Let’s Celebrate Outdoors!

This summer take your children outside to connect with nature, family, and friends.


Photographed by Nikki Bowman

It’s summer—time to get the kids outside into nature and away from the television, computers, and handheld devices. We are joining the National Wildlife Federation’s movement to get 10 million kids outside, and we hope you do, too. It’s no secret that the lack of time outdoors has doubled the childhood obesity rate and led to a decrease in creativity, concentration, and social skills. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids 8 to 18 years old spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media each day. We can’t afford to have our younger generations disconnected from nature, and here in West Virginia, with our incredible state parks and recreational venues, it is easy to get our kids into the wild and wonderful outdoors. 

Each Wednesday on wvliving.com, we will feature one outdoor recreation area along with some fun suggestions to get your kids outdoors. And we want you to share your photos and stories with us—they may appear online or in a future issue of the magazine. Join us by committing to taking our children to our state parks, hiking in the wilderness, camping, fishing, and growing gardens.

If you are looking for a special place to kick off our Outdoors Challenge, consider the Blue Bend Recreation Area and Campground in Greenbrier County, located off of State Route 16. Blue Bend was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public relief work program operated as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program. The purpose of the CCC was to take unemployed young men and put them to work to help conserve natural resources. They developed state and national parks, built picnic shelters, put out forest fires, and planted millions of trees wherever they were needed across the country. Visitors today can still use the picnic shelters at Blue Bend built by the CCC from local lumber in the area and walk on the man-made trails.

At Blue Bend, you can sit around a crackling campfire with loved ones, take a hike deep in the hills, or enjoy a peaceful picnic under a canopy of trees. Visitors can swim and fish in the waters of Anthony Creek, a tributary of the Greenbrier River. The pristine waters become a haven during the summer when people of all ages visit the swimming hole to cool off from the relentless sun. The Greenbrier River Trail, operated by West Virginia State Parks, is another popular attraction; it is more than 70 miles long and offers guests the opportunity to bike, backpack, and stroll along the river. Blue Bend has two campgrounds—Blue Bend Campground and Blue Meadow Campground—in the Monongahela National Forest. Blue Bend Campground offers 21 family-friendly campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Blue Meadow Campground offers 17 private campsites for groups that include grills, picnic tables, lantern posts, and trash collection services.

Monongahela National Forest, White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986, 304.536.2144



Betsy Beansprout Camping Guide

“Betsy and I are BFFs. We are cut from the same cloth,” laughs Amber Elmore, author of the children’s book series Betsy Beansprout. “Betsy is a tomboy, and that’s how I describe myself. She grabs and savors everything life has to offer and lives like it’s her last day—that’s how I live my own life.”

Amber brings an energetic love for nature and her experiences growing up in Watters Smith Memorial State Park in West Milford to the series. Her most recent book, Betsy Beansprout Camping Guide, teaches kids how to have fun outdoors while being safe. In the book, Betsy is a 6-year-old who lives in a state park. Amber says the adventures her main character goes through are based on true events in her life. “My parents instilled a deep passion for nature in me. That’s why the series was born,” she says. “We camp as a family, and it’s one of my favorite activities. I wanted to share that with kids and write something they can learn from.”

Each book includes reader comprehension questions for parents and discussion points for teachers to share with students in the classroom. The camping guide includes kid-friendly interactive activities like a chance to create your own campfire song and a camping-themed word search. You can find Betsy Beansprout Camping Guide online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. 



Banana Split S’mores

6 bananas, in the skin
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup mini marshmallows
6 large graham crackers
Mini coated chocolate candies, peanut butter chips, or raisins, optional

Make a long slit in each banana from stem to root, through the skin and down to, but not through, the skin on the other side.

Gently push in on either end to open the banana. Divide candies and mini marshmallows among bananas, pressing with your fingers to fit as much as possible.

Wrap each banana in aluminum foil and place on the center of grill or around perimeter of fire. Cook 5 minutes, or until chocolate and marshmallows melt and banana is warm.

Serve immediately with graham crackers for dipping.

Camping Haystacks

1 can (15-ounce) chili with beans
2 packages (1-ounce each) corn chips
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1½ cups chopped lettuce
1 small tomato, chopped
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons ripe olives, sliced
2 tablespoons sour cream

In a small saucepan, heat chili. Divide corn chips between two plates; top with chili. Layer with cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, olives, and sour cream. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 servings  

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