may take a little getting used to. The anchoring pin fits easily into the ground, supporting a large, L-shaped pole. From the pole hangs the battery powered mechanism, which will rotate the grill suspended below it. In addition, there are hooks along the pole, to hang your cooking utensils within easy reach.

Everything is adjustable on the Automatic Chef, to suit your grilling style. Raise or lower the height of the grill, depending on how hot the fire is. You can turn off the rotating action, when you need a moment to adjust the food personally. Once finished, you rotate the pole so your grill is not hanging over the fire.

Automatic Chef kit package The concept of the Automatic Chef is so simple; I cannot believe no one had thought of anything like it sooner. The pole is durable enough to be a permanent fixture over your home fire pit, or you can easily disassemble it and keep it stored in its accompanying carrying case [barbecue tools shown not included]. Since you do not have to stand over the food constantly, you can step away briefly to help set up camp or to have a quick conversation. Those who prefer more hands-on grilling methods may not like how simple the Automatic Chef makes the cooking process, you will have to decide if it is right for you.

As always, practice good fire safety habits when using your Automatic Chef. This little marvel will take a lot of the sting out of grilling, and deliver quality steaks consistently. Normally available at $149.95, the Automatic Chef is temporarily priced at $127.46 for a limited time. Try it out the next time those succulent steaks start calling your name!

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Kimberlee Ferrell for Just Camping Out

Brian Begotka, owner JnB Enterprises LLC, created Automatic Chef. He explained:

"My wife Joni and I started camping three years ago with our two small children. It only took a few camping trips for us to realize a need for a product such as the Automatic Chef. Over the course of several outings we took note of all of the different camp grill designs out there... After much thought and input from family and friends we decided to combine some of the homemade design ideas out there and take them to the next level.

Although this open fire grill does not do all the work for you, it eliminates the hot and monotonous job of trying to keep your food from burning...Although we thoroughly enjoy cooking over a hot open fire, we do not enjoy sweating over one, especially when a product like the Automatic Chef can do the work for you. " [~Jim]

Of Tents and Men

by Grace Alexander guest columnist

[Editor's note - Grace is a full-time freelance author and editor.
This is her third installment, and is exclusive to Just Camping Out]

Grace Alexander, columnist for Just Camping OutHi! Yeah, it's me… back with yet another reason that I (you guessed it) hate camping.

We can send a man to the moon. We build bread makers that mix, proof and bake at the touch of a button. We have computers so advanced they make even a techno cripple like myself look like I actually know what I am doing.

We can't, apparently, produce a tent that anyone short of an astrophysicist can assemble in less than four hours. We also, or so it would seem, are incapable of manufacturing a waterproof shelter.

It's not just the tent, really, when you get down to it. It's the idea that the man has to be the one to put up the tent. Unfortunately, tents come with instructions, and we all know what that means. Instructions are like maps, good for stuffing in the glove-box or using as kindling to start the fire.

These are barely intelligible, anyway; as if the originals were written by a (what else) astrophysicist, translated into Japanese for no discernable reason, then translated into Russian for greater ease of translating back into fourth grade English.

actual instructions to Jim's Columbia tent
Photo: actual assembly instructions for a Columbia camping tent

The directions seem straightforward at first, such as 'put the end of pole A in the end of pole B' and 'thread pole C through pocket D.' Problem is, they invariably have sticky circles with the letters affixed to help you determine these slots and tabs, and the inspector who works in the miserable warehouse where they pack these miserable things invariably mis-stickies a few of the poles, causing more confusion.

This is the point at which the man becomes frustrated, and starts striking the ends of the poles with a hammer in order to force them to fit according to the little adhesive green circles stamped with letters of the alphabet. The woman must dig the charred remains of the instruction manual out of the fire and take the hammer away from the enraged male, giving him a beer and encouraging him to go take a load off.

Four hours later, the tent is assembled, and everything is moved inside just as it begins to rain. Everything placed in the tent to keep dry is promptly soaked, and the weight of the waterlogged material bends one of the flimsy aluminium tubes abruptly in the middle, collapsing said tent on top of its occupants.

From the wreckage the head of the household speaks - "I knew I should have done it myself! Women have no place putting up tents…."

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved - Grace Alexander for Just Camping Out

Read Grace's Profile on Helium.com

All I can say, honestly, is "I can relate - been there!" Good thing I have two smart kids who don't even need to read those instructions (see photo, above: it's real!) ~Jim

Product reviews: Fitpacking "Camping for fitness"

Oh, go take a hike!

by Kimberlee Ferrell guest writer

[Editor's note - Kimberlee is a freelance writer, outdoors enthusiast and author of Freedomwriting]

Fitpacking hiker Continental Divide Trail ColoradoI have gone down the weight loss path a number of times in my life. Not satisfied with my current weight or fitness level, I tried just about everything in the book. The one challenge that I faced with each exercise regimen I tried was that they just weren’t fun. Counting out the proper number of push-ups or walking on a treadmill for hours can bore a person to tears.

Had I found Fitpacking sooner, I would not have had that problem.

Offering their clients a wilderness experience they won’t soon forget, Fitpacking is the ultimate weight loss adventure for those who want to add a bit of spice to their workout routine. Sign up for either a one or two week hike in some gorgeous locations, and get ready to have some fun. Ranging from $950 at the Ocala National Forest in Florida to $1650 at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, there are hikes available for nearly any budget.

Each wilderness guide leads a handful of weight loss adventurers on their trek through the wilderness. This is the real deal, with no plumbing, and often camping out underneath the stars. There are no safety nets either, and having a sprained ankle when you are miles from civilization could put a real damper on your trip. While the guides do their best to provide you with the safest hike possible, it is best to be prepared for any eventuality.

Fitpackers in Superstition Wilderness, AZThese hikes are not for everyone, though. If you are clinically obese, and become winded walking up the stairs, then you would not enjoy your time Fitpacking. It is more suited for those who have a good level of physical strength, and could endure walking with a 50 pound backpack for hours at a time on rocky terrain. Be sure to consult your doctor before signing up.

The price might be a little inhibiting to some, although it is a good deal for the amount of time spent on your fitness trip, and for the incredible results. While losing pounds and inches, you get to explore some of nature’s most beautiful sights, and go on an adventure you may never have dreamed of. You also will come away with new friends who endured the same journey, and these relationships could continue on for years down the road.

If you are ready to revitalize your workout routine, then give Fitpacking a try. Give yourself the weight loss vacation that you deserve, and enjoy the fresh air while building muscle. Exercise has never looked so good.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Kimberlee Ferrell for Just Camping Out

Steve Silberberg of Fitpacking notes:

"Fitpacking provides participants a supportive environment in which slower hikers can feel comfortable and enjoy themselves. If you love the outdoors, but are a little overweight or older and prefer not to feel rushed by super-fit athletes or obsessive hi-mileage hikers, Fitpacking could work for you." [~Jim]

Upcoming Fitpacking Trips:

Florida Trail - Ocala National Forest, FL [easier]
One week ~ Jan 10-18, 2009 Cost $950

Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA [easier]
One week ~ Jan 24-31, 2009 Cost $975

Joshua Tree National Park, CA [moderate]
One week ~ Feb 28 - Mar 8, 2009 Cost $1075

Our Thanksgiving deer return for dessert

four deer frolick by our back deck
After this morning's visit from four local does, the little deer herd bedded down in a nearby thicket, and we returned to our Thanksgiving preparations. A few hours later our neighbor, Jane, called to tell us the deer were out again and boldly munching on fallen apples next door.

three deer head for the garden
As we watched through our sliding glass door, the hungry foursome wandered casually over into our back yard. They frolicked together for a couple minutes, then spied some delicious goodies in our smaller garden (the one we've all but given up on). As they sampled the treats found there and in the pine tree hedge, the does approached to less than five yards away.

three does try the garden greens
We moved to the bedroom window for a better view. I grabbed the camera again, took some more still pictures, and then shot a couple videos, too. I'm sure they knew we were right there behind the glass, but they were hungry and unconcerned. This morning's thaw removed a two-week ground-cover of snow, revealing all sorts of tasty deer food.

two deer watch us watching them
The largest doe was the boldest, once again. She preferred to snack on something yummy she found in our pine trees, just beneath the bedroom window. She looked right at me several times, then continued munching casually each time. After an hour or so the four deer headed back up the hill to see what other Thanksgiving delights were available.

Here's one of the videos I captured as two of the does got really close:

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved


These same four deer visited us this morning. See more deer pictures taken near Whitney Road in Fairport earlier this year.

How about you? Do you have any wildlife pictures you'd like to share? If you'd like to submit yours for possible posting, you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.

Happy Thanksgiving! ~Jim

No, we didn't have venison for Thanksgiving dinner

doe peeks over the back deck railing
We had four unexpected guests on Thanksgiving morning. They arrived early and unannounced, but kept mostly to themselves. Their manners were impeccable. We didn't get their names. They wandered around in the back yard, nibbling on the garden greenery and posing for a few pictures before they bedded down in our neighbor's hedgerow.

three does nibble on the garden greenery
Three does sample our garden's bounty.

two does stay close to the hedgerow
One doe poses while the other finds a succulent treat just beneath the snow.

the smallest doe acts as lookout
The smallest of the four deer keeps a watchful eye.

largest doe also the boldest
The largest doe was also the bravest, lingering just a few yards away from our balcony deck. She didn't eat much, but she seemed hungry for a visit and some gossip.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

See more deer pictures taken near Whitney Road in Fairport earlier this year.

How about you? Do you have any wildlife pictures you'd like to share? If you'd like to submit yours for possible posting, you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.

Happy Thanksgiving! ~Jim

And now, a word from Mother Nature

nature plants a glistening heart on a sidewalk
What do you see?

There are signs all around us, if we keep our eyes and our minds open. We interpret those omens or portents the way we see fit. Sometimes I decide that a particularly beautiful sunset has appeared just for me. A welcome to the new day of my very own. I'm not especially superstitious, but I'm also not afraid to assign significance to seemingly random events around me. After all, it's what you do with a "sign" you interpret as meant for you that really matters.

Do you change your course when a black cat crosses your path? That's superstitious and slightly silly. On the other hand, if you change your driving habits when you narrowly avoid a terrible collision because you "had a feeling" -- that's making good, sound use of a "sign."

One of the most rewarding aspects of going camping is the chance to break free of the clutter of our everyday lives, the chance to spend some time just looking at the beauty around us. We used to call it 'communing with nature.' Great thoughts have emerged while looking into the intricate movements of a blazing fire. (Remember the story about the double helix?)

Over the years I've locked eyes with a feisty crow, been mesmerized by the jerky ballet of a foraging squirrel, and been awed by the grace of a circling hawk. I've watched my kids play together and listened to their laughter, without them realizing I was paying attention. Looking outward at the often overlooked activities around us gives us pause to look inward with insight, too.

Are there signs all around us, every day? Sure there are, if we only know how to interpret them. You can't find the meanings listed in a book. And your message won't be the same as mine, even if the sign we see is identical. What we see when we look, what we notice in the collage of life around us, and what we make of whatever catches our attention all relates to what is in our minds and in our hearts on that day in that moment.

Country music artist George Stait, a steadfast lover of philosophical lyrics in his songs, recently released I Saw God Today. The opening verse illustrates this thought beautifully:
Just walked down the street to the coffee shop
Had to take a break
I'd been by her side for 18 hours straight
Saw a flower growin' in the middle of the sidewalk
Pushin' up through the concrete
Like it was planted right there for me to see.

What do you see in the photo that heads this post?
That's one piece of my bluestone sidewalk with an ordinary leaf flattened against it. Maybe that's all you see in the photograph. I saw it as a sign.

The evening I took that picture, I'd been having one of those days. You know the kind: three or four small irritations pile up into an emotional mountain. I was half-way miserable, ready to snap at anyone who crossed my path. And then, there on my sidewalk, I saw a gleaming heart surrounded by a frame. Saw it so clearly that for a moment I thought my wife has pasted it there for me to see. In a way, she had. I just needed a reminder that love is all around me; I just had to keep my eyes open.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved


How about you? Do you have a photograph you'd like to share? If you'd like to submit your photograph for possible posting, you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.

Product reviews: Grill Charms™, no "mis-steaks"!

Hot off the campfire

by Sarah Pendleton guest writer

[Editor's note - Sarah is a full-time freelance editor and writer]

Grill Charms™ on grilled chicken We are a family of meat lovers. The grill gets fired up every weekend, rain or shine. It can be a hundred and ten or twenty below - we have to get our fix! Steak, chicken, pork chops; every Saturday is a carnivore's dream. After ten years of marriage, I'm still getting used to it.

I grew up as the eldest of nine, and we were dirt poor. I could make a pound of hamburger serve the whole family for four meals straight, with creative use of spaghetti sauce, potatoes, rice and beans. I had never had a honest to God, home-grilled steak before I got married on my twenty fourth birthday to a real man: a hunting, fishing, red necked card-carrying member of the National Grill Masters Association. Let me tell you - it only took one juicy Porterhouse to have me firmly addicted.

Now, ten years and three kids later, we are firmly committed to keeping the cattle industry alive and well. Even our eighteen-month-old loves nothing more than sinking the twelve teeth he does have into a tiny portion of succulent rib-eye.

There's just one little problem.

I like garlic, and just a touch of pink in the middle. Hubby likes lemon pepper - and lots of it; and he doesn't freak about a little reddish juice on the plate. We both love Lee and Perrins. The kids don't share our passion for spice - yet - and theirs better be well done! When you have five steaks on the grill, it's kind of hard to keep track. You have to keep cutting them open, and trying to figure out which one is seasoned and which one isn't.

That's why I couldn't believe it when a friend turned me on to Grill Charms™ . These little suckers are perfect for helping hubby keep track of which steak belongs to who, and the kids love the concept of being able to personalize their own cut of meat. Grill Charms™ are made of stainless steel, look like dime-sized thumbtacks, and have serrated edges so they stay in the meat during grilling.

Grill Charms™ Charmed Life collection The designs on top of each one let you differentiate the meat. I have already picked out the Charmed Life collection, which features a sailboat, a dollar sign and a crown among other designs. I am aiming for the Spicy Collection next, so I can tell the kids' mild chicken piece or pork chop from my own tangy rub!

I'm going to have to get the Steak Collection for those times we have friends over that want to specify bloody or burnt, and I'm definitely picking up the Pink Collection for my aunt for Christmas. She's a breast cancer survivor, and her hubby also is a member of the Grill Masters Club. At under $20 per six-piece Grill Charms collection, I might have to grab a few more sets for stocking stuffers - hubby and I have a lot of meat loving friends!

Check it out folks - this is the new 'hot item' for the grilling carnivores in your life; and if you're like me, you won't be able to stop with just one set!

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved, Sarah Pendleton for Just Camping Out

From our interview with Leslie Haywood, founder and president, Charmed Life Products LLC and inventor of Grill Charms™ :

Grill Charms™ product packagingI'm a grilling gadget gal from Charleston SC and I have invented the perfect gadget for those scrumptious dinners cooked in great outdoors.
...Sometimes it can be tough for the master chef to keep track of who wants their steak rare, who wants spicy, who wants mild, who's allergic to garlic - all while drinking that frosty cold beer, gazing at the stars, chatting with your buddies about the fish that got away, and try to keep the dog out of the munchies. Grill Charms™ make it all possible. They are the must have campfire gadget while enjoying your time in the wilderness or at the KOA. [~Jim]

Six fantastic reasons to go camping

camping at KOA with our Shasta trailer
  • No bills to pay on the table
  • We leave the To-Do list home
  • I can read a book if I want to
  • We can make a big fire and just watch the flames
  • I can stay up late with no TV
  • Flame-toasted marshmallows. Need I say more?
copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

This one's written for a reason. See why at 22 Words, Experiments in getting to the point, a contest that ends in a couple hours titled, The joy of blogospheric brevity.

Volunteers Needed for Trail Work at Harriet Hollister

November 6, 2008 by newyorkoutdoors

Volunteers are needed for trail work at Harriet Hollister on Sunday Nov 9th and Sunday Nov 16, 2008.

snow trails Harriet HollisterWork sessions will be from 8:00am to Noon; meet at the parking lot on Canadice Hill Road. Volunteers 18+ will be required to sign a liability waiver. Work will include clearing new growth on trail sides and other trail enhancements. Volunteers should wear work clothes/gloves and should bring trimmers/pruning saws/shovels/rakes.

Please contact info@xcrochester.com if you have any questions or to confirm that you will be participating.

Note: If you’re not familiar with it, Harriet Hollister Spencer Memorial State Recreation Area has the prime cross-country ski trail network for the western Finger Lakes...[continued]

Read the rest of the story...

Reprinted from NewYorkOutdoors.

Jim's note: If you're a New York State outdoors enthusiast, this is a wonderful resource. Sue and Rich Freeman do a wonderful job of rounding up topical info from all around the Empire State.

Debunking Blueberries for Sal (Of Bears and Camping)

by Grace Alexander guest columnist

[Editor's note - Grace is a full-time freelance author and editor.
Her new column is exclusive to Just Camping Out]

Grace Alexander, columnist for Just Camping Out
In case you don't remember me, I'm the one who hates camping. Today, I am listing another of my objections to this strange tradition. That would be bears. Unfortunately, when it comes to camping out, bears are the rats of the campground - pesky, fearless and eager to sneak the crumbs…only in this case, the crumbs can mean the entire contents of the garbage, the cooler, or possibly your tent.

Don't give me that Blueberries for Sal propaganda. Why would a bear be content with a few berries when it could feast on blueberry-fattened human? In my opinion, Blueberries for Sal should be on the banned books list as it can lull people into a false sense of security.

For those of you who haven't read the delightful but erroneous book by Robert McCloskey, the story line runs something like this - Sal and her mom go to pick blueberries on Blueberry Hill. They become separated and Sal ends up following Momma Bear, while Baby Bear trails along after Sal's mother.

They cheerfully tromp along eating blueberries all 'round, then parents and progeny reunite happily. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. I am afraid this book may have caused countless bear encounters to go horribly wrong.

I humbly present the HOW TO DEAL WITH BEARS WHEN CAMPING checklist, annotated by myself for clarity and reader usability. I have carefully researched the key points from several Game and Fish Department bear safety guides, combined them with my common sense as a mother, and sincerely hope this post will serve to undo some of the damage inflicted by Blueberries for Sal.

Hang food and garbage out of reach. Never intentionally feed wildlife. (OK, I don't think Sal's mother was intentionally feeding the baby bear, he was more like sneaking berries out of her pail and she thought it was Sal, but still….)

Store all food, toiletries and other scented items well away from sleeping areas and unavailable to bears. (The illustrations show Sal's mom all dressed up and what do you bet she had perfume on. And who wears a skirt hiking?)

Walk or jog in groups. Pay attention to your surroundings when hiking, jogging or bicycling. Supervise your children and keep them in sight. (Well there's the main problem right there. Obviously Sal's mom never read ANY bear safety literature - and living in Maine, too!)

If you are confronted by a bear don't run. Stay calm, continue facing it, and slowly back away. (OK, Sal's mom gets Kudos here. She did manage to stay reasonable calm - eerily calm in fact, considering it only should have taken a little logic to figure out that if she had the bear's cub, Momma Bear probably had hers…)

Try to make yourself look as big and imposing as possible; put young children on your shoulders. (This is an ACTUAL TIP from the Arizona Game Department - it goes on to say make as much noise as possible. I'm sure the screaming from the child about to be eaten first would do wonders to scare the bear away.)

Finally, my favorite 'bear encounter tip' of all time - Remember, you can't outrun a bear. However, if you can outrun the other guy, you should be OK. If you can use him as a springboard to get up into the tree, that's good too.

Hopefully these tips will serve to make people realize that a merry day picking blueberries with the bears JUST AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN.

Remember the bear guy? Swore up and down you just needed to try and UNDERSTAND the bears, and what happened to him? GOT ATE BY A BEAR. (What's worse, he took his girlfriend down with him. Now, that was just plain wrong.) I bet he read Blueberries for Sal as a kid.

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved - Grace Alexander for Just Camping Out

Read Grace's Profile on Helium.com

Personally, I love blueberries. On the other hand, bears scare me, though they are indeed adorable from a distance. I've never seen one near our local campgrounds, but you never know. Bears are sneaky. I'd better read the book, just to be safe. Maybe someday I can convince Grace that camping can be good fun. We'll leave the blueberries at home. ~Jim

Camping nightmares: One scary night in the woods

Only once while camping have I feared for my life. Once was enough. I was alone in a secluded campsite with my two sons, and I was unarmed. But that's getting ahead of my story.

lonely campsite night scene jcb-2008 Before we had our beloved Shasta camper trailer, we camped in a roomy tent from Columbia (the sportswear experts). We camped in state parks because we liked the grassy, shaded sites and the small amount of privacy afforded by the wooded layouts. It was quiet at night, peaceful. Falling asleep to the sound of crickets and cicadas was heaven.

Our favorite campground was at Hamlin Beach State Park, on Lake Ontario. The place is beyond huge. We often wondered how much the maintenance crew spent fueling up the lawnmowers. Hamlin has room for a couple hundred campers in a series of loops. We settled, eventually, on a campsite deep in the heart of C-Loop as our regular spot.

That put us nearly a mile from the campground entrance point, and far from the noisy pets-allowed loops up front. The loops were paved, so we could roller-blade and ride our bicycles all around the place. We had a reasonably flat, grass-covered and tree-canopied spot. Since there was no site directly across the driveway, it felt as if we were the only ones camping there sometimes.

We often camped as a family, but sometimes it was just me and the boys. It was a chance to get away and have some guy-time, just kick back and enjoy each other's company. That was the case on the scary night in question.

I woke up around two am. Somewhere nearby, a man was yelling. Nobody yells in a state park in the middle of the night. Nobody even plays easy listening music after 11 pm. The rest of the night world was so still you could hear an owl a half-mile away. It probably took a moment or two for my brain to accept what my ears were hearing. I don't think I missed much.

Just across the driveway, in another site screened from the road by bushes, someone was extremely unhappy with someone else. The yelling got louder; the language being used was unprintable. Gathering the story at full volume while I struggled to pull on some clothing, it seemed that there was a woman, a man, and an extra man. The word kill was part of the discussion. Did someone mention gun?

I was scared. We were too far from civilization for comfort. It was mid-week, and there weren't many campers around us. Things were getting very ugly over there, as love triangles often do. The sound of the entrance zipper sounded like a chainsaw to me, as I eased out of the tent to get my cell phone from the truck. I prayed my boys wouldn't wake up.

Something glass got smashed, and a woman screamed. More yelling, more furious threats. Shaking, I eased the truck door open and pushed the no-lights button at the same time, grabbed my phone, and pecked at the keys for 9-1-1. The confrontation escalated while I tried to whisper my urgent request for help. Try explaining where you are by Loops and Site Numbers. At least the dispatcher never once questioned the situation.

It seemed like hours later, but couldn't have been more than five minutes, before the troops arrived with spotlights and real guns. I imagined a burly officer coming over to get my testimony or something, but that never happened. They lit up the campsite over there, had some gruff exchanges which I strained to overhear, then one by one departed the scene.

The boys never woke up. They were wide-eyed when I told them the story of the night's events that morning. I can't be sure, because it's been a few years now, but I don't think we ever stayed there again. I like my campgrounds really crowded now!

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

How about you? Do you have a camping nightmare story you'd like to share? You can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.

Camping guides: Choosing a tent

by Kelly A. Mello guest author

[Editor's note - Kelly is a freelance writer and columnist for Sunday News Magazine]

camping tent image courtesy of New Forest UK Roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories, spending time with friends and family, appreciating nature; these are all the wonderful things camping has to offer. In order to fully enjoy your trip, however, you have to choose the right tent. There is nothing to make your camping experience completely miserable than a leaky, inadequate tent.

The first two things you must know before purchasing your camping tent are -- how many people are joining you, and what will you be doing? For weather purposes, there are two categories:

Three-season and Four-season


The three season tents are used for more general backpacking excursions. They are intended for Spring, Summer, and Fall use, as they will more than likely fail you if it snows heavily. However, it does hold up well in the rain. Most campers are accustomed to three-season camping, so there is a big selection to choose from. Keep in mind that the first section of three-season shelters mentioned are actually more for summer use.

$12-$549 Screen and Tarp Shelters

Under this category lies a couple of different versions. Both are very light in weight, but probably not what you are looking for in general camping circumstances. In fact, though they are classified as a tent, screen shelters are more of an area you would eat under and are not protected from the elements at all. In addition, tarps are usually very open to the outside.

$12-$300 Tents

A: Warm-Weather

This type of tent should be used mainly for warm and humid climates, though it does work as a three-seasonal. They are extremely light weight due to its mesh walls. I would not highly recommend this model, however, because if it does rain or snow, you will freeze your tush off.

B: Single-Wall

If you are into bare-essential camping, single-wall tents are for you. They are basically rainflies equipped with a few vents you can zip open during warmer conditions. For more general camping however, this could lead to that miserable scene I mentioned earlier.

C: Bivy sacks

These are minimalist shelters for one camper and not much else aside from a sleeping bag. In fact, it pretty much looks like a sleeping bag with a small tent covering your head. If saving weight is your chief priority, a bivy is worth considering. If you like room to move inside your shelter, look elsewhere. Though technically it is a three-season tent, I wouldn't try using it in the fall.

$99-$179 [continued]

Read the rest of this article on Helium.com

Reprinted by permission from Kelly A. Mello. Copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

See Kelly's article as it appears on Helium.com

Read Kelly's Profile on Helium.com

See Kelly's Sunday News column

But, honey, campgrounds don't have room service

by Grace Alexander guest columnist

[Editor's note - Grace is a full-time freelance author and editor.
Her new column is exclusive to Just Camping Out]

Grace Alexander, columnist for Just Camping Out I hate camping. I am the only person in my family who hates camping, so it is a lonely existence. I've been told that I am unreasonable, a poor sport and a wet blanket, so I have decided to state my case.

You don't have AC or heat, depending on the season. You have a hard lumpy bed no matter how many rocks you chunk away from the sleeping bag portion of the tent, and someone invariably forgets their pillow, or dunks it in the creek while attempting to see if it will function as a flotation device, or inadvertently sets it on fire while trying to warm it up on the charcoal pit. Therefore as the mom I have to sacrifice my pillow and prop my neck on a rock. Which I have to re-fetch from where I chunked it two hours before. Which I have to explain to my husband why I am bringing said rock back INTO the tent, and wrapping it in a towel.

Also, I am in charge of cooking, which blows. I don't personally feel that hot dogs and marshmallows and beer four times a day qualifies as a meal, but the limitations of a charcoal fire in a pit are kind of severe. Plus I don't think a cooler filled with water that used to be ice is going to keep food cold enough to ward off horrible food borne diseases, so perishables are out. Hubby and the kids eat hot dogs, roast marshmallows and drink beer all day (OK, OK, the kids drink ROOT beer) and I nibble on crackers and drink as little as possible so I don't have to brave the bushes to pee.

I chase kids all day, lugging a assortment of first aid accoutrements, and sweating. At sundown I am exhausted, but of course the kids are on a sugar high due to the nineteen and a half s'mores they consumed and insist on running about in the dark screeching. By the time they fall asleep, I am too tired to even mind the rock pillow. Of course, this is when hubby starts snoring, since the outdoors gives him allergies. It is too hot or too cold, depending, and there are NOISES all around. Plus even if it is dead winter a lone mosquito survivor will find me and bite me multiple times. No one else will have even one bite. Ants also apparently found the missing half of s'more glued to the underside of my sleeping bag.

On the drive home, kids are overtired and cranky, and hubby is unbearably jolly. "Wasn't that a blast?" he asks. "And such a cheap way to vacation!!" I don't answer. I am adding up the receipts for gas, first aid supplies, the tire that blew out and two cases of beer and realizing I could have had a whole weekend in a Holiday Inn and eaten out three times a day. I'm talking the one with the INDOOR pool.

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved - Grace Alexander for Just Camping Out

Read Grace's Profile on Helium.com

I'm not sure I'd want to go camping with Grace and her family, but I do enjoy her writing immensely. I'm pleased and proud to host her new column here. Do you think there's any hope for her -- any chance we might win her over to the "I love camping" camp? ~Jim

Brilliant fall colors along the road, Upstate NY

brilliant fall foliage near Victor NY We've had a spectacular fall here in Upstate NY -- brilliant sunny days, crispy star-lit nights, and a smattering of rain. Our colorful array of oaks, maples, poplars, walnuts and birches have responded with everything from pale yellows to bloody reds. The leaves are falling fast and furious now that we've had a couple light frosts, so we'll soon have bare branches.

colorful fall foliage display near Victor NY These two paint-by-numbers scenes caught my eye along my regular route from Fairport to Victor, on Victor-Egypt Road. I'm sure a good arborist could explain why this particular stretch of highway boasts one of the most vibrant spectrums in the area. Natural beauty like this is all too fleeting to ignore. This road will serve up icy patches and snowdrifts very soon. For now, enjoy the view.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

We'll get back to stories and reviews related to camping in the coming days. Please watch for a new feature debut later this week. That's all I can say for now. ~Jim

True Camping Stories: When Ostriches Attack!

by Conny Manero guest author

[Editor's note - Conny, animal lover and columnist for Agpress.net, will soon be releasing her book, "Kitten Diaries"]

Living in Belgium, my mom and dad had never seen an ostrich. They had seen such a bird on television, of course, but they had never seen a real live one.

ostriches, image courtesy of DiamondIslandRetreatSo, when they came to visit me in South Africa, I suggested a visit to a game park. The game park was some distance away, so we decided to make it a little camping trip. "Can I come too?" my 6 year old son asked. Of course he could.

They were so excited and were so looking forward to their night out in the wild and seeing an ostrich up close and personal.

"Have you been there before?" my mom asked.

"Yes, I was there last year," I said.

"Are the ostriches scared of us?" she wanted to know. "Or do they come up to the people?"

"When I was there they didn't exactly come to the people," I said, "but they came nosing in the rubbish bins near the lunch tables."

"Oh good," my mom clasped her hands together, "so when we stop for lunch we might get to meet them."

"If they come close enough," I said. "You never know with these birds."

You never know indeed.

The night before our trip to the game park, while my dad packed the car, my mom and I prepared a cold lunch for the four of us. Everything went into pots, and early in the morning we set off for our trip.

We were hardly in the game park when my mom spotted an ostrich.

"Oh look," she said, "there's one. I wonder if I can go take a look at him."

"You stay right here," I told her. "Look, you do not have to go to him, he is coming to you." Nothing could have pleased her more.

Lazily the ostrich walked up to the car, daintily placing one long leg in front of the other, moving his head up and down and side to side. Having arrived at the car he gave three short pecks at the side window where my mom was sitting.

"Can I roll the window down?" she asked. Sure, why not.

The window was hardly lowered when the ostrich's head appeared in the car, along with about 15 inches of his neck. He looked at each of us individually and we looked at him. Oh, he was a magnificent animal! Big and tall, with lots of black, grey and white fluffy feathers, and with long lashes over warm, dark eyes.

At the allocated spot we set up the tent, made it comfortable, and by the time it was finished, it was time for lunch. We could have eaten at the tent, but mom was anxious to meet more ostriches, and so she suggested that we go and eat at the open air lunch patio. Her wish was my command.

At the lunch patio numerous families had already gathered around the tables and under the umbrellas. All of them were barbecuing. When we started unpacking our cooler and placing the food on the table, we were looked at and whispered about. As we placed the potato salad, lettuce and tomato mixture and chicken pieces on the table people were shaking their heads and barely managed to hide their laughter. How rude, I thought. If they want to barbecue that is their good right, just as it is my right to eat something cold.

We had no idea what the whispering and sniggering was all about, but we were about to find out. Six ostriches approached the patio.

"Do you think they'll come as close as the rubbish bins?" my mom asked expectantly. Before I could answer the ostriches marched past the rubbish bins and headed toward our table.

scary ostrich, courtesy of worth1000.com Before we knew what was happening, much less could do anything, the six surrounded our table and started pecking at our food. In a matter of seconds they had pecked the pots and plates clean. It was literally a case of peck, peck, peck, peck, peck and everything but everything was gone! Whether it was potato in mayonnaise, lettuce in olive oil dressing, or fried chicken, the ostriches devoured it ALL!

One even stole a rather large tomato out of the cooler and swallowed it whole. For a moment I thought he might choke on it, but we could see the tomato glide down his long throat.

My dad had been very brave and had grabbed a basket of bread off the table, holding it high over his head away from the six hungry beasts. Little did he know that a seventh ostrich had joined the party and was standing right behind him. Peck, peck, peck and the bread was gone too.

When all the food was gone, the ostriches walked away. Dazed, we looked at each other and the empty table. All around us people were holding their breath, waiting for our reaction. Would we get angry? Or, would we see the humor of it?

The couple at the nearest table told us that barbecuing was the only way to eat in the park. The fire was the only thing that kept the ostriches at bay. We, with our cold food, had just about sent them an engraved invitation.

We nodded, wordlessly. There we were, robbed and hungry, and the next moment howling with laughter.

Reprinted by permission from Conny Manero, all rights reserved 2008.

See this story as it appears on Helium.com

Read Conny's Profile on Helium.com See Conny's website here

How about you? Do you have a True Camping Story you'd like to share? These will be a regular feature here as we move forward. If you'd like to submit your story for posting, you can reach me via Comments or by using the link at the top of this page.

Feisty fall foliage fills Fairport, NY along the Erie Canal

These colorful fall foliage pictures were taken in downtown Fairport, NY, twice voted Top 100 Best Places to Live in America (2005 and 2008). This quaint village, incorporated in 1867, straddles the Erie Canal and a major cross-country railroad line. The canal path seen in the pictures runs from Buffalo to Albany, with some interruptions.

fall foliage at path, Erie Canal at Fairport NY (c)2008 jcbYou're looking to the west, toward Rochester (about 20 minutes away), along the Erie Canal on a brilliant October morning. Along the north edge of the canal is a fine little wooden dock, handy for tying up close enough to walk to the hotdog stand (just behind the orange tree in the middle).
fall foliage and boats, Erie Canal at Fairport NY (c)2008 jcb There's the boat rental, open by appointment now that summer's over. In-season, most of the watercraft would be out on the canal, piloted by tourists and locals alike, chasing the ducks and racing the joggers and bicyclists on the path alongside.
fall foliage oil painting, Erie Canal at Fairport NY (c)2008 jcb This shot looks like an oil painting waiting to happen, doesn't it? Or a not-too-difficult jigsaw puzzle. Not one digital effect was used in the posting of this picture, I swear!
fall foliage near lift-bridge, Erie Canal at Fairport NY (c)2008 jcb These shots are taken from the old metal lift-bridge. If you pass beneath it and your vessel won't clear, then the rest of us have to wait there on Main Street while the bridge operator raises the deck for you. (Use marine channel 13 to hail him.)
fall foliage looking west, Erie Canal at Fairport NY (c)2008 jcb This is the view you would have from the fly-bridge of your cabin cruiser once you cleared the bridge. Motoring south and west on a winding course, you'd find Bushnell's Basin first and historic, scenic Pittsford after that. (There may be a lock or two between: at least one deep valley lies between Fairport and Pittsford.)
Who says you have to go to Lake George or Vermont to see beautiful fall colors? Dazzling deciduous displays await you right here in Fairport. Accommodations include everything from luxury Bed & Breakfasts to roadside motels. Closest camping is the Canandaigua KOA (about 17 miles).
Fairport also offers dining out choices ranging from McDonald's to diners to country club restaurants. Exit 45, Victor, from the NYS Thruway lies about 15 minutes to the southeast. Call ahead, and we'll have dinner waiting for you when you get here.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

Click here to see the rest of these pictures on Google Picasaweb.

If you have an amazing, current, and original fall foliage pic you'd like to share, track me down. If you happen to visit Fairport, NY -- track me down! ~Jim

Writing tips: Should I use "your" or "you're"?

by Amanda Sugden guest author

[Editor's note - Amanda is a freelance editor and author of My Writing Help]

One of the most common problems in the English language is the use of contractions. They are supposed to make life a little easier, but it seems that they don’t do much more than confuse. The case of your vs. you’re is a classic example.

your or you're? This is a real sign, Farmington NY I have said that the easiest way for me to remember the difference between two similar words is to focus on the meaning and use of one. If it’s not the one, then it must be the other. I’ll give you the meaning and use of both, and try to emphasize one to help you remember.

“Your” is possessive. When I use the word, I’m talking about something that belongs to you, or an attribute of you.

Example: Your cat is a beautiful calico.

“You’re” is a contraction. They say repetition is the key to memory: YOU’RE IS A CONTRACTION. [continued]

Keep reading...

Reprinted by permission from Amanda Sugden, author of My Writing Help

Read Amanda's profile at Helium.com

Wondering how this article relates to Camping? Well, for me, I do all my best writing early in the morning while I'm sitting under my camper's awning watching the sun come up and drinking the day's first cup of coffee. And yes, it's also the best time to makes lots of typo's. What's your best time and place for letting the creative juices flow?

We hike the Crescent Trail in Perinton NY

trailhead Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY Sunshine and 80 degrees on a mid-October Sunday means a day for hiking in the woods, and so we did. The Town of Perinton's Crescent Trail presents a moderate short-hike challenge and a couple of spectacular hilltop views.

map of Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NYWe forgot to grab a map from the town rec center, and so had to climb first to the top of the first hill (very steep) to snap a picture of the one posted there. Once we had our bearings we set out deeper into the woods to seek the Scenic View marked for the summit of Thayer Hill.
blue trail in the woods, Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY We continued our hike by following the blue-blaze trail, which starts out mostly level and meanders along near a small creekbed. While the sun was hot outside the treeline, in the woods we enjoyed a comfortable, shaded path.

pond beside Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NYEventually the trail left the woods and we found ourselves at the edge of a field. We couldn't find any more blue blazes, but we did find a beautiful, secluded pond. It's not on the map, so I don't know if this pristine spot has a name. We spotted a school of small fish (minnows?) sunning themselves at the shoreline.
view from Thayer Hill, along Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY The trail continued largely unmarked along a pair of fields, following the edge of the woods. The sun caught us hard from the west, much stronger than usual for an October afternoon. As we ascended Thayer Hill the views opened up to the north and east, and we could see for miles across the landscape.

Our path was wide enough at that point for horseback riders, and flanked by tall grasses and rusty-red wild bushes. We laughed at the thought of finding Laura and Pa Ingalls walking here; it sure looked like a scene from Little House on the Prairie.
view east from Thayer Hill, along Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY At the summit we found no shade at all, a bench improvised from an old set of wooden steps, and one more laminated copy of the map we had forgotten. Though the fall colors were mostly subdued, the air was crystal clear.In the distance, to the northeast, we could make out no less than four big water towers. Housing developments nestled in the valleys looked like scale models from a train layout.
shady section of Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY Tired and feeling the effects of the sun, we finished the last of our water, ate our honey and oat bars, and followed the prairie path back to the woods, thankful to find shade again. We took a detour along the red-blaze section this time and found more of the tiny creekbed, thoughtfully bridged with planks.
wooden bridges along Crescent Trail, Town of Perinton NY The trip back to the trailhead was almost entirely downhill, which was wonderful. At the bottom we found our car waiting for us, a little hotter from sitting in the sun, but a welcome sight for our tired feet. We headed home, happy to have enjoyed a walk in the sun on a perfect Indian Summer day.

copyright 2008 - all rights reserved

If you have a hike you'd like to share, leave a Comment here that links back to you, or Contact me using the link at the top of this page.