Monday Distraction

The Smokey Generation is a video collection of wildland firefighting stories. The videos last anywhere from around a minute to over ten. 

This one is from a Missoula smokejumper who was boosted (when a different base needs more jumpers & extra jumpers are sent) to the North Cascades Smokejumper Base (NCSB) on the then Okanogan National Forest (now the Okanogan - Wenatchee NF). This the story of her & her partner's epic hike out after a fire. 

Travel Links Tuesday

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I love reading & finding awesome links about adventure, the outdoors, and travel all over the internets. So here's a few of my favorite lately:

*Over at Never Ending Footsteps, Lauren breaks down her expenses of international travel for 2015. Pretty awesome that it comes in under 20,000$! 

*Kristen at Bearfoot Theory is currently on an epic roadtrip in New Zealand! Check out her latest post, and catch up on the others, for some great beta on traveling around the islands. PS- go check out her snaps too! (@Bearfoottheory) 

 *Southeast Asia is a place I want to check out & this looks like a sweet iternary. Found via Kam over at Campfire Chic

* And lastly, just in case you thought it was cold where you were this weekend! Whiteface Mountain in NY reached -114° over the weekend. 

Monday Distraction

When I worked a job that was more administrative, Mondays were always a bit harder to get going - especially after an epic weekend. So I'm going to start a series in this little space with some fun links to get you through the day we all wish was still the weekend!

Since this is the first one, here's you a longish short (but still less than 30 minutes - you can watch in on your lunch break!):

Want to know more about the expedition? Here's the NatGeo article!

Enjoy! Happy only four more days until your next adventure!

Hi from: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Steele and I were making our way home from Southern California when I learned we had a bit more time to make our drive home. We were leaving the Gila National Forest when I found this out, and I originally wanted to make the drive to White Sands National Monument. However, I quickly realized that with stopping for lunch and the rest of the drive that was left we wouldn't make the cut off time of the backcountry camping permit. So, camping on the sand dunes will stay on the bucket list for now.

With that decision made, I started looking at national parks and forests within a 6-hour drive time. It came down to Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains, and by the title of the post - Guadalupe was the winner! It had a shorter drive time, camping cost less, and it seemed to be the quieter of the two parks (which I was hoping for as I was starting not to feel 100%).

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Yall. This maybe my favorite not talked about national park!

As you can see from the map, there's only a few places that vehicles can go within the park and a lot of the park is Wilderness Area. For me, that's awesome! I love Wilderness Areas and human powered adventures. Know though, if hiking is not your thing -the scenery is beautiful, the campground peaceful, and there are shorter hikes that can occupy your time. This, however, is not Yosemite where you could stay inside all day somewhere (your room or car).

So here's my beta and photos from our less than 24 hours there:

*Camping at Pine Springs: $8 per campsite with 20 tent sites and 20 RV/car camping spots each. The tent sites are a mixture of walk-in, park in front of, and ADA accessible. They are all the same price. We got campsite 20 (and I would say maybe 5 campsites were in use) and it was a park in front of with maybe a 30 foot walk from parking spot to tent pad (yay)! Campsites #1, 5, and 6 looked to be the longest walks from the map at the self registration map. The camping is described as primitive but had a lot of amenities - including flush toilets, dish washing stations, potable water, and the trailhead of four main hikes right across the RV lot. It actually reminded me of the Smith Rock campground, minus showers. Be aware that the campground is just a couple turns off the main highway and you will be able to hear the traffic. Personally, there was not enough noise to bother me and I'm a pretty light sleeper.

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*Visitor Center: Steele LOVED this visitor center - there were taxidermied animals everywhere. There is also free WIFI available at the center, and an interpretive trail right out of the door. The Visitor Center can be reached by foot from the campground if you are staying for a few days and want to visit.

*Hiking: The hiking opportunities here could fill a full stay, especially if you decided to backcountry camp (which I will do next time we visit). Free backcountry permits can be completed at the visitor center, with a general $5 park admission charge (or an annual parks pass). {Tangent: I love our annual pass - for $80 (right now) you purchase a pass that will get you (and your car's passengers) into any federal land (BLM, USFW, USFS, NPS) for one year.}

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Since we only had the remaining morning and early afternoon to hike, I choose Smith Springs. It was a 2.3 mile loop trail that went past two springs (Manzanita & Smith). The limestone walls looming over Smith Springs were beautiful and huge!

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The bench at Smith Springs! Perfectly shaded for a quick break!

The bench at Smith Springs! Perfectly shaded for a quick break!

In fact, there were huge walls everywhere including the park's own El Capitan. As a climber, there were areas that the rock quality looked very much climbable, but this is what I can find on climbing there (from the park's FAQ):

"Is there any technical climbing in the park?Technical climbing is rarely done in the park. It is not considered safe due to the limestone composition of rock. The best place for rock climbing or bouldering is at Hueco Tanks State Park, just east of El Paso, Texas."

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Our stay in Guadalupe Mountains was quick, but awesome! We will definitely be back. 

Have you ever been there? If so, what were your favorite trails or parts of the park?

El Capitan

El Capitan

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find a couple short videos from our experience over on my twitter: @ztasam

Zion

Zion was the second to the last place Steele and I visited on our epic roadtrip last winter/spring (our last was the Grand Canyon).  We camped on BLM land outside of the park, because free!, beautiful, and quite. For once (all of my friends that know my researching ways you can be shocked at this moment), I actually have no clue what the area we stayed in was called. I probably could research & tell you, but check out this blog post (thanks Google) that has all the beta on the BLM lands around Zion! BLM lands, dispersed camping through the National Forests, and free local spots are absolutely how I kept the expense of traveling for over four months on the cheap. I love our public lands and so wish the east had more! (end tangent)

One of the "cons" of public lands is the lack of stewardship of other people. (If you want to know about how to leave no trace while camping, read up on the general  principles and then about enjoying the desert.) That being said, it's a perfect opportunity to talk with Steele about leaving places better than we found them. If you ever get to camp or hike or climb with us, you better believe this guy is on trash patrol. 

One of the "cons" of public lands is the lack of stewardship of other people. (If you want to know about how to leave no trace while camping, read up on the general  principles and then about enjoying the desert.) That being said, it's a perfect opportunity to talk with Steele about leaving places better than we found them. If you ever get to camp or hike or climb with us, you better believe this guy is on trash patrol. 

This book was one of my favorites of 2015! (Read an excerpt on Patagonia's blog) 

This book was one of my favorites of 2015! (Read an excerpt on Patagonia's blog

We spent an entire day just playing around our campsite without leaving once. 

We spent an entire day just playing around our campsite without leaving once. 

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Our climbing partners did their first big wall in the park, while Steele and I explored! And by explored I mean, hiked Angel's Landing! I will say if you're not afraid of heights and in decent shape, this is definitely a must do! I would not have brought Steele if he wasn't in a carrier. Even if you're afraid of heights or exposure, consider hiking the first two paved miles up to Scout Landing. It's a wide area that would be perfect for picnic (which is what Steele and I did before finishing out the last .5 mile to the landing) and has restrooms.  

Probably our most epic selfie! There were also climbing anchors down behind us and the wall below them looked fantastic.

Probably our most epic selfie! There were also climbing anchors down behind us and the wall below them looked fantastic.

A really nice lady took this for us! One of my favorites of our entire trip. 

A really nice lady took this for us! One of my favorites of our entire trip. 

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We spent about an hour at the top of the landing and then made our way back down to play in the river. 

We spent about an hour at the top of the landing and then made our way back down to play in the river. 

We also rode the shuttle approximately 472,827 times while waiting for the guys to top out and make their way down. 

We also rode the shuttle approximately 472,827 times while waiting for the guys to top out and make their way down. 

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Zion is stunning. Angel's Landing was our only longer hike in the three days we were there. Part of that was being available to our climbing partners if anything should arise on their first big wall. They ended up topping out right at sunset of day two of the climb and we got to watch them on the last few pitches from the shuttle stop two photos up. Steele and I took one of the last shuttles out and got the Jeep to pick up the guys (since by time they hiked down the shuttle service would have ended). Before they even got down, the S tribe ended up running shuttle for the nicest climbing couple that had just missed the last shuttle. Once the guys were retrieved, we hustled to the Mexican restaurant in town and got awesome food right before they closed! 

The most important part of our trip: visiting Deep Creek Coffee two of the three days! Steele was the proud owner of a lemon blueberry pastry that he devoured before our Angel's Landing hike. 

The most important part of our trip: visiting Deep Creek Coffee two of the three days! Steele was the proud owner of a lemon blueberry pastry that he devoured before our Angel's Landing hike. 

Next time we go, I've got us a long list of hikes and we will definitely stay longer!

Have you been to Zion -what were your favorite hikes? 

High Falls

I've been feeling a little in need for some adventure and watching Steele run around like a mad man (his normal MO if he's not playing outside), I knew he would love seeing a new place. 

High Falls in the Talladega National Forest is a pretty popular spot in the summer from what I understand, but the now two times I've been it's been pretty perfect. Steele and I were the only people there and took full advantage of that!

 

The hike in is super short (around .3 miles in to the first fall) but does involve a creek crossing. Just be aware of that and slick rock if you're thinking about visiting after rains. I have a feeling that people underestimate how slippery the sandstone is after crossing the creek. (also side note: I was dying in my long sleeve! We quickly delayered at the falls!)

The hike in is super short (around .3 miles in to the first fall) but does involve a creek crossing. Just be aware of that and slick rock if you're thinking about visiting after rains. I have a feeling that people underestimate how slippery the sandstone is after crossing the creek. (also side note: I was dying in my long sleeve! We quickly delayered at the falls!)

The second falls! I ended up carrying Steele around the right shallow side of the pool to go touch the waterfall. No documentation of this endeavor because even though my phone is suppose to be waterproof, I'm going to make an educated guess and say the cracks it suffered in Joshua Tree negate that!

The second falls! I ended up carrying Steele around the right shallow side of the pool to go touch the waterfall. No documentation of this endeavor because even though my phone is suppose to be waterproof, I'm going to make an educated guess and say the cracks it suffered in Joshua Tree negate that!

I love his look in this photo! He kept pointing and saying "Mama! See! A waterfall!"

I love his look in this photo! He kept pointing and saying "Mama! See! A waterfall!"

We spent the next couple of hours scrambling around the base of the falls, chasing anoles, sitting and watching, racing boat leaves, and splashing in the water (because Alabama thinks it's early summer). It was awesome! Next time we visit here, we will definitely come earlier, bring the hammock and a lunch, and stay for the entire day!

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What other areas of Talladega National Forest or the general area should we visit while we are home? 

Weekend to #optoutside

On Black Friday, we followed suit with REI & the thousands of other adventurers and opted outside. 

I had seen there was going to be a Wild South ranger-led hike at Ruffner Mountain. I knew my way around Ruffner but always enjoy learning more information that comes with led hikes. Especially since said ranger is a personal friend! It was awesome hearing her talk about Wild South's projects at Ruffner, along with her teaching about native and non-native plant species. 

His hiking pace for the first few miles!

His hiking pace for the first few miles!

Thanks to Kim for some photos of Steele and I together!

Thanks to Kim for some photos of Steele and I together!

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He hiked over 3 miles and finally gave into taking a ride in the pack. 

He hiked over 3 miles and finally gave into taking a ride in the pack. 

On the way to our Ruffner hike, Steele had asked to go camping that night. I had *just* taken out all of our gear that morning in the attempt to clean and organize it. I figured if he brought it up again, we could just swing by the house after the hike, grab gear, and go. However after our hike, he fell asleep less than a mile down the road and stayed asleep even with me moving him to his bed at home. So, I settled in and figured we would camp another day. 

Steele, however, hadn't given up on the adventure plans! When he woke up, he came running into the living room with the exclamation, "Why aren't we camping?! We camp after we hike!" I debated to just set up the tent in the backyard and call it a night. Then we got to talking about climbing the next day and I realized that he would probably be awake at least four more hours because of his long nap. So, mama rallied and packed while Steele yelled, "Campinnnnggggg! Abenchures!" 

We made it to Sand Rock around 8pm & I got camp set up quickly  (ps- I love my tent, so easy to set up. Now to find a 4 season tent that is just as awesome). We settled, read books, and played with our Luci light

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The next morning was a slow morning of eating pancakes, sitting fireside, playing in the sand, and making a s'more from Hipcamp

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After Steele eating twice as much as I did, we headed to boulder and hike around. It was a short bouldering session since we were both tired from getting back in the hiking gaming the day prior. This kiddo is definitely getting better at figuring out how to put together moves by himself. 

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Once I packed us up to leave & driven down the road that leads up to Sand Rock, Steele had fallen asleep - meaning he would be waking up around 5pm. My feelings about that! (also yes, that is Bigfoot riding a unicorn on my hat)

Our #optoutside weekend was awesome & got us back into the groove of exploring and adventures! Did you get outside on Black Friday?  

Toddler Tips: Car Travel

Traveling in the car with little ones can be overwhelming to think about, but after living on the road for 4 months straight with a two year old - I feel like I'm becoming an expert on how to keep sanity intact for everyone! So I've put together a few tips below:

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Some of our favorite items to use in the car:
*Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pads - the vinyl stickers are also great to use in the bath!
*Fishing tackle box - repurposed into "Steele's Car Kit" thanks to the creativity of one of my besties - perfect for him to open and play with what I put inside by himself.
*Triangle crayons - yay for crayons that don't roll! now if they had the power to not be thrown across the car...
*DVD player & toddler headphones - I've had my Coby travel DVD player for over 5 years, and Steele has been using it for close to a year when we travel. He has put it through A LOT and it has been in extreme temperature changes in the car - and it's still working! The headphones have mixed reviews on Amazon, but I love them (and Steele does too)! I like that they have an extra cable and extra ear foam pieces in case either get lost or damaged, plus the storage bag is made of thick, wipeable material. I bought the headphones in an airport (maybe Atlanta) and they've made it through a lot of traveling with us. 

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We spend a lot of time running energy out before embarking on long chunks of driving. Playgrounds are great for that - plus usually picnic tables for snack time and clean restrooms. Finding nice playgrounds is always one of the first priorities for me, and the easiest way to see photos and reviews is the use Kaboom's Map of Play. It also lets you update map with photos, reviews, and new playgrounds. Also, it looks like there is an iPhone app, but I have a different brand of phone so no knowledge on how well the app works.  If you use the app, feel free to comment on how it performs! 

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Sometimes just taking time to walk through a cute area of a city/town. I get in "go-mode" at times and just. want. to. get. there! But, taking the time to take a stroll after a meal or coffee stop definitely helps with Steele handling long stretches of driving even better. 

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Along with taking a walk-about, finding cool stops along the way is always fun! Two of my favorite websites/apps to use to find unique places and parks: Roadtrippers and Oh, Ranger!. Both are easy to use and have apps for both iPhone and Samsung. You can also sign up for the Roadtrippers newsletter, and it is one of the only newsletters I get in my email I actually read! So many random places I have found through it - like this place to stay outside of Joshua Tree.   

Hope this helps with planning roadtrips with the little(s) in tow! If you normally take kids on the road, what are your favorite tips?

 

Disclosure: The links to products in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase, I receive a tiny bit of compensation with no added cost to you. I only write about products that we love and use, and any purchases you make through the links help keep this blog (and our adventures) going. Thanks for your support!