Saturday, February 22, is National California Day. The tradition of celebrating each state with its own day began in 2017. Starting on the week of Independence Day, each state was given a day by National Day Calendar®, based on the order in which it entered the union. As the 31st state (admitted September 9, 1850), California’s day falls in the 31st week after July 4. How does one celebrate? National Day Calendar suggests that you “take a tour of California and find something new to discover.” At AdventureKEEN, we think a fantastic way to do that is by tackling a few hiking trails!
Your National California Day can include a breathtaking hike to North America’s tallest waterfall, Yosemite Falls. Or traverse the McWay Waterfall Trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the unparalleled beauty of mountains meeting coastline. Explore the awe-inspiring forests and giant trees at the Redwood National and State Parks. Experienced hikers and backpackers might want to explore the challenging Lost Coast Trail.
Regardless of where you find yourself—or at what skill level of hiking—chances are good that there are beautiful hiking trails nearby, perfect for you. If you aren’t sure how to begin your National California Day outing, you’re in luck. AdventureKEEN has been helping people like you get outdoors and into nature for more than 50 years. The popular guidebooks 101 Hikes in Northern California and 101 Hikes in Southern California are great places to start.
Written by hiking expert Matt Heid, 101 Hikes in Northern California benefits readers by narrowing down the multitude of options for hiking in Northern California to the very best of the best adventures. It covers hiking trails in the northern two-thirds of the state, including nearly the entirety of the Sierra Nevada, south to Kings Canyon National Park, and the entire Big Sur region along the coast, south to Silver Peak Wilderness.
The southern portion of the state is covered in 101 Hikes in Southern California by Jerry Schad and David Money Harris. For National California Day, you can trek the diverse terrain—from desert to beach to mountaintop—on an easy stroll or overnight excursion. The guidebook covers the Santa Monica, San Gabriel, San Jacinto, and San Bernardino mountains; the Mojave and Colorado deserts; and many more iconic locales.
These guides are unique in the amount of natural history information they provide, and they include essential directions for completing a trip. Best of all, you can find hiking trails within a short drive of you; recommended outings are spread out across the entire state.
Now is a great time to get outdoors and celebrate National California Day. Countless opportunities await. And if you aren’t in California, no problem. Find a hike near you, and enjoy the Great Outdoors!
You want to choose the perfect present for your special Valentine. Flowers, chocolates, teddy bears, jewelry—maybe you’ve done that before, or maybe it seems too cliché. You need a gift that feels more personal, that suggests you took some time to pick it. For this reason and more, I love giving books—and I suggest you do the same. Following are 5 reasons why books are among the best gift ideas for Valentine’s Day or any day.
1. They Are Thoughtful
You can find books about almost anything. This makes it pretty easy to get the best books for your Valentine, if you’re paying attention. Does she have a favorite author or a unique hobby? Is there something he’s always wanted to try but isn’t sure how to get started? Think about how your special someone spends her leisurely time, and get a book that supplements that. Or maybe the right gift is a guidebook to a place that he dreams of visiting. The possibilities are endless, and the right book is always a very personal gift. It says, “I know you, and I know what you love.”
2. They Are Fun
The best gift ideas are a delight to receive. We can always use more socks, but who loves receiving a package of those? Books, on the other hand, are fun for your Valentine to get. What’s waiting beneath that cover? Will it be countless hours of entertainment? The instructions needed to begin a new adventure? Beautiful photographs that spark an imagination? It’s a thrill to flip the book open and find out.
3. They Are Inexpensive
A safe ballpark estimate for your bookish gift is $20. Of course, you can find many of the best books for less. Or you might spend more if you’re looking at larger formats, hardcover, full-color, and the like. But compared to jewelry or a dozen roses, you’re getting a great deal on one of the best gift ideas you can give.
4. They Are Practical
Every book serves a purpose. It might be to entertain or inspire. Maybe it’s to help readers find and enjoy new places. It could be to teach new skills or to educate on a given topic. By giving a book, you are giving something that your Valentine can and probably will use.
5. They Are Memorable
Introduce your special someone to a new author or series. Get him started on a hobby or her planning the next vacation. You will forever become associated with those memories. Better yet, make it a tradition. Another beautiful thing about giving books is that it’s easily repeatable: more from the same author, series, or genre locks in your association with the topic, making one of the best gift ideas even better. Bonus Tip: Write a lovely note to your recipient on the book’s title page, along with the date given, to make it a personalized keepsake.
Skip the candy shop and the jewelry store. Hopefully, you can see why the quickest path to the heart of your Valentine goes through your local bookstore.
We could argue endlessly about where to go for the best family vacation. Some might say Disneyland; others will name a national park like the Grand Canyon. You’re always right with a trip to Hawaii—and the “Garden Island” of Kauai. It combines some of the best offerings of different vacation options.
For Nature Lovers
Nature’s beauty is everywhere. The Kauai weather is tropical, so the forecast is always warm or warm and rainy—ideal growing conditions. We stayed on the south side of the island (recommended) at the end of January. Temperatures were in the low- to mid-80s, perfect for the best family vacation. Only one day brought extended rain, and it felt gloriously refreshing to be in it.
Some of the most breathtaking views are found on this island in Hawaii. The Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. A few minutes from there is the Kalalau Lookout. My wife called it “the most beautiful spot in the world.” It’s a picturesque view of the Kalalau Canyon and the ocean. A slow drive to the north end of the island brings you to the Napali Coast. It’s another spectacular spot, well worth seeing. But we spent a total of 4 to 5 hours in our rented Jeep Wrangler. If you’re on the south side of Kauai, think twice about making the trip. And to maximize your best family vacation, go as early in the day as possible.
If you love the ocean, surround yourself with it in Hawaii. We stayed at a resort on the famed Poipu Beach. It’s perhaps the island’s most popular beach because it’s sandy, clean, generally calm enough for swimming/snorkeling, and it attracts plenty of sea life. We saw humpback whales in the distance, we spotted monk seals lying in the sand, and my 9-year-old accidentally found himself swimming with a sea turtle.
One of our favorite adventures was whale-watching via Blue Dolphin Kauai. We lucked out with perfect Hawaii weather conditions. We were even luckier on this best family vacation: Our captain found the humpback whales as we were leaving port, and he stayed with them for 2 hours. Around 10 or 12 males were chasing 2 females. The captain told us that the males breach more often during mating season. Sure enough, we saw around 20 breaches!
For Thrill Seekers
If you’re an amusement park kind of person, there’s no shortage of activities. You can try helicopter rides, zip-line tours, fishing expeditions, ATV excursions, and more in Hawaii. My favorite activity on this very best family vacation was mountain tubing with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. We floated down the irrigation system of an old plantation. We traveled in a beautiful rainforest and passed through several dark (and often long) tunnels on our way to a quaint picnic lunch.
There’s no shortage of delicious dishes in Kauai, especially if you love fresh seafood and even fresher fruit. Plus, with Hawaii’s relatively new focus on local farming, a lot of the meats—especially beef—now have that fresh, local flavor. The famous Puka Dog lived up to the hype on our best family vacation. It was so delicious that I ate there no less than four times. Brick Oven Pizza was another fantastic spot, as was Da Crack and their burritos. I enjoyed shave (not “shaved”) ice every chance I got. However, the award for best meal of my week went to the sampler platter at Chicken in a Barrel. The plate of BBQ food was under $20, and my wife and I shared it. Of course, for a combination of food, local culture, and lively entertainment, be sure to book dinner at a luau.
For Couch Potatoes
If your idea of the best family vacation is to “be lazy,” Kauai is a great place for that. You can relax on the sunny beach (perhaps even book a beachfront massage). You can find a comfy spot on the patio. Or you can remain indoors. With a cool ocean breeze always blowing in, just open the windows and enjoy—no air-conditioning needed. Go to CVS and buy the world’s best gummy bears: Island Cravings Baby Gummy Bears. Grab yourself a Mai Tai or some guava juice, and relax.
To find even more fun and adventure for your best family vacation in Kauai, check out AdventureKEEN’s popular guides like Hawaii Trails and Hawaii Wildlife Viewing Guide.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with this winter season. In Minnesota, it’s been cold and snowy. And cold. And snowy. The weather forecast calls for more of the same in February, March, April, and into forever. We won’t get discouraged, though, right? Winter isn’t going to beat us. We only have between 2 and 700 months to go. To help us persevere, I grabbed a copy of Surviving Minnesota Winter by Brett Ortler. Following are five tips to help us make it through the winter season and to the fabled land called Spring.
Go Shopping for Clothes
Are you looking for a reason to love the cold? Does the weather forecast have you feeling blue? Good news: layering up is never more in fashion than during winter. Treat yourself to new sweaters, hats, mittens, and more. For best results, your bottom layer of clothing should be polyester or wool. Your insulating layer should be wool or fleece. Your outer layer (e.g., a big, warm parka) should ideally be goose down.
Eat, Drink, and Be Toasty
When it’s too cold to go anywhere without an emergency survival kit, stay home. Cook some comfort food. Popular options during the winter season include buffalo wings, pho, wild rice soup, and just about anything else that makes you feel warm inside. For a treat that’s chillier than the weather forecast, winter is traditionally the time to make homemade ice cream too.
Try a Winter Science Project
As awful as the season sometimes feels, it is “cool” to get your geek on. The famous boiling water trick is always a crowd-pleaser. There is a safe and effective method for doing it. Here’s what Surviving Minnesota Winter says about preventing injury: “If you want to try this at home, keep in mind that the effect is more dramatic if it’s colder, and you need to take proper precautions—wear safety gear and be darn sure about the wind direction when you throw the water. A surprising number of people are burned each year while trying this.” Other popular options presented in the book include growing snow (in the house), freezing a bubble, photographing snowflakes, and more.
Find a Winter Hobby
For some crazy people, when snow is in the weather forecast, it’s reason to rejoice. I admit it: the winter season offers some epic options for outdoor adventure. You can start with the basics, like building a snowman or sledding down a hill. Hikers can snowshoe. Runners can cross-country ski. Anglers can ice fish. And let’s not forget pond hockey, snowmobiling, downhill skiing—and more! If I didn’t know better, I’d say winter almost sounds a little fun. Almost.
Go on Vacation
My favorite way to thumb my nose at the frigid temperatures is to get out of town. A week-long vacation in Florida, Arizona, or Hawaii sounds heavenly. But a winter-season getaway doesn’t need to be that elaborate or expensive. A weekend stay at a hotel (with a hot tub, of course) does wonders for refreshing the body and making the weather forecast seem almost bearable.
For more ideas—and for advice on everything from winterizing a home to creating an emergency survival kit—check out Surviving Minnesota Winter. It’s available wherever books are sold.
It’s that time when people across the country make a New Year’s Resolution. The most popular goals range from getting organized to saving money, but tops on most lists is a desire to get healthy. Whether that means exercising more, eating better, or losing a specific number of pounds, it’s a lofty ambition and one that, unfortunately, has a high rate of failure. According to U.S. News & World Report, 80% of these resolutions fail—by February! The news for dieters is even worse, with failure rates reported as high as 95%.
Don’t get discouraged, though. Instead, get active. Hiking is a popular way to go outside, enjoy fresh air, and, yes, get the exercise that will give your New Year’s Resolution a boost. Some hikers prefer to find a favorite route and walk it every day. Other adventurers use the opportunity to explore new and different places. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to set a schedule and follow through. How far will you walk (or for how much time)? How often will you do it? What time of day works best? Answer these questions, and commit to it. You have an advantage because hiking is fun!
Yes, many people find the experience of taking a hike to be rewarding in itself. Perhaps you’ll glimpse wildlife or find a remote waterfall. Or maybe the peace and quiet of an escape into nature is appealing. Of course, even if it doesn’t sound like something you will enjoy, worry not. There are plenty of ways to make your New Year’s Resolution work. Following are few simple ideas to spice up your hike:
Bring a Friend
Everything is more fun when you have someone to share it with. Build your hiking schedule around a friend or family member. Not only are you both more likely to stick with the plan, you’ll also get to enjoy each other’s company.
Bring a Friend, Virtually
Thanks to mobile phones, you can hike with a friend who is somewhere else entirely. Grab a headset with a speaker, and both of you can walk together, even when you’re apart. (Just pick trails with good reception.) Similarly, you can listen to music, podcasts, or a good audiobook.
If you hold an interest in the arts, turn your New Year’s Resolution into a search for inspiration. Bring a camera to take photographs, plan your next poem, or look for picturesque settings to paint.
Turn Hiking into a Learning Experience
Depending on the hike, you might enjoy taking an identification guide with you. If you see plenty of birds, you can discover what kinds are present. Or learn to identify animal tracks. You might also find a new hobby in identifying and collecting rocks. (Make sure you are in a place where rock collecting is allowed.)
Regardless of where you live, chances are good that there’s a wonderful trail—or several—within striking distance. AdventureKEEN has a variety of series to help you find the best options, including 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles, Five-Star Trails, and Top Trails. Make a plan, choose your routes, and turn this New Year’s Resolution into a success in 2020.
Birds in winter are wonderful to observe, and a birding-themed gift is a perfect fit beneath your Christmas tree. A good friend of mine is very enthused about the birds (less so about the squirrels) that visit her feeder during these chilly months. I took it upon myself to create the ultimate bird-watching present. With AdventureKEEN products, that’s easy to do. Following are five ideas for a great gift package.
1. Bird Identification Guide
A state-specific field guide adds an extra personal touch to this gift idea, and that’s always a good thing. Find the Birds of book for your state. These wonderful guides for watching and feeding birds in winter are organized by color. So when you see a yellow bird, jump to the yellow section to find out what it is. Once you find a match, you’ll learn about the bird’s nest, eggs, migration, favorite foods, and more.
2. Birding Journal
Add another level of interactivity to your gift. The Birding Journal allows its users to record their favorite birding moments. Note which birds are seen, including when and where. Document the birds in winter—and all seasons—eating at the feeder. Compare new spring arrivals from year to year. Keep track of a life list and more. It’s a beautiful book, worthy of a spot under the Christmas tree.
3. Bird Playing Cards
A fun addition to a gift package or a perfect stocking stuffer, the Birds of decks of playing cards are available by region. Choose from the Gulf Coast, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, and Southwest. Each card features a photograph of different species common or important to the region. So people can learn to identify birds in winter, spring, summer, and fall while playing their favorite card games.
4. An Asylum of Loons
For something fun and entirely unexpected beneath the Christmas tree, this fascinating book is the twist your gift package needs. It introduces strange and unexpected collective nouns for specific types of birds. Discover the surprising number of different terms, and learn their true meanings―as well as the history behind them. Did C.S. Lewis really coin the phrase “a parliament of owls”? Find out in this colorfully designed conversation-starter.
5. Zen Birds
The giftiest item in your bird-lover’s present will be Zen Birds. This small, beautiful hardcover book was inspired by traditional Asian brushwork and haiku. The artwork and text are sure to warm a heart more quickly than spotting one’s favorite birds in winter.
Put these five products in a box, wrap them up, and tuck them under the tree. You’ll win Christmas for just around $50 or so.