Resources and Tips to Get You Exploring the Great Outdoors
A recent assignment led me to visit Point Defiance Park not far from where I live. This crown jewel of Tacoma has been a city park for over 100 years. It is rare to have an old growth forest right in the middle of town. There are plenty of trails and garden spaces that I felt totally comfortable exploring on my own. At the end of the day my coronavirus blues were chased away, and I felt better able to cope with everything going on in the world right now. I am lucky to live in an area with many beautiful outdoor recreational spaces right in town. How do you find the great places to get outside especially if you are new to an area?
There are two passes you must have when exploring your area. The first is the America the Beautiful Park Pass which is a pass that allows military families free visits to National Parks, Monuments, Forests and much more. Just show your military ID at entrance of any national park to receive your pass. I signed up for mine at a Wildlife Refuge. You will also need a state park pass which you will have to pay for. In Washington, the Discover Pass is $30 for the year and a one day admission to many state parks is $10 so it will quickly pay off. Many military installations outdoor rec sell the state passes.
A great place to start is Outdoor Recreation on your military installation. Most offer group day trips which are a fun way to explore your local area and meet new people. Another good on base resource is your local Spouses Club. Most have subclubs which you can join with people of similar interests such as the hiking club or a local explorers group.
An extensive new resource the ParkPassport app has been developed by Blue Star Parks, a program of the Blue Star Families. The new app has more than 2,000 national parks and other federal recreational which you can access via the park finder feature. Reviews are positive with people loving the park finder feature and finding out how many places are in their area. You can also connect with friends and show experiences. It includes a virtual passport where you can collect badges, a feature kids will love.
Military Spouses know how tough it is moving and meeting new people. Military Wild is an organization founded by military spouses who know how you feel. The group has chapters and ambassadors all over the country and the world with the mindset every duty station is what you make of it. Connect with your local chapter to enjoy group hikes and other adventures with likeminded military families who love exploring the outdoors.
Facebook groups are another good way to connect with people to plan outdoor activities. I belong to Travelers from JBLM. Members post questions asking for suggestions on what to do while those who have lived in the area longer provide answers. Often members link up to do things together.
Sometimes you may just want to get away from the military community and if so, there are many civilian groups that are worth checking out. Find your local trail association online and look for their resources. Usually they will list groups that get together to hike as well as classes on the wilderness in your area. The Washington Trail Association is a wealth of information everything from hiking with children, new to hiking guide, find a hike, and someone to hike with resources. If you love the outdoors volunteering to work on trails near you is another way to meet now people. Check out your trail association to see what is available in your area.
The great outdoor spaces with fresh air and the sounds of birds chirping in the trees go a long way to helping you cope with our world situation. It is easy to forget everything while exploring the while. Remember to continue your COVID-19 precautions even when outdoors. Keep your social distancing and while you don’t need to wear a mask when hiking, keep it handy in case you come upon others. Parks are seeing record numbers visiting during the pandemic so plan to visit early or on weekdays for less crowds.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com