I’ve always loved the outdoors. Growing up in rural Iowa, if you weren’t into outdoor activities there wasn’t much for you to do! I have fond memories of summer vacations playing at town parks, swimming at the town pool, riding bikes all over town, and when I was a little older, riding my brother’s dirtbikes and quads, going camping and boating at the lake, attending 4th of July fireworks and having big family reunions at state parks.
Our best family trip ever happened when I was about 7 or 8. My parents took us on a road trip out West for summer vacation. We packed up my dad’s dually truck with a big cooler of food and drinks, hitched up the camper and headed towards Montana to visit my Uncle Bill and his family.
Our first stop was the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. I don’t actually remember if we even got out of the car, I just remember driving by and being in awe of the murals on the building that were created by hand, simply using corn kernels.
We drove through Badlands National Park and Custer State Park and then headed to Rapid City, SD to visit my mom’s niece and her husband at the air force base. They took us to see Mount Rushmore before we headed off across Wyoming.
Wyoming was amazing. We stopped to see Devils Tower, which I thought was kinda cool, but wasn’t super impressed until I heard the folklore on how Devils Tower came to be. To paraphrase, the legend is that the rock was formed by a giant grizzly bear clawing the earth trying to reach two lost Indian boys he wanted to eat as a snack. We walked around the trail for a little while until my mom saw the warnings about poisonous snakes and then it was back to the car for us!
I remember driving up a mountain road and the ground was covered in snow. I was amazed to see snow in the middle of summer! My dad pulled over and my brothers and I ran around throwing snowballs at each other. I was so excited to see the snow I jumped out of the truck in my bare feet. My dad yelled at me to put my shoes on before I got frost bite.
It must have taken my mom WEEKS to plan this trip (it was WAAAAAY back in the late ’70s, so no internet or google maps to help), but she had everything planned out for us, each stop along the way, including where to find service stations to fill up the gas guzzler, places to stop for a snack, and the best campgrounds to stay at (and the ones to avoid).
While a trip out West isn’t likely to happen anytime soon for us, I would love to plan a little camping trip close to home. We are spending way too much time indoors on our electronic gadgets and it’s time to change that!
The problem is I don’t know the area very well. So I was ecstatic to find, through DiscoverTheForest.org, that we live very close to William B. Umstead State Park. And YAY!! there’s a campground! Now I just need to convince my husband!
DiscoverTheForest.org is a wonderful website from the US Forest Service and the Ad Council that features an interactive map tool that filters by zip code and desired activities to search for forests and parks in your area.
DiscoverTheForest.org isn’t just for finding forests and parks! It also offers free outdoor activities to download and print… like The Book of Stuff to Do Outside that contains activities and crafts you can do to teach you about nature. There are fun games to play (with a printable surprise when you win) and even a parent guide to download with ideas and advice on how to get your kids out of the house and into the forest!
There are forests and parks all over the country. So no matter where you live, you won’t have to go very far to get outside. Let the adventures begin!