What’s Your Kind of Wilderness?

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Over spring break, my Mountain Fam had a mix of outdoor experiences. We played at a park, biked on a local trail and camped in a beautiful, forgotten corner of the Utah desert. It brought to mind the question, What’s my kind of wilderness?

Urban Jungle
For some people getting outdoors just means a stroll to the neighborhood park. A chunk of manicured green cut out from concrete streets and brick buildings may be all the outdoor love you need.

When Little G was first born, before we moved to the mountains, this was the extent of my outdoor experience. I walked to the park around the corner to push my two tots on swings and spend hours watching Big E dig in the sandbox in our backyard.

A backyard sandbox, herb garden or hammock might be just enough wilderness to get all the benefits of being outdoors without leaving home. It was nice. But it wasn’t enough for me.
Suburban Wilderness
After moving to the mountains near Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, my daily outdoor experience changed. I live with a forest right outside my front door and a ski hill just down the road. We live far enough out of town to be surrounded by trees but close enough that grocery shopping isn’t an all day ordeal.

In the canyon near my home is my favorite Go To Outdoor Space – the Provo River Trail. I love it because the flat paved trail runs along a river on one side and mountains on the other. It’s nothing if not beautiful.

Since one of my goals this year is to teach my kids to ride bikes, we hit this trail last week on a balance bike from WOOM (pronounced VOOM). Technically its Little G’s WOOM 3 with the pedals removed but since Big E has yet to learn to ride a bike even though he’s in first grade, I put it to use like a balance bike. Big E loved it.

I’m grateful for locations like this suburban wilderness bike trail. It’s only a 15 minute drive from town, easily accessible at multiple parks and it even passes Bridal Veil Falls, a 200 foot tall waterfall. Many hikers and bikers enjoy this trail all year long and sometimes the trail heads and parks can be overly crowded, especially on weekends.
Outdoor Destination
Think of the outdoor spaces within an hour or two of your home. Those places you could drive to for a day activity – beach, mountain, river. People go there for a day or two to enjoy the outdoors and relax.

Most of my camping adventures fall into this category. We live in the vast Wasatch Uinta National Forest where there are loads of hiking, mountain biking, and camping all within an hour drive. These destinations are great for day or overnight trips, to really get out of the norm. I could camp if I want but I usually don’t since it’s close enough to get back home fairly quickly.

These kinds of spaces are usually more remote than the local park or Suburban wilderness. They allude to vast wild spaces before man walked the earth, but the trail heads are still full of people. I like these places because it puts me in a vacation mentality when I go there. They’re far enough away that you take the day off work and do something out of the norm. But they’re not what calls to Mountain Dad.

Utter Isolation
Last weekend we took our first camp out of the year in the San Rafael Swell desert area of Utah. We explored sandstone rock spires, hoodoos, a gypsum sinkhole and desert washes and canyons. We camped on BLM land without seeing another person for more than 24 hours.

This remote kind of wilderness is what Mountain Dad craves. The vast natural beauty and utter lack of people is exactly up his alley. As we explored Cathedral Valley and the Buckhorn Wash pictographs he said, “Any other state, this would be a National Park.” He might have something there. 

Although beautiful, the remoteness of this destination makes it difficult. You must feel comfortable providing for your own needs. Water, bathrooms, lodging, food – there’s no resources nearby. You have to take care of that on your own. The closest ‘town’ to our adventure in Cathedral Valley had two gas stations and no stoplights. Not exactly a destination location.

Yet Mountain Dad was effusive in his praise. Something about getting away from people and enjoying beautiful scenery is like magic for him. I agree it was beautiful and fun to feel like we found something special that few people experience. But when the thought, “What would happen if we got a flat tire?” popped into my head, I wondered if I needed THAT much isolation.

What’s Your Kind of Wilderness?
For me, I prefer the adventure of getting away from home for several days, but I don’t mind sharing my outdoor space with other nature lovers either. For Mountain Dad, the more remote and beautiful (and crowdless) the better.
So what is it for you? Are you content with a stroll in the local park or do you crave to leave the crowds (of whatever size) and find that untouched wild space? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I contacted the companies above to ask for items to review unless otherwise noted. I chose those companies because I thought their products were uniquely designed for outdoor families and relevant for you, my readers. My opinions of their products are my own. I received no compensation other than the product to review.

Gorgoza Park – Feel Like a Kid Again

Last Saturday was my first experience tubing. Not that it’s the first time I’ve ever been in a snowtube, it’s just the first time it’s been so much fun. The Mountain Fam and I set out for Gorgoza Park to enjoy the longest tubing runs I’ve ever seen. This is one place I’ve meant to visit every winter for years but never got around to it until I was invited as part of a blogger event.

I was excited to try out the magic carpet conveyor system to get up the hill with Little G. Since she is under 42 inches she wasn’t allowed on the higher hill but we still had lots of fun on the “smaller” hill, laughing as we sped down the groomed runs.

Big E could’ve spent all day on the upper runs at Gorgoza Park. He loved hooking the tube to the pulley and riding up as well as gliding the extra length down.

Baby L even got to tube at the specially designed Fort Frosty area. The carousel allows children under 3 to have a fun time tubing with no extra effort. Tubes are connected to a rotating bar and they can ride around for as long as they like. For just a small walk she got to go down the baby hill with her brother too. Not bad for a baby who can’t even walk.

I don’t want you to think the tots had all the fun. Mountain Dad and I loved tubing at Gorgoza Park. I whooped and smiled like I was ten years old again.

The one thing we didn’t try was the mini snowmobiles. They’re only for kids ages 6-12 and Big E had too much fun tubing to try them out.

This winter excursion is not cheap for a family of five. A two hour ticket is $28.00 for anyone over 42 inches and $15.00 for the shorter kids. Kids three and under are free with a paying adult but our two hour excursion would’ve cost $99.00 plus tax. As a once-a-year excursion that would be fine, it’s cheaper than skiing after all, but I would really love to see Gorgoza Park offer a season pass or a ten ride transferable ticket option.
Overall we had tons of fun and will definitely go again, even with the steep prices. The fun on the hill is worth it.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, California with MommyHiker.com

The sun, sand and sea are rare for me and my tots. We spend our days in the cool mountains of Utah most of the time, but once a year I find myself craving the sound of waves hitting the beach, salty sea air on my face and a long stretch of sand for me and my kids to play in.

And no summer vacation would be complete without friends to share it with. On this excursion to Leo Carrillo State Beach in California I met up with Jennifer Fontaine, blogger and editor at MommyHiker.com and her lovely daughter, V.  I’m a fan of her blog, a follower of hers on twitter and facebook, but actually meeting face to face – chasing our kids in the water and looking for hermit crabs – helped me realize that all those words on a screen actually came from a human being, a great one at that.

It’s great to get to know the locals whenever you go, but even better when you have something in common. Jennifer’s commitment to having the outdoors part of her family life inspires me to do the same, to take time to explore through the eyes of a child and enjoy what nature has to provide.

And Leo Carrillo State Beach in Southern California has plenty of things to explore. V and Big E hopped from rock to rock chasing seagulls and searching the tide pools for crabs, I watched pelicans soar overhead, while little g contentedly made sand cupcakes. 

Located 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica, Leo Carrillo State Beach is unique with a protected cove toward the north and rocky tide pools that can be explored at almost any time of day (low tide obviously allows for more wildlife). It’s a great family beach and with the Leo Carillo State Beach Campground just a stroll away, it can also be a great place to stay. The parking and campground area is located just under the highway, accessed by a pedestrian tunnel decorated with all sorts of amazing sea life.

My one complaint of Leo Carillo State Beach would be the scarcity of good boogie board space, but with nature you can’t be choosy.

All in all, the beach was great, the sun warm and company stellar. It was so fun to enjoy a day in the sun with MommyHiker.com, I may just need to plan a visit to the ocean more than once a year.

Leo Carrillo State Beach Info
How to get there: Take Hwy 1 in California 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica
Features: Tide Pools, Protected Cove, Beach Combing, Surfing further off shore
Tips: If you want to camp at Leo Carrillo Beach Campground make your reservations early!

Better than the Aquarium: Tide Pools at Carpinteria State Beach, CA

I have a thing for starfish. I find them beautiful and fascinating, even more so when I can see them in their natural environment. One of the coolest, mind-blowing experiences I’ve had this year was watching sea life in the tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach in Southern California. 

Maybe I find these animals so amazing because they are not part of my daily life. As a mountain mom, I grow tired of seeing deer, wild turkeys, blue jays and hummingbirds. They’re always around. But sea stars, anemones, crabs and harbor seals? That’s something to see.

On our visit to Carpinteria State Beach tide pools little g was most excited to find this baby sea star hiding in the sea weed, but my favorite animals were farther out – the harbor seals that rest on the rocks near the shore. Below is a photo, but you have to look closely – their camouflage is pretty good.

Finding different kinds of wildlife gave me a chance to see nature through the eyes of my children. Watching anemones curl into themselves, explaining the empty crab shells we found on the beach, it gave me the chance to explain what a food chain.

Encouraging little g to touch with care, and look for snails under the shells she found gave me a chance to watch exploration and discovery through her eyes. Having Big E tell ME what camouflage means made me realize that kids pick up a lot without me even really trying.

Exploring the tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach was better than any trip to the aquarium. Not only did we get to see unique and interesting wildlife in their natural habitat, but we got to explore and discover new things as a family.

Read about last year’s Carpinteria adventures here and here.