This is the summer that you’re going to do that road trip you’ve always wanted to do. The one to California’s north coast so you can finally see the world’s tallest trees, take a scenic drive along the Avenue of Giants, and explore The Lost Coast. I’ve been taking summer road trips to Humboldt County since I was a kid, and I haven’t even begun to experience everything this land of superlatives has to offer. It’s one of the best family road trips in the nation—a perfect combo of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and American kitch. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
Parks & Wildlife
Now that winter has passed, it’s time to start planning your summer getaways to the great outdoors. But instead of sitting on your fanny in a camp chair all weekend (not that there’s anything wrong with that), consider taking a recreational getaway that gets your blood flowing and calories burning. As a serious outdoors nut I could write a book on Northern California’s recreational getaways, but for this week’s theme I’ve narrowed it down to my seven top picks for getting some healthy exercise while exploring some of my favorite outdoor adventure destinations.
They call it Death Valley for a reason. Utterly inhuman, this scorching region of tortured rock, shifting dunes and fetid lakes is one of the hottest and most inhospitable regions in the world, an unnatural phenomenon so eerie it would make Hieronymous Bosch cringe with envy.
Which, of course, is all the more reason to come and see it for yourself, simply because there is no other place like it on the planet: a haunting, primordial enigma that is both fascinating to behold and troubling to the soul—a geologic car wreck if you may. But describing the surreal beauty of a desert is like talking dirty on the phone; you get the picture, but it’s never as good as the real thing. For that, you must come.
“Good-bye God, I’m going to Bodie,” wrote a little girl whose family was moving to the most infamous Gold Rush boomtown in California. And if you think that’s creepy, what until you see what’s left of Bodie, one of the most authentic ghost towns in the entire West. Located about 20 miles northeast of Yosemite National Park, a road trip to see the legendary Bodie Ghost Town is the perfect excuse for taking a weekend getaway to the Eastern Sierra, which is ablaze with fall colors right now.
If you’re looking for something interesting, affordable, and local to do this winter (yes, summer’s really over), Mother Nature is putting on some pretty good free shows this time of year. Some of the best bird watching excursions in the state only take place in the early winter, such as the millions of migrating waterfowl in Sacramento Valley and raptor gatherings at the Marin Headlands. So grab your day-planner right now and carve out a few days for getting outdoors and enjoying a bird watching getaway to one of the top bird-watching spots in Northern California.
If you’re still reeling from the tax bill you had to pay on April 15, here’s a chance to at least recoup a little of your hard-earned money. From April 22nd through the 26th the entrance fees to all the national parks in the U.S. will be waived, including Pinnacles, Yosemite, Lassen, and Muir Woods. And because this coincides with Earth Day, several parks are offering free family-oriented programs such as “Junior Ranger Day” (with official Junior Ranger badges and certificates!), ranger-led hikes, and volunteer projects. Think of it as an affordable opportunity for you to be a rock-star parent, aunt, or uncle while enjoying America’s Best Idea—our national parks.
On the weekend of April 20-21, more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2013. Charitable events will be taking place on and around this day throughout the world, and you can be a part of it via the dozens of volunteer opportunities available throughout Northern California that only require a few hours of your time, yet do a world of good. Check out the Earth Day getaways below, then rally your friends and family and help make a difference.
If you’re looking for something interesting and affordable to do this winter, Mother Nature is putting on some pretty good free shows this time of year. Much of the wildlife in Northern California is doing the wild thing, and they don’t care who’s watching. Some of the most fascinating eco-excursions in the state only take place in the winter, such as the monarch butterfly migration to Pacific Grove, millions of migrating waterfowl in Sacramento Valley, and elephant seal mating rituals at Año Nuevo State Reserve (believe me, if you’ve never seen a pair of 2-ton elephant seal bulls fighting over a lady, you’re in for a treat). So grab your day-planner right now and sign yourself up for a Winter Wildlife Watching getaway.
Spend some time in Marin County, at the “other” end of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that the redwood-shaded, coastal hill country north of San Francisco has a ridiculous number of things to do. Miles of coastal wilderness and redwood forests to explore by foot or by bike, farm-to-table restaurants and artisan food-makers, charming towns, theaters and clubs where locals like Robin Williams, Carlos Santana, and George Lucas might be on stage or in the crowd—what’s not to love about Marin? Read full article »
When I was a kid my mom would retain her sanity each summer by sending me off on a 10-day YMCA backpacking trip with a bunch of strangers (which, by the way, I highly recommend for all you over-protective parents out there). Not only did these hiking trips get me out of the house and into the mountains, they also taught me life-long lessons about ecology, weather, navigation, and self-reliance. So do your kids a confidence-building favor and take them hiking this summer—they’ll forgive you in the end. Read full article »