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Showing posts from 2016

Travel Budgeting!

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We all know that traveling has the potential to be very expensive. One of the most effective ways to ensure that you don't spend all of your money on a trip is to create a budget. Setting a budget is one of the tips I outlined in my video/blog post about 5 major ways to save money while traveling. Budgeting is one of the more straight-forward ways to manage your travel money, but can sometimes be difficult to manage.
Before You Plan...Before you begin to figure out a budget, you have to ask yourself if there are some things that you know that you want from your trip. Is there a specific amount of time you want to spend on your trip? Are there places in particular that you are already starting to plan to visit during the trip? Having a vague idea of your trip will help you to set a viable budget before you start the specific planning. For instance, if you know that you want to spend a week camping, you know that you’ll need to pay for a week’s worth of food and campsites, plus your…

Enjoying the Little Things...

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1:00pm      There's no way around it-- from August to May, I'm stuck in the Chicago suburbs for the school year. I get restless. This only increases as the time goes on, particularly in the winter time. Travel is hard, and frankly, I'm a baby when it comes to the cold. What am I to do? How am I supposed to get my nature fill when I am trapped in middle-class subdivision-warehouse-department store-chain restaurant-land? The only thing that one could do in this situation is enjoy the little things.
     As I type this out, we are receiving the first snowfall of the year. On most years, the first snowfall comes quite a bit before December 4th. Attribute the lateness to climate change, abnormally mild weather conditions, or coincidence-- I kind of like the timing. There was no snow until the start of meteorological winter, and I'm okay with that. Plus it's a Sunday. I don't even need to drive in it.
     Anyway, I've been able to spend my Sunday morning working …

Ocean & Mansions

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During a visit to Rhode Island, I had the pleasure of stopping for the afternoon at the Cliff Walk in Newport. This was a lovely, peaceful stroll down a path with the ocean on one side and rich architecture on the other side. The path is 3.5 miles long, but we did not get to the whole thing.



     There are a couple different spots from which you can start the Cliff Walk. We parked and started at Narragansett Ave. It is metered parking, but was only a few bucks for three hours. This is also the spot called Forty Steps. A guy got his credit card stuck in the parking meter... He was trying to put it in the slot where the receipt comes out, if I remember correctly...
     Anyway, we checked out the Forty Steps area. It was very nice, but a little bit crowded. There were a couple bathrooms there that had long lines. The Forty Steps themselves are stairs leading down to an area good for ocean viewing. There are rocky edges visible, making for a nice scene.
Onto the Cliff Walk!     Movi…

Ways to Save Money While Traveling

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Over the past couple years, I've done a fair amount of traveling. Now I wouldn't say I'm a cheap person, but I certainly enjoy saving money. Being that I don't mind traveling using minimal resources, I've developed some tips that can help others while planning and traveling. Be advised-- these tips may not work for everyone. If you're willing to live without some certain accommodations, you can plan a trip on relatively small budget.      1. Set a Budget      Speaking of budgets, they are my first tip! Set a budget before traveling as opposed to planning and setting a budget after the fact. Stick to your budget too! Don't let yourself come home broke. In a future blog post/video, I will talk about how you can maximize your trip based on your budget.       2. Go Camping!      Sleeping accommodations can easily become your biggest expense while traveling, but they don't have to be. Camping is generally the cheapest way to go. The majority of campgro…

5,249 ft. Elevation? No Problem.

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Back in July, my boyfriend and I took on a trail rated as one of 20 dream trails by National Geographic. We ventured the Franconia Ridge loop in New Hampshire. The hike takes you up to Little Haystack Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Lafayette. This loop is about 9 miles, including about 3,500 ft. elevation gain in just about five miles. Though the hike was tough, it was without a doubt worth the struggle.
Preparations           The night before we planned on hiking, we camped about 15 minutes from the trail head. We were without cell phone signal, so the weather forecast that we had to go off of was from a day or two before our hike. The forecast had called for rain in the mid to late afternoon. Knowing the nature of the trail and potentially dangerous conditions at the summit, our plan was to get on and off the trail before it would rain.
     We drove over to the trail in the morning, packed and prepared with plenty of food, water, and safety items for a strenuous day hike. The…

SOAR Program

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Yesterday, October 29th, 2016, I had the pleasure of watching a presentation by SOAR Illinois at Starved Rock. SOAR stands for Save Our American Raptors. Needless to say, I was in for a treat-- they came with six rescued birds to show off. Using my phone, I was taking notes on the presentation. As we all know, sometimes technology can backfire on us... I lost my notes! Regardless, I remember quite a bit about these intriguing birds.
The Owls      The first owl they showed us was none other than a Great Horned Owl. She was so lovely looking-- I was glad to see her up close! I learned that these cool owls eat a lot of skunks, as they don't really have a sense of smell. Also, one of their ears are slightly higher on the head than the other, which improves their ability to hear and pinpoint prey.      Next we saw a beautiful Barred Owl. I don't remember too much about him, other that his name was Patrick. Barred Owls' eyes are very dark and almost look like dark hollow ho…

Fall Foliage at Starved Rock

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Well, this year's Fall Colors Weekend at Starved Rock State Park in northern Illinois didn't provide an enormous rainbow of autumn colors, but it did serve as a beautiful place to relax on a mild October weekend.

View the video that I recorded on this day
My Day      It's about an hour and fifteen minute drive from home to the park. I arrived about 11:30, which is when I said that I would be there to start volunteering. The last twenty minutes or so of the drive is always pleasant, and this time even more so. The trees and leaves were still so full. They made for a lovely sight going around the twisted roads.       Fall Colors Weekend is the 2nd busiest weekend at Starved Rock, with Columbus Day weekend preceding it. There certainly were a ton of cars-- I was afraid that I would end up parking at a distant overflow lot. I was lucky to snatch up one of the last spots before that lot filled up.      Volunteering     I started off in the visitor center. Spending some time…

Starved Rock Video

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Centennial Trail

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Last Friday, I borrowed my dad's bike and loaded it into the back of my Equinox (this was not an easy task!) and headed over to the Centennial Trail off of 135th St. in Romeoville, Illinois. I only rode three miles out and back, which is a small fraction of this trail and connecting trails. Even if this place isn't the most scenic spot in the world, it is rich in local history and connects with other trails in a cool way.
The Bike Ride      I parked in the small lot on 135th Street, From here, you can go a couple different ways. I chose to head toward the small trail bridge into the wooded area. The paths are nicely paved in this whole stretch. Many cyclists come through here, as well as pedestrians. There are mile markers that say how many miles to the next main location. About a mile in, there is a bench that it nice to relax at and could be a stopping point for a short walk. There is a split at about three miles in, which is where I stopped. You can either continue on …

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

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Now that the school year has started, I'm pretty confined to the northern Illinois area most of the time. With that said, I still need to get my hiking and nature fix! I have found that there are plenty of forest preserves in my area that are worth checking out. Many of these forest preserves I've never been to, so I'm starting a journey in which I will be visiting more of these places.

Navigating
     Anyway, one popular spot that often comes up on my internet searches while looking for places to go is Waterfall Glen forest preserve in DuPage County. Basically, this park surrounds Argonne National Laboratory. I took I-55 to get there and it was only a few minutes off of the expressway. Columbus Day was a very busy day to visit, so I'm not positive if it is always a struggle to find good parking or if it was only because it was a fall holiday weekend. There were a lot of cars parked out on the street. The waterfall parking area was very small, but I was able to sna…

"Grand Canyon of the East" -- Letchworth State Park

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Only about a two hour drive from Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park in New York is a spot of natural beauty that was well worth the trip. For us, this was a stop in between visiting the Adirondacks and heading to Niagara. Since we camped at a New York state campground the previous night, we had a pass that was good for all New York state parks the day we went to Letchworth, so we didn't have to pay the entrance fee for the park.

First Impressions
     Upon entering Letchworth, we were a bit underwhelmed. Soon enough, we noticed that we just entered the park on the "boring" side. We began arriving at the lovely overlooks. Letchworth is kind of a big ol' canyon-- you peer down to see the Genesee River flowing through the park. There were numerous large birds soaring through the canyon. You can see this in action in my YouTube video.
Waterfalls
     We moved on to the decent-sized waterfalls that Letchworth holds. The lower, middle, and upper falls all have good vi…

Exploring Explore.org!

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Recently, you may have seen this video on the news, in which a grizzly bear named Grazer quickly gets in the water when her three cubs fall down Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park. This video was nice to watch and added a little nature flair to the nightly news, but how many people know that they can view this webcam all the time during the summer months?

What is Explore.org?
Explore.org is a website that you can watch numerous live webcams of animals and nature ranging from baby service dogs to hippos in Africa. Keep in mind when viewing these cams, that they are in real time. If you're an American night owl, most of the U.S.-based cams will be off or too dark for you to see. Right now, it is about 8:30am central time, so it is still dark on my favorite Katmai National Park cams since they are three hours behind central time right now. No matter the time of day, there will always be cams to watch though. There are nocturnal bird cams, as well as some cams from o…

Go Ape!

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On September 4th, I went to a very cool place for my cousin Allie's 18th birthday. It's called Go Ape in Western Springs, Illinois. It's a treetop adventure place.

Adventure in Store!
     The place has five areas which you go through. Each one requires you to go up a ladder, travel through several obstacles up in the air, and ends with a zipline. Some of these obstacles include a Tarzan swing onto a net, traveling across a gap by putting your feet in rings, and various tricky bridge obstacles. You're hooked up to a harness the whole time, of course. Although there may be points when you get a little scared, it is very safe. The last zipline is about 40 feet up, I think. That was the only spot where I got a little tripped out, but it was the most awesome zipline there. The place might be a little spooky for those who are afraid of heights, but with its level of safety, Go Ape is a great place to try to overcome a fear of heights!

Is it Worth the Money?
     The staf…

NYC!

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As a first time visitor to New York City, you could certainly say I mostly went to the most touristy spots in the city. With that said, I had a very action packed day in New York City.

Navigating
     We made parking reservations ahead of time at a garage northeast from Times Square and other attractions in that area. Once we parked, we headed down to the subway to go to toward Battery Park. The subway experience was new to me, but pretty simple. We did get a little bit of help from a worker when she saw us staring at the map for a while. She gave us good directions though, and we were able to get on the right train.

First Thing's First 
     The first area we visited was the World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial. The new World Trade Center is is beautiful work of architecture. Its appearance does a wonderful job of serving as a symbol of rebuilding post-tragedy.
     There is a 9/11 museum here, but we did not go to it. However, we did spend time at the memorial. Like the World…

I'm a Starved Rock Volunteer!

Today I had an orientation at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois to volunteer on the weekends sometimes. It went very well! I'm very excited about it. It seems that sometimes I'll be working at the information desk, and sometimes I will be leading hiking tours. The guided hikes are particularly what's got me excited. I have a lot of learning to do though before I can give a good tour! Hopefully I can be leading my first hike within the next six weeks or so.
     I plan on going back two weeks from today to learn a bit more before I start signing up for my own shifts. It's also important for me to observe a couple more hiking tours before I lead my own. This should help me figure out what kinds of things to say and what points of interests I should include.
     Anyway, I'll have more updates to come about this in the coming weeks!

Little Video...

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Just a little video about my visit to Lake Renwick Preserve in Plainfield, Illinois yesterday. My mom and I didn't catch any fish here, but luckily we did later at a different spot! Anyway, I feel like I've been neglecting the blog a little. Not only have I been quite busy, but I also have been getting more into the video editing stuff. It's time consuming, you know! I'm hoping to have up a video about my adventure today at Go Ape. I plan on posting my NYC video and blog post on next Sunday.

Freedom Trail Video

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The Freedom Trail

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Yet another stop my boyfriend and I made this summer was Boston, Massachusetts. Knowing we only had one day in Boston, we went to visit the Freedom Trail. We were able to park pretty near our starting point near the visitor center by the U.S.S. Constitution. After seeing the big ol' ship, we started heading toward the Bunker Hill Monument.

On the Freedom Trail
     Although some of the 16 main sites on the Freedom Trail are spread out, it is easy to navigate to each by following the red bricks in the sidewalk which mark the trail. Periodically there are signs as well. I also followed along on Google Maps on my phone.
     We navigated to the bunker Hill Monument. It's cool on the outside, but even neater from the inside. You can climb stairs all the way to the top. Yes, there are nearly 300 stairs you must go up to get to the top. Yes, it is a little bit tiring. I thought it was worth it though. You can see a lot of Boston from the top of this thing. It is a bit tight going…

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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So in July, I took a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the first stop of our two and a half week trip through the northeast.

Getting There
     We made parking reservations at a sort of random garage some blocks away from our main destination, Independence National Historic Park. There is a lot of history to check out at the historic park. We went to see the Liberty Bell, as well as Independence Hall.
     Before making our way, we had brought food to eat to avoid buying lunch, but I forgot a fork to eat it! While we were walking the streets of Philly, there are plenty of food vendors. Luckily, one of them was nice enough to give me a plastic fork without even making a purchase!

Independence
     Anyway, in some of the main parts of  Independence National Historic Park, you are required to security scanning-- that's how you know that what you're about to see is important! The Liberty Bell was fun and historic to see. There were a lot of people in there and we had …