ALL POSTS IN [Outdoors and Adventure]

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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

Lindsey Simmons of Girls Gone Bayou

Some small towns are hot destinations. Take Bastrop, LA, for instance. Never heard of it? If you are a hunter or an avid outdoorsman, you have. Bastrop, just outside Monroe, LA, is home to Simmons’ Sporting Goods, one of the largest sporting goods stores in the country, drawing customers from across the South and selling everything from camouflage and camping gear to guns and ammo to ATVs and 4-wheelers. Bastrop also happens to be home to TravelChannel.com’s new exclusive web series, Girls Gone Bayou.

The series follows the quirky adventures of Lindsey Simmons, as she takes over day-to-day operations of Simmons’ with some help from gal pals, Lori and Kila. Lindsey’s got to convince her overbearing dad, Jeff, that they are up for the challenge, and prove that she and her blonde bombshell BFFs can hunt, fish and trap better than any good ole boy in the bayou. You can watch all 9 episodes of the series, starting today, on TravelChannel.com

We asked Lindsey what people should know about Bastrop and to share her favorite places in her hometown.

“Obviously, one of the biggest attractions for our town is Simmons’ Sporting Goods,” Lindsey says. “We have people that drive from a 5 state radius just to come to our store! They bring their RVs or stay in hotels and make a weekend out of it.”

Lindsey also recommends a stroll through Bastrop’s Town Square at the intersection of Highway 165 North and Highway 425 North to visit its antique shops, jewelry stores and theater.

“It’s a great place to explore Bastrop,” she says. “I guarantee you, when you pass people on those streets, they WILL smile and make you feel at home. I just love that!”

Finally, there’s the Morehouse Activity Center, known as “The Mac,” on Marlatt St.

“On Saturday night you can find everyone in town there to watch a rodeo,” Lindsey says. “Talk about a good time!”

Bastrop has some famous frequent visitors, too. The Robertsons of Duck Dynasty have been doing business with the Simmons’ ever since they started making duck calls. The popular reality-TV family signs autographs at Simmons’ every year.

“They are a great family and are truly as wholesome as they seem on TV,” Lindsey says. “Willie is a hoot. He’s down to earth and hilarious.”

Sounds like another family we’ve come to know. Get to know Lindsey, her family and friends on Girls Gone Bayou. Watch the first episode, now.

The Trans-Mongolian train makes its way through the Mongolian countryside.

At the top of many people’s bucket list is a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  A trip on the railroad allows riders to experience the never-ending forests of Siberia, the lonely valleys of Mongolia, and the Gobi desert in one trip. However, with a trip that can span a third of the globe and take up to 7 days to complete, special preparations are definitely necessary.

The first step in preparing for your journey is to figure out which of the 3 routes you want to take. The classic line is the Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok on Russia’s far eastern coast. On the other hand, the most popular route with travelers is the Trans-Mongolian, which crosses through Siberia before veering off the main rail line, traveling through Mongolia and ending in Beijing, China. Lastly, you can take the Trans-Manchurian line, which runs from Moscow to Beijing, but bypasses Mongolia.

The marker on the train indicating its major stops in Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian.

The second step in preparing for your journey is to get the appropriate visas. Nearly every nationality requires a visa for travel to both Russia and China, and while you can obtain them yourself, both are time consuming. To make the process easier, consider using a visa service to like Invisa Logistics for Russia and CSCA for China, both of which are recommended by the respective embassies.

Americans can enter Mongolia visa-free, but most others will have to secure a visa to travel there as well.

It’s also a good idea to arrange your tickets prior to leaving. While you will pay a surcharge for this service, it beats turning up at a Russian train station and discovering that your train is sold out or that the ticket seller doesn’t speak any English (a problem you’re likely to encounter). For trains leaving from Russia or Mongolia, you can obtain your tickets from Real Russia. For trains departing from Beijing, CITS is a reputable agency with English-speaking agents.

Buying your ticket ahead of time also requires you to plan your stops. All 3 train lines pass through Irkutsk, which is a very popular stop close to the mid-point of the journey. This Siberian city is also the gateway to the must-see Lake Baikal. The largest lake in the world by volume, Lake Baikal is so clean that you can drink directly from its frigid waters. There’s no better place to see Siberian culture or nature than the peaceful shores of the lake.

The sun sets over China’s Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia.

On the Trans-Mongolian Line, many like to stop in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, as well, to experience this amazing country. While the city itself is nothing special, a trip to the countryside gives you the chance to stay with a nomadic family in a traditional ger (felt-lined tents) and view the sweeping vistas of beautiful green grass and impossibly blue skies that go on for as far as the eye can see.

The interior corridor of the Trans-Mongolian.

 

Lastly, you need to prepare for the trip itself. Since you’ll spend a total of 6 or 7 nights on the train, make sure that you have plenty of reading material and batteries. Also make sure to pack some wet wipes for cleaning yourself (there are no showers onboard), a thermos and instant coffee or tea (hot water is provided in each car), and some ear plugs.

While you’ll have a nice bed on your trip, most people will share a compartment with others, so a phrasebook will be very helpful in getting to know your travel companions. Even if you opt for a private compartment, having a Russian and Chinese phrasebook will help you figure out when the train is leaving each station and how to order food in the dining car.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the journey of a lifetime, and with a bit of preparation, you can ensure that you’ll have the time of your life as you traverse the Far East.

 —–

All photos by author Jim Cheney.

The author onboard the Trans-Mongolian train.

Jim Cheney is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Harrisburg, PA. Jim spent over two years in Asia traveling and working prior to settling back in America. His writing focuses mainly on travel planning advice and unique travel destinations throughout Asia, Europe, and North America.

To find more of his work, visit his site, Tripologist.com.

 

 

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Photography by Mauricio Abreu / JWL / Aurora Photos

When visiting Pamukkale, it’s hard to resist the urge to wade through this otherworldly landscape of hot springs and travertines. More »

Sharks, sharks and more sharks. No creature of the sea does more to intrigue … or terrify. With sharks top of mind over the coming week, we thought we’d let you in on the top places to see sharks nationwide.

If you’re looking for a close encounter, but not too close, you’ll want to head to some of America’s top aquariums. Some great bets include the Tennessee Aquarium, where you’ll see this fierce-looking shark, and the Newport Aquarium, where you can see sharks circling above your head.

Of course, not all shark encounters are welcome (unless you’re LandLopers blogger Matt Long, check out his blog and amazing whale shots here). So when you next hit the beach, be prepared – for helpful hints on how to stay safe when swimming near shark-infested waters, check out our Travel 911 web series episode, Shark Attacks.

 

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Chincoteague Pony Swim

Photo: Getty Images

Come early and bring your patience. That’s the word on the 88th annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Every July, on the last Wednesday of the month, the small island of Chincoteague sees its population of 3,500 people swell to more than 40,000, as visitors from all over the country — and as far away as Canada and Europe — flock to the island off Virginia’s coast, to witness an event of epic pony proportions: more than 120 wild ponies swimming across the Assateague Channel, between Chincoteague and Assateague islands.

The actual swim takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. And it’s worth every minute of waiting to see the oldest continuous wild pony roundup east of the Colorado River.

“This is an event of historical proportions,” says Denise Bowden, spokesperson for the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which owns the ponies, often called the Chincoteague herd, on the Virginia side of Assateague Island.

Historical … or historic … one thing’s clear: This is the biggest event on Chincoteague Island’s annual calendar.

Chincoteague Island’s fire department has held the event nearly every year since 1924, culminating in the Salt Water Cowboys — about 145 cowboys from Virginia and neighboring states including Maryland and North Carolina — rounding up the feral fellas and females for a parade down Main Street, to the carnival grounds, where an auction of the ponies takes place Thursday morning. (Some ponies are bought under “buy back” terms; the bidder donates the money to the fire department and allows the pony to be released back onto Assateague Island.)

Now the patience part: Chincoteague Island will be packed. And while the pony swim will be held sometime between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., crowds will start gathering well in advance. “Come early,” says Bowden. It’s not uncommon, she adds, for visitors to gather at the heart of the action — the Pony Swim Lane and Memorial Park — as early as 5 or 6 a.m.

The long wait time — plus the actual event’s start time, dependent on inclement weather conditions — spells greater exposure to the elements — lots of sun, maybe rain. “Make yourself as comfortable as possible,” says Bowden. Bring your sunscreen, hat and umbrella. Plus, a pair of old tennis shoes (no flip-flops or high-heels) — you’ll need them while standing in the marshy, muddy field. But the pay-off will be something to behold: Just beyond a fence, a herd of wild ponies — only 20 to 30 feet away.

For parking, Bowden advises heading to Chincoteague High School’s parking lot: A shuttle on the grounds takes visitors to the Pony Swim Lane. Find shuttle information here.

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US Open of Surfing (Photo: Getty Images)

The countdown begins to the largest surfing event on the planet. On Saturday, July 20, the US Open of Surfing kicks off in the morning, with rounds 1 and 2 of the Junior Men’s championship. If you’re one of the thousands of surfing fans en route to the event or are already stretching out on the sands of Huntington Beach, check out highlights of the 9-day surfing competition, which runs through July 28.

In all, this year’s event is slated to see more than 20 ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) surfers compete against the best new surfing talent from around the globe at Huntington Beach Pier. Beyond surf, skateboarding is also in store. This year’s event sees the debut of the Van Doren Invitational, an invite-only skateboarding event set to attract pro and amateur riders.

Another big draw will be music. Billed as one of America’s largest free concert stages of the summer, this year’s musical lineup includes indie rocker Modest Mouse, the dance-punk band The Faint and alternative pop artist Twin Shadow.

Can’t make it to the Vans US Open of Surfing? Check out the live webcast.

And if you’re looking for more places to ride out the heat wave, check out the world’s best surf destinations. Plus, explore the world’s best stand-up paddleboarding spots, extreme beach adventures and some pretty cool extreme adventure sports – all sure to provide great summer memories.

Photography by Valerie Conners


Summer
temperatures have sizzled into triple digits across large swaths of America’s West this season. Travelers would be wise to cool down at one of the region’s more spectacular attractions, Lake Powell, a shimmering, 186-mile-long behemoth that straddles the Arizona and Utah border. Technically a reservoir of the Colorado River,

Lake Powell is located within easy driving distance from some of the nation’s grandest and most popular parks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon, and is a perfect respite for families that have just sweltered their way through national park trails and tours.

This man-made lake was created when part of the Colorado River was dammed, and a sweeping expanse of canyonland filled with water. The result? An otherworldly landscape of turquoise waters bordered by looming canyons crisscrossed with nooks and crannies begging to be explored by boat or kayak. Rocky buttes jut toward the sky both in the distance and above canyon walls. Watching sunset turn the colors of the canyons and buttes ablaze into fiery reds and oranges is one of the region’s more unforgettable experiences.

Photography by Valerie Conners

To best enjoy the lake’s scenery and activities, travelers should hightail it to the spectacularly situated Antelope Point Marina, a family-friendly destination born out of a unique partnership with the Navajo Nation and the National Park Service. Head to the marina to explore Lake Powell by boat tour, rent watercraft such as jet skis and kayaks, or take advantage of the pinnacle of all lake experiences: a houseboat rental.

Antelope Point Marina is teeming with houseboats — literally hundreds line the floating docks — some of which are privately owned, others which are for rent. For the uninitiated, houseboats here are no ordinary watercraft. These vessels are, without exaggeration, nicer than a good number of actual houses. Houseboats range in size from 59 feet to 75 feet and can sleep up to 12 people in as many as 6 bedrooms — perfect for multiple families vacationing together. These mega-boats are tricked out with flat-screen TV’s, indoor-outdoor living areas, kitchens, staterooms, covered decks, waterslides (!), gas barbecues and wet bars. Think that’s awesome? Some models even feature outdoor hot tubs.

Families can rent houseboats for a few days up to a week or more, which keeps them busy exploring Lake Powell’s beauty. Folks who only have a few hours to spend on the lake, can cool off at the marina’s

Photography by Valerie Conners

kid-friendly swimming area, arrange a boat or fishing tour, rent kayaks and ski boats, or hike down to nearby beaches along the lake’s clear, crisp waters (families take note: No lifeguards are present).

For the ultimate Lake Powell experience, book a helicopter tour over the lake via the Lake Powell Jet Center. Aerial views of Lake Powell offer the most breathtaking perspective of its expanse and stunning vistas. You’ll swoop past iconic Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado River, the dam that created the lake, and monstrous Tower Butte, where your chopper will actually land and you’ll be allowed to wander the butte’s top — absolutely the tour highlight.

 

Yellowstone’s busiest season is now in full swing, and if you’re among the thousands of travelers who plan to visit America’s first national park this July, first thing’s first: Bring a jacket. Yes, really, a jacket — in July. You’ll be grateful you did when winds up to 15 mph nip at your face and temperatures drop into the 40s at night. You may even see snow. (Keep current on Yellowstone’s weather here.)

Hard to believe, as scorching temperatures cripple other regions of the west, but Yellowstone is one place you do not want to explore without a jacket this month. I found out first-hand on a visit to the national park just a few weeks ago. From a chilly morning rain to a late-evening snowstorm, I experienced Yellowstone’s dramatic temperature drops all within the span of a few hours.

Once you’ve brought a coat (and a good pair of boots and sunscreen, too), you’ll be well on your way to exploring the park — here’s a taste of Yellowstone’s beauty in summer.

Roosevelt Arch: An elk rests by Yellowstone’s famous Roosevelt Arch — Teddy Roosevelt himself laid the cornerstone of the arch, located at the park’s north entrance. “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads its inscription. (All Photos: Lisa Singh) 

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone: Geysers … bears … but just why is Yellowstone called “Yellowstone”? The park’s abundant yellow-colored rhyolite lavas provide the answer. You’ll see these rich colors at Yellowstone’s massive gorge, roughly 20 miles long.

Yellowstone Norris Geyser Basin: Remember your jacket? These smart folks certainly did as they make their way down a walkway to view some of Yellowstone’s breathtaking geysers. Did you know Yellowstone is home to the largest concentration geysers in the world?

Rocky Mountain Fauna: It’s not just bears or American bison you may see at Yellowstone. Look up! This mountain goat, with some winter fur still left to shed, may be peering down at you from a mountain cliff. Just beware of Yellowstone’s deadly bears.

Fishing in Yellowstone: Don’t forget to get in some fishing. Pick up a Yellowstone fishing permit, and enjoy angling and fly-fishing in this massive 2 million-plus-acre wonderland, home to 13 native fish species … and plenty of trout.


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