THE PLACE TO GO WHEN YOU CAN'T GO BACKPACKING

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Vincent Stokes

Vincent Stokes has 8 articles published.

Outdoor Exploration and Wanderlust – Chasing the Truth of the Travel Gene

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Outdoor Exploration
Outdoor exploration, learn why we take the risks we do?  It may be more than bragging rights and frequent flier miles.

For thousands of years, the propensity that people have to tour a foreign country for the sake of exploring has been well-documented. The phenomenon of wanderlust has been equally romanticized and scientifically examined.  Researchers are still searching for the key to understanding what fuels the drive in certain individuals to forego safety and familiarity for the thrill of outdoor exploration. That insatiable hunger for the next new frontier is what’s known as the “travel gene,” and if booking a flight to the next country on your bucket list is a regular ritual for you, the chances are you’ve got the travel gene in your blood too.

Scientific Examinations

Outdoor Exploration

One high-profile study into the nature of the travel gene was conducted in 1999 by Chuansheng Chen, a researcher from the University of California-Irvine. The finding’s of Chen’s study demonstrated the possibility that the “travel gene” might manifest most strongly in those who hail from cultures with a highly migratory history.

The working theory that Chen’s study supported was that those whose ancestors migrated the furthest from the Fertile Crescent, the cradle of modern human civilization, would have the best chance of being inclined to seek out new traveling experiences whenever given the opportunity.

Naturally, the manifestation of the travel gene could be linked to more subtle behaviors that don’t always culminate in a cross-continental flight. The mere influence of the travel gene has been suggested to cause minor signs of restlessness and curiosity in those who have it, which can be satisfied by the novel experience of being exposed to unfamiliar places and sensations, like those found in outdoor exploration.

Dave Dobbs of National Geographic came to the rough approximation that just about 1 out of every 5 people has the travel gene to some extent. Though 20% doesn’t represent anything close to the majority of the human population, it can still help to explain the incurable urge that certain people have to get on the next flight to a new unseen place.

Wanderlust, Thrill-Seeking, and Dopamine

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Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that serves as the official “reward center” of the brain, making it responsible for the short-term gratification (or lack thereof) and seeking-behavior that some individuals experience from different kinds of stimuli, such as yoga, certain foods, and outdoor exploration.  In addition to the emotional response gained from exposure to a certain stimuli, dopamine is also known to be a regulator of the behaviors that people will take in an effort to move towards that stimulus on a regular basis.

Knowing the role of dopamine makes it easy to perceive the plausible relationship that it would have to an increased desire for outdoor exploration.  According to researchers, dopamine is formally known as gene DRD4, which has led to the tentative consideration of the “wanderlust gene” to be referred to as DRD4-7R.

Correlation, Covariance, and Causation

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The easiest way to make a statistician your enemy for life is to imply that causation, covariance, and correlation are all the same thing.

To put it simply, the challenge of tracking down the real influence of the travel gene lies in the immense challenge of controlling for the infinite number of other factors that could play a role in producing the behavior.  While the implications of dopamine receptors and wanderlust being related are fun to entertain, there’s still a high margin of error to consider when factoring in all of the other possible variables that could serve to explain thrill-seeking behavior.

Conclusion

Sensational, declarative headlines that “X causes Y” are what lead to clicks and magazine sales, but they can’t (and oftentimes don’t) hold any water in the circles of empirical science; if such things could really be explained so plainly, then scientists wouldn’t have to study nearly as hard to gain their qualifications.

Does DRD4 directly cause the emergence of DR-D47R? Are dopamine and the presence of the travel gene more loosely related than direct indications of each other? Does the divergence from the average level of one have more influence on the average level of the other than vice versa? These are all looming questions that keep the true origin of the travel gene elusive, yet ever-tantalizing for researchers to continue hunting down.

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Caribbean Adventures

South American Adventures

5 Things Every Beginner Backpacker Needs

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If you are a beginner backpacker, try these tips to improve your enjoyment and safety on the trail.

There are several necessities every beginner backpacker will need to ensure a memorable adventure. Even if you are embarking on a day trip, you can never be too safe. In order to create a positive routine, consider adding these items to your inventory when you set out on your next adventure.

Analog Navigation

There are too many horror stories of travelers who lost their way on a trek. Luckily, you don’t have to be one of the statistics. The easiest way to ensure you that you are safe and on track is an extensive knowledge of celestial navigation. Many of us do not have the time to develop this skill, so we rely on technological navigation. The invention of the smartphone has rendered many of us lazy, and we turn to applications to do the dirty work for us. Smartphones do not have an unlimited battery time, though. If you find yourself lost with nothing but breakfast bars and a dead iPhone, good luck! Fortunately, compasses are a cost-effective alternative to your smartphone and it does not need batteries!  There is a variety of selection when it comes to compasses, find the one for your needs and practice.  If you are a beginner backpacker, consider taking a navigation course, many outfitters provide free or low cost classes.

Warmth and Insulation

Nothing beats the accessibility of a thick fleece when you are backpacking through areas with unstable weather patterns. Insulation is essential to any backpacking adventure because you never know what life will throw at you. Depending on the amount of people with you, consider trying tent insulation. Insulation in your tent will provide the luxury of temperature control while you are roughing it on your escapade. Of course, you are more important than your tent. It is important to pack a variety of clothing before you embark on your trip. Doing this will save energy and promote comfort throughout your time on the road.

Nutrition

Arguably the most important aspect of any journey is optimal health. Ingesting the correct amount of nutrients is vital to maintaining health, enhancing energy levels, preventing diseases, and the list goes on and on. There are plenty of cost-effective ways to pack nutritiously. To make sure you get all of the essential amino acids, vitamins, and macro-nutrients, it is recommended that you pack many fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Utilizing mostly vegetarian options will lower the weight of your backpack while increasing the number of nutrients at your disposal.

Fire and Water

From an evolutionary perspective, we are designed to eat cooked foods. Without fire, your taste buds will be displeased. Although this may not be considered a bare essential, this will decrease the number of trials and tribulations (which will hopefully be 0) while on your adventure. You can also utilize the heat to keep you warm at night.  The flame will also divert predators from your area. If you are new to backpacking, starting a fire can be tough.  Build a good fire starting kit and practice before your trip.  In addition to fire, it is important to bring water and a reliable water filtration system. Dehydration will sap your energy and ruin your trip, it should not to be taken lightly. Water can be used in a variety of ways, try using water instead of cooking oil on your trip. This will enhance your energy levels while combating any fatigue from increased levels of saturated fat.

First Aid Kit

When you are looking to buy a first aid kit, make sure it contains the following items:

  • BZK-based antiseptic wipes
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Assorted adhesive bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Nonstick sterile pads
  • Blister treatment
  • Ibuprofen
  • Insect-sting relief treatment
  • Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions

No one believes an accident can happen to them until it does. It is important to expect the best but prepare for the worst. Although it may seem trivial, everything on this list can serve as a lifesaver given the scenario. Make sure to pack a well-equipped first aid kit before you begin your journey.  Also consider investing in a small first aid book that can go with the kit, or better yet, as a beginner backpacker consider taking a first aid class from a certified instructor.

Backpacking can change your life, create unforgettable memories, and allow you to experience the world. It is imperative to pack correctly and intentionally. Although it is a pleasure to embark on an unknown adventure, it must be done with proper preparation. The next step is to enjoy your travels!

 

How to Protect Your Home on a Vacation

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A vacation should be a time away from stress and worries. Don’t let your trip away from home be interrupted with concerns about home security. Follow these tips to ensure your home is protected while you are away.

Use Landscape Lighting and Timers on Indoor Lights

Burglars prefer to do their deeds unseen, and most will avoid homes that seem occupied. Use solar-powered landscape lights that come on automatically at dusk in addition to motion-detecting lights. Place the latter near exterior doors and windows.

Indoors, place several lights on timers to turn on at intervals throughout the day and evening.

Cancel Newspaper and Mail Delivery

Nothing says no one is at home like newspapers collecting in the yard and an overflowing mailbox. Call your newspaper and post office in advance to cancel delivery during your vacation.

In case the newspaper or mail service makes a mistake and delivers anyway, it is a good idea to have a neighbor or friend check your home weekly to make sure papers and mail are not piling up.

Check Your Home Insurance Plan

When you are away from home and unable to keep a close eye on everything, it is especially important to have good insurance coverage for problems that can arise. A home warranty will cover repair or replacement costs of many large appliances and home systems, such as your refrigerator, washer and dryer, HVAC system and plumbing. Most home warranties also cover electrical problems and roof damage.

Use an Automated Alarm System

If you do not already have a home alarm system, now is the time to get one installed. Choose a reputable company who has live operators on call 24 hours a day. Locks on doors or windows can be broken, but the sound of a wailing alarm is enough to drive many burglars away. In addition, when burglars feel a house is secured this way, they won’t even attempt to break in. Use the signs the alarm company gives you and display them in both the front and backyards.

Use Smart Technology

Take advantage of new technology to protect your home during your vacation. Wi-fi capable home devices, such as cameras, thermostats and lighting enable you to keep a closer eye on your home while away.

Through a variety of Smart phone apps you can also control several things, such as door locks, lights, or the temperature setting on your thermostat.

Schedule Landscape Service

In summer, a vacation usually includes having someone mow your grass while you are away. In winter, it can mean having someone clear snow from walkways and driveways. A neglected landscape can draw a burglar’s interest to your home because it is like posting a sign in the yard that you are away.

Care for Plumbing

The biggest plumbing risk is in winter due to the potential for frozen pipes. Avoid burst pipes and damaging flooding by shutting off the water supply.

In warm weather, you won’t have to worry about frozen pipes, but you should still consider shutting off the water if you will be gone for two weeks or longer. This prevents flooding if something springs a leak. However, to keep everything working well when you are gone at length, have a trusted friend visit your home to turn the water back on and let water run through faucets and flush toilets once a month.

Use Caution on Social Media

It can be tempting to talk about your upcoming trip or to post photos of places you are visiting, but it is safest to keep your vacation plans quiet until after you have arrived safely home. Assume that potential burglars can view anything you write on a public platform.

When it comes to safeguarding your home, there is no such thing as being overly-cautious. It is better to practice an abundance of caution and arrive to a safe, secure home than it is to skimp on security measures. When you take care of home security and safety factors in advance, you will be able to enjoy more peace of mind while you are away.

How National Parks are Using Social Media

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You may think of social media as an exclusive avenue for young people. However, ever since a variety of social media channels and outlets have diversified their product and target audience, everyone is getting in on the act of social media, including national parks. There are many techniques that these national parks are using that many other industries could learn from. Here are some of the successful tactics that national parks are using to increase customer engagement, showcase improve customer service management and attract more people overall to the park.

National Parks Are Engaging with a Targeted Market More Directly and Precisely

In the past, national parks did not have a marketing guru to analyze the demographics of people who actually attended the park and enjoyed staying there. However, many of the biggest national parks around the nation have invested in quantitative analysis of demographics and psychographics of the people who come to the park. The result is a very detailed profile of the kind of person who actually sees the park as a part of his or her life.

Once this profile has been found, social media is then used to target this person specifically. On many of the larger social media sites such as Facebook, people naturally give away very personal information that can be quickly cross-referenced with the profile that the national parks have been able to create of their target customer. The result is a much more targeted campaign over social media, improving the conversion rate while reducing the overall cost of advertising on websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

National Parks Are Using Niche Social Media Sites

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Far too many businesses believe that the only way they can attract the audience that they want is through mass social media. As a matter of fact, there are better ways to get involved with these websites. Each of the large websites has a network of so-called “feeder sites” that help it to discern popular content from content that is not popular. If your business can become popular on one of the feeder sites, then you will naturally be included in the larger social media sites with the blessing of social leaders.

Instagram is a huge part of how national parks are gaining the attention of the rank and file traveler. Because sites like Instagram and Pinterest are based on imagery, people naturally come there to look for inspiring images. What imagery is more inspiring than the imagery of a national park, especially with a little push from a professional photographer in the mix?

Instagram has probably been the biggest boost to the increase in traffic to the sites of national parks, with Pinterest coming in a close second.

National Parks Are Engaging with Other Companies with a Strong Presence on Social Media

More national parks than ever are doing business with nonprofits such as animal rights organizations and forestry organizations. These nonprofits are already quite good at representing themselves on social media. They have networks of people who are already tuned into their posts, and they are always posting new content from the activities that they sponsor. One of the best moves of national parks was to associate themselves with these activists and take up some of the real estate in their posts on the major social media websites.

Logging these activities on Instagram has been one of the efforts that have brought national parks a lot of attention. Because the people involved with the nonprofits naturally have social circles that are on Instagram, these pictures are shared organically and receive plenty of attention. This organic attention signals Instagram to promote it even more for the appropriate tags.

National Parks Are Localizing Their Social Media Marketing Campaigns

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Believe it or not, national parks are finding a great deal of success once they localize their social media profiles. Because most of the traffic at any national park can be associated with people who are within walking or driving distance of that park, it only makes sense that a national park should spend most of its time catering to these people. However, this was not something that national parks did in the past.

Using localized keywords on Instagram has been a great strategy for national parks. Because the traffic from the pictures of events is coming from local web users first, Instagram takes the popularity as a signal of the viability of the pictures. They are then promoted by the algorithm to a wider audience that naturally has its interest increased in the park itself. Not to mention many national parks are also making the web more accessible to their visitors by installing VSAT internet hubs in the parks or within the lodges enabling visitors to more easily share their experiences via social media.

Although there are plenty of nuances that each individual park uses in order to succeed, the above tips will definitely prove valuable to any business that is looking to increase its presence on social media. The industry of national parks will definitely continue to increase their productivity over social media if they stick to the trends above.

Why Traveling for Self-Improvement Actually Works

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Today, we live in a very global society. We have easy access to people and products all over the world, facilitated by the ease of modern travel. This opens the doors to see more of the world, but it also means we have to be more open and understanding of other cultures to interact and coexist with them. In times before, people didn’t have as much contact with other cultures and they didn’t travel as much either. Their worldviews were much more narrow. Now that travel is at our fingertips, we have the chance to see the world and its cultures – and, in turn, to self-improve.

When you immerse yourself in another culture, you are moving out of your comfort zone. Being outside of this zone forces you to think in different ways. If you become accustomed to being outside of this zone, you will find yourself becoming more outgoing, spontaneous, and optimistic. You will no longer fret over little things or be as judgmental of people who are different than you.

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Before you know it, your comfort zone will have new boundaries and your relationships will have more meaning to them. After forcing yourself to manage situations in foreign contexts, you’ll likely find you can think on your feet faster. All of these qualities will make you a more interesting and even charismatic person.

Self-improvement by traveling isn’t just a theory: it’s been demonstrated by scientific research too. In one particular experiment, a group of German students were selected and their personalities were evaluated for what is called the “Big Five” personality dimensions. These dimensions are Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Emotional Stability/Neuroticism. The extensiveness of their social networks were also noted. These same students later fell into three categories: some went on a long study abroad trips, some went on short-term study abroad trips, and the others did not travel at all. When all students had returned, or after the same amount of time had passed, the measurements were taken again.

Image by Pexels
Image by Pexels

Scientists found that all the travelers had an increase in Openness to Experience, Agreeableness (or getting along better with others), and Emotional Stability. Their social networks also increased, which is directly related to the change in personality. It was found that engaging with new people from different cultures and countries is what developed the students’ qualities of Openness.

This Openness also increased Agreeableness, as meeting new people promoted that. Also, having to gain some independence to get around in a foreign country also helped the students who traveled gain perspective. This perspective helped keep emotions in check, thereby increasing Emotional Stability. Those who didn’t travel, on the other hand, experienced no significant improvements to their personalities during this time.

Based on this research, travel does in fact improve oneself by bolstering important dimensions of their personalities. When you get out and explore the world, you start to see things from a new view. You begin to let go of things that you realize aren’t as important as you once thought they were. You also begin to see people in a different way which helps you understand who is a real friend and who is just an acquaintance. In seeing this in other people, you may also see what kind of things you look for in other people as well. This can improve your relationships and your ability to work with others.

Image by Pexels
Image by Pexels

Any form of travel can have an effect on your personality. The more you independently explore a new place, the more you improve skills and dimensions to your personality related to problem-solving and managing emotions. Independent travel could include backpacking around Europe, or even going to foreign cities and figuring out the public transportation systems available for use. Backpacking in remote areas, like the Andes Mountains, will give you a grounding experience. Far away from even satellite internet, you’ll pay less attention to your phone and email and more attention to the hike and the view.

Tours, however, are also an important method of delving into a new culture. Especially for Romance language-speaking travelers, getting around in an Asian country, for example, is a little more challenging. Not only is the language different, but so are the characters. It’s especially in places like these that tours are a great way to relax and enjoy your experience. Taking a Japan tour is a effective way to travel the ancient island, or even a tour of Taiwan, Thailand, or India. Tours are an excellent way to see new places without fretting over details, yet they still offer the same valuable exposure to new cultures.

Traveling to many may just seem like a luxury or a vacation; but the fact that it is far more than that, that it actually facilitates self-improvement, is an amazing fact that should be taken advantage of!

 

The 10 Budgeting Mistakes that Everyone Makes

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Budgeting Mistakes
Photo by 401(K) 2012 Flickr.com

The liberating feeling of going for a hike or spending a week in the woods, for many, promptly ends when we return to our daily life and are bombarded with the stresses of work and keeping up with our finances. Financial concerns are among the most common concerns people of all ages face today. Many individuals struggle with debt, and others feel that they simply never have enough money to get by from month to month. The fact is that many of these common concerns stem from common budgeting mistakes that most people make. By identifying them, you may be able to curb your behavior to enjoy a more relaxed financial situation. And that means you’ll have more money to spend on the things you truly love, like getting outside, and that you’ll be able to fully enjoy your adventures, stress free. By mastering these 10 budgeting mistakes, you can bring some of the serenity you feel from hiking back into your daily routine.

 

1. Failing to Make a Budget

While some people do have a budget, others have never prepared one. Even if you have prepared a budget, you may be one of the many individuals who have not updated your budget in months or years. Expenses and income can change, so it is imperative that you always have an accurate working budget on hand.

 

2. Not Reviewing Your Budget Regularly

Some people will actually develop a budget, but many fail to use it. This is a beneficial financial tool that essentially can help you to make important financial decisions. If you do not review your budget on at least a weekly basis, you are not properly using it.

 

3. Forgetting the Non-Monthly Expenses

When you do prepare your budget, it is important to keep in mind that not every “regular” expense is a monthly expense. For example, your homeowners’ association dues may be paid quarterly. This is a required expense, so you need to account for it in your budget in some fashion. One idea is to prorate quarterly or annual expenses so that you account for a portion of this expense each month.

 

4. Failing to Leave Wiggle Room for Life’s Little Extras

Many people complain that they are unable to stick to a budget because they are constantly having to deal with little extras, such as appliance repair bills, medical expenses and more. The fact is that these may not be regular monthly bills in your budget, but they are nonetheless expenses that you will have from time to time. You need to find a way to pay for these expenses through your budget, such as by creating a line item for “extras” for a reasonable amount of money each month.

 

Budgeting Mistakes

5. Forgetting to Save For a Rainy Day

While you may want to plan for the irregular yet common expenses like medical bills, you also may benefit from saving for a rainy day. After all, you may need a more considerable amount of money on hand if you get laid off, become seriously ill or have another issue. Therefore, consider saving at least a small portion of each paycheck in a rainy day fund. There is a new app called Acorn that can help with this by saving for you.

 

6. Not Accounting for Your Pay Schedule

Some people struggle with their budget because their expenses are largely monthly, but they may get paid every two weeks. Budgeting might be far more simple if you got paid one time at the first of the month, but this is rarely the case. One idea to account for your pay schedule is to create an on-going budget, specifying which upcoming expenses will be paid with which paycheck. This means that you will regularly be updating your budget, and you may need to project your budget several months into the future for the best results.

 

7. Failing to Look for Ways to Cut Expenses

Your budget can tell you a lot about your finances, including giving you information about what expenses may be on the high side for your budget. You may review your budget to determine that refinancing a car loan or mortgage or consolidating credit cards is a wise move.

 

8. Not Planning for the Holidays

It is common for individuals to turn to credit cards to fund holiday purchases. However, you can actually use your budget to save for the holidays. You know that in January that you’ll need to make a large number of gift purchases and other related purchases in December, so consider saving a small amount from each paycheck to be applied toward these purchases.

 

Budgeting Mistakes
Bruce Peninsula National Park

9. Not Saving for a Vacation

Likewise, you will likely not magically come up with the several thousand dollars needed to pay for a summer vacation. If you plan to go on a vacation, you will need to include this in your budget. You can begin today by estimating the cost of the trip you want to take and determining what portion of each paycheck you need to save to fully fund your trip. Part of your travels should include natural environments such as the national parks. Traveling to a natural environment helps the mind escape from many of the mind numbing tasks that fill our days.

 

10. Failing to Plan for Seasonal Expenses

Each season will bring different expenses with it. For example, you may need to pay for the kids’ school supplies and clothes in the summer, and you may host a large family gathering that easily costs you several hundred dollars each Thanksgiving. Even Halloween costumes and Easter baskets can cost a small fortune. When you plan for these seasonal expenses, you can rest assured that you will have money on hand for them.

 

Your budget can be one of your most beneficial financial tools, but this is only true if you use it effectively. Consider how you can make a few changes to overcome these common challenges, and you may find that your budget is truly the beneficial tool that it is intended to be.

Hiking The Great White Mountains

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mikefisher

Hiking the Great Whites

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are a hiker’s paradise. Too often overshadowed by bigger mountain ranges, such as the Rockies, and more famous natural locations, such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, the White Mountains sit quietly in the Northeast of the United States, waiting to be explored. Those who know about them however, cannot get enough, and once you have paid a visit to the White Mountains, you may find that they are an addiction that is hard to kick.

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Visiting the White Mountains

Where to Stay: When visiting the White Mountains, your best bet for accommodation is the nearby city of North Conway. Hotels, motels, and hostels range in price and luxury, depending on your specific style. You will be able to find anything that you need in this area. Alternatively, you can camp in any number of sites, both in this area, and in White Mountain National Forest.

Where to Eat: This area has something of a reputation for fine dining. The Stonehurst Manor in particular features award-winning foods and wines that many say are the best in the state.

What to Do: When you are done with hiking for the day, you probably want to kick back and relax, but if you would like to do this with a beer in hand, there are a lot of great bars in the area. If you are there with your family, there are also a lot of family-friendly attractions, such as Ruggles Mine or the State Capitol.

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Hiking

Now let’s get down to the important details. That is, which White Mountain hikes stand out from the rest. Here are three of the best in a location that is saturated with exciting hikes and breathtaking views.

Mount Chocorua

Length: 10 miles

Difficulty: Difficult

Put the hike to the Mount Chocorua summit at the top of your list for this trip. It is a challenging hike, but for the experienced hiker, it should not be too troublesome. One of the best things about this hike is the ability to complete it in less than a day. And if you are fast, you can be back in time for lunch. There are great views throughout, but nothing will prepare you for the summit, which opens up into a beautiful panorama of the White Mountains. Be sure to bring cash for the trailhead, as parking there will cost $3 per car, per day.

Joshua Slobin

Mount Potash

Difficulty: Medium

Length: 4 miles

Perhaps you don’t have the time to hike Mount Chocorua, or maybe you don’t have the energy, but that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the chance to get some pictures from the summit of a White Mountain peak. At just four miles round trip, Mount Potash will only take you a few hours to complete, but the views at the finish line are equally rewarding. Watch out for the steep ledges along the way though!

Boulder Loop Trail

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Length: 2.8 miles

Boulder Loop is often cited as a must-hike by visitors to the White Mountains. You will find that you can accomplish it in a relatively short amount of time however, as the trail is under three miles long, and not too strenuous for anyone who is in adequate hiking condition. There are a few steep parts, but for the most part you can take a steady pace and enjoy the scenery. Visit it in the winter, and you can do the trail on snowshoe.

Quick Family Vacations For A Fun Packed Summer

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The summer is here, the kids are finally done with school, and like most people, you are probably looking to take a fun break somewhere with your family to enjoy the sunshine.  However, when you are thinking for more than just yourself, it can be tricky planning a family vacation. It’s not as simple as just booking a flight like it was when you were younger. Now you have kids to think of, possibly more than one job to work around, and the hard task of somehow keeping it affordable. Well, to help you out, we have put together three quick family getaways that would be a fun trip without any of the hassle.

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Trip Option 1

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Stay: Maswik Lodge – a clean, low cost, convenient hotel located inside the park.

What to Do: There are few things that take your breath away better than waking up next to the natural phenomenon that is the Grand Canyon. However, there is a lot more to do than just walk around the canyon. You can take your kids on a tour of the park with a ranger, and help them become a junior ranger. There are also a number of museums, a visitor center, and a gift shop on the South Rim. As in most national parks, there are also a number of trails to hike, and easier ones to walk with your kids, as well as scenic roads to drive.

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Trip Option 2

Lake Placid, New York

Stay: Mirror Lake Inn – affordable, but luxurious, with a spa, restaurants, and golf nearby.

What to Do: The location of the 1980 Winter Olympics is actually the perfect location for a summer family vacation. Inside Adirondacks State Park, your family will be able to enjoy a plethora of outdoor summer activities, including: hiking, rafting, biking, camping, sailing, kayaking, and fishing. You can also pay a visit to the family friendly Dancing Bears Restaurant, and return after the kids go to bed to enjoy their beer, poured from taps encased in blocks of ice.

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Trip Option 3

Monument Valley, Utah

Stay: The View Hotel – located on the edge of Monument Valley, this hotel will give you a stunning view of the valley for an affordable price. Of course, Monument Valley is a great place to camp as well.

What to Do: Monument Valley is so picturesque, it looks as though it could be right out of a Western movie—and to be fair, it probably is, having been used as the setting for more Westerns than perhaps any other location. This whole region is a pleasure to explore, and there is plenty to do and see for the whole family. Some of the must-see features in the area include Four Corners Monument, Valley of the Gods, and the multitude of ancient ruins and rock art. There are also plenty of opportunities to go biking, hiking, golfing, camping, and horseback riding.

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