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Archive for the ‘State Park Sundays’ Category

Move It Monday: Mesquite’s Adventures, Using the Dog to Motivate the Kids to Hike

April 18th, 2011 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Camping with Kids, Dog-Friendly Travel, Las Vegas Adventures, Las Vegas with Kids, Road Trips, Smith Family Adventures, Spring Adventures, State Park Sundays, Traveling with the Dog, Uncategorized

Mesquite and Justin, Cave Explorers, Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas Nevada

Twelve years of parenting has taught me that bringing the dog along is one of the best ways to get kids hiking.  My friends and neighbors thought I was crazy to bring the dog on our last vacation, but Mesquite had an awesome time and provided the kids with motivation to keep moving.

Sniff Stop, Valley of Fire State Park, Las Vegas Nevada

My sweet eight year old puppy scaled rocks and hiked to the petrified forest at Valley of Fire State Park.  She reminded us to stop and rest in the shade from time to time. 

Even back at the swanky Oasis RV park, she motivated us to walk several blocks to get the the Doggy Park which provided an hour of kid friendly entertainment as the kids happily through ball and bones for the Doggy Park visitors while Mequite hung out in the shade and enjoyed being petted.

The great thing about Nevada State Parks is that they let dogs on almost all the trails as long as they are on a leash.  Because of this liberal policy Mesquite was able to join us for most of our adventures.  Something to keep in mind when planning a dog and kid friendly trip.

Happy Trails,



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To do list for today: Vote Yes on Prop 21!

November 1st, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in California State Parks, State Park Sundays

Well, I’ve been blogging in support of California State Park Intiative for almost 10 days straight (though I did take the weekend off), and I’m plum tuckered out.  I’m headed to the polls in the morning with my kids to drop off my absentee ballot.  I’ve done everything I can possibly do.  Now it’s your turn.  Get the word out to your friends by e-mail, twitter, facebook, and phone.  Be sure you cast your vote as well. 

Take a minute to watch this beautiful, award winning video “21 Reasons I’m Voting Yes on Prop 21″.   California Native Christopher Grant Ward took two roadtrips visiting and filming over 100 California State Parks.  His video is an eloquent reminder of why our parks need to be preserved. 

Visit and read their Proposition 21 FAQ.  It will address any concerns you may have about voting for Prop 21.

The  Travel Bloggers for State Parks Blog Rally may be coming to a close, but hopefully tommorrow a new day will dawn for California State Parks.  Looking foward to some state park road trips with the kids this summer.

Happy Trails.  Don’t forget to vote!



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State Park Sunday: Bloggers Rally in Support of Proposition 21

October 24th, 2010 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays

State Parks Supporters, Wilder Ranch SP Fourth of July Celebration

The above photo was taken at one of the best Fourth of July celebrations I ever attended.  Every year volunteers at Wilder Ranch State Park put on an amazing old fashioned turn of the century Fourth of July party.  Kids can do vintage crafts, the Declaration of Independence is read, and you can even try some hand cranked ice cream!  This 2009 Fourth of July Celebration was particularly poignant since at that time Wilder Ranch was one of many California State Parks scheduled to be closed due to California’s budget crisis. 

 In 2010 I spent the Fourth of July at a Padres Game.  The game had gone into extra innings and things were looking grim for our Padres. Suddenly the announcer shouted Rally Time!  The crowd went wild, cheering , hooting, and stomping their feet.  Bouyed by the crowds enthusiasm the Padres rose to the challenge and won their game.

As I write this the state parks are limping along.  Most remain open with a skeleton crew. Crime is up due to decreased ranger supervision and bathrooms at some parks are closed because they can’t afford anyone to clean them.  As California still struggles with budget woes every cycle brings new threats of closure.  Last year a major corporation withdrew a publicity campaign in conjunction with the state parks because they weren’t even sure that the state parks they were trying to help could remain open!

It’s rally time for State Parks throughout California .  On Tuesday November 2nd, California voters will have chance to save the state parks and get something of real value at the same time.  If Proposition 21 passes ,California drivers will pay an $18 vehicle registration fee and receive in return unlimited day use admission to California State Parks.  As I see it, everyone wins. All  Californians get  access to their local state parks.  This means more trips to the beach, more hikes to scenic outlooks,  and more chances to learn about California History at a nearby historic park.  Tourists who already travel from all over the world to experience the natural beauty of California State Parks get to enjoy clean well maintained restrooms and quality ranger programs.  The towns that depend on these tourists for revenue survive and thrive as our state parks become a world class tourist destination.  All for $18, the price of a large pizza.

So my fellow travel bloggers…it’s rally time. Let’s make some noise!  Spread the word about Proposition 21.  Share your favorite state park memory with your readers. 

Thanks to San Diego Bargain Mama, Fun Orange County Parks, and Day Tripping Mom for their Yes on 21 Posts.  Stay tuned this week for more posts about my favorite state parks and links to bloggers participating in our rally.  I’m looking forward to reading about everyone’s state park adventures.

Happy Trails,



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State Park Sunday: Good News for California State Parks?

September 27th, 2009 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays, Uncategorized
Save Our State Parks Booth, Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz

Save Our State Parks Booth, Wilder Ranch Santa Cruz


I have good news this State Park Sunday.  The governer has  decided not to close any California State Parks.  The budget cuts will still take their toll on the parks however in terms of loss of staffing and reduced hours.  This could continue to endanger the safety of the parks and the economic health of their surrounding communities.

Here are two different takes on what the Governer’s announcement means for the state parks.

California State Parks Foundation Press Release

Union Tribune Article

No doubt about it, a rough road lies ahead for the State of California and it’s State Parks.  User fees are going to be more important than ever, so have a picnic, go camping, and keep letting Sacramento know that you support a state access pass.  Get out and enjoy these great State Parks before the governor changes his mind!

Happy Trails,



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State Park Sunday:Angel Island State Park

September 12th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays, Uncategorized

As a rule, I like to include pictures in these State Park Sunday posts.   Because I haven’t been to Angel Island since I  was about 10 years old I have none to share.  I can’t say that at the time it made a great impression on me.  I remember feeling privileged to see a Century Plant in bloom.  (Now I know that it does bloom more than once a century!)

A little later, however, I had a chance to learn more about the rich and tragic history of this state park.  Now I think  it is one of California’s most important state park treasures.  I was glad to hear that the federal government was considering transitioning this to a national park in case Angel Island was on the state park closure list.

This park is often called “Ellis Island of the West”.  However, unlike Ellis Island who welcomed most immigrants to U.S. shores this park was something more sinister.  As I did some background research on the Chinese immigrant experience for an ESL lesson on the book Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep, I discovered that Chinese immigrants were detained on Angel Island for many months, even years.

This island was also a temporary home for Japanese and German prisoners of war.  In the 1920′s it housed Japanese picture brides.

Immigration fascinates me.  My Irish ancestors arrived at Ellis Island at the turn of the century then made their way to California.  I want my children to understand their ancestor’s immigrant experience, learn more about how other immigrants have been treated by our country in the past, and show compassion towards the modern immigrants who live among us.  Hopefully, when we are ready to make the trip to Angel Island State Park, it will be open and ready to receive us!

Happy Trails,


P.S.  I’m digging this cross cultural adventure out of the archives to share with my friends  at Trekaroo for  Spotlight Thursday.  Stop by for more great adventures with kids from across the country.


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State Park Sunday: Sonoma State Historic Park

August 30th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in State Park Sundays

I thought I would continue the Sonoma theme of my recent post, by taking a moment to highlight Sonoma State Historic Park.  This area encompasses a number of significant historical landmarks including the Sonoma Mission and General Vallejo’s home.  Here you can delve into the rich history of early Calfornia including the northernmost California Mission, the birth place of the Bear Flag, and the home and army barracks of General Vallejo, Commanding General of Alta Calfornia.


What makes this historical area so special is it is located in the heart of town, directly across from the beautiful town square pictured in my Photo Friday post and right down the street from local businesses.  As a child I remember browsing the upscale thrift shops and getting ice cream cones.

 Sonoma State Historic Park is part of what gives Sonoma it’s charm and sense of history.  It is a fun and educational family outing to complement any Sonoma getaway.  My Auntie Carol who lives in nearby Yountville commented that the whole area had been hard hit by the loss of tourism due to the recession.  I sincerely hope that Sonoma State Historic Park not be included in the impending park closures.  Sonoma needs interesting and affordable activities to draw tourists to this beautiful region.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stop by the Sonoma State Historic Park on my last visit due to time limitations, I’ll be sure to stop by on a future visit to capture this beautiful piece of Calfornia History.

Happy Trails,



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State Park Sunday: Ano Nuevo State Park

August 21st, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Santa Cruz County Adventures, State Park Sundays

Elephant Seal, Ano Nuevo State Park

As summer comes to an end, I start thinking about Elephant Seals.  At  Ano Nuevo State Park, just North of Santa Cruz California you will find the largest elephant seal breeding colony in the world. Starting in mid December you can participate in guided public walks.  Tickets for this amazing experience go on sale October 20th and apparently the walks fill up quickly so mark your calendars!  They even have a live web camera set up for those of us who won’t be heading up North this winter.

If you visit outside of the tour season,  you will need to get a visitor’s permit to visit the wildlife viewing area.  See more info here.

I don’t think I’ll be in Santa Cruz this winter. Still,  if this amazing park stays open, I will definitely have to gather the kids around the laptop, and check out the web cam.  Perhaps when we make our annual pilgrimage to Santa Cruz next year, we will get visitor permits and try to observe the seals molting.

Every Sunday, Family Adventure Guidebooks  is featuring a different California State Park in order to call attention to the potential State Park closures that will be happening after Labor Day.  The California State Parks Foundation is organizing I Heart State Parks actions throughout the state over Labor Day Weekend.  For more information and to learn how to organize your own event click here.

If you would like to do a State Park Sunday guest blog or just contribute a photo of a California State Park, please leave a comment below.

Happy Trails,



PS The beautiful photo is provided by bike4freedom2 under a Flickr Creative Commons License


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State Park Sunday: Anza Borrego

August 15th, 2009 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in San Diego Adventures, San Diego Day Trips, San Diego State Parks, Spring Adventures, State Park Sundays

Anza Borrego State Park, California

The media is starting to recognize the dire straights faced by the California State Park System.  This past week, a local reporter came upon my blog and interviewed me for a piece on the California State Park closures.  Reading the North County Times article I learned something new.  The Colorado Desert District which includes local treasures such as Palomar Mountain State Park and Anza Borrego Desert State Park spends significantly more than it collects in revenue. This may put both parks on the closure list.Anza Borrego Desert State Park, wild flowers

Anza Borrego is famous for the wild flowers that bloom in the midst of the desert every spring.  Local volunteers  in the area come together to greet and assist the large numbers of visitors who flock to Anza Borrego in order to experience this natural wonder.  During my parents last visit  the line was so long that they were unable to enter the visitor’s center!

Fields of Gold, Anza Borrego Desert State Park

I didn’t make the trek to go wildflower hunting last spring, but I was certainly hoping to head out there this year since my little ones are a bit more patient and better travelers.  Unfortunately, if Anza Borrego is one of the one hundred parks that will be closed, my children will lose this opportunity to observe a desert spring.

Anza Borrego offers alot more than wild flowers.  It is the largest state park in Calfornia and has numerous hiking trails.  The website says that visitors may see a wide range of animals including roadrunners,  golden eagles, kit foxes, and big horn sheep.  If you plan to visit in the spring, check the park’s website for weekly flower updates. 

Hope that you are all enjoying your last days of summer.  State park closures will be announced after Labor Day.  Visit the California State Parks Foundation for updates and action alerts.  Also, Knudsen is making a donation for every one of their products purchased before September 6th up to $100,000.  Food for thought next time you head to the grocery store.

Happy Trails,


PS The beautiful pictures in this post were provided my my talented mother and Family Adventure Guidebooks correspondent Lee Gillin.  Thanks mom ;) .

PPS I am cheating a wee bit and entering this post in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday in order to call attention to the potential closure of many of California’s State Parks.  To enjoy Debbie’s beautiful pictures of a Japanese Garden in Seattle and more great travel posts from around the world click here.


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State Park Sunday: SOS

August 9th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in State Park Sundays, Uncategorized

Natural Bridges State Park, Santa Cruz, Ca

Last night I had a dream that I was making an impassioned plea for the California State Parks.  This morning  when I awakened I realized that, although I have a huge day in store, I couldn’t let another Sunday pass by without sharing with you the potential park closures that will be happening at the end of the summer.

So far it is looking like the California legislators have cut the State Park budget to the point that 100 parks will be closing afterLabor Day.  I am gravely concerned of the implications this will have for our public land, the economy of our local communities, and our children’s access to the natural world.  The parks are fragile just like the natural rock formation that you see above.  When I arrived at UC Santa Cruz in 2001, there were two such natural bridges.   Now the waves and storms have destroyed one…one remains.  

As citizens of California we cannot sit by and let the budget waves wash away these precious treasures of our state.  Today I am hoping for a miracle, park/business partnerships, a state park access pass, there must be a way to turn this around.

Let’s continue to do what we can to change our State Park’s future.  Visit the California State Parks Foundation and learn how you can make your voice heard.

Happy Trails,



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State Park Sunday: Letter from Our Governor

July 11th, 2009 by bsmith | 3 Comments | Filed in State Park Sundays
Natural Bridges State Beach is one of Countless California State Beaches Threatened by the Budget Crisis

Natural Bridges State Beach is one of Countless California State Beaches Threatened by the Budget Crisis

Sorry to stray from the usual format, but I received an e-mail from Governor Schwarzenneger today. I wanted to share it with you along with my reply.

Happy Trails,


Here’s what he wrote:


Thank you for writing to me about funding for our state parks system.  Your input is important to me during these challenging times. 


California’s natural beauty is renowned throughout the world, and I have made it my priority to protect our environment so future generations of Californians can continue to experience and enjoy what we have all come to love.  Our state parks provide a fantastic introduction to the California experience and help bring our residents and visitors closer to our landscapes.


Unfortunately, the state cannot continue to bear the costs of supporting every program.  Believe me when I say that these cuts have been the hardest decisions of my career as Governor, but we are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Our revenues for the coming year are at least 27 percent below where they were projected to be just two short years ago.  We now face a shortfall that has grown to $26.3 billion, and the people of California have made their voice clear: they want the state to live within its means and solve its problems through spending cuts and not tax increases. 


To help manage our budget shortfall, I have proposed eliminating General Fund support for the Department of Parks and Recreation.  I understand that these cuts will impact not only the lives of our park employees but the millions of park visitors who visit these national treasurers every year.  In spite of these General Fund cuts, though, I will work to keep as many parks open as possible with funding from user fees.  It may require raising entry and camping fees, expanding partnerships with local government and non-profit groups, and seeking additional creative ways to support our system in the future.


As I work with my partners in the Legislature to find solutions to these problems, know I will keep your thoughts in mind.  Working together, I believe we can weather this storm and start the slow but steady march back toward prosperity.





Arnold Schwarzenegger


Here’s my reply:


Dear Governor,


Thank you for your thoughtful reply.  I want to reiterate that I believe that a vehicle license fee would be the user fee that would save the most state parks, while still freeing up money for the general fund.  As you are aware, they have been very successful in Montana with an optional fee.  Those who pay the fee get free day use and parking.  I presume that those who do not pay the same fees as out of state visitors. 


Please, please consider something similar.  I believe that this would save the parks and stimulate local economies.  Everyone I have talked to from State Park docents to my husband the Republican agrees that this would be an excellent solution.  I am sure that if you let the legislature know that you are open to such a bill, it would be passed by a majority.  As you have seen with the torrent of e-mail and postcards, the State Parks have many supporters here in California.


Thank you for your hard work during this budget crisis.  I have profound respect for you and the difficult choices that you must make on behalf of all Californians.




Bridget Smith



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