ALL POSTS IN [Outdoors and Adventure]

Alaska Day: Annual flag raising ceremony in Sitka, AK (Photo: Sitka CVB/William Greer)

Hooray for Alaska Day! All the talk of American exceptionalism may have taken a little hit lately, especially from our friends in Russia, but today there’s something to cheer about: In commemoration of the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867, a special ceremony will take place in the southeastern Alaskan town of Sitka. Down goes the Russian flag and up goes Old Glory at Castle Hill, one of the most historically important sites in Alaska, once occupied by the Tlingit, an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, and later by the Russians.

A Little Russia … in Alaska
No word on whether Putin will be on-hand for all the Alaska Day festivities. But hundreds of locals will be — receptions, auctions, barn dances, kayak races and a whole lot more are all planned, capping off a month-long series of events that have already included a hat tip to our Russian counterparts, like a Russian food festival (check out our own Russian food tour), as well as performances of traditional Russian folk dances and a tea break at the Russian Bishop’s House, one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in the US.

But let’s be real: You didn’t come to Alaska to see Russia … not primarily, anyway. A trip to the Last Frontier State is probably on any outdoor lover’s bucket list. But just in case you can’t take advantage of all the Alaska travel discounts that typically accompany October, fear not — this is a good time to start planning a trip to America’s 49th state over the coming months. Here’s a primer of the best times to visit Alaska and special anniversaries ahead:

Winter Travel: November to April
November is a great time to see Alaska’s northern lights and share in the excitement of the Trail Sled Dog Race (the “Last Great Race on Earth,” from Anchorage to Nome). Plus, you can watch the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks (Alaska’s “Golden Heart City”). This season is also a great time to enjoy outdoor Alaskan activities such as heli-skiing in Alaska, as well as snowmobiling, snowshoeing and dog mushing.

Peak Season: Mid-May to Mid-September
You’ll be among the many visitors to Alaska during peak season, but for good reason: The days are at their longest, and the temperatures their warmest, affording plenty of opportunity for hiking, river-rafting, camping, fishing and flightseeing, as well as a chance to take an Alaska road trip.

Alaska’s Marine Highway System turned 50 this year. (Photo: State of Alaska/Reinhard Pantke)

Alaska Marine Highway System: Turns 50
Explore 31 ports of call in Alaska, courtesy of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Spanning an amazing 3,100 miles, this ferry service, which turns 50 this year, operates along Alaska’s south-central coast. Upon arrival in ports, offers visitors a variety of activities, such as authentic native culture (totem carvings, dances, traditional music and more), as well as day cruises with local tour operators, fishing charters and more.

Under-the-Radar National Parks
Sure, Denali is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But don’t forget Alaska’s other national parks, especially in 2014, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the 1964 federal law that protects nearly 110 million acres of wilderness in states throughout the US and is now considered one of America’s greatest conservation achievements. About 32 million of those acres can be found in Alaska — more than anywhere else in the country. Check out under-the-radar national parks like Gates of the Arctic, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias.

You May Also Like:

Brown bears, bald eagles — explore Wild Alaska.

Delve into geologic history at Glacier Bay National Park.

Travel in style aboard a luxury cruise in Alaska.

Government shutdown, whatever!: The Statue of Liberty joins the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and national park sites in Colorado and Utah in reopening.

Give me your poor, your tired, your shutdown masses yearning to travel free. On Sunday morning, the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of American resilience, not to mention beaucoup bucks for New York’s travel industry, reopened her doors to the public for the first time since the partial government shutdown began 12 days before. But don’t thank Congress — New York State will foot the bill of $61,600 a day over the next several days to keep Lady Liberty’s doors open.

The news comes amid some partially hopeful news for travelers and national parks lovers everywhere: On Saturday, Grand Canyon National Park reopened its doors as well, with the state of Arizona forking over $651,000 for the next 7 days to keep the Grand Canyon open. (That amounts to $93,000 a day — less than the $112,000 the feds say is needed to fund park operations each day.)

However, moves by both states – as well as South Dakota, which sees Mount Rushmore reopen beginning Monday, along with national parks in Utah (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef, and Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments) and Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park) – are the exception. Yellowstone, America’s first national park, remains closed. “Wyoming cannot bail out the federal government and we cannot use state money to do the work of the federal government,” says a spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead.

In the case of New York State, a lot is riding on the Statue of Liberty’s reopening: The iconic landmark sees 3.7 million visitors a year, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity and supporting over 2,000 jobs. Already Lady Liberty had seen a tough year and a half, suffering extensive damage, along with nearby Ellis Island, from Superstorm Standy. It took a year of extensive rehabilitation before the Statue of Liberty reopened, in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony just in time for July 4 celebrations. Then came the government shutdown, just what everyone needed.

Since the shutdown, roughly 400 jobs have been lost at the Statue of Liberty and nearby park sites, reports CNN. And while the Statue of Liberty just reopened yesterday morning, with state funds temporarily allowing visitors to take the ferry over to the monument on Liberty Island, the state budget is only a temporary fix. While New York has given the green light to fund Lady Liberty for the next few days, it will then assess its financial commitment every 2 days if the federal shutdown continues, says Cuomo.

No no telling what will happen after next week. So if you’re looking to see these great American landmarks, and you’re within traveling distance, now’s the time to visit.

photo by Patty Hodapp

San Francisco often sits shrouded in a heavy fog bank — a clash of salty Pacific Ocean air and savory aromas wafting from food trucks. Like most cities, there’s a riot of noise: boat horns blasting in the harbor, buses screeching as they whip around corners, racked surfboards knocking atop cars, tourists talking in several languages. But don’t let it fool you. Despite its concrete-jungle appearance, there are plenty of outdoorsy things to do for the active first-time Bay Area visitor. Here are 4 ideas to get you started:

Bike Along the Embarcadero and Marina Boulevard

Bay Area Bike Share launched at the end of August to increase cycling in San Francisco. 700 bikes placed at docking stations around the peninsula and Bay Area are now available for both city dwellers and tourists to use. Grab one of the new mint green bikes (skip the rental stations that charge a fortune) and cruise west from the Ferry Building along The Embarcadero’s piers. From Marina Boulevard, you can jump on the paved path and bike toward the Golden Gate Bridge. When you’re done, simply return your bike to the nearest docking station. A 24-hour pass costs $9. Heads up, trips longer than 30-minutes incur small overtime fees.

Trail Run in Presidio National Park

The Presidio, located on the northwest tip of the peninsula, is actually a historic military post that was converted into a national park. It now offers quiet trails prime for running that weave through treed bluffs home to 130 bird species. You can climb up to several vista overlooks of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge — my favorite is Inspiration Point, situated above the park’s largest watershed, Tennessee Hollow.

For up-close, postcard-like views of the Golden Gate, follow signs to Crissy Field Overlook. Tuck your phone in your shorts pocket. You won’t want to miss this photo op.

Writer Patty Hodapp hiking through the Redwoods.

Hike Through Redwoods in Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Hikers looking for a workout as they experience California’s legendary Redwoods shouldn’t park at Muir Woods National Monument (what most guidebooks recommend, and what most tourists opt for). Instead, take Mill Valley’s Panoramic Highway a couple miles higher into Mount Tamalpais State Park. Park your car at the wide roadside access point. From here, take Ocean View Trail, which switchbacks down from redwood treetops to the Muir Woods’ forest floor. As you descend, you’ll notice wider trunks, and a pleasant charred, earthy smell. You can still hike around Muir Woods once you get down, but this 5-mile round-trip adds a challenging, less-traveled spin to the Muir boardwalk.

Stand Up Paddleboard in Sausalito

For paddlers not afraid to brave the Bay’s chilly water temps, the best stand-up bet lies in sheltered Sausalito — the oceanfront neighborhood on the north end of Golden Gate Bridge. With Sea Trek, located in Richardson Bay, you can paddle for $20 an hour through yacht harbors next to the seals, or sign up for a SUP fitness class. The group also offers guided tours under the Golden Gate. Time your visit right, and you can snag a spot on the full moon tour to catch the city’s night skyline from the water.

by Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.


Mike and Donna Holder were living comfortable, easy lives in scenic Kennesaw, GA, when they decided to take a very big chance. After noticing an ad in the newspaper, the couple bought 1,200 forgotten and overgrown acres in rural Banning Mills, GA, at the site of a former textile and paper mill village.

Over the next several years the couple and their kids cleared brush, made repairs, and eventually built a country inn and adventure center with an expansive eco tour zipline course. Then, on Thanksgiving night 2006, much of it burned to the ground. While they were tempted to just leave it all behind them after such a devastating loss, the Holders decided instead to rebuild. Today they oversee Historic Banning Mills, which boasts the world’s tallest climbing wall (140 feet) and, at 41,000 linear feet, the world’s longest continuous zipline course, where visitors can reach speeds of up to 60 mph as they cruise through dense hardwood forest and over the beautiful Snake River Gorge.

In fact, your feet rarely have to touch the ground at Banning Mills, with more than 50 sky bridges — including one that’s 600-feet-long. And you can really tap into your inner Tarzan with the new tree house lodging. Opening this month, these 2-person suites — accessible by rope bridge — are made of heart pine logs, and feature a king bed, jetted tub, bathroom, mini fridge and back deck with panoramic forest views.

When you’re ready to return to earth, there’s a new 7-mile network of mountain biking/hiking trails that wind along old town roads and across bridges. And Georgia Trail Outfitters offers 7-mike kayak trips down the roaring Class IV Chattahoochee River, as well as the more serene Flint and Cartecay Rivers. Banning Mills also offers a swimming pool (in season), putt-putt golf course, and tennis/basketball courts. In-between adventures, indulge in a relaxing massage at the day spa, and refuel at the main lodge, which serves a big country breakfast and a variety of lunch and dinner items, including picnic-style baskets and romantic candlelit dinners on the terrace that overlooks the Snake Creek Gorge.

- Sam Boykin

Writer Patty Hodapp on a solo camping trip with her dog Pele along Lake Superior’s north shore in Minnesota.

Camping alone as a woman might sound crazy. Uncontrollable variables like weather, wackos and wild animals give credit to the old adage “safety in numbers”. But if you’re comfortable in the outdoors and want to camp solo, don’t let fear stop you. It takes common sense, good instinct and adaptability. Yes, it’s risky, but so is driving a car or stepping out your front door. The good news? There are a few things you can do to sleep outside alone, safer. Here are 7.

1. Know Your Gear

Test your camping gear before you pack — especially if it has been sitting unused in storage for a while. Bring extra batteries, matches, a lighter, tinder and paper in a plastic bag so they don’t get wet. Own a tent you can pitch by yourself (sounds obvious, but believe me, shelters with complicated pole structures are tough to set up solo).

2. Be Accountable to Someone

If you’re sleeping outside alone, tell someone where you are. Text a friend or relative your location, loose plans and end game, so someone knows when to worry and where to look for you. If you want to get specific, try SPOT — a sweet little GPS device that beams your location via text, email or emergency notification to those at home.

3. Stay at Family-Friendly Campgrounds

If you’re nervous about sleeping outside alone, splurge on a site at a family-oriented campground. Ask the park ranger or do your research online before you set up shop. Better to neighbor-up next to a couple with small kids than a rowdy group of partiers who might trash your gear or give you trouble.

4. Stick to the Trail

It’s simple: When you take day-trip hikes, stick to marked trails. That way, if you need help, you’ll be in a higher trafficked area so you’re more likely to get it. Bushwhacking is fun, but leave it for camping trips with friends. Also, invest in a backpacker’s first-aid kit or build your own, and keep it in your daypack always.

5. Skip the Booze

Sure it’s fun to have a brew around the campfire, but when you’re alone stick to water, sports drinks, coffee or anything that won’t impair your senses. You’re the only one out there to watch your back, so don’t get tipsy.

6. Bring a Dog

Some people argue that dogs provide a false sense of security. I say it depends on the dog. If your dog is used to the woods and alert, chances are it’ll hear, smell and respond to approaching animals and people faster than you. It was only because of 2 dogs that I survived a run-in with a mountain lion in New Mexico. Or so a professional lion hunter told me when I called him up the next day. I believe him.

7. Leave Room for Error

Think ahead and anticipate problems. Have a backup water supply; learn how to change a tire and use bear spray (don’t hose it upwind); master map reading. No trip ever goes as planned, but if you expect error it won’t catch you off guard.

Sleeping alone under the stars? Here are the best campgrounds for solo travelers who want a last-minute summer getaway.

 

You May Also Like:

Backcountry Survivor Skills
Camping Dos and Don’ts
Camping Tips and Tricks

 

by Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.

Photo Courtesy of Embratur/Brazilian Tourism Board

The wait is over for soccer fans! Tickets to the FIFA World Cup 2014 are now on sale. Fans will be able to request tickets based on a random selection draw, from Aug. 20 through Oct. 10, and on a first-come, first-served basis from Nov. 5 through Nov. 28.

Fans are currently able to buy tickets based on the date and the venue of the match, or to follow their favorite team. Twelve cities in Brazil will host the best international soccer teams as they battle it out to become the FIFA World Cup 2014 champions. Host cities will include Fortaleza, Salvador, Manaus, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.

In addition to hosting the World Cup matches, Rio de Janeiro will also host the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it a hot tourist destination over the next few years.

For now, it’s all about the World Cup. For more information on tickets and pricing, visit the FIFA website and or download the official guide to tickets.

Take a tour of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host the soccer matches for the FIFA World Cup 2014. See our slideshow and explore each city’s amazing culture and tourist attractions.

Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing quite like a vacation to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park or check out Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. And with millions of Americans visiting the parks this summer, there has never been a better time to show your support.

Now comes the exciting part: From now until Sunday, when you give to the National Park Foundation, Travel Channel will match your donation $1 for $1 up to $30,000.

NPF can do twice as much with your gift to:

  • Restore 250 miles of trails and waterways
  • Work with teachers in all 50 states to embrace national parks as classrooms
  • Preserve and protect America’s treasured places through grants

What are you waiting for? Donate now to double your impact for NPF!

Now that that’s covered, we have one more challenge for you. How much do you really know about America’s national parks? Take our quiz below and find out!

Photography by Valerie Conners

It’s the heart of August in Big Sky, MT, home to some of North America’s most incredible ski slopes and majestic mountain scenery — but the resort town is hardly shut down for the summer season. Incredibly, Big Sky springs to life during the so-called “off” season. The resort town offers a seemingly endless array of outdoor activities — from hiking to fishing, and zip lining to horseback riding — to an ever-increasing number of warm weather visitors.

Photography by Valerie Conners

What to Do
Hiking: The region in summer is downright heaven for outdoors lovers who take advantage of seemingly endless miles of hiking trails, like the famed Beehive Basin, Ousel Falls and Storm Castle trails. While August might be late to view wildflowers in various other regions of the country, many fields here are still awash with the vivid reds, yellows and purples of the regional flora.

Experience the Gallatin: Not to be missed is a trip to the Gallatin River, which winds its way through along the Canyon and through the Meadow, as the lower regions of Big Sky are known. The river has become a mecca of sorts for fly fishermen as well as rafters and kayakers. Remember the iconic film, A River Runs Through It? Parts of the movie were shot here along the Gallatin. A number of outfitters around town can help visitors organize fly fishing trips or guided rafting tours.

Photography by Valerie Conners

Explore Moonlight Basin: Also known for its epic skiing in winter, this luxe mountain resort offers families and couples a veritable world of onsite summer activities. Popular favorites include horseback riding tours with Cedar Mountain Corrals along some of the resort’s stunning 8,000 acres of land, as well as the Tuesday evening Hike, Bike & BBQ. Sign up for this weekly event and choose to explore the property’s 16 miles of trails on foot or mountain bike, then cap it off with a celebratory barbecue overlooking the mountain vistas. Good thing you’ll have worked up an appetite for the slow-roasted ribs. Guests of the resort also have access to a swimming pool and hot tub — perfect for a relaxing post-hike dip.

Visit Big Sky Resort: Neighbor to Moonlight Basin, Big Sky Resort is a must-visit. Take a tram tour to the top of 11,166-foot-high Lone Peak — it’s a stunner. On a clear day it’s possible to see 2 national parks, 3 states (Montana, Wyoming and Idaho) and many mountain ranges. The resort’s Basecamp can also organize activities such as zip line courses, mountain biking and hiking with lift access, a bungee trampoline, disc golf, a climbing wall and even paintball.

Photography by Valerie Conners

Explore Yellowstone National Park: A trip to America’s first national park, Yellowstone, is a must for visitors to Big Sky. The nearest park entrance lies a mere hour outside of town, and it is possible to take the popular Grand Loop Road drive to see the park’s major sights, such as Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Lake Village.

 

istock

Dilemma: You want to squeeze in a sweet camping trip before summer runs out. But unfortunately, your family, friends and perhaps even your entire social network have used up their vacation days already. Should you let that stop you? Absolutely not. In fact, without companions, you’ll likely pack less and take your outdoor therapy to a new level. Plus, park rangers won’t have to bust a loud campfire sing-along after quiet hours.

Here are the best campgrounds for solo travelers — featuring all the perks from easy-access boat landings to secluded sites where you’ll feel like the only person on Earth. Hello, sleeping under the stars!

 

For the Multi-Adventurer: Burke Mountain Campground, Vermont

Solo travelers who are also adventure sports enthusiasts should head to this small 26-site campground located on Burke Mountain, VT. You can hike or bike the extensive network of single- and double-track trails around the mountain. And less than 20 miles away, glacially formed Lake Willoughby offers fishing, swimming and paddle boarding over depths up to 300 feet. Consider this haven your leisure playground that’s guaranteed to satisfy your itch for adventure.

For the Ocean Goer: Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon

This quaint little Oregonian campground is nestled on a sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It features more than 8 miles of forest hiking trails lush with wildlife. And if you’re the solo traveler who wants a little free entertainment, get this: Cape Lookout and nearby Cape Kiwanda and Cape Meares together make the Three Capes Scenic Route — a popular launching pad for hang gliders and paragliders. Come here for both beach and bay access, and don’t forget to look upward!

For the Island Hopper: Big Bay State Park Campground, Wisconsin

The Apostle Islands, a 21-isle archipelago off Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shore, has a rich history of logging, shipping, stone quarrying and fishing. From Bayfield, WI, ferry to Madeline Island and sleep on Big Bay State Park Campground’s lakeshore. Want to see more islands without having to paddle solo on Lake Superior’s unpredictable water? Take the 55-mile Apostle Islands Cruise authorized by the National Park Service. The boat goes daily from Bayfield (May to October) and gives you a solid overview of the chain.

For the Backpacker: Sykes Camp Trail, California

If car camping isn’t your thing, try this moderate 19.5-mile backpacking trail located in the Ventana Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, CA. Master moderate elevation gains through redwoods and stream crossings to natural hot springs. Select your camp at miles 5, 7, 10 or 12 and crash for the night. Added bonus: It’s a favorite for weekenders, so you’ll never be far from fellow hikers if you need help. For more inspiration, check out our best camping spots in California.

 

Camping solo means you need to be even more focused on safety. Check out Travel Channel’s camping tips before you go:

Off-the-Grid Camping Safety
Camping Do’s and Don’ts
Camping Tips and Tricks

by Patty Hodapp

Patty Hodapp is a freelance writer and solo traveler reporting from the intersection of fitness and adventure. Her slew of expat addresses runs deep — most recently, a tropical Spanish island in the Mediterranean. She covers endurance sports, outdoor gear and adventure travel. Besides Travel Channel, she has written for Outside, Men’s Fitness, Shape and several other publications.

 

 

 

Photography by Richard Hamilton Smith / Corbis / Aurora Photos

Latest Pins on Pinterest

  • Surat Thani, Thailand

  • Surat Thani, Thailand

  • Ontario, Canada

  • Bintan, Indonesia