Thursday, June 9, 2011

Patapsco Valley State Park: McKeldin Area

Hike Date:  June 5, 2011

We discovered Patapsco Valley State Park last summer in our attempt to get out every minute we could.  It was one of our favorite hikes last year.  So we decided to return again this year to experience it again and share it with you.

Patapsco Valley State Park was Maryland's first state park; established in 1907.  Located in Carroll County, Maryland, it is the northern most area of the park out of the six (The others are the Daniels, Hilton, Pickall, Avalon, and Hollofield areas).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Trail Bites: Granola Bars

After not being satisfied by store bought granola bars while out on the trail, I have come up with my own recipe for granola bars.  I have experimented with a recipe so that  With small amounts of tweaking, you can change the granola bars to suit your tastes.  As always, we appreciate your comments and if you try the bars and like them let me know.  If you make changes, let me know about that too because it is something I might like too!

Trail Granola Bars
2 cups oats
1 cup raw nuts (of your choice, I mix them up)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
2.5 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, chopped (I mix berries and dates or figs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Combine first 6 ingredients on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Meanwhile, place the next four ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a bubble.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  

Remove toasted mixture from oven and place in mixing bowl.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees F.  Pour syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed.  Add the chopped fruit and mix well.

Spray a 9" x 13" pan with cooking spray and press granola mixture firmly into pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.  Cool granola bars in pan for at least 2-3 hours or overnight before cutting.
Makes 12 bars

If you don't like coconut, take it out and add more nuts.
If you don't like fruit, take it out and add more nuts.
 *Note:  If you remove the fruit, the granola bars will be crunchier than chewy
Use peanut butter in place of the honey

Adapted from Ina Garten's Homemade Granola Bars

Creature Feature: Eastern Kingsnake

The Eastern Kingsnake is a fascinating species native to the East Coast of the United States.  This nonvenomous snake is a medium sizes snake with an average adult size ranging from 36"-48".  If you don't like snakes, one good reason to like the kingsnake is that their diet consists mainly of other snakes with venomous snakes being one of their favorite menu items!  The Eastern Kingsnake will also mimic the behavior of other snakes, twitching its head around like a venomous snake and shaking its tail fast in leaf litter, mimicking a rattlesnakes rattle.

Usually very calm snakes, the kingsnake is not know to bite unless provoked.  If you find one in the wild please leave it wild, but if you desire to have one as a pet some people captive breed snakes so this would be a good way to acquire one to keep as a pet!  It was a real treat to see these snakes in the wild on one of our hikes and we hope to see more slithering around out there!

Lesser known fact: Many other nonvenomous snakes mimic the behavior of other venomous snakes by shaking their tails in leaves mimicking rattlesnakes, opening their mouths wide mimicking cottonmouths, forcing their heads back in an attempt the have a triangular shaped head, and flattening out their necks mimicking cobras (common in hognose snakes).  Another important note is that a cats eye is not always an indication that a snake is venomous (many pythons have these types of irises).  So to play it safe, know what snakes are in the area you are hiking and leave any wild snakes untouched and unharmed!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Weekend Away: Hiking the Croatan National Forest in NC

Hiking/Camping Dates: May 13-15, 2011

So the adventure starts with our seven hour drive down to North Carolina from Maryland.  Upon arrival we ran into a bit of a problem.  We had planned to camp for the weekend and the park doesn't take reservations for campsites in the forest so when we got to our first campsite option, Cedar Point, it was full.  The campsite here was more of an RV park actually.  So with two more campsites to choose from we headed over to the Neuse River campground only to find it was closed due to tornado damage. 

After that failure, we headed over to the Fisher’s Landing Campground.  The campground here didn't have much to offer, the toilet was a glorified outhouse and the only running water came from a water fountain with a spigot at the bottom.  The campground was really more of a field with some tables and fire rings set up but since this isn't a camping review site I will just say that we were able to set up camp and had a place to eat and sleep. 

Tuckahoe State Park: The Drive and Hike

Blue Flag Iris
Hike Date: May 22, 2011

To begin our hike we had to cross over the Bay Bridge into Maryland's Eastern Shore to hike the trails at Tuckahoe State Park.  We began with the short and simple lake shore trail which begins and ends in a parking lot.  The habitat had lots of potential but the wildlife seemed to be lacking in the area.  The short walk throught the pines and woodlands is nice but way too short.