How to Completely Unplug Without Giving Up Technology

I usually can be seen fumbling down a trail with my phone in one hand, camera in the other, simultaneously taking Instagram videos and blog pictures. Sometimes it’s comical–shouldn’t I just be immersing myself in the moment, after all? Isn’t that why I’m here?!

Photo credit: www.tintrunksafari.com

(Hashtag, nature!)

Truly disconnecting from urban life is difficult. As much as we would love to turn our phones off, the truth is we have appointments and emails and people whose happiness and hunger levels depend on us. And even when we do set aside time away from all those distractions, isn’t it OK for us to get our phones out and capture those perfect Instagram-worthy images? (I say, heck yeah.) So the question is, How to you immerse yourself in the beauty and peace of the natural world while also not totally disconnecting? When is it OK to have your phone out?

Here is what outdoor bloggers and Whit’s Wilderness readers have to say.


Set boundaries

It’s all about balance. If you have a clear understanding of what you’re wanting to get from your time in nature you can make a more conscious decision about what roll technology will play. Whatever you decide just decide it on purpose! – Noel Stacey, My Wild Kitchen www.mywildkitchen.com


Put it on Silent

I take mine with me for photos or emergencies and leave it on airplane mode – I believe there should never be ringtones or music blasting in nature – if people want to listen to music or podcasts that’s cool, just bring headphones. – Mallory Moskowitz www.youradventurecoach.com

I always have it on silent. I agree the phone shouldn’t have ring tones blasting. I go to nature for peace not to hear a phone ringing. – Heather Smith Www.thewanderinghippie42.wordpress.com

 


Keep it out for the photos

We put our phones on airplane mode to conserve battery and to keep from being interrupted while trying to enjoy our time outside, but we usually have them in our pockets for easy access picture taking and in case of an emergency. Our phones take pretty great quality shots and with them safely in their Otterboxes, I’m not as worried about the elements (like rain here in the Pacific Northwest) as I would be with our DSLR camera. – Katie English, www.homesick-wanderlust.com

When we go hiking, we typically don’t have cell service, so my phone is simply my camera. It fits in my pocket and is easy to take out anytime! But when we reach the summit, I get out the “real” camera. – Karen Ung www.playoutsideguide.com


Track your mileage

I normally leave my phone on airplane mode and have it for emergencies. There are times that I do use it to track my mileage, but other than that, it stays in my pack. — Magretha Palepale www.thecluelesswandererblog.com

When I am outdoors in the countryside my phone is typically on in my pocket with tracking on. Used mainly as a safety, and occasionally comes out for a picture or two 🙂 – Alice Horwood https://www.alicehorwood.co.uk


Take it for safety

I take my phone with me. In fact, I have a portable charger in my hunting/hiking pack. The main reason is for safety. Even hunting on a private ranch or hiking at a state park you can take the closeness of civilization for granted. In a life or death situation (for example: rattlesnake bite, heat stroke, etc.) the use of a cell phone is so important to getting the care and help needed. And it may not be for you- you may find someone in a predicament who needs your help. I especially to take pictures of my friends sleeping on wildflower hillsides waiting for turkey…but ultimately it is a safety issue and that is the number one reason to always have a phone! 😉 — Kristin (one of my hunting buddies!) www.anxioushunter.wordpress.com


Use it for navigation

I go into the wilderness to get away from that kind of stuff. The only exception for me is when I am hiking a long PCT section where the navigational apps are sometimes helpful (but not a sub for map/compass). I have a regular camera that I don’t have to worry about dropping/breaking/getting submerged. It’s all about being disconnected for me. — Mary Emerick http://mountainsskin.blogspot.com

 


Use it to engage your kids in nature

I love handing it to my 3 year old to see what captures his eye. – Kathy Dalton www.facebook.com/goadventuremom

Years ago we took books and etch a sketch to keep kids entertained while we waited in the deer blind. Now, just give them a phone and they will sit for hours. It’s hard to play the cloud game on a clear day. — Warren Blesh, Whit’s Wilderness blog reader


Whit’s Wilderness Readers Weigh In

I always have it handy because my hiking buddy tends to not have space available on her phone for pics… just sayin’! 🙂 — my husband, who nearly ALWAYS has to cover for me when I run out of space!

I take mine. I use the GPS to track my route and the camera for photos. It’s in airplane mode, so even if I could get a call or text, I wouldn’t hear it. — Michelle

It depends! I take it on hikes for pictures, sometimes to write notes. But I leave it at the cabin when I go hunting. — Liz

I take mine. I enjoy taking pictures. — Maria

I have my phone, because there is a great chance I’ll get lost. — Chelsie

I leave mine.. the less people that can reach me when I’m out… The better! — Amanda

I take mine with me for pics and safety. Not for texts and calls unless it’s a work day. — Megan

I take it for the camera! — Charlotte Mitchell

I take mine. — Jill

I take it with me 🙂 — Carmiñia

I bring it, mainly because I have teens who are usually home alone. I don’t use it, but I like knowing I have it. — Tara Schatz


Let’s just say, I saw the previews for 127 Hours and I will NOT be going out without a phone any time soon. And you guys know I love my Instagram shots!

What are your thoughts?

The Hills Are Alive in Madera Canyon, West Texas

If you want to have a Sound of Music moment in Texas, this is your place! It is located in West Texas near Fort Davis in a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and the panoramic views of the Davis mountains are stunning!

Trail

The trail is 2.5 miles, easy, and only partly uphill. The best part is that it forms a loop so you never see the same thing twice. It starts out flat and crosses a creek, then heads uphill. You can hike the entire thing in a couple hours.

Picnic Area

The tables are huge and its a very low trafficked area so plan to bring a picnic and relax after your hike.

Location

Just past the McDonald Observatory on Highway 118, about 24 miles northwest of Fort Davis. You may feel a little lost, but just be on the lookout for the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area signs and a string of picnic tables visible on the side of the road.

Kids

Carry little ones in a child carrier like this one on Amazon, or plan to only go to the first overlook. A 7 year old or above could do the whole loop.

What to Wear

You will need a hat, hiking shorts, low top hiking shoes, and an equipped day pack (<– click here to see my recommended packing list). Here’s my recommendation:

Favorite Part

The views. Nearly every overlook was spectacular, and the mountainsides were covered in pines.

Least Favorite Part

The pond we hiked to was a little underwhelming. Don’t expect some glacial lake here!

Things to Know and Important Links

More pics

Fun times! Hope y’all get to enjoy it soon. Happy hiking!

The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park

This is my favorite hike in Davis Mountains State Park, by a long shot. Lots of great panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and the trail is wide and flat at many places. Not to mention, the reward at the end is definitely worth it!

If you’ve hiked it before, let me know in the comments!

Skyline Drive Trail

  • Maps at end of this post
  • Distance: 2.6 miles but with shortcut options
  • Perks: Excellent panoramic views, with Indian Lodge and McDonald Observatory in the distance, scenic picnic tables. mostly flat or downill terrain (so much better than hiking uphill, am I right?!)
  • Challenges: The terrain is mostly flat or downhill, but the surface of the trail is rocky in some areas. It proved difficult for our 3 year old and 1.5 year old nieces.
  • Rock “fortress” at CCC overlook that is wildly popular with kids
  • Recommended for kids 5+ or that you can carry on your back

Best Part of the Trail

The best part of the trail is the segment between the two scenic overlooks. It has varied terrain, panoramic views, and great rewards at each end of the trail with the scenic vistas!

 

Route Option 1: Recommended Option

The best scenario is to have two cars or someone willing to drop you off at the easternmost parking area on the top of the mountain, so you can hike down to the campsites. This is great because it is all downhill!

There is plenty to look at for miles around.

 

Route Option 2: Shorter, Good with kids 5+

Drive to the first parking area you come to at the top of the mountain and hike to the CCC overlook at the easternmost parking area. Have a picnic or break here, and then hike back. This is about 1 mile round trip.

Route Option 3: Slightly more challenging version

Only because it involves going uphill to the top and then retracing your steps back downhill.

That said, if you get up early in the morning when the weather is nice and cool I could see this being a great work out with a very rewarding ending of easy hiking downhill!

Round Trip: 5.4 mi

You will start at the trailhead near the Interpretive Center (shown on map) and follow Skyline Drive up to the scenic overlooks for 2.6 miles.

 

What You Will Love

The ample photo opportunities.

The picnic areas by the scenic overlooks.

The breeze at the top of the hill and being up there with your loved ones!

What Kids Will Love

The tower at the end of the trail.

I don’t know what the CCC thought this would be used for when they built it back in the 1930’s, but let me tell you — today it is the prime place for little kids with imaginations to play princess, house, or cowboys and Indians. If Rapunzel didn’t let down her hair from a place like this, then I don’t know what she did. It did not surprise me that by the time my husband and I arrived after our hike, my nieces had already taken command of the “castle” and we had to gain admission by pretending to be magical visitors from a distant land.

We thoroughly enjoyed our hike on Skyline Drive Trail and bet you will too! Happy hiking, ladies.

 

9 Reasons to Visit LBJ Ranch and State Park

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and historic site while en route to Fredericksburg. It was so cute and worth the stop! I am glad to finally know the charming park behind the gates.

This ranch is where former President Lyndon B. Johnson was born and lived most of his life. I love that both President Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson were advocates for the environment, and no doubt their childhood in the scenic Texas Hill Country was a huge reason for their love of the land. As First Lady, Lady Bird used her platform to promote the restoration of native landscapes across America, and President Johnson brought to pass many of the environmental policies we still have today. And in typical American fashion, they led a quaint little small town life, which you can see at the park.

Here’s what I loved:

1. It’s Free!

Woo hoo!

2. Nearby there is plenty of nice lodging.

This is quick trip from Austin or San Antonio and the area is known for its charming B&B’s. Check out this website for more info!

3. You’ll get the Texas ranch experience.

Without having to shovel manure or clean dead rats out of a barn! Cows, barns, old ranch structures, white picket fences, tall oak trees, and acres upon acres of rolling hills greet you as you drive around. This ranch is also home to part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd. Because this is Texas, y’all, and we have an official longhorn herd.

4. It’s next to 2 of Texas’ best state parks.

You can hit the trifecta of Hill Country Parks on your trip to this area. Pedernales Falls State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park are both within a half hour. If you’re a Texan, and you haven’t been to Enchanted Rock or Pedernales, you need to get in the car now!!

Enchanted Rock State Park

5. Extremely kid friendly–all trails are stroller friendly and the rest can be seen from the car!

I loved being able to see the highlights from my vehicle…the air conditioning and music was so nice.

6. Pretty views of the Pedernales River.

Perfect for a dip or for the fishermen and women in your crew.

7. Lots to do in the area.

If you like shopping, cute B&B’s, or brunch, then you are in luck! (And we need to be friends.) Nearby is Johnson City, a charming little town with a market and restaurants. Fredericksburg is just thirty minutes away and has lots of good shops and eateries as well, like the Fredericksburg Herb Farm (their brunch is fantastic.) And a discussion of Hill Country sites wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the area’s famous wineries and Texas Wine Trail! Get your nature fix at the park and then go find an excuse to dress up in Fredericksburg.

8. Great wildlife and wildflowers.

I saw bison, axis, butterflies, and tons of wildflowers. If you need pics in the wildflowers, this is your place. Heaven!

9. An Interesting Dose of History

The lessons that stick with us are ones which we relate to–that affected us, involved us, or told stories of people like us. Seeing President Johnson’s humble beginnings on a Texas ranch, and learning about his Presidency from that perspective, is an enriching history lesson. If you want your kids to learn about American history or political science, why not take them to see the country home of one of two Presidents from Texas? They will see how someone from a simple life grew up to be a great President and what could be a better lesson than that?

10. Lovely picnic area.

The picnic area has plenty of tables and room to spread out, so if you are looking for a fun lunch stop on your way to Fredericksburg then stop here.

Important Links

How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Enchanted Rock

This is part of my Girl’s Guide to Enchanted Rock series! Be sure to check out the other posts in this category before planning your trip.

Ladies, Enchanted Rock is a place you will love. I bet many of y’all have been there already and can surely attest to what I’m saying! You may think you have seen the best of Texas — but until you are standing on top of this rock, soaking in the 360-degree panorama of the Hill Country and enjoying a cool morning breeze, you don’t know how magnificent our state can be.

This park is truly a gem.

Here are some pointers for making the most of your visit!

Best Time of Year to Go

WILFLOWER SEASON! Late February through mid April – the last weekend in March was peak wildflower season this year and the weather was perfect.

NOTE: This is also Spring Break so it is insanely busy…just be sure you are there early in the AM for a day hike or have a camp site reservation.

Best Trails to Hike

When to Book a Campsite

  • For March: book by April of the previous year
  • For other times of the year: 10 months in advance

How to Book a Campsite

What Camp Sites Are Like

  • Walk in campsites recommended (break down of available sites here)
  • Each walk-in campsite has a shelter, picnic table, post for hanging your trash/food/lantern, a fire ring, and a charcoal grill
  • FYI not all the campsites are right next to the cars – you have to walk a little ways (about a quarter of a mile) to them
  • The campsites are VERY secluded which is nice!

  • They are not large, and can only fit 2 6-person tents so if you plan on going with a group or family, reserve 2 campsites and arrive early enough to get them together
  • You will be assigned campsites upon arrival so if you want pick of the litter, get there early.
  • Campsite 22 is awesome!!
  • 30 is impossible to find
  • 29 – 32 are really close together and not as scenic, I do not recommend. However if you have a large group these are great because they are very close together!

 

Suggested Itinerary

Friday

  • 2pm park arrival and check in
  • Afternoon – campsite set up, short hike before sunset on the loop trail to the frontside trail (described in this post)
  • Evening – Build a fire, cook dinner, hang out around the camp fire and ROAST S’MORES!!!
  • Late night stargazing before bed!

Saturday

  • Sunrise hike to the top via Summit Trail
  • Explore Loop Trail on the way back to the camp site
  • Big brunch
  • Post-breakfast s’mores because, why not?
  • Relax around camp
  • Late afternoon hike or fishing in Moss Lake
  • Cook dinner on the Dutch oven
  • Campfire stories

Sunday

  • Another sunrise hike or fishing excursion (or sleep in!)Pack up the campsite and headed home

Alternative 1-night Itinerary

Saturday

  • Noon picnic in Fredericksburg (at Marketplatz in center of town)
  • 2pm check in and campsite set up
  • Afternoon – short hike
  • Evening – relax around campsite, cook dinner and make s’mores!

Sunday

  • Sunrise hike to top
  • Take Echo Canyon and Loop trail on route back to camp site
  • Lunch
  • Pack up camp site and head home

Alternative Non-Camping Itinerary

Spend the weekend in a Bed & Breakfast in the Fredericksburg area and do an early morning day hike Saturday or Sunday at Enchanted Rock! Spend the rest of your time shopping in Fredericksburg’s charming shops, eating good food, and driving around to see the wildflowers.

Official Park Webpage

Getting There

Here’s the Google Map to it: https://goo.gl/maps/mre61PrqB4Q2

  • From Austin: 1.5 hours — I recommend taking 290 on the way there and 71 on the way back, for a nice change of scenery
  • From San Antonio: 1.5 hours via I-10 to Hwy 87
  • From Dallas: 4 hours via Hwy 281
  • From Houston: 4 hours via I-10 to 290

Other things to do in the area

Other Notes and Tips

  • You can buy firewood there for $6 a bundle
  • No dogs on summit trail (Boo! No fun! So lame!) — dogs are allowed on other trails, however.
  • Arrival time: 2pm is check in but it is good to be there early for prime pick of campsites

Hope you enjoy your visit and have a fabulous time! If you have tips you want to share, leave them in the comments. We are fortunate to have such a stunning place in Texas, and it is definitely worth the drive.


Other posts in A Girl’s Guide to Enchanted Rock series:

The 3 Best Hiking Trails of Enchanted Rock

Hello y’all! As you may have read yesterday, I just returned from a fun weekend of camping at Enchanted Rock and wanted to share with you the trails we hiked and loved. I hope you try them too.

If you have not been to Enchanted Rock, or if the last time you went was gradeschool (ahem), you need to get out there. It is such a beautiful place and I don’t think I appreciated it as much as it deserved when I was little. We are so fortunate to have this natural feature right here in Texas.

Read about my ladies camping trip at Enchanted Rock here.

Note: all of these trails are better seen in spring time when the wildflowers are blooming!

Summit Trail

Obviously, the first and most important trail to mention is the Summit Trail, which takes you to the top of the dome!

This is the most stunning part of your park experience — the pièce de résistance. Being up there is a wonderful feeling I think all Texans should experience.

Best time to go: Sunrise, when there are fewer people and the breeze is cool. This requires camping overnight in the park, which I highly recommend. Alternatively you could go about an hour before sunset and watch the sun sink below the horizon!

(Is this why they call our state “God’s Country”?!)

Difficulty: moderate. The trail is steep, however it is only 20 minutes long.

Distance: 20 minutes, 1 mile to summit

Bring some binocs and plan to sit up there for a spell and enjoy the view. There’s no place like it in Texas!

FYI: No dogs allowed (“Lame,” says Trooper.)

Echo Canyon Trail

This juts off from Summit Trail and is a fun addition to the summit trail as you are coming back down. Hang a right on your way down at the Echo Trail sign, and the trail will lead you down a valley, beside boulders, and to Moss Lake. From the far side of the lake, you can get beautiful pictures of Enchanted Rock!

Be Aware: Echo Canyon is for sure-footed folks, as it requires balance and stability as you make your way down through the small canyon. It doesn’t require any rock climbing — just a helping hand from a hiking buddy every now and then!

Best time to go: on your way down from Enchanted Rock

Difficulty: moderate

Distance: 0.67 mi

Loop Trail

I LOVED Loop Trail!! Personally this was my favorite, 2nd only to the Summit Trail. This was nice, wide, flat, and downhill. (Downhill?! Yes please.) It also affords you dozens of panoramic hill country views, pink granite boulders, wildflowers (in Spring), and a scenic overlook to stop at. I definitely recommend this one!

Best time to go: Any time is good, but I recommend making a loop with Echo Trail and Summit Trail.

Difficulty: easy

Distance: it depends — the entire loop is 4.25 miles but the section we did, from Moss Lake to the trailhead on the southern end of the park is only about 1.8 miles.

Connecting Trail to Frog Pond

This is shorter and still very scenic – we spent about 45 minutes exploring this area but could have spent longer. Tall oak trees, gorgeous wildflowers, rolling hills, and creeks all grace the area and it makes for a very lovely jaunt!

Loop trail intersects here – not to be confused!

Oh, Texas, just STOP! You so pretty!!!

Gorgeous.

Difficulty: easy

Distance: 0.57 miles; 1.12 if you take the Frontside trail back to the trail head

Enchanted Rock is one of my favorite hiking experiences in Texas – the trails are just the right length, the scenery is jaw-dropping, and when everything is covered in spring green and wildflowers it’s simply divine.

GO!!! Do it! Please, for me. Make a reservation. You will not regret it!

10 Popular Outdoor Experiences You Have to Book Early

What’s on your outdoor “bucket list”? Is rafting the Grand Canyon? What about camping Yosemite National Park or going on an African safari? My list is never ending…

It seems insane to me how early you have to book some of these adventures, but then again, our national parks and natural wonders are popular for a reason. They’re incredible!! Booking a year or more in advance is required to secure a spot among the millions of people who are also in line to visit these iconic places. Unlike a city, where there is essentially no limit to the number of people that can visit, parks and guided expeditions are limited by capacity. Here are the deets on what needs to be planned early and when.


You’ll need to book one year or more in advance for:

  • National and State Park Campsites
  • Backpacking trips in Wilderness Areas and National Parks
  • Guided expeditions in popular parks and wildernesses
  • Guided hunts
  • Note: Spring Break requires even further advance planning due to popularity

NOTE:

There is still plenty to do in national and state parks that do not require special reservations–day hikes, scenic drives, ranger programs, picnicking, and fishing to name a few–as long as you have lodging outside of the park.


1. See the Wildflowers in Texas and Stay in a Local B&B

Seeing the wildflowers bloom in Washington County is something every Texan should do once in their lifetime! It’s too far for just a day trip so book a local bed and breakfast. You have to book early because Brenham and the rest of the county is hopping in the Spring thanks to the wildflowers and a massive antique show that takes place each March.

2. Camp at Popular Texas State Parks

Most popular parks:

———————————————————–

  • How to Make a Reservation at a Texas State Park
  • When to Go: February through November, I would avoid August
  • When to book: November/December for Spring reservations and December/January for Summer to Fall reservations
  • May be booked up to 333 days in advance
  • Exceptions:
    • Spring Break: book in June of the previous year
    • Lost Maples State Natural Area: Reserve eleven months in advance for an electic/water site. Primitive sites are still available in January but unless you have a tent that’s under 10 lbs I don’t recommend this because these sites require hiking in 1.5+ miles. (Read my review here.)
  • Cost: $20/night reservation fee
Lost Maples State Natural Area

3. Hike the Wonderland Trail in Mount Ranier National Park

This is a stunningly gorgeous 93 mile loop in Mount Ranier National Park that can be hiked in anywhere from 10-14 days.

Photo credit: WonderlandGuides.com

4. Hike Paria Canyon and The Wave

Photo credit: Mowry Journal

5. Camp in Yosemite

  • When to go: April through September
  • When to book: Campground reservations are available in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time.
  • See this website for more information
Yosemite National Park

6. Backpack in Rocky Mountain National Park

7. Backpack my favorite trail in the Sierra Nevada

This was insanely gorgeous, I can’t recommend it enough!! (You can read my story here.)

  • When to go: late June to early August
  • When to Book: January and February, up to 6 months in advance
  • Exceptions:
    • About half of available permits are reserved for walk-ins. How to get one: The day before your desired departure date, arrive at 10am at the ranger office closest to the trail head and request a permit. This is rather risky if you live in Texas and travel all the way to California, so book a less popular trail as a backup. This is how we got our permit for the most amazing trail EVER in the Sierra (which you can read about here) though it was stressful.
Our camp site in the Sierra Nevada

8. Raft the Grand Canyon

One of the most incredible outdoor experiences you can have is a Grand Canyon rafting trip. Western River Expeditions is amazing!

  • When to Go: Season is April 1st – September 30th, though I’d suggest going in the earlier months as the river will still be green and pretty. The later you go, the more runoff gets into the river from the rainy season.
  • When to Book:
    •  For April dates: Book in November of two years prior (for example, for an April 2019 trip, book in November of 2017)
    • All other dates: Book in January of the previous year–ie, January 2017 for a Summer 2018 trip
  • FYI: Busy months are May, June and September; least busy month is August
  • Cost: $3000 for 6-7 day trip; $1500 for 3 day trip

9. Camp by Havasu Falls

Imagine white waterfalls cascading over red sandstone cliffs into green pools, all set in the Arizona desert. The outdoor bloggers I surveyed for this post loved this destination so I wanted to include it!

  • When to Go: May through August
  • When to Book: February 2nd by phone, usually sells out within first two months of the year.
  • How to Book: Click here for details
  • Not accessible by road; hike in required

 

Photo Credit: Marshall Foster, www.marshallfosterphotography.com

10. Hunt Wild Game

More detail to come in a later post, because this is a whole different beast! (Literally.) In general these book one to two years out depending on the animal and location. Opportunities can be limited due to landowners and the government setting limits on huntable animals and seasons, to ensure sustainable hunting.

  • When to book Texas hunts: 6 months to 1 year in advance
  • When to book domestic hunts: 1 year in advance, pulling permits is often required
  • When to book international hunts: 2 years in advance

It seems crazy to book so far in advance, with all of the variables that can affect travel. But just remember–it’s a lot easier to cancel if something comes up than to try to get a spot late in the game. I hope you have many happy travels to these majestic places.

St. Ed’s Park is Keeping Austin Wild

One day recently, I was surprised to turn off of loop 360 on my way to St. Edwards Park and all of a sudden be out in the country. It’s rare to find a nearby pocket of wilderness in any town, and even in “green” Austin most of our city parks are within eyeshot of urban world.

But not St. Edwards Park. Since St. Ed’s Park is one of the top rated parks in our city, a group of outdoorsy ladies and I investigated one day last Fall so we could bring you this report!

The Highlights

  • One of the highlights of the park is Bull Creek frontage.

The limestone cliffs are pretty and the creekside trail is flat and easy, so would be perfect for young kids. (And dogs who want to get in the water. 🙂 )

So scenic!

  • Trails are ample, so you can get a good work out in.

So ample, in fact, that you might get a little lost.

We got slightly turned around in the extensive network of trails and had to use Siri to get us out. Hi, I’m Whitney from a hiking guidance blog. I have gotten a group lost in the woods. Go me.

(This is my “whoops” face.)

Fortunately the park is small enough that you couldn’t get lost forever.

  • On that note, one highlight is that you still get cell phone reception, so if you’re needing to check a sports score, stay accessible to work colleagues, or Instagram your adventures, then this is a great place to be.
  • And the view!! The view from the top is so pretty. Can you believe this is urban Austin?

How spoiled we are.

  • The park is only 10 min from the Arboretum
  • Last but not least, the park has some steeper trails so if you’re eager to feel the burn, or are training for a tougher climb out in the mountains, you can definitely find it.

By the time we were done with our hike, we sure were happy to see the car again and crack open an ice cold La Croix.

Thanks to Wild Rose Apparel for outfitting us with hats and koozies!

All in all it was a good park and I will be returning eventually. In the future I will only stick to the hillside trails and not go along the creek bottom. I also want to check out River Place trail before returning here.  Have you been to St. Edward’s Park? Would love to hear from you!

FYI

  • The park has lots of brambles down by the creek, so prepare to feel like you’re bushwacking if you choose to hike in that area
  • There are no picnic tables, which is kind of a bummer…so plan for a “tailgate party” after your hike
  • After a big rainfall event (more than a few inches), it will be very muddy and there is a good chance some of the trails will be flooded, so I would avoid it
  • Don’t wear your fancy tennis shoes on the creekside trails, they will get dirty
  • Several of the hills are steep
  • There are no bathrooms

Have fun! Hashtag #whitswilderness if you check it out and want to be featured on my page. Happy hiking!

 

12 Beauty Products I Always Take Camping

One of the biggest misconceptions about women who like the outdoors is that we aren’t the “girly type.” I find that pretty amusing because most of the outdoorswomen I know wear make up on a regular basis (even if it’s minimal) and are just as in to fashion as their non-outdoorsy friends. Sure, there are women who don’t do those things. More power to them…I wish I looked that good naturally! But I can’t seem to shake my need for looking and feeling presentable even if I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Below I’ve listed some tips for how to look fresh while staying in the wild outdoors. This list is created with day hikes, overnight camp outs, and backpacking in the wilderness in mind.

Let me know if you have any tips others should hear about!

Skincare

  • Facial Wipes

Often campsites don’t have hot water, so washing your face is painfully uncomfortable. That is why I bring these fabulous Yes to Cucumber face wipes.

Yes to Cucumber Facial Towlettes

With these I can clean my face in my tent without having to go to the campsite bathroom or fetch water from the creek when backpacking. Plus after a long day of wearing sunscreen, it’s nice to freshen up with these when we get back to the campsite.

Also, you don’t have to pack an extra towel to dry your face, which makes life easier!

  • Tinted Moisturizer

This is a great time to use tinted moisturizer, since you won’t necessarily be going the full-on foundation route but will want some color. I love Oil of Olay because it has built in SPF.

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Oil of Olay Total Effects Tone Correcting Moisturizer

  • Lotion

Unless you’re camping somewhere humid (and if so, bless your heart) your skin is going to get drier than it does in the city. I definitely recommend bringing a small bottle of lotion.

Aveeno Daily Moisturizer

  • Vaseline

Not only is air in the wilderness often dry but it’s often windy, and Vaseline is my favorite for protecting your lips from the elements.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

  • Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

This is natural looking color I love!

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Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

Make Up

  • Small Mirror

The first thing I would pack in your bag is your own mirror.

  • Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion – tinted

I’m a huge fan of this stuff and wear it every day, whether I’m doing eyeshadow or not. It makes your skin tone around your eyes look a lot more even, and it doesn’t require precision, which is nice when you’re doing your makeup in your tent. When I’m camping I usually just use this by itself or with a light eye shadow on top.

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Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

  • Light colored shadow

Applied evenly across your lids

Other essentials:

  • Mascara
  • Eyebrow brush so your eyebrows don’t look like they’ve spent all night in a sleeping bag! 🙂

Other Toiletries/Cosmetics to Pack

Aside from the usual toothbrush/toothpaste and other basic items I recommend packing:

  • Fingernail clippers
  • Tweezers – for removing splinters or thorns
  • Purell
  • Hand soap – there is no hand soap at most camp site restrooms
  • Hand towel – I would take a small hand towel that is saved exclusively for your makeup/skincare needs
  • Dry shampoo

I prefer to keep my time in the communal restroom to a minimum, so I do as much of this regime as possible at my camp site.

One note: if you’re traveling in bear country these items all need to go in your bear canister. Bears are attracted to the oil and scent in these products.

Hope this helps you feel a tad more glamorous on your next camp out! These products are also great for day hikes. Enjoy!

beauty-products

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9 Reasons to Make Truckee, CA Your Next Summer Vacation

This summer after our big backpacking excursion, my family spent a few days in Truckee, California, a cute mountain town near Lake Tahoe. After sleeping on the hard ground for days on the trail, it was a treat to sleep on a mattress and have internet! I also fell in love with this town for other reasons, which I’ll talk about here. This is the PERFECT vacation spot for a family so I hope you enjoy!

I know many of my readers are looking for places where their family can enjoy the outdoors while not having to forego all of life’s little luxuries. We want wifi, comfortable accommodations, and plenty to do, and we want it all for an affordable price. Nowadays most vacations require you to plan months if not years in advance, and once you get to your destination, it’s often crowded and full of tourists. I don’t know about you, but planning years in advance ain’t always my cup of tea.

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But this is.

Even though Truckee is near Lake Tahoe, and even though it is beautiful, it is neither crowded nor touristy. Truckee has wide roads that are free from traffic and potholes. There is plenty of parking and no lines to get in anywhere. We did not make a single plan or reservation before we got there and still were able to do what we wanted! All without bribing a sole. Oh, did I mention it’s in California? So you get that cool California weather, too.

I think Truckee must be California’s little secret.

How to Do Truckee

  • Rent a house on Tahoe Signature Properties (in Tahoe Donner location). We stayed at this one and LOVED IT: Three Pines Cabin…we will definitely be coming back.
  • Be sure to rent a house that includes Tahoe Donner recreation membership cards if you can. (It will say in the description.) This is not required to use the amenities I describe below but strongly recommended.
  • Utilize the Tahoe Donner Association recreational facilities. (See below.)
  • Fly into Reno and rent a car. It’s a 35-40 minute drive to Truckee.
  • 4+ days recommended
  • Go to the Trout Creek Recreation Center the day you get in and pick up their activity guide for the latest info on what’s going on in the area

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What You’ll Love

1. Swim, kayak, fish, sunbathe, and boat on Donner Lake

The central feature of the Truckee area is Donner Lake. While not as large as nearby Lake Tahoe, Donner is a 5 minute drive from town and much more intimate. You can rent kayaks at the Tahoe Donner Marina Beach Club, or you can walk your dog, picnic, or swim at the parks around the edge. If you get on-the-ball early enough in the day, you can commandeer one of the docks for picnicking and sunbathing, and THAT looks like the way to spend the day.

The Beach Club Marina’s guided kayaking tours are also rumored to be fun.

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Donner Lake

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Our kayaks

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A stud in a hat!

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the crew

2. Hike a nearby trail or keep up your exercise regime at Trout Creek Recreation Center

Work out by day, pizza by night, am I right? That sounds like vacation to me. Between the many trails in this area and all of the work out opportunities, you don’t have to feel too guilty about stopping at The Treat Box Bakery for doughnuts or going to Full Belly Deli for lunch.

The Trout Creek Rec Center has fitness classes as well as a full gym.

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If you want to feel the burn but also get some fresh air, the trails are ample in this area. I loved the Summit Lake Trail. Between the Tahoe Donner Land Trust and the Tahoe Donner Neighborhood Association, over 7,000 acres of the surrounding landscape has been purchased and preserved for hiking and mountain biking, keeping the views pristine and opening up miles of trails for the public.

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Summit Lake Trail

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Summit Lake Trail

3. Drop your kids off for trail rides, hikes, archery lessons, and other kids camps offered in Tahoe Donner.

Your littlest ducklings can go to Kids Camp at the Trout Creek Rec Center playroom.

The kids camps might be the only thing you need to reserve in advance. See the Tahoe Donner website closer to summertime for details. Here’s a brief overview of what is offered:

  • Equestrian Center: trail rides, horsemanship lessons, pony rides
  • Golf Course: Junior Golf School, Junior clinics, Glow Golf family parties
  • Trout Creek Recreation Center: archery clinics, kids night out, geocaching, adventure days (includes hiking, crafts, archery, and games)
  • Swimming: swim lessons
  • Beach Club Marina: water kids club, pirate treasure hunt
  • Day camps: 9-noon/9-2pm depending on age. Includes activities mentioned above.
  • Tennis center: Junior tennis program
  • Mountain biking: “Bike Like a Girl” bike camp,
  • Sailing: Junior sailing camp

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Playground at the Tennis Center

Since there are so many kid friendly activities, there are plenty of adults in the 30’s and 40’s age range. So….

4. Go to One of the Parties for Adults

Party time! Woo hoo! One of the fun perks of the Tahoe Donner facilities is the parties they throw for adults. They take place at the various facilities, and include everything from barbecues to tennis round robins. One of the most appealing to me was a bratwurst and tennis round robin party (two of my favorite things in life combined). I also saw a Cowgirls and Cocktails party that looked fun, a Pancakes and Ponies party (this one included kids obviously but hey, where’s the adult version?!), trivia night, family movie night, and a private Euer Valley dinner….just to name a few events from this summer!

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Fire ring at the equestrian center

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Tennis center

5. Don’t Miss Truckee Thursdays Downtown

The charming downtown is blocked off every Thursday night in the summer for a street festival. You can buy lobster rolls, fresh bread, jewelry, art, ever-important coffee mugs, and plenty of strange hippie dippie things if you so desire. Food trucks line up and the boutiques are open late. There’s usually a band and at the very least a street act. It’s people watching at it’s finest.

(PS. Everyone in Truckee is fit and dressed in outdoor gear. I guess that’s what happens when you mountain bike all day.)

*Park at the Trout Creek Recreation Center and take the free shuttle, as downtown is just about the only place in Truckee with limited parking.*

6. Truckee’s Gorgeous Golf Course

The best part of golfing is the courses you get to play on, am I right? This one is beautiful.

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There’s a putting green and driving range right by the Lodge restaurant, and we had a fun afternoon eating and putting. (I get more excited about golf when food is involved.)

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View of golf course from The Lodge restaurant

On that note…

7. Dinner at the Lodge is a must!

This place has a chic and romantic vibe at night. Get a patio table if the weather’s nice! We sat on the patio and gorged ourselves on the delicious food…I can’t remember what we ate, it was one big delicious blur, but I remember being incredibly happy with it.

8. The view from Donner Pass

Outside of town is Donner Pass, which can be accessed by car. The views up here are awesome and not to be missed!

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Justin, mom, and me at Donner Pass

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Donner Lake

(After my backpacking trip I was all for whatever we could see by car. 🙂 )

9. Lake Tahoe is right nextdoor

You MUST drive by Lake Tahoe on your trip! Tahoe is such an incredible sight. It’s immense, and the fact that it is naturally formed (i.e. not formed by a dam) makes it a true wonder. 900 feet deep, pure glacial blue…so lovely. I’ve heard the boat rides offered there are fun, but the place that will be on my list next time is this Scandinavian Castle built on the shore of Lake Tahoe in the 1920’s era by a woman named Lora Knight.

Other Things to Know about Truckee

  • I said it above but it deserves another mention: Full Belly Deli is where it’s AT!
  • You might want to stop in Big Truck hat shop and get a hat…it’s kind of the uniform around these parts. (Conveniently next door to Full Belly Deli.)
  • Tahoe National Forest is nearby and stunning

I hope you have the chance to see Truckee one day and enjoy it as much as I have! Who knows, it could be a family tradition in the making.

A few last parting images from our trip…

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Tahoe National Forest

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This lake has been sent to the lab for testing

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Swimming at Trout Creek Recreation center

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Equestrian center and its many offerings

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Mountain bikes for rent

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Monarch butterfly sippin’ on some pollen on Summit Lake Trail

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Mi familia…very happy

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