Future Blog Posts

Hello Faithful Readers,

Please visit my Facebook Page for future blog posts and photos.

Thanks and enjoy the great outdoors!

Robert

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Primitive Camping at Salt Fork State Park

Tent campers have a new place to pitch their nylon castles. Located in eastern Ohio, Salt Fork State Park has transformed a remote picnic area into a primitive camping area. Latrines and drinking water sources are the only amenities found there. But that is what tent camping is about, isn’t it? Removing the most of modern conveniences and experiencing life’s basic form.

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Want to guess where this wooden statue rests?

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This group of kids enjoyed last Saturday in the outdoors, at a youth event near Zanesville, Ohio, sponsored by the local chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Yep, these kids were not attached to a remote control or hypnotized by a TV screen – instead, they fished, tried target shooting with shotgun and bow, and simply enjoyed a sunny fall day with siblings and new friends.

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One last swim before the water ices over during the night…

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Fall Paddling

It’s time for some fall paddling! Strap on a life vest, buy, borrow or rent a kayak and give it a try. Great time to be on the water as the leaves transform to the most colorful season. Get out there!

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Proud to be an American

This week’s photo is a view of the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville PA, under construction. As I visited the sight while on a writing assignment, I was overcome by a sense of pride, appreciation, anger, and sadness. The day I was there the sky was a deep, beautiful blue. It reminded me of the beautiful and deep devotion the Americans that died on September 11, 2001 had for their families and their country.

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Showing Off Lake Erie

The 30-foot Sportcraft guided by Captain Pete Scheid carried its occupants (me included) across Lake Erie’s surface. The water was only slightly rolling on this early morning voyage taken last Monday. Thoughts of walleyes being pulled into Captain Pete’s boat was shared among the passengers, all there participating in the 33rd Annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day. The event brings together members of the media, ODNR’s Division of Wildlife, tourism industry, and of course, local and state government officials, to promote Lake Erie’s sport fishing and tourism. I’ve been invited to attend this special event for the last few years and I’ve always come away with some answers regarding Ohio’s great lake and the Buckeye State’s state of game fishing in general.

The night prior to the fishing event, I spent the evening at the Americas Best Value Inn in Port Clinton (1-866-734-2101). My corner room provided tandem water views – one of Lake Erie and one of the waterway used by pleasure boaters, charter craft, and the Jet Express (a high-speed ferry to access South Bass Island and Put-In-Bay). The sunset was one worthy of photographing. The fiery display in the sky added to the pleasures I experienced while sitting on the hotel’s patio, watching the occasional passing boat headed for its mooring on a warm summer’s night.

At 6:30 the next morning, Fish Ohio Day invitees gathered at the Lake Erie Islands Regional Welcome Center located on SR 53 just north of SR 2, between Port Clinton and Marblehead. The Lake Erie Charter Boat Association provides several boats and their captains to host the show. This year I was assigned to Captain Pete Scheid who owns and operates as Captain Hook Fishing Charters (1-800-453-8403). One look around Capt. Pete’s boat and it was clear he ran a tight ship and after answering a few questions, it was also clear he understood Lake Erie and the fish that swim in it. Forty minutes after leaving the dock we were baiting up and preparing to offer the fish a breakfast they couldn’t refuse. A mayfly rig tipped with a nightcrawler was the culinary choice and it turned out to be a popular selection for a variety of fish species – including the star of the gamefish community – walleye.

Also under Capt. Pete’s wing that morning was Sue Howard – ODNR Divison of Wildlife’s Assistant Chief, Tom Jackson – President of the Ohio Grocers Association. We were supposed to have aboard, former US Senator George Voinovich and his wife Janet. The Voinoviches had to cancel at the last moment – too bad, because I had a few questions for Mr. Voinovich, and he missed out on some fine fishing as well.

Captain Pete put us on fish more than once during our four-hour float. Over twenty walleye were put in the ice chest between the four of us. The total fish caught during the event were donated to local food banks. As the causal waves raised us up and down, conversation of our love of Ohio’s natural resources was non-stop. Current issues such as the several algae blooms that have impacted several of Ohio’s waters were discussed. Sue Howard ensured us that the Division of Wildlife is dedicated as ever to managing Ohio’s natural resources for now and future generations. She backed this up with stats of successful programs that are currently showing progress throughout the state.

Captain Pete has seen a drop in the charter business, but by no means has Lake Erie lost any popularity. Ohio families that normally head for the Atlantic Coast for summer vacations are now appearing on the shores of Lake Erie. “There’s much to do up here to satisfy anyone’s taste of adventure,” said Captain Pete. “A couple days of touring the sights and attractions along Lake Erie’s coast are topped off with a day on the water fishing with us. A great vacation that fits the shrinking vacation budgets that many folks are experiencing.”

A thunderstorm pushed us off the water, but that was probably a good thing since we were catching fish, nobody wanted to quit. Early that afternoon, Fish Ohio Day participants met back at the welcome center for a press conference with the heads of the ODNR and of course, Governor John Kasich. The audience was informed of conservation challenges being tackled by the multiple divisions of ODNR. Governor Kasich message was this – “Each time I visit Lake Erie I am in awe of what it means to Ohio. It’s the crown jewel of the state – it’s an amazing recreational destination, economic generator, and environmental treasure.”

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Safe Hiking

The rain had stopped just before daylight, leaving the forest floor soaked as the sun rose. Rainwater dripping off the leaves was beginning to slow its rhythm. A few vehicles parked at the trailhead were a sign the trail must be a popular one. We (the family and me) worked our way up the trail consisting of rock outcroppings; some of the trail was on exposed rock making for some slippery steps. With the trail just having a rain bath, the hike had an added element of adventure, or danger if attention to safety was ignored.

The family of four on the trail ahead of me had just arrived at the top of a waterfall. Although the waterfall was not extremely tall, the terrain surrounding it was bare stone – wet stone. The father was digging out his camera from his new backpack, while his wife and two kids were crawling away from the trail towards the crest of the waterfall.

I couldn’t help but stare at the dangerous situation unfolding before me, but I didn’t want to come off as a nosy intruder of their adventure. Then, the smaller of the two children began walking straight for the rock edge to watch the water fall.

Hiking is considered by most, a simple walk with no real planning necessary. That thinking has led to many unexpected overnight stays in the wild, injuries and even death. The simplest day hike should at least have a few thoughts of pre-planning to ensure a pleasant experience. Taking things like orienteering for granted can lead to trouble.

I know what you’re thinking. How could you get lost on a small loop trail or other short hike? Well, it happens. An attraction or distraction along an established trail can lead a hiker astray. A golden rule to hiking established trails is to stay on the trail. Not only will side tripping create a possible emergency for the hiker, the new path may encourage others to follow which may lead to damaging erosion or impact wildlife habitat.

Adding a map to your daypack will not only help keep you safe, it will keep you informed of interesting facts or sights along the way. A topographical map is best, especially when planning for physical limitations. Any steepness of the trail will be obvious on the ‘topo’ map, which will distinguish any surprises about incline and decline contours of the targeted trail. A GPS unit is a great orienteering tool, but it is an electronic device that can fail. Learning to use a compass correctly can be fun and a reliable back up.

I’ve heard many comments from other hikers while on the trail. One that always brings a smile is, “I don’t think I can make it back! I didn’t realize the trail was this long.” Well, a mile is still a mile, that’s for sure. Again, a bit of planning and being aware of what you’re about to get into will keep the trek fun. Be realistic when planning a hike and consider everyone’s physical abilities. As a 6’4” tall person and having a wife barely sprouting above feet, I normally hear, “Slow down!” Keep this in mind when kids are included. And, think of the extra weight a child clinging to your back will add if you misjudge their distance-covering capability and you become a human taxi.

A fully stocked backpack is not needed for a day’s trek, but a sufficient supply of drinking water should make every trip. Avoid drinking from natural water sources without purification treatment to avoid sickness. Include a few cereal bars to the daypack and a simple lunch if you plan to be on the trail all day. Whatever the menu, choose one that is high in carbohydrates for energy.

Many trails wind through scenic landscapes that skirt along tall river gorges, rock formations or cliffs. Such a trail was the scene of a tragic and deadly fall of a young girl who wandered from the designated trail. Today, a warning sign at this trailhead warns of the dangers that are present when caution is ignored. There are two signs actually, one placed by the Park Service and the second placed by the deceased girl’s family, pleading to trail users to follow rules and practice safe hiking to avoid another accident.

The scene described at the beginning, looked as if I was about to witness a similar accident. The mother saw her small child approaching the cliff’s edge and called for them to come back. The child slipped as she turned. The father leaped and grabbed her in a flash, stopping her from sliding over. She screamed as did her mother and siblings.

The expression of fear on the family’s faces was confirmation that a lesson was learned this day on the trail. The wonders of the wild are fascinating and walking among it is inspirational. Doing so with a bit of preparation and good judgment leads to a fantastic experience. If not, another tragic headline may appear in the next day’s newspaper.

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A Fathers Day Gift

Father’s Day is a holiday for offspring to honor their father. Yard tools or a “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt may fulfill the obligation of gift giving from children to father. As a young boy, the gifts I presented to dad on father’s day were no different. Except instead of tools, I aimed at the leisure times of dad’s life. A new fishing rod or the latest lure would be placed in dad’s lap. The oddly taped package was accepted by dad with a big smile and a, “Oh boy. What do we have here?”

After the gift was opened, I heard the question I had hoped for. “Well, we might as well go try this thing out, shouldn’t we?” asked dad. Before he could change his mind, I would announce to the family that dad wanted to go fishing. It was f
Father’s day, but who actually gave the gift on that holiday? Dad received the store bought gift, but with dad, he was the one who offered the greatest gift.

As a father, the greatest assets in my life are my children. That was the same for my father. Those days on the water with dad find their way into many of my articles, obviously those times made a lasting impression on me as a child. The same is true for my siblings who share their “outdoor excursions with dad” memories at family gatherings. Father’s Day was a big deal in our family, an opportunity to spend time with dad in his preferred surroundings.

Fishing is a growing sport for several reasons. One reason is the media is reminding and informing the public of the benefits fishing offers all ages. Dad taught his kids not only how to fish, but to respect our natural surroundings. If we were walking a lake shore and discovered trash left behind from a careless scoundrel, we would pick it up and take it with us. Little things like that were lessons that dad thrived on. Having his kids away from the chaos of everyday life and to have our full attention, dad took advantage of the opportunity to share his knowledge and respect for the great outdoors.

During a recent presentation I performed at a junior high school on the subject of the wild turkey, I noticed impatient reactions from the students wanting to ask questions regarding wildlife and its survival. What I taught the kids that day was accepted better and will be retained longer than if I would have simply passed out a booklet and told them to read it. Times when a young person is focused on the lesson at hand, the information must be entertaining and educational for the lesson to be successful and long-term. That’s exactly what dad did during our outdoor adventures. Not only did we kids take advantage of Father’s Day to be with dad, dad took advantage of the special day to teach.

The lessons of respecting nature, other outdoors enthusiasts and wildlife, are a few lessons that I now transfer to my own kids. I have some of those lures and rods that I gave dad years ago, but the most prized gifts are the ones that dad gave to me on the day that was intended for him. Many of the expeditions that I go on today include flashbacks to my youth and the lessons dad taught. This Father’s Day I plan to take my kids fishing. If the fish are biting, that’s great, if not that’s ok also. I will have the chance to talk with the kids about important matters and share stories about their grandpa they never met. I will be carrying on a family tradition, sharing a gift handed down from dad that is more important to this father than any lawn rake or silly t-shirt.

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