Tag Archives: adventure-inspired

Three Beautiful Peaks above Tree Line in the Northeast

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

On a recent trip to Vermont and New Hampshire, I had a chance to hike above tree line, which isn’t something I get to do often, living in Pennsylvania. When you’re out of the woods and above the trees, it’s an incredible feeling. You’ll see different types of (typically very fragile) vegetation, have expansive views of the world around you, and if you walk up, you’ll know you’ve earned every bit of that experience!

Hikers on Mount Lafayette

Photo Credit: Katie Levy

Mount Mansfield, Vermont

Hiker on Mount Mansfield

Photo Credit: Katie Levy

At 4,393 feet above sea level, Mount Mansfield is the highest peak in Vermont. It’s particularly special because it’s one of few places in the state where true alpine tundra can be found. That being said, park officials take great care in protecting the foliage and preventing erosion; some trails up the mountain are closed from mid-April through Memorial Day. On top of the unique flora, if you look at the mountain from the east or west, it looks like a very long human face, complete with a chin, nose, and forehead.

The most popular way to get to the top is via Underhill State Park and one of four trails leading up the mountain. The Sunset Ridge and Laura Cowles trails provide the most direct access to the summit, aka the chin. I used the Sunset Ridge trail on a recent trip and it was steep, but absolutely worth the climb once my hiking partner and I popped out of the trees. Hikers can use the Long Trail to visit all three facial features, and a toll road gives folks not interested in making the tough climb up a chance to park close to the nose. It’s absolutely worth a trip if you’re in the area, but be prepared for crowds in the summer months.

Mount Marcy, New York

Growing up in Upstate New York meant frequent trips to the Adirondacks for outdoor adventure, and one of my favorite peaks to climb there is Mount Marcy. At 5,343 feet above sea level, it’s the highest point in New York and at the heart of the High Peaks Region, one of the most beautiful parts of the state. Most of the mountain and the surrounding areas are covered by thick woods, but the last few hundred feet take hikers out of the trees and above the world below.

The options for accessing Mount Marcy are seemingly endless, depending on whether you’re looking for a day hike or an overnight backpacking trip. The Van Hovenberg trail, which starts at the Adirondack Loj, is the shortest (around seven miles one-way) and most popular way up the mountain. It’s a long day trip, but there’s plenty of backcountry camping in the area, and every time I’ve visited, I’ve stayed at least two nights. I’ve been to Mount Marcy via the Johns Brook trail and Johns Brook Lodge, and from Lake Colden via Four Corners; it’s tough to go wrong in that part of New York State.

Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire

Hikers on Mount Lafayette one of three beautiful peaks in the northeast

Photo Credit: Katie Levy

At the northern end of Franconia Ridge, 5,249-foot Mount Lafayette stands above other nearby peaks, but not by much. It’s home to a variety of small, fragile types of alpine foliage, which is part of what makes it special, but what I loved most about climbing Mount Lafayette is the ridge walking it took to get to the top.

A variety of trails give hikers access to Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge, depending on whether you’re interested in visiting just the top of the mountain, or walking along the ridge to neighboring peaks. I did this loop counter-clockwise over Memorial Day weekend this year, covering nearly nine miles and visiting Little Haystack and Mount Lincoln before coming to Mount Lafayette. It’s one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done in the Northeast, and thought it was packed, it’s well worth the trip. Be sure to add the Greenleaf Trail to your route, stop at the Greenleaf Hut (4,220′), and bring cash; even if you’re not an overnight guest, snacks are available for purchase there and after that hike, you’ll need the energy.

If you choose to do any of these hikes, keep a few key things in mind. First, weather changes very quickly when you’re up that high. Watch the forecast carefully, and stay below tree line if storms are predicted. Second, wear sturdy shoes and consider hiking poles to support you on the way down steep trails; your knees will thank you. Third, stay on the trail. As tempting as it can be to run around on the rocks above tree line, it’s tough enough for alpine vegetation to grow in the first place; stepping on fragile plants certainly won’t help.

Have you been to any of these mountains? Sound off in the comments!

Three Beautiful Lighthouses to Visit this Year

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Though in many cases lighthouses are no longer a necessity when it comes to travel by sea, they’re still fascinating landmarks and beacons to behold. Many have important histories and meanings, while others are significant simply because they’re beautiful sights to take in. While some coastal landscapes boast a high concentration of lighthouses, to me there are three that stand out as must-visit destinations in the warmer weather to come.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse, King Range National Conservation Area, California

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Image: Katie Levy

Nestled above a sandy beach and below rolling hills and mountains, the tiny abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse serves as a landmark for Lost Coast Trail backpackers. It’s also a perfect day-hiking destination for those willing to walk three miles one-way in the sand on one of California’s most remote stretches of coastal trail and also willing to pay close attention to tide tables.

Punta Gorda was once dubbed “the Alcatraz of Lighthouses” because of its inaccessibility and those sent there to operate it. Originally consisting of three two-story dwellings, a signal house, a concrete light building with a curved iron stairway, and more, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1951 in favor of an off-shore beacon. Punta Gorda has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and both the inaccessibility and history make it well-worth the visit.

Friends and I paid a visit to Punta Gorda on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast Trail, and our stop there made for some incredible memories. We climbed up what’s left of the lighthouse to hold court over the harbor seals basking in the sun on the beach, listened to the waves crash below, and saw miles of trail we’d covered already, along with what was to come. It’s a pretty special place.

Visit the BLM website for more information.

Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park, Maine

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Bass Harbor

Image: Katie Levy

Standing tall above Bass Harbor’s rocky coastline within Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Light has served as a beacon for travelers since the late 1800s. Today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but remains active and serves as a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.

On a trip to Acadia last summer, I had the lighthouse at the top of my must-visit landmarks list as a result of the number of stunning photos I’d seen. Unlike the remote Punta Gorda lighthouse, Acadia’s Bass Harbor Head Light is accessible via short concrete path from a small parking lot. A short walk takes visitors from the comforts of their vehicles to within inches of Maine’s rugged coastline. Friends and I stopped there after a long day of hiking, and despite not having to work too hard to get there, the Bass Harbor Head Light was a worthwhile visit.

Visit the National Park Service website for more information, and click here and here for some of my favorite hikes in Acadia.

Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, New York

From the beautiful lighthouses blog; view of Tibbetts Point

Image: Katie Levy

I was lucky enough to spend many a summer during my formative years in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The Thousand Islands—a collection of close to 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River straddling the border between the United States and Canada—is also home to a number of big, beautiful lighthouses. My favorite? The lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, New York.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse was built in 1827, and in the 1990s, the lighthouse was formally acquired by the town from the Department of the Interior. I have fond memories of visiting the visitors center as a child, which was built in 1993. Over the past nearly two decades, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Society funded a series of renovations both inside and outside of the lighthouse.

The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is particularly special because it marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, and it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in that part of the state, in my humble opinion!

Visit the town’s website for more information.

There are so many beautiful lighthouses to visit around the country and around the world! Have you been to any of these? What others would you say are must-visit lighthouses, and why?

Tips for Planning a Successful Group Camping Trip

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

Group Camping with several tents in the woods

Image: Katie Levy

With prime camping season around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about trip planning if you haven’t already. And when it comes to spending a night (or several) outdoors, sharing that experience with a group of people can be incredibly rewarding.

After going on multiple camping trips with friends and local outdoor clubs, I’ve learned that a handful of key things planned, or not planned, in advance can make or break a group camping trip. If you’re hoping to get a group camping trip in this spring or summer, keep these things in mind.

Make campground reservations far in advance.

One of my favorite things about camping during the off-season is not having to worry about finding a campsite. Most people aren’t interested in camping in the snow, making it easy to drive to a campground and find a last-minute spot. But with some of the most popular camping months around the corner, campgrounds are going to get crowded.

If you’re planning on staying in a campground with a group, look for group sites that accommodate large numbers of people and snag them ahead of time. Some campgrounds don’t have group sites, and if they do, there are typically only a few. You can also look for campgrounds that allow you to reserve sites next to or across from each other if group camping isn’t available. My friends and I did that on a trip to Acadia National Park and it worked perfectly, but only because we planned ahead.

Decide whether to do group meals, and plan accordingly.

Planning meals for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Letting everyone fend for themselves on your group trip is certainly an option, but group meals can make things more efficient and cheaper. Instead of numerous individual coolers and items bought separately, you can buy in bulk and have the experience of preparing meals together. But if you do decide to do group meals, preparation is essential.

Start by figuring out the number of meals you’ll have, and write down options for each meal. Give your tripmates time to discuss them, and once the meal plan is set, determine who’s doing the shopping and how the items are going to be stored. Finally, pack plastic bags to make divvying up things like trail mix and sandwiches easier.

Understand everyone’s experience level.

Gear check for a group camping trip

Image: Katie Levy

Whether you have a group of seasoned camping veterans, absolute beginners, or a mix of both, knowing your tripmates’ experience levels is important. If you have beginners in the group, they might have more questions about gear and food than a veteran camper would, and they may need to pick up more gear in advance of your trip. They may not understand basic principles of overnight food storage, campground etiquette, or even what sleeping in a tent is going to feel like.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the trip enjoyable for everyone. Understanding both experience level and expectations from your tripmates makes having fun a whole lot easier.

Make a gear list and divvy up group gear.

If you’re going camping, odds are you’re bringing things like a tent, a stove or other cooking device, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and other items multiple people in your group may have. But it’s not (normally) necessary for everyone to have their own tent, stove, or bottle of dish soap, and it’s possible some people in your group might not have essential items others in the group can share with them.

Make a gear list in advance that includes things like sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and other personal items everyone needs. Then make a separate list of group gear items like stoves, cooking utensils, cleaning supplies, and tents so the gear can be divvied up in advance of the trip. I’ve found making a spreadsheet in Google Docs with multiple tabs for group food, group gear, and individual gear requirements is the easiest way to keep track of everything. A list, or multiple lists, also helps you avoid forgetting anything.

Make and share a plan for finances in advance.

Even when you’re planning a group trip with friends and/or family, finances can be tricky. If you’re ponying up for a campground reservation and group members drop out at the last minute, it’ll cost you. But asking for money upfront can cause its own set of challenges.

Think about whether you want to ask for a down payment in advance, especially for things like reservations. It can prevent folks from backing out at the last minute and helps ensure the known costs are covered before the trip. You can also estimate costs associated with food and ask for all or part of that ahead of time.

I’ve found that on group trips with friends, covering the reservations in advance and dividing up additional costs like food after the trip works best, but that’ll vary depending on who you’re going with. Get everyone in the group on the same page about estimated costs and what’s being collected and when; it’ll make things a lot easier in the end.

Image Credit: Katie Levy

Image: Katie Levy

What other tips do you have for a successful group trip? Have you been on a trip that went extremely well or extremely poorly? If so, why do you think the trip went the way it did? We’d love to hear from you!

Beginner’s Guide to Hiking Trail Etiquette

Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired

We’re getting closer and closer to spring hiking season, and as the weather gets nicer, more outdoor enthusiasts will take advantage of warmer temperatures to get outside. Trail etiquette is important no matter the time of year, but when trails get crowded, it’s essential to observe a few key unwritten and written rules to make the experience as enjoyable as possible for you and other hikers.

Hikers Observing Trail Etiquette

Image: Katie Levy

What you take into the woods with you comes out with you.

It should go without saying, but somehow I still frequently see items like water bottles and granola bar wrappers left behind. Even on the most well-used trails, the “pack it in, pack it out” concept is still crucial to the protection of the landscape and to the enjoyment of others using the trail, including organic matter. Things like orange peels and apple cores take time to decompose, and if they’re not native to the area, tossing them into the brush is even worse.

Be courteous with technology on the trail.

Hiker a trail with heavy backpack

Image: Katie Levy

As ubiquitous as smartphones and other gadgets are these days and as useful as they can be in emergencies, most of us are familiar with seeing them in use on the trails. But that doesn’t mean everyone around us wants to hear our text message alerts, ringtones, and favorite music or bump into us because we’re not paying attention to where we’re walking.

Keep your phones on silent unless it’s essential you hear alerts, and if you do stop to use your phone, make sure you’re not blocking other trail users. Also consider leaving your headphones at home. Listening to music makes it tougher to hear what’s going on around you, including other trail users and wildlife.

Know who has the right of way.

During peak hiking season (and even during non-peak hiking season), you’re bound to run into other people making good use of the trails. But what happens if you run into someone on a mountain bike or on a horse?

As a rule of thumb, no matter what method of transportation you’re using—two wheels or two feet—horses have the right of way. Step in the downhill direction from the horse when you’re yielding to avoid spooking them. As another rule of thumb, mountain bikers should yield to hikers. As always, let common sense guide you. If it’s easier for you as a hiker to yield to an oncoming cyclist flying down a hill, step aside to help keep everyone safe. Know what direction has the right of way.

Two hikers on a summit

Image: Katie Levy

In addition to the hierarchy of who yields to who, it’s important to remember that if you run into another hiker or hiking party coming uphill toward you, they have the right of way. As much fun as it can be to run downhill, going uphill is a lot of work. Interrupting the pace of an upward-bound hiker is a no no, unless they let you know it’s OK. I know I’m often grateful for an opportunity to step aside and take a break! Offer to yield first, then let that upward-bound hiker make the call.

Do your business far, far off trail, and clean up afterward.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is pretty specific around how to relieve yourself in the woods with minimal impact on the environment and other outdoor enthusiasts. Specifically, “Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug six to eight inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.”

And even if you’re not depositing solid human waste, ultimately getting yourself far away from trails and being picky about where you do your business makes it less likely that someone else will stumble upon your temporary bathroom spot. Try bringing a sandwich bag with you to pack toilet paper and hygiene products in, too. There’s not much worse than seeing a pile of used TP in the woods.

What other rules do you think we should add to the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!