#Outdoorfamily Adventures in Western Maryland

For teachers and students, March is a long month of educational engagement. For public school students, such as my own, there are the relentless statewide norm referenced tests that make students weary-eyed. For these reason, I love getting out of DC on spring break with my family. For many years, we have explored Chincoteague and Assateague Islands with its miles of long, wide beaches to walk and play on, tidal marshes to explore wildlife, trails to hike to find horses and birds, bike trails for a different point of view and ice cream at the Island Creamery.

This year, my family opted for the mountains of western Maryland and the shores of Deep  Creek Lake. Due to some rainy weather, we spent more time than usual reading, playing games and watching movies indoors. However, the weather didn’t stop us totally from adventuring in the parks and on their trails in Maryland and West Virginia. On our hikes, we ventured to the highest point in Maryland, heard and saw the roar of the Youghiogheny River, saw views of Deep Creek Lake and scrambled amongst rocks above the Cheat River. We experienced the wild and wonderful of Appalachia.

Backbone Mountain – Just inside West Virginia, we hiked 1.1 mile up Backbone Mountain to highpoint in the state of Maryland. Highpointing each state is a goal obtained by few hikers. As you can image, some peaks are harder than others (if you can find a peak in Delaware). The trailhead for this 2.2 mile out-and-back hike is off Route 219 between Oakland, MD and Thomas, WV. The hike starts in West Virginia and highpoints in Maryland.

Blackwater Falls State Park, WV – The highlight of this park is the 62-foot waterfall on the Blackwater River in Blackwater Canyon. The waterfall is easy to view by walking a quarter mile from the trading post on asphalt and staircases to the base of the falls. To increase time spent in the park, we hiked a two-plus mile out-and-back hike on the rim of the canyon to its apex with a fork in the Blackwater River. The hike started on the Pendleton Trace trail to the Dobbin House trail and lastly the Pase Point trail that leads to a rock outcropping high above the canyon floor. Along the trail, we passed through a lowland bog, deciduous forest and thickets of rhododendron which beautifully bloom in mid to late May. Blackwater Falls State Park offers families multiple lodging options from camping, cabins and their lodge.

Deep Creek Lake State Park, MD – After the rain cleared, I took a solo hike with our dog Fern in Deep Creek Lake State Park in the late afternoon. We started at the headquarters parking lot and hiked a 3.6 mile circuit, gaining approximately 500 feet of elevation,  on the Meadow Mountain trail. Along the way, we past the campground, Brant Mine ruins and hiked up and along the ridgeline to the summit where the fire tower is located. To end the circuit, we hiked back down the mountain on the Indian Turnip trail.

Swallow Falls State Park, MD – After a foggy, chilly morning, we did an amazing circuit hike on the Canyon trail through a catherdral-like hemlock forest to the first waterfall on Muddy Creek. From the trail, we could feel the spray from the 53 foot waterfall, the highest in Maryland. The trail bends where the Muddy Creek dumps into the Youghiogheny River. The trail runs beside the wild Youghiogheny, passed the lower and upper Youghiogheny falls. Before completing the circuit, we stopped at an awesome swimming hole on Toliver Run . Alongside the creek is a great wall of rocks where my son bouldered for a bit.

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Coopers Rock State Forest, WV – On the last day of our vacation, the rain was steady but I was determined to visit this park because I had heard the rocks were fantastic. They are! Before hiking the Rattlesnake trail, we took in the view of the Cheat River and Morganton on Coopers Rock. The Rattlesnake Trail is a .7 must-do trail in Coopers Rock offering a moderately challenging hike over rocks for kids. The Rattlesnake trail connects with the Rock City Trail to return to the parking lot next to the concession stand. Beside the concession stand is a large playground for added fun and picnic tables for an outdoor feast.

All four parks offer campgrounds for families to stay for longer than a day’s hike to explore the wilds and often unseen corners of each park. Furthermore, Blackwater Falls and Deep Creek Lake have nature centers where kids and parents can learn about the flora and fauna in the park. Each one has its unique natural landscape offering families a variety of activities during the four seasons all within an hours drive of Deep Creek Lake. If your family hasn’t explored Western Maryland, its time to put it on your wish list.

Feminism in the Outdoors

In 1995, I graduated from SUNY Buffalo with an MA in Women’s Studies. I have always been interested in women’s rights and feminism. Growing up, my mother was my role model. She was heavily involved in the American Association of University Women in New York state. My interest grew in undergrad as a poly sci major and what led me to my MA degree. After grad school, I was an activist for women affected and infected with HIV/AIDS in the US. After 4 years, I grew disillusioned with national policy making and left to become a teacher and mother, which is when my passion developed for the outdoors.

IMG_0295The feminist fire that I grew up with and developed became embers as a young mother; rarely paying attention to the issues affecting women and girls unless a tragedy was in the news. Then I felt anger. Today, I am a mother of a teenage daughter whose eyes are wide open to her world. She is learning that not all is equal and fair. As I guide her through the labyrinth of choices and decisions (so much more than what my mother had) her millennial world blasts at her, I hope my modeling and our conversations help her to choose the best fork in the road and allow her to stand tall when faced with failure.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, my rekindled feminist fire has me thinking a lot about the status of women and girls in the US and the world, what our future holds and my daughter’s place and mine in it. Today, I proudly wear a feminist lapel pin as I adventure outdoors with my kids, girlfriends and solo. Over the past two years, I have written about many feminist adventures on my blog . Last week, I penned an article for Women’s Adventure magazine about what I think feminism looks like in the outdoors. I hope it makes you think about your feminist place in the outdoors. Let’s start a conversation.

Perfect DC #SnowDay

As a teacher, I dislike snow days. As a mom, I love them, particularly when I can hike with my kids on virgin, deep powder under a white canopy sparkling like crystals beneath a blue azure sky. Wow! Such was that day today – a day now etched in my memory when snow, the woods, a stream, my son and our dog all came together on an early morning hike. Happy snow day!

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Hiker’s Ultimate Bucket List: Done & To-Do

In the January 2015 edition of Backpacker Magazine, they published a “Hiker’s Life List: 101 Places to Go, Skills to Learn and Things to Do Before You Die“. This is their ultimate bucket list. Have you created one? How many items did you completed on the hiker’s life list?  It was fun to read them, learn which items I have done and see if any match up with my bucket list. The photo of my family backpacking in Sequoia National Park (now checked off my bucket list) is tagged (hover cursor over photo) with “my done list” and “my to-do list”. Share your hiker’s life list in the comments below.

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Being Real: Raising a Wild X Chromosome

Three truths.

  • Parenting a teenager is frustrating and heart wrenching.
  • I love being a middle school teacher.
  • I’m in love with nature.

How are these three truths connected?

Middle school minds are expanding, critically thinking about their world, curious about adult issues, have a desire to be connected to their peer community and seek avenues for creativity and self-expression. My daughter is no exception. However, she is my child and therefore, I am her safety net with whom she feely expresses her disapproval and complaints – doing the dishes, her brother, not having a cell phone but yet…, returning home at a certain time, family time, etc. When occassionally asked, “what would you like to do together?” She replys “nothing”. Argh, I yell in my head and feel rejected. I want a connection but feel as I am in a tug-of-war with her as she seeks independence from me (and her father). No longer is just being her mom good enough unlike when she was little. Therefore, I devise ways to create the connection with her which usually entails the outdoors.

I recently wrote in Confessions of a Hiking Mama that my daughter hates hiking. And well, I love hiking or anything outdoors. My husband and I have hiked with our kids since they were newborns. At thirteen, she now digs her heels in when I mention the word hiking, camping or anything to do with the outside. She complains, finds excuses, whines and sometimes flat out refuses. I occasionally extoll the “this is family time” and “remember I can say no to you”. While she complains at the mere mention of outdoor recreation, she is creative, imaginative and engaged with her environmental surroundings when present in them.

4 moms and daughters at the Reese Hollow Shelter

4 moms and daughters at the Reese Hollow Shelter

The best way to connect with my daughter outside is to bring her community along, whether that is one friend, as we have done when section hiking the Appalachian Trail, or multiple friends. This past weekend, three friends and I took our daughters to a cabin in the Pennsylvania mountains. The four girls have grown up together in school and the neighborhood. The weekend provided us moms time to connect with our girls through silliness, laughter, food, hiking, games and most importantly conversation and being present with each other. With the safety of the crowd and their community, the girls shared their teenage venacular, both in body and words, stories of friends and boyfriends and frustrations with school and teachers. We didn’t hold back, no topic was taboo or censored. This open conversation was a gift for all four moms because that level of sharing rarely occurs within the confines of our families. They are tight lipped with little desire to share their teenage inner world.

This mother-daughter weekend was not only a gift of conversation but it also allowed us the freedom to be silly with each other across generations. The time to be present without distractions enabled carefree, silly moments whether outside with charcoal painted faces or singing boisterously with kitchen utensils or being outrageous while playing games. Laughter filled the air and there were times I laughed so hard I cried and couldn’t catch my breath. Wow, is that good for the soul.

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Being in the mountains among tall trees away from the hustle, bustle of home without the distraction from electronics allowed us, moms and daughters, to gain a deeper connection with each other and as friends, moms and teenage daughters. While my daughter continues to protest engaging in the outdoor world and with me, I persist to explore ways I can connect with her in it. On this 2014 Thanksgiving, I am thankful she is my daughter and grateful for the times and experiences we share together.

 

Scout’s #TrashTrawl Expedition on the #ChesBay

ScoutLast Friday, Scout, the water bottle from Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, participated in a cold adventure on the Chesapeake Bay with Trash Free Maryland and 5 Gyres. Under bright blue skies with the sun rising from the east, Scout ventured on the Obtuse in search of plastic peers. Never before had a mantra trawl been used on the Chesapeake Bay to learn how much and what kind of plastic pollution was suspended in the water.

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Photo by www.johnnelsonphoto.com

The day began with a gentle wind but as it progressed the wind increased its velocity to gusts of 30-35 mph creating waves 3-5 feet on the Bay. Making it very cold! Brrr!

Scout traveled on the Obtuse from Herring Bay to the mouth of the South River where the mantra trawl was dropped into the choppy Bay and held off the port side with a boom. There it bobbed and sieved brackish water as the Obtuse traveled slowly south. The mantra trawl was designed by Markus Eriksen, 5 Gyres Director of Research, from the mantra ray whose mouth agapes to strain plankton while traveling over great distances (biomimicry). GPS coordinates and time were recorded and the samples were retrieved from the Bay after 60 and 30 minutes of floating. The tail of the trawl’s sock is removed and flushed with water into a bucket where it is then poured through a very fine pan strainer. Any leaves or biomass are carefully checked and rinsed to capture even the smallest pieces of plastic. The pan strainer is scrapped into a glass jar where alcohol is poured to preserve and separate the particles.

In Friday’s samples, the water’s surface lacked concentrations of plastic pollution due to high winds and rough water that push plastic particles down the water column. These samples had high concentrations of salps, type of plankton, with only a few observable pieces of plastic pollution, one being a candy wrapper corner and a piece of fishing line. However, Wednesday’s sample from a calm Bay contained a high concentration of plastic pollution, which varied in size from a few millimeters to less than one millimeter flouting amongst algae that provided an easy background to see the plastic particles. Most of the plastic pollution were shreds of white and black plastic but also uniformly round blue and white balls were observed; the blue balls are microbeads found in beauty care products and the white balls are styrafoam packing.

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Plastic microbeads are commonly found in beauty care products such as toothpastes, face and body scrubs and hand cleansers to exfoliate. Companies choice plastic over natural exfoliants like ground fruit pits because of their smooth uniformity.  These microbeads don’t get strained out of waste water when treated by municipalities creating an environmental impact on aquatic ecosystems. Microbeads flow back into our rivers where they become a part of the food web. Stiv Wilson from 5 Gyres explains the impact this has on fish in our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Scout recommends you take these actions to reduce #plasticpollution in the Chesapeake Bay:

  1. Remove from your linen closet, bathroom drawers and medicine cabinet any toothpaste, face and body scrubs and hand cleansers that contain polyethylene in the ingredient list.
  2. Reduce your single use plastic consumption. Use reusable bags instead of plastic from the grocery store. Pack a reusable water bottle and refill it with tap water instead of buying expensive bottled water. Bring your travel mug next time you visit Starbucks for your much needed caffeine fix. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and throw real silverware into your lunch box (go to the thrift store and buy mismatched silverware for your lunch box). Go retro and use a metal straw instead of plastic – one of the top 10 items cleaned up during International Coastal Cleanup Day each year.
  3. Advocate to local and state representatives to enact reusable bag, bottle return and microbead ban legislation.
  4. Pick-up litter. Imagine our communities if every person picked up one piece of litter each day for a year. Create that photo in your mind of your favorite place without litter. Imagine!
  5. Buy a copy of Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle and read or give it to a child. 100% of the book’s profit is donated to the Chesapeake Bay Trust who supported this four-day research trip on the Chesapeake Bay to investigate plastic pollution.

Alison Gillespie at Where We Are Planted participated in the four-day research trip to trawl for plastic pollution on the Chesapeake Bay. Read her perspective in Finding Trash in the Chesapeake Bay.

Instead of Hiking Along, Hiking Alone

Tuscarora Trail in PA

Tuscarora Trail in PA

When was the last time you went outside your comfort zone? It is really easy to be content with the known, with what we can control. Often fear about what will be encountered and self-doubt prevent us from seeking the exhilaration and confidence when taking a risk. Of course, there are people in the world who thrive on risk-taking and are adrenaline junkies who constantly seek and earn the next physical and mental rush.

Two days ago, I went outside my comfort zone and took a twelve-mile solo hike on the Tuscarora and Standing Stone trails in Pennsylvania. I am definitely not an adrenaline junkie which I place at ten on a risk-taking spectrum with zero being the person who day-in, day-out maintains the same routine never venturing from it. I put myself at a solid seven; still have a fear of heights but resolved mine of snakes and bears. I don’t have a fear of being alone but have always preferred being in the company of people and therefore have not ventured or adventured solo much in my life until the last two years. I started small by doing local hikes and long trail runs and car camping at a campground by myself – all situations where I was alone but not really. There were still people around me. On Saturday, I upped the ante and hiked the Tuscarora and Standing Stone trails in Pennsylvania because I believed I would be ALONE. And I was. I hiked from 9:30 am to 1:45 pm, eleven miles, without seeing or hearing one person. It was just me, the trail, the trees and the animals. My companions were deer, a turkey, a black bear, many types of butterflies, squirrels, chipmunks, vultures, woodpeckers and tons of spiders, many of which ended up on my body because I broke their webs on the trail.

Marbled Orb Weaver & Great Spangled Fritillary

Marbled Orb Weaver & Great Spangled Fritillary

Did my heart thump when I began the hike? You bet! During the first two miles, I was a bit anxious, in addition to being in and out of my head. Kind of like when my yoga instructor says “acknowledge those thoughts that present themselves in your mind and let them pass”.  Well many thoughts presented themselves, usually questions about the unknown of that day’s journey or reflections about the relationships in my life. However, as my feet pounded out more miles, my shoulders shrunk from my ears, my head rotated around to observe and my thoughts became present on the there and now, particularly as I scrambled many rock outcroppings on the ridge.

Standing Stone Trail

Standing Stone Trail

Over the last fourteen years, I have been accustomed to having kids, whether my own, customers or students, surround me on the trail. Therefore, it felt foreign on Saturday to not have small feet pressing forward in front of me on the trail tread. At first, I saw them and heard their voices in my head but as I grew more comfortable with my aloneness on the trail that vision and those voices faded and the hike became mine.photoGridImage

Summer Snapshots Through a Kid’s Lens

Kids in summer conjure visions of endless outdoor possibilities with limitless carefree time that create adventures with stories to remember for a lifetime. The best part of being a kid is living in the here and now. Nature gives adults the ability to soak in through our senses the presence of life; whereas, nature enables children to live through their imagination to experience life with their senses .

Summer is the ultimate time for families to share adventure in nature, particularly with Earth’s biggest natural resource water. Chasqui Mom and I partnered up again (Summer Snapshot Through a Personal Lens) this year to celebrate (and cry a little) summer’s end with a montage of contributor’s favorite photos taken this summer of kids in nature, whether their own children or those in their community. These photos exhibit the creativity with which kids interact with nature and their feelings about it as expressed on their faces and through their body language.

Chasqui Mom and daughter taking a hiking break at Emerald Lake in Sequoia National Park. Photo by Melissa Avery

Chasqui Mom and daughter taking a hiking break at Emerald Lake in Sequoia National Park. Photo by Melissa Avery

Middle Patuxent River in Columbia, MD at a Columbia Families in Nature hike. Photo by Chiara D'Amore

Families hiking along and playing in the Middle Patuxent River in Columbia, MD organized by Columbia Families in Nature. Photo by Chiara D’Amore

Idaho's City of Rocks National Reserve. Photo by Michael Lanza of The Big Outside

Family and friends adventuring in City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho. Photo by Michael Lanza of The Big Outside

Hiking to a swimming hole in Bentonville, VA. Photo by Holly Rothrock

Brother and sister hiking to a swimming hole in Bentonville, VA. Photo by Holly Rothrock

La Jolla, CA. Photo by Melissa Wilson Busby

Brother and sister making drip castles in La Jolla, CA. Photo by Melissa Wilson Busby

Hiking Skellig Island, Ireland. Photo by John Lucas

Hiking Skellig Island, Ireland. Photo by John Lucas

Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Photo by Mike Sauter

At the beach in Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Photo by Mike Sauter

Hiking above the Mississippi River in Alma, Wisconsin. Photo by Christine Jasper of Smart with a Twist

Hiking above the Mississippi River in Alma, Wisconsin. Photo by Christine Jasper of Smart with a Twist

Anticipating the chill of Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire. Photo by Allison Corbett of Allison Corbett Photography

Anticipating the chill of Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire. Photo by Allison Corbett of Allison Corbett Photography

Horseback riding at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Photo by Liz Dart Caron

Horseback riding at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Photo by Liz Dart Caron

Which photograph is your favorite in this collection that embodies the spirit of kids in nature?  Share your choice in the comment box.

And you ask, what is my favorite photograph that I took of kids in nature this summer? Air and water are the backdrop. The photo epitomizes kids, nature and summer. Curious? Head to Chasqui Mom’s blog post to see it.

Share your favorite “kids in nature” photograph you took this summer on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Tag @ChasquiMom and @HikingAlongKids and hashtag #outdoorfamilies with your photo.

Until next summer!

Family #Backpacking in Sequoia National Park

IMG_6317I’m an idealist, a glass half-full kinda gal and always seeking the next greatest idea, particularly when it comes to adventure in the outdoors. Therefore, my plans for our summer vacation were no exception – cram as much family adventure in as many national parks as I could in two weeks. During the spring, I laid out the plans over a family dinner and immediately I was hit with the reality check. So I scaled back a bit and added a few days at the end in San Francisco to appease my kids desire.

What I was most excited about was a backpacking trip in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. My original plan was to do one in Yosemite to get away from the crowds but after reading Michael Lanza’s family backpacking trip in Sequoia, I was hooked by his description of the beauty. I bought a Tom Harrison map of the Mineral King area as suggested and began planning. My excitement grew.

IMG_6305There are three loops approximately 25-35 miles in length that start from the last two trail heads at the end of the Mineral King road, Sawtooth and Franklin Pass. After examining their length, elevation gain and suggested camp locations, I determined my family didn’t have enough time to do any of the loops. I figured they (my kids in particular, ages 13 and 9) could backpack 5-6 miles a day with 2,000 plus feet of elevation gain at elevation which was the only difference from a backpacking trip I did with them two years previous in the White Mountains. To help us acclimate to the elevation from our normal DC sea level, I scheduled the backpacking trip at the end of our vacation after hikes and camping at elevations above 7,000 feet.

I deviated from my desired plan to backpack the Sawtooth Pass loop that would take us over and past many beautiful alpine lakes and jagged peaks to the more realistic itinerary of Monarch and Crystal Lakes. With our wilderness permit confirmed, I began planning the trip’s logistics, in particular packing the equipment for our plane ride to San Francisco.

IMG_6293After ten days in Point Reyes National Seashore, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, we woke early and began our, what turned out to be, long drive on very curvy roads. We’d already experienced curvy roads throughout our vacation but this drive was crazy curvy. From Giant Forest to the Foothills park entrance, we experienced many hairpin turns and dropped about 5,000 feet in elevation to have to go back up that on the Mineral King Road. The drive on the Mineral King Road is 25 miles long on a narrow, not-well maintained road with approximately 580 curves, expected drive time 1.5 hours. The whole drive took us three hours. As I reflect on mistake number one; we should have stayed the night at Cold Spring or Atwell campgrounds or Silver City resort before starting our backpacking trip.

My daughter has always had a weak stomach. The norm has been to keep ziplock bags in the back seat and even then we had many clean up jobs. I brought Bonnaire but forgot to give it to her – mistake number two – and sure enough the nausea began. About half way up the Mineral King road with all the windows down, she called out, “I’m going to throw up.” She flung open the door and lost her breakfast on the pavement. All of a sudden, our son barfs, only he didn’t make the asphalt but instead his lap. Clean-up in….

IMG_6298All returned to normal in the car and we made it to the trailhead after getting chicken wire for our car at Silver City (to prevent marmots from eating the hoses under the car) and getting a bear canister at the ranger station. After some backpack adjusting, we headed 4.2 miles up 2,500 feet at noon for Monarch Lake under sunny skies.

Within the first half mile, my daughter declared her stomach ache returned; therefore, I checked for other signs of altitude sickness, headache and dizziness, which weren’t present figuring it was remnants from our 3 hour roller coaster ride in the car. She continued to drink water and eat little bits of food. At lunch with her stomach ache present, a hearty discussion took place between my husband and I – turn around or keep going. We kept going up the switchbacks to Monarch Lake.

IMG_6307About 2.5 miles up, my daughter unfortunately vomited again. Okay, now I needed to put my plan into check. Was this mistake number three? My first doubt about the trip occurred and our ability to continue to our destination. She sat for a while, took in small sips of water and checked her again for a headache and dizziness. None. She announced she felt better and we decided as a team to continue up while discussing alternatives for the remainder of our backpacking trip (ultimately, we decided to stay put at Monarch Lake for two days). The last half mile was hard for my daughter as she was weak from vomiting. She was brave, strong and persevered to the end but crashed on a rock where we decided to camp.

Along our hike up, we followed a family of four with older children, 17 and 21. The dad became our trail angel. At Monarch Lake, he came over to tell the kids he was impressed with their hike up the mountain. He noticed my daughter wasn’t feeling well and offered a vitamin C pack full of electrolytes. I had packed everything else in our first aid kit but unfortunately not an electrolyte supplement – mistake number three. After a nap and the supplement, she woke happy and with energy to eat dinner, Italian mash potatoes without the pepperoni. With relief that we had conquered the difficult hike up, a swim in the gloriously cold lake and dinner in our stomachs, we enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the ridge, played crazy-eights on a huge rock and stargazed at the millions of twinkling lights that we aren’t fortunate enough to experience in our light-filled city of DC.

IMG_6311We woke the next morning to grey clouds that sat on the ridge tops surrounding Monarch Lake. After our morning cups of joe, hot coco and some pecan, pomegranate oatmeal, we stuffed one of our packs full of supplies to hike for the top of Sawtooth Pass. From Monarch Lake to Sawtooth Pass and down the backside on the eastern face, there is no prescribed trail. One begins from the lake but a third of the way up, multiple paths exist between the boulders and alpine vegetation and on the pea-sized granite that covers about 50% of the face. Essentially, it is every man, woman and child for him/herself to seek the best path up or down the pass. With the kids leading the way, we conquered 3/4 of the way up the face before we heard thunder. The decision was made for us; we would not see what lay to the east of Sawtooth Pass that day. Very shortly after turning around to make our much easier descent, two different groups of backpackers came running of the ridge away from the lightening. Not exactly what I would do, run down that steep face.

We returned to the lake to eat lunch, listen to the waterfall from upper Monarch Lake and watch the still reflection in it. Our lunch was cut short as the hanging grey clouds on the peaks opened to let rain fall. We retreated to our tents where we stayed for the next two hours. This was hard for my very active, restless son. At 2:15 pm, after watching the clouds out our tent flaps and listening to the persistent rain, my husband and I made an executive decision to stuff our packs and start for the trailhead by 3:00 pm while our kids still had smiles on their faces and a positive frame-of-mind. With wet gear, we hiked the 4.2 mile descent in half the time it took us to ascend. However, this time there was a skip in our step and the opportunity to linger a bit at the bends to breath in the spectacular, grey and red stone landscapes that surrounded us.

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Looking Through a Macro Lens: iPhone #Photography

This spring I learned from fellow outdoor adventurer and blogger, Saveria, at AdventurUs that clip-on lens exist for the iPhone. Who knew? Turns out I was way behind on this eight ball and there are many to choose from on Amazon. I document my life and our outdoor family adventures using only my iPhone, including all the photos in my soon-to-be-released hiking guide book, Best Hikes with Kids: Washington DC, The Beltway and Beyond. Some might frown at me but I like one-stop-shopping – carrying all my electronic needs in one device. It makes life simple.

Before leaving on our two week vacation to explore national parks in California – Point Reyes, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon – I bought a set of clip-on lens – macro, wide-angle and fisheye – for my iPhone so my kids and I could have fun with photography in these beautiful landscapes. We had lots of fun with the macro lens, in particular my nine-year old son. Below are the best of the macro photographs that he and I took while hiking and backpacking in these amazing national parks. For me, these photos represent art in nature and beauty in all things small. IMG_6020 IMG_6345 IMG_6341 IMG_6335 IMG_6332 IMG_6328 IMG_6321 IMG_6134 IMG_6130 IMG_6089 IMG_6085 IMG_6071 IMG_6066 IMG_6044 IMG_6038 IMG_6037 IMG_6026 IMG_6025IMG_6326