Friday, October 28, 2016

Announcing the 2016 Wilderness Volunteers Photo Contest

The 2016 season is nearly over, so let's celebrate all of the great work our trip participants helped WV accomplish this year by awarding some great prizes for a few fantastic photos!

A few of our great entries from last year:

Enter your favorite WV project photos by uploading your selections to the WV gallery in these categories:
  • Landscapes (scenic photos of our nation's public lands)
  • Wildlife (from slugs to bears, if it's a wild animal it's game)
  • On the Trail (volunteers/hikers on trails)
  • Hard at Work (volunteers working on projects)
Please add a description for each photo as well as your name and what project it was taken on.

One winner will be selected for each category as well as a grand prize winner for best photo.

Grand Prize:

  • A gift certificate for a free Wilderness Volunteers project good for the 2017 project season.

Best Landscape:

  • Black Diamond SPOT headlamp donated by Peace Surplus
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI    

Best Wildlife:

  • Ultra-Sil Day Pack (20L) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Outside Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

Best On the Trail:

  • Clear Stopper Dry Bag (8L) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

Best Hard At Work:

  • Ultra-Sil Pack Cover (Medium) donated by Sea to Summit
  • a one-year subscription donated by Backpacker Magazine
  • a sport bottle, coupon for 20% off one full price item, & chapstick donated by REI  

You can enter as many photos as you like, just be sure to do so before the deadline on November 30th! 

A huge thank you to this year's photo contest sponsors:

Peace Surplus

Outside Magazine

Sea To Summit

Backpacker Magazine

Official Contest Rules:
  • All photos must be taken on a 2016 Wilderness Volunteers Project and must comply with Leave No Trace ethics & principles.
  • Each entry must include the photographer's name and the project it was taken on
  • The same photo cannot be entered in more than one category. Judges reserve the right to switch images to other categories.
  • The contest is open to all 2016 WV project participants and leaders, except for Wilderness Volunteers staff, contest judges and their families. WV reserves the right to verify, in its sole judgment, entrant eligibility. 
  • Photographs will be judged on originality, technical excellence, composition, overall impact and artistic merit. Awards will be selected by a panel of judges, and all decisions are final.  
  • Entries must be submitted to the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery (no later than 11:59pm on by Monday, November 30th to be eligible.
  • Judges may exclude entries that do not meet the above criteria. 
  • Winners will be notified by email. Wilderness Volunteers is not responsible for lost or damaged prizes.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photos From the Field: Dark Canyon Wilderness

Wilderness Volunteers recently finished a service project in the Dark Canyon Wilderness of the Manti La Sal National Forest in southeastern Utah.

The Dark Canyon Wilderness is a spectacular canyon wilderness in southeastern Utah that was the ancestral home of Puebloan peoples for 5,000 years. Dark Canyon is rich in biological, geological, archaeological, and historical significance, and is also one of the most colorful canyon systems on the Colorado Plateau.

Dark Canyon begins on Elk Ridge at an elevation of 8,800 feet then cuts through Cedar Mesa sandstone formations dramatically framed amidst a forest of ponderosa pine on its 5,000-foot descent to the upper reaches of Lake Powell. It is remote and spectacularly beautiful.

At various times residents of the canyon hunted on the mesa tops, grew maize, squash and beans on canyon terraces, gathered pinyon nuts on the plateaus, and hunted turkey and deer in the high ponderosa pine forests.

They built cliff-dwellings and grain storage warehouses, made pottery in a variety of styles, and fashioned tools from the mineral resources of the canyon.

As part of our ongoing project with the Manti-La Sal National Forest, participants backpacked into the area and then worked with Forest Service archaeologists to survey remote parts of the Dark Canyon system for artifacts and ancestral sites.

They split into small teams, each led by an archaeologist, and slowly walked the canyon looking for stone tools and flakes, projectile points, pot sherds and the remains of ancient structures.

Forest Service staff provided participants with training on how stone tools and artifacts were made, the different styles of tools and pottery used, and how to find artifacts and document the sites where they are found.

The training included a demonstration of the art of "flint knapping" - the fabrication of tools and projectile points from stone - that gave participants insight into the things to look for and the types of tools that can be made from stone.

This year's project was extremely fruitful: participants surveyed over 353 acres, recorded 5 sites, and identified 14 new sites.

Want to give something back with Wilderness Volunteers in the Dark Canyon Wilderness?

The Summer and Fall 2017 projects will be released on our website December 1, 2016.

All of the stunning photos in this post were taken by Dark Canyon participant Brandon Jett.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Just Because Bears Hibernate, Doesn't Mean You Need To: 10 Public Lands to Visit During Fall

The leaves are changing colors, the air is beginning to have a bite, and the world seems to be telling you to curl up on the couch with a cup of joe and begin winter hibernation preparations. Fight that urge because our public lands are blooming in the most spectacular way - in the golden hues of autumn! Fall offers a unique opportunity to see your public lands in a whole new light. While all lands are pretty enjoyable in this delightful season, here are some that we felt should not be missed.

Denali National Park, AK
Snow-capped mountains bordered by vibrant tundra? Fall has never looked better than in Denali National Park.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA
Larch trees take a turn for the gold in lake basins in the Alpine Lakes. Anyone interested in a cold dip in one of these glacial lakes?

Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Acadia National Park, ME
Who can resist the reds and yellows of east coast fall foliage! Acadia in autumn is the ideal weekend adventure.

Zion National Park, UT
Always a surprise in such an arid environment, deciduous riparian vegetation attempts to mimic the orange glow of the surrounding rock faces.

Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, ME
Our newest national monument have much to offer in this season! Deciduous plants burst into swaths of reds, yellows, and oranges, bordered by old-growth forests.
Kachina Peaks Wilderness, AZ
Inner Basin in the Kachina Peaks is a valley filled with aspen trees. The golden glow from the fall aspen leaves is other-worldly!

Daniel Boone National Forest, KY
Oak trees melt into a wide variety of reds once the weather turns in Kentucky. Scenic vistas will offer glimpses into these vibrant valleys.

Maroon Bells Wilderness, CO
With adventures of all kinds to offer, Maroon Bells Wilderness, outside of Aspen, CO, displays dynamic and vivid landscapes filled with aspen trees and serene mountain lakes.

Glacier National Park, MT
Prime-time for Glacier extends well past busy-time. Larch and aspen sprinkled throughout the lowland forests offer a unique (and more isolated) take on one of Americas most popular National Parks.

Regardless of where you are geographically located, there is always a way to enjoy your surroundings this season! Get out there and enjoy what our public lands have to offer!

Share some of your fall favorites in the comments!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Top Ten Camping/Outdoor Myths

#1 If soap is biodegradable it's okay to use it in streams, rivers, and lakes.

Biodegradable soaps are great but they should never be used in or near streams or rivers as they can hurt the delicate aquatic ecosystem and harm the creatures that live there in even very small quantities. All soaps (even the biodegradable ones) can destroy the external mucus layers that protect fish and cause severe damage to gills. Soaps also kill fish eggs in very low concentrations, interfere with breeding, and cause freshwater algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels in the waterway. Make sure to always use soaps at least 200 feet away from any water source.    

#2 Removing a tick with tweezers may leave the head in the skin so you should burn, freeze, or smother them with nail polish or petroleum jelly first to make them pull their heads out. 

Ticks do not bury their heads in your skin, only their mouth parts penetrate. You should remove a tick as soon as possible after you find it using tweezers and then clean the area well using alcohol or soap and water. Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull gently upward with steady even pressure. Burning a tick or covering it with noxious liquids could make the tick regurgitate increasing the likelihood of infection with a tick-bourne disease.

#3 You should drink your pee if you don't have any water.

If you are out of water and to the point where you are considering drinking your own urine, chances are you are already pretty dehydrated. In a dehydrated person urine is extra concentrated with waste products that your kidneys have filtered out of your system. Adding these back to your body can put additional stress on your kidneys and the additional salts can actually accelerate dehydration.

#4 Daddy long-legs are the most poisonous spiders alive but their fangs are too short and their mouths are too small to bite humans.

Daddy long-legs (or harvestman spiders) do not possess venom glands or fangs. Their mouths are tiny grasping claws that are much too weak to break human skin.

#5 Moss always grows on the north side of trees.

While it is true that moss likes to grow in shady, cool, and damp locations the plant does not in fact have a compass. In the northern hemisphere the north side of a tree may get less sunlight and make for better growing conditions but many other factors also come into play, making the old adage a poor way to try and navigate.

#6 You should suck the venom out of a snake bite to keep it from getting into the bloodstream.

Snake venom spreads very quickly and it is very unlikely that cutting into a snake bite would reach the venom or that you would be able to suck hard enough to get enough venom out to make any difference. It will cause further harm to the victim though by introducing mouth bacteria into a brand new wound and could cause tissue damage to the mouth of the helpful friend. Tourniquets are also a bad idea as the potential dangers associated with a tourniquet far outweigh the benefits when it comes to snake bites. Bites from mature snakes can also be "dry" bites that do not result in venom being injected into the wound. If bitten by a snake seek appropriate care from medical professionals. Take a picture of the snake if you can do so without risk of further injury but do not attempt to catch it/kill it in order to take it with you.

#7 Handling toads can give you warts.

While many frogs and toads can have bumps on their skin you can't get warts from them; warts on humans are caused by a human virus. Some toads (like the Colorado River Toad below) do excrete a toxin through special glands in their skin that can be irritating if touched or deadly if ingested so you still shouldn't handle them.

#8 If you are lost finding food is the most important thing.

If you are lost in the woods food should be one of the last things you worry about. People can go weeks without food but only a few days without water or a few hours without shelter if the weather is bad. If it is hot find shade, if it is cold find someplace warm (or at least dry) and insulate yourself from the ground. A source of water should be your next concern.

#9 Running water is safe to drink.

There is nothing magical about fast moving water that makes it safe to drink. There could still be something rotting upstream or a variety of wild animals using that clear water for a rest stop. To be on the safe side you should still filter/boil/treat running water before drinking it. If you don't have the means to filter/boil/treat it by all means drink it if you have to. If there are bacteria/viruses/parasites in the water it can take days to a few weeks to make you sick while you can die of dehydration in just a couple of days.

#10 You'll sleep warmer in your sleeping bag if you aren't wearing any clothes.

If it's going to be a cold night you will want to put on a few dry layers before climbing into your sleeping bag. Some long underwear, wool socks, and a warm hat will do wonders keeping you toasty on cold nights by providing additional insulation to trap warmth next to your body. You can make your bag even warmer by adding a sleeping bag liner and extra clothes to take up any airspace in your bag. Be sure to use an air mattress or other pad to insulate you from the cold ground and remove any wet clothes before climbing in.  

Do you know any other camping/outdoor myths? Let us know in the comments below.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Equipment Spotlight - It's What's Underneath that Counts: ExOfficio Underpants

The most important component of your back country 'outfit' is the article no one sees. Yep, that right - we're talking skivvies! I have recently fallen in love with the new line of ExOfficio underwear. They are the kind of thing that once you try a pair, you feel the need to replace your entire undies drawer. They inspired me to learn a bit more about the wild world of undergarmets. I am here to shed some light on the importance of quality outdoor active underwear for quality outdoor activities!

Men's Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 9 Women's Give-N-Go® Full Cut Brief
1. Why it Matters
The wrong type of underwear can do a surprising amount of harm to both your moral, and your body, and can ultimately make or break your trip. This harm could come in the form of chaffing, extreme odors, over-packing, and comfort (or lack thereof). ExOfficio addresses all of these issues with their proprietary Sport Mesh fabric.

Men's Give-N-Go Boxer Women's Give-N-Go® Bikini Brief
2. The Difference
This new line of underwear with ExOfficios' proprietary fabric is everything you would ever need in an underwear. They are extremely breathable, with an open weave mesh facilitating adequate airflow. They feature an antimicrobial finish which actually eliminates odors in the fabric (sounds to me like a built-in air freshener!). They feature some of the best moisture wicking properties I have ever encountered in a fabric, essentially eliminating the issue of chaffing. Finally, the fit is shockingly comfortable, with stretch mesh, flatlock seams, and smooth waistband. They advertise it as "more comfortable than wearing nothing at all", and it is true.

Women's Give-N-Go® Sport Mesh Bikini Brief Men's Give-N-Go Sport Mesh 6
3. Put the Undies to the Test
ExOfficio has always advertised that you can wear just one to two pairs of their underwear for a 6 week excursion. I figured since I am the new self-proclaimed 'Undie Investigator' I should probably put this to the test. I modified it a bit and cycled through two pairs over a two week period, washing in my sink each night and setting out to dry. After a few days the challenge became a bit too easy! After air drying the underwear as recommended, they would be dried out in no more than 4 hours! I was amazed, to say the least. After the two week period the underwear were not stretched out, did not have an odor, and were just as comfortable as the day I bought them. This made me realize how easily I could reduce my load while traveling or on trips.

These underwear are truly a case of quality rather than quantity. I highly recommend giving them a try on your next trip!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Taking Great Sunset Photos without an Expensive Camera

A beautiful sunset is a breathtaking experience. We've all been someplace and were so impressed with the sunset that we whipped out a camera and took a picture to try and share it with others. Unfortunately those photos often end up disappointing and don't represent what we saw very well. So how do you capture that amazing show in the sky?

Capturing that perfect sunset in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN

Expose your photo properly:
Automatic point and shoot cameras meter the light based on what the camera is pointed at (what you can see in the viewfinder/on the screen). For normal everyday photos this means you end up with a photo where you can see the foreground and peoples faces; for sunset photos this means way too much light resulting in the washout of that beautiful orange glow you are trying to capture.

Just Right
Too Much Light!

Many point and shoot cameras have a sunset setting that will expose your photos just right so you end up with beautiful sunset photos. If you have this setting just select it and go.

Enjoying the show in King Range National Conservation Area, CA

If you don't have this option on your camera (or you are using a phone) you can adjust the lighting manually.

  • changing the exposure (decreasing the light to -1 or -2 will do wonders for your sunset photo)                    exposure selections often look like this ->             [-2...-1...0...+1...+2]
  • touching a brighter area on the screen of your phone to focus/decrease the exposure
  • touching a darker area on the screen of your phone to focus/increase the exposure
  • If the sunset is too bright in your viewfinder: point the camera slightly upward so that more sky is in the viewfinder and then push the shutter button halfway down to focus/meter and hold. When the lighting/focus is ready move the camera back to frame the photo you want & shoot. 
  • If the sunset is too dark in your viewfinder: point the camera slightly downward so that more ground is in the viewfinder and then push the shutter button halfway down to focus/meter and hold. When the lighting/focus is ready move the camera back to frame the photo you want & shoot. 

Zoom in:
Many photos taken of sunsets without any zoom include a lot of dark/uninteresting space. Zoom in toward the main event and make sure that the sunset fills your frame.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Try different things:
In this day of digital photography you don't have to pay more to take more photos. Use this to your advantage by trying different settings on your camera, different focal lengths, and different exposures to get the perfect shot. It's easy to delete the ones that didn't turn out so well at a later time when you can actually see the pictures on a bigger screen.

 Happy Shooting!

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN
Admiralty Island, AK
Big Bend National Park, TX

John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, CA 
Bighorn Crags, Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, ID

Mojave National Preserve, CA

Gila Wilderness, Gila National Forest, NM

Limahuli National Tropical Botanical Garden, HI