Tagged with "hiking"
25 May
2017
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Five Favorite Family Vacation Destinations

My list of places to vacation is extensive while the allotted vacation days are finite. I like picking the brains of fellow travelers for tips on destinations we have planned and will talk your ear off if you venture to ask for ideas of places to visit. This is the time of year I’m asked quite often for vacation ideas. Most of my suggestions are for outdoor lovers and those who don’t have a fortune to spend on vacation. We’ve traveled to several large U.S. cities, with three major cities in the near future, but I prefer climbing mountains, hiking trails and glorious natural vistas.San Juan Island view

  1. San Juan Island — This is my go-to suggestion from the list of places we’ve visited. Not only would I travel back to San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington state, I would love to own property there. There are several beaches to choose from on the island as well as a lavender farm, San Juan Island National Historical Park and Lime Kiln State Park. The highlight for our trip was watching Orcas just off the shore during a visit to Lime Kiln. We’ve encountered a wide range of wildlife in our adventures and watching those majestic animals tops my list. Our kids were amazed by taking our vehicle to the island by ferry, and the views from the island cannot be beat.mom and four kids in Peekaboo Canyon Utah
  2. Utah — I know this a pretty vague suggestion, but the state is home to several of our most loved destinations. You can’t go wrong with a trip to the Beehive state. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve visited our neighbor. My #1 suggestion is Capitol Reef National Park. It’s tucked away from busy roads and offers fantastic hiking with fewer people than the rest of the national parks in Utah. Canyonlands National Park is another favorite location as well as Natural Bridges National Monument  which has the distinction of being the only place with a hike that nearly brought on a panic attack. Adventurers will be equally impressed by visiting Arches, Zion or Bryce Canyon. All three parks offer unbelievable vistas and unique hiking experiences. They’re also busy and crowded when the weather is nice. Crowds of people are not my thing. If hiking is a favorite pastime, find yourself a slot canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I would move to that area for the opportunity to explore more slot canyons. children sitting on the Ledge at Willis Tower Chicago
  3. Chicago — There’s actually a city on my list. We visited Chicago when our youngest was only nine months old and still recommend it to families. If we could do it with four children under the age of 7, so can you. That trip also featured three cases of pink eye, and I still label it as a favorite vacation. The museums in Chicago are top-notch. Our boys frequently reminisce about standing on the Ledge of Willis Tower, 1,353 feet above the streets of Chicago. I talk about it too but as proof that we can do hard things for the love of adventure and our kids. I did not want to walk on that ledge, and you can tell from the photos. My stomach turns even now when I see photos of our children on the Ledge. The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is my most-adored U.S. museum and home to my favorite exhibit, touring the U-505 submarine. Lake Michigan is the beach without salt and sharks. We’re huge fans of the Great Lakes. I hope to convince my husband to visit Chicago again sans children.inside a cavern at Mammoth Cave National Park
  4. Caves — We’ve explored large cave systems in several regions of the United States. I have my favorite, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in New Mexico , but Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky are equally impressive in their own ways. My two least favorite things are heights and tight places. The desire to give my children a wide range of experiences means I do uncomfortable things like walk on glasses ledges in crazy tall buildings and shimmy through places inside the Earth with tons of rock over my head. They have no idea how much trepidation I’ve overcome on vacations while they seemingly have no fear. Carlsbad Caverns is my top choice of cave destination for two reasons: the large natural entrance into the cave and watching the bats leave the cave at sunset. The ranger led bat program is one of my top-10 cherished experiences at a National Park Service entity. We’ve been to almost 100 NPS locations so making my top-10 is not too shabby a feat.two children hiking in Craters of the Moon
  5. Craters of the Moon National Monument — Located in Idaho, the land here is surreal. The monument is home to acres of ancient lava flow. The black, harsh color and texture of the land is in stark contrast to the bordering non-lava flow littered landscape. It’s a strange and curious land begging visitors to discover more about what factors created the area. There are also lava tube caves here. For someone who claims to be claustrophobic, I’ve been underground quite a bit. Arizona has Sunset Crater Monument that is a smaller version of Craters of the Moon. If you’re visiting iconic Grand Canyon, stop by Sunset Crater.

Our children have seven days remaining in this school year. I’ve completely checked out (sorry teachers). I want to pack our suitcases and hit the road for new adventures. Where will summer travels take you?


 
Take a Trip: Badlands National Park
By     |    Apr 3, 2017
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Take a Trip: Badlands National Park

We visited Badlands National Park for the fourth time this weekend. After several friends mentioned not knowing about the park, which is four hours from our home, I thought it needed some love. Our first three visits to the park were in the summer months when it’s crowded and hot. A spring visit was much more to our liking. There were no crowds. We didn’t have to circle around for a parking spot at the visitor center or any trailhead.... [Read More]

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Different Side of Las Vegas: Valley of Fire State Park
By     |    Feb 12, 2017
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Different Side of Las Vegas: Valley of Fire State Park

Quite a few people in our circle of friends will be spending Spring Break in Las Vegas. I’ve replied to a few inquiries about family-friendly ideas in Vegas on the cheap and outdoor activities that don’t include sitting poolside. We’ve been through Las Vegas numerous times one our way to and from other adventures like Disneyland, Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park. My go-to suggestion for people staying in Vegas who want an outdoor adventure is Valley... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Great Lakes Love
By     |    Dec 29, 2016
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Take a Trip: Great Lakes Love

For someone who has spent almost 40 years living near mountains, I sure do love the beach. I love the sound of the waves crashing. I love the feel of sand in my toes. I love the pure joy my kids have in the water. However, I don’t love what the salt does to skin or hair. I don’t love the smell of the saltwater-soaked towels or swimsuits. This summer I learned the perfect substitute for the ocean is the... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
By     |    Nov 10, 2016
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Take a Trip: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

All outdoor enthusiasts or lovers of beautiful landscapes should place Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan on a must-see list of places to visit. The foliage-covered sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks rise above the aquamarine water of Lake Superior lending itself to picturesque views around every bend. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape. While the view was truly mesmerizing, our nemesis on the trip, stable flies, were in full-force. Stable flies are quite possibly the worst insect we’ve encountered... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Dinosaur National Monument
By     |    Jun 13, 2016
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Take a Trip: Dinosaur National Monument

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. I have a box of plastic dinosaur figures in various sizes in our basement. Each of the boys went through a dinosaur-loving phase during their toddler years. While they no longer play with the dinosaur figures, they remain intrigued by fossils. The love of fossils comes from... [Read More]

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Our Traditional Summer List
By     |    May 26, 2016
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Our Traditional Summer List

I have to stop looking at my social media feeds for the next two weeks. I have several friends, in and out of state, who already are on summer break from school, and I am jealous. The end is in sight for me but not close enough. We have eight school days remaining this school year. The kids are excited for the field trips and picnics and less-rigorous final days of school, but I’m over it. I want to wake-up... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Petrified Forest National Park
By     |    May 16, 2016
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Take a Trip: Petrified Forest National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. Petrified Forest National Park is located near Holbrook, Arizona and rivals Wyoming for ridiculous wind. The wind wasn’t mentioned in any of my spring break planning materials. Trust me when I say there should be some sort of asterisk footnote in travel guides warning people that wind... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly
By     |    May 5, 2016
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Take a Trip: Canyon de Chelly

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. If there’s a theme to our vacations, besides national parks, it’s canyons. There’s not a canyon rim hike we haven’t enjoyed, from the Grand Canyon to Canyonlands to Yellowstone. We love the views across a canyon and peering into the depths below. We’ve watched videos and viewed... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments
By     |    Apr 27, 2016
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Take a Trip: Flagstaff Area National Monuments

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. When anyone inquired where we were headed for spring break this year, I answered northern Arizona, which translated as Grand Canyon to everyone who asked. While Grand Canyon was on our list of stops over break, it was just one of several. The Flagstaff area is home... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park
By     |    Apr 18, 2016
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Take a Trip: Grand Canyon National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. We spent years talking about visiting Grand Canyon National Park. We couldn’t ever peg down a good time of year to visit. There were other national parks ranked higher on our wish list. Excuses piled for why we never chose the iconic American spot. This year was the... [Read More]

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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park
By     |    Mar 14, 2016
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Take a Trip: Rocky Mountain National Park

This year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. There are over 400 entities run by the NPS. I’ll share tips from different National Park Service sites we’ve visited throughout 2016. My husband and I spent 44 hours this weekend without children enjoying the tail-end of winter in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. The start of 2016 has been rough, and we needed to regroup. Snowshoeing in the park was the most peaceful I’ve felt in months.... [Read More]

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