Oct. 19 is National Evaluate Your Life Day.
Ok, it sounds serious- evaluating your entire life? But let’s keep it light today. Do you like what you’ve done? Do you like where you’re going?
The good news is, you can change your future. Remember the adage, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” That means you control your destiny. Being a Festiva member is a great start if you’re looking to see more and do more with the rest of your life. And while on vacation, maybe you find yourself taking time to yourself and evaluating things. Being in a different place is ideal to start with a clean slate and see what’s really going on. Let’s take a look at a few different Festiva locations where you can evaluate your life.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
For a relaxing hike, jaunt across the peninsula East to Fort Hill Trail in Eastham, passing the Edward Penniman House, built in 1868 for the successful whaling captain. We promise you won’t miss the house, with its bright paint job and whale jaw bone gate. It now lies within the boundaries of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and serves as a museum of New England whaling. Continue onto the trail and you’ll soon be rewarded by sweeping views of Nauset Marsh.
Traverse the perimeter of a rolling field reminiscent of an Irish sheep pasture, with low rock walls and gentle sea breezes cooling you off. The one mile loop trail is hard packed and gentle, with the option to break off into the Red Maple Swamp Trail into the woods. Keep walking and you can walk down several small paths toward the marsh, a unique hiking experience that has you walking over seashells and crab claws on the trail, leftovers from the outgoing tide.
The trail revealed itself with the noise of falling water tumbling over rocks, a short footbridge going over the maelstrom. To either side, a noisy creek rife with boulders, the crystal-clear water rapidly meandering through the valley. This part of the Appalachian Trail started off with beauty, and it didn’t end there. I was on my way to Saddleback Mountain, and it was a 12-mile round trip trek.
One of the great things about hiking the Appalachian Trail is you can go for a short jaunt, or hike as far as you want. The trail, known as the AT, is the longest hiking only trail in the world and stretches about 2,200 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It passes through Rangeley, a town that embraces the wilderness attitude and outdoorsy nature that the trail brings.
As you drive into town on Maine State Route 4, you’ll see the Appalachian Trail parking on the left. Cross the road to head northbound and begin your hike. The section to Saddleback will take you all day to get there and return. It has a fair amount of elevation gain and is full of rocks and roots, typical of hiking in Maine’s western mountains. For an easier walk, you can choose to hike to Piazza Rock less than 2 miles away. It’s a tenth of a mile off the main trail and offers up the visual reward of a massive house-sized boulder that has slid down the mountain and perched itself on top of another equally impressive rock. You can find your way to the top with a bit of problem solving, clambering between the boulder field in the surrounding scree. It’s a great secluded spot that will grab your attention as you investigate the gaps and crannies in the impossibly large rocks. A thin, fast waterfall crashes down nearby, providing a nice sound to your picnic.
Continue on the trail to Saddleback, and you’re staying in the woods. It’s a pretty steady uphill climb, with the soundtrack of songbirds mostly all that you’ll hear. The dense forest doesn’t have many views, but it’s peaceful, and the scenery changes enough to keep you interested in what’s lurking around the next corner.
Maine is known for its difficult stretches of the AT, of which 281 miles pass through the state. Not only is weather in this northern climate a big factor, the path also contains the hardest mile and most secluded stretch of the AT. Mahoosuc Notch contains a mile of boulders that hikers need to navigate over and under. Patches of ice can be found insulated under the boulders even in July. Hikers will also navigate the hundred mile wilderness, the most remote section. Hikers will also need to cross the Kennebec River by boat, the only such crossing on the whole trail.
Keep pushing further toward Saddleback, and soon you’re entering the fragile alpine zone above the tree line. Scramble over the rocks in between wind swept pines and shrubs- you’re almost to the summit! Follow the white blazes and painted rocks. There are also rock cairns that dot the borders of the trail. It’s wide open now, with stunning vistas of the lakes and mountains all around. At the summit, a sign marks your achievement- keep going The Horn, 1.7 miles further, if you really want to push yourself. A rock wind break makes a nice spot for a meal and a rest before you head back down. Make sure to bring your pain reliever, the trip back down amidst the root and rocks is technical and rugged.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
It’s not hard to find solitude in this bustling beach community. The Gator Lake Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a one mile out and back flat sandy trail that passes through maritime forests and ends at a tranquil and secluded beach with crystal clear water and white sand.
Halfway there, you’ll pass freshwater Gator Lake, separated by a thin strip of land to the adjacent saltwater Little Lagoon. The wildlife area, translated to safe harbor, showcases the region’s transitional, wetlands, and frontal dune habitats, as well as dozens of species of migratory birds and other endangered wildlife.
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Here’s a simple day trip I took to Canaveral National Seashore, just 45 minutes away from New Smyrna Beach and an easy drive. The area is so much more than just a nice beach. Let’s go exploring!
Canaveral National Seashore strikes a chord between the utterly, stunningly natural beaches, marshes, and habitats, and the nearby launch pads of Cape Canaveral, which you can see from the southern parts of the beach. It’s utterly unique to think that among this stalwart of old Florida, rockets launching into space takes place just a few miles away.
Park and head onto the beach and you’re greeted by 24 miles of undeveloped sand, the longest stretch of natural beach on Florida’s east coast. Except for the breeze and the waves, it’s quiet here for as far north as you can see. Remember to bring a cooler and plenty of sun protection, there’s no tiki bar here to chill out at!
After walking a mile up the beach and taking some photos, I headed back to the car and turned around, hitting the Eddy Creek Boat Launch to get some shots of the sun hanging low in the sky. I saw more manatees, as well as raccoons scavenging bait fish along the shore, which was pretty funny, as I didn’t expect to see these two animals so close together. Speaking of animals, I also saw armadillo, turkey vultures, and wild hogs on the road as dusk wore on. It’s a true wildlife refuge, and the amount of animals who live here is incredible.
The Scrub Ridge Trail is a one mile out and back loop trail that I stopped at heading north on my back to New Smyrna Beach. The trail takes you on sandy, flat terrain through grassland and near the marsh. It’s quiet, peaceful, and at dusk reminded me of the African savannah. Along the way, look for Scrub Jays, Gopher Tortoises, and lots of birds in the marsh.
I only scratched the surface of what’s available to see and do at Canaveral National Seashore. You could easily spend multiple days there, and you should, it’s an incredible place. I highly recommend it for any family that wants to catch a glimpse of the interesting natural environment of the space coast.