Guatemala Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 4 days, 5 nights


  • Day 1:
    • Exploring Antigua
    • Visiting the Chocolate Museum
    • Trying out some new cuisine
  • Day 2:
  • Day 3:
  • Day 4:
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Beautiful ruins in the middle of Antigua (thanks @GPSMyCity)


  • Volcanoes… so many volcanoes
  • The friendly locals

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  •  An inordinate amount of trash seems to gather around otherwise beautiful outdoor places (it makes me sad)

Favorite Hike:

  • The favorite hike that did was probably Pacaya Volcano, even though the altitude gave me a run for my money. I heard that the Indian’s Nose hike at the Lake is stupendous for sunrises, but, sadly, I didn’t have enough time to do this one.

Favorite Treat:

  • Luna de Miel in Antigua makes crêpes. Although this particular cuisine is not distinctive to Latin America, the savory Pepina option combines a French delicacy with a Guatemalan staple. Yum.
  • Traditional Guatemalan breakfast: scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions, sweet plantains, a wedge of queso, some fruit, and coffee. Random, but filling and healthy.



Another Calendar? Yep.

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The 47parks 2018 calendar is here! (Well, technically it’s online for you to order). Lulu assures me that it’ll arrive by Christmas if purchased by the 12th of December.

A sneak peak:


Lots of blue in this one, folks – sky, lakes, oceans, etc.

Click here to get your copy!

Just Another Muddy Monday

We were foraging for sticks – good ones that were both sturdy and sized correctly.

“How’s this one? And look at the pine needles I found for the brush part!”

I couldn’t help but smile, relishing the contentment I felt at spending time outside with a league of children. Our current project: creating paintbrushes using natural items we uncovered in a nearby wooded area. My young charges were very intentional in their scavenge, and eagerly helped each other construct their art tools.

Paintbrushes my students created using natural objects

The best part? This was just another Muddy Monday at my new place of employment: Lorien Wood School.

During the latter part of my 47 Parks trip, I began the onerous task of finding a new job. I vacillated between curriculum writing careers, outdoor education positions, and returning to elementary education. I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon an opening at an occupation that combined all three.

Lorien Wood is a private school located in Northern Virginia. The curriculum is integral, arranged in thematic units that incorporate multiple subjects, among which is outdoor studies. After spending so much time outside during my travels, I was pleased to be offered a position at a school that encourages joyful discovery of natural spaces and wild places.

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Autumn mural using our handmade nature brushes

Every Monday is a designated Muddy Monday. Small groups of students rotate through various stations designed to promote a spirit of discovery as children interact with the outdoors. As the designated STEAM* director, I get to design engineering and art projects for the students to undertake. I am looking forward to building forts, making miniature rafts, and exploring solar energy over the course of the year.

I look back over my national parks tour fondly, but relish in my new job that combines my passion for nature with my love of all things teaching/learning.

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Students design and construct representations of the 4 seasons.

Rain, snow, or sleet, I treasure the opportunity I have to share this passion with my students.

Mondays just couldn’t get any better.


* STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math

And the Award Goes To… (Part II)

Every park that I’ve been to is special in it’s own way. The diversity found within the natural areas of our country is truly astounding.

That being said, some parks piqued my interest a little more than others.

Introducing my favorites…

(1) Best Hiking: Redwood Forest

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Tall trees, lush greenery, coastal views peeking through the trees… can’t get much better than this.

(2) Best Desert Park: Joshua Tree

Everything about this place captivated me. The rocks were unique, the sky was gorgeous, and the wildflowers were in full bloom.

(3) Best Lil’ Town: Bar Harbor (outside of Acadia National Park)

An overlook in Acadia with Bar Harbor nestled neatly off in the distance. This town boasted excellent lobster, fun shops, and an overall non-touristy feel.

(4) Best Exploration: Channel Islands

This piece of paradise was chock-full of fun places to discover. There were rocky coasts, sea caves, and historical ranches.

(5) Best Views: Glacier

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Those mountains. That sky. *sigh*

(6) Most Isolated: Isle Royale

In the middle of Lake Superior. I commuted 3-hours via ferry to experience this wonderful wilderness.

(7) Best Waterfalls: Yosemite

One of the many waterfalls in the Valley. The heavy winter snow resulted in a tremendous amount of falling water.

(8) Best Forests: Sequoia

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I enjoyed walking through forests full of these giants. The crisp spring air and snow-clad floor made the atmosphere peaceful and fresh.

(9) Best Pure Fun: Lassen Volcanic

Snowshoeing and looking at geothermals was a grand ol’ time.

(10) Best Overall: Olympic

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Beaches, forests, mountains, and more!

Making Lemonade, Small Planes, and Iron Ladders

Silly selfie

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Or in my case: When life throws a deer in front of your car, fly to Acadia National Park.

It just didn’t make sense to hang out in Wisconsin for a week while I waited for my car to get fixed. Hotels were pretty pricey, and I knew that I would be going stir-crazy lingering in a city.

I crunched some numbers. When I calculated the cost of gas, lodging during the drive, and tolls, taking a last-minute flight to Maine didn’t seem like such a bad decision.

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A small plane

So I spent a glorious 2 days on Mt. Desert Island, the largest and most popular part of Acadia.

I drove my sweet rental car, a Jeep Cherokee, along the coast, marveling at the rugged rock meeting the Atlantic Ocean. I laced up my hiking boots and explored the mountains and unique ecosystems, the sound of the crashing sea in the distance.

On one occasion, I decided to do a quick 0.4 mile hike to a lookout point. I soon realized that the majority of the hike was iron ladders, and that the “trail” was really more of a nontechnical rock climb.

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Up, up, and away…

It was fun.

Even though flying is a pain, I’m happy that my impromptu decision will save me hours in the car in the long run.

Now, my trip is officially back on track. One more park to go!

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Cavern Travel

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Entering the Lower Cave

Complete darkness. My eyes fought to find something to focus on; my ears something to target. Thankfully the lady next to me inhaled deeply, leaving me grateful for the brief respite from the disorienting sensory paralysis.

I sat in an alcove with twelve other strangers, united by our collective experience of this outright blackout. After a couple of minutes, our guide began to talk about the delicate balance of preserving the cave while at the same time allowing visitors access to this underground wonder.

Before arriving at Carlsbad Caverns, I expected it to be like the other three caves I had visited thus far on my trip. Of course there would be eye-catching stalactites and stalagmites, and perhaps a couple of other cave features that would draw my attention. I wasn’t prepared for the sheer magnitude of this subterranean space, nor was I ready to be captivated by the diversity of speleothems (a fancy word for cave decorations).

This decoration is aptly named “Lion’s Tail”

The guided Lower Cave tour that I signed up for took me even further into a frontier that is just beginning to be understood. Though not as rigorous as my Wild Cave Tour in Mammoth Caves, I got my share of exercise descending/ascending ladders and traipsing across uneven ground.

In one underground pool, hundreds of feet below the surface, I witnessed a parasitic worm preparing to lay its eggs. The young larvae will use cave crickets as a host, eventually busting out of the gut like something from a sci-fi film. Gruesome? Yes, but fascinating all the same. You can watch a video here, but not before eating.

I also walking through history, witnessing the place where Amelia Earhart stood on her VIP tour years ago. I reveled in the fact that Carlsbad Caverns has been around for such a long time. I also said a silent prayer that humans will get their act together and work on preserving such marvelous masterpieces.

At the top, the bright sunlight made me squint and miss the soft light from my headlamp that highlighted cavern features. I’ll never be an underground dweller, but visiting every now and again is a pretty special treat.

Wild and Scenic

Sky, rope, and rock – a recipe for happiness.

The thunderstorm the night before was disheartening. I was planning on kicking off part II of my journey with some epic climbing at a world class crag in Tennessee. I lay awake in bed picturing rain-soaked sandstone that would hinder upwards movement. Nevertheless, there was some promise of sunshine the following morning, so my brother and I loaded up our gear and headed on our merry way.

The Dean siblings getting ready to hit the trailhead

Though not an official national park, the Obed is considered a national wild and scenic river, falling under the same jurisdiction as my beloved park services. After minutes of hiking along the upper ridge, I began to settle into a familiar rhythm. Outside air, river sounds, soggy leaves underfoot… Home.

The climbing was good, but the day was even better. Sitting on a rock, chatting with strangers, and munching on trail mix brought me into a relaxing sense of freedom. My brother did most of the hard work, leading routes while I belayed at the bottom, watching the birds of prey circle overhead.

And then I thought, “This is only day 2 of part II – there is much more to come. This world is so big and longs to be explored.”

I let out a sigh of contentment before I scarfed down a Clif bar.

Spending time with this adorable lil’ girl (my niece) was the perfect way to end the day.