Tag Archives: outdoors

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

Kayaking on the Gulf Coast

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We only stayed in Cedar Key, Florida, for a week, but we packed it full of fun stuff. One of our favorite things was kayaking out to Atsena Otie (which means cedar island in a tribal language). Mike and I shared a kayak and accompanied guide Mandy Davis and three of her friends on an awesome daylong adventure.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

Mandy is an accomplished, seasoned naturalist and guide who’s recently set up shop in Cedar Key. She runs Hidden Coast Outdoors, and the Atsena Otie adventure is one of many tours she offers. Not only did Mandy show us how to kayak, but she also educated us on the history of Cedar Key. We learned that the city of Cedar Key was located on Atsena Otie Island. Cedar Key was an important port. Two mills on the island produced ‘cedar’ slats for shipment to northern pencil factories. Economic decline began when Henry Plant’s railroad to Tampa began service in 1886, and a devastating Atlantic hurricane in 1896 was the final blow.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

We made the short hike to the now-closed pier and the cemetery. Mandy brought along paper and crayons so we could take headstone rubbings. I chose a grave marker with my name (except with a Z instead of an S). What a unique souvenir! We then kayaked further east for lunch. Mandy prepared a homemade, gourmet Mexican meal for us, and we ate on the beach near eaglets and other water birds.

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

travel, photography, Instagram, kayaking, outdoors, Hidden Coast Outdoors, Atsena Otie, Cedar Key, Florida, beach, water, hiking, history, cemetery, headstone rubbing

It was a glorious experience, so much fun and a wonderful workout.  $90 (per person) VERY well spent!!

A walk through Memorial Park

A walk through Memorial Park

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

We’re back in Milwaukee this week, in the middle of a snowstorm, so my jaunt through Memorial Park in Round Rock, Texas, a couple of weeks ago seems like a dream. Thank heavens for photographic evidence!

Memorial Park is home to the rock that gave Round Rock, Texas, its name.  The park is right off of I-35. Brushy Creek runs through the middle of it, and a pedestrian bridge under the highway connects both sides. There’s a playground on one side and the Sunset Strip apartment complex on the other. It’s a very pretty park although a little bit seedy.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

I stopped there with the dogs after I saw the park off the highway when I was dropping Mike off for work. I had no idea that the famous rock was there, so I missed it entirely. I guess I was close, though. From what I’ve read, if you want to see the rock, you need to walk over the low water crossing near the parking lot and go along the north side of the creek.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

I strolled in that direction but got sidetracked by the granite stadium stairs by the softball field. I just had to climb ’em! I did two sets with the dogs, but then Sadie refused to do any more. I wasn’t going to let our little diva hold me back, so I parked the bark babies in the Jeep and did another 13 sets for a total of 15.

Memorial Park, Round Rock, Texas, dog walking, memorials, history, WWII, Vietnam, Brushy Creek, river walk, stairs, workout, outdoors, dogs, exercise,

The rock isn’t the only cool piece of history in the park. There’s also a Vietnam War memorial and a commemorative WWII torpedo to honor Round Rock residents who fought on behalf of their town and country.

What a fun outing to remind me that there’s more to life than the deep freeze!

Sunday morning hike

Sunday morning hike

hiking, Red Rock, Las Vegas, Nevada, Calico Basin, travel, photography, iPhoneography, Instagram, exercise, outdoors

While we were back in Vegas, we returned to a cherished tradition: a weekend hike in Red Rock with friends and the bark babies. Sheryl is a fellow writer. She’s full of sass and sarcasm and funny as heck.

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She’s also a dog lover, mama of a cream-colored girl named Akasha. Sheryl helped us find our little man Meeko at the adoption center after a hike last spring. She drove him home for us. On this warm, clear Sunday, the dogs roamed free while we got caught up, periodically stopping to admire the stunning backdrop we’d been away from for so long.

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Art, history and exercise

Art, history and exercise

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Around 2 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, it was in the mid-30s.  Practically a heat wave in Milwaukee.  So Mike and I bundled up, hopped on our folding bikes, and pedaled off down the pavement.

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The Hank Aaron State Trail, named for baseball legend Hank Aaron, abuts the back of the RV park.  The trail follows the Menomonee River from Lake Michigan west about 13.5 miles.  We’d never really explored it.

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Right by the park, the trail’s not the prettiest, even in the spring when everything’s in bloom.  But it holds some surprises.  Roughly three miles in, we discovered the Valley Passage mural.  Technically known as the Menomonee Valley Passage mural, it was painted in 2011 by artist Chad Brady.

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The colorful mural is designed to represent the Miller Park area, Potawatomi Casino, the Brewers, The Milwaukee Road, bridges, buildings, birds, deer, Native Americans, fish, the Menomonee River, trees, manufacturing and canoeing.

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The trail also goes through the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District, which is one of three remaining original Soldiers Homes in the country. Since 1867, the homes have provided refuge and recuperation for physically and mentally disabled soldiers – starting with those who had survived the Civil War.  Three of the buildings are being restored, but amazingly, the rest are still being used to care for veterans today.

You just never know what you’re going to find in your own backyard.

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‘Staching through the cold

‘Staching through the cold

StacheDashFinishers

Mike and I did our second 5K together in a month when we wogged our way to the finish line at the ‘Stache Dash.   The run was in support of Movember, an international movement to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other men’s issues.  It was nice to know that part of race fee was contributed directly to the Movember charity.

After somewhat warmer weather earlier in the week, things had turned cold in Milwaukee – just in time for the Saturday event.  Although it helped that the race had a later start time of 12 noon, it was still a mere 23 degrees – with 15-mph winds – when we queued up.  We ended up bringing up the rear when my mustache hat flew off in one of the gusts and I ran back to retrieve it.  At least I got some extra running in!   The costumes were super fun, and there was pretty scenery along our route.

We had a great time despite the cold.  The best part was that Mike brought home his first medal!  Now we just have to find someplace to display it in the rig where it won’t take a chunk outta the wall as we motor down the road.

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Wogging on the Charles River

Wogging on the Charles River

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“I thought this was one of those crazy mud things you’re always doing,” Mike said as I was picking up my bib from the tent near the river.  We were in Boston on a drizzly Sunday morning so I could do the Boston River Run along the Charles.

“If I’d known it was a regular run, I might have done it with you.”

I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing tight and grinning up at him as I said, “You still can! They have on-site registration!”

He sighed knowing he was beat and let me drag him over to the next table so he could sign up.

And that’s how we ended up wogging (walk-jogging) our first New England 5K together.  We walked most of it, sprinting for the photo opps and the finish line.  We held hands and laughed and took delightful detours – discovering graffiti aliens and wrecked crew boats – because we were too wrapped up in the moment to keep track of the other runners.   It wasn’t my fastest 5K, but it was definitely one of my best.

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Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort (Foxboro, MA)

Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort (Foxboro, MA)

NormandyFarmsRV

Normandy Farms is huge.  It’s probably the largest campground we’ve stayed at except for Cherry Hill just outside of D.C.  There’s so much to do at Normandy Farms, but we didn’t have much time to partake.  We spent most of our time traveling to Boston to visit with my dad and his lady love Sindy.

NormandyFarms

The rates vary depending on the season and how many services you’re looking for.  They break it out nicely on their website so it was pretty clear to us.  They do give a discount if you’re a member of one of the big clubs.  The office is open late and well-stocked with RV supplies, gift items, and small groceries.  The roaring fire made me want to camp out on the sofa there instead of at our site!  Did I mention that it was 20 degrees during our visit?! NormandyFarms1

Surprisingly, we had a lot of company during our stay over Veterans Day weekend.   The place was overrun with kids dashing between playgrounds, families walking their dogs, and couples riding bicycles on the nature paths.  We took the bark babies to the dog park, the brisk air quickening our steps and theirs.  The dogs enthusiastically darted around, sniffing and plowing through the dead leaves.  The dog park is really cool – with a dog wash area, a separate enclosed run for small dogs, an agility course, and fenced-in “cabins” where you can leave your dog for a time.  The “cabins” and dog walking services are available for a fee.

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Normandy Farms closes for the season on November 30th.  They kept the water on through the long holiday weekend and then shut it off that Tuesday morning.  They advised us of that when we made our reservation and again when we checked in, so we were prepared.  It was obvious that most of our fellow campers were there just for the holiday because the place emptied out pretty quickly on Monday.

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Normandy Farms is the first “resort” RV park we’ve stayed at, and it lived up to its description.  There’s swimming, a recreation lodge, a creative arts enter, and business & information center, a fitness center, playgrounds, the dog park, a bike park and disc golf.  While we were there, they were hosting movie night and candy bar bingo.  That’s all in addition to plenty of pull-through, full hook-up sites with grassy strips and picnic tables.  This would be an awesome place for families, and we would’ve loved to stay when we could do all the nifty stuff they have to offer.  My dad wasn’t really up to making the 45-minute trek from Boston to hang out with us, so we were away almost more than we were there.

NormandyFarmsDogWelcomeBags I loved the doggie welcome bags that we received upon check-in.  There was a biscuit for each bark baby along with poop bags and notes on the rules and amenities for dogs.  My favorite part was the personalized tag for each dog that had their names on one side and our campsite on the other.  This is a b-i-g park.  How to smart to make sure that, if they got away, whomever found them would know who they were and where to return them.

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Falls Park

Falls Park

FallsParkMAndE

Native Americans were the first visitors the falls of the Big Sioux River.  The Lakota and Dakota were nomadic bison hunters, and they used the falls as a place to rendezvous with French fur trappers.  As the land around the falls was claimed by European settlers, a 1,200-acre village sprung up.  Sioux Falls became an official city in 1883.  Railroads really put the city on the map, with a population spike from 2,164 in 1880 to 10,167 at the end of the decade.  Economic ups and downs over the years mirrored the nation at large, but through it all, the falls have been central to the city’s industry and recreation.

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In pioneer days, the falls were used for water power to run the Queen Bee Mill.  When it was built, the mill could process 1,500 bushels of wheat and was considered one of the most advanced facilities in America.  Unfortunately, weak water power and a lack of wheat forced it to close in 1883, just six years after it was built.  A few companies attempted to  make the mill a going concern over the years, but nothing worked.  After a fire in 1956 compromised the structure, upper walls were knocked down until only two of the original seven stories of the mill remain.

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Remains of the seven-story Queen Bee Mill

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Millrace and dam

Today, Falls Park covers 123 acres with an average of 7,400 gallons of water dropping 100 feet each second.  With paved walking and biking paths, picnic tables scattered charmingly on the grassy spots, and a cafe in the old Light and Power Company building, the park is captivating place to spend an afternoon with family and friends.

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