Saturday, March 24, 2012

Trail Bites: Fruit and Nut Bars

Do you ever crave something sweet but you want to eat something good for you too?  Fruit and nuts all rolled in to one sound like a fantastic treat.  These bites are portable and can be stored at room temperature so they are great to take on the trail.  The Date & Almond bars are decadent and brownie like, while the Apricot Cashew bars are sweet and tangy.

Date & Almond Bars
12 Dates
1/4 cup raw almonds
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Agave nectar to taste

Apricot Cashew Bars
3 ounces dried apricots
1/3 cup raw cashews
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
Agave nectar to taste

For both recipes, directions are the same.

Place all ingredients into a food processor and grind until ingredients begin to stick together.  If the mixture is a bit dry, you can add a sprinkle of water and process for a few more seconds.  Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and place the fruit and nut mixture in the pan.  Pat the mixture down firmly and wrap the plastic over the top.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Take the bars out of the freezer and slice into 6 pieces.  Wrap individually or store in an airtight container.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Creature Feature: Northern Red Salamander

Adult Northern Red Salamander

The Northern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) is native to many areas along the east coast of the United States and is present in many aquatic habitats in a majority of the Appalachian mountains. This salamander tends to prefer slow moving streams containing few fish, mountain seeps, and can sometimes even be found in upland habitats near water.

The juvenile red salamander is exclusively aquatic and has external gills.  As the salamander grows the gills slowly shrink away and the brown juvenile attains a red color.  When the juvenile first turns red the color is usually very bright but tends to fade a bit with age.  The tail in the juvenile is also paddle-like to aid in aquatic locomotion where the adults tail is much more cylindrical in shape
Juvenile Red Salamander-Gills still present

Lesser Known Fact: The juvenile red salamander doesn't reach the adult stage until it is almost three years old!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gambrill State Park: A Challenging Walk to a Not So Rewarding End

Gambrill State Park Overlook

Arriving at Gambrill State Park was an ordeal in itself.  The biggest issue here was parking.  The main visitor lot was gated closed and the few lots that allow trail access were spilling onto the roadways.  After squeezing into a space to access the trails, it was time to decide on what trail to hike.  Feeling ambitious as always, we picked a difficult trail.  As far as difficulty goes, the hills are pretty steep and in some places the rocks can trip you up if you aren't careful.  We didn't attempt any of the shorter loops, such as the Red Maple or White Oak trail.  We started on the Black Locust trail which was, after all, rated difficult.  After a long and sedentary winter, I would agree with the classification!  In the interest of time we veered onto the Green Ash trail which eventually merges with the Yellow Poplar Trail.  These trails were really well marked and the markers look like they are well maintained too!

Sadly, where the Green trail merges with the Yellow trail, the hike takes you along Gambrill Park Road which was really not the most enjoying way to end our hike.  Where had we seen this before?  Tuckahoe State Park; still fresh on our minds from last years brief roadside hiking experience.  I'm sure hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders alike would prefer to avoid the close proximity to the roadways, so keep this in mind if you visit.  The trails are multi use except for the White Oak trail which is limited to foot traffic only.  Although horses are allowed, there is little space available for horse trailers which is also mentioned on the parks website.  Dogs are allowed at Gambrill on all trails and there was no shortage of visitors and their canine companions on our visit.  Even though the parking was awful we only ran into a few other hikers.  With several options for trails (16 miles total) it keeps them from getting overcrowded.

We assumed the speed limit didn't apply to hikers
Speed limit sign with trail blazes on right
The views were also not the greatest.  The vistas of Frederick are really not extremely breathtaking and if it were not early spring, much of the views along the trails would have been totally obscured by the trees.  Overall, if you are looking for some challenging slopes to tackle and perhaps a nice place to bike for a day, Gambrill is perfect for you.  If you are looking for spectacular scenic views, keep looking!  I think the most important tip we have to offer is to be sure and visit on a weekday to avoid the parking issues!

The wildlife use the trails too! 

Maintenance ««««
Human Traffic ««««
Wildlife «««
Terrain Variety «««
Difficulty ««««
Dog Friendly  ««««

For more information:
Maryland DNR:  Gabrill State Park