Give yourself some space #OptOutside

Especially now, we need outdoor spaces free from the distractions of modern technology and the negativity of our never-ending social media feeds

Approaching Thanksgiving we search for ways to be thankful and pave the way with a positive and an introspective look into our lives. Many people have taken the opportunity to spend more time outside and others have enjoyed outdoor recreation for the first time. As we prepare to leave 2020 in our rearview mirror, take the opportunity to spend it out of doors with a road trip into America’s beautiful places. A camping trip is a great place to start!

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The renowned naturalist John Muir wrote that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

Golfing in Southern Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world has changed immensely since Muir wrote this in 1901. People, now more than ever, seek the benefits of nature. It’s amazing what a couple of hours outside can do for your well-being. Fresh air is a state of mind. One we could all use a little more of these days.

Opt outside with Americas’ national and state parks on Black Friday. Forego the hustle and stress of this traditional shopping holiday and choose to break the mold by enjoying a worry free, socially distanced trip to an outdoor recreation area. On Black Friday and any day of the year, get outside and enjoy a hike in the parks!

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get out and explore some of the great parks located across the country! Try something new; if you’ve never seen the beauty of southern Arizona, it’s the perfect time of year to visit Saguaro National Park or Catalina State Park in Tucson. Saguaro has two sections, approximately 30 minutes apart. Both sections of the park offer great opportunities to experience the desert and enjoy hiking trails.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching.

Picacho State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park offers trails for all difficulty levels. Hiking at Lost Dutchman State Park can be a great way to test your endurance as many of the trails are quite steep.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the Sonoran Desert. Or you can explore two deserts in one at Joshua Tree National Park.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Moab. Mountain bike, hike, and climb your way around the stunning red rocks. Test your hiking limits at the Zion National Park. Zion is filled with impressive canyons, sheer cliffs, and wide expanses of slick rock. This is the type of place where you can take your hiking ability to the limit and beyond.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tour the Louisiana Outback. Life is everywhere along the Creole Nature Trail. Birds, mammals, fish, crabs, and alligators make their home in the four wildlife refuges that can be found along the 180 mile-long byways that make up the Trail.

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tucked away in southern New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Park protects a portion of the world’s largest gypsum dune field. The best way to explore is by hiking, horseback, or biking—and don’t miss out on the thrill of sledding down the soft white sand. The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais National Monument offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. There’s something for everyone here. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Admission will be free at state parks in South Carolina on Friday, Nov. 27, as the Park Service joins the national #OptOutside initiative. The promotion, sponsored by REI, encourages people to spend some time in the great outdoors the day after Thanksgiving. State parks are some of the most beautiful outdoor settings in South Carolina and are ideal places for family outings.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or, stop at Guadalupe River State Park just outside of San Antonio in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Here you can camp by the river and spend your days enjoying various water activities like kayaking, tubing, swimming, and fishing.

Northeast Georgia mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Northeast Georgia Mountains’ picturesque beauty, countryside, tumbling waterfalls, and gentle mountains provide a much-needed escape from the bustling city. Hike to the top of Brasstown Bald for a panoramic 360-degree view. Cumberland Island is the largest uninhabited barrier island in Georgia. The adventure starts on the ferry from St. Mary’s, the only way to get to the island which offers a wonderful view of the diverse habitats. Rent a bike, book a tour with park rangers, or bring a pair of good hiking shoes, as the island is a wonderful place to explore. You can spot wild horses roaming freely, raccoons, wild boars, alligators, whit-tailed deer, and many birds.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings built from the 6th to the 12th century can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in southwestern Colorado.

The #OptOutside movement was started by the outdoor retail company REI in 2015. The basic meaning of #OptOutside is: Go outdoors on Black Friday instead of shopping.

Everything is easier said than done. So don’t just read or say it; do it!

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

—John Muir