Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why We Flash Nature and More to Help Share the Importance of the Outdoors

Why we flash nature, perspective on the cover of National Geographic magazine.

The love for the outdoors and exploration and adventure comes from a deep place my family. It’s sort of like part of our family’s DNA, our blood, our history, our family lore, and when we’re lucky now, it’s part of our everyday lives.

The more I slow down to take the time to ask my wise uncles and aunties about my family history, the more I hear about a dashing and daring Great Uncle who climbed this and pioneered that and then there's that Great Auntie who drove ambulances and saved lives during a world war when it just wasn’t acceptable for women to do so.

Have you taken a moment to poke around in your own family history?

I do wonder what legacy I’ll leave someday in the exploration, adventure, outdoor department. I’ve been enjoying, conquering, and galavanting about on mountains and lakes and summits and ski trails my whole life. However, the pull towards advocacy beyond sharing adventures and small moments of giving-back is getting even stronger. Especially after reading headlines from articles such as National Geographic’s latest magazine hitting stands October 2016 about “the selfie generation” getting back outside. 

Although social media is exposing the younger generation to the epic gorgeousness of remote and far-flung parks and wilderness, there’s a concern and statistics show that this younger, more diverse population is just not getting outside in the same numbers as previous generations.

So while we worry that apps such as Instagram are creating a crush of over-used trails and campsites in certain popular parks, the truth is that we need to continue to spread the word about the power of the outdoors and and share other more diverse, special, outdoor places with other more diverse communities. This while also continuing to work on implementing careful management of the “over-loved” places like the headline trails in Yosemite, Zion and Yellowstone.

I’m deeply connected to a family who cares about the outdoors and I now have a passionate group of friends, and I suppose I can happily call them “outdoor colleagues”, I myself have made over social media over the last few years. And it is exciting to see the power we all have to share that passion on grassroots level within our own groups of friends and communities, but also as an effective, larger tribe when we put our heads together with the massive reach that social media can give us. We can influence change.

And finally, what would my grandparents, who ran an overnight, all-boys, summer camp in New England based around nature and the outdoors have thought of the photo of five women standing shirtless on the edge of a gorgeous alpine lake in Glacier National Park donning the cover of the iconic National Geographic magazine? 

Well, I bet they’d understand that to capture the energy and power that this younger generation brings to the table these days and to grab that gen’s interest in helping foster a love and a desire to protect these places, we do what we need to do. Flashing approved.

Follow me on twitter for live conversation @OutdoorsyMama

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Spending Time in The Outdoors One of the Secrets to the Happiest Places on Earth #outfam

What does one of the happiest places on Earth know that we don't? Getting outside in nature is vital. 

Denmark is known for being one of the happiest countries on our beautiful Earth. What strikes me as I watch a new film just launching now called NaturePlay isn’t what the educators from Denmark are saying. I’ve heard before that outdoor time and time playing in nature is good for us and especially for kids as they develop into healthy creatures. 

What stands out this time in this movie is the breadth of Denmark’s commitment to embracing, as a culture, this way of life and specifically developing adventure parks in cities and educational programs nationwide with this inclusion of nature into their children’s everyday lives. The people in Denmark know from a personal and public health level that for the wellbeing of not just that child, but of their society as a whole, it’s important to focus resources on the seemingly simple, but often overlooked, concept of Nature Play.

And this is the BOOM of this film.

At the end of the film, there is a cameo from Matt Damon, the Hollywood movie star, who speaks at a rally for Save Our Schools about too much testing and not enough Nature Play in the schools in America. His points are poignant: none of the qualities that got him to where he is today can be “tested” and every kid is an individual puzzle, not a robot to be fit into a standardized test.

If you are curious to learn more about “NaturePlay - Take Childhood Back” or would like to set up a screening of the film in your community or school, find more information here.

Healthy society. Healthy planet. Healthy children. Let’s play in nature.

Disclaimer: The NaturePlay film was sent to me without cost for screening. All opinions are always and forever shall be my own.

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? 


For more, live conversation follow me on Twitter

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:

Hike Details:
Battery Townsley History:

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!