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It’s a new year and that means an entire set of new freebies when it comes to visiting national parks in and around the United States. Uncle Sam is once again throwing open the gates on certain days during 2014, so now’s the time to start planning on when to skip out of work.
The government usually just doesn’t give stuff away, so when they do it’s a good idea to take advantage of it. This year there are nine days in which you can leave the admission fee back at your house, and the very first of them is just about a week away. Things start on January 20, as Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the first free one of the year.
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You're in California! Get out of your hotel! We yell this doubly loud at anyone staying just off the Pacific Coast Highway and triply so if you're near Santa Barbara, as we recently had a chance to go bike down a mountain in the area and, boy, was it awesome. Over one afternoon with Santa Barbara Adventure Company, we got a suntan, caught the breeze, and glided for nearly 20 miles while hardly breaking a sweat.
The biking itself begins after being driven up (bikes and all) to the the top on one of the higher peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. During the drive up the mountain, the guides point out scenic spots as well as evidence from a major fire that devastated the area a few years ago. We noted that many trees were still charred and black, while new plant growth flourished around it. Once we reached the peak, we got our bikes ready and set off down the mountain.
Happy birthday to the National Park Service! Not only are they responsible for maintaining Uncle Sam’s backyard and making sure you aren't mauled by grizzlies, but they're behind the scenes working on spruce-ups to celebrate their 96th year. Sure there are some national parks older than that, but it’s been almost 100 years since the government decided to organize the parks into one big happy family.
Up first is a new mobile website—www.nationalparks.org—optimized to look great and load quickly on your phone or other device. Here they’re promising a one-stop-shop source for news, commentary, videos, photos, and pretty much everything else you’d want to know regarding each and every one of the country’s national parks. The website can also pinpoint some of the parks closest to your location, and it’ll provide the current weather and related information—so you know whether it’s safe to venture out of your RV.
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Our roving Midwestern reporter, Lara Zielin, files a report from somewhere in Michigan on a very cool project reusing the country's rusting transportation infrastructure:
My husband recently imagined he was a train. If I’m honest, I’ll admit I felt a little silly witnessing this. I mean, what 36-year-old with a mortgage closes his eyes and pretends he’s a choo-choo?
Except, that’s what mid-Michigan’s Pere Marquette Trail can do, especially if you’re on a bicycle and you’re speeding up as you pedal over the Salt River, the birds and frogs calling out the way they must have done before loggers and lumber barons arrived in this flat, woodsy place in the 1800s.
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You have less than two weeks left to get dad a Father's Day gift. Avoid going to the mall and picking out yet another tie and treat dear old pops to a vacation. We can help you out with some suggestions for some outdoorsy activities, but it's up to you to book these adventure travel packages before June 19.
Check out three adventure travel deals for dad:
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If you’re looking for something to do between flights—and you always travel with your clubs—there might be a place convenient to both the fairways and the runways. Check out our picks for some of the best golf courses that are like only 10 miles from the airport or less:
· Colwood National Golf Club - PDX
There’s four courses that are within a short cab ride from Portland International Airport, but the easiest to access is Colwood National Golf Club. It’s so close to the airport—as well as the Air National Guard Station—that there are places where you can see the planes taxi and take off.
It’s a full 18-hole course, and this summer playing all the holes will set you back around $30. There are a lot of red-eye flights out of PDX back to the east coast—and beyond—so we recommend hitting up one of their twilight specials before heading to the airport. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays it's just $9 to play 8-holes as long as you begin after 3:00pm.
Spring has sprung in national parks across the country, but if you’re heading out into the wilderness just remember one thing. All the critters and creatures are also excited about the warmer weather, and they’re also kind of hungry after being cooped up indoors for the entire winter.
In Yellowstone National Park, the bears have started to come out of their dens, and they’re eager to snag a few pick-a-nick baskets or whatever us humans leave lying around the park. Officials say that loads of snow has forced the bears to stay put a little longer than usual, but they’re on the loose now and they really want a snack or two.
Outdoorsy types, get your hiking boots on and backpacks ready. National Park Week is set for April 16 to 24, giving you the chance to explore 394 national parks for free all week long. Freebies include national monuments and historic sites.
While a number of national parks are usually free, more than 100 of them charge you to enter. So you'll save the $20 car fee at Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park as well as the $25 vehicle fee at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
Time might be limited for Fido and Fluffy at San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as there are some new rules kicking around that would limit canine activities at the park.
A new, too-long-to-read document—like 2,400 pages—was released earlier this month by the country’s largest urban national park dealing with all kinds of stuff, but the things that have gotten residents all worked up is the possible new leash law. Right now the area is the only national park in the country where portions of the park allow pups to do their thing free and clear, but soon everyone might be getting a less room to roam.
The National Park Service really wants more and more people to check out their offerings, especially since they’ve started allowing visitors into plenty of parks for free over the last couple years.
This year is no different, as Uncle Sam is eager to invite one and all into his backyard without shelling out up to $20 or so per carload. Entrance fees will be waived on the first day of summer—that’s June 21. Things will also be free on Public Lands Day on September 24 along with Veterans Day weekend from November 11 through 13.
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This week, Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon are bringing Westerns back with the release of their latest film, True Grit. Though parts of the movie were filmed in New Mexico, most of the shoot took place in Granger, TX which was transformed into an 1870's version of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The rural townwith a population of only 1,400 seems like an unlikely choice for a big budget Hollywood movie, but the look and feel of Granger convinced producers that it was the right location: "We chose Granger because its appearance is close to that of a turn-of-the-century town that matched the reference photos we have for Fort Smith, Ark.," the film's location manager, Robbie Friedmann said.
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It’s pretty cold outside right now, and while we do enjoy the warmth of a fire, there’s plenty of outdoor action this holiday season. The Audubon Society is encouraging everyone to bring their spiked eggnog outside over the next couple of weeks, as it’s time for the annual bird count.
Things are already underway for the 111th annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count—it’s the longest bird type census thing in the world—but don’t worry if you didn’t count any birds just yet.