The Top 10 Most Memorable Mommy Hiker Moments of 2013 – A Year in Review!

Starting this blog has inspired me in so many ways, it’s virtually impossible to put into words, but given that this is a written medium, I’ll give it my best shot!
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a year! It blows my mind and sends chills down my spine to look back at all of amazing experiences we’ve had, new friends we’ve made and all of the incredible stories that have been told here. Our love for hiking, camping, traveling and adventuring out to discover this bright, big world is our passion.
This passion has blossomed into a thriving community of families and collaborators whose sole wish is to get outside, get dirty, explore and discover the pure magnificence of Mother Nature in all of her glory. I have learned so many invaluable lessons of life, creativity, serenity and love and for that, even a thousand thank yous seem inadequate. And yet, I’m left with that. It’s been an honor to share a bit of our life with you and I want to thank you for sharing a bit of yours with us! Thank you! Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for inspiring me. And thank you for, in turn, inspiring others!
And now…..on to our Year In Review! Here are my Top Ten Most Memorable Moments of 2013!
Wait for it… Wait for it…

Learning how to carefully plant seedlings in the scenic Cienega Sin Nombre valley of Calabasas was a great outdoor activity to teach V the value and importance of restoring habitats that have been destroyed by urban sprawl in invasive non-native plants.

I love discovering a new favorite place and the beaches of Oxnard are certainly a new fav! The peaceful and quiet pace you’ll experience there is a refreshing contrast to the throngs of transients and tourists you’ll find at most of the local Los Angeles beaches.

Malibu Creek State Park is a whole day excursion, loaded with a wide array of nooks and crannies just waiting to be explored! Hike, swim, picnic, climb, caves, it seriously is all that and a backpack!

#6 | thinAddictives’ Mommy Hiker Spotlight!

It was a huge honor to have been recognized and placed into the company of such accomplished and victorious women. Definitely a proud moment of 2013.

Life is made up of little, shining moments, overflowing with the pitter patter of little heartbeats and the warmth of a breath on a cheek as little mouths tell made up stories, full of wonder and amusement. Star gazing was full of these perfect, still moments.

Doesn’t get much better than watching life come into the world. Witnessing a mother nuzzle her baby for the very first time, observing the trust and tenderness between them and sharing it with my daughter was, indeed a beautiful life lesson.

This was literally one of my favorite days of 2013! This trip was chocked full of first time experiences for our entire family. We learned so many amazing things, saw wildlife basking in their gorgeous habitat and we are headed back in 2014 for sure, to explore the island’s terrain and trails even more by foot.

We spent four nights under the lush green canopy of Big Sur. Hiked its trails, sat next to its creeks, sketched its every detail and came home with memories to last a lifetime!

This was hands down the best camping trip with our toddler to date! It has been thrilling to watch V transform from one trip to the next (this being her fourth camping trip). She really came into her own during our week-long stay in Sequoia and as camping parents, so did we!

What I’m most looking forward to in the coming year is camping, watching her grow and bloom, surrounded by the safe and loving hands of Mother Nature. I can’t wait to see what treasures and travels await us in 2014 and I can’t wait to share them with you!

West Coast Campground Review – Sweet Summer Spots to Relax & Recharge!

We are so lucky to live in a place that is surrounded by so many wildly different geological marvels. Get in the car and go two hours in any direction away from Los Angeles and you can wind up in the wild, sand-swept desert, the exalted redwoods, rolling prairies full of wild flowers, a pristine island beach off the coast of the Pacific Ocean or the foothills of majestic mountains.

I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and I still feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of what California has to offer. I’m looking forward to the next 20, the discoveries and the old favorites, and I look forward to sharing them with you! Here are a few of our recent discoveries and a few old favs!

Limekiln State Park & Campground

View from our tent in Limekiln’s Upper Creek

I know! You’re all probably tired of hearing about Limekiln State Park and Campground, but it really is one of our favorite places in the world, so I would be remiss not to add it to the top of the list! This campground is intimate, with only 24 sites and is broken up into 3 parts, the Ocean Sites, the Lower Creek and the Upper Creek. Beware that beach camping sounds great, in theory, but those sites offer little shade and tons of onshore wind! Also, keep in mind that because of the thick canopy of redwoods lining the creek, both the upper and lower creek sites are pretty much in full shade most of the day and at night it gets downright chilly! More reason to get the fire going early! Limekiln is a very family friendly campground, not many partyers, and the constant white noise from the creek drowns out almost all unwanted noise from neighbors.
Warning: Watch out for the poison oak within the upper creek sites and on the trails!
Site fees are pretty lofty (about $35/night) comparatively, but just look at the stunning walk to the bathroom! Totally worth every dime! 
Not a bad view on a trip to the bathroom!

There are 3 hiking trails with in the park, The Hare Creek Trail, The Falls Trail and The Limkiln Trail. All are easy and breathtaking!
A banana break on The Falls Trail
Kirk Creek Campground
When Limekiln is full, we head to Kirk Creek Campground! It’s just down the road a bit and its scenery differs drastically from Limekiln. Situated right on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, most of the sites here offer breathtaking coastal views and not much shade, so bringing a canopy of some sort is recommended!

Camping with a view at Kirk Creek Campground

Site fees are more than reasonable at $22/night complete with a complimentary daily view of the gorgeous sunset! Also, while you’re there, take advantage of the quick and easy hike down to the rocky beach below the bluff.

The beach at Kirk Creek

Side Note: There are a TON of raccoon at this campground, but in all of the years we’ve been staying here, none have ever been aggressive or even tried to steal a bite of our tasty treats and they are a hoot to watch at night!

McGrath State Beach & Campground

We discovered this campground when looking for a quickie weekend getaway with one of our favorite camping families! McGrath State Beach and Campground in Oxnard is about an hour drive north of Los Angeles and getting a spot last minute was easy peasy!

McGrath State Beach, Oxnard, California

There are 174 developed campsites here and although it’s pretty cookie-cutter, it has all of the amenities; shade, toilets and fire ring. Site fees are $35/night and with the amount of sites on hand, walkins aren’t hard to come by. The beach is quite a hike from most of the sites, but it is gorgeous, so well worth it!

Leo Carrillo State Park & Campground

Leo Carrillo State Beach
This is another campground that is a quick jaunt north from Los Angeles! Head 30 minutes north, up the 101 freeway in to Malibu and you’re there, Leo Carrillo State Park and Campground! For its relative proximity to L.A., this campground offers more than you would expect; a gorgeous beach, tide pools, reefs, caves and even back-country hiking! Most of the 130 sites are nestled under giant sycamores and the facilities are well maintained, not bad for $45/night! 

Sequoia National Park / Lodgepole Campground

Come this July, we will be heading to Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park for our third visit! This park truly is stunning and a great place to witness all that Mother Nature has to offer. You can explore the Crystal Caves, go canoeing on Hume Lake, hike Moro Rock and see the great Continental Divide or you can simply sit on a rock next to the river and recharge!

The perfect spot for my morning coffee!

Here, the wildlife is all around you. On prior visits we awoke to deer grazing 100 yards from our tent,

Deer grazing in Sequoia

we spied on a brown bear as he caught his lunch in the Kaweah River which runs through the campground,

A brown bear looking for his lunch in Sequoia

and we watched an orchestra of spiders creating a massive sunset web among towering sequoias just to mention a few! It is one of our favorite places and only a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles!

Lodgepole Campground at Sequoia

This is one of those campground that fills up the day sites are released for reservation, 6 months in advance, so planning is imperative! Site fees are cheap at $20/night and the amenities here are stellar!

Side Note: If you are not familiar with camping in bear country, please do your research and be prepared, be smart and be respectful!

Yosemite National Park / Wawona Campground
Yosemite National Park was definitely on our bucket list and it should be on yours too and I feel so blessed to be able to say: Check!

The view from our camp site at Wawona in Yosemite!

We decided to stay just outside of Yosemite Valley, at Wawona Campground, away from the crazy crowds and where it’s a little cooler. Situated right on the Merced River our site view was breathtaking! For $20/night you get a shady and spacious site, situated right on the Merced River with breathtaking views! You can’t ask for anything better!

Having the time of our Lives!

This is, again, one of those places that takes some planning ahead. Campgrounds fill up immediately, even outside of the Yosemite Valley, a good 6 months in advance, so make your reservation today and enjoy the beauty and bounty of Mother Nature!

What’s your favorite campground?

Here are some more favorite North American Campground Reviews from my Outdoor Mom Blogger Network!

Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies – The Best Provincial Park Campgrounds in Southern Alberta

AKontheGO – Alaskans Share Their Favorite Campgrounds

Kid Project – Sandflats Recreational Area, Moab, UT

Brave Ski Mom – Best Campgrounds in North America: Western Colorado Edition

Climb Run Lift Mom – Camping at the City of Rocks

The Campsite – Top 5 Backcountry Campgrounds in Banff National Park

TravelingMel – Yellowstone Campground Review

Adventure Parents – Classic Campsites: Murphy Hogback Campground, Canyonlands National Park

Val in Real Life – North America’s Best Campgrounds: Elkmont 

GA Family Camping – North America’s Best Campgrounds: Cloudland Canyon

Adventurous Moms – North America’s Best Campgrounds: Dolly Copp Campground in Gorham, NH

Odyssey Outdoors – Best Family Campgrounds of WA

T-Minus 24 Hours Til Big Sur!

It’s finally here!!! Well, almost…
We’ve been counting down the days for months and now we only have to endure a few more hours until we hit the road on our latest family adventure! Big Sur, California here we come!!!
Our favorite campground has been through its fair share of trials and tribulations over the past several years, from wildfires to state budgets cuts, which has left us looking for alternative campgrounds in the Big Sur area.
camping hiking big sur california
Kirk Creek Vista in Big Sur, California
Don’t get me wrong, with a view like this, you really can’t go wrong with accommodations in this gorgeous part of the world, but if you’ve been following this blog for some time, you know that Limekiln State Park holds a very special place in our hearts.
camping hiking big sur california
Sunset at Limekiln State Park, Big Sur, California
Limekiln was the very first place my husband and I ever camped together some 12 years ago. It’s where we have shared countless inspired conversations and broke bread with our dearest friends. Here, you can find the bed of clovers where we spread the ashes of our best friend of 15 years, Katie Kitty and, as I’m sure you can guess, it was the divine destination of our baby girl’s first camping trip almost 2 years ago.
camping hiking big sur california
The family that camps together, stays together!
This past few weeks, I’ve been in preparation mode, making lists and buying gear since our little peanut has outgrown all of last year’s gear. Being right on the central coastline, nestled under a thick canopy of redwoods, the temperature drops fairly low as the sun begins to set, even in the heart of the summer, so keeping her warm is my focus. It’s easy to peel off layers when it gets hot during the day, but as temps dip low in the night, making sure she is comfortable, but still snugly is my top priority.
I’ve been swimming (read: drowning) in the outdoor gear pool, reading reviews and researching everything from hiking shoes to base layers, wool socks, hats, gloves and sleeping bags. It’s all a bit overwhelming and prices can get downright outrageous, so I did my best (with LOTS of help from my mom) to get the best gear for the most reasonable price, taking in to account tried and true materials that work best at keeping little toes, fingers and noses warm.
I am by no means a gear whore myself. (My hubby and I just bought headlamps a few years ago! Ha ha!) One of the things I look forward to most about going out in to the woods is the ability to adopt what I lovingly refer to as the “Thoreau Effect”. But, when you’ve got a toddler explorer to consider, the more gear I have for her, the less worried (I hope) I will be.
We’ll be back next week and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventure with you!