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Surfing the great outdoors

Site Seer September 26, 1997
Web posted at: 5:48 a.m. EDT (0948 GMT)

From CNN Interactive writer Donna Freydkin

(CNN) -- The humid, balmy days of summer have gradually given way to autumn's brilliant explosion of color. As temperatures drop and leaves change color, the great outdoors beckon.

The message is in the leaves: pack away that bathing suit, load up the backpack and hit the road. From camping to hiking to biking, what better way is there to enjoy the grandeur of the outdoors than by being in the midst of it? And the Web offers up the needed details on where this fun can be found.

The World Wide Web boasts an amazing array of resources dealing with every possible type of outdoor activity. From safety tips to campground songs, here are but a few to bring out the nature lover in you.

The basics

The wilderness can be a perilous place, so safety and preparation are of the utmost importance. One of the most detailed sites for planning a safe adventure is brought to you by Recreational Equipment Incorporated, the nation's largest consumer co-op. REI's REI how-to library lays out all the basics of camping, paddling, cycling and outdoor wear. It covers everything from planning a bike tour to finding the right camping equipment. It's easy to navigate, simple to read and loaded with useful information.

Sometimes, as all of us know, even the best laid plans can be ruined by an unexpected thunderstorm. After all, who wants to wake up in a puddle of water? Make sure Mother Nature doesn't pull a fast one on you by checking the weather before you head out. To fully experience the blazing tints of fall, check out the Weather Channel's Fall Foliage section for information on what areas boast the most brilliant displays of fall colors.

For all its uncultivated beauty and charm, the outdoors can be as icky as it can be invigorating. As you leave all the modern comforts of home behind, you'll have to adjust to the sticky world of outdoor sanitation. An article from New York Outdoors offers tips on how to maintain some semblance of hygiene in the germ-laden outdoors.

And now, onward and upward!



For many people fall is the time to grab the tent and take off for one of the many campsites out there.

CampNet America offers a detailed list of campsites and RV parks nationwide, with their respective addresses and phone numbers. The site is a handy tool for looking up the camp grounds, but won't help you out much in selecting one, since reviews are not included. If you can't find the site you're searching for, look up additional camp sites at The Holiday Internet Publications campground directory, which calls itself "the world wide web's finest campground directory," and lets you search for campgrounds across the globe. Unfortunately, this site also omits reviews, offering only bare-bones information.

If your heart is set on visiting one of America's many national parks, the National Park Service site allows visitors to locate parks by name, theme or location, and offers detailed information about every property it runs. The American Park Network allows you to match your preferred outdoor activities with the national parks that suit your interests.

Staying safe

What with spiders and sunburn, to name a couple of hazards, the beautiful wilderness can also be a dangerous place for the uninitiated. Self-proclaimed "proven outdoor guru" Michael Hodgson offers a comprehensive index of safety articles to help you stay healthy. Hodgson, an editor for Outdoor Retailer's magazine and the Daily Exposure, also responds to e-mail questions. The section is packed with loads of great information on common risks associated with nature, and the articles are easy to read.

Culinary camper

All that fresh air is bound to make your mouth water for some hearty grub, so start that roaring fire, bring out the cookware, and whip up some pigs in blankets or omlettes-in-a-bag. If you're not a camping chef just yet, read a few preparatory articles by outdoor cookbooks author Teresa Marrone to teach you what utensils and ingredients you'll need to cook tempting campsite creations.

Happy hiking Now that you've found the campground and set up your tent, it's time to hit the trails for some hiking. offers a terrific searchable database of trails throughout the country, sorted by state, region or score. Get advice from backpackers on everything from avoiding back pain to hiking with young children. The beginner's corner offers a sizable amount of information on the necessary equipment. Escaping to Nature is another source for everything you ever wanted to know about hiking, with a special focus on proper clothing. With its simple layout and low graphics, the site gets two boots up.

Rock on

If rock climbing sets your senses tingling, check out, a site dedicated to scaling daunting vertical surfaces. The site, created by climber Tim Toula, aims to "identify climbing areas and help rock climbers access them." The neatest and most useful feature on this site is its 50 state maps with pull-down menus that allow searches by region and climbing type. The site also allows visitors to send electronic postcards from the road, and add to or update climbing areas.

Don't forget to check out Expeditions Now! guide to the worlds' mountains. The slopes are sorted by altitude and location.

Mountain biking

If racing on a bike across rugged terrain is what gets your adrenaline pumping, a number of outstanding sites can help you plan your treks. has a nationwide list of mountain biking trails (it's in the works, so don't be surprised if your state is missing information), as well as a destination archive and training tips from a doctor. For even more great trails, drop by the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, which sorts trails by region and provides a lengthy, detailed description of each. If you still haven't found that perfect trail, the Specialized site, from the popular bicycle manufacturer may steer you in the right direction. With it's worldwide lists of trails, complete with users' descriptions, the site is sure to make you hit the road.

Keeping it clean

And most of all, remember that basic principle -- leave it the same way you found it. The Leave No Trace program, which aims to teach "wilderness ethics," provides detailed information on how to avoid leaving your mark on the wilderness.

Happy trails!


Related sites:

CampNet America The Holiday Internet Publications campground directory
the National Park Service
American Park Network
Escaping to Nature
Great Outdoor Recreation Pages
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