Ice Skating in Yosemite National Park. Epic Family Winter Activities

My ankles are already wobbling in anticipation of hitting the ice rink tucked into the Curry Village area of Yosemite National Park. Mittens, hat, warm puffy jacket on, I head to the rental counter to grab my rockin’ rental skates. I’m feeling like a giddy, little school-girl with memories of teetering around as a kid on frozen ponds in Vermont.

I lace up my skates by the rink’s roaring fire-pit and I’m wiggly to get out underneath the gorgeous full moon that’s been ordered to light our festive skating party tonight.

My first few turns are straight out of a slapstick video – careen to the left, tip-toe-slide and skid to the right, ohhhhhhh nooooooooo. I run into the innocent, wobbly-skater in front of me.

But then, the flow happens. Childhood muscle memory takes hold, like riding a bike, and I’m able to sort of begin a more coordinated gliddddde around the rink. Without taking out any of the other friends I’ve come with for a change.

All of us outdoorsy types come to Yosemite for countless winter activities, and what a treat that Yosemite has this glorious, little rink for families and folks of any age. All you need are some feet and a little bit of fearlessness and you too can be gliding around on ice skates in the shadow of the world famous Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Brave friend Theresa rockin' the ice skates with me.

After many, many spins around the rink to the point of almost dizziness while we rock to the awesome tunes coming from the rink’s speakers, I’m now following my friends off the ice and we gather around the huge fire-pit that’s crackling away. Next up, the perfect apr├Ęs ice skating treat – S’mores!

Sticky marshmallow and graham cracker concoctions with chocolate oozing everywhere are the perfect finale to a trip down ice-skating memory lane. The shop has them right there, ready to buy with all the fixings, and we’re all now a little goofy from the sugar rush.

Back onto the rink to burn it off like a group of sugar-bombed second graders..... Could there be anything sweeter? I think not.

What a treat. Take a second and take a walk down memory lane and create some magic for your own family.

Get out and skate. In Yosemite National Park. Yes! 

–Outdoorsy Mama

More Info:
Ice Rink Dates: Mid-November through Mid-March. Weather dependent. Be sure to check on conditions.
Hours: Rink is open for 2.5 hour skating sessions intermittently throughout day.
Cost: $10 kids; $11 adults *2015-16 season
Skate Rentals: $4.50
Helmets? Available for free upon request.
Contact: Curry Village Ice Skating Rink or 209-872-8319

Where to stay?
Try the mid-range Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. More low key and reasonably priced with the unbelievable location - just steps from the world famous Yosemite Falls inside Yosemite National Park. 

Disclaimer: Yosemite DN hosted a media event however all opinions are absolutely my own.



What did the tree learn from the earth 
to be able to talk to the sky. 
- Pablo Neruda 


15 Things Your Outdoorsy Mama REALLY Wants for the Holidays - Gear Gift Guide

Look at the Happy Outdoorsy Mama in her hot, new ski jacket at Squaw in Tahoe, California!

Hey guys. It's that time of year again when you find yourself scratching your beard on HOW to blow the hiking socks off of your Outdoorsy Mama for holiday gifting. Luckily, I've found 15 things she really, really wants...

Rock-Star Stocking Stuffers:

Big Gifts You Can Wrap & She’ll Love to Tear Open:
You know your gal has worn the same jacket through the tornado of two or three kids now... It’s time to update her hot-cocoa and kid-stained ski jacket with a new, hi-tec, female-flattering, crushing-it look. So many brands to choose from from breathable shells to insulated parkas. Check out the latest from Marker, North Face and Patagonia.

Seeing as most of us gals are wrapped in some sort of blanket from say October to April, why not surprise your gal with a technical “outdoor” blankie? Rumpl makes one that can be used at the campsite then brought home, thrown in the washing machine, and stored in a sack the size of a baseball. Durable and the key word is WARM. Check it out!

Throw your kids’ adorable faces in outdoorsy places onto the custom travel mugs that your outdoorsy gal drinks from each adventurous morning. Make an impact with a set of 4 mugs using different themes. One mug from each season. One mug from each epic family outing. Etc. Your kids can definitely help create this gift. Customize easily online at Shutterfly.

Anything with the word “cozy” attached to it is sure to be a winner for your outdoorsy mom. Unbelievably soft, alpaca wool socks by Ausangate are a treat or splurge on luxurious sheepskin boots by Ugg. She’ll slip her feet in each morning or after an outdoor adventure and have you to thank for her happy feet bliss. 

Pick your favorite outdoor store and give her the gift that we all know she really wants – a gift card extravaganza. This is NOT the easy way out. This will make her smile more than the “glamorous” bottle of Jessica Simpson perfume the kids picked out for her at CVS last year in a last minute panic. A no brainer, a big winner and easy for you. Envelope + schmoopy card + big, holiday bow = Voila! – best gift ever.

Blow Her Mind with Your Thoughtful Gifting Awesomeness:
Tahoe weekend. Vail weekend. Jackson Hole weekend. Your outdoorsy mama really, REALLY wants to spend some time with like-minded friends doing what she loves most, bonding in the outdoors. Give her a free pass for four nights away including a “no texting about random kid-things” rule and a promise to get the laundry done while she’s gone…. That’s nirvana for an outdoorsy mama.  

There are so many quality groups now running Volunteer Vacations – which are a combination of a trip to outdoorsy places AND giving back to the world. For an outdoorsy mom and family, this is a new twist on the usual family vacation and great for when the kids get a little older. You’ll work some of the time on a vital project that the community you are visiting desperately needs, like schools, latrines or housing. And then, there is downtime to explore the gorgeous area you’ve traveled to. A win-win to teach your kids stewardship globally, giving back to those less fortunate, and even gratitude for what they are lucky enough to have in their own daily lives.

13 & 14 - Peace. Love. 

15 - Harmony. In the both your household and world-wide.

So be that rock-star guy who gives the outdoorsy mama in your life what she REALLY wants. Happy ho ho ho!


Family Friendly Hiking Near San Francisco. Tennessee Valley Beach, Golden Gate National Park, California. #CaliforniaDreaming

Tennessee Valley Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California.

The highlight of Tennessee Valley is a mostly flat trail that follows the floor of a fertile valley in the Marin Headlands and ends at a small beach. It is ideal for families with smaller children looking for a safe, starter hike that is a 1.7 mile one way hike, stroll or bike to a stunning little cove with powerful wave action. 

For those looking for more vertical, offshoots from this trail lead up and into the Headlands connecting to miles and miles of terrain that take you to a multitude of locations within the Golden Gate National Park (GGNRA) and nearby Mt. Tamalpais State Park.

Tennessee Valley Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Park your car in the fairly large parking lot, get there early on weekends, and head West towards the beach. Of all places in the GGNRA, this is where you’ll be lucky enough to see lots of animals. Look for rabbits, hawks, deer, owls, lizards, wild turkeys, coyotes and bobcats. These are “regulars” and you’re almost guaranteed to see one or more of these creatures messing around in this valley’s gorgeous natural habitat.

Each season in Tennessee Valley brings a new fascinating ecological treat that is easy to witness as you hike along. Springtime has bunnies everywhere and wildflowers bursting from the lush, green valley and hillsides. In the Fall, wild turkeys flaunt their giant, bombastic plumage in the brown grasses and signs are literally posted: beware of aggressive turkeys.

There is also a little “starter” backpacking spot, just a short jaunt from the parking lot, with no running water or bathrooms, yes Porta Potties, picnic tables and bear boxes. Please check for up to date amenities.

Hike into Tennessee Valley, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The Coast Miwok Native Americans called this valley home for a time. I would have too. And the valley was ultimately given it’s name after the steamship "S.S.Tennessee", carrying 500 passengers and 14 chests of gold, took a wrong turn and wrecked directly into the beach on a foggy, Bay Area day. Rumor has it the engine is still intact and can be seen on ultra-low tide days…

A favorite spot of mine for its teaming-with-life habitat and surprising lagoon just before the cove, come find your hike. Find your park.

--Outdoorsy Mama

Where to Explore: Tennessee Valley Beach, Golden Gate National Park, California.
Location: Just north of San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley, Ca.
Kid Friendly? Yes! Bring the gang.
Dog Friendly? No. Dogs not invited & rangers will ticket.
Swimming? No. Not recommended. Powerful waves.
Beach? Yes. Excellent picnic & play beach for families.
Exposure: Full sun.
Camping information: Marin Headlands Visitor Center 415-331-1540

Where to Eat: Shoreline Coffee Shop. Located in Tennessee Valley business area before the drive to the trailhead. Delicious upper-scale diner food, organic, with surprise Mexican specials. Open breakfast & lunch. http://www.yelp.com/biz/shoreline-coffee-shop-mill-valley


4 Mile Hike to Finding Treasure in Pirates Cove in the Golden Gate. Northern California. #findYourPark

Heading to Pirates Cove in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Every time I step on a trail, I find treasure. The fresh air. The excitement of the upcoming adventure. The dirt.

So I wonder what treasure my hiking buddy Lori and I will find today as we head out on blue-sky, fall day in Northern California to the tiny, almost hidden Pirates Cove tucked into the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

We leave my Beast parked at Muir Beach, grab our dogs, grateful for the liberal dog policy in this part of the park, and head south and up, up onto the bluff overlooking Muir Beach which connects to the California Coastal Trail towards Pirates Cove.

The deep valley into Pirates Cove.
This hike is a "wow" moment hike and you'll get your fix of giant skies, California coastline and wild Pacific Ocean action. The hike’s elevation highs and lows are a buns workout. And having the space to enjoy spectacular ocean views opens the chapter of history to wonder about California's pirates and shipwrecks and the name of this cove while we follow the excited footsteps of our dogs along the trail.

There is a tale of a Spanish galleon named San Augstin. Its belly was loaded with precious silver from Latin America and it met its fate in the late 1500s after a collision with the treacherous rocks at Point Reyes seashore just west of where our feet stomp today. There are stories of the great seaman Sir Francis Drake raiding loaded Spanish treasure ships just prior to that. And can you just hear the Spaniards groaning across the waves: Oh no. Him again...

Could any of the silver bits have made their way to this Pirates Cove? Did Sir Francis and his piratey-explorery brothers come hide in this small sanctuary and call it their home? Did a man with a scraggly beard and a parrot bury a chest full of riches in this very place and leave a shredded Map with an “X” for some child – yours! mine! – to find in a bottle bobbing on the coastal waves someday?

When Lori and I make the scramble deep down into the valley of the cove, we don’t find silver. However we do find a kindred hiker spirit enjoying the spray of the ocean. We also find loads of ocean flotsam – boards and logs and trees and sticks and mangled ocean stuff everywhere: treasure for all makers and tree-house builders and dreamers.

And we find quiet.     

Pirates Cove, Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
We take a moment. And sit down on a giant, splintery log swept in by some giant wave. And listen. This is our treasure today. And maybe, just maybe I see a sparkly silver glint on the tail of a wave in Pirates Cove. 

Enjoy your hike. Find your treasure.

For more hikes, travel, and conversation, find me on twitter, facebook and instagram.

-Outdoorsy Mama

Trip Report:
Location: Pirates Cover. Access via California Coastal Trail via Muir Beach (or Tennessee Valley from the other direction) in Marin County, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, north of San Francisco.
Length: Around 4 miles. There are different paths to follow to get to the Coastal Trail so length varies.
Level of Difficulty: Big elevation gains and drops. Moderate to Strenuous.
Exposure: All sun
Kid friendly? If your kids are in great shape and like to scramble and stay on the trail, this is a relatively safe hike. However off trail, there are extreme cliffs. Know your kids. Hike smart.
Dog friendly? For this one section of the hike in the GGNRA, dogs are welcome on leash. (Note that you can not bring them in from the Tenn Valley access point.)
Trail Tip: The final section of the trail down and into Pirates Cove from Coastal Trail is steep with loose dirt and poor footing due to erosion.

Where to Eat: Just a few steps from Muir Beach where you’ll stash your car is the Pelican Inn. It features Ye Olden English pub food and also organic, greenery extraordinaire from the bountiful farms in the surrounding counties. Yum. And every single on-tap, brewery, pint of goodness you’ll ever want. pelicaninn.com 


Hiking Yosemite’s Panorama Trail - Behind Half Dome with Generation Z

Overlooking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California.
I look to my left. Half Dome rises out of the grey Sierra Wilderness and Maddie, my epic Generation Z hiking partner for the day who also happens to be my kid, scrambles up onto a mammoth rock to enjoy the view. We’re just feet from the world famous Glacier Point, a towering cliff hovering over Yosemite Valley where 3,000 feet down below, a lazy-in-August but deeply powerful Merced River carves it’s way through the landmarks.

We’ve decided to tackle the 8-plus mile sweeping Panorama Trail, which, according to the author of YosetmiteHikes is one of those hikes where “…One day you’ll look back on your life and split it into ‘before Panorama Trail’ and ‘after Panorama Trail’…” Our drop off at Glacier Point is the start of our Yosemite journey today and will take us down into the Nevada, Illilouette and Vernal waterfall depths and onto the footprints of early pioneers and a man named John Muir and his Trail.

Panorama of Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Fall as we hike down towards Illiouette Fall, Yosemite.

Stop. Turn up your volume. Natural acoustics courtesy of Mother Nature, we hear the roar of all three falls from 7,000 feet up.

The gentle descent from the ridge leads us down towards the gorge of Illiouette Falls and Maddie and I connect without a single ubiquitous iScreen her generation was brought up mastering. We chat about wildlife, rocks, hair products, back-to-school outfits, and the future of water on the planet. 

As a “Generation Z-er”, the use of technology for her is a tool or appendage that she was born with. The use of an iScreen for her is just about as comfortable as the use of an arm or a leg. However, also as a “Gen-Zer”, valuing the importance of caring for the stunning wilderness we are treking through is a deep part of how her generation is also defined. According to a recent article in the New York Times, she and her generation are mindful of the imprints their footsteps will make on the planet. Although they are seeped in technology, they aren't driven by it and they are “...conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future." And that, honestly, makes me happy and relieved and eager to continue to share my passion for the outdoors and nature with her. There is hope!

Pools of water above Illiouette Fall in Yosemite National Park on the Panorama Trail.
At Illiouette Fall, the low California water table leaves us gorgeous, hot rocks above the falls to lay on for a snack break. Pools to dip in our feet are irresistible and we make plans to come back here someday soon with a huge picnic and wouldn’t the other kids love this.

We begin the climb out of the valley towards the back of Half Dome and the base of Nevada Fall via a seemingly eternal series of switchbacks on a hot day. Trail magic happens when you connect over switchbacks, and passing back and forth leftover Hershey bars from s’more fixings as we trek along, up-up, makes our bonding via chocolate and hard, switchback-breathing more true.

Back side of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park.
There now before us is the glowing monolith of the backside of Half Dome. We’re so close now I can almost feel the weathered cracks on it’s exposed dome and I find myself on a high that has nothing to do with the chocolate. This is why we preserve wilderness. This is the gift I want to leave my Maddie and her generation of Zs. And this is why I’m so thrilled to know that these kids feel the exact same way. They just have more brilliant tools to manage it.

Celebratory stop at Nevada Falls, Yosemite. 

Coming back down, both in my head and on the trail, we bump into the renown Mist Trail and lead ourselves over to Nevada Fall. In the shadow of the massive Liberty Cap, the falls are a wild combination of raw hydro-power and interesting people watching. Maddie is awed by the group of likely-Europeans sunning themselves in tighty-whitey bathing-suit type gear on the rocks above the falls.

After having hiked mostly alone for most of the morning, it’s impossible not to notice we’ve now hit one of the most popular hikes in the park. The crowded trails are worth it as the views continue to overwhelm the “awe” senses for Maddie and me as we begin the 2,000 foot descent and end of the Panorama Trail via the John Muir Trail.

Half Dome, Liberty Cap and Nevada Fall as we descend on the John Muir Trail, Yosemite.
No pain no gain. Screaming feet, toes crushed to the front of our boots in the last mile make us laugh with tears in our eyes and break out into a jog and I’m having a blast going through this with a young gal who finds me mostly embarrassing at home these days. I may be embarrassing, but I am deeply honored to have my 10 year old respect the restraint, humility and incredible benefits that preserving this wilderness can bring to an individual and to the crowds around us.

That sort of speech may make her roll her eyes. “Embarrassing Mommmmmm.” But inside, I know she’s feeling the essence of that truth. Embarrassing or not.

90 degree heat we are HOT & covered in dirt at the end of the hike. Merced River. Yosemite Valley.
Our final steps to the bottom of the valley towards Happy Isles and the last grunt to our awaiting pick-up at Curry Village are a mix of tiredness, dirt, and giddiness. Maddie is a true adventure partner. She kicks it on the trail and she’s part of a generation who will actively engage in taking care of the land we were blessed to pass through today. 

As I look at the Merced River’s winding path below the grandeur of the granite walls we’ve just hiked down, I see a bright, panorama of our future.

For more conversation and photos find me on Instagram, facebook, and twitter.

-Outdoorsy Mama  

Trip Report:
Location: Panorama Trail. Access via Glacier Point (descending) or Happy Isles (ascending). Yosemite National Park.
Length: between 8-9 miles
Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevations: @ 3,200 feet
Exposure: Mostly sun.
Kid Friendly? For experienced kid-hikers. Exposures around waterfalls are extreme and deadly. Know your kids. 
What to Wear/Bring: Layers. Sun protection. Water & filter. 
Tip: Low to no cell service. Be prepared.

Where to Eat: After the hike head straight to the closest source of food at the base of the trail in Yosemite Valley - Curry Village's Pizza Deck. Outdoor seating with a festive outdoor crowd & all the right food to cure the salty, sweet, crunchy cravings we've been having all day. Pizza Deck in Curry Village 

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