Ed loves spending time outside. I like being outside, too, but Ed LOVES being outside. He spends 10 hours a day as an engineer in a machine shop, so for his vacation time, he wants to be outside as much as possible. Because of this, he literally plans our vacations around National Parks. The summer before our wedding, we drove to Yellowstone National Park, which started it all. We stopped at every possible stop on our way; the Corn Palace, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Wall Drug, and then six days in Yellowstone. One day, we told each other, we were going to take the same drive with our kids.
The summer I was pregnant with Lily, Ed planned a trip around Lake Michigan, which included camping at Twelvemile Beach up at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The campgrounds were remote; the dirt road leading up to the campsite was extremely bumpy. (I hear it’s now a paved road.) On the shore of Lake Superior, this is not the beach vacation you may be imagining. We were plagued by insects; mosquitoes up at our campsite, biting flies on the beach. Somewhere in the woods, I got a huge spider bite on my arm, which alarmed me, but it went away after a few days with no harm done. The water was frigid, and it turned my legs bright red when I went wading. I also made Ed get up with me every time I needed to use the outhouse at night. I was pregnant, remember? Plus, it rained. It rained, and rained, and rained. If anything made me realize that our marriage was going to work, it was being stuck with Ed in a tent for eight hours. I cannot tell you the relief I felt when we checked into a hotel in Mackinaw City. I took a long nap on a real bed while Ed went swimming in the pool. We still laugh about that trip.
The next time I was pregnant, we traveled with our two-year old to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We rented an amazing little cabin close to Cherokee, North Carolina, and we went into the park everyday and hiked. Lily was an amazing hiker. We hiked up and down trails to waterfalls, picnicked by streams where Ed and Lily walked on the rocks in the water, and saw a black bear with two cubs, along with a variety of other wildlife. Ed insisted I could hike anywhere, even though I was six months pregnant.
When Emmy was almost two, we went back up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and explored the Porcupine Mountains and other state parks up by Lake Superior. It is simply gorgeous up there, and on this second trip, we didn’t notice the swarms of mosquitoes that we had experienced before. I also refused to camp this time around.
The next year, we were off to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for a family reunion. The following summer, a trip to Cook Forest in Pennsylvania and Niagara Falls. Last summer, we traveled the farthest yet, and took a trip to Alaska. All our vacations have involved outdoor activities of some kind; whether it’s hiking, canoe rides or ziplining. This August, we’re off for another National Park adventure to…
I’m going to keep you in suspense. No, it’s not Yellowstone; we’re waiting until the girls get a little older for those long drives! But it is an exciting place… Visit Gretchen at Second Blooming for more outdoor adventures!
Which National Parks have you visited?