Most people would not think of Nebraska as a destination. It is more often that long state you drive through to get to places like Colorado, Tetons, Utah etc… Cornfields line the roads for hundreds of miles great a flat and uniform landscape. It is generally a predictable place that is not known to be necessarily exciting and fun. In Nebraska’s far west just before reaching Wyoming are the Nebraska sand hills. Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge is about 30 miles north of the small town, Oshkosh and south of Alliance. Although it is not a sublime place is is rather picturesque and serene. There is so much incredible wildlife and so many adventures to be had. Although many may still not chose this as a destination I highly recommend stopping by if you are driving through.
We were up there helping a professor with some research but regardless of who you go with, there is lots of wildlife to see. We took several drives around the refuge and found lots of mud turtles, painted turtles, several species of lizards and lots of birds. The sunsets and sunrises are beautiful! I didn’t get any pictures but here is the link to a previous post I did with pictures from the last trip I did.
I just got back from the most incredible trip to the Bahamas! Here is a short version of our daily itineraries.
Day 1: We flew out super early in order to maximize our first day in Nassau. We arrived at 11:00am and got to the Atlantis marina by lunchtime. We had some time to spare before setting sail so we hit the pool and walked around for a while. Around 4:00 everyone had arrived and we were ready to leave. Boating out of Nassau was interesting because there were so many ships, big houses and palm trees. Our destination was pretty far so we all took naps as the boat rocked back and forth through the open waters. I woke up around 8:30pm to the most amazing conch chowder, which was a great way to start at boating trip! We had arrived at our destination.
Day 2: This was the official start to our research in the Exumas. We pulled up close to Leaf Cay where we would begin our research. One of the captains drove us over to the island in the skiff. Our professors taught us how to catch and process iguanas and we hit the ground running. The island was beautiful with a long stretch of beach which we worked on for most of the day. This island in particular gets a lot of tourists coming to see and feed the iguanas. We caught and process 149 iguanas in our first day which was pretty amazing!
Day 3: The winds were very clam so we took the opportunity to go to Flat Rock Cay which is an island that is much more exposed to heavy winds and big waves. The beach is also harder to pull up to, requiring calm winds. The island is very beautiful and there are some of the most amazing shells I have ever seen here. The iguana population is much smaller on this island and the weather turned pretty nasty halfway through the day limiting our iguana catching abilities. It started to rain hard and we tried to wait it out but it just kept coming so we ran back to the skiff and rode back to the Beacon Won. In the afternoon skies cleared giving way to great swimming weather and an amazing sunset.
Day 4: Our research team split in two to cover more ground and my group went back to Leaf Cay. We caught lots of iguanas and had some really great time to swim.
Day 5: We hit Leaf Cay once last day. It was an incredibly successful day in terms of research but the evening definitely took a turn for me. I was netting iguanas with a professor when I fell into a hole, spraining my ankle pretty badly. Other than this though the day was an amazing one!
Day 6: Due to my injury the day before I stayed on the boat for the day and assisted the Utah State professor and graduate student with their lab research. It was interesting to learn about their research and protocols. We took a swim in the blue Caribbean waters in the afternoon to break from all that lab work.
Day 7: This was the second day for the group on U Cay. It is a beautiful island that has a long sandy beach and incredible tide pools. I spent some time in the morning exploring the tide pools for a long day of processing. It was a great place for swim breaks though! We say an eagle ray swimming through the clear blue waters right near us. A group of us swam back to the boat which was super fun!
Day 8: We left Highbourne after breakfast and sailed further south to Bush Hill Cay. It took several hours but we arrived in plenty of time. There is a coral reef near the cay so it took some navigating (of our captains!) to get in close to the island. We got to the island and ate lunch before breaking off to go in search of this species Cyclura rylei which is a smaller species with longer claws and much more agile necks. The skiff ride back was pretty long because they had moved the Beacon Won to a much better place to anchor.
Day 9: Our last day in the Exumas! Although it was the last day, it was one of my favorites. We had some great iguana catching but also amazing views from the top of Bush Hill Cay and some fun on the beach later in the day. We arrived on the skiff with lots of iguanas to process from the day before and it was incredible because the species on Bush Hill Cay has so many different color morphs. There were yellow, red, blue and many mottled iguanas. We got to see two Green Sea Turtles swimming along the shore. I snorkeled near the turtles and got to see lots of colorful fish and some interesting corals. Several of us hiked to the highest point and the 360 view was truly incredible.
Day 10: A friend woke me up at 5:30am to watch the sunrise. We jumped in the water and enjoyed watching the sky fill with yellows, oranges, pinks and blues. A crew member interrupted our bliss, informing us that the heads were going to be emptied. With that we got out of the water as fast as possible. Fresh coffee was ready when we got out so we enjoyed that while waiting for breakfast. I spent the morning reading and journaling on the top deck while we journeyed back to Nassau. The return trip was about six hours so there was lots of time for some relaxation in the sun. We arrived at the Bay Street Marina around 3:00pm which gave plenty of time for showers and some exploration of Nassau. A group of us walked down Bay Street checking out the shops. Our designation was the Straw Market down by the cruise ships, which is a great place to get fairly cheap souvenirs so long as you can bargain (it can be a very intimidating place). We ate at The Green Parrot which is just inside the marina and the seafood was delicious. Fresh conch fritters and Mahi made for the perfect last Bahaman dinner. We walked across the bridge to Atlantis after dinner to walk through their aquarium and get ice cream. I stayed at Atlantis when I was young so I definitely remembered the underground tanks of fish and beautiful architecture. We walked through the aquarium and the casino, back out to the village which is kind of an outdoor mall. We got ice cream, which was delicious, however I would recommend getting ice cream at a shop in Nassau because everything in Atlantis is expensive.
Day 11: Those ten days went so incredibly fast! The end came quickly but the last morning did not disappoint with amazing views of the harbor over that highly anticipated cup of coffee. We flew out of Nassau around 11:00am and stopped in Atlanta, reaching our final destination by dinner.
Note: The main purpose of this trip was to conduct research with herpetologist John Iverson. He has a long term iguana study going in in the Exumas and has been researching species once thought to be almost extinct. Just as a preface, as students and universities we fully comply with ICUC rules and training.
Happy Memorial Day! It is definitely the holiday that marks the beginning of summer. It is a tradition in Boulder to go to the big Creek Festival during memorial day weekend and run the 10k through our city. This year I am not running due to an injury but I definitely will be hanging out with friends at the festival. For some reason this weekend has always marked the beginning of summer, probably because school has just ended and warm weather has finally set in. Barbecue season has begun and the reds, whites and blues are in true high style.
Hit the beach: Yes I feel like I somewhat already accomplished this in the Bahamas but I do love going to the beach so much and I am hoping to go once more before the summer is over.
Road trip: For some reason this has become a summer staple for me! Last year Aiden and I drove around Colorado, exploring my favorite places and parks and this year we are doing a girls trip to New Mexico to enjoy some pool side sun bathing and gorgeous views. There are an endless number of road trips all over the US and they are so great because you can truly tailor your trip to what you really want to be doing.
See friends and family: Although I will be working for part of the summer, this is the first chunk of time I have had at home for several years and I am super excited to catch up with old friends and see family.
Go sailing: Although Colorado is not the most nautical place I grew up sailing on the east coast and have a love for it even though I am very landlocked. This year the best chance I have will be on the Boulder Reservoir in a sunfish but that will have to suffice. We also have ample opportunity for paddle boarding and swimming.
Hike a mountain: Getting outside always makes me feel better about myself. It is just incredibly freeing, no matter how high the mountain or how low the valley. It is also a great activity to do with friends because it gives so much time to really talk without the distractions of the outside world.
I am sure there are many more but these are my top goals for the summer! I am very excited for all this time in the sunshine after a grey Indiana winter.
This was my first trip to Florida and it was incredible!
Most nights we camped at state parks or other camp grounds, so if you are not into camping there are definitely hotel options not far away and going to all the springs as day trips is definitely a possibility. Also, our first day was technically the drive down to Chattanooga but for this I am starting in Chattanooga.
Day 1: Drive from Chattanooga to Hart Springs. We stayed in a hotel in Chattanooga and started driving early in order to get to Hart Springs in time for some snorkeling. Hart springs is a pretty area in north Florida with lots of opportunity for swimming, canoeing and walking along the boardwalk. We arrived in the heat of the afternoon and chose to go straight to the cool water. Bringing some snorkel gear (or at least goggles) is definitely a must in this area. We saw some amazing wildlife including Swanee River Cooters, Loggerhead Musk Turtles and many fish. The boardwalk here is incredibly beautiful when the sun is setting right over the water.
Day 2: The next day is a drive from Hart Springs to Kelly Park. This time instead of leaving early, we spent the morning walking along some of Hart Spring’s trails listening to birds and spotting frogs. We stopped several times along the drive to Kelly Park to see wildlife.
Day 3: Kelly Park & Wekiwa Springs. We spent almost the whole day at Wekiwa Springs which is about 30 minutes from Kelly Park. This is a definite must visit destination if you are in the Orlando area. The water is a little chilly but there is a nice place to sun bathe, there are lots of trails and you can rent canoes to paddle down the creek. We were with the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group for the morning, helping them catch, process and release turtles which was a very fun experience! We also walked along the boardwalk and some of the trails. There is lots to see and do here. The evening was spent at Kelly Park which is a great place for picnicking and also swimming. I actually liked the swim set up better here. You walk up the path a little ways to the top of the lazy river and can tube or just swim down. The water is crystal clear and there are turtles and other fun things to see! There are also many nice trails here.
Day 4: Drive from Kelly Park to the National Seashore and then Manatee Hammock for the night. This was our big beach day and it was amazing! We spent almost the whole day on Cape Canaveral seeing lots of wildlife and walking along the National Seashore. I highly recommend visiting this area. It is one of the few places to see the Florida Scrub Jay and Roseate Spoonbills which was very cool. This beach is also so pretty and not too crowded. We drove a little ways to Manatee Hammock to camp for the night and this was probably my favorite place we stayed the whole trip. It was right on Indian River Lagoon which is so beautiful (make sure to get a campsite right on the shore). This sunset was absolutely gorgeous!
Day 5: Manatee Hammock to Alexander Spring State Park. We went to Blue Springs on the way to Alexander Springs in order to see manatees. There were many of them just laying in the water right in the springs (even some calves). We also saw lots of other wildlife. Seeing manatees is seasonal here so definitely check before you go but it was incredibly to see them. Also swimming is not quite as great here (or not open depending on when you go). We drove on to Alexander Springs State Park (in Ocala National Forrest) which was one of my favorite swimming locations. There were so many turtles and fish so it was perfect for snorkeling and the water was not too cold. I also just really liked this campground because you can walk to the springs and it is very pretty.
Day 6: Stay in Alexander Spring State Park for the night and spend the day canoeing Juniper Springs Run. This canoe trip was so fun! The river starts off very narrow but it is slow moving and just very picturesque and it opens up as you go. It took us about four hours so it is pretty long but it was so worth it (you can definitely do it faster if you are paddling fast and do not take stops). We saw several alligators along the way which was pretty cool as well.
Day 7: Alexander State Park to Otter Spring State Park. This was, sadly, our last full day in Florida. We visited a long-leaf pine forest and saw the rare Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. These types of forest are so interesting because there are really tall pine trees with not many understory plants. From here we drove to Otter Spring State Park and spent the rest of the day snorkeling in the spring and swimming in the pool (which was heated). This spring is also a great place to go especially if you have kids with you.
Day 8: Drive from Otter Spring State Park out of Florida all the way to High Falls State Park in Georgia. The morning was all driving but the was enough time once we arrived to enjoy the walking the trails. The sunset here was gorgeous and the camp hosts were so friendly.
Day 9: This final day was technically just driving from High Falls all the way back home, which took the entire day.
Overall this trip was amazing! It is a great circle if you are interested in seeing northern Florida especially visiting the many springs Florida offers. It can definitely also be modified depending on the amount of time you have and how much time you want to spend in certain places. I would definitely spend more time in the Cape Canaveral area (more beaches) and I would want to spend a little bit of time in Orlando (we avoided the city for the most part but it was very close to several of the locations we visited).
A few errands took us on an adventure to the beautiful city of Cincinnati. I decided that because the weather has been so nice I wanted to find some fun things to do outside (and for free if possible). Here are some ideas:
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum: This first stop sounds like kind of a strange place to go visit but it is outside, free and very pretty. It is so large that we didn’t even get halfway through. There are many green lawns and some beautiful lakes spread throughout as well as many beautiful headstones and buildings. The lake we walked around had a really interesting bridge and lots of unique and beautiful trees. It was definitely nice to get out, walk around and enjoy the fresh air.
Smale Riverfront Park: This waterfront it incredible! It’s right in downtown Cincinnati along the river and it is a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy the view. The downside is that parking is kind of a pain so choose your time well!
Other fun ideas: I love visiting the IKEA and Jungle Jims (an international food market) and there are many museums in Cincinnati that are really fun!
For spring break we finally headed south for some warm weather! I have never actually been to Florida and it is incredibly pretty. Canaveral National Seashore was definitely a highlight, with hours of beach combing, laying in the sun and jumping waves.
Blue and white stripes are a go to this season so I couldn’t help but pick up this top from American Eagle. Also the American Eagle sandals are so comfortable, I was super surprised.
The spells of warm weather in the mid-west have definitely sparked my excitement for spring style and warm-weather adventures! We spent a day in the Depot District of Richmond, IN exploring the massive furniture store and getting coffee at Roscoe’s. The Richmond Furniture Gallery is a really interesting place with lots of interesting vintage pieces. It is a massive store with three floors that are all multiple large rooms. It is definitely a place to go if you are into old, unique items. They also sell lots of new furniture if you are looking for quality home furnishings. The people are also incredibly nice and make the entire experience very personalized. The Depot District has some other great antique shops and delicious places to eat. Roscoe’s is a bar and coffee house that has amazing lunch food and yummy ice cream. They also bring in bands and speakers regularly; the day we visited they were having a 24hr Moby Dick marathon (someone had been reading on and off since the day before!).
So the whole reason for this adventure is a bit of a story. Basically some friends and I went to a hockey game at Ohio State several weeks ago, just to get off campus and have fun. The game itself was actually super fun and the fans were pretty entertaining. The drive back however was quite an experience.
A friend was driving on interstate 70 going over 60mph and hit a coyote. We did not think the coyote could have done that much to the car however we were very wrong. We stopped at a gas station to buy some tape for a piece of the bumper that was falling off and saw that coolant was streaming out from under the car. We soon figured out that there was no way we were even going to be able to drive it to a mechanics! Anyway the car had been in Columbus getting repaired so we needed to go pick it up.
Columbus, OH is actually a nice city with lots of fun things to do! We were looking for something that did not take too long and doesn’t cost a fortune so we chose the German Village. It turned out to be a very pretty historical neighborhood. The streets and houses are mostly brick and much of the original architecture still stands from the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. I also did some shopping at Helen Winnemore’s which is a cute little shop that sells all sorts of quality items from company’s and artists in the United States. We ate lunch at the Olde Mowhawk which had incredibly friendly staff and delicious food.
As we start to plan ahead for spring break and the summer months it is time to think about the much anticipated road trips that ensue. They are definitely not for everyone, however they can be a cheaper way to have an amazing and beautiful vacation. This trip was so much fun and it’s a great way to see Colorado (and even some of Utah) from all sides in a fairly short amount of time. On this particular adventure I was highlighting my favorite parts of Colorado for someone who had not been before!
It is also a trip that definitely could be extended if you have several more days. Here is the overview: Day 1: Drive from the Boulder/Denver area to Angel of Shavano Campground. This is such a beautiful drive through the mountains! Leadville is a great spot to stop for food, antique shopping and enjoying the view. It’s a small town with lots of character and it is one of the highest towns in the country, sitting at over 10,0oo ft above sea level. We ate lunch at Tennessee Pass Cafe (I also recommend High Mountain Pies and City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso). After setting up camp we drove back to Princeton Hot Springs for a nice evening dip. If you aren’t into camping Mount Princeton Hot Springs is a great place to stay the night! This area is also an incredible place to hike with multiple 14,000 ft mountains all in close proximity. The town of Buena Vista is also incredibly pretty and attracts many kayakers and rafters.
Day 2: Drive from Angel of Shavano Campground to Great Sand Dunes National Park (then on to Cortez). We left the campground super early and drove to the dunes where we spent much of the morning. I highly recommend camping here however getting a reservation can be really tough so book well in advance. The dunes are especially hot during the heat of the day but dune jumping is incredibly fun and it is pretty amazing to see a feature that seems so out of place nestled in a great Colorado valley! There is also a river that runs through right before the dunes, so bring a bathing suit (river levels definitely depend on the season and yearly precipitation so be sure to check!). Instead of camping we pushed on all the way to Mesa Verde so we could spend more time at the National Park. We stopped and ate great Mexican food for lunch in Del Norte and stopped for frozen yogurt in Pagosa Springs. Pagosa is another town I highly recommend spending more time in, there are natural hot springs along the river as well as a great resort, many hiking trails and fun little shops. This was a pretty long day but in the end we made it to Mesa Verde before the park’s closing time in order to get tour tickets for the next day. It is definitely a must to get tour tickets the day before because they tend to sell out in the summer and getting a tour when the sites are still shared is a much smarter idea. For the next two nights we got a hotel in Cortez, which is only a 15 minute drive from the national park.
Day 3: Going on tours of the anasazi ruins is undoubtably the way to visit Mesa Verde. This is because most of this sites cannot be explored up close if you are not on a tour (tours are fairly cheep and you definitely learn a lot!). It is best to get an early start to beat the heat! This whole day was spent going on two tours of different ruins and exploring other parts of the park. It is really a beautiful place with some amazing history. Cortez has some decent restaurants as well!
Day 4: Drive from Cortez to Moab (and on to Dinosaur National Monument). This is, once again, a place that I would definitely break up a little more. We had a limited time but, Moab is such a great town and would be a great place to stay a night and get some more hiking in. The national park also has a campground. Arches has so many amazing features and great hikes! We did two shorter hikes in order to see some different features. We tried to spend as much time here as possible so we did not get to the Dinosaur campground until 7:30ish (also, make sure you go to the right entrance of Dinosaur National Monument). This is one of the darkest places in the country, at night, so on previous visits I have seen amazing stars!
Day 5: Dinosaur National Monument to Hayden/Steamboat Springs. We spent 5-6 hours in Dinosaur just visiting the homestead, looking at the many fossil features and swimming in the river. This park has great programs for kids and has a good variety of things to do. It does get extremely hot here so hiking in the middle of the day was not smart on our part! We drove on to Hayden, CO from here (close to Steamboat Springs) where we stayed the night at a family member’s property. I have been to Steamboat Springs many times and highly recommend it! The town is very beautiful and there is always something going on (Rodeos, festivals, kayak races etc…). When we drove through the next day the annual Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup was in full swing. It is also a great place for horseback riding, biking and hiking. Check out Strawberry Hot Springs for a great place to stay!
Day 6: Steamboat Springs to Estes Park. We did some hiking and swimming in lakes in the morning before driving to Rocky Mountain National Park. Driving up Trail Ridge Road can definitely be quite terrifying however it gives way to some of the most spectacular views. There is also lots of wildlife including elk, moose, bighorn sheep and many birds. We stopped several times for some prime photos but drove to Estes Park to meet my family, walk the town and eat delicious food. Estes is very busy during the summer but it is definitely worth it. This night was spent at some beautiful cabins just outside of Estes.
Day 7: Estes Park back to Boulder! Most of our last day was spent hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are so many hikes of all levels and ability making it a great place for everyone. The drive back to Boulder is fairly short but definitely check out more of the restaurants before heading back!