Italy With Kids: Hiking Cinque Terre from Outdoor Families Magazine

Part two of our family’s Italian adventure is now published at Outdoor Families Magazine! What an absolute delight it is to have the opportunity to relive the trip of a lifetime through narrative. I hope it inspires other parents to get out there with their kids and continue to check items off their bucket list!

I first discovered the tiny, scenic fishing villages of Cinque Terre, Italy nearly 20 years ago. A fellow traveler had thrown out a fascinating new term of “agriturismo” on the still-young internet, and, intrigued, I began researching its roots. Virtually scanning Tuscany’s rolling hills and vineyards, I was led to a magical place where craggy mountains greeted rolling seas, and Cinque Terre soared to the top of my bucket list. A quick jaunt from the French border, this region, known as Liguria, is sandwiched between relatively low, rolling hills of the Piedmont and an expansive, emerald sea where dramatic mountains crash boldly down to the warm Mediterranean waters. I became transfixed, perhaps even obsessed, with pictures of meandering passages, cozy coves and spirited locals. To read the full article, go to Outdoor Families Magazine

Outdoor Families Magazine: Helping families across the globe fall in love with the Great Outdoors

It is no secret that I have been pretty absent from you all, my beloved Mommy and Daddy Hikers! I certainly didn’t expect it to happen, but about 11 months ago life took off on a completely different trajectory and I, being the heart-follower that I am, went for it! 

Not only have I been busy developing and executive producing a pretty awesome new television series, but more importantly to you guys, I have been busting my butt working on a project that probably would have never entered into my life had I not started this blog. So it is with the greatest pride and excitement that I  announce to you, my loyal readers, the launch of my newest baby! 

Outdoor Families Magazine! OFM launches in t-minus four days (January 15, 2015) and it will be a free digital magazine that encourages families toward lifelong appreciation of outside spaces. The magazine, available at http://www.outdoorfamiliesonline.com will strive to enrich the lives of multi-generational families worldwide by providing unparalleled outdoor and adventure related content meant to inspire a connection to, participation in, and stewardship of the natural world.


January Issue’s Cover

To commemorate our inaugural issue January 15, 2015, Outdoor Families Magazine will also launch the “Great Family Adventure” Photo Contest, inviting families from around the world to show off their awesome family adventures pictures! At the end of the two week contest, we’ll be presenting one lucky family with a two-night stay and three adventure-packed days on southern California’s Central Coast in the city of Oxnard, gateway to the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary. In addition, our finalists will receive cool prizes from ten other awesome outdoor retailers including Hi-Tec footwear and Sierra Trading Post.



The magazine’s advisory board is comprised of more than 30 business and thought leaders in the outdoor family and adventure market, including my partners, our managing editor, Erin Kirkland, author of Alaska on the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children and our operations manager, Traci Lehman who will also be leading the magazine’s team of research and development experts who are passionate about supporting our magazine’s mission by documenting the benefits of outdoor time and identifying the barriers families face with regards to getting outside, so we can face these issues head on and find real world solutions.


Outdoor Families Magazine will be the go-to resource hub, supporting our already robust, engaged #OutdoorFamilies community and connecting with others who are interested in obtaining information related to family outdoor sports, activities and play, environmental stewardship, volunteering, adventure travel, mind and body nourishment and green living resources, ideas and tips. 

When I got into this crazy blogging world I never, in a million years, would have expected it to lead me where I am today; a member of The North American Travel Journalists Association, founder of a magazine, part of an absolutely incredible community of people. Throughout my wee three years, the one thing I noticed blatantly missing was a lack of relatable content available to families who simply want motivation and inspiration to get outdoors with their kids. I was dumbfounded by it actually and it is our hope that this magazine will fill that void. There are a lot of us out there, families who choose to go off-the-beaten-path, with our kids right beside us, along for the adventure. In the rapidly-growing market of outdoor family adventure we intend to thoughtfully lead the movement. I hope you’ll join us for the ride!

Join the Outdoor Families community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube!

Family Adventure Travel Along California’s Central Coast: Monterey Edition

It was seven o’clock on a foggy Thursday morning, the middle of rush hour for most, but as luck would have it for us, “rush hour” in Monterey, California takes on an entirely different meaning. The seagulls leisurely glide past the sun-bathing sea lions who amusingly watch the sea otters play on a soft bed of the finest California kelp.  This sleepy sea town takes its time with everything, allowing its visitors a chance to take a much-needed rest from the hustle and bustle of big city life. 
  
With its iconic rocky shores and crashing waves, the coastline in this part of California’s Central Coast is home to supremely magnificent views, on par with even the most far-off exotic lands, only it’s a mere five hours north from Los Angeles. The wild and well-preserved landscape is a spectacle to behold, conjuring up mystifying thoughts and reaffirming Mother Nature’s awe-inspiring imagination.
Tide Pools at Asilomar State Beach - Monterey, California

For more than seventy five years, Monterey has maintained and built upon its vision of acquiring open space and providing access to the waterfront for all who wish to revel in its majesty.  As a result of the city’s tireless work, it currently boasts thirty six parks, more than 6 beaches and hundreds of acres dedicated to hiking and camping. Within its boundaries, it safeguards and nurtures miles and miles of unique coastal habitat not found anywhere else in the world, with a throng of dedicated volunteers the size of army. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream getaway.

  

We spent the first day of our three day mini-vacation hiking  through an ancient Monterey Cypress Grove, the Pacific Ocean always on our left, affectionately escorting us. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was the perfect introduction to everything that Monterey stands for, preservation, conservation and steadfast stewardship of the land they call their home. You can quite easily spend the entire day there. The topography changes drastically with every twist and turn of the trail. You can find yourself scrambling over 60 million year old rock out-croppings, drop down into rich tide pools, hike past prairies and coves, then find yourself surrounded by thick forest. We didn’t want to leave, but promises of a table full of fresh seafood at The Grotto Fish Market on fisherman’s wharf coaxed us back to the city. Let’s just say we were amply rewarded.

  

Day two, we found ourselves at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Walking down cannery row, the aquarium’s building is large and imposing, but once inside it is bright, airy, open and inviting. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Entrance


The energy that you feel as you walk through the doors resonates deep within and that’s not any accident. Thoughtfulness and a deep commitment to conservation of the oceans bursts through its seams, floating all the way down from the top. Executive Director Julie Packard, helped to found the Monterey Bay Aquarium back in the late 1970’s and her work over the last thirty years has been rooted in California nature and oceanic conservancy. Their employees are empowered with an infectious excitement, a wealth of knowledge and are more than willing to share the experience with you.

Making our way through the entrance, en route to the Rocky Shore exhibit, I couldn’t help but soak in all of the fine industrial touches, an homage to its distinct cannery row location. From brilliant sea lemons and bat star fish to stately anemones and rock-like limpets, the Rocky Shore exhibit is a fully hands-on experience that teaches kids about that delicate in-between world where sea meets land. It allows you to explore tidal rhythms, discover coastal currents and a up-close peek into these special shoreline creatures, seemingly lifeless when exposed to the air, that come alive under the water.
Entering the psychedelic Jellies’ maze was mesmerizing. This exhibit reaffirms my belief that Mother Nature is the most visionary of all artists, painting her creations on the canvas of our world, masterpieces our tiny imaginations could never hope to dream up. Jelly fish are some of the most elegant creatures I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing, their ribbons and ruffles, spikes, beads and dots effortlessly gliding, darting, flying through the water. And just for a moment, we forget all about the sting of their graceful tentacles.
Monterey Bay Aquarium - The Jellies Experience
The aquarium’s five spirited sea otters are at least an hour of pure enjoyment, watching them dart in and out of their various caves and caverns, playing hide and seek and performing three full acts for their audience. Rosa, Abby, Gidget, Ivy and Kit were all rescued from precarious situations along the California coast. They now act as surrogate mothers, companions and mentors to other stranded and rescued California sea otters as part of the aquariums Sea Otter Program, which has been studying and trying to save the threatened southern sea otter since 1984. What we stand to learn from our furry friends goes deeper than biological. Their strong sense of community, family and constant need for fun is something we can all weave into the fabric of our lives.
No aquarium would be complete without its fair share of splash zones, penguins and giant octopus, but nothing could top the eerie and mystifying display of the Open Sea, the aquarium’s largest and most impressive exhibit. 
Monterey Bay Aquarium - The Open Sea
Sitting in front of that ninety foot window, watching our daughter, watching the sparkling schools of sardines dart to and fro, the humongous tuna and the graceful sandbar sharks all living in harmony, reminds me of the vastness of this great, big, bewitching world. It refreshed in me the understanding of diversity. It underlined the importance of acceptance and how it plays a role in our capacity to appreciate and relate to all that is different and beautiful. What a gift.