WELCOME TO THE HANDBOOK!
This page is designed to serve as a Camp Mustelid-style encyclopedia where we discuss/define things about the outdoors, nature, and Camp Mustelid itself through a bit of light reading. The handbook has been organized into three different sections:
The Camp Mustelid Section
This section is purely fictional and is meant to add some more immersive details about the world of Camp Mustelid in a wikia/trivia sort of fashion. Any similarities to the articles in this section to real-world events, people, or places are entirely coincidental. However, with that in mind, we hope you have fun reading and clicking through the many different areas in which the writing talks about real-world subjects that are found in the Outdooring Section.
The Outdooring Section
This section is entirely non-fictional writing, touching upon real-life things that happen in, or concern, the great outdoors! These articles are meant to serve as an introduction to their many subjects, and we encourage you to hit the “Look it Up” buttons to do your own research upon whatever catches your interest! Camp Mustelid doesn’t claim to be an authority on any of these topics, but we’ve done our best to spark your curiosity and encourage you to further educate yourself about nature!
The Nature-isms Section
We here at Camp Mustelid have found that not enough terminology exists to describe experiences that we as people have in nature, or phenomena that happen in nature on its own. So we’re making some up! This section offers some new, unofficial words and phrases to describe things that really happen in the wild, along with highlighting some nature-isms that we’ve found already exist in relatively common lingo! We invite you to explore this more abstract section, and maybe adopt some of its contents for your own personal use!
Each of the following articles come with a set of descriptors that clarify:
1. The name of the article. 2. What the article is as a whole. And 3. What section it is from. For example:
Camp Mustelid ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Please reference these captions carefully!
Art Club ↟ Fictional Group ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The C.M. Art Club is led by Director Bird and meets every Sunday morning at the communal campfire. The purpose of the club is to connect with fellow artists around the campground and learn a thing or two from one another! Members frequently go on group hikes where they try to find interesting things in the woods to draw, paint, or sculpt! They also contribute their talents to the camp in ways like helping the Birding Society paint windows so that our feathered friends don't collide with them, decorating for special events or holidays, making signs around the camp, and filling up the art shop with loads of goodies.
Aurora ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The Aurora Borealis, which literally translates to “dawn of the north” from Latin, is an amazing natural phenomenon that typically occurs in regions closest to the northern and southern poles. Viewers of this beautiful spectacle can see dazzling waves of light dancing in the night sky in all sorts of different glowing colors. The science behind the existence of auroras is somewhat complex, but you can boil it down to two things: 1. The earth’s magnetosphere, which is basically a doughnut-shaped force field around the planet (created by the earth’s core) that protects us from solar winds. And 2. The magnetosphere’s relationship to solar winds, which are high-energy (extremely hot) particles that are emitted from the sun. Typically the magnetosphere protects the planet from solar winds, however, especially during major solar weather events, the winds seep through at the weakest locations on the magnetosphere: the poles, which is where the doughnut-holes are. The resulting high-energy from the winds is absorbed by oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, wherein oxygen and nitrogen particles get so excited, that when they calm down and release the energy, photons (particles of light) are created, generating the aurora. Depending on the altitude, the colors can change. Higher oxygen density (lower altitude) typically creates yellowish-greens, whereas higher nitrogen density (higher altitude) creates blues.
Biophilia Hypothesis ↟ Theory ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Coined by German psychologist Erich Fromm and expanded upon by multiple other naturalists, the biophilia hypothesis supposes that human beings have an innate desire to connect with the living world around them and to build connections with nature. It is theorized that this process is something of an instinct and that this affection for life, in general, is a part of an ecological system that preserves life on earth through a cycle of what can ultimately be described as the love of all fellow living things. It is one of the methods used in trying to explain human behaviors like keeping houseplants even though they provide no direct benefit to us, or risking one’s life in order to save a wild animal that is in danger. More well-known examples also include our admiration of baby animals and our tendency to seek friendship with other living things and keep them as pets. This seemingly deep-rooted affection for our fellow creatures, in essence, helps the biotic community around the world stay alive.
Bird Blind ↟ Type of Building ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Bird blinds are usually small, shed-like buildings or walls strategically placed in areas where birds are abundant, or most likely to appear. This can be near bodies of water, meadows, marshes, shorelines, or other locations that are typically attractive to birds or other animals. They’re designed to allow people a place to hide, so as not to deter or frighten nearby wildlife, while at the same time offering a good view of anything that might be nearby. Disguised by the blind, people can peer out of its narrow windows from inside, and will largely go unnoticed.
Boreal Forest ↟ Biome ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The Taiga, also known as the boreal forest, is the largest land-biome in the world. Its located in northern parts of the world resting just below the Tundra, covering large parts of North America, northern Europe, and northern Russia. Summers in the boreal forest are short and wet, whereas winters are long and very cold, sometimes dropping to -65 degrees. Its landscape is overwhelmingly coniferous, with ice caps, permafrost, and lots of snow. Animals that live in such frigid habitat include moose, reindeer, wolverines, and great grey owls.
Botany ↟ Science ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The science and study of plant life. One of the oldest sciences, botany was first entertained by early humans as a method of gathering knowledge about certain plants so as to avoid poisonous species and cultivate edible or medicinal ones. Botanists specialize in many different facets of plant-based study. Such as reproduction, physical structure, genetics, disease, and much more!
Call of the Wild ↟ Ambiguous Phrase ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
The "Call of the Wild" is a phrase of no concrete origin that was largely popularized by author Jack London's 1903 novel of the same name. Since the release of London's book, the phrase has been largely reused as an ambiguous expression of a person's desire to return to nature or to describe a powerful, raw feeling of primal emotion. Alternatively, the "Call of the Wild" has also served as a phrase that appreciates some of nature's many wondrous characteristics, with some uses referring to specific occurrences that can be experienced in the wild; such as the howling of wolves, chirping of crickets, or the wail of a Loon. The "Call of the Wild" also has affiliations with the concept of the Biophilia Hypothesis, considering that the expression captures people's affinity towards the forest and its many living creatures.
Carpentry Club ↟ Fictional Group ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The Carpentry Club is led by Groundskeeper Huck and meets around every two weeks at the woodshop. Huck started the club after he got some attention from campers who would visit him while he was woodworking to see what he was making. The mission of the club is to teach members some woodcraft skills. Whether it be making benches or carving sculptures, Huck is here to coach you on it! There’s quite a bit of overlap between the club and societies all around the campground considering how much custom-made birdhouses, plant boxes, wildlife hides, etc. are used around here, so the club is definitely well appreciated!
Cassan National Park ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Cassan National Park is the wilderness where Camp Mustelid is located. This area of protected land spans across 50,000 acres and exists in a largely coniferous forest in the northern region of Ryeland. It is geographically set in an area known for abundant bogs, rivers and lakes, bordering several great lakes including Lake Cedarstipple. The park is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and scenic campsites along the Troutwhisker Mountain range, attracting visitors from all over the globe to take part in all the experiences it has to offer. Formally the epicenter of robust industrial operations that caused immense environmental damage to the park centuries before the land became a protected forest, Cassan National Park has also been the subject of many essays on conservation and stewardship, serving as an example of how people can take a damaged ecosystem and bring it back to its original glory. However, due to its industrial history, most of Cassan’s old-growth forest has been chopped or burned away, with surviving ancient conifer trees only finding refuge deep within the woods. These include trees that are assumed to be thousands of years old that are now kept in restricted areas that are not open to the public. This is in order to ensure their safety and continued prosperity, but tourists and locals alike can still see their towering crowns from distant telescopes and monoculars.
Cassan National Park is based on a variety of real-world places. Broadly, it is inspired by natural landscapes in countries like Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Russia, Canada, and the United States. It's appropriate to imagine any part of the wilderness found in those areas of the real-world as being present in Cassan, including wildlife, which is obviously not possible outside of fiction. Cassan gets its name from a real park in in Longford Ireland called Derrycassin Woods, much like Ryeland, which is an area in the same county.
Cassan's Bane Mold ↟ Fictional Fungi ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
This mysterious black mold is endemic to Cassan and was discovered by a team of conservationists surveying the park when it first became a protected forest. It is one of the first organisms of its kind and is still being researched. The fungal pathogen is highly aggressive and attacks a wide variety of plants and even some animals causing disease, decay, and sometimes death. It has also been seen growing on wood, food waste, and infecting insects. While Cassan’s Bane has not been identified in any other place in the world, it is highly invasive and is assumed to be a non-native species that began its onslaught of the woods relatively recently. It is unknown where it could have come from but luckily the mold is slow to fully manifest itself and can be treated using antifungal medicine or by culling infected plants. It has, however, caused extensive damage to Cassan’s ecosystem over the years while it was still being left unchecked, which is how it has earned its name, “Cassan’s Bane.” Or more commonly, “Rot,” due to its unsightly and malevolent nature.
Colden Mining Company ↟ Fictional Group ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Colden Mining was a company that existed hundreds of years ago and operated out of Willowdale. Owned by a pair of brothers, the company mined Cassan National Park for coal, gold, and gems like rough rubies. At the peak of their business, Colden Mining had somewhere around 25 successful mines across the park, all of which closed down after a great wildfire lead the company to move out of Cassan, after which it is assumed to have been eventually absorbed by larger Ryelish mining operations. Colden Mining is not celebrated in Cassan's history, even though it brought the park great wealth at one point. This is mainly because it is hard to ignore the damage the organization did to the forest it called home. Even to this day, not all of the Colden mines have even been properly located, with some lost deep in the woods, further serving as an example of the scale of the destructive impact the business had.
Coniferous ↟ Tree Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Of or relating to conifers, cone/needle-bearing trees. These are typically pine, fir, spruce, sequoia, etc. Coniferous trees are typically associated with the Tiaga, or boreal forest, where they enjoy growing in the cold climate that most of the trees are designed for. The shape of a conifer tree is an adaption that allows snow to slide off, rather than pile on branches and potentially snap them. The needles allow more water storage for the long winters that conifers typically endure, and stay "evergreen" so that the trees can photosynthesize in the cold. The cones are also an adaption to the cold, with the scales closing up to protect the seeds inside from icy temperatures.
Conservation vs. Preservation ↟ Philosophy ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Conservation and preservation are typically seen as synonymous, however, there are some key differences. Both occupy a moral standpoint of there being an inherent duty, as human beings, to protect ecosystems, restore habitats, and live an environmentally friendly way of life. A conservationist is a person who typically occupies a role to meet these ends, while also factoring in human activity. This can take many forms: making sure that natural resources are used ethically, promoting green-energy, or making sure that human activity and the environment maintain a sustainable balance. A preservationist, on the other hand, seeks to accomplish environmental goals by warding off human activity in certain areas. A simple way of putting it is that conservation typically seeks the proper use of nature, while preservation seeks protection of nature from use.
Cooking Club ↟ Fictional Group ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The C.M. Cooking Club is led by Chef Beth and meets around three or four times a month in the main or outdoor kitchen. The purpose of the club is to get campers together and teach them about sustainable cuisine, along with helping out with cooking up some grub for special events hosted at Camp Mustelid! Beth herself leads the majority of the lessons with the exception of campfire recipes that are taught by Director Mel down at the communal campfire. There is some overlap between the club’s activities and the Garden Society’s, as the cooking club will regularly consult with the Garden Society when it comes to picking out produce from the fruit and vegetable garden, foraging for wild ingredients, and tapping trees for making maple syrup!
Crow's Gift ↟ Rare Natural Phenomenon (?) ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
Crows have an extensive history of behaving in ways that are obviously akin to humans. Seen as one of the world's most intelligent animals, crows can remember people's faces for very long periods of time, socialize with each other to communicate information, and use tools. One behavior in particular, however, has caught the attention of popular culture and scientists: gift-giving. There are a number of stories circulating around the internet about flocks of crows showing gratitude to human caretakers who regularly feed them by bestowing them gifts. Supposedly stuff like shiny objects, things that are brightly colored, or items that have unique shapes. There are even stories of crows following their favorite humans and returning lost items that they witness a person drop, or creating gifts for them by arranging objects together. It is hard to prove any of these stories, as there is no way of verifying any of them so far. And even if they did actually happen, there is no way of proving that the crows involved were acting out of a sense of gratitude because, well, we cant ask them. However, while ornithologists and animal behavioralists cast a fair amount of doubt over these stories, the common consensus is that if a crow did give something to a human, it would not necessarily be a big surprise. Gift giving and arranging objects together is something that birds do with each other rather often, especially in courting rituals. Like Australian bowerbirds, which create tiny stick-stages decorated with like-colored objects to perform for potential mates. Or Cedar Waxwings, which will gather in a line on a branch and pass berries to each other from a nearby bunch until every bird in the row has a berry to eat. Or even some species of penguin, which will give a companion a pebble as a romantic gesture. While it is impossible to truly prove, it's fun to entertain the possibility that treating crows nicely may land you some kind of very special reward.
Dawn Chorus ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The dawn chorus is a natural phenomenon in which birds sing together at the first light of the morning. This happens every morning where birds are abundant, and can occasionally be so loud that early morning sleeping for humans is difficult. Rest assured, the louder a chorus, usually means the healthier the surrounding ecosystem is. Birds sing and call for a number of reasons in the morning. With how quiet it usually is from the inactivity of nighttime, sound travels easier with less ambient noise, and birds can proclaim their territories to competitors, physical fitness to potential mates, and locate each other more easily. Depending on the elevation and how soon light touches the forest level, different bird species often sing at different times. If a bird lives high up, they'll sing first, considering they'll see the sun rise the earliest. But if you're a ground bird, you'll probably sing last, since it'll be a while before the sun illuminates the forest floor. Bird watchers often conduct counts and population assessments by getting up before dawn and waiting until the sun rises to hear all the different birds in the area.
Deciduous ↟ Plant Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Of or relating to trees/plants that shed their leaves for the winter, petals after flowering, or to the dropping of ripened fruit. Typically the term is used to describe the action of a plant shedding a part of itself that is no longer useful. When referencing trees, examples include maple, oak, and beech. A forest occupied mostly by deciduous trees is called a temperate forest and is a biome that is known for experiencing all four seasons. Deciduous trees usually begin shedding their leaves in autumn, where they slowly turn from greens to reds, oranges, and yellows, until ultimately falling off and dying into browns. This brilliant phenomenon is as beautiful as it is awe-inspiring, as it reflects trees' cognitive process for figuring out how to survive the winter. In anticipation of the icy months ahead, these trees drop their leaves by absorbing all their water into their trunks, so that it can be conserved while the tree essentially sleeps through the cold. The deflated leaves drop, which also protects the tree from encountering moments when snow could potentially build up on them, leading to branches snapping under the excess weight.
Ecosystem ↟ Natural Community ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
An ecosystem is a community of living things that make up a specific environment. There are many different kinds of ecosystems, but put simply, they can be categorized into 3 areas: terrestrial (forests, grasslands, tundras, deserts), aquatic (oceans, reefs, rivers, ponds, swamps, creeks), and artificial (in the case of man-made environments like aquariums or crops). All living things in an ecosystem directly relate to the non-living components of the environment around them, and this symbiotic relationship can further characterize what an overall ecosystem is. For example; the relationship a clownfish has with a sea anemone, the relationship the anemone has with oceanic rocks, the relationship the rocks have with seawater, and so on. Ecosystems can have different health conditions, and not all ecosystems are just existing harmoniously. Invasive species, weather events, natural disasters, and climate change (among other things) play large roles in an ecosystem's capacity to sustain itself and survive.
The Elderwoods ↟ Fictional Locations ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The "elderwoods" are areas of preserved forest located all across Cassan National Park. The Troutwhisker Environmental Association determined that these areas should be protected from any interaction whatsoever from visitors with the sole exception of preservationists and scientists. There are no trails or roads that lead directly into the elderwoods as they lie deep within the park's wilderness, usually miles away from even the furthest-reaching trails. They are home to ancient ecosystems and endangered species that once covered the entire landscape. Here live giants, like redwoods, douglas-fir, big-leaf maple, and other towering/ancient old-growth. Tourists can usually see these trees from afar, with telescopes mounted on Troutwhisker mountains specifically designed to give people just about their only view of these areas. That is whenever the elderwoods are not encased in a thick fog that makes them almost impossible to see from a distance.
Elk's Paw Mountain ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Elk's Paw Mountain is one of the Troutwhisker mountains and is around a 30-minute train ride west of Camp Mustelid. Its summit peaks at only 1,000ft., so it's on the shorter side. It was named after the elk herds that scale the mountain rather often due to its flatter landscape and leave countless hoofprints on hiking trails.
Endemic Species ↟ Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
An endemic species is a species that is only found in a singular, very specific geographical location from which it is native. Whether it be an island or a country, when a species is exclusively found in a particular habitat and nowhere else on earth, it is thereby endemic to that habitat. This places these species at an incredible disadvantage in terms of potentially going extinct, as any large-scale change in the environment that they are specifically adapted to could easily put the entire species in peril. For example, Devil's Hole in Death Valley National Park is a pool that is the only natural habitat for Devil's Hole pupfish. It is estimated that this is one of the smallest areas of natural habitat for an endemic species on earth.
Environmentalism ↟ Philosophy and Movement ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Environmentalism is a broad term that describes the general philosophy and social movement towards green living, the protection of ecosystems, the bettering of the planet's health, and science-focused solutions to mitigate climate change. An environmentalist can be a label for anyone, from experts in eco-related fields to activists and wildlife enthusiasts. Environmentalists seek social and political action to address urgent issues concerning the environment: such as the plastic crisis, pollution, deforestation, and overconsumption. The movement of environmentalism is the push to meet these challenges through principles of eco-ethics, equality, and green science.
Equinox ↟ Time of Year ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
There are two equinoxes, the autumnal equinox and the spring equinox. Equinoxes occur when the sun crosses the equator, and the length of the day is the same as that of night. The autumnal and spring equinoxes usually mark the beginning of their respective seasons, with fall beginning in late September and spring in late March if you live in the northern hemisphere. Of course, if you live in the southern hemisphere, this is reversed, with fall beginning in March and spring in September. There are many beliefs, cultural celebrations, and mythos centered around the equinoxes, and throughout human history, many different stories have been told about the significance of these days. Both occasions are often referred to by different names around the world. For the autumnal equinox, other names include but are not limited to "Mabon" (Celtic/Pagan), "Mehregān" (Persian), and "Höstjämdag" (Swedish). For the spring equinox, other names include but are not limited to "Alban Eilir" (Celtic/Druidic), "Ostara" (Germanic), and "Nowruz" (Iranian).
Fauna ↟ Group of Animal Life ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The word "Fauna" refers to all the animal life of a particular location, region, or even time period. There are many sub-terms for fauna, including Megafauna (large animals), Microfauna (microscopic or very small animals), or Mesofauna (macroscopic soil animals like butterflies).
Firefall ↟ Rare Natural Illusion ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park is famous as one of the only places in the world where people can see a firefall illusion. This illusion occurs when the sun sets at just the right angle for its light to hit Horsetail Falls in a way that makes the falling water appear as though it is glowing bright oranges and yellows, giving it the appearance of being on fire. Spectators gather from all around the world to see this incredible wilderblessing, as it is very rare. A lot of different factors need to align perfectly in order for the illusion to work. There needs to be flowing water (which means it has to have snowed and temperatures are now melting the snow), it cannot be too cloudy or the sun's rays will be blocked, and you only have about a 10-minute window to see it during the first few weeks of February.
Forest Feast ↟ Fictional Display ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
A forest feast is a display made out of various fruits, vegetables, and grains that campers put together in the woods during the autumn Harvest Festival. Badgers after the Autumn Advocate Badge take part in hiking into a special field deep in the parklands where they assemble their ingredients in all sorts of pretty and fun ways! Some forest feasts become like sculptures, bouquets of colorful food items that campers get really creative with. Once the feasts are completed, everyone gets together for group photographs as the badges are handed out. Then the group leaves the displays in the remote woods for wildlife to come and have a bite to eat while they fatten up for the coming winter. (Disclaimer: It can be dangerous to feed wildlife in real life! This is purely fictional!)
Ghost Forest ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
"Ghost forest" is a name commonly given to an area of marshland that used to home to a forest. This phenomenon occurs when a forest is permanently flooded with saltwater, which not only kills the standing trees but also preserves them from certain forms of decay. The oldest ghost tree in the United States is located somewhere in the pacific northwest (its location is kept secret since it is being researched) and is estimated to be 6,000 years old, yet, like most ghost trees, it has not entirely decayed. The most common reasons for the formation of ghost forests are large earthquakes, tsunamis, or rising sea levels. Ghost forests are becoming more abundant in coastal areas around the world due to climate change and the encroaching seas. They are eerie places, with pale, dead trees peppering the marshland in all directions.
Hag Stone ↟ Rare Rock ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Also known as "adder stones", "witch stones", "serpent's eggs", and "druid's glass", a hag stone is a rock that has a naturally occurring hole through it. There's an incredible variety of beliefs centered around hag stones. They are most commonly associated with witches and paganism, hence the origin of the word "hag" in their name. They are believed to have protective magical properties that ward off evil, guard against curses, and prevent nightmares or sickness. The hole is occasionally believed to act as a monocular into other worlds/planes of reality, and by looking through it, a person can see spirits or other ethereal beings. Hag stones are additionally used like charms, and are hung over doors, placed under pillows, and made into necklaces or jewelry.
Harvest Festival ↟ Fictional Event ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The harvest festival is a highly-anticipated time of the year at Camp Mustelid. Starting on the first of November, campers are able to earn a whole collection of badges that are only available during the festivities, including the Autumn Advocate, Green Thumb, and Weasel Whittler badges! Come December, Cassan usually observes what is commonly seen as the “end of camping season.” With temperatures dropping, sleeping outside becomes considerably less attractive to people. However, with Camp Mustelid staying open year-round, campers who choose to brave the cooling weather are most certainly rewarded with baking, harvesting, foraging, and art competitions that happen during November. Along with hikes, parties, ceremonies, and guided expeditions that are only offered for the festival. While the wilderness may be quieting down for a long winter’s rest, there's still plenty to do around the campground!
Introduced Species ↟ Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
An introduced species is a life form that is foreign to the ecosystem in which it lives in. This means that while the species has an established breeding population, it contributes comparatively little to nothing to the local biotic community. Most often, introduced species are, at best, taking up space that would be better suited for native species that do much more to keep the environment happy and healthy. Introduced species most often become invasive, with very few exceptions.
Invasive Species ↟ Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
An invasive species is a life form that has spiraled its population out of control and is now harming the environment around it. This can be anything; plants, birds, insects, fish, mammals, etc. When a life form begins to degrade an ecosystem rather than contribute to it, it is deemed invasive and is usually the target of removal, population control, or even total eradication by conservationists. Invasive species are most often introduced, and the host habitat has not adapted to their presence, much less their numbers, giving them a huge survival advantage. Left unchecked, an invasive species can completely collapse and destroy an entire ecosystem, causing the death of millions of plants, animals, insects, or anything native to the habitat in which the invasion is occurring. Invasive species typically do this by taking resources (food, water, territory) from native species, spreading foreign disease, or even hunting local species. Everglades National Park, for example, is currently in crisis due to the introduction of the Burmese Python, a giant constrictor snake from Southeast Asia that has established a breeding population in Florida after being brought over by the pet trade. The python threatens to literally eat the Everglades to death, as it continues to feed on keystone species that are unable to fight back well enough against the alien predator. Not all invasive species, however, are introduced. Keystone species removal, human intrusion, or climate change can cause the overpopulation of a native species to the point of invasiveness. For example, the white-tailed deer, native to certain parts of the eastern United States, has become invasive due to the extinction of wolves that would keep the population in check. The deer, which also exploit farmland, gardens, and lawns, has grown its population exponentially. This has caused a complete change in eastern American forests, as the deer trample and eat trees before they can grow to a height that the deer can't interfere with, making the deer a huge source of forest degradation.
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Kaleidoscope of Butterflies ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A group of butterflies is sometimes called a “kaleidoscope,” and it is certainly one of the most breathtaking sights to see from the insect kingdom. Butterflies gather together for a variety of different reasons. For example, Monarch Butterflies famously migrate and gather together in huge quantities in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico as a part of their breeding cycle. The resulting visuals feature trees completely covered with millions of Monarchs that occasionally cascade, like a waterfall made of fluttering orange wings, down upon the forest below. Dense clusters of butterflies are also known as “roosts”, and they typically form when migrating butterflies, which only travel during the day, gather to rest together for the night. Consider yourself very lucky if you ever get to see such a mesmerizing wilderblessing!
Keystone Species ↟ Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A keystone species is a species that has an overwhelmingly large impact on its surrounding ecosystem. The presence of a keystone species dictates the population/health of subsequent flora and fauna in its habitat, and if the keystone were to ever be removed from the equation, the entire ecosystem which depended on its influence would completely change or even collapse altogether. One of the most famous examples of the impact a keystone species can have on its ecosystem, Yellowstone National Park's wilderness suffered immense damage after the extinction of grey wolves. Without the wolf packs that once patrolled the park, their prey, deer and other grazing animals, began to overgraze the landscape and grow overabundant. This created a break in the natural equilibrium that the park had with the wolves. Grazing species would feed on food that was usually a resource for other animals like beavers, along with feeding upon young trees that had not yet grown to a height that made them undesirable to the grazers. In essence, the absence of wolves upset the ecosystem's established order and caused the forest to become unhealthy. When conservationists eventually successfully reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone, the forest's recovery was almost immediate, with trees growing more fruitfully and fauna recoiling back to their original healthy balance within a few years. It is absolutely imperative to the environment that keystone species are kept in a healthy balance, lest the cascading effects of their departure spiral out of control.
Lake Cedarstipple ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Lake Cedarstipple is a 6,000 square-mile great lake that borders the entire northern side of Cassan National Park. At its deepest point, it is 500ft deep, carved out by melting glaciers thousands of years ago just like the Troutwhiskers. It is home to a bustling ecosystem. and is known for species like the rainbow trout, common loon, and North American river otter. It is also home to a number of small islands which are most often wildlife refuges or conservation areas.
Land Stewardship ↟ Philosophy and Movement ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Land stewards observe a moral obligation to protect and nurture the land that they preside over in a way that is sustainable, respectful, equitable, well-informed, and charitable to both the environment and their neighbors. Land stewards act on a principle of altruism and devote themselves to their work in an extensive effort to preserve natural beauty, resources (for wildlife and for people), and the cultural/social importance of an area of land. Much like conservationists, stewards spend a lot of time promoting native plant growth, warding off invasive species, and practicing forms of permaculture. There is also such a thing as water-related stewardship in the case of rivers, ponds, lakes, creeks, etc.
Loon Mountain ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Loon Mountain is one of the Troutwhisker mountains and the closest one to Camp Mustelid. Its summit peaks at a high 1,950ft and was named after the Legend of the Lone Loon, along with the many species of Loon that fly over it to reach Lake Cedarstipple just north of the valley below. It's known for trails that are easier to hike and are, therefore, more inviting to amateur hikers or campers who aren't looking to get too athletic on their journey up. It's home to many relatively small waterfalls that feed downriver into Lake Cedarstipple. People love to head up there in the summertime for a swim in the large pools of water created by the falls.
Loon Mountain Train Station ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
A part of the main Cassan line, the Loon Mountain stop on the local railway is the best way of getting to Camp Mustelid. The station is a mere 20-minute walk from the entrance of the campsite, and the majority of campers, visitors, and staff use the train to get there. The main line is one of the many trains that tourists take to have a scenic ride, as it offers lovely views of Lake Cedarstipple and the forest around it.
Lost Peak ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
“Lost Peak” is the nickname given to what used to be a large mountain west of Camp Mustelid. Its original name has been lost to history, as documentarians at the time failed to seek out such information. It is theorized that it dwarfed Loon Mountain by comparison, which would mean its summit would’ve had to have been over 2,000ft high. Strip mining conducted by Colden Mining hundreds of years ago sealed the mountain’s fate once the company had reason to believe it hosted vast veins of coal. One of the park's most noteworthy tragedies, it is suggested that residents of Cassan at the time expressed extensive distaste over the mountain’s destruction for a variety of reasons. Newspaper articles, books, and journals referenced “the lost peak” as being an example of reckless business practices, an eyesore, something that decreased the value of local property, and a source of bad luck. Rumors and myths began to pepper these writings, with some authors claiming to have encountered strange events happening around Cassan as a result of the mountain's destruction, such as poltergeists of wild animals, and the shadow of the mountain reappearing under the full moon. To this day, the mountain remains the subject of many ghostly campfire stories. The area where Lost Peak is estimated to have once stood tall has now been grown over by lush forest, and the landscape has returned to looking otherwise completely normal, albeit mountainless. To ensure the health of this recovering area of Cassan, the Troutwhisker Environmental Association has restricted it from visitors.
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Native Species ↟ Characteristic ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
To be put simply, a native species is a life form that was born/evolved from a particular ecosystem and thereby belongs to that biotic community. This is also referred to as an indigenous or autochthonous species. Flora and fauna that are native to the environment that they call home are contributors to the health of that ecosystem, and usually have specific adaptions for, along with dependencies to, that very same habitat. Unless the removal of some kind of keystone species is at play, native species rarely become invasive, and the forest's carrying capacity for their population is most often in balance.
Nature-ism ↟ Kind of Vernacular ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
Nature-ism’s refer to terminology and phrases that, while not necessarily being recognized by scientists/linguists, describe phenomena that occur in nature. For example, there is scientifically no such thing as a “Firefall,” however, it is common lingo to refer to the illusion that occurs in Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall during February sunsets as a “firefall.” Likewise, there is no concrete definition of what the “call of the wild” is, yet it is a topic that many have strong opinions about. The term “Nature-ism” is largely a characterization devise used to categorize these kinds of topics.
Old Growth Forest ↟ Type of Forest ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
An old-growth forest is a forest that has gained very old age without much disturbance from outside influences. In these ecosystems, trees are like generations of families that communicate with one another, and the flora/fauna around them have adapted unique characteristics that are a result of their mighty influence. Old-growth forests are incredibly special places, and people who have visited them frequently acclaim them for their beauty and fresh air. Places like Redwood National Park are treasured for their gigantic ancient trees, which have been revealed to be thousands of years old. Old-growth forests, unfortunately, are now few and far between in the United States where they were once abundant and are the center of many conservation efforts.
Ornithology ↟ Field of Study ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A branch of zoology, ornithology is the all-encompassing study of birds. Ornithologists study not just birds themselves, but also their related habitats, migratory pathways, environmental impact, and other niches. Originally the study of birds largely focused on their distribution and physical description. The earliest humans are believed to have started studying birds so as to track and hunt them as a source of food. Domestication and farming also played a role as poultry farming and falconry became popular. Eventually, especially with the introduction of telescopes and binoculars in the early 19th century, birds grew in popularity as natural marvels/spectacles, sparking a more concentrated interest in their study so as to conserve their global presence.
Outdooring ↟ Fictitious Term ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
Outdooring is the enthusiastic activity of experiencing the outdoors. Whether this is through study, sport, exploration, or just a simple hike, "outdooring" is a word meant to capture the general interest with the outside. Rather than labels for everyday people like "naturalist", which sometimes implies professional knowledge or a career, to say that you are going "outdooring" is to say you will be going out to connect and interact with nature, even if your passion for it has not formalized with some kind of degree.
Parts of a Tree ↟ Characteristics ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Simply put, trees have 3 main parts to their bodies. The crown: this is where the big assemblage of leaves, branches, and sometimes fruit or cones are at the very top of a tree. Going down from there, we have the trunk: this is the body of the tree where it stores water, sap, and sugar. Then, finally, there are the underground roots, which absorb water, anchor the tree to the ground, and store memories.
Pineburgh ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
A town that's around a 30-minute train ride from Camp Mustelid, Pineburgh rests below Elk's Paw Mountain to the west. It's a bustling community with lots of souvenir shops, small businesses, and local restaurants that travelers love to visit. Formerly farmland, urbanization came to Pineburgh once the appeal of Cassan as a landmark national park began bringing in more and more visitors annually. It was one of the first urban developments to place integrally high-importance on sustainability, and as a result, has been designed to depend entirely on wind, solar, and water powers.
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Reforestation ↟ Process ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The artificial or natural process of repopulating an area of land with forest. In the natural sense, forests are technically always growing and expanding, they just do so at a relatively slow rate. Deforestation by humans typically occurs at 10 times the regenerative rate for forests, rendering them incapable of keeping up. Artificial reforestation addresses this issue, and involved planting trees or promoting growth in other ways in an effort to assist the regeneration of natural forests.
Rime Ice ↟ Ice Formation ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Rime ice is a type of ice formation that occurs when droplets of supercooled water touch a surface and immediately freeze. There are different types of rime ice depending on the environmental conditions causing it to form. Soft rime is typically delicate, crystalline-like ice that forms during freezing mists or fog. Hard rime is dense and sometimes heavy ice that forms during storms or high winds.
Rock Wall ↟ Structure ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Commonly seen abandoned in the woods, rock walls are remnants of agricultural boundaries that defined plots of land for farmers in the past. Believe it or not, rock walls have an incredibly detailed history and come in many different styles. Weasels, along with other animals like chipmunks and mongoose, sometimes use rock walls as dens, nestling into small spaces that they find inside.
Ryeland ↟ Fictional Country ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Ryeland is an incredibly old country that has been around for tens of thousands of years. It spans across 500,000 square miles and has a population of 6 million, most of which live in cities like Celbridge, the country's capital. It rests just below the arctic circle and is apart of a larger continental outreach that bleeds into the ocean. As a result of natural erosion, it is possible that Ryeland will become an island in the not-so-distant future as waterways continue to degrade its border. The ryelish have an extensive crafting culture, and are known for artisan woodwork, mulled wine, and clothing. The majority of land in Ryeland is either farmland or dense wilderness, with little in-between, save for the occasional town centers. 14 national parks and countless wildlife refuges pepper the country, most abundantly around its great lakes and coasts.
Ryeland is based on a variety of real world countries like Ireland, Scotland, Norway, Russia, Canada, and the United States. Ryeland gets its name from a place in Longford Ireland of the same name, which is the same general area where Derrycassin Woods is, the origin of Cassan National Park's name.
Sablethrush ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Sablethrush is the greater township that Camp Mustelid calls home in West Ryeland. Its city center is a highly visited tourist attraction and a prominent fishing town that has many popular docks and views of Lake Cedarstipple. It is home to a population of just over 8,000 but sees much more people flow through town during seasons that are good for outdoor sports and activities like snowboarding or camping. It is known for its steamboat and railway tours, fish chowder, carpentry guild, and mountain lodges. Historically, Sablethrush is also the site of Willowdale’s former city center and many monuments to the former city can be found in parks and squares, most notably the many willow trees that have been planted to memorialize it.
Salmon Run ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The salmon run is a phenomenon that occurs towards the end of the salmon life cycle. Salmon usually begin life growing to maturity in
rivers and lakes, after which, they migrate out to sea. After reaching the age in which they can start to reproduce, they migrate back to higher-altitude rivers where they spawn and lay their eggs on shallow river beds. The "run" refers to the strenuous effort the salmon put into swimming upriver, wherein they jump up waterfalls and other barriers to reach their destination, which becomes a spectacle as millions of these fish participate. After spawning, the salmon life cycle ends and begins anew, with the adult fish dying right after the eggs are laid.
Sanctuary Garden ↟ Type of Garden and Movement ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A sanctuary garden is a garden composed entirely of plants that provide valuable resources to local wildlife like insects and birds. This is usually accomplished by growing native plant species like local wildflowers, shrubs, trees, or sometimes even weeds, all while being sure to protect the garden from invasive species. Planting sanctuary gardens are an incredible way of giving back to the environment, as they make it so much easier for animals to find sources of food and shelter. Birds will build nests, butterflies will cluster, fireflies will sparkle, all in and around sanctuary gardens should they successfully catch the attention of the wildlife that can depend on them.
Solstice ↟ Times of Year ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
There are two solstices; the summer solstice and the winter solstice. The summer solstice is the longest day in the year and usually marks the very beginning of the summertime. The winter solstice is the inverse, being the shortest day in the year and marking the arrival of winter. Depending on which hemisphere you are located in, the solstices occur at different times! North of the equator the summer solstice occurs in June, while the winter solstice occurs in December. South of the equator, this is completely reversed, with summer in December and winter in June. This has to do with the planet's journey around the sun and how much the northern and southern poles are titled towards or away from it. When the respective hemisphere's pole is tilted towards the sun, then the days are longer resulting in the summer solstice. Vice-versa for winter, when the pole is tilted away from the sun, days are shorter. There are many beliefs, cultural celebrations, and mythos centered around the brightest and darkest days of the year. And throughout human history, many different stories have been told about the significance of these days. Both days are often referred to by different names around the world. For the summer solstice, other names include but are not limited to "Midsummer" (Old English), "Litha" (Wiccan/Pagan), and "Alban Hefin" (Celtic/Druidic). For the winter solstice, other names include but are not limited to "Midwinter" (Old English), "Yule" (Pagan/Germanic), and "Yalda Night" (Iranian).
Sparkle of Fireflies ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A group of fireflies is sometimes called a “sparkle,” and the name could not be better suited. Fireflies gather in areas that have a moderate amount of water like marshes, swamps, and places that adjoin rivers or lakes. When they come together in large numbers, fireflies can illuminate an entire meadow with blinking, star-like light that is truly mesmerizing to witness. They dance in their bioluminescent light mainly in an effort to attract a potential mate, so the best time to look for a wilderblessing like this is during their mating season in late May to early June.
Sugar Shack ↟ Building ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A sugar shack (also called a "sugar house" or "sap house") is a building in which sap is boiled to make maple syrup. These buildings are usually louvered to vent the steam from the boiler, or open to the elements entirely. Shacks start being used during the sap harvesting season, which typically begins in late October and ends in April. Climate plays a crucial role in maple syrup-making however, and if it's too cold out, the sap becomes impossible to harvest, altering the times in which maple syrup is made.
Sustainability ↟ Philosophy and Movement ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
The process and philosophy of meeting needs while ensuring that the needs of others, along with the world around us, are also met indefinitely. To be sustainable is to co-exist in harmonious equilibrium with others and the natural world, with no one thing becoming dominant, over-consuming, unbalanced, or invasive in any way.
Tree Kindergarten ↟ Natural Phenomenon ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
A tree kindergarten is a group of tree-offspring growing at the base of their mother tree. Not all trees foster the growth of their children, with some bearing seeds that are meant to travel decent distances away from their parents. However, trees that have seeds that sprout right at their base (commonly deciduous trees), literally raise the children in the kindergarten and pass down wisdom by communication through their root systems. Baby-trees that grow up in this fashion are mostly shaded by the crown of their mother tree and dwarfed by the size of its roots, which keeps them from growing to their full size. This is deliberate, as the mother tree uses its influence over light and water absorption to teach its offspring survival lessons in the conservation of sugars and moisture, along with when it is time to shed foliage to survive the winter.
Troutwhisker Environmental Association ↟ Fictional Group ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
The Troutwhisker Environmental Association or "T.E.A." is Cassan National Park's environmental protection agency. It is responsible for ensuring that the park remains a sanctuary for the flora and fauna that call the area home and that both conservation and preservation are a priority at all times. The TEA was formed around two centuries ago after the Cassan as a national park. As the park slowly expanded its protected areas, the TEA spearheaded efforts to argue for places that needed conservation or even intervention to help save the resident ecosystems. It is through the work of the TEA that Cassan has reintroduced keystone species, preserved the elderwoodlands, and brought residents closer than ever before to an entirely eco-friendly and sustainable way of life.
Troutwhisker Mountain Range ↟ Fictional Location↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
One of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the country, the Troutwhiskers are a group of 50 (formerly 51) high peaks that span all across Cassan National Park. They cradle the entire southern shore of Lake Cedarstipple, which is where their name comes from. “Trout” after the iconic rainbow trout of the great lake, and “whisker” to characterize how the mountains have formed around it.
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Wilderblessing ↟ Fictitious Term ↟ Nature-isms Section ↟
A unique, rare, unfamiliar, or generally awe-inspiring phenomenon occurring in nature that causes spectators to feel grateful for beholding or experiencing. This can be used to describe a multitude of things both big and small, so long as they describe something that happens in the natural world and a strong, positive reaction to it. With this in mind, a butterfly landing on your shoulder could be described as a wilderblessing just as much as a million butterflies fluttering around you could be. This term can be used pretty losely. A person may even experience something that happens quite often for others, and that experience can still be a wilderblessing. For example: you may have never seen an owl in the wild before, but if you follow some sort of owl-tour guide into the woods and see one, that can still be a wilderblessing for both yourself and the guide, who has presumably seen them multiple times before.
Wildlife Box ↟ Object ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
A wildlife box is a small home, traditionally made out of wood, designed to provide a nursery for wild animals. There are many different kinds of wildlife boxes, all with different designs that are made to appeal to the specific animal they are intended for. There are bird boxes, bat boxes, insect boxes, even marten boxes that exist to help these creatures have a safe place to care for their young while they grow into adulthood. Putting up these boxes is one of the ways humans can promote local populations of forest life, and they are a great way to both connect with, and give back to nature!
Wildlife Corridor ↟ Forest Characteristic and Man-made Structure ↟ Outdooring Section ↟
Forests thousands of years ago were extremely large. Enormous expansions of trees and pure wilderness with very little fragmentation. To understand what a naturally-occurring wildlife corridor is, we need to understand what happens to animals when a forest becomes fragmented. Typically animals, especially mammals, reptiles, and ground/non-migratory birds who are used to living in dense forests, do not like to traverse areas of land where there is the absence of trees, brush, water, etc. The edge of the forest in which they live is usually what these animals deem as the end of potential habitat, even if they can see trees just a number of yards away. This means when a forest breaks up into fragments of smaller "islands" of woods, say during a landslide or from urban development, animals living in those swatches are trapped. This doesn't always spell doom. Some isolated areas of forest fragments continue to allow resident wildlife to thrive, however, this usually means overpopulation over time, and animals are forced to find other territories and travel out of the fragment. The problem? This usually means animal visitors for humans, causing conflict. Bears in back yards, coyotes near playgrounds, and crocodiles in parks. This is where wildlife corridors come into play. Some corridors occur naturally. Have you ever been to a place where there is a pretty narrow line of trees connecting two larger areas of woods? While those trees may seem insignificant, they act as a corridor for animals on either side of the woods. This connection allows animals comfortable access to both sides of the forest, even if it is a paper-thin line by comparison. Taking inspiration from this, we can now talk about artificial wildlife corridors, man-made structures that are also called ecoducts, wildlife crossings, or green/animal bridges. These are usually found over highways, and appear like regular bridges but instead of roads, they are filled with plants. These bridges address the impact urbanization has brought to forests around the world. With roads running through forests, fragmentation is at an all-time high. This, of course, has an environmental impact, but it also has a human impact. Car collisions with wild animals, big and small, can be deadly, so wildlife corridors are as much a benefit to people as they are to wild animals. Using ecoducts, forests around the world are being connected again, while also allowing a safer environment for human activities.
Willowdale ↟ Fictional Location ↟ Camp Mustelid Section ↟
Willowdale was a large town that formerly occupied the base of Loon Mountain five centuries ago in (more or less) the same area of valley where Camp Mustelid stands today. Named after the magnificent willow trees in the area at the time, its residents mostly consisted of entrepreneurs and their families, who took residence in Cassan because they believed it would yield great opportunities for future industry. Over the course of several generations, these townspeople built Willowdale into a vigorous industrial townscape, and its residents became very wealthy as a result of businesses that caused extensive damage to the forest around them. The awe-inspiring wilderness was chopped, burned, and detonated for real estate, logging, and mining. The most noteworthy of these businesses being Colden Mining, a company that defined Willowdale’s economy with its extensive set of mines across the township and the surrounding woodlands. It is through the actions of the people of Willowdale that Cassan’s original forest has almost entirely disappeared, leaving only a few small areas untouched. Willowdale saw its demise almost 200 years after its establishment when a wildfire caused its inhabitants to flee as the town, largely built with the logged wood from the forest, burned to the ground in a twist of fate. Remnants of this once prosperous community still linger today in the form of repurposed antique mining equipment, willow tree imagery found around Cassan, and some historical buildings. Hikers will also notice echoes of Willowdale in the woods, where you can still find partially buried hatchets, rock walls, and the occasional abandoned mine shaft.