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Topic: Looking for a good resource, For learning the outdoors!< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2014, 10:31 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey gang,

So, I like to be outdoors but I simply know nothing about the outdoors. I cant tell you one tree from another. Cant tell you what kind of bush that is and wether those berries are edible or poisonous. I cant hardly identify poison ivy! I simply don't know any of these things and it drives me crazy! I want to know all these things for my personal benefit, as well as the benefit of the Cub Scouts in my pack as I run our hiking club. I want to be able to teach these boys things along the trail.

Can anyone recommend a book or a resource for a complete newb like me? I really want to learn about all the different types of plants and trees and stuff that I walk past while in the wood.

Thanks all!


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2014, 11:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Go out and sleep on your lawn some night and ask yourself what would make that easier. Then find a way to carry it all out there on your back.

Walk up to a forest some day and ask yourself how you will keep from getting lost.
Branch out and think. How will you stay warm? Where will you get a drink? What will you eat? Where will you go to the "bathroom"? Think.

What are your best shoes? How will you keep them dry? How will you keep yourself dry in a rainstorm? The best resource on the outdoors is the outdoors itself and your ability to learn from past mistakes.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2014, 11:16 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

QUOTE
as well as the benefit of the Cub Scouts in my pack as I run our hiking club.

That along with the rest of what you said is somewhat disturbing...  ???


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2014, 11:21 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Montanalonewolf @ Mar. 13 2014, 11:16 pm)
QUOTE
QUOTE
as well as the benefit of the Cub Scouts in my pack as I run our hiking club.

That along with the rest of what you said is somewhat disturbing...  ???

I hardly think thats fair as before I came along the pack had no hiking club.  I'd say some form of hiking is better than no hiking, no?

Fact is, no one in the pack knows sh*t about the outdoors, and if they do they have not stepped into a leadership position to share their knowledge. Welcome to central NJ.

I do the best I can.  :(
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 13 2014, 11:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Almost everyone knows something about the outdoors. Don't you put on a coat when you go outside? Why? And how would that change if you were going to stay outdoors even longer?

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(92hatchattack @ Mar. 13 2014, 9:21 pm)
QUOTE

(Montanalonewolf @ Mar. 13 2014, 11:16 pm)
QUOTE
QUOTE
as well as the benefit of the Cub Scouts in my pack as I run our hiking club.

That along with the rest of what you said is somewhat disturbing...  ???

I hardly think thats fair as before I came along the pack had no hiking club.  I'd say some form of hiking is better than no hiking, no?

Fact is, no one in the pack knows sh*t about the outdoors, and if they do they have not stepped into a leadership position to share their knowledge. Welcome to central NJ.

I do the best I can.  :(

Wanting to learn is a good thing and making mistakes will be the rule and not the exception in the beginning. Coming here and asking is a good start but know your limitations.
Your comment that you "know nothing about the outdoors" yet take kids into that same outdoors can easily be a recipe for disaster. If it were just you, I'd be saying take off and learn something but involving kids when you can't even ID poison ivy?
Ehhhh.....
"Some hiking is better than no hiking" is not a truism in all cases.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey, cut the guy some slack.  What I hear him asking for is a book that IDs plants and maybe scat that he encounters on his walks in the wild.  I own a book on the birds of Florida, because when I moved here I didn't know very many of them.

I am sure there are spiral bound books on the plants or flowers of NJ.  Look for something entitled like "Guide book to NJ plants".  Might want to go to your local library and ask them for book references.  It is amazing what librarians are aware of.

I own a book titled, "Mammals and their scat", or something like that, as it is packed away and I cannot find it right now.  Look for birds of prey ID book as well.  Lots of kids like to learn about hawks, osprey, and such.  Songbirds seem to be a later acquired interest.

Used bookstores, and libraries would be my resource for this.  Maybe Big Load will weigh in, as he lives in that area as well.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:14 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I can't vouch for this particular book, but I have the "western forests" version and think it's a very good overview.  I sometimes encounter a plant or berry or bird I can't identify with this book, but not very often.  

http://www.amazon.com/Eastern....4731263

And I think it's great that you want to learn, and that you want to get kids outside.  There are plenty of  experienced hikers who can't identify plants by the way. As long as you have basic common sense and good judgement, it doesn't take years of experience and woodsman skills to take a few 9 year olds out for a walk in the woods on an established trail for a couple of hours.  The Scout manual will give you the basics of what to bring, first aid, staying found.  When faced with choices, ere on the side of caution.  Have fun.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:22 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Do you have an arboretum nearby, maybe one associated with a nature conservancy or a university?  Many of them have short marked trails with tree and plant identifiers, as well as guided walks and tours.  They're also good resources on booklets or pamphlets on local flora and fauna.

I, for one, think it's great that you're getting kids outside, even if it's just to walk in the woods.  You don't have to be Bear Grylls.  If you're not a walking encyclopedia, there's no reason you can't learn *together* with the kids.  Get a tree identifier field guide and take it along on a hike and you and the kids can try to id trees together.  You can even get a tree id app for your smartphone.

"Hiking" with kids doesn't have to be remote backcountry expeditions.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:26 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Well, I guess I misunderstood the question. The outdoors is all kinds of things, not just plant life.  You said you "know nothing about the outdoors." Sorry, but that is really misleading.

Plant ID field guides are easy to find in most any book store. Shop around.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:28 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

It's ironic, but I lack good resources for my home turf.  I have a handful of Audubon Society books that apply to this area, but none that's comprehensive enough to get excited about.  I have a full shelf of plant books for the desert and the Rockies.  I look for ones that have as much coverage as possible, with good pictures of stems and leaves along with the fruits and flowers.  (That goal is rarely well met).  

I have another shelf full of geology references.  I really like the "Roadside Geology" series, and the companion "Geology Underfoot" series.

Regardless of what references you use, it helps to take good pictures of whatever interests you and spend the time trying to figure out what it is.  When you do that enough, you'll start to get a feeling for where different plants live at what time of year.

Pretty soon the Skunk Cabbage will be coming up.  I've already seen one peeking through the snow.  In a couple months we'll have Lady Slippers, which are among my favorite eastern forest plants.  The top of my list is Mountain Laurel, which comes a bit later, in great profusion along the ridges.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:43 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

A Field Guide to Eastern Trees: Eastern United States and Canada, Including the Midwest (Peterson Field Guides...)
Peterson Field Guide To Eastern Birds
Many more - Edible plants, mushrooms, mammals, flowers, etc...check out Amazon books - used?

BTW, I occasionally hike with a flower expert - Sierra. He can name the genus & species of thousands of Sierra flowers. Unfortunately most of us either:
Don't care,
Don't know if he is lying,
or it wouldn't matter if he was anyway.

Best advise - Going out with another hiker a few times who actually knows what he is doing, and just have fun.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 1:03 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ponderosa @ Mar. 14 2014, 12:14 am)
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I can't vouch for this particular book, but I have the "western forests" version and think it's a very good overview.  I sometimes encounter a plant or berry or bird I can't identify with this book, but not very often.  

http://www.amazon.com/Eastern....4731263

I have that one.  It's not great, but the coverage is pretty good.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 5:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thanks guys, I'll check some of those out.   I never thought to look for an app, thats a great idea on the go. Digging into my pocket for technology may not be what I really want to do while on a hike, but if it helps me learn its worth it.

Maybe saying that I know nothing about the outdoors was indeed misleading. I am a frequent car camper and know enough to teach kids about leave no trace and how not to get lost and what to do if they are lost, as well as teaching about trail essentials. As far as not knowing much about poisonous plants, I simply teach the boys that by following Leave No Trace and staying on marked trails they can more or less simply avoid these dangers altogether.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 10:01 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Edible plants-- I would stay away from that endeavor completely.  It would take me a long time to be confident in distinguishing between poisonous and edible.  Some plants are just too closely related.  Now, I think I can tell apples, pears, and such, but other than that...  

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 10:10 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I can't identify poison ivy either - I don't react to it, so it doesn't really matter :)

Go to your local REI or sporting goods store - they make trail map sized laminated ID cards for trees, flowers, scat, tracks, etc, etc, usually geared toward your local area.  They are small, but I think a good place to start.

Also, check with your local park rangers - they might have some pamphlets to get you started.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 10:21 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Kudos to you for trying to educate yourself and your troop.

If you have not done so, take some time to learn about proper apparel, weather, and maps/routefinding too. These are the basic skills for any outdoor adventure seeker, even if it's a day hike in the nearby woods.

There was a horrific story out of my native Missouri last year where a father took 2 sons on a dayhike in the Ozarks on a mild January day. They did a very long hike (20 miles), got lost in the dark, and ended up dying of exposure overnight when a front came through.

The father was a Boy Scout leader, yet he apparently did not have proper attire (light cotton tops, no foul-weather gear), was not aware of the forecast (60+ degree day would give way to freezing cold and heavy rain with a front approaching), and did not have good maps (they missed the spur turnoff to their rented cabin).

This never should have happened, and the apparent lack of knowledge and preparation is appalling.

The gear forums here should help. Talk to people at REI, as they are typically enthusiasts and will give you straight talk about gear.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 10:50 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've been working on getting my gear together for backpacking in general. I've got most of it together now and am starting to work on clothing.  I think I get the basic idea of it. Wicking baselayer, insulating layer, and shell.  

I do plan on taking one of the REI map and compas outdoor classes, though I wonder if 4 hours in the field is really enough time to learn skills and practice them, but its gotta be better than what I know now!
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 11:02 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(big_load @ Mar. 14 2014, 1:03 am)
QUOTE

(ponderosa @ Mar. 14 2014, 12:14 am)
QUOTE
I can't vouch for this particular book, but I have the "western forests" version and think it's a very good overview.  I sometimes encounter a plant or berry or bird I can't identify with this book, but not very often.  

http://www.amazon.com/Eastern....4731263

I have that one.  It's not great, but the coverage is pretty good.

+2

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(92hatchattack @ Mar. 14 2014, 10:50 am)
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I do plan on taking one of the REI map and compas outdoor classes, though I wonder if 4 hours in the field is really enough time to learn skills and practice them, but its gotta be better than what I know now!

You can learn the general skill in 4 hours. Practice it every time you go out.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 11:14 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(ol-zeke @ Mar. 14 2014, 8:01 am)
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Edible plants-- I would stay away from that endeavor completely.  It would take me a long time to be confident in distinguishing between poisonous and edible.  Some plants are just too closely related.  Now, I think I can tell apples, pears, and such, but other than that...  

I'd have to agree with ol-zeke here — especially until after you become much more comfortable with identification. I studied plant species for years, noting edible and medicinal species that might be found in my area. More than anything that used to drive me up the wall was any field guide or other resource that did not provide the family of the plant species.

Regarding the Latin nomenclature (naming system) in field guides: Some species names will vary. The same species might have different names in different guidebooks. Sorting it all out is the job of taxonomy, and taxonomy is a work in progress. Names change with scientific research, and some field guides may latch onto one name while another follows some other name.

The general naming sequence is:
    Kingdom (Plantae)
    .Division
    ..Class
    ...Order
    ....Family
    .....Genus
    ......Species
But there may be sub-categories of super-, sub-, infra- tacked onto the front of those main categories (taxons). If you really want to know more about any plant, it's best to know not only genus species but the family also. And some field guides are rather derelict in providing that much taxonomy. But until you know the family and perhaps the order also, you are really making your work more difficult in making positive identification of certain plants.

Different plants in the same family share common attributes. Learn what they are, and you are a step ahead of the game. I prefer field guides that make that easier. Also if you learn to pronounce Latin according to original pronunciations, I've found that it makes the entire job easier of working with taxonomy. Sad to say, but most lawyers and many scientists attempt to anglicize Latin pronunciation and make the job more difficult in their pronunciation-butchering process.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 11:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One of the better Internet resources for identifying plants is the US Department of Agriculture's Plants Database. You can search by common name, scientific name, area, taxonomic structure, etc. Here is Eastern Poison Ivy at the USDA Plants Database and Western Poison Ivy, which also grows in many Eastern states. Here is a list of subspecies of Poison Ivy. And finally, the full classification of Eastern Poison Ivy.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 11:56 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I second Jack's Kudos. Thanks for getting kids out.

You have one of the great outdoor equipment stores of the world North of you in Campmoor. They produce a cataluoge too.

I would guess someone at Rutgers or Princeton or any of the other fine institutions in your beautiful Garden State have produced the go to guides for plants, animals, insects, etc. in your area. I would however start with your regional Audubon Guide. I carry the one for here in the Rockies. I would hope your scout council would have direction to a poisonous/inedible quick resource guide.

I would guess the AMC publishes a hiking guide for your area and I'd just google for others.

Find out what these kids need to eat, what they need to wear, what they need to have, and what other acceptable things they can carry if they wish. Educate yourself as much as you can.

Try and involve some other parents or older siblings. Having been a Devilish little boy I can you tell you problems arise in direct correlation to the level of alert, concerned. competent supervision. Have a great time, but by no means think you can handle too many kids on your own.

Choose the right places to go. One of my favorites in Eastern PA is Ricketts Glenn. There's however some fast moving water. Maybe that's only a trip with a very high adult to kid ration? Just think stuff through. To just think of doing this means you're a great Dad. Lots of us are to here to do the little we can to help you be a good leader so never there's such a thing as a stupid question. Just don't hesitate to ask anyone in this or the real world for advice. If someone has a problem helping anyone let alone kids just fuggedt 'bout 'em. think a bout networking with agencies and organizations for education and fulfilling opportunities. Help release turtles, gather plants, inventory tide pools; make those kids realize part of the enjoyment is being part of the wonder.

Thanks again for being the kind of parent today's world needs far more of.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I would find a local backpacking group and sit down and talk with the leader of said group and pick their brain. You would probably get the info you need much faster than scanning through books.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 12:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Watch Survivor and Bear Grylls episodes. They pretty much taught me everything.
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(Marmotstew @ Mar. 14 2014, 12:26 pm)
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Watch Survivor and Bear Grylls episodes. They pretty much taught me everything.

LOL. That's good.

Seriously, Bear Grylls shows watchers exactly what NOT to do in a survival situation:
- run around and take unnecessary risks by jumping, climbing, hanging, etc. (break or twist ankle in a survival situation and your odds go way down)
- get soaking wet (other than a blow to the head, hypothermia will kill you fastest)
- burn precious energy running around


Les Stroud's show is much more authentic. Survival is mostly about staying dry/warm (build shelter, make fire), obtaining water, conserving calories, and generally minimizing risk. It just makes for boring television.


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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 1:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The kids aren't a big problem as I require parents to attend hikes with their kids.  We are a large pack of nearly 90 kids and we get a different group on every outing. I couldn't begin to learn each kids special medical or mental needs. Plus some of these kids are as young as 7.  The biggest problem for us seems to be lazy parents that dont want to or won't drive there kids to the hiking location and get out into nature with them. Attendance is generally high when we hike somewhere withing a 10 minute drive, but when we travel to more exotic hikes a drive of 30-90 minutes seems to far for them.  Which is a shame because they are missing out on sights and hikes that make our local hikes pale in comparison.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 1:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Overall the natural history associations that are aligned with various national parks have proved to be a good resource. In the east GSMNP and Shenandoah both have active associations (who run online bookstores with regionally specific reference books) for example.

http://shop.smokiesinformation.org

http://www.snpbooks.org

then there's the Appalachian Trail Conservancy..

http://www.atctrailstore.org

Natural history is local so a local reference will be best.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 8:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(TigerFan @ Mar. 14 2014, 12:22 am)
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Do you have an arboretum nearby, maybe one associated with a nature conservancy or a university?  Many of them have short marked trails with tree and plant identifiers, as well as guided walks and tours.  They're also good resources on booklets or pamphlets on local flora and fauna.

I do!  This is a great idea that I totaly didnt think about!  Its a lovely place too. I went there with my son but we just browsed around. I'll have to get back there and spend a few hours walking around. Thanks!

The Autubon books look promising as well. And I'll see what REI has when I go there tomorrow to look at shoes/boots.  Theres enough recomendations in this thread to keep me busy for a very long time.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2014, 11:27 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Seriously, Bear Grylls shows watchers exactly what NOT to do in a survival situation:

But, he does have one sure fire survival tactic:  Always take a multi camera filming crew with you when going into the "wilderness", and make sure there is a knowledgeable director, and at least two producers.  LOL


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"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

- John Kenneth Galbraith
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