Have you ever been to a botanic garden? If not, it’s time to find one in your neck of the woods. You may be lucky enough to have one in your city or town, or you may want to visit one the next time you’re on vacation. Trust us, this is a field trip that’s equally entertaining for both adults and kiddos.
Ask most photographers what they truly want to shoot and the answer is almost always landscape and travel photography. If there was a viable way to make a living from nature photography, we would all be doing it. It’s not impossible, but it usually comes with the goal of selling something, a product, a place, an agenda, it’s never just a nature shot. That doesn’t stop us from taking our cameras to the woods though. There are landscape shots and then there are landscape shots. Here are a few tips to elevate your game.
Your first stop in Sydney will inevitably include a trip to the harbor and really it should, it is the most beautiful and active harbor I’ve ever seen. There is so much going on around The Quay that you’ll have no trouble spending an entire day in this area.
Hey there! In July, I hiked the Ozette Loop in Olympic National Park in Washington. Although I completed the loop as an overnight backpacking trip, the Ozette Loop would also make a nice day hike. The nine-ish mile loop starts in a coastal forest environment, forks right and winds its way across boardwalks until it dips slightly to the coast. Walking along the beach is the more challenging section, but only because you’re trudging through sand. Eventually, you reach Sand Point, a gorgeous outcropping with a large rock that you can climb atop of. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset and the ease of the return trip makes it possible to hike back during twilight and even as darkness falls if you’re not keen on camping. Over the course of the loop, the elevation change is less than 500 feet and beside the beach, most of the trail is on a wooden boardwalk. It’s nearly impossible to get lost and while you should always take a map, you shouldn’t need to consult it even once.
I found the Ozette Loop to be equal parts easy and exciting. As I mentioned, there’s not much elevation change and much of the trail takes place on a wooden boardwalk through coastal forests. While hiking on a boardwalk can be a bit boring, it gives your brain a chance to focus on your surroundings instead of your next steps. Walking amongst giant hemlock and cedar trees and seeing beautiful ferns and moss dripping with moisture had me thinking about ancient reptiles, sea creatures, and dinosaurs (turns out the first dino bone discovered in Washington happened just a couple years ago).
After about three miles, you’ll shuffle down a short and steep section (there’s a rope to aid in your decent) that spits you out on the sand. At this point, my hiking partner and I took off our shoes and shirts, found an enormous downed tree and had a quick snack and snooze. Then it was time to march on along the beach. Looking out towards the sea stacks we thought about the expanse of the Pacific. Was the trash on the beach from Japan? Some of it seemed so.
I opted to hike the two beautiful miles along the beach in Chacos. I tried bare feet for a few moments, but the sand was a bit too coarse for comfort. There was also a fair amount of sharp debris, kelp piles, driftwood and rocks covered in barnacles underfoot. Depending on the changing tide, there will be a few impassable headlands. You’ll have to scramble up over a big boulder or two (apparently there are ropes to assist, but we didn’t see or use them) or hike into the woods to navigate around them. These areas are evident and I found them to be easy enough to manage with an overnight pack. I thought that navigating around the series of downed trees was more exhausting, mostly because I’m short and those tree trunks are huuuge.
As you make your way around the headlands, be on the lookout for the Wedding Rocks petroglyphs. I’m sure I would have missed them if my friend hadn’t pointed them out to me. They are so amazing we thought that they might be fake, but a quick google search proved us wrong. I had seen petroglyphs in Mesa Verde, Colorado, but these were radically different not only in style (obviously) but also in size and definition. Thinking back, I wish I would have prepared myself for that moment because I would have stayed and enjoyed them longer instead of thinking I was being duped. I had expected to see small paintings, not large rock carvings. The petroglyphs were carved by the ancestors of the Makah tribe using tools made of rock and bone.
Soon enough you’ll reach Sand Point and a whole host of campsites. We wandered around for a good bit trying to find a site that was semi-secluded, which proved to be tough since we rolled in late on a Friday evening. Although we could see other tents from our site, once the sun went down I truly forgot that anyone else was around. There was also the option to camp on the beach, but we liked the sheltered feel of the forest. If you do camp on the beach, know where the high tide line falls or you’ll wake up soaking wet. The next morning, bask in the sun and eat your breakfast on the beach before hiking the 4ish miles back to the trailhead.
Know before you go :
- As always, Leave No Trace.
- No pets, use of weapons, or wheeled devices on the trail.
- Reservations and permits are required for overnight camping between May 1 and September 30 & must be made no more than 48 hours in advance. (The website said 72, but we were told 48 at the station. It may depend on the month)
- Campfires are prohibited between the headland north of Yellow Banks and the headland at Wedding Rocks including Sand Point.
- Only use driftwood for fires. Don’t gather firewood from the forested areas. Use existing fire rings or build fires on the beach to prevent damage to tree roots.
- All food, garbage, and scented items must be stored in a park-approved bear canister. Bear canisters are available to rent when you pick up your permit.
- Max group size of 12 people.
Water & waste :
- There is a creek at Sand Point and Cape Alava, but beware that Cryptosporidium and Giardia are present in coastal streams and rivers. Bring a purification system or boil your water. Iodine is ineffective against cryptosporidium. I didn’t know that until this trip. I’ve been using iodine all my life. I ended up purchasing these chlorine dioxide tablets, which treat both Giardia and Cryptosporidium.
- Pit toilets are available at Sand Point and Cape Alava. Elsewhere you must bury your waste and paper six or more inches deep and seventy steps from water sources and your campsite. LADIES! Always take your used toilet paper with you after you pee. It’s offensive to see it on the ground. I carry a plastic ziplock that I put all used toilet paper in. It’s that easy.
What to pack for a day trip :
If I’m day hiking, sometimes I like to be extravagant. Wine with dinner while watching a sunset, anyone?
- Apply sunscreen + bug spray before you leave
- Purifying tablets
- Lunch or Dinner
- Rain jacket
- Hammock + straps
What to pack for an overnight trip :
- Sleeping Bag (I went in July and this bag was plenty warm)
- Sleeping Pad
- Fire Starter / Lighter
- Bandana / buff
- Quick Dry Towel
- Underwear x2
- Sports bra
- Socks x2 (Wool/Synthetic)
- Long Sleeve
- Short Sleeve/Tank Top
- Yoga/hiking pants
- Fleece lined leggings
- Rain Jacket
- Hiking Boots
- Toilet Paper
- Hand Sanitizer
- Face oil
- Bug Spray
- Bear Canister
- Nylon rope
- Hammock + straps
- Jet Boil Stove
- Spoon + fork + knife
- Water Bottle/Camel Bak
- Water purification tablets
The food we packed :
We started later in the day after we ate lunch so we packed snacks, dinner, and breakfast for our overnighter. And wine. And weed. Relax, it’s legal in Washington.
- Starbucks Via
- Nutty + fruity trail mix (remember to add some fruit to your morning oatmeal)
- Sesame sticks
- Honey stick (for the oatmeal)
- sugar packet (for the oatmeal)
- 90-second rice packets
- a delicious chana masala packet + a saag paneer packet (this isn’t the brand I bought – I couldn’t find it online)
- Wine in a carton – I’m a big fan.
Happy Monday babies! Last night I finally bought my flight to Mexico. I’m hosting a meditation and movement retreat in Tulum from Oct 19-24th. I’m heading there a few days early and staying through Los Día de Muertos and initially, I had this hesitation about missing Halloween (my favorite holiday!), but how often will I get the chance to celebrate Dia de Muertos in Mexico, ya know? I made the right choice, right?
After I bought the ticket, I had this insatiable urge to know everything there is to know about Tulum. I’m arriving three days early, but I’ll want to get a good headstart on all the eats, shopping, sipping, and such so I can give my guests great recommendations. As a seasoned traveler, I know this notion of knowing where to go ahead of time is ridiculous. There’s no possible way to know exactly where to go, what to eat, and what to do, but I gave it the old college try and so here I sit, three hours later at nearly 5 am still reading about Tulum. I’ve found what I always find when researching a destination, an endless hamster wheel of the same exact recommendations from bloggers. Either these places are the tops OR everyone reads the same blogs and constantly recycles recommendations, never straying from what was introduced to them on the internet. Ah, the traps of travel in the twenty-first century.
After seeing the same restaurant pop up on every list, I made a mental note to look into the back story after all my general Tulum researchin’ had commenced. Funny thing, the very next Pinterest image I clicked on was actually a Conde Nast photo story about the American couple who runs said restaurant. Maybe I’ll go, wait in the two-hour line and report back, but maybe I’ll opt for a nameless cart on the roadside that’s been around for decades before all the tourists (and NY expats) flocked to Tulum to open restaurants. Depends on how hangry I am, but I’ll report back on that.
Besides all the restaurant recs, I’ve read up on biking Tulum, visiting ruins and cenotes, and of course SHOPPING! For the past few hours, I’ve imagined wandering around Tulum town with my sweet little retreat guest as we fill our bags with colorful handmade goodies. I’ve pictured us waking up early to salute the sun before heading off to the ruins, followed by a dip in the sea and a barefoot wander down the jungle beach road. I see us all with hands full of tacos and smiles on our faces. Laying on the sand and in colorful hammocks and poolside with midday cocktails. I see the beauty and balance that comes when we decide to take a moment to care for ourselves like we’re the most important people on the planet if only for a few days. Then we can get back to the emails, texts, phone calls and favors, but for retreat week, we’ll have to slow down, forget the wifi password, and work on reconnecting with the ones sitting on the beach beside us.
Here’s a link to my Tulum, Mexico Pinterest board if you want to see all the tasty taco stands I want to try out during my trip & here’s a link to the Rest + Reconnect Retreat that I’ll be hosting. We have a couple spots left if you need an October getaway!
*Photos by my sweet & savvy travelin’ friend Erin.
Teachable Moments is a relatively new series on the blog, you can find the archive here. You can learn more about Saxis in this selection of posts, and here are more beach book recommendations for adults and kids. If you’d like to see our favorite sun gear for toddlers, click here.
beach time = reading time. #amiright
When we start planning for our time at the beach, my mind immediately turns to the books I’ll read. Hours sitting on the beach provide the uninterrupted reading time that we just don’t seem to find elsewhere in life. Wait, if you’re a parent reading this, that statement is laughable. Who sits still on the beach with two kids? And to that, I say, touché. That’s when you teach your kids about the joys of the beach nap.
But in all seriousness, as the boys have grown, I’ve started to think more intentionally about their beach reads. These boys love a good adventure, and when we’re traveling I find that they fully immerse themselves in the new environment. They aren’t sitting around thinking about Colorado and the mountains; instead, they’re exploring! And what better way could there be to teach them about the place they’re visiting, and the animals and people that live there, than to read books?
I’ve made an effort over the years to stock the beach house with good ocean and bay-related books for the kids. It’s nice to have these books there rather than at home because the stories really come alive when they’re reading about animals that they just saw on the beach and in the marsh. And I know that they can relate to crabbing and fishing adventures when they’ve just spent the afternoon on Poppop’s boat putting bait in the crab pots and casting out their finishing lines.
Below is a list of our current favorites (for reference, the boys are 2 and 4). Admittedly, I’m particularly smitten with books written and illustrated by local artists, so you’ll see quite a few on the list. They add an intimate feel in their descriptions of the place that could never be achieved in a generic book about ocean/beach life.
The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library
I know opinions can vary when it comes to Dr. Seuss. The wording can be awkward and leave you tongue-tied, which is not the best for reading aloud. But it rhymes, and I’m a sucker for a good rhyming text, especially one that’s educational. Each book flows really well after one or two readings.
We like a good hike, and every once in a while we take the opportunity to slow down, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.
Hello from Virginia! I’m popping in to share a hike that we took a few weeks ago in mid/late July.
We hiked this same trail (and more) two times last October when there was snow on the ground and ice on the trails. You can read more about those hikes in that post, and I’m going to repost some of the general information about the Brainard Lake Recreation Area the Mitchell Lake Trailhead below.
The trail starts within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, but quickly leaves that area and continues on into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area is open to vehicles from June – October, but the exact opening and closing dates vary each year based on the weather. The entrance fee is on a sliding scale from $1 if you’re walking to $10/car, BUT you can access this area for free with a Nation Parks annual pass. When the area is closed during the winter, you can still park at a lot near the entrance and then enter the area by foot/ski/bike.
During the summer months, you can drive into the area and park at a number of lots. There’s a day-use lot near the main lake that often has spaces, and then there are two smaller lots near the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trailheads, but in our experience, both of these fill up fairly early and remain packed throughout the day.
If possible, park at the Mitchell Lakes Trailhead and you’ll be able to quickly access the trail, if the lot is full, you’ll have to park in one of the other lots and walk over to the trailhead.
On this particular day, the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake parking areas were full, BUT we brought bikes! It was an easy ride from the day-use lot over to the Mitchell lot, and then we locked the bikes up by the ranger shed at the start of the trail.
The hike to Mitchell Lake is just under a mile, and it’s another 1.6 miles to reach Blue Lake. These are both out-and-back destinations, making the round-trip hike to Mitchell approximately 1.8 miles and the hike to Blue Lake five miles. The altitude at the trailhead is approximately 10,500 ft, with a gradual climb of just 200 ft to Mitchell Lake and then reaching a final altitude of 11,300 ft at Blue Lake.
On this particular hike, we only made it to Mitchell lake, but last fall, we made it all the way to Blue Lake (on our second try!).
This is a popular, well-worn trail that is easily visible when there isn’t much snow on the ground, and was relatively well marked with flashes on the trees..
Near the base of the trail, hiking is relatively easy with that slow, gradual climb to Mitchell Lake. There is one large stream-crossing over a short wooden bridge, and then another crossing over a wider stream with fallen logs used as the bridge. In other segments, planks are used to keep hikers out of boggy areas.
If you go beyond Mitchell Lake, there are some steep areas where climbing the rocks is similar to climbing a steep set of stairs, with an increase in the portion of steep climbs as you approach Blue Lake.
Last fall, there was some snow on the trail that had been tramped down and turned to ice, making some areas slick. This summer there was no risk of snow on the trail, but there were plenty of mucky spots and mud puddles.
Hiking with Kids
Last fall I said that young kids (4 to 8 year olds) should be able to hike to Mitchell Lake with minimal help but would likely need help making the full trek to Blue Lake. Older kids 8+ should have no trouble with the full hike. Those estimates were based upon the kids we saw on the trails as we hiked. Seeing 4 year-old Alex run along the trail to Mitchell Lake this summer, I think that we were right on target with the lower range.
One big difference between our October and July hikes was the muck! As you can see, we had (almost) no reservations about letting them go wild.
Dressing for the Trail
At this time of year (and almost any time!), it was really helpful to dress in light layers. Since it was summer, our base layer consisted of tank tops and shorts for the boys, with a hoodie for more coverage.
I think the key to relaxing on this hike was recognizing that there was going to be muck and being prepared to let the boys play in it with wild abandon. Both boys wore their water shoes, which were perfect for this short hike. We let the boys get wet, jump in mud puddles, and generally disregarded the rules of hiking concerning good socks and dry shoes. If you’re going out for a longer hike and have kids with sensitive feet, water shoes may not be appropriate.
And don’t forget sunscreen! While there are some segments with plenty of shade, there is a lot of sun shining on much of the trail.
If you’re in the Boulder area, this hike and the whole Indian Peaks area is definitely worth your time. Just know that everyone else loves the area too, so try to get there early before the lots fill up. Good luck!
On this hike we realized that by 2pm on a summer afternoon the lots are starting to open up. If you’re going for a short hike like this one, that’s still a great time to head out, with the added benefit that you won’t have the strong mid-day sun shining on you.
Even so, facing the crowds is totally worth it to hike (or re-hike) the trails around Brainard Lake. This is such a beautiful area, and it’s such a pleasure to see the trails change with the seasons.
If you want to see more of our outdoor adventure posts, click here! And if you’re interested, you can learn more about my experience volunteering on the Appalachian Trail.
McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed views on the Appalachian Trail. From McAfee Knob, you’ll see a nearly 270-degree panorama of Catawba Valley, North Mountain, Tinker Cliffs and the Roanoke Valley. I hiked McAfee’s as a day hike, but there are numerous shelters and campsites along the trail. If you plan it right, you can catch sunrise or sunset on the knob, which would make for some incredible images.
In my opinion, McAfee Knob is the perfect day hike. You get a big payoff for only a slightly strenuous hike 8.8 round trip hike and there’s an option to make it a loop. You’ll climb about 1,700 feet in elevation over 4.4 miles. I wore these sneakers and my feet were more than happy. On a clear day, the views are said to be the best in the Southern Shenandoah Valley. Pack a hammock and a lunch
or a single beer like we did, and hang out at the top for a long while.
This hike is about twenty minutes outside of Roanoke. Park in the McAfee’s Knob parking area. Though the trail is well worn and populated, snap a photo of the map on the information board before crossing the road and beginning the hike. Follow the white A.T. (Appalachian Trail) blazes as the trail winds its way upwards. You’ll pass a couple shelters and campsites along the way. Eventually, you’ll cross an old fire road and a power line clearing. The blazes pick up again on the other side of the clearing and after only a quarter mile more you’ll see the first good view of Catawba Valley. Another half mile up the trail and you’ll see the McAfee Knob Spur Trail. Turn left and almost immediately you’ll see amazing views.
McAfee Knob extends noticeably beyond the rest of the cliffs and there’s no way you can miss the line of people taking photos there. We walked past the crowds and explored the cliffs a little further until we found a comfortable rock bench from which to sit, chill and enjoy the view. If you have the time (and the snacks) stay until sunset. On the way back take the fire road for a much easier path down to the parking lot. You’ll also skim about a half mile off the adventure that way.
What to pack :
- Water – I only saw one spring on the trail. Pre-hydrate by drinking about a liter of water before the hike as well.
- Hammock + straps
Rules on rules :
- No camping or campfires on McAfee Knob or Tinker Cliffs
- Leave No Trace
- Leashed Dogs Allowed (although we saw a few off-leash, which is always nice)
- No alcohol
- No drones
- Max group hike size : 25
- Max backpacking group size : 10
- If camping : There are only 7 designated camping areas. Know before you go!
McAfee Knob is a very popular hike. I’m sure we bumped into nearly 50-75 other hikers along the trail and at the vista. That being said, the viewpoint and rock outcroppings are immense and there was room for everyone at the top. I noticed folks being really courteous about moving out of the way for photographs as well. I was also pleased to see that the trail and knob were mostly free of litter. Please remember to follow Leave No Trace hiking etiquette here and everywhere else.
Happy Friday! What a month! I took it pretty easy last weekend at the lake and the weeks before I spent in Seattle and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
On Tuesday, I spent my birthday camping in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey, before heading down to Saxis Island, Virginia. I’m here spending time with Momma Schu and grumbling about the slow internet and hundred degree weather. Life’s not too bad, but as my bones readjust to the extreme heat, I’m sifting through photos of cooler times out west.
Here are a few post cards from the first half of my trip. The snowy peaks, evergreens and lone deer were captured on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. The tiny crab and seaweed covered rocks were shot near Sekiu. The sun setting into the ocean was taken from our campsite in Ozette and the warm sun over the water was taken on my first night in Seattle at Alki Beach. I feel like I was able to see so much in such a short trip and still I’m itching to go back immediately. I’m another year older, but nowhere close to staying in one spot for long. Come Monday morning I’m headed to Texas 🤠 Happy weekend!