Wednesday

5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

My family moved to Florida the summer before my senior year of high school and I thought I had moved to hell. The humidity was awful. The only time I enjoyed being outdoors was at the beach, and even that took some getting use to. The bugs were huge and there were more pine trees than palm trees, at least in north Florida. But I had a huge change of heart during my time there and made many wonderful outdoor adventures happen. You can read a little more about my change of heart in my post Making Adventure Happen No Matter Your Location.
5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

I am at the point now where I miss Florida terribly, so I thought I would share some of my favorite outdoor adventures from that unique state. Most people associate Florida with Disney and the beach. There isn't any wrong with that but you are missing out on some wonderful experiences if that is all you see when you visit. But before I send you off, here are a few things I have learned that make outdoor adventures in Florida more enjoyable.

Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors in Florida

  1. It is extremely hot and humid in Florida in the summer. I recommend sticking to activities that involve water. Or better yet, vacation in Florida in the fall, winter or spring
  2. Where there is water in Florida, there CAN (doesn't mean there is) be alligators and water moccasins. But please don't let them keep you indoors. I have never been chased by either and I worked and recreated outdoors in Florida since 1997. The biggest concern is for children and small dogs. Please read How To Be Safe Around Alligators and this site on venomous snakes in Florida for more information.
  3. If you choose to camp in the summer bring a battery powered fan to sleep by at night and take showers in the evening. Personally, I wouldn't camp during the summer. I am a seasoned outdoors person and I don't enjoy it.
  4. Use a screened in table canopy. There are a lot of bugs and this will make all the difference. 
  5. Place tent in the shade. It isn't a lot cooler in the shade but it will keep the tent cooler than if it was in the direct sunlight. 
  6. Avoid the hottest parts of the day. Early morning is the best time the enjoy the outdoors. 
Here are a few of my favorite outdoor destinations by region in the beautiful state of Florida.

Northeast Florida

  • Washington Oaks Gardens State Park - The gardens are beautiful but what sets this park apart is actually the beach. The shoreline is covered in coquina rock. It is one of the only places to see it in Florida. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
Northwest Florida
  • Suwanee River Wilderness Trail - If you a looking for a canoeing destination, this is an excellent choice. There are camp site set up along the trail and the water is calm and relaxing. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
    There are no shortages of rope swings along this trail either. 
  • Florida Caverns State Park - There are the only a few caves in Florida that are dry, not filled with water, and this is the only one open to the public on a state park. I wouldn't go just to see the caves but if you are driving along I-10 and need a break, these are perfect. There is also camping, water activities and such in the area. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

Central Florida

  • Santa Fe River Full Moon Canoe Trips - This is a beautiful trip during a unique time of day. The fireflies were the most memorable part of the trip for me. Most of the time I see fireflies in town with lots of artificial light around but in the wild with just the stars, they are amazing. The outpost even has a camp fire waiting when you return. If you can't make it to a moon light trip, the day trips are beautiful as well. There are at least three springs that feed into the river that you can explore. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

South Florida

  • Everglades/Ten Thousand Islands - The possibilities are endless here and it isn't really unexpected, I know, but I couldn't resist. I have hiked and camped on the eastern side of the park and in Big Cypress, enjoyed boardwalks a short drive from Miami and canoe camped in Ten Thousand Islands. This article has a pretty comprehensive list of activities.
5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
Source
    Have you explored the outdoors in Florida? What are your favorite spots?

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    10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.

    I love January; it is so refreshing after to rush of the holidays. Even though it is cold, we love being outside and enjoy the colder weather. But by the time February and especially March arrive I am a little tired of the cold. I live in Oklahoma so I don't have to deal with much snow but it is windy and I get a little tired of bundling up the kids. Can you relate? As a result I am always looking for creative outdoor play ideas to get the kids and myself motivated to get outdoors. Here are a few of my favorites.
    10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    Hope you enjoy them as well!
    • Create an Outdoor Play Kitchen. I love this idea. Very simple and adaptable. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source

    • Make A Journey Stick. Such a fun way to spice up your next park visit or hike. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Make Animal Tracks. These are perfect for almost any weather; even if you have snow. Just tie them onto the bottom of your shoes, since it is a little too cold to wear flip flops, and let the kids run. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Take Art Outside and Make Bark Rubbings. There are not many natural materials available in the winter for art, but there isn't a shortage of bark. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Or Make a Recycled Bird Feeder Mobile. This is beautiful.
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Collect Rocks and Make Rock Dominoes. These would even be fun indoors. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Make Colored Ice Blocks. Just put a drop or two of food coloring into the water in a ice cube tray and freeze. My son had fun make-believing with these. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    • Get Crafty and Make a Fancy Stick Crown. My kids would have so much fun pretending with these. Plus it is one of the few natural materials available in the winter. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Explore the Forest. Trees look dead in the winter but they aren't. It is fun time to help your kids understand another aspect of nature. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    • Make Stick Boats. Another use for all the sticks my kids collect. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    Bonus: Don't forget to include friends. I find the best way to get out of the house is to make plans with other people. No backing out them. Plus everyone has much more fun. The kids are more entertained and mom can talk to someone other than the kids.

    What about you guys, what are your favorite outdoor activities when it is cold and you don't have snow? 

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    Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget

    My passion is finding simple, fun and inexpensive ways to GET OUTDOORS. As I now have a family nowadays, they are generally included in my adventures. Since it usually more complicated getting outdoors with a family, I love passing on what I have learned through this blog. I have been doing so for a little over a year and a half and for this post I thought it would be helpful to pull together some of my top posts into one cohesive framework, or at least in one place. I hope this will help families realize they can get outdoors and have amazing family outdoor adventures.
    Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget

    A couple of my most memorable family outdoor adventures using these ideas are the 2000 mile road trip we took summer 2013, camping in the Garden of the Gods, the day trips we have taken from Oklahoma City, and our most recent 2014 holiday travels. Spending time outdoors as a family and having amazing adventures is possible, no matter where you live or your budget. I hope you find these tips useful as well.
    • Camp instead of staying in hotels. It is an easy way to save a bunch of money on lodging. I even devoted an entire post on why I believe camping is better than staying in hotels when traveling with kids. New to camping? Check out my post Tips for a First-Time Camper from a First-Time Camper where my brother-in-law shared the best advise he received before his first camping trip last year. Trying something new is the best kind of adventure! Here are some more tips for frugal campers
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Our kids love camping! They ask when we are going again. 
    • Beg, borrow, but don't steal equipment, if you don't own it and want to camp. Gear can be a big barrier to people camping. Another option for cutting costs when getting outfitted for camping is buying used gear. My post Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear has some easy recommendations for getting the best quality used gear. Don't like either of those options, buy gear from Walmart. My first tent was from Walmart and lasted for five years with fairly heavy use. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Using our second-hand carrier at the Petrified Forest National Park. 
    • Take advantage of government attractions and campsites, they are generally cheaper than privately owned venues. You can also save money by camping at National or state forests instead of national or state parks. Forests are generally cheaper. The biggest downside is that they don't always have showers or the other amenities that parks offer. But those amenities don't matter to us as much on shorter trips. You can read about some of our experiences in my Garden of the Gods trip report. The same is true for government attractions (historic sites, parks, etc.) verses private venues. Government is cheaper. If you need help finding recreation areas to visit, check out my post Finding New-To-You Recreation Areas; plenty of helpful tips.
      Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Fort Ticonderoga was cool but pretty expensive. 
    • Visit FREE attractions. Duh. But I think we sometimes assume the best things require us to spend a lot of money. In reality, the most important part of family outdoor adventures is building memories. That can be done almost anywhere. Local/regional magazines can be a great recourse for finding special events and pricing. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Many state parks near us have no entrance fees AND have plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
    • Avoid eating out AT ALL COST. Eating out is just plain expensive and there are a lot of options for meals that don't require you to eat out. Here are my ideas for camping that could easily apply to hotels. We often eat sandwiches, frozen dinners or buy a rotisserie chicken and such from a grocery store deli for dinner in our hotel room. This also gives the kids more time to run around and swim after so much time in the car. On our summer 2013 road trip we ate out less than once a day. We followed the same pattern on our Christmas 2014 road trip. 
      Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      One of the many picnics we have had over the years.
    • Turn traveling to visit family into an adventure. Most of our major traveling is done to visit family. We just take longer traveling out to and home from family because we see the sights. Once we are with family we involve them in our outings. Plus you have a free place to stay, which helps contain costs tremendously. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      We took a day trip to Montezumas Castle National Monument during our holiday travels. 
    • Stay close to home. Gas is usually expensive (although it is cheap right now, take advantage) and no matter where you live there are interesting things to see. I am a firm believer that you can make adventure happen no matter your location
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      The Chickasaw Cultural Center is only about an hour and a half from us but the whole area offers an array of outdoor activities. 
    • Buy what you can from the dollar store. The dollar store can be especially useful for toys and non-electronic entertainment for the kids. Twin Dragonfly Designs has some great ideas for dollar store camping supplies.
    • Use gift cards or ask for gift cards for birthday's and holidays. Easy way to "save" towards trips with out having cash on hand or in the bank. 
    • Use points from your credit card to purchase a gift card or for deals on hotels and such
    • Use public transportation when possible. If you are flying to an area, public transportation is generally much less expensive than renting a car. Wild Tales Of has some great tips for using public transportation with babies
    Here are some other awesome tips for traveling and adventuring as a family. 

    Your turn, what are you money-saving tips for family outdoor adventures?

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    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)

    I really love holidays. But I sometimes get tired of all the commercialism and focus on CANDY. We still have candy from Christmas and Halloween. I am always very appreciative when we get non-candy gifts. The only thing that makes a gift better for me when it encourages us to get outdoors. So, in an effort to take the focus off candy and put it onto spending time outdoors I created these Valentines. After all, spring is the perfect time for getting outdoors and gardening.
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)

    The "glue" attaching the seeds to the paper is just flour and water. So the seeds do not need to be detached from the paper before they are planted. Plus my kids had a fun time gluing the seeds onto the Valentines. I liked that my kids were able to take an active role in creating these for their friends. Hope you all enjoy.

    Materials

    • Forget-Me-Not Valentine PDF (available at bottom of post)
    • Forget-Me-Not seeds
    • 2 tbsp Flour
    • 2 tbsp Water
    • Paint Brush

    Instructions

    • Print Forget-Me-Not Valentines and cut out. 
    • Mix flour and water until smooth to make the "glue".
    • Use the paint brush to dab a small dot of paste onto the inside of the hearts on the Valentines.
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
       
    • Place a couple seeds on each dot of past. Make sure to press seeds into glue. It will get a little messy but if you don't the seeds will just pop off when dried. Trust me. 
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    • Allow to dry. 
    • Have your child sign their name on the bottom. 

    Alternative Gift Options

    • Place card and whole packet of Forget-Me-Not seeds in decorative bag and tie with ribbon. You could even throw in a few Peat Soil Pellets for starting seeds. 
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    • Instead of gluing seeds into the center of the heart, cut out a heart-shaped piece of seed paper and glue or tie it to the center of the heart. You can buy or make your own seed paper. I love this tutorial from aboutHome. How cute are they!
    Hope you have a beautiful Valentine's Day!
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    Click on image for a printable PDF. 
    PIN IT FOR LATER!
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)


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    Thursday

    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    Shortly after our move to Oklahoma this past summer I wrote a post about making adventure happen no matter your location, a topic very near and dear to my heart. I believe every corner of this Earth holds beauty and it is our privilege to explore and enjoy them. I spent my childhood exploring the Rocky Mountains and I miss them terribly. I learned to love the pines and sandy beaches of Florida while studying forest management in college. But here I am, half way in between and loving a new kind of outdoors all over again.

    When I found out we were moving to Oklahoma I figured there would some outdoor activities. Probably the usual state recreation areas with a few national parks sprinkled around. And that about describes it here. But, what I wasn't expecting was how much it would speak to me and my family. My son's favorite color is red and Oklahoma is chalked full of red dirt and rocks. He loves exploring, throwing and climbing all over his red dirt and rocks. For me, the hues of red are just beautiful.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City
    Red Rock Canyon State Park

    In addition to the red, Oklahoma is, in my opinion, part of big sky county. We regularly have colorful sunsets and plenty of interesting cloud formations to contrast the red rocks. No towering peaks here, but there is more topography than I expected. I appreciate the texture of the gently rolling hills and unexpected canyons. I know you can find these things in lot of places but I consider myself lucky to live in one of them.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City
    Memorable sunset during our camping trip at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

    I haven't wasted any time in getting outdoors and exploring. Mostly it has just been with my two kids, ages 2 and 5 and, overall, we have been impressed with the facilities and amenities available. Here are my favorite outdoor-filled day trips from Oklahoma City. The topography in these areas are very light. Making them very easy to visit with two kids while my husband is at work.

    Lake Thunderbird State Park


    Lake Thunderbird State Park is located about 30 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City. We participated in their First Day Hike on January 1, 2015 and were blown away by all they had planned. They held a information session on wildlife photography and provided healthy snacks before and after the hike. The park naturalist was especially fun. He has a real passion for connecting kids with nature and took a lot of time with our son. There is a lot more to explore here. But if you have kids just stop by the nature center and enjoy a talk with the naturalist and a walk down to the lake. There were no entrance fees.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City
    The naturalist showing my son different types of bird feathers. 

    Red Rock Canyon State Park


    Red Rock Canyon State Park is a beautiful canyon about an hour west of Oklahoma City. I seriously felt like I was driving to the middle of a town and all of a sudden, there it was. I was so excited to see topography (this was my first experience seeing topography in Oklahoma) and the best thing about it was the color.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    This park offers the traditional activities of hiking and camping but also has spots for repelling. It is one of the few places to repel in Oklahoma. We went during the week and we were kind of the only ones there. But, there are a ton of campsites and I imagine that the canyon gets pretty busy during peak camping season. There were no entrance fees.

    Chickasaw Cultural Center and National Recreation Area


    This Chickasaw National Recreation Area is about an hour and a half south of Oklahoma City. We love this area. The Cultural Center is part of the Chickasaw National and is mostly free. There is one museum that costs but the traditional village is all free. We visited during their fall festival and had a ton of fun. They had a bunch of activities and demonstrations all for free. The National Recreation Area has springs, lakes and hiking trails. We camped here last fall and are planning on going back because there was so much we didn't get to see. We explored the Lake of the Arbuckles on our last visit.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    Martin Park Nature Center


    Martin Park Nature Center is located on the north side of Oklahoma City and is perfect for a nature excursion when you can't leave town. My kids love this place because it has a playground, an observation tower, multiple bridges and an interactive nature center. I love this place because I can show my kids the animal indoors, then take them outdoors and help them understand where those animals live in the wild and how we can protect them.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City
    My kids love the observation tower. 
    One of the prettiest features of this park is the river. It flows over red rock and is a fun place to cool off on a hot day. We make a stop there every visit. This is honestly a good place for a nature fix without having to travel. There were no entrance fees.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    Arcadia Lake


    Archadia Lake is location about 15 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. We love the trails in this area because of the lake. I have found that it is helpful to have "destinations" when hiking with kids. This gives them something to look forward to and makes our breaks more interesting. We usually stop at the lake towards the end of our hike for some rock throwing and snacks. There are entrance fees at this park.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    Roman Nose State Park


    Roman Nose State Park is located about an hour and 15 minutes northwest of Oklahoma City. It is set in a beautiful canyon filled with trees and water bodies. The highlight of our trip was exploring the Tee-pees. We cannot wait to go back and camp in them. This park also has a golf course, paddle boats, natural springs, stables and hayrides. Once again, I would imagine this place gets pretty busy during peak camping, golf and fishing season. There were no entrance fees.
    Adventure-Filled Day Trips from Oklahoma City

    Goals for 2015 Adventures!


    Wichita National Wildlife Refuge
    This is a beautiful mountain range located in southwestern Oklahoma. I can't wait to spend a day hiking here.

    Black Mesa State Park
    This state parks holds the highest point in Oklahoma and is located in the panhandle of Oklahoma. This will be more than a day trip but I am looking forward to exploring this area.

    Great Plains State Park

    I am sure I will find more areas to explore. I will also revisit many of the areas from this year and continue to explore their trails.

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    Monday

    Announcing the Outdoor Families Magazine

    I am excited to announce the launch of the Outdoor Families Magazine. A group of my fellow #outfam bloggers have come together to offer unparalleled outdoor and adventure related content meant to inspire a connection to, participation in, and stewardship of the natural world.

    The magazine’s advisory board is comprised of more than 30 business and thought leaders in the outdoor family and adventure market. The magazine will also eventually produce a monthly podcast, as an additional means for adults and kids to connect with a diverse range of cultures, people, and places around the world.

    Outdoor Families Magazine will be the go-to resource hub, cultivating a robust, engaged community that connects with people who are interested in obtaining information related to family outdoor sports, activities and play, environmental stewardship, volunteering, adventure travel, mind and body nourishment and green living resources, ideas and tips. “There is a lack of relatable content available to families who simply want motivation and inspiration to get outdoors with their kids,” said Jennifer Fontaine founder of Outdoor Families Magazine. “This magazine will fill a void in the rapidly-growing market of outdoor family adventure and we intend to thoughtfully lead the movement.” Fontaine will oversee the overall design, aesthetic and content direction of the magazine.


    In conjunction with the launch, Outdoor Families Magazine is sponsoring a photo contest with some amazing prizes. Head on over and show us your best family adventure photos. Here are a few of the prizes. 




    Friday

    Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear

    I love buying used gear. I have been amazed at some of the deals I have found on gear that looked practically new. But I have also had a few bad experiences and learned some lessons the hard way. Here are a few tips for helping you decided whether to buy the gear new or used and to help you find the best used gear.

    When To Buy Used Gear

    • To lesson your environmental impact. I love this post from Alyssa over at The Kid Project. I totally agree that American's are addicted to buying stuff. I know we use most of it but people have been living without it for thousands of years. Take a minute and ask yourself if you really need it or if you can make due without. Then if you need or really want it, consider buying used. If you have old gear, consider recycling. You never know who it might benefit. Traci offers some great ideas the her article How to Recycle Old Gear
      Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear
    • When the gear will be used infrequently or for a short time but is still needed. Last year we lived in southern Indiana. We got snow but it didn't last for long and the most we ever got at one time was six inches. I still wanted snow gear for my kids but it wasn't worth spending a lot of money. We weren't going to be spending all day outdoors skiing or snowshoeing.  I found snow pants for my daughter and boots for my son at a local consignment shop. Later, a friend gave me a pair of snow boots for my daughter. None of the gear was my favorite, but they worked and we were able to get outdoors, A LOT. 
      Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear
      Used coat, snow pants and boots. Not the best quality, but they allowed us to GET OUTDOORS!
    • When trying a new outdoor activity. Buying used gear is a great way to try a new sport before investing a ton of money in brand-new gear. When I get into canoeing again, I will most likely buy a used canoe to start with. 
    • No money. Sometime the funds just aren't there to buy new. We have all been there at one point or another. 
    • If you find a great deal. I found a like-new Deuter KangaKid carrier for $25 at a local consignment store. I used it for my diaper bag for a year (that way I could hike whenever I wanted) and we still take it when we travel because it is so much smaller than a framed carrier. It wasn't something I was looking for but we have gotten a lot of use out of the carrier.
      Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear
      Hiking with our second-hand Dueter carrier at the Petrified Forest National Park December 2014. 
    Once you have decided to buy something used, here are a few things to look at before you buy.
    • Look for "professionals". I know this sounds odd but I bought my camera from a man who sells things on Craig's List as a source of extra income in retirement. He found an awesome, like-new camera and other items that went with the camera and sold them as a package deal. I could tell this guy was different than most sellers on Craig's List because he had a very detailed and lengthy add. I was nervous at first because I was afraid it was a scam but it turned out great.
    • Look for package deals - As I said, I bought my camera used off Craig's List. It was great because the man selling it had found an extra battery and information book to include in the deal. The camera looked like it had never been used. I got it and the extra equipment for a fraction of the cost. 
    • Look for a parts list online and bring it with you when you purchase the item. I bought a bike trailer for my kids and didn't check the parts list ahead of time. It turned out that an essential piece was missing. Fortunately I found the piece on Amazon for a decent price but it was annoying and I had to spend more money. 
      Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear
    • Don't just look at the piece of gear. Pull on the seams, twist the straps, search every nook and cranny. Some pieces look really good but start to fall apart when you look closer and use the item. 
    • Be safe. Use your best judgment if meeting someone in person to purchase an item. Bring a friend or let someone know where you are meeting and make sure it is in a public place. 

    Places to buy used gear.
    • Craig's List, eBay, etc. 
    • GearTrade - I haven't used them yet but they are an option. 
    • Local Consignment Shops
    • Garage Sales
    • Friends 
    What about you guys, any other suggestions or tips for buying used gear? 

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