On Christmas morning in 1969, I opened a large package to find a new light-blue Jansport backpack, sized just right for a second-grader. I wasn’t too excited by my present then, but on its inaugural outing the next summer — a gentle 5-mile round-trip along the Baker River in Washington’s North Cascades — I began to discover the gifts that wilderness camping could bring.
I finally saw Disneynature’s new film, Oceans, the studio’s follow-up to last year’s acclaimed Earth, an equally dazzling visual tour-de-force. If it’s still on a big screen near you, dash out and see it while you can. Then, consider the suggestions below for an offshore vacation to awaken your eco-sensitivity.
When I was growing up in damp western Washington, I remember many occasions where my dad insisted we kids leave the TV and spend time outside. It may have been gray and drizzly, but he knew there was something valuable about fresh air and green spaces. I usually didn’t need much convincing. I have fond memories of long walks in the woods with my dog, riding my bike and watching waves roll in to the beach on Puget Sound.
Photo by Wendy Worrall Redal
Is there anything that says “spring” more effusively than a tulip? As soon as colorful bunches start popping up in the grocery store in February, I quit thinking about wet snow, gray skies and winter’s lingering grip. However pretty a bright bouquet of cut blooms is, there’s nothing like surveying row upon rainbow-striped row of these spring floral icons in full, growing glory.
My main goal at 12 years of age was to own a pair of plastic mouse ears, a salute to Mickey Mouse. Of course, this would require a vacation to Disney World, something every kid in my neighborhood had achieved. Getting there was possible … but sure looked unlikely. My parents, you see, saw no point in traveling to a fantasy world when the real world was so fantastical. I never did acquire that mouse-ear crown.
Kauai's beaches invite long walks
For a lot of eco-minded vagabonds
there is a temptation to dismiss a Hawaiian vacation as too packaged and predictable: tourists in leis and aloha shirts, skyscrapers and beach-goers crowded into Waikiki or chi-chi resorts where the main activity is sitting by the pool sipping mai-tais with a little umbrella poking out of a pineapple slice.
But an alternate Hawaii exists, offering the active nature-lover an idyllic tropical escape from winter’s grip. The Garden Isle of Kauai is lush and laid back, high on beauty and outdoor adventure, low on pretension and crowds. And low on cost, too, with many free and inexpensive ways to explore its natural treasures.
In this era of relentless airline cost-cutting, it’s tough enough to fly these days, let alone during the holiday season when long lines, crowded planes and winter weather up the hassle factor. On top of those frustrations, almost every airline has now instituted a checked-bag fee, typically about $20 per bag each way.
I won’t have a computer, an iPod or even a cell phone on my nature trip. So don’t e-mail, voicemail, Facebook or even try to call me. Don’t even phone me on a landline. I can’t be reached. When I travel, I purposely sever all lines of communication with my everyday life. I think you should, too. Because when you don’t, I get annoyed.
“After” photo: ship is gone; more highlights (see the “Before” photo below). ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
It looked perfect through the lens. I had the shot all lined up: blue mountain in the background, a rocky trail winding through the middle, and wildflowers in the foreground that made up two-thirds of the composition. I rotated the polarizing filter just enough so that I had a bright blue sky. Click.
Only about 400 Spirit Bears remain. ©Candice Gaukel Andrews
It almost sounds mythical.
But there’s truly a place on the far western edge of our continent where a rare animal — a white black bear — can still hunt, fish, gather berries and raise cubs unbothered by humans. There are no roads here, no cut trails, few settlements and even fewer trappings of civilization. It’s a good place to be a bear.