Tuesday, August 23, 2016

6 Ways to Celebrate 100 Years of National Parks #findYourPark

Happy Birthday National Park Service from Yosemite National Park

If you've ever stood at the edge of cliff or a summit of a mountain and spread your arms out wide, as if you were about to take off soaring because your heart has been swept away by the breathtaking natural phenomenon before you, then you've probably visited one of our 412 National Parks.

So, let's put on our recyclable, sparkly party hats and wish a giant "Happy 100th Birthday!" to one of the most brilliant ideas ever: protecting America's natural wonders so future generations can reap the benefits of experiencing unparalleled natural beauty and learning deep, American history.

National parks are good for people. And giving both adults and kids access to these parks so they can learn to love nature and the outdoors is vital for a healthy earth and society.

Here are a few ways to celebrate:

Please share any more ways to celebrate, this is the kind of news we want to go viral!

Find me on twitter @OutdoorsyMama for live chatter about all things outdoors.

-Annie @OutdoorsyMama

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why Overnight Summer Camp Will Rock Your Kid's World #getOutside

Closing campfire at my daughter's overnight summer camp in Vermont. 

I was seven years old when my parents threw me into my first overnight summer camp. It was for a month, and possibly bordered on someone waking-up and calling the authorities for child abandonment. My older sister was also at the camp, although as a 12 year old, she outright denied any genetic connection to me like a developmentally appropriate pre-teen would. 

People gasp when they hear how young I was, and as a mom of three now, I shake my head and wonder: what were my parents thinking??

However, as I prepare my youngest for her one week away at camp, I find myself regaling her with tens and hundreds of fascinating details, stories, failures and triumphs from that one Vermont summer at Teela-Wooket. (That’s camp speak for: young girls who ride horses, shoot rifles and sing Mary Poppins songs whilst swaying.)

In fact, in an eye opening revelation, I realize that I remember that one summer at camp more vividly than any other summers up until I was thirteen years old and headed abroad for the first time. Why?

1 - Independence
2 - Survival
3 - Newness
4 - Shooting Range
5 - Archery
6 - Cold Morning Bathrooms
7 - Waking up every morning to trumpet reveille
8 - Raising the Flag
9 - My first fall from a horse
10 - Literally, getting back up on the horse
11 - Camp Uniforms
12 - Bug Juice
13 - Stacks and stacks of tiny cereal boxes
14 - Homesickness
15 - Award for shooting range
16 - Award for archery
17 - Red Rover Red Rover 
18 - Freezing in bunks
19 - Rest time
20 - Seeing Mom and Dad for the first time…
21 - Winning: Youngest Camper Award

These days, overnight summer camp is a no-screen, no brainer. No matter what, your kiddo will learn something about themselves and their bigger place in the world, even if it’s just simply: Why do they call it Bug Juice, Mom? 


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Monday, July 4, 2016

Hiking Hill 88 in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area: July 4th & Battery Townsley Secret Military Fort #findyourpark

Heading up to Hill 88 in the GGNRA in the Spring
I grab my keys and head out today ‘cause my legs need some fresh air and my mind needs a regroup. Driving in The Beast, covered in dust and pollen and tree goop, sorry shiny California cars, I head over to Rodeo Beach in the Golden Gate National Rec Area, one of our Nation’s largest National Parks.

The fog is here today for our strange San Francisco, Bay Area, summer weather, so visibility is low and a soft, grey blanket covers the usually vibrant Marin Headlands coastline. But today I’m not hiking for views, I’m hiking for the experience of getting outside, filling my lungs, and finding the flow feel that time in nature always brings back to me.

Destination? To the top of Hill 88, a decaying old army site in Fort Cronkhite on the highest “hill” overlooking the entire bay. It’s a quick @4-6 miles - depending on your loop - with some good vertical, 1,000ft, to get the heart pumping.

I wind up the initial, old paved roads on the trail, passing by Battery Townsley and then break off & head up higher as I skip from abandoned bunker to bunker on the ridge line, Wolf Ridge, climbing up up up.

View down towards Rodeo Beach and the GGNRA from Battery Townsley. There are no views from Hill 88 today.
It’s so foggy and windy I’m putting on layers, despite sweating, as the wind blows directly into my ear drum and down into my insides. Hoodie goes up and I’m just about to the top where I can see… nothing! But I take a celebratory spin around the shaved-off hill with heli-pad and old buildings covered in graffiti. Note the graffiti, though a true shame, is almost a defining, artistic characteristic of all of these old WW2 bunkers along the California coastline.

Summited and breathing freely and deeply, it's time to head back down, my feet breaking into a trail-run to keep the blood moving and so I don't get chilled.

Battery Townsley tucked into the hillside on the left, "camouflaged" from the WW2 enemy.
Back down at Battery Townsley, a fort built into the hillside to defend us from WW2 enemies, and about 2/3 of the way down from Hill 88 summit, it’s my incredible luck to stumble upon a rare opening of the secret underground military fort. It’s in stages of restoration thanks to a generous benefactor and is now open once a month to curious hikers like me.

Photos are attached of our tour through the fort, showing the massive scale of the armor-piercing, 25 pound "bullets" fired from massive guns which would reach 25 miles out to sea from 1940-1948 when the fort was active.

This is not my usual outdoor post, stumbling upon WW2, secret forts and giant bullets, but a great example of the stories and experiences we can bump into when just getting out for a stretch of the hiking legs and a breath of fresh air. How perfect that I ran into this on the weekend we celebrate July 4th, our Independence.

Grateful for our troops. Grateful for the volunteers at the National Park Service who make a surprise adventure like this possible. Grateful for our history. Grateful for our families who bring it all home.

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

-Annie @OutdoorsyMama on Twitter

Trip Report:
Location: Ft Cronkhite in the Golden Gate National Rec area, just west of the Golden Gate Bridge, next to Baker Beach.
Length: @4-6 miles RT. There are various loops and side trails to add in, straight up and down @ 4miles.
Summit Reward: Spectacular 360 view of entire Bay Area including Golden Gate Bridge, GGNRA, Marin Headlands, Oakland. On a clear.
Level of Difficulty: Moderate. It's generally a "straight up the hill" hike. 
Exposure: Full sun.
Kids? Yes! Safe trail in general. 
Dogs? Undetermined. Yes on leash for part but reports of "not allowed on Hill 88" so confusing. Stay tuned. 
Where to eat? Bring your own food. No restaurant or snack shack open to public. Can go pick up a few light snacks at Marine Mammal Center just up the hill.

Hill 88 Hike Map. Photo Credit: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Hike Details: http://www.sfgate.com/outdoors/sundaydrive/article/Hiking-to-Marin-County-s-Hill-88-5693407.php
Battery Townsley History: https://www.nps.gov/goga/learn/historyculture/battery-townsley.htm

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Yosemite Waterfalls – 4 Waterfalls to Put on Your Bucket List in Yosemite National Park

View of Nevada Fall and Liberty Cap from John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park
We threw the kids into the car and road-tripped it up to Yosemite last weekend to get a look at the giant water flowing this year after an incredibly wet winter. Wow wow wow. After being so parched with the drought after so many years, it was pure joy getting to hike in the California Sierras with huge water everywhere. 

This is what we found.

1 - Vernal Fall

The trail leads up from Happy Isles and is our first chance to get soaked by the mist from the massive waterfall by simply hiking along the trail – which becomes a giant staircase – as it winds its way next to the roar of Vernal Falls. A hugely popular destination, the adrenaline of the elements and slick, wet rock keeps us literally on our toes and clinging to the handrail at the top of the falls as we skirt a cliff.  317 feet Vernal Fall Hike Trip Report

2 – Nevada Fall

Almost an oasis at the top, there are calmer pools of water here with misleadingly tranquil pools, and at one point in the old days a hotel was located at to top of Nevada Fall. To get there, The Mist Trail follows the river up, straight up again and through some switchbacks as we find ourselves hiking next to the giant plume of water spray. Water shoots straight out like a thunder cloud as it crashes off the rocks alongside the trail. Powerful. 594 feet Nevada Fall via Panorama Trail Trip Report

3 - Bridalveil Fall

We’re Yosemite regulars these days, having raised our kids with Yo as our local national park. So Bridalveil Falls is the star of the tunnel view photo always, and this year is as spectacular as ever. Located very close to parking off the main drag, this is easy access for all, no massive hike required. 620 feet

4 – Yosemite Falls

With the distinguished title, Highest Waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls has easy viewing from the bottom close to civilization where, amongst the giant trees, we can crane our necks and look up up up. Or, we can head out on the trail that skirts the valley for a while and then switch-backs-and-forths from each section of the three falls which make up the entire 2,400+ feet. Today we see the falls from our truck's window. No time this quick trip but we do get to be wowed by the massive volume dropping from the top of the valley to the bottom. Just wow. 2,425 feet Hiking to the Summit of North America's Highest Waterfall

There are more. So many more. But here’s a starter kit, a highlight reel.

As always, be aware of hiking conditions and stay on the trail. The pools at the top are so inviting, but they’re also incredibly strong and are not to be messed with, especially during high-runoff.

See you on the trails! Find me on twitter for daily chatter @ all things outdoors. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer Hiking in San Francisco, California Through the Fog #adventureTravel

San Francisco summer fog creates a mystical hiking experience through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Be prepared, adventurous hiking friends, for a face-full of gorgeous, misty, lung-quenching fog when hiking around the Bay Area June through August. A marine layer that sits over the Pacific Ocean in the summer meets up with the cool waters along the coast and creates a low-lying fog that comes in and out of the San Francisco area all summer long.

So on that note, be prepared. Pack your layers and don’t be surprised if you need a full fleece for the day when out on the trails around the Golden Gate.

The good news?

1 -- The fog is beautiful and adds a mystical quality to the day.
2 -- It’s not freezing – rather, it’s just cool in the 50s and 60s and feels refreshing and actually is quite a perfect “hiking temperature”.
3 -- It often burns off by 1-2 o’clock in the afternoon.
4 -- You can literally hike above the fog on our local Mt Tamalpais and be in hot, sunny conditions and look down on the fog creeping throughout the bay.

Views from above the fog on the flanks of the Bay Area's Mt Tamalpais.

The fun news?

The fog has a name and a Twitter handle. He’s a San Francisco local who we all interact with, especially during the summer months. Meet Carl the Fog, at times our nemesis when we’re hoping for a hot, sunny day and for whom we’re always grateful to for keeping our vegetation lush & green in the fog belts.

So grab your jacket and see you out on the cool, summer trails!