Know the warning signs of Heat Illness (and what to do about it)

Even 100-degree temperatures can’t keep many children from heading outside for day camps, baseball drills, marching band practices and theatre rehearsals. A University of Missouri expert on exercise physiology says being mindful of the heat and humidity is essential to preventing heat illness during children’s summer activities.

“Heat illness is the result of the body’s inability to adjust to the increase in body temperature,” said Steve Ball, MU Extension state specialist and associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology. “When it’s especially hot or humid, bodies sweat more than usual, and people become dehydrated and suffer other symptoms of heat illness. This can happen with any form of physical exertion.”

Ball identifies the several incremental stages of heat illness, which if not dealt with immediately, can lead to medical complications and even death:
  • Heat cramps, the first sign of heat illness, are involuntary muscle spasms that can occur during or following physical exertion and generally result from an electrolyte imbalance due to perspiration and excessive loss of salts;
  • Heat exhaustion is a more serious state of heat illness. Its symptoms can include collapsing; excessive sweating; cold, clammy skin; normal or slightly elevated body temperature; paleness; dizziness; weak, yet rapid pulse; shallow breathing; nausea and headache;
  • Heat stroke, the most advanced stage of heat illness, occurs when the body is unable to cool itself. Symptoms of heat stroke can include cessation of sweating; skin that appears dry and hot; strong, rapid pulse and difficulty breathing.

People with heat cramps and heat exhaustion should drink more water, reduce the level of intensity of their activities and seek shade. Those suffering from heat stroke need immediate medical attention and can be cooled by raising their feet, removing clothing, submerging them in cold water or placing wet sheets or ice packs on them.

“Young kids are more at risk for overheating because they don’t sweat as much and produce more body heat than adults while exercising,” Ball said. “Kids also don’t recognize the early warning signs of heat illness, so it’s especially important that adults remain vigilant about watching for and reacting to symptoms early on.”

Ball says the most effective way to manage heat illness is to prevent it. He offers these suggestions:
  • Drink water and other fluids before, during and after activities.
  • Eat water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Be aware of the temperature and humidity so you can adjust when and how children exert themselves.
  • Take frequent breaks to cool off.

Natural Resources Trust Fund boosts community outdoor recreation projects

The city of Manistique's Central Park was developed with help
from a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. The community park
includes two fishing piers, athletic fields, trails and an archery range.
Most outdoor enthusiasts in the state are familiar with the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the role it plays in making outdoor recreation opportunities more plentiful and accessible for everyone.

The Trust Fund (which is funded from the interest earned on a $500 million investment derived from royalties from oil and gas development on state-managed land) is used to buy property and develop projects that have recreational or natural resources value to Michigan citizens.

The principle is simple. Michigan’s natural resources belong to all current and future citizens. When those resources are used or leveraged for financial gain, that effort should also yield benefits for all current and future citizens.

But there’s much more to the Trust Fund story.

The vast majority of projects awarded by the Trust Fund are grants to local units of government that want to develop or improve recreation facilities.

The money is made available to cities, counties, townships and villages through an application process. An applicant is required to secure at least 25 percent of a project’s cost and then submit a proposal to the Department of Natural Resources. DNR staff evaluates each proposal based on several criteria. A scored list is provided to the Trust Fund board, which then recommends the projects that should be funded.

The busy Munising Marina has undergone improvements made
possible by a Trust Fund grant. The marina is home to Pictured Rocks
Cruises, which brings thousands of tourists to the docks each week.
Each year, applications for projects large and small come into the Trust Fund for consideration. The board works hard to ensure that every dollar granted will help make outdoor recreation a reality for an ever wider population of Michigan residents. Trust Fund-supported projects and resources can be found in every county of the state, and that means more outdoor opportunities for the people who call Michigan home.

In the Upper Peninsula, Trust Fund seed dollars are helping local officials realize tremendous gains, both recreationally and economically.

One such grant helped to pay for a community park in Manistique that, according to city manager Sheila Aldrich, “turned an area that was an eyesore into a jewel.”

“We took an old quarry that was grown up in weeds and had a barbed-wire fence around it and we turned it into an area with a swimming beach and two fishing piers,” Aldrich said. “We have a walking path around it and we put in new tennis courts, a basketball court, a baseball field, an archery range and a toboggan hill.”

Aldrich said the $424,000 Trust Fund grant was matched with $150,000 raised by the community, along with plenty of “sweat equity” from local groups. Without the grant, she said, it would “never have happened in a thousand years.”

Residents are so pleased with the community park’s success, Aldrich said the city of Manistique has also applied for a Trust Fund land-acquisition grant for waterfront property. Plans include “a boardwalk area along the river and a campground right on Lake Michigan – all within the city limits,” Aldrich said.

Move a little to the northwest and you’ll find two Munising projects funded by Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants – projects that city manager Doug Bovin said have made a world of difference.

The city’s Tourist Park Campground on Lake Superior badly needed an upgrade, Bovin explained, and a $227,000 Trust Fund grant helped the city build a new pavilion, restrooms and modern campsites with sewer, water and electrical hook-ups.

With the help of a Trust Fund grant, Munising's Tourist Park
Campground recently added more modern campsites with electrical,
sewer and water hook-ups along the Lake Superior shore.
The ambitious project also included construction of a footbridge, creating access to an undeveloped section of the park and allowing the creation of a dozen rustic campsites along the Lake Superior shoreline.

The new facilities are an undeniable hit. In the two years since the project was completed, revenue generated to city coffers has quadrupled, Bovin said.

“That’s the only source of money we really have to improve our other parks in the city,” he said. “We have three small parks, and the tourist park is the only way we have to generate funds for those facilities.”

A little more than 10 years ago, the city of Munising used Trust Fund grant money to develop its marina. One of its tenants – Pictured Rocks Cruises – has become almost synonymous with the city.

A new pavilion, next to the playground at Munising's Tourist Park
Campground, offers updated restroom and shower facilities for campers.
“There are thousands of people out there every week in the summertime,” Bovin said. “Really, that’s what Munising is known for.”

Bovin said the city is currently seeking another grant to further improve the campground.

“It’s absolutely the right way to go,” he said. “It takes time and effort, but without it, our whole recreational aspect here in Munising would have never been accomplished. And it’s not only the project, but all the other residual benefits that come along with the project.”

Bob Garner, a former member of the Natural Resources Commission, currently chairs the board that oversees Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund expenditures. Garner said it is a responsibility the board takes very seriously.

“Recreational development cannot exceed 25 percent of what the fund has to spend every year,” Garner said. “That’s constitutional. But we have far more requests for the development dollars than we do the acquisition dollars.”

“It’s a very competitive process to get development dollars and it has been for many, many years,” he continued. “We’ve, in fact, responded to that because we used to have a half-million-dollar limit on projects and we’ve reduced down so that we could fund more projects.”

“We’ve done all kinds of projects,” Garner said. “From fishing piers and trail developments and boat launch facilities to athletic fields.”

Sometimes it takes several years for a municipality to get a project approved, Garner said.

Projects are scored on how well they speak to accessibility, demonstrated need, emphasis on resources and other things. Grant coordinators visit all the sites and give preliminary scores, which are returned to applicants – who have an opportunity to provide more information that may help their score. Then, projects are given final scores and rankings.

The new tennis courts at Manistique's Central Park are a popular
addition. Tennis lessons attract both local residents and
participants from as far away as Grand Marais.
“I always tell them, as chairman, the old adage, ‘If at first you don’t succeed …,’” Garner said.

“Some years, we have more money,” he said. “Some years, projects that were funded are withdrawn – the municipality doesn’t have the match or they had a change in board members or commissioners and decided to go in a different direction; so that money becomes available.”

Whether you hike a well-developed trail, explore a natural area or sleep under the stars at a scenic campground, it’s easy to spot the results of a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.

It’s often the everyday amenities and conveniences that go unnoticed, however. Things like safe playground equipment, modern restrooms and accessible walkways at city parks and community centers – these are all made possible through the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

Learn more about how the Trust Fund is helping, every year, to provide better access to outdoor recreation opportunities to all Michigan citizens, at

VIDEO: RV Refrigerators with Mark Polk

My favorite RV expert, Mark Polk of RV Education 101, is back with another How-To Video - this time on getting peak efficiency from your RV refrigerator.

Here's the information that comes with the video:
Now that peak camping season's here and outside temperatures are on the rise, it's important to make sure your RV refrigerator can deal with the heat. In this new video, Mark Polk — KOA's resident RV expert — teaches you how to help your RV fridge do its job more efficiently.

By the way, if you want to learn more about your RV, Mark Polk has a series of e-books that you'd be interested in. What's nice about an ebook is it's a PDF document that's downloaded immediately to your computer, so you can read it right away and store it forever. Click here to be taken to my page with these RV Education 101 ebooks are for sale.

Titles include:
  • 'The Original Checklist for RVers'
  • 'The RV Book'
  • 'RV Campground Basics'
  • '101 Tips for RVers' 
  • 'RV Care and Maintenance'
  • 'Insiders Guide to Buying an RV'
  • 'Winterizing & Storing your RV'
  • 'RV Awning Use & Care'
  • 'Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance'
  • 'RV Buyers Survival Guide'
  • 'Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing' 
  • 'Pop-Up Basics 101'
  • 'Dinghy Towing'

Message from Wisconsin DNR about its state park campgrounds

Author's note: The following message from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, regarding electrical upgrades at several of its state park campgrounds, was posted this morning:

The Wisconsin DNR is happy to report that we are making great progress on updating the electrical service to many of our state park campsites to serve you better.

Some of you may be preparing to make reservations for next year’s camping season – including the July 4th weekend. We wanted to update you on our efforts to provide the electrical campsite upgrades that many customers have asked for. The vast majority of our 5000+ campsites statewide are not impacted by this project and are available for your consideration online at our reservation website or by phone at 888-947-2757.

Work has been completed at Big Foot Beach, Interstate, Kohler-Andrae and Roche-A-Cri state parks – a full listing of reservable sites is available on our reservation website. Work will be completed at High Cliff State Park in late fall 2012, so all reservation closures for the 2013 have been lifted for this property.

In order to provide a construction window for contractors who will need to install utility upgrades, in-ground wiring and electric pedestals at Devil’s Lake, Peninsula, Wildcat Mountain state parks and the Kettle Moraine State Forest; Northern Unit and Southern Units, some campsites will remain non-reservable for late fall 2012 and early spring 2013. A large number of campsites at these properties are proposed to get electrical pedestal upgrades; sites in this category will re-open for 2013 reservations with arrival dates on or after July 1, 2013. Due to our 11 month reservation window, the first opportunity to make reservations for these sites will begin at 9:00 a.m. on August 1, 2012.

Due to construction uncertainties, a limited number of non-electric campsites sites (121) remain non-reservable in 2013 until further notice – those sites are:
Devil's Lake State Park:
  • 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 45, 46, 48, 50, 65, 66
Peninsula State Park:
  • 220, 222, 226, 230, 232, 234, 236, 237, 238, 240, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 263, 265, 267, 269, 271, 273, 301, 305, 309, 313, 317, 321, 724, 726, 728, 730, 732, 734, 736, 738, 740, 742, 744, 746, 748, 750, 752, 754, 830, 832, 834, 836, 838
Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit:
  • 625, 626, 628, 631, 632, 633, 634, 635, 636, 637, 638, 639, 640, 641, 642, 643
Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit:
  • 305, 307, 309, 311, 341, 343, 345, 347, 349, 351, 390, 392, 395, 396, 398
Wildcat State Park:
  • 4, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 30

The above sites will be opened for reservations when the installation of new electrical pedestals is completed.

Please check back frequently at or by phone at 888-947-2757, or signup for our email updates.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in Wisconsin State Parks. We hope you enjoy the upgrades and that your camping experience is a memorable one. See you soon!

For more information about Wisconsin's State Parks, please see:

VIDEO: Pure Michigan pays a visit to Harbor Springs

Enjoy this video from Pure Michigan on Harbor Springs.

Nestled along the deepest harbor in the Great Lakes, lies the charming waterfront community of Harbor Springs. Discover the iconic and scenic Tunnel of Trees, stroll through beautiful downtown shops and explore lighthouses along crystal clear waters. Enjoy four seasons of events and activities for all ages in the Little Traverse Bay area of Northern Michigan. Visit ( to learn more about Harbor Springs and Pure Michigan.

A reason to sing: Michigan Conservation efforts lead to revival of rare Kirtland’s warbler

A singing male Kirtland’s warbler. Biologists ensure that a
certain amount of dead trees remain standing from previous fires,
because the snags are an important part of the bird’s habitat matrix.
(Photos courtesy of the Michigan DNR)
Listening to birds singing in the forest just after dawn on a late spring day in northern Michigan. It might sound like a relaxing morning stroll, but for some members of the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division staff, it’s part of an important effort to conserve a rare and endangered bird species.

As part of a recovery plan aimed at increasing the Kirtland’s warbler population, the Wildlife Division coordinates a monitoring program that includes counting singing males during a two-week period in June. Keeping tabs on the breeding population helps the Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery Team – a cooperative venture of the DNR, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and various other private citizens and organizations – evaluate how the species is responding to management practices and environmental changes.

What’s so special about this little songbird?

“The Kirtland's warbler is one of 13 federally endangered species that occur in Michigan and one of two endangered bird species,” said Keith Kintigh, the DNR’s northern Lower Peninsula wildlife supervisor. “With a population of about 4,000, it is among the rarest birds in North America, sharing this list with such species as the California condor and the whooping crane."

The birds nest in just a few counties in Michigan's northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, a few sites in Wisconsin and Ontario, and nowhere else on Earth.

“Nearly 30 percent of the population is in one township, and over 75 percent of the population is in portions of only three counties,” Kintigh said.

The unique bird brings in tourism and helps boost local economies, with birdwatchers from around the world flocking to northern Michigan in the spring and summer for Kirtland’s warbler viewing tours.

Michigan’s first known Kirtland’s warbler nest was spotted in Oscoda County in 1903 and, until 1996, all nests were found within 60 miles of this site. Since then, a small number of nests have been found each year in the Upper Peninsula, and nesting also has occurred in Wisconsin and the province of Ontario.

Hired workers plant seedling jack pine that will become
nesting habitat for the Kirtland’s warbler.
One of more than 200 neo-tropical migratory species that nest in North America and winter in the tropics, Kirtland’s warblers spend eight months of the year in the Bahamas. Male Kirtland's warblers arrive back in Michigan between May 3 and May 20, a few days ahead of the females. The males establish and defend territories and then court the females when they arrive. Males defend their territories with loud and persistent singing.

First conducted in 1951 and carried out annually since 1971, the Kirtland’s warbler census is a count of singing males.

“We go through areas of habitat that the warblers typically occupy and listen for their songs so we can locate, count and map territorial males,” said Bruce Barlow, a DNR wildlife biologist who has done Kirtland’s warbler surveys for the past eight years in Clare, Ogemaw and Crawford counties. “They usually sing at least once during any five-minute period between sunrise and 11 a.m. in good weather.”

Preliminary analysis of the 2012 census data shows that Kirtland’s warbler populations are increasing. The DNR will release details about these findings within the next few weeks.

Another key aspect of the Kirtland's Warbler Recovery Plan is the development and maintenance of suitable nesting habitat on a sustained basis.

The birds nest only in young jack pine forests with a special type of sandy soil known as Grayling sand. They prefer jack pine stands over 200 acres in size with numerous small openings. They nest on the ground under the living branches of the small trees that are five to 20 years old. When the trees reach about 20 years old, Kirtland’s warbler leave the area to other bird species such as Nashville warbler and hermit thrush.
Birding enthusiasts from Sweden take in a Kirtland’s warbler
tour offered by the U.S. Forest Service near Grayling.

“Biologists refer to the Kirtland’s warbler as a ‘habitat specialist,’ meaning the species has very narrow preferences for habitat,” explained Kintigh. “It nests only in the type of jack pine-dominated forest that was historically only created by wildfire.”

The young jack pine (that the Kirtland's warbler depends on) grow after fire removes older trees and rejuvenates the forest. Heat from fire opens jack pine cones to release seeds and prepares the ground for the germination of the seeds. In the past, naturally occurring wildfires that swept through the region helped maintain the jack pine barrens, but the advent of modern fire protection and suppression efforts led to a drastic decline of available Kirtland's warbler nesting habitat, and the bird’s population plummeted.

To protect the species from extinction and increase its population, special areas were set aside and designated to provide appropriate habitat for the Kirtland's warbler.

The DNR and its partners manage jack pine habitat by logging, burning, seeding and replanting on a rotational basis to provide approximately 38,000 acres of productive nesting habitat at all times. Several million seedlings are planted each year.

“By managing jack pine stands on a 50-year harvest rotation – which means trees aren’t cut down until they’re mature and large enough to be economically valuable – we can maintain nesting habitat for the warblers while supporting the commercial harvest of jack pine,” Kintigh said.

A census worker listens carefully for the Kirtland’s warbler’s call.
These management efforts also provide key habitats for other animals, including other rare species like upland sandpipers and prairie warblers, as well as game species like white-tailed deer, black bear, ruffed grouse and snowshoe hare. Several protected prairie plants, such as the Allegheny plum, Hill's thistle and rough fescue, also make their home in the same jack pine forests as Kirtland’s warblers. All of these species – and the hunting and wildlife-watching recreation opportunities they offer – benefit from the ongoing work to provide young jack pine habitat.

Counts from the annual Kirtland’s warbler census have shown a significant increase in the species’ population over the last 40 years – from approximately 200 singing males in 1972 to 1,800 last year.

“The recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler is a real success story for endangered species management,” said Kintigh. “This conservation effort has benefited Michigan’s economy, including jobs associated with tourism and timber products, and helped conserve our biological legacy.”

Learn more about helping the Kirtland’s warbler and Michigan’s other threatened, endangered and nongame species at

For more information about Kirtland’s warblers, visit, click on “Featured Species” and scroll down to the species list.

Bay City State Recreation Area hosts 17th annual waterfowl festival Aug. 4-5

Presumably, this image will NOT be a serious contender
for the 2013 Michigan Duck Stamp Competition
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will host the 17th annual Saginaw Bay Waterfowl Festival on Aug. 4-5 at Bay City State Recreation Area. Festival activities focus on getting families outdoors to appreciate Michigan’s ducks and geese, which depend upon the wetlands of the Saginaw Bay Watershed for staging, nesting and breeding habitat. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Visitors are invited to be a part of a wide range of activities and programs and learn about Michigan’s waterfowl resources, the sport of waterfowl hunting and conservation programs, which need volunteers to succeed. The event is co-sponsored by the Michigan Duck Hunters Association (MDHA), the Friends of Bay City State Recreation Area and Ducks Unlimited. Last year more than 10,000 visitors attended this popular event.

The festival’s main events include:

The Michigan Duck Stamp Competition
This event showcases the entries in the 2013 MDHA Duck Stamp Contest, which is open to all artists. This will be the only opportunity for the public to view all entries for the 2013 Duck Stamp. The Michigan Duck Stamp Program began 34 years ago to raise money for wetland habitat restoration and habitat acquisition for waterfowl. A portion of every waterfowl stamp and print purchased goes toward Michigan wetland habitat restoration.

Waterfowl Calling Championships
The Michigan Goose Calling Competition and the Michigan Championship Duck Calling Contest are two of the festival’s popular events. The calling competitions include Master and Novice divisions. There will also be a Junior Duck Calling Competition and a Junior Goose Calling Contest for youth ages 16 and under. The festival will also host a Team Duck Calling Contest, designed for teams of two hunters using working field calls, on Saturday. The Saginaw Bay Chapter of Delta Waterfowl will also offer youth and adult calling classes.

Hunting and Outdoor Recreation Expo
Over 100 exhibitors will be involved in the Hunting and Outdoor Recreation Expo, providing waterfowl enthusiasts with hunting, archery, camping, boating, wildlife watching and habitat enhancement products and wares. The expo includes a special Wildlife Art and Craft Show with fine art originals, prints, photos, carvings and crafts all inspired by the wonder and beauty of nature.

Dog Fun Hunt Trial
Bring your retriever to participate in the Dog Fun Hunt Trial. Learn tips from trainers on dog handling or find a new hunting buddy in "Puppy Alley."

One of the increasingly popular events is designed to offer an opportunity for adults to mentor young hunters in a three-person team (one adult, two youth) competition. The "Quack-Athalon" is a contest of skill and timing in three events: canoeing, air rifle marksmanship and duck identification.

Special Exhibits
Displays will be featured by wildlife artist Chris Wosniak, wildlife carver John Cottingham and taxidermist R.J. Meyers. Visitors will also be able to enter their own wildlife carvings and wildlife photographs and participate in judging the Wildlife Carving Show entries and the Wildlife Photography Contest entries.

For more details on these activities and information for exhibitors, visit; stop by the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center, located within Bay City State Recreation Area, 3582 State Park Drive in Bay City; or call 989-667-0717.

Admission is free to festival events, but a Recreation Passport is required for all vehicles entering the park.

VIDEO: Jayco Eagle Travel Trailers and Fifth Wheels for 2013

Check out the latest product enhancements for the 2013 Jayco Eagle lineup. This lineup includes amenity-packed travel trailers, our half-ton towable Eagle HT fifth wheel and our high-end Eagle Premier fifth wheel.

To learn more, go to

New DNR activities database helps people find fun in the Wisconsin outdoors

Finding fun in Wisconsin just got a whole lot easier with the launch today of a new activities locator that can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website by searching for “Explore Outdoors.”

This new interactive tool allows users to search millions of acres of public lands by county, by proximity to a city, by type of property or by one of 22 listed outdoor activities. For example, search terms can be combined to find dog training areas where you can also ride horseback within a specific county or near a listed city.

“Wisconsin has so much to offer in the way of outdoor recreation opportunities,” said Kurt Thiede, DNR Lands Division administrator. “There are countless possibilities, and to make it easy for residents we’ve created this Web page to help them find the kind of place and activity they’re looking for.”

By clicking the property link from the search results, people can get more detail on the property, including maps. Theide notes that one search covers opportunities on all of the following DNR properties: state parks and trails, state forests, natural areas, wildlife areas, fisheries areas and wild rivers. Searches can be done statewide, by county or by proximity to a city.

“Most, if not all, of these properties offer multiple recreational opportunities, and that’s what we’re trying to do here, to make all the opportunities to engage in an outdoor recreation open and available to folks,” explains Thiede.

The page also links directly to the DNR customer call center, which operates 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days per week, and includes a feedback survey so customers can provide input on how to improve the new service.

10 Family Friendly Board Games no RV should be without!

There's no escaping it. At least one camping trip every year we fall victim to Mother Nature's need to rain on our parade. Hopefully, it's just a quick shower that will cool off the sweltering heat. Those we can handle. But then there's those times when the rain turns into a downpour and our plans to enjoy the daytime hiking, biking and swimming, and the nighttime roasting smores over the campfire, are quickly washed away.

Every RVer worth their salt has books and magazines for those times. Most of us also have at least a deck of cards, too. But anyone with kids knows you need a a cabinet full of board games to while away the hours cooped up inside the RV.

By the way: We have a "no electronics" rule when we camp. So TV, iPods, Gameboys and the like are not an option. We go camping to get away from all that and reconnect with each other, and a little rain won't change that.

With that said, here's a guest post from on the Top Ten Family Friendly Board Games.

Family game nights are making a comeback in homes across the nation, which should come as no big surprise considering it’s far less expensive to eat at home and play games then it is to go to a restaurant and see a movie. Plus, playing games together is a fun way to brings families some much needed face time with each other. Check out these family friendly games for your next game night.

1. Scrabble
Scrabble is both educational and fun. This game can be played with as few as two players or as many as four or more, if you want to divide into teams. The object is to create the highest scoring word using the 7 tiles that you have drawn at random from a bag of tiles. Many feel that the tip to winning is to learn all of the 2-letter words because this will allow many more scoring opportunities. Scrabble has been around since 1938, and since then many games have been created based on the popular word game, the most noteworthy being Words with Friends. 

2. Uno
Uno is another game that can be both educational and entertaining. This card game is played with a special deck of cards which includes number cards in four different colors and five categories of special cards: Draw 2, Skip, Reverse, Wild and Wild draw 4. Young kids can play this game because the bulk of the game is played by going around the table and placing cards of the same color or number onto the discard pile. There is some strategy that can be implemented by older players by using the Reverse and Draw 2 cards. Uno has been sold by Mattel since 1992. 

3. Yahtzee
Yahtzee is a dice game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. It’s easy and fun to roll the 5 dice and with a little help, kids can pick out the same number on the dice to save. The object of the game is to fill in a score sheet by trying to roll the 5 dice you start with a maximum of 3 times per turn. You need to save as many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s etc. to fill in the top of the score sheet. The bottom of the score sheet contains things like 3 and 4 of a kind, Full House, and Yahtzee, which is when you roll all 5 dice on the same number. Kids love to roll the dice and everyone at the table can help figure out what the best move is for each turn. 

4. Candyland
All kids need to own the game Candy Land during their childhood. A board game created with lots of colors and pictures of candy is right up every child’s alley, and this game is simple enough that it can be played with very young children. To play, each child draws a card from the pile on their turn. It will have 1 or 2 squares of a specific color on it. The child then moves their gingerbread man playing piece along the Candyland path until she gets to the first square of that color if she has one square or the second square of that color if she has two squares on her card. That’s all there is to it. Along the path there are pitfalls where they will lose their turn. When drawing cards they may draw a card with a picture on it. When they draw a picture card they can immediately move their playing piece to the space with the same picture. The problem occurs when the picture is clear back at the beginning of the path and the child is almost at the end. 

5. Monopoly
By rolling the dice and moving around the board you can buy and sell real estate, making everyone in the family real estate tycoons. If another player lands on a property you own, they have to pay you rent. If you get all of the properties of the same color then you are said to hold a monopoly and you can charge double the rent. Once you have a monopoly you can also build on your properties, whether it is houses or hotels, and charge even more when people land on your properties. Kids need to be able to count money to play Monopoly so it’s probably best suited for kids 8 and up. 

6. Pictionary
Pictionary brings the classic game of charades to paper. In this version, charades are done as a drawing game where you can work by yourself or in teams to guess what is being drawn. Each player will take turns and will draw a card from the box. Depending upon what space their game piece is resting on determines which line they have to draw on the card. The category helps the guessers narrow down their guesses, and the drawer does their best to draw whatever is on the card to get their partner or teammates to guess the word. There is a time limit, so the drawer and their teammates are working against the clock. If they guess the word then you get to move your playing piece, if not you have to stay where you are. This game translates well to a party game played with a white board and some markers. 

7. Telestrations
Telestrations is a newcomer to the board game family and is a family friendly game that will have you rolling with laughter. This game was based on the old telephone game where you would whisper a line or story into one person’s ear and the story would have to be retold by each person all the way around the circle only to discover that at the end the story was significantly different than how it started. Each person is given a booklet. On the first page they write down what the drawing is to be and then pass it to the next person. In the mean time you are being handed a book where someone else has written an item that you must try to draw. The pages are folded back and forth so that the first person writes what the picture is supposed to be. The second person can look at that word and then draw it. The third person can only look at the picture and write down on the next page what they think the drawing is. The next player has to draw what the last person guessed. The final person guesses what the last drawing is and then passes it back to the original person. As you can guess, the pictures don’t always match the words and hilarity ensues. 

8. Trivial Pursuit
The original Trivial Pursuit contains a box of questions and a board. The playing piece is round and is filled with different colored pie-shaped pieces based on 6 different categories. The spokes of the wheel on the board contain different topics that have to be answered. Once you land on category headquarters then you can answer the question and earn a piece of pie. Once you have earned all of your pie pieces you can move to the center to win the game. If you answer a question correctly you can keep going until you miss a question. 

9. Clue
If you like murder mysteries you will love the game Clue. In this game you become a character and move around the board collecting clues. You need to ask questions and figure out who the murderer was, where the murder was committed, and what the murder weapon was. For example, Colonel Mustard did it with a wrench in the library. Once you have made your guess the envelope containing the answers will be opened to see if you are correct. This game promotes logical thinking and works on memory skills. 

10. Cranium
Cranium is billed as the game that involves your whole brain. There are four card categories in which you could have to answer. One is Creative Cat and it can have you draw a clue like Pictionary, draw a picture with your eyes closed, or sculpt something out of clay. The Data Head category requires you to answer trivia type questions and the Word Worm category sometimes requires you to spell or figure out anagrams and the like. The last category is Star Performer which is just as you would suspect, you have to act out the word, hum a song or speak in an accent. This board game is lots of fun for the whole family.

Today is National Hammocks Day

Today is National Hammocks Day.

Normally, I'd be very critical of something like this.

But National Hammocks Day is definitely something I will throw my full support behind.

Or, maybe a better way to put it is I will throw my behind on a hammock in support of this holiday.

Blend yourself a frosty drink, cancel your appointments, accidentally turn off your phone and get ready for the most important day of your summer:

Hammock Day.

VIDEO: Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana

Enjoy this video from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on Clifty Falls State Park and Madison, Indiana. The video has a short clip of the park's campgrounds, but what immediately struck me was the large, level campsites with shade and a strip of overgrown vegetation that served as a privacy fence in between each site - just how I like them!

Here's more info on the video:
If you're looking for a great outdoors getaway in Indiana, look no further than Clifty Falls State Park and Madison, IN. Located in southern Indiana's rolling hills right along the Ohio River, this is one of Indiana's most scenic State Parks. With logs of hiking trails of varying difficulty, several waterfalls and views of the Ohio River, it's hard not to have a good time at the park.

If camping and cooking out isn't your thing, be sure to stop by Madison, just outside of the park. Madison is a classic river town with a quaint downtown filled with restaurants, shops and even a couple of wineries.

IDNR Urges Boaters to Use Caution at Boat Ramps Due to Low Water Levels

Low lake levels also means swimmers
should take extra caution.
Drought conditions could mean accessibility and navigation issues on rivers, lakes and streams

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is urging boaters to use extra caution at public boat launches throughout the state due to low water levels as a result of ongoing drought conditions.

Low water levels increase the risk to boaters putting in or taking vessels out of the water and could cause damage to boats if proper caution isn’t used.

“The most important thing is to use common sense,” said IDNR Director Marc Miller. “As we continue through this drought, water levels on lakes and rivers will probably continue to decrease and some boat ramps may not be able to accommodate the angle some boats need to get in and out of the water.”

Additionally, boaters should exercise additional caution once on the water. Some areas that are usually navigable may not be due to lack of water.

“Conditions change rapidly and there is no way to constantly monitor every area of every river or lake, which means it is really up to individual boaters to use their best judgment as to whether it’s worth the risk,” said Arlan Juhl, director of the IDNR Office of Water Resources.

The IDNR owns and manages hundreds of public boat access areas throughout the state. As of now, no boat ramps are closed and boaters may use the ramps at their own risk.

“Water levels in some areas are very low, which makes it difficult to navigate even the smallest and lightest of watercraft,” said IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. “We have started to receive calls from boaters who have been in areas where they have had no trouble in the past but are now becoming stranded because of the shallow water.”

Private property owners living near rivers, lakes and streams should also be alert to the low water accompanying the ongoing drought. Low water levels and hot weather are stressing fish and in some cases are causing natural fish kills due to low oxygen in the water. The public can help minimize fish kills by helping to keep pollutants out of surface waters. The IDNR asks the public to avoid chemical applications on lawns when possible and walk their properties close to surface waters to be sure nothing is or can enter the water.

Illinois residents and visitors boating and fishing at IDNR-managed sites are encouraged to check with the specific IDNR park office for information on current conditions.

For more information on drought conditions in Illinois, check the State of Illinois drought information website at

Emergency Burning Restrictions and Campfire Notice for the Wisconsin State Park System

The State of Wisconsin has issued emergency burning restrictions for the following counties: Adams, Columbia, Crawford, Green Lake, Marquette, Portage, Richland, Sauk, Waupaca, Waushara and Wood counties, and portions of Dane, Grant, Iowa, Jackson, Juneau, Monroe and Wood.

The burning restrictions are primarily due to the lack of precipitation resulting in abnormally dry conditions.

Under these restrictions, burning of any combustible material outdoors is prohibited until further notice at the Wisconsin State Park System properties located within these counties.

This includes (subject to change):
  • All fireworks (restricted and non-restricted);
  • combustible material in a burn pile or burn barrel, including grass or wooded areas (all DNR burn permits suspended);
  • campfires with the exception of developed camping areas within a metal fire ring;
  • outdoor disposal of ashes, charcoal briquettes, matches or any burning material;
  • and smoking a cigar, cigarette, or pipe, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.
The state park properties impacted by the burning restrictions include: Blue Mound, Buckhorn, Devil’s Lake, Governor Dodge, Hartman Creek, Mill Bluff, Mirror Lake, Roche-A-Cri, Rocky Arbor, Tower Hill and Wyalusing state parks, and the Black River State Forest.

The burning restrictions do not apply to campfires in the designated park campgrounds. 

Campers are reminded to be careful with their campfires. Please remember to take the following safety precautions:
  • Have some water near the fire for any embers that might escape the fire ring.
  • Keep the fire size small.
  • Attend the fire at all times while it is burning. Be sure the fire is entirely out before going to bed or leaving your campsite.
Campfire ban at four properties:
Starting at 12:01 a.m. (midnight) on Friday, July 13, 2012 the following rules apply at Big Foot Beach State Park, Lapham Peak, Richard Bong State Recreation Area, and the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest until further notice:
  • All campfires are prohibited
  • Outdoor smoking of a pipe, cigar, and cigarette is prohibited except within an enclosed vehicle
  • The use of candles and tiki torches is prohibited
Permitted uses:
  • Gas stoves are allowed
  • Charcoal cooking fires within metal fire ring in developed campgrounds are allowed
  • Self-contained, portable charcoal grills and permanently mounted picnic grills are allowed.
  • Ashes may only be disposed in a non-combustible container provided by the park. Please check at the office for the location of these sites.

VIDEO: History Series Premiere about the GREAT LAKE WARRIORS is tonight

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead 
When the skies of November turn gloomy. 

History Series Premiere about the GREAT LAKE WARRIORS 

Thursday, July 19, at 10pm ET

In the heart of America, on a deadly inland sea that has claimed as many as 6000 vessels and 30,000 lives, a way of life exists that few ever witness. Men who breathe diesel fumes and watch every step they take on shifting decks. Men who battle the elements, wrestle with runaway vessels, fight fatigue and sometimes risk all in the struggle to make a living.

They are tugboat men, sailors in constant combat with the deadly storms and hazards of the Great Lakes– men who work against the clock, fighting thick ice forming in every direction under treacherous winter conditions - winds whip so fierce it could knock an entire crew off deck in the blink of an eye. A new 8-part HISTORY series, GREAT LAKE WARRIORS, premiering Thursday, July 19, 10pm ET/9C, will dive into the lives of the tough crews who call 94,000 square miles of wild blue water home.

The lakes continue to be a thriving industrial highway that delivers nearly 200 million tons of cargo to the heart of America. But for the months leading up to the dead of winter, only a few courageous men dare to brave these turbulent waters, where winds can hit 70 miles an hour, and waves over 30 feet high.

For some, the tug business is the family heritage. For others, it’s a lifelong dream. But for all of the GREAT LAKE WARRIORS, it’s a life-on-the-line mission to get the job done and make it back home alive.

The main characters:

Captain John Selvick Known as ‘The Legend’ on the lakes, Selvick has been behind the controls of tugboats since he was seven when his father, Curly Selvick, took him on board in the cold waters around Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It has not been an easy life for John, now owner of Calumet River Fleeting in Chicago and Selvick Marine Towing in Sturgeon Bay. He lost his grandfather and a brother in tugboat accidents. Their bodies were never recovered.

Capt. Ted Long A workhorse of Calumet River Fleeting, Long is known as “Capt. Nice” for his penchant for chewing out deckhands who have slacked off. He has followed in the footsteps of his father, a tug captain who dropped him off on a boat on Christmas Eve when he was 14. Ted never looked back.

Capt. Mike Ojard A dreamer and a doer, Mike has put his money and sometimes his life on the line in Duluth, Minnesota to start a tug company on Lake Superior, the deadliest and wildest of all five Great Lakes. He has enlisted a corps of volunteers from his circle of family and friends to carve out a piece of the tug trade on Superior. He hopes to create a new generation of sailors in his family, one that has marine heritage in its blood.

Patrick Ojard He still has his day job, but he loves boats as much as his father Mike. So he and his wife sunk $50,000 into the operation to help buy a tug. Now a volunteer on deck and in the engine room, he is working to make sure his father’s dream comes true so that tug boating will be the family heritage.

Capt. Gerry Dawson In Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the wild north shore of Lake Superior, Gerry owns and operates a tug company that does everything – ship tows, ice breaking, salvage, and sometimes search and rescue. He once put his own life on the line to rescue crew from a foundering vessel in 15-foot waves and 70 knot winds. He and his crew were awarded medals for their bravery.

Capt. Stan Dawson Older brother of Gerry, Stan is the wild one and claims that you “don’t have to be crazy to do this, but it helps.” He has been on the lakes since he was a teenager, working for his father. “I can make a tugboat dance,” Stan says.

Filming was done on Lake Michigan, including Calumet Harbor, Illinois; Gary and Burns Harbors, Indiana; Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Sturgeon Bay, and Marinette, Wisconsin; and on Lake Superior, including Duluth-Superior Harbor and Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada.

GREAT LAKE WARRIORS was produced for History by Towers Productions, LLC and Compass Point Productions, LLC; Executive Producers JONATHAN TOWERS, JAMES CAMPBELL, GEORGE HOUDE and MARTY BERNSTEIN, and Show Runner/Co-Executive Producer JOSEPH BOYLE. Executive Producer for History is MATTHEW GINSBURG.

VIDEO: Maxx Fan Deluxe (with remote)

How many times have you come back to your RV only to find that the brief summer shower earlier that afternoon made its way into your no-longer dry motor home. The culprit? Someone forgot to close the vent.

In this RV how to video Mark Polk with RV Education 101 demonstrates the remote control functions and features and benefits of the Maxx Fan Deluxe (with remote) RV ventilation fan.

And one of those benefits renders the brief summer shower a moot point!

By the way, if you want to learn more about your RV, Mark Polk has a series of e-books that you'd be interested in. What's nice about an ebook is it's a PDF document that's downloaded immediately to your computer, so you can read it right away and store it forever. Click here to be taken to my page with these RV Education 101 ebooks are for sale.

Titles include:
  • 'The Original Checklist for RVers'
  • 'The RV Book'
  • 'RV Campground Basics'
  • '101 Tips for RVers' 
  • 'RV Care and Maintenance'
  • 'Insiders Guide to Buying an RV'
  • 'Winterizing & Storing your RV'
  • 'RV Awning Use & Care'
  • 'Deep Cycle Battery Care & Maintenance'
  • 'RV Buyers Survival Guide'
  • 'Complete Guide To: RV Towing, Weights, Hitch Work & Backing' 
  • 'Pop-Up Basics 101'
  • 'Dinghy Towing'

Osprey flourish in southern Michigan: A story of success

From left to right: Mike George, chief of interpretive services for the
Huron Clinton Metroparks; Tom Schneider, head curator of birds
for the Detroit Zoological Society; Barb Jensen, volunteer coordinator
for the osprey monitoring program; and Julie Oakes, Southeast Region
wildlife biologist for the Michigan DNR, hold an osprey chick just after banding.
Nearly wiped out in southern Michigan at one time, osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are now recovering within the state due in large part to the concentrated efforts of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Huron Clinton Metroparks, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), DTE Energy and more than 100 volunteers.

The use of DDT and other pesticides, which caused the thinning of the birds' eggshells, caused osprey populations to decline. Once commonplace in the Great Lakes region, osprey became mostly a bird of remote northern lakes and ponds. After the use of DDT was banned and the osprey population became more productive, state wildlife officials seized the opportunity to re-establish ospreys. In 1998, the DNR initiated a program of relocating or “hacking” the raptors to southern Michigan. The program, which was supported by donations to Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Fund, removed chicks from active nests in northern Michigan and placed them in parks around southern Michigan. The movement of ospreys occurred over a span of 10 years. In 2012, the DNR identified at least 49 active nests in southern Michigan – a substantial increase from the one active nest reported in 1999. 

Julie Oakes of the Michigan DNR and Tom Schneider of the
Detroit Zoological Society band an osprey chick as part of
the continued effort to monitor osprey in southern Michigan.
“This is a true wildlife success story,” said Julie Oakes, DNR wildlife biologist. “Each year we have new nests, and we have already exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020. We have been able to remove osprey from the threatened species list and restore their numbers in Michigan.”

During reintroduction efforts, DNR staffers removed male osprey chicks from their nests and placed them in hacking boxes, where they were fed and cared for daily by volunteers. A male will build a nest close to the location where he learned to fly, and the female chooses her mate based on the quality of his nest. Once paired, ospreys typically maintain their partner for life. Reintroduction efforts have been so successful that the DNR is no longer planning future hacking activities. However, banding of the chicks will continue each year. A federal bird identification band is placed on one leg as part of a national effort to monitor birds. A second, colored band is placed on the other leg to indicate the osprey’s birth year.

An osprey keeps a close eye as Kevin, staff member from Clearlink
Wireless Solutions, removes chicks from the nest to be banded.
This labor-intensive monitoring effort is a cooperative venture conducted by the DNR, Huron Clinton Metroparks, DZS and staff from the cell phone tower companies American Tower Corporation, Verizon Wireless, McFarlin Tower, Skyline Services, LLC, Earthcom, Hydaker-Wheatlake Inc, and Clearlink Wireless Solutions. Since osprey often nest on cell phone towers, the tower companies have volunteered staff time to climb the towers and lower the chicks to the ground safely in special buckets. The DNR, Huron Clinton Metroparks and DZS staff then proceed with banding and measuring the chicks and collecting biological data before they are returned to the nest. Cell tower companies have cooperated with the DNR by not only reporting nests, but also agreeing to schedule maintenance work around the active season so as not to disturb the nesting pair and their chicks.

“Each year we are seeing osprey from previous years return and nest,” Oakes said. “The hard work of so many organizations is really paying off, and by continuing our extensive monitoring efforts we will ensure that the osprey population remains strong and healthy.”

Anyone who observes a nesting pair of osprey is asked to contact Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan (OWSEM) on the Web at or by email at

VIDEO: Jayco's Magnum Roof System

Jayco, one of the leading RV manufacturers, prides itself on "always using top-quality materials and innovative manufacturing techniques." That commitment has led to the company's latest construction advancement, the all-new exclusive Magnum Roof System, which Jayco says is 50 percent stronger than other roofs in the industry.

See for yourself - here's their video explaining that claim!

VIDEO: Jayco Seismic Toy Hauler

Enjoy this video from Jayco on their brand new Seismic toy hauler. To learn more, visit

Residents are answering campgrounds’ call – in record numbers

Onaway State Park in northern Presque Isle County makes a great
family-gathering spot for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages.
Camping is defined as temporary outdoor living. That covers a pretty wide swatch of ground.

To some folk, camping means tossing on a backpack and carrying a sleeping bag well away from civilization. To others, it can mean driving into a developed area in a $150,000 recreational vehicle that has all the amenities of home – including a wireless Internet connection.

There are endless possibilities between the two extremes.

Regardless of what the word means to any particular individual, there’s no doubt that camping is a hot topic this year as both public and private campgrounds throughout Michigan are reporting a summer surge in attendance.

“As of early July, ‘camp-nights’ were up 17 percent from last year,” said Harold Herta, who runs the resources management section of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division. “And last year was up from the previous year.

“We haven’t seen a million camp-nights since 2005,” he continued. “I think we’ll break a million by late August.”

There are numerous possible explanations for this renewed public interest in camping, ranging from nostalgia among aging baby boomers who want to rekindle the excitement they experienced as kids to the simple fact that a night in a tent is a lot less expensive than a night in a hotel. A motor car vacation to visit a state park is just a fraction of the cost of a week at Disney World. Plus, camping is reaping the benefits of marketing campaigns – from equipment manufacturers and retailers to government agencies involved in outdoor recreation – that have definitely caught the public’s eye.

A helpful park ranger at Pinckney Recreation Area gives
first-time campers a hand with setting up their tent.
The DNR is right in the thick of it, having launched several campaigns in recent years that aim to make it easier for would-be outdoors people of all ages to discover camping and enjoy the experience.

Take the DNR’s First Time Camper program, for instance. Available at 19 state parks and recreation areas across the state, this instructional program furnishes newcomers with an information kit, assistance setting up camp (by a park ranger) and the use of all the gear (courtesy of Gander Mountain) that a camper needs for a two-night stay: a tent, tarp, flashlight, lantern and stove. All for $20.

“We’re getting a lot more requests this year,” said Maia Stephens, recreation programmer for the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division. “We’re happy to report that 22 percent of participants have become continuing campers.

“We see a lot of single moms come out, but the program is open to anyone who has never camped at a state park before.”

You can really get away from it all at Hog Island Point State Forest
campground in Naubinway, along the northern shore of Lake Michigan.
Coupled with that first-timer initiative is a program for newcomers and veteran campers alike – Recreation 101 – which teaches additional outdoor skills to make any camper’s stay more exciting and enjoyable.

Recreation 101 classes are taught by DNR staffers, volunteers, guides and other experienced people who can introduce you to fishing, archery, shooting, kayaking, geocaching and an almost endless list of other outdoor recreation opportunities. All Rec 101 programs are free of charge and available at most state parks throughout the summer.

“You get all of your gear and expert instruction included and there are more than 500 Rec 101 programs going on this year,” Stephens said. “In June, we had more than 1,000 people who tried something new. We had 33 instructors and 22 of them were private businesses – outfitters, guides or retailers – who were bringing their equipment and donating their services for free.

“What’s most impressive is that somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of Rec 101 participants had never been to a state park before.”

Both of these recreation-minded initiatives come on the heels of what has turned out to be a highly successful change to state parks’ entrance policy. In past years, park-goers had a choice between paying a daily entrance fee or buying an annual motor vehicle permit ($24). Beginning in October 2010, the DNR introduced the Recreation Passport, replacing both of those choices and providing a much more economical way for residents to enjoy and support state parks and recreation areas.

Wake up in a natural paradise at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness
State Park, nestled in the far western corner of the Upper Peninsula.
Now, almost one in four Michigan residents opts to purchase the $10 Recreation Passport – which shows up as a letter “P” on the license plate sticker – when renewing a license plate registration.

In addition, the DNR has folded its state forest campgrounds – generally more rustic, less developed facilities located in state forests – into its Parks and Recreation Division. The change has helped to build awareness among residents and out-of-state visitors about Michigan’s plentiful rustic camping opportunities in picture-perfect settings. An added bonus: this administrative change made it possible for the DNR to lower the cost of campsites at those campgrounds.

A Recreation Passport also provides access to (but does not cover the per-night campsite cost of) state forest campgrounds.

All in all, Michigan’s Recreation Passport is proving to be a success for the DNR and a boon to building interest in state parks, recreation areas and state forest campgrounds – and the many fun and memorable experiences to be had there. Attendance at state parks is flourishing.

“In 2010 we bottomed out, but we bounced back in 2011,” Herta said. “We’re seeing capacity crowds that we haven’t seen since the ’80s. We’re having a banner year.”

To book a spot at your favorite state park or state forest campground, visit; to find out how to get your Recreation Passport, visit; or to see what fun Recreation 101 events are happening in your area, visit