Turkey Day Alternative

Are you looking for something a little unique this Thanksgiving break? Over the past few years, my family has spent this holiday in the great outdoors- seeking something new every year when possible. And, just because you are camping does not mean you don’t get great food!

Last year was the “Top O’ Texas, Thanksgiving Extravaganza” at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We left out of work and drove late into the night to make the 10 hour trek to the opposite side of the state. It always amazes me that you can spend that much time in the car and STILL be in Texas. Anyway, we hiked, camped and climbed to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet above sea level. After making it safely back down, we cooked Thanksgiving Dinner, then rested up for another 2 days of great hiking in McKittrick Canyon. By the way, if you have never hiked in McKittrick Canyon, it is an absolute must, especially in autumn with it’s amazing fall colors. You would never believe that you are in desert, Texas.

Another year was “River Running Spectacular,” kayaking and canoeing on the Buffalo National River in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Beautiful scenery and on Thanksgiving day I had one of the most amazing experiences to date in the outdoors. As I was casually paddling in a slow section of the river, a Bald Eagle landed on an overhanging tree just downstream from me and remained there as I passed not 10 feet underneath him. The intensity in his eyes as we watched each other, in the wild, on a day in which we give thanks, was absolutely incredible! I will never forget it.

Not every year has been as epic. Often times we travel to our favorite place, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. This park is so much fun, so many different activities and not too far away from home. This is where the biggest outdoor Thanksgiving meals have always been prepared because of our established camp. It’s not difficult either, and if you have never tried it, corned bread dressing is amazing in a dutch oven. 🙂

As the holiday approaches, I need to decide where the destination will be this year. I am not sure if I will go with old faithful, or check out some place new. Weather.com will no doubt be a factor in my decision. Western Arkansas- the Ouachita Mountains are at the top of the list as I haven’t explored that area much. As you know, I am always up for a new adventure and these mountains have my name written all over them! Great trails and just far enough from home to truly get away.  Check out this photo of the Ouachita National Forest, absolutely beautiful, from the Forest Service!

One thing that I know is that no matter where the destination, an outdoor Thanksgiving always turns out amazing! I don’t know any better way to appreciate the world and all that I am thankful for than to be outside enjoying life.

Happy Holidays!



Adventure Your Way

If your family and friends are anything like mine, they probably associate the word adventure with the traditional definition; Adventure: a) an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.  In my life, these folks see the Holiday Inn as “roughing it” and think I am crazy for spending vacation exploring dangerous activities like backpacking and climbing. It has been my own personal experience that most of these people think that there is no place for them in the outdoors and that they will avoid adventure and stick with the city. After spending a week in Yosemite National Park, I can assure you that adventure is for everyone and here is my experience.

A few months ago my cousin received the coolest birthday present- his parents gave him a guided day of photography with the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. I have always dreamed of being a photographer, so when I was asked if I would like to go with him, I immediately jumped all over it. Being an avid outdoorsman, my first thought was that I absolutely had to climb the iconic Half Dome while I was there. So six months in advance I got my permit to climb, and planned to hike as much as I could in one of America’s greatest gems. Upon arrival, me permit day was forecast as rainy, snowy and foggy, and immediately my dreams of Half Dome were gone.

Disappointed at first, I was forced to find a new adventure, in a new way. Throughout the week I was reminded that adventure has another definition; Adventure: b) an exciting or remarkable experience.  If you are open to new and exciting experiences, then the adventure will find you. My week in Yosemite Valley was just that, nothing short of remarkable and inspiring and included some hiking, lots of photography, laughing and inspiration.

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and this week provided the exact adventure that my life needed… a get-away from stress. I have always looked to the outdoors when I wanted an escape, but not always this way. If the weather had been perfect that day I would have attempted the 14 hour day, not spent time with family and missed out on some of the best photo’s (in my opinion) that I have ever taken. By missing out on Half Dome’s cable route, I found creativity and serenity (not to mention other amazing hikes in the park which many people don’t ever think about.)

By the end of the week I was ready to quit my job and be a park ranger. I must say this is a frequent feeling I get when I head back to the city, but something about Yosemite Valley brings peace. I encourage you to add this amazing national treasure to your bucket list. Please enjoy some of the photograph’s from that week.

Explore Away!