Vacations for the Outdoorsy Type: Sanibel Island, Florida

There are few places in this world that I would consider “perfect” for a vacation. Every destination has its flaws, its drawbacks, its annoyances. If I had to choose one place, however, where I would spend every vacation if possible, it would be Sanibel Island in Florida.

Sanibel Island is the ideal tropical paradise. It has pristine, white beaches perfect for making sandcastles, sparkling water with plenty of sea life, every tropical plant you can imagine and a wide array of tourist activities. All this makes Sanibel Island a home away from home for many Floridians. Of course, it doesn’t matter where you live as long as you can hop on a plane, because Sanibel Island is only a short drive from Fort Meyers International Airport.

Rather than spending your vacation in a stuffy hotel room with air conditioning that blows too cold, stay the night at one of the Gulf Breeze Cottages, which are situated right on the beach and provide a stunning view in both the morning and night. You can rent bicycles to travel around the island rather than bringing your car, and you can take short cruises if you want to get on the water.

There are plenty of sporting activities on Sanibel Island, so this is the perfect vacation for athletic travelers. Golf, tennis, boating, in-line skating , basketball and racquetball are all popular in town. You can also try your hand at parasailing or water skiing if it suits you.

The best part of visiting Sanibel Island, however, is the shelling. Collectors of sea shells will assume they’ve died and shot straight to heaven, because there are millions of unique, colorful shells on all the beaches of the island. There is even a seashell museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road.

For your visit to Sanibel Island, I recommend a pair of comfortable sandals for long walks on the beach and strolls through town. The Birkenstock Arizonas are a great choice for men and women alike, with a contoured foot bed and raised toe bar.

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Big Game Hunting and Fishing: Furbearers in Idaho

Although you may enjoy hunting the really big game animals such as cougars and black bears, sometimes an outdoor enthusiast has to – as comedian Steve Martin is fond of saying – get small. Many furbearing animals, though small in size, can yield trophies which are both beautiful and valuable.
One of the best places to find these furry creatures is Idaho, a state that is best known for its potatoes. The Department of Fish & Game (*DFG*) manages the harvest of the following furbearing species in Idaho:

  • Badger
  • Beaver
  • Bobcat
  • Red fox
  • Marten
  • Mink
  • Muskrat
  • River otter
  • Raccoon

Though it’s fairly easy to catch a spud (they don’t put up much of a fight), there’s a certain amount of skill involved in targeting and trapping one of the species listed above. The goal of any good trapper is the safe, humane capture of the target animal; it’s also essential to avoid destroying their natural habitats when you are going for pelts or trophies.
Besides trapping, the Idaho DFG allows you to hunt badgers, raccoons, red foxes and bobcats. It’s also possible to hunt spotted skunks, ermines and coyotes, all of which have been classified as predatory animals by the state (lynx and wolves are off-limits). The DFG also requires you to purchase your license, tags and permits before you start the hunt, but you can buy these online or over the phone.
If you don’t want to keep your trophy, it is possible to sell the pelts, which can be made into fur coats. No matter what you choose to do with your pelts, trapping is an art that requires patience, timing and spending quite a bit of time in harsh weather. For long hunts, a pair of Baffin Trapper boots can keep your feet warm and dry (they have a comfort rating that starts as low as -76 degrees).
For a chance to really “go fur“ some different types of game animals, Idaho is the place to go.

Treacherous Climb of the Week: Acadia National Park

Most people, when they are interested in treacherous mountain climbing, head to the Rockies or to the canyons of Arizona, but few think to visit Maine. Acadia National Park, located off the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island, is home to some of the most spectacular climbs in the entire United States.

What’s unique about Acadia? The view, for one thing. Many of the most treacherous climbs involve sea cliff climbing, which means that climbers are hovering above the ocean while the scale rocky, crumbly cliffs. This is quite a head rush when you consider the dangers of falling in such an environment. Plus, a backdrop of ocean creates a strange but exciting illusion as you struggle toward the top.

The Otter Cliffs, for example, are about 60 feet tall, with routes that range in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.12, and boast a beautiful view of the water. For less experienced climbers, however, there are one-, two- and three-pitch routes in South Bubble that are perfect for TRing. South Bubble is also not as populated as the Otter Cliffs on the weekends, so you might consider that when you travel.

The danger of climbing at Acadia National Park is not necessarily the pitch or the grade of the climb, both of which can be difficult, but the threat of the tide. Visitors who fail to check the tide times upon arrival or who have no respect for the cycles of the ocean can find themselves caught on cliffs with no way to descend.

If you’re going visit Acadia National Park in the summer, however, make sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes for long strolls along the cliffs in the evening. The Merrell Siren Syncs are a great choice for women who enjoy walking, as these can be worn both on vacation and at home.

Acadia National Park is a great place for climbing, especially since there are so many diverse ways to get in your daily climb. Bouldering is common here and is the perfect way to warm up for longer and more difficult climbs.

Best Hiking Trails: See Mount Rainier via The Wonderland Trail!

From pretty much any vantage point in Seattle, Washington, you can see Mount Rainier. So it makes sense when people think about hiking trails around Seattle, Mount Rainier is one of the first places to come to mind. You could of course hike (and climb) up to the summit, but – at over 14,000 feet – it would take you a fair while. Plus, unless you’ve done it before, it’s also recommended to take a guide and that can be quite expensive. For a challenging, yet not too dangerous hike in the real outdoors, Mount Rainier National Park is still the place, and the Wonderland Trail is the hike.

The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that hits just about every major zone of the park. You can start the Wonderland Trail at many different places along its way, but it will take you at least 10 to 12 days to complete it if you decide to hike the whole thing, so be prepared.

The Wonderland Trail actually circles Mount Rainier, meaning if you do the whole thing, you’ll see the mountain from pretty much every conceivable angle (except from the top, of course). There are also ranger cabins all over the park. Because there aren’t any places to purchase food, if you do decide to walk the entire trail, you’re going to have to arrange to have food packages mailed to several ranger locations for pick up as you hike.

The weather in this area can be a bit iffy, even in the summer. Park rangers will also warn you to watch out for sudden, extreme changes of weather. If you’re walking the whole Wonderland Trail, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some severe weather during the almost two weeks that you’ll be hiking. So make sure you’re prepared with all the right equipment .

The Wonderland Trail sounds like it could be too much like hard work, but, in reality, it’s one of the best ways to see the park. All kinds of flora, fauna and wildlife exist, not to mention the panoramic views. And let’s face it, if you’ve seen anything of Mount Rainier from Seattle, it’d be kinda cool to see it from so close up.

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Survival Gear: Trek Adventures in the Yukon

If you’re venturing into Canada to discover the beauty and majesty of Yukon territory, days of trekking and camping may be part of the trip’s itinerary. The Yukon territories are brimming with adventure, which make them an ideal place to take in the wilderness and enjoy the fresh mountain air.

You’ll find dozens of hiking and backpacking treks around the Yukon trails, and some even have relics from the Klondike Gold Rush. No matter how much backcountry experience you have, you’ll need to pack for survival as you trek through the valleys and mountains. Stock up on these survival basics to get you through Yukon territory:

Compass – make the most of your adventure and stick to the trails with a compass . This simple tool will keep you on the right track day or night and save you from losing focus on the trek.

Weather navigator – while the temperatures and climate remain fairly steady throughout the seasons in Yukon territory, you may encounter storms and inclement weather. Keep track of the weather with the Brunton Nomad V2 Pro; it features a built-in barometer and also gives direction readings when it becomes impossible to see the trail ahead of you.

Handheld lantern – you’ll need a lantern to guide the way when the sun disappears from view, and the Black Diamond Apollo Lantern will help you stay on course. Pick up some rechargeable batteries and an extra battery pack for longer trips.

Medical kit – treat those scrapes and bruises with bandages and antibacterial spray to avoid infection. You’re likely to get a few scars and bruises on your trip, so pack the Ultralight Adventure Medical Kit to manage any trauma or wounds on the trip. The kit also includes a splinter picker, antihistamine and a complete wound irrigation system – a must for those long days trekking through the forests and caves.

*Sleeping bag*s – when you’re settling in for an overnight stay in the Yukon, stay warm and toasty with an insulated sleeping bag. Temperatures can drop below freezing each night during the Fall and Winter season, so you’ll need a durable and well insulated bag to keep you warm. The Phantom sleeping bags are one of several baffle-construction bags that will let you snooze in comfort.

Best Hiking Trails: It's Not Called Big Sky for Nothing!

One place that’s wonderful to visit is Big Sky, Montana. I mean, really, how can you not want to go to a place that has such a cool name? Hiking in a place like Big Sky is also amazing, with all that clear blue sky, mountains and massive amounts of land. The Big Sky area has two great places where you can hike: Gallatin National Forest and possibly the world’s most famous national park, Yellowstone National Park.

Get in your head a picture of the movie, A River Runs Through It. Dramatic scenery, fresh air, pretty big mountains, rivers, streams and an incredible blue sky. This is what you’ll see if you hike in Gallatin National Forest. Just a few miles away from Big Sky, Gallatin has almost 2,300 miles of hiking trails – it’s truly enormous. One of the best hiking areas in the country, bar none, and some of the mountain peaks are over 11,000 feet.

To start off hiking in Gallatin National Forest, it’s best to go in the summer when the weather isn’t too severe. There are five different mountain ranges you can hike. On all of them you’ll see incredibly diverse plants and wildlife, including the area’s famous bald eagles and grizzly bears. Be very aware of your surroundings though and watch what you’re doing. A fall or a grizzly bear attack on many of these trails could leave you badly injured and miles away from help. To get started, you’re better visiting one of the park’s offices – the main one being in Bozeman – to collect maps, information on good starting points for hikes, estimated times to complete trails and more. Also carry bear spray and wear clunky boots . Bears don’t like a lot of noise, so the noisier you are, the less chance you have of accidentally stumbling upon one.

Yellowstone National Park is only a short drive from Big Sky and has 1,200 miles of hiking trails. One of the trails easily accessible from Big Sky is called Tee pee. It’s about 13 miles south of Big Sky, right before you get to Yellowstone National Park. The great thing about Tee pee is it’s perfect for all levels of hiker, especially kids, and it eventually enters Yellowstone National Park, where you’ll find many more hiking trails to enjoy. Get more information about hiking trails from one of the many Yellowstone visitor centers.

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Survival Gear: Snowshoeing in Ontario

Ontario is one of the world’s top snowshoeing destinations, a great place to explore the local wilderness and catch a glimpse of wild animals along your trek. While snowshoeing is a hobby sport for some, it’s a survival necessity for others; if you’re setting out on an Ontario camping adventure, the only way to get from Point A to Point B is by strapping on a pair of snowshoes and navigating your way through the wilderness. In addition to a quality pair of snowshoes, you’ll need some extra gear to survive the slippery slopes. Make sure you’re well-prepared for the weather and the activities of the day with:

Plenty of Layers
From down parkas to thermal shirts and pants, you’ll need to layer up with at least 2-3 pieces of clothing to trap in the heat. Be prepared for a random snowstorm or a few hours trapped in a snow bank with the some insulated clothing and protect yourself from frostbite and brutal temperatures after sundown. Look for lightweight materials that trap in the heat so you’re not weighed down during a snowshoeing trek.

Stowaway Cooking Pot
If you’re planning an overnight stay by pitching a tent in snowy quarters, look forward to a hot meal with the help of a versatile cooking pot . These pots heat up quickly and seal in the heat for a late-night snack if you need it. They’re large enough to carry food for two and will easily slip into your backpack when you’re on the go.

Hydration Pack
It’s very easy to get dehydrated without realizing it on those cold-weather trails, so a backpack that’s hydration-compatible can help you stock up on the H20 without it turning to ice. The Cyberpack from Columbia is a versatile, lightweight pack designed with an extra water bottle pocket and foam padding for extra comfort. It’s large enough to hold the essentials for any snowshoeing adventure and protect your gear from harsh weather.

Snowshoeing in Ontario or other regions around Canada is an exhilarating experience; pack the right gear to make the most of your adventure on the slippery slopes.

Vacations for the Outdoorsy Type: The Mammoth Site

When you think about visiting a place called Hot Springs, images of sunbathing with a never-ending stream of Mai Tais probably enter your head. But in Hot Springs, South Dakota, you’re more likely to find the fossilized bones of a woolly mammoth than a tiny cocktail umbrella.

The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor vacationers who are interested in paleontology. You don’t have to hold a master’s degree in archaeology to appreciate the magnitude of history, however, just make sure you bring your camera and plenty of enthusiasm for the lost ages.

There are several ways to vacation at The Mammoth Site. Those who live in South Dakota often plan one-day excursions to the museum and dig site, but you can also come from anywhere in the United States and stay a whole week. There is plenty to do, and there are even educational programs for kids.

Black Hills Vacations is the local travel agency that books tours and trips for people from all over the U.S. Packages include meals, accommodations, tours of The Mammoth Site and a host of other activities. If you’d rather plan your vacation as you go, you can simply show up to The Mammoth Site to explore the dig, and then go site-seeing around the rest of Hot Springs and Black Hills.

It is important to remember that The Mammoth Site is a working paleontology dig, with real researchers and real discoveries. They are open seven days a week to the public, however, and this is one of the only archaeological digs in the world where visitors get hands-on experience with paleontology.

When you visit The Mammoth Site, make sure to bring a pair of sturdy walking shoes, such as the New Balance WW977s for women or the MW966s for men. You’ll be walking quite a bit through the dig and the museum, so prepare in advance!

You’ll also want to bring several bottles of water to The Mammoth Site as well as your favorite camera.