Wednesday, April 20, 2016

STOP Defacing Natural Features

Defacing of natural features needs to be put to a stop. It is all to common to go see a natural feature like a canyon or rock formation, that took thousands of years to be created, to only be defaced and vandalized by ignorant people. It is not okay and must be put to an end.

It is our responsibility to preserve these amazing places. People travel from around the world to see the beauty in nature. No, I did not come to see someones less than stellar stick depiction of a fish on the side of a canyon or initials of a person that obviously does not respect nature. It is so pointless, an unnecessary.
Mushroom State Park was a place I saw a ton of defacing on the rock formations

It Can't Be Fixed 
Do people realize that what they are destroying and defacing in a matter of minutes took thousands upon thousands of years to create? Do they not understand that as soon as they make that decision to put their mark on it, that it cannot be taken away? Humans cannot rebuild it. It is not like a building that we can just wash it away. Mother nature will not create that exact natural feature again. That's not how it works. 

Why Can't We, They Did
Prehistoric people used painting and carving on rocks as form of communication and art. They did not have any other form. If someone so desires to create art or communicate with others, do it somewhere else. There are plenty of forms of communication and ways to express ones needs without defacing and vandalizing.  

Ways to Help
I think that it is our responsibility to find a way to prevent defacing of natural features. 

Parks can only do so much to help prevent this, but one of my favorites was at Hamilton Pool Preserve. They had a large rock that they brought in, that had a sign that read: "If you want to write on something do it here not anywhere else at our park". I thought that this was a very clever way of telling people that it is not okay to deface and vandalize. 

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Inform people. I am not sure if people do not realize what they are doing when they leave their "mark" but they need to understand what they are truly doing. That starts with letting kids know. They see it on the walls and want to join in. Don't let kids make this mistake. They don't have any concept of how old something is or how long it truly took to form. Some adults might not even be able to comprehend this. 

Politely stop someone from making this mistake. I say politely because being rude is not something that will help the situation. I am not one to intrude on other people, so this would be extremely hard for me. I realize after seeing it so often though, that I need to find the courage to politely ask someone to reconsider before they permanently deface a natural feature. 

Defacing and vandalizing natural features in that grand scheme of things is not a huge deal but it is completely unnecessary. It is something that can be so easily fixed if people just took the time to realize what they were doing. 

I'm sure I will continue to see a few more stick figure fish and many more names in all the natural features that have a special place for in my heart but I hope that with my words, I can at least reach one person that will reconsider the next time they go to deface or vandalize in nature. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Gloss Mountain State Park

My first impression of Gloss Mountain State Park was a little bit of disappoint driving up, seeing the "mountains" on the horizon. I walked away with an entirely different perspective though.

Gloss Mountain State Park, also sometimes called Glass Mountains, is located in northwestern Oklahoma. The mountains were named because of the gloss or glass look that appears in the sunlight from the selenite gypsum layers. Early explorers described them as looking like glass or "glaws" as the early British explorer put it.
Fee: free

View from the base

Gypsum which gives the mountains the glass look in the sunlight

What to Do
The main feature of the park is the hiking trail up to the top of one of the mountains. The trail is not very long but plan time to enjoy the views from the top. This park is definitely not one to spend the entire day at but 1 to 2 hours will give sufficient time to take in the sights. I would highly recommend not passing it up just because it only offers a hiking trail though. It would be the perfect location to have lunch and a short hike before going to the next destination.
**The stairs/trail to the top are very steep but do have hand railings to offer support.

Enjoyed our hike at Gloss Mountains

It was so windy at the top

My favorite part was coming back around and going to the southern tip of the of mountain. There was an extremely strong south wind the day we went. I spent about 5 to 10 minutes just taking in the sheer force of the wind and watching as the buzzards soared overhead. I had an overwhelming moment of joy as I stood there taking in this beautiful land and was so thankful for the people before me who thought it a good idea to preserve land like this. I hope my generation can continue to find value in places like this and do all that we can to save them.

View from the southern tip

(2 out of 34 Oklahoma State Parks) How many have you been to? Comment below!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Finding the Time to Travel

Time. There never seems to be enough when travel is concerned. My husband and I are not full time travelers, so we have to work hard to find the time to travel like we want. I am a teacher; therefore, I have holidays and the entire summer off. My husband is not so lucky, however. He gets a total of two weeks of vacation a year. With the limited amount of time we have for travel, we have to get creative. Here are a few tips on how we manage to travel with limited time.

Weekend Trips
Taking advantage of time that does not have to be asked off for is key. Weekends are the perfect time to boost travel. It is not ideal by any means but something is better than nothing in my opinion. Grant luckily has four day work weeks. So, we are able to take three day weekend trips often, especially in the summer.
Mushroom Rock State Park

Travel Local
Look for places to visit that are close to home. Searching for these places can be a challenge but worth it. Some of the best places we have visited thus far are not far from home and not well known. I always like to check state parks in the surrounding area first. I was surprised by the amount that I had never even heard of! A few places that we have visited that are close to home are:

Cross Timbers State Park  Kansas
Hawksbill Crag Arkansas
Kanopolis State Park  Kansas
Katy Trail  Missouri
Mushroom Rock State Park  Kansas
Natural Falls State Park  Oklahoma
Oklahoma City  Oklahoma (Girls Weekend)
Tulsa  Oklahoma (Aquarium)

Many of our trips have been weekend trips. To see as much as we would like, this is a reality for us until we have more vacation time.

Natural Falls State Park

Take Advantage of Holidays
Another great time to travel or a great way to extend a weekend is to use holidays, such as memorial day. Any time there is a holiday that we both have off we try to use that to our advantage. We are lucky that we live near our families and do not have to spend our holidays traveling back home. Also, try asking family to celebrate at a different time and use the time off from work to travel.

Biking the Katy Trail

Travel Separately
Don't be afraid to travel separately. With Grant only having two weeks of vacation and I have to be in town during the school year, we have done some traveling apart. Grant has made a few trips to see friends or family, while I have done a few girls weekends. Although, we are not traveling together we get the opportunity to still experience something new.

Make the Most of Vacation Time
It is important to take advantage of those few precious weeks out of the year. Plan the "big" trips during this time and don't be afraid to use it all. Grant's vacation does not roll over so he makes sure to use it. I luckily get a full summer off and I plan to use that to my advantage.

Time always seems to be the issue with traveling and maintaining a regular job. Have any other tricks? Comment below!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Oklahoma Aquarium

I love aquariums. I was super excited when I first found out there was an aquarium in Tulsa. Grant and I have been twice and enjoyed it both times.

Oklahoma Aquarium is located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The aquarium is quite large and I was pleasantly surprised to find an aquarium this nice in Tulsa. They have a variety of different exhibits with both salt water and fresh water fish. There are interactive exhibits as well as times they feed the animals for people to watch. They also have a tunnel that sharks swim around and above. It is really neat and probably one of my favorite parts!

Prices (as of spring 2016):
Adults: $15.95
Children: $11.95
Senior (62+) and Military: $13.95

Red Eared Sliders 

Cowfish is always a favorite

Our Experiences
The first time we went I absolutely loved it! (again I love aquariums) That time we took a quick weekend trip to Tulsa with our main goal to go to the aquarium. We went a few years later just passing through Tulsa and not much had changed. We still enjoyed it but did not spend as much time there as the first time because we remembered that majority of it. We were hoping they might have something new but we did not notice anything different from out first experience. Both times the aquarium was not overly busy, which was nice. I would highly recommend going at least once. It is really neat and something that I did not expect to find so close to home. Making a special trip for another visit would not be on my to do list but if I am ever passing through Tulsa I would not be surprised if I go check it out again.
Laura and Grant outside the aquarium 2015

Laura in the shark diving cage



Our first trip 2011

We love aquariums! Been to Oklahoma Aquarium? Tell us about it below!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Advice from a First Time Rock Climber

I am truly a beginner rock climber.  As far as technique and the best places to climb, I am completely useless. Looking for that? Wait a few years or check out another source. I am here to offer advice to anyone out there thinking they might enjoy rock climbing. As a first time rock climber, I offer 5 things to keep in mind.

Rock Climbing can be extremely intimidating to a beginner but don't let fear stand in the way of experiencing something new. It will be worth it in the end.

Rock climbing is no joke. Plan to go with someone who knows what they are doing, not only for safety reasons but rock climbing is hard. I was so glad I went bouldering for the first time with people that could teach me about the sport. They taught me the "rules" and were there to offer great advice.  I was lucky to be able to go outside for my first experience bouldering but if that is not an option, find a gym. Indoor rock climbing is a great way to safely gain experience and build up strength.

Ryan taking Kylie and I bouldering in Colorado

The first time I tried, I was off the ground for literally two seconds. I had just watched my buddy do the exact route I was attempting with complete ease. At first, I was embarrassed and unsure rock climbing was for me but I decided to give it another go. This time, I made it further up the route and became determined to do it. Finally, after more attempts, I completed the route. I am so glad I decided to keep trying because it was amazing pushing my body and figuring out how to use it to climb.

That second piece of advice, where I said to go with someone experienced, yeah do that. Then, make sure to listen to what they have to say. Experienced climbers are going to be able to give the best advice. I craved that advice when I was climbing because I knew that it would help me improve.

It is extremely easy for me to get into a competitive mode when I am being active. I had to realize that I was climbing with people that had done this their whole lives and my friend, who was also a
beginner. Being competitive was probably not the best idea. I needed to remind myself to enjoy my time and not compare myself to the people I was climbing with. That would only ruin the experience. So, laugh it off even if it's difficult and know that at some point, everyone else was also just someone trying something new.
Boulder in Colorado

Been rock climbing? Tell me about in the comments!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cross Timbers State Park

Cross Timbers State Park is located in southeast Kansas. The park is known for it's "ancient" trees, some of which are over 400 years old. Grant and I went with my family in 2012 and had a really great time. We hiked, kayaked, swam, and discovered brownie s'mores (roast a marshmellow and split a brownie in half and boom brownie s'more, it's amazing!). It's the perfect place to spend a weekend or a few days during the summer!

The Cabins at Lake Toronto are really affordable and perfect for an outdoors adventure without the hassle of camping. The cabin we stayed in slept up to 8 people. They are not terribly big but it worked out great because we really only slept and prepared food in the cabin. The rest of our time was spent outdoors. 
The cabins range from $65-$105 a night depending on the season and day of the week. 
Front porch of the cabin that faced Lake Toronto

There are a variety of trails around Lake Toronto and in Cross Timbers State Park. The majority of the trails are less than 2 miles long, but there are a few longer ones, like the Chautauqua Hills Trail. We really enjoyed the hiking but that specific year the tick count was really high. We used heavy duty tick repellent and were lucky to not get any. As well as the marked trails, the park was a lot of fun to explore. Grant, Kayla (my sister), and I really enjoyed exploring some large rocks near the lake. 
Chautauqua Hills Trailhead 

When we went, there was kayaking available for no cost.  We spent an evening kayaking on the lake and down one of the coves. We saw a lot of wild life, like deer on the shore, while we were on the water. There may have even been a few friendly races throughout the evening. Going later in the day was smart because we avoided the late June heat.

Kayaking on Lake Toronto

We also enjoyed swimming in Lake Toronto. It was the perfect way to cool off in the hot afternoons, after a morning of hiking. The swimming area was nice and there weren't very many people.

Lake Toronto was beautiful and we really enjoyed our time here. Grant was able to bring his bike and ride on some of the roads, while I highly enjoyed running around the lake. It was a wonderful trip.

Where is your favorite lake to go during the summer? Comment below!