Resources for hikes and camping

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Found a great website/newsletter resource for California troop leaders called WeekendSherpa.com.   Choose either Northern California or Southern California regions and you’ll receive a weekly newsletter with hiking/camping/etc ideas for your area.  Found some great hikes that are just the right length to take a troop of girls out for a day trip and I am also discovering some other ideas that may turn into great overnights.

We spent the day on the Sonoma Coast and it was perfect weather.  While our intended “loop” turned out to be a bit of misdirection on their leaders part (that would be me), we still had a good hike for about 2 hours and then headed into the town for a pizza lunch.  This was the perfect length of time for busy high school girls.  Left the house at 9am and were home by 2pm-ish.  Still plenty of time for other activities (homework) in the afternoon.

While we do plan a few overnight camping trips (mostly during the summer and fall), the rest of the year has become so busy for my troop of older girls that it is hard to get them all together for an activity.  Sometimes we have two carloads of girls and other times just one, but what I have found is that we can’t wait for everyone to be available.  Plan an outing, get it on your calendar, and then go!  Scheduling some of these shorter “half-day” type outings makes it a little easier for the girls to plan around homework and other activities.

Another resource that I am currently looking at (but have not yet actually used) is hipcamp.com  This gives you some alternative camping options, many of which are on private land (and depending on the amenities, can be a little pricey), but they also include most of the regional and state campgrounds as well.  Especially if you live in an area where all of the state and national park campgrounds fill up fast during the summer, this can be a great resource to find a hidden spot that might become your new favorite campground.

Let me know if you have an inspiring online source for outdoor ideas and we’ll start a list for outdoor opportunities.

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Constellation Wristband

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This is an adorable project for the astronomy lover in your house.

This blog is amazing and Onel is sharing the tutorial on how to make this cute cuff.  View the blog post here.

Great project if you are studying the stars on your next campout.

How to build a fake campfire

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Have you searched all over the internet for how to make a fake campfire for indoor scout activities?  Well, I did.  I needed a fake campfire for our float that we were building for our town’s lighted parade this September.  I would have a hard time explaining the $100 expense to purchase the pre-made fake campfire, so I figured I could make my own for a lot less.  Here’s the only decent photo I got of the parade float and you can barely see the fire in front of the pink tent (but wasn’t that cool the way we made the pink tent glow?)

OK, back to the fire.  Here are few more photos from when we last used it indoors:

Can you see the green crate under the wood?  This is what holds the “mechanics” of the fire.  We have to stack wood around the crate to make it look like a fire and this is the only part that needs a little work (not to mention it is a pain to cart in all this wood).  Inside the crate, held together with zip ties and a few bamboo sticks for support, are two light fixtures (the clip on type from the hardware store), one with a yellow light and one with an outdoor red flood light.  Go for the extra cost on the flood light, gives a much better glow.  Put these at the bottom of the crate, then rig a small personal fan (like this one) above the lights (this is where the bamboo sticks came in handy).  Above the fan (on top of the crate) line up 3 more bamboo sticks (the kind you find in the garden center for plant stakes) and tape them to the top at a diagonal (but all three are parallel to each other).  Take a white plastic grocery bag and cut out three large flames from the all-white part of the bag.  The plastic from these bags is super thin and light and floats perfectly when lined up with the fan.

Here are the girls putting the wood around the green crate.  You can see the red light on the plastic flames.  Use zip ties to pull all the cords together and attach them to an inexpensive power strip (not the expensive power surge computer type).  When I think of a way to camouflage the power cord running to the wall outlet, I will let you know.

We just cut down an old pine tree and I have a bunch of bark that has released from the wood.  I think I’ll figure out a way to attached the much lighter bark to the outside of the crate so I don’t have to drag the firewood when we want to use it.  Some fake rocks at the bottom would give a good look too.  Watch for fake fire Part II when I have the improvements made.

Anyway, while this is maybe not as clean and neat as the pre-made fires, mine only cost about $30 to put together (got the fan on sale at the end of the summer).   I’ll try to get some more pics of the fire in the dark next time we use it!

Homemade Bird Feeders

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A super easy craft for camp or in your troop is to have the girls make Bird Feeders.  You probably already know about the simple peanut butter, pine cone and birdseed one that can easily be made by all ages, but here are links to some interesting ideas for your next project:

Bird feeder made from an orange peel. Courtesy of SheKnows.com

SheKnows.com has a great article about how to make this bird feeder from an orange peel.  Would be a perfect project for your next campout.  Bring oranges for a snack, then have the girls use the peels the next day to make their feeder.

Upcycled Bird Feeder made from a plastic bottle.  From PermacultureIdeas.com

Upcycled Bird Feeder made from a plastic bottle. From FamilyFun.com

This bird feeder from FamilyFun.com is perfect when you are showing the girls how to keep materials out of the landfill and find other uses.  Purchase the spoons at the Dollar Store.

Adorable molded bird feeder from DesignSponge.com

Yes, this birdseed is molded because it was combined with a little bit of gelatin, placed inside a plastic bottle top, then removed and hung with the wooden bowl.  Read the full instructions here.  I’m not sure if the birds will be able to reach the birdseed without having something to perch on? What do you think?

I had to include this one just because it is so darn cute!  Would make a very cute Mother’s Day gift too.  Read the full how-to here.

What type of seed is best for the birds in your area?  Who better than the folks at Cornell Labs to provide that answer.  Click here for a line-up of delicious treats for your birds.  Some food is not good for the birds, so be sure to read up on the best feed before purchasing.

And finally, because you should probably know a bit about the birds you might find in your area, follow these links for more info to supplement your meeting:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Backyard Bird Identifier – by National Geographic

National Audubon Society

Be sure to check your local Audubon Group, Ecology Center or Educational Centers at your local state or national park for more info about groups near you that can help teach the girls about birds and bird habitats.