We celebrated the Smith family April birthdays yesterday (there are 3) in Orlando and, of course, it included a trip to the park for a bug hunt. And a light saber fight. And the cutest cousins ever just having frolicking fun outside like kids do. Just being kids in the park. You're welcome for the first picture. It's my new favorite thing in the world.
See you back here soon!
For the past few months Ellison has participated in the 'Girls on the Run' program after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. It has been the highlight of her week and I couldn't be more excited that she likes it because the program is amazing (despite the look of complete apathy on her face above). For real, it is everything you would want your daughter be doing and talking about after school. If you haven't already heard about 'Girls on the Run', then click on over to their website to check it out. But then come back here to read about and see pictures from the celebratory 5K that Ellison and I ran this past weekend.
I first have to say that I was not particularly thrilled about the timing of this run mainly because it fell on the Saturday morning following my stint as a Prom chaperone and a late night (anything past 11 pm) means I need all the sleep I can get. But, once we got there and Ellison got her race t-shirt and met up with her friends, I got over it and was really excited to be able to run the race with her. As we waited at the starting gate (aka "makeshift Taylor Swift concert" - I guess being one of the few strong female role models meant her songs got all the airtime), I could tell Ellison was taking this run seriously. There would be no stopping to walk, no breaks - just going flat out until we crossed the finish line. And that's exactly what happened. She ran her heart out the entire race and even sprinted the last quarter mile to the end, leaving me to fend for myself about 2 minutes behind. I am so proud of her determination and am loving the fact that she was so into this whole running thing. It's something I think we can start doing more of together, if I can keep up with her. I don't know if Ellison is just really fast or I'm just really slow (absolutely), but I had to push myself to keep her pace.
All in all, it was a good time. Maybe not the fastest time, but a good time nonetheless. And I can't encourage you enough to support the 'Girls on the Run' program in your area. As a parent, high school teacher and a woman I know firsthand of the ways in which low self-esteem and a lack of physical well-being can affect your life. Programs like these can help us raise a community of strong, active girls who are secure enough in themselves to make smart life choices. Thank you to all the coaches and volunteers who made Ellison's experience such a positive one. Ellison says y'all are awesome so you must be! She also says thank you for bringing really good snacks.
See you back here soon!
So, National Park Week starts today and in celebration the National Park Service is offering free admission to any of our country's 58 amazing national parks throughout the week. Since Ellison and I have some wonderful memories of times spent exploring these places, we thought we'd share some of our favorite national park memories.
First, we took a tally of how many national parks we had been to in our home state. There are 3 parks in Florida and we haven't been any! None. Trevor and I have been to 2, but it has been years so I'm not counting it unless Ellison and I have been there together. So, we really need a trip to South Florida to check out Key Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas.
Next, we counted how many we have been to nationwide. There are 58 overall and together we have only been to 3. That's it. Only 3 of the 58 incredible and iconic natural areas. But, those 3 are unforgettable. So diverse and unique, but so representative of our country as a whole. I have written previously about our trips to each of these three here on 'Girls in the Park' - Great Smoky Mountains, Hawaii Volcanoes and Grand Canyon.
Then we tried to decide what our favorite memory was from each of the parks, and from there we tried to decide which of the three parks was our favorite. We laughed while reliving some of the hikes we took and the misadventures involving bad weather and poor navigational skills, and it was fun to look through the pictures from these trips and try to remember the day when they were taken. It seems like it was just yesterday that we were driving through Hawaii and Arizona and making plans for our annual trip to Tennessee. I guess Gretchen Rubin was right when she said "the days are long, but the years are short."
So as far as favorites go Ellison said hers was Great Smoky Mountains because "it's her favorite place in the entire world. You know that." and I said mine was Hawaii Volcanoes because it has a little bit of everything - mountains, deserts, tropical rain forest. But, there are 55 parks left to visit so who knows. What I do know is that it is important to do all we can to preserve these areas and protect them for future generations. Our history is deeply connected to the physical landscape of our nation and our future is dependent on its preservation!
Hawaii Volcanoes (June 2015)
Grand Canyon (August 2015) * We don't really have any decent pictures of the two of us actually at the Grand Canyon. It was kind of a crazy trip. So you'll just have to imagine we're in the picture:) It went from super sunny amazing weather (see the first picture) to what you see below in like 20 minutes.
Great Smoky Mountains (November 2015)
Here are some more links if you want some more details on National Park Week - head over to the National Park Foundation's website or go to the National Park Service site to find a park near you. It is also the 100 anniversary of the national park service so there are all sorts of cool things coming up to help celebrate the centennial. And remember, all week you get in free!
Oh, and here is an organized checklist of the 58 national parks that is kind of cool to use if you're a list maker like me:)
See you back here soon!
Just an hour west of Gainesville and with miles of available trails, Cedar Key seemed like the perfect place to spend a Sunday afternoon. For Hike #6 of our 52 Hike Challenge we decided to check out the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve.
The area along what is referred to as Florida's 'Nature Coast' has a ton of great scenic hiking. There are numerous springs, interesting coastal areas where rivers like the Suwanee meet the Gulf of Mexico and trails that are part of the Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge on islands only accessible by boat. Even though Ellison and I wanted to have lunch in downtown Cedar Key, we decided that the scrub reserve would be the best place to hike on this trip even though it was a little further away than some of the other trails for no other reason than we had never been there before and we wanted to try something new.
There are two different trailheads for this reserve and while we stopped at both, I decided we would start at the one off of CR 347 because it had longer trails and it led to a swamp, which just sounded more interesting that a trail that didn't lead to a swamp. But, they are connected so it is possible to walk from one to the other (though it would be much more comfortable to go by bike or horse, rather than foot, because it is quite a distance between them).
Ellison brought a friend with her on this trip and the girls had a great time hiking, but an even better time exploring the area down by Black Point Swamp. It is uniquely beautiful, so representative of coastal north Florida and was just the right type of place for them to create forest hideouts among the trees. They would have stayed all day if we had let them despite the gnats and ticks. It was my favorite spot, too. Despite heavy rain on Saturday (which made parts of the trail exceptionally muddy), Sunday's weather was near perfect with a cloudless blue sky and warmth tempered by cool spring breeze. We didn't see too many animals on this hike, mainly because we were out in the middle of the day, but we did find a nice hog skull. You know, if you're in to skulls and whatnot.
We hiked roughly 5 miles of the 8.5 that were part of the marked trails at this trailhead. And, foolishly, we didn't bring a backpack with water, sunscreen or bug spray and we all ended up thirsty, sunburned and covered in ticks by the end of our trip. I had forgotten the backpack I usually carry as I was trying to get out the door in the morning and while I actually had all of those things in the car, I didn't have anything to carry them in so I said forget it. So be forewarned that the trails are all very much in the open sun with little in the way of shade so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat if you plan on being out for more than a mile or so. You can see below how Ellison just about gave up at the end! But we rallied, went into town and after lunch and some ice cream the girls made a miraculous recovery.
If you are looking for other options (or maybe if you're planning on kayaking or boating to the trail), there are a number of places to hike in the Cedar Key area. Below are a few of the most popular:
See you back here soon!
My family and I love to get outside and explore every chance we get. My daughter and I started this blog as a way to chronicle not only the places we have visited, but also as a way to preserve our time together. We hope you enjoy it and will make a little time for a hike with friends!