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11 Gifts for Hikers and Campers

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Looking for the perfect present for the outdoor enthusiasts in your life? Get them geared up for adventure with these gifts for hikers and campers.

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1. Moon USA National Parks

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This comprehensive guide to all 59 national parks in the US covers the best outdoor adventures in every park, including backpacking, biking, mountain climbing, kayaking, rafting, and more, plus detailed hike descriptions and trail maps marked with distance, duration, effort level, and trailheads.

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2. Darn Tough Socks

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There’s nothing worse than a mid-hike blister. Avoid the pain and bandages with these durable, built-to-last socks that regulate temperature, wick moisture, and provide just the right level of cushioning.

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3. GoPro HERO Camera

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The GoPro Hero is an excellent hiking companion, even for the less tech-savvy: it’s intuitive to use and auto-adjusts for contrast, focus, and color. All you have to do is strap it on and let it document your wild adventures!

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4. GSI Outdoors Collapsible Coffee Maker

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For those of us that require a caffeine fix: this collapsible pour-over coffee maker will give anyone that burst of morning energy needed to start a new day of hiking.

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5. Justin’s Nut Butters

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These nut butter packets are a perfect stocking stuffer. They’re non-GMO and naturally made from only two ingredients, packing a powerful protein punch when you need a little pick-me-up on the trail.

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6. PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System

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Who says you can’t hike and drink at the same time? Okay, maybe not at the same time—but with this lightweight collapsible flask that holds a full bottle and protects wine from oxygen, they’ll have a delicious glass to toast with when they reach their campsite.

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7. MSR PocketRocket Travel Stove

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This ultralight, compact stove is a backpacking favorite. It boils a liter of water in under 4 minutes, has adjustable flames from simmering to boiling, and is super easy to set up and operate.

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8. LifeProof Frē Cell Phone Case

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These phone cases are definitely a lifesaver. They come in a variety of styles for Apple, Samsung, and more, and are built to ensure your phone’s safety even in the wildest conditions: they can handle water, mud, snow, and even hard hits when dropped (it’s okay, we all do it).

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9. America the Beautiful National Parks Pass

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Give them the gift of nature by…giving them access to it! The National Parks Pass gives them access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country. More than 80% of the proceeds go directly to causes protecting the parks—and if you purchase through REI, they’ll donate 10% of the proceeds to the National Park Foundation!

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10. SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger

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Any seasoned hiker will tell you: safety and preparation are key. This satellite messenger is great if they’re headed out on a backcountry trek where service is spotty: they can use it to reach emergency responders, check in with family and friends, and share GPS coordinates—or just track their adventures!

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11. Suunto Core Watch

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This altimeter watch means business: its many (many) functions include a temperature gauge, compass, pressure-based altimeter, weather forecast, and ascent/descent rate measurer. It’s also water-resistant up to 30 meters underwater. So it’s basically the outdoor adventurer’s new best friend.

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Best Nevada Ski Resorts

The first dusting of snow in late October sends Nevada residents scurrying for the ski wax and the mountain resorts fielding reservations calls. Most Tahoe slopes open around Thanksgiving, but you can bet the lifts will be running any time an early cold front dumps a foot or so of the white stuff. Ski season lasts until mid-April—or until temperatures rise high enough for all the snow to melt.

Here’s a look at the best Nevada ski resorts and snowboarding destinations.

two snowboarders enjoying Heaveny ski resort in Tahoe
Heavenly is a top pick for snowboarders. Photo © Yue Liu/Dreamstime.

Lake Tahoe

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe: The closest ski area to Reno, Mt. Rose is perhaps the best overall resort on the Nevada side, considering cost and variety of runs. With a base elevation of 8,260 feet, it’s positively arctic at the top and chilly enough along the runs to keep the snow in optimal shape even when the sun beats down. Families will find something for everyone, with 43 runs evenly divided among beginner, intermediate, and expert. The 16 chutes—all black diamond or double diamond—are favorites for advanced snowboarders.

Diamond Peak: This resort is family-oriented, with special touches for children, such as private and group lessons, indoor and outdoor play areas, and all-day ski and day-care packages.

Northstar California: With lots of tree-lined runs sheltered somewhat from the wind, Northstar boasts perfectly groomed corduroy conditions. One of the most upscale of resorts, it’s nevertheless a fine choice for families. The slopes are not particularly steep or challenging, and there are plenty of beginner and intermediate trails and terrain.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows: This resort spans six summits with more than 270 trails and 43 lifts. Two-thirds of the runs are rated for beginners and intermediates, but as befitting the former host of Olympic alpine events, it challenges experts as well. Open bowls abound above the tree line, but the resort makes a name for itself with gnarly steeps and innovative terrain parks.

Heavenly: Downhill junkies rejoice, as more than one-third of Heavenly’s trails are rated for experts, and the more than 40 intermediate runs will challenge even the most proficient of alpine aficionados. The undulating, swaying blue runs are long and wide, perfect for snowboarders.

Kirkwood: It’s all about the powder at Kirkwood; the shopping is mundane compared to other ski villages, and you can’t see the lake from here. But you can see challenging runs, ridges, and cornices hotdoggers love. More than two-thirds of the trails are rated advanced and expert.

Ruby Mountains

Ruby Mountain Heli-Skiing: Virtually inaccessible other than by helicopter, the Ruby Mountain backcountry slopes guarantee pristine snow and awe-inspiring precipices. Choose your own terrain: steep drops, narrow tree-lined corridors, glades, open bowls, and more.

Las Vegas and Vicinity

Lee Canyon: A welcome respite from the heat and bad beats, Lee Canyon is just an hour north of Las Vegas. Pending an environmental impact study, the resort will begin expanding in 2019, adding three lifts and dozens of runs—many in Mount Charleston’s upper elevations—that will double the amount of skiable terrain. The $35 million addition also would see installation of mountain bike trails, zip lines, and a “mountain coaster” thrill ride.

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Self-Guided Walk in Washington DC: U Street, Shaw, and Logan Circle

Take a walk in Washington DC through U Street and Shaw, a center of African-American life and culture for much of the 20th century, and the childhood home of Duke Ellington, who later played at the jazz clubs around U Street, known as “Black Broadway.” The neighborhood was decimated during the riots in April 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The neighborhood eventually began to rebuild. Today, you’ll find rejuvenated landmarks like The Howard Theatre and markers for the self-guided African American Heritage Trail, as well as booming growth and development, with new restaurants and shops popping up seemingly every day.

To experience the joy of the neighborhood, take this walk on a weekend afternoon, when locals flock to the streets for late brunches that turn into early cocktails and dinner. If you’re taking the Metro to the neighborhood, the starting point of the walk, Ben’s Chili Bowl, is directly across the street from the 13th Street and U Street entrance of the U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo Metro station.

storefront of ben's chili bowl in Washington DC
Your trip to DC isn’t complete without a late-night half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Photo © David Harmantas/Dreamstime.

Total Distance: 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers)
Walking Time: 35 minutes

travel map of walking DC - U Street and Shaw neighborhood
U Street and Shaw Walking Route
The tour begins at one of the must-visit restaurants in DC: Ben’s Chili Bowl, which stayed open late to serve half-smokes (spicy half-pork/half-beef sausages, served on buns and smothered in chili) to law enforcement and activists following the 1968 race riots. Have a bite at the old-fashioned counter, or at least peek at the walls covered with photos of famous diners visiting the restaurant, including President Obama. And don’t miss the mural on the outside wall; it was redone in June 2017 to add Harriet Tubman, Dave Chappelle, and the Obamas.

Head east on U Street, busy with brunchers and shoppers and fitness fanatics on a weekend afternoon. On the right before 12th Street, look for the True Reformer Building, the classical revival and Romanesque building designed in 1903 by John Anderson Lankford, the first registered African American architect in Washington DC. Now the headquarters of the Public Welfare Foundation, the building originally housed organizations that helped African Americans set up businesses and access social services in the early 1900s.

African American Civil War Memorial statue in Washington DC
The African American Civil War Memorial. Photo © Samantha Sault.

Keep walking east to 11th Street to Bohemian Caverns, DC’s oldest jazz club, which operated for 90 years before it closed in 2016. Turn north onto 11th Street NW to see the gorgeous blue and purple mural depicting jazz legends (on the north side of the building). Return to U Street, then walk 1.5 blocks toward Vermont Avenue. Enter the plaza on your right at the Metro station to view the African American Civil War Memorial.

Continue southwest on Vermont Avenue to tour the African American Civil War Museum, across the street from the memorial. This museum is packed with educational displays about African Americans who fought in the Civil War. History buffs could easily spend a few hours diving in. If you have relatives who served in the Civil War, look up your family tree in the museum’s registry.

Double back to U Street NW and walk two short blocks east to Nellie’s Sports Bar, where a crowd has likely gathered on the roof if the weather’s nice. On weekends, this popular gay bar is a hot spot from brunch into the evening. Head south on 9th Street NW, the heart of Shaw and DC’s Little Ethiopia.

front facade of the Howard Theatre in Washington DC
Catch a go-go band at The Howard Theatre. Photo © Samantha Sault.

Walk south one block on 9th Street, then go east on T Street NW for about three short blocks to reach The Howard Theatre. The box office is open Tuesday through Sunday. If one of DC’s go-go bands is on the schedule, be sure to get tickets to hear Washington’s homegrown music tradition, which was popularized by the late Chuck Brown in the 1970s and 1980s. Half a block northeast of the theater at T Street NW and Florida Avenue NW, the 20-foot stainless steel Duke Ellington statue pays homage to the musician, who grew up in Shaw and began his career in the jazz clubs of “Black Broadway.”

Walk northwest on Florida Avenue NW three blocks to 9th Street. You’ll notice shiny new buildings as you enter the North End Shaw shopping district, which has several niche, high-end apparel, accessories, and beauty retailers.

When you’re done shopping, head north on 9th Street NW two blocks to approach the 9:30 Club at the corner of 9th and V Street NW. It looks like a nondescript warehouse from the outside, but this is the city’s top music venue, rated one of the best in the country by Rolling Stone. The box office is open Monday through Friday, plus weekends when there’s a show. Check the lineup, because if something catches your eye, a show at the 9:30 Club is must-experience nightlife.

Turn back the way you came on V Street NW and veer slightly northwest on Florida Avenue NW. Enjoy this quiet, mostly residential area, and walk for about four long blocks (10 minutes) to reach Florida Avenue Grill at the corner of Florida and 11th Street NW. If you didn’t eat at Ben’s, you can stop for a hearty meal at the oldest soul food restaurant in the world. Otherwise, continue west for another 2.5 blocks on Florida Avenue and peek at the rainbow of row houses on 12th Place.

sign outside Busboys and Poets in DC
Busboys and Poets is where progressive activists meet for breakfast before a march, where artists and poets ruminate on political and cultural issues, and where locals enjoy good, affordable food. Photo © Samantha Sault.

Continue west along Florida Avenue for two long blocks (about five minutes) to reach 14th Street NW. Turn south on 14th Street, where you’ll have a plethora of options for a cocktail or, if you’re ready to eat, a late lunch or early dinner. At 14th Street NW and V Street NW, stop at neighborhood icon Busboys and Poets, where you can eat, drink, and shop in the on-site bookstore specializing in books about social justice issues and DC life and history.

To get back to the Metro and your starting point, walk another block south on 14th Street and go east on U Street for one long block (about four minutes). Or continue south on 14th Street, where the options for shopping and nightlife continue for six bustling blocks all the way to Logan Circle. Highlights include Le Diplomate, Café Saint-Ex, and Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, as well as Miss Pixie’s and Salt & Sundry for cool housewares and local souvenirs.

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Walking DC: The National Mall & Memorials

For a history lesson on foot, head to the west side of the National Mall, where you’ll find a maze of memorials set among idyllic grassy areas. It’s possible to power through this walk in less than two hours, but it’s better to budget up to three hours to fully take in the grandeur of the monuments (and take plenty of photos).

To avoid crowds, try the walk in the early morning or dusk. Taking this walk during peak cherry blossom bloom, usually around late March to early April, should be on your travel bucket list—though you’ll need to add at least one hour to your walking time to get around the Tidal Basin, which will be packed with tourists.

cherry blossom trees lining a walkway in DC
April is the ideal time to walk along the Tidal Basin to see it awash in cherry blossoms. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Start this walk at the corner of 17th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW. It’s easily accessible by foot from downtown and Dupont Circle.

Total Distance: 3.1 miles (5 kilometers)
Walking Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Travel map of DC Walks National Mall and memorials
National Mall & Memorials Walking Route
Walking south, you’ll pass the Lockkeeper’s House on your right, the small stone house for the lockkeeper who raised and lowered the C&O Canal lock, and the oldest structure on the National Mall. Walk two minutes down this block to approach the World War II Memorial on your right; you can’t miss the 56 stone columns. You’ll have a great view of the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west, but keep walking southwest on the sidewalk along Homefront Drive SW. To your left is the John Paul Jones Memorial, a statue honoring the Revolutionary War hero considered the “Father of the U.S. Navy.”

Homefront Drive runs into Independence Avenue SW. Keep heading west on Independence; you’re in the heart of West Potomac Park. On the right you’ll pass a circular, marble structure, the District of Columbia War Memorial, honoring the 499 Washington DC residents who died serving in World War I.

To see the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, along with a closer look at the Lincoln Memorial, continue west on Independence Avenue SW for about five minutes. The Korean War Veterans Memorial will be on your right at the stoplight near David French Memorial Drive SW. Take in the 19 figures representing soldiers from all branches of the country’s military. Get up close and you’ll see for yourself the stunning detail imbued in each statue.

Take the path leading northwest to reach the Lincoln Memorial. Climb the steps to get an up-close view of the iconic statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln gazing toward the Reflecting Pool.

statue of abraham lincoln in washington dc
Inside the Lincoln Memorial. Photo © Stockmll/Dreamstime.

Next, take one of the paths headed northeast to reach the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (If you get disoriented, look for rectangular gray signs pointing you toward major sights as well as tourist information and facilities.) Absorb the scale of the Vietnam War as you scan the 58, 315 names of the Americans killed or missing in action that are engraved on the Memorial Wall. Retrace your steps to Independence Avenue, then head east until you reach West Basin Drive SW, about five minutes.

At West Basin Drive SW, cross the street to head south to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Keep walking south, through the “mountain of despair” to the “stone of hope,” structures that represent a line from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Stand as close as you can to the sculpture of MLK to feel the enormous impact he had on our nation, then walk back to the railing at the Tidal Basin to see him emerging from the mountains.

facade of martin luther king jr. memorial on the national mall
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Photo © Samantha Sault.

From here, continue walking south just under half a mile on the path around the Tidal Basin to reach the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, where you can spend time exploring and taking photos of the life-size statues of FDR and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Walk up the stone steps to enter the memorial at Room One, which represents Roosevelt’s first presidential term, during the Great Depression. (Backtrack a bit to visit the Prologue Room, which was added later to accommodate a statue of FDR in a wheelchair. It’s to the right by the visitor center once you’re inside.) Continue south through the memorial, which guides you chronologically through each of Roosevelt’s four terms and his death.

Exit the memorial on the south end to return to the Tidal Basin path. Look for the Japanese Pagoda, a 17th-century stone structure given to the United States by the mayor of Yokohama, Japan, in 1957. It symbolizes the friendship between the two nations.

Keep along the asphalt path around the Tidal Basin for views of the Washington Monument and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial glimmering on the water. During cherry blossom season, this path is covered in pink blooms—and people.

jefferson memorial reflecting on the water at night
An evening stroll also offers a great view of the Jefferson Memorial. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Cross the bridge at Ohio Drive SW and approach the George Mason Memorial, honoring a lesser-known Founding Father who did not sign the Declaration of Independence because it did not contain a bill of rights or abolish slavery. It’s looking a little worse for the wear, but you can relax on the benches under the trellis, next to the bronze statue of George Mason. From here, walk east on East Basin Drive SW and turn left to approach the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Walk counterclockwise around the memorial to approach the stone steps and enter the open-air memorial, where you’ll see the 19-foot statue of Jefferson and quotations from his writings.

From here, you have options: Walk back to the east side of the National Mall for an afternoon at a museum, or go southeast to East Potomac Park and Hains Point for a scenic walk. If you do head to the park, stop at the East Potomac Golf Course and Driving Range for a bottle of water if you plan to walk the 1.8 miles to Hains Point.

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6 New England Fall Foliage Hot Spots

Experiencing the changing colors of fall foliage is truly a highlight of exploring New England. The forests are alight in brilliant hues, a display that can be shocking in its vividness.

It’s hard to plan for the perfect autumn trip, as varied weather conditions mean the leaves change at different times each year, so be sure to check an up-to-date foliage map in advance. In the northern states of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, colors begin to change in mid-September, continuing through mid-October. The first color appears at northern latitudes and high altitudes, working south and toward sea level as the season progresses.

Whether you plan to explore the northern states, the southern states, or—better yet—both, here are some of the best places to peep New England’s fall foliage.

1. Kancamagus Highway, New Hampshire

brightly colored trees surround a winding highway in fall
The Kancamagus Highway is among the most iconic drives in New England. Photo © Jen Rose Smith.

The twists and turns of this 34-mile road through the White Mountains pass through gorgeous forests that are brilliant in autumn.

2. Mad River Valley, Vermont

A broad valley flanked with peaks on each side, this gorgeous spot offers wide-open views and easy access to higher-elevation terrain.

3. Acadia National Park, Maine

trees in vivid red and orange reflected on water in fall
Somes Pond in Acadia National Park. Photo © Doug Lemke/iStock.

Offset by the island’s many evergreen trees, fall colors are especially dramatic here, with kettle ponds and harbors to reflect the leaves.

4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

With subtler displays than in the northern forests, Cape Cod doesn’t attract crowds of leaf peepers, but autumn turns its oaks a beautiful rusty hue, plants in the dunes are frosted with gold, and the area’s cranberry harvest ripens in Technicolor.

5. Mount Greylock, Massachusetts

landscape view of the Berkshires in fall
View of the Berkshires from Mount Greylock. Photo © PM10/iStock.

Climb or drive to the highest point in Massachusetts for panoramic views across the Berkshires, where gently rolling farmland is flocked with deciduous forests.

6. Litchfield, Connecticut

All white-tipped steeples and historic houses, this town offers the perfect frame for changing leaves, while local apple farms open for pick-your-own.

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Walk the Freedom Trail on a Self-Guided Tour

Boston is such a walkable city that you can stroll through its revolutionary beginnings. Use this guide to the historic sites and timeline to plan a self-guided walking tour of the Freedom Trail.

Travel map of Boston's Beacon Hill and West End area, including the Freedom Trail route
Travel map of Beacon Hill and the West End
As Boston began a building spree in the mid-20th century, local preservationists grew concerned that the city’s historic sites were being lost to soaring skyscrapers. Bill Schofield, a writer for the paper that ultimately became the Boston Herald, collaborated with Bob Winn, a member of the Old North Church, and floated an idea for a “Puritan Path,” “Liberty Loop,” or “Freedom’s Way” in one of his “Have You Heard?” columns in March of 1951. The idea reached city hall, and mayor John Hynes dedicated the Freedom Trail, which was originally a series of painted signs pointing out Boston’s most popular historic sights, in June of the same year.

The path went through several routes before reaching its current 2.5-mile form in 1972. In 1974, the National Park Service established the Boston National Historical Park, which includes seven sites connected by the Freedom Trail. More than four million people each year traverse the trail’s 16 stops, including iconic spots like Boston Common, the USS Constitution, and Paul Revere House. Be sure to visit the National Park Service’s visitors center at the Faneuil Hall stop to get free guides, or at the Visitor Information Center at 139 Tremont St. (near the Boston Common and State House stops) for a free map at the beginning of the trail.

freedom trail marker in a park
Meander along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to take in all 16 sites. Photo © James Kirkikis/Dreamstime.

While it is free to walk the Freedom Trail, some of the stops charge admission. The Old State House, Old South Meeting House, and Paul Revere House all require paid tickets, while King’s Chapel, the Old North Church, and USS Constitution have suggested amounts for optional donations. While each of the stops on the trail is historically significant, travelers on a rush should try to at least visit Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, Granary Burying Ground, the Old South Meeting House, the Old State House and site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, Paul Revere House, the Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution.

The National Park Service tours are excellent, economical ways to gain more insight into the trail, but paid tours through the Freedom Trail Foundation are great, entertaining ways to spend 90 minutes with an “actual” colonist (or at least a very convincing actor) to learn more about how each of the sites came to play a role in the nation’s history.

plaza full of people in front of faneuil hall
Historic Faneuil Hall. Photo © Jorge Salcedo/Dreamstime.

Revolutionary Timeline

As visitors walk along the Freedom Trail, they get the opportunity to learn about Boston’s role in the American Revolution. The following is an overview of what throttled the city and colonies forward in the quest for independence. A series of taxes, viewed as unjust by colonists and warranted by the British, rubbed new Americans the wrong way. The way the taxes were enforced and debated pushed the region toward revolution, which finally sparked in fields outside Boston.

  • April 1764: The British government passes the Sugar Act as a tax to pay for defense of the American colonies and force colonial exports through British customs. The measure was heavily protested, including by colonists outside Boston’s Faneuil Hall.
  • March 1765: British Parliament passes the Stamp Act, taxing most legal documents, newspapers, and pamphlets.
  • June 1767: Britain passes the Townshend Revenue Act, which placed a tax on tea, paint, glass, lead, and paper to fund administrative duties of the colonies. Colonists assemble to protest with the mantra “no taxation without representation,” used by local Boston politician James Otis.
  • October 1768: British troops arrive in Boston to quell political unrest.
  • March 1770: Bostonians confront a group of British soldiers outside the city’s customs house (near the State MBTA station today), stemming from colonial anger at their presence. One soldier’s musket was fired into the crowd after he was knocked into snow. Fighting escalated, and more shots were fired into the crowd, killing five.
  • May 1773: Parliament passes the Tea Act and exempts the East India Company from the import levies, which colonists angrily viewed as a subsidy to a British company.
  • December 1773: Angered by the tea taxes, American Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawk Indians storm a British ship in Boston Harbor and dump barrels of East India Tea Company tea into the harbor in protest in what is known today as the Boston Tea Party.
  • May/June 1774: Britain strips Massachusetts of self-government and judicial independence via the Intolerable Acts in response to the Boston Tea Party.
  • September 1774: Colonial delegates convene a Continental Congress to discuss opposition to the Intolerable Acts.
  • April 1775: Shots are fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the initial fight of the American Revolution.
  • June 1775: The Battle of Bunker Hill gives colonial troops a morale boost after they cause significant damage to British military forces, despite losing the battle.
  • September 1783: The Treaty of Paris formally ends the American Revolution.

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6-Day New Mexico Outdoors Itinerary

Not only is New Mexico’s mountain scenery stunning, but the population is sparse, so it’s easy to get out of town and have the natural splendor all to yourself. This outdoors itinerary, which takes six days, caters to mountain bikers and hikers who want to spend as much time as possible outside of the cities.

When you see the scenery, it’s tempting to put on your boots and head straight out, but unless you’re coming from a comparable elevation, stick to foothill hikes and scenic drives for the first couple of days. Drink plenty of liquids, and head to bed early.

Don’t try this itinerary any earlier than mid-May; even then you will still encounter snowpack at higher elevations. Visiting in the fall may be colder, but the glowing yellow aspen groves that stud the mountains are a major attraction.

sun illuminates the countryside in Santa Fe
Take in the scenery along the Santa Fe Rail Trail. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 1

Arrive at Albuquerque’s Sunport; pick up your rental car and head north to your hotel in Santa Fe. If you arrive on an early flight, take a detour to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument for an easy hour-long hike—but don’t push yourself too hard.

Day 2

Rent a mountain bike and get oriented downtown, then head down the Santa Fe Rail Trail to Lamy or cruise around La Tierra Trails in the rolling hills west of the city. Return to Santa Fe for a hearty dinner at Cowgirl BBQ.

a hiking trail leads through yellow aspen leaves in Santa Fe
The Aspen Vista Trail. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 3

Take your pick of several hikes in the Santa Fe area: The Rio en Medio trail north of Tesuque is a good one, or make the trek along Aspen Vista up by the ski basin if the leaves are turning. At night, relax in the hot tubs at Ten Thousand Waves, then have a late dinner at Izanami.

Day 4

Drive to Taos via the high road, spending the afternoon hiking the West Rim Trail along the Rio Grande Gorge. Relive the views over a pint at the nearby Taos Mesa Brewing. Bunk back in town at the Inn on the Rio.

a stream leads to a mountain in Valles Caldera
The Valles Caldera National Preserve is dotted with streams and lush meadows. Photo © Steven Horak.

Day 5

Drive back south via the low road before veering west to take a hike in Valles Caldera National Preserve; stay the night in Jemez Springs, where you can soak tired muscles in the healing waters.

Day 6

Return to Albuquerque via the Jemez Mountain Trail. Grab a last bite of green-chile stew at The Frontier if you have time before your flight.

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Sabino Canyon Hiking Trails

Sabino Creek starts as springs high up in the mountains, gathering snowmelt and runoff as it descends into the foothills. There it rushes through Sabino Canyon with sometimes deadly vigor, creating a riparian oasis of cottonwoods, willow, walnut, sycamore, and ash; saguaro, barrel cactus, prickly pear, and cholla dominate the rocky canyon slopes away from the creek’s influence. It is a truly spectacular place that should not be missed.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (8:30am-4:30pm daily, $5 per car), about 13 miles northeast of downtown Tucson, is easily accessible, user-friendly in the extreme, and much used—best estimates say 1.25 million people visit every year. Many locals use the canyon’s trail system for daily exercise, and hikers, picnickers, and sightseers usually pack the canyon on any given day in any given season.

people hiking through desert landscape in Sabino Canyon
The Seven Falls Trail is a popular hike in Sabino Canyon. Photo © Tim Hull.

Sabino Canyon Trails

A paved road rises nearly four miles up into the canyon, crossing the nearly always running creek in several places. During Southern Arizona’s summer and winter rainy seasons, it is nearly impossible to cross the small bridges without getting your feet wet. The Forest Service closed the road to cars in 1978. It’s a relatively easy walk along the road to the top of the canyon, which offers access to trails that go far into the Santa Catalinas. If you don’t feel like walking, the Sabino Canyon Shuttle (520/749-2861, $10 adults, $5 children 3-12, children under 2 free) runs 45-minute, narrated trips into the canyon all day, pausing at nine stops along the way to take on or let off hikers at various trailheads. From July through mid-December the shuttle runs 9am-4pm weekdays and 9am-4:30pm on weekends and holidays. From mid-December to June it runs 9am-4:30pm daily.

From the last tram stop 3.8 miles up in the canyon, hikers can get off and take an easy stroll down the road, crossing the creek at nearly every turn, or try the Phoneline Trail winding along the canyon slopes and overlooking the riparian beauty below. Perhaps the most popular trail in the entire Tucson Valley is the hike through nearby Bear Canyon to Seven Falls, a wonderful series of waterfalls and collecting pools. You can access the Bear Canyon Trail from just outside the visitors center, or take the shuttle to a trailhead 1.5 miles on. To the falls it’s a total of 3.8 miles one-way and worth every step. The Bear Canyon shuttle leaves the visitors center every hour on the hour, 9am-4pm daily ($4 for adults, $2 children 3-12).

The Sabino Canyon Visitors Center and Bookstore (520/749-8700, 8am-4:30pm daily) has trail guides and sells gifts and books. There are bathrooms, drinking fountains, and dozens of tucked-away picnic areas throughout the canyon, and many of the trails link up with one another, so it is easy to cobble together a loop hike that will take you through all of the various life zones. The canyon is open from sunup to sundown every day, and bikes are allowed in the canyon only before 9am and after 5pm, never on Wednesday or Saturday, and never on trails that lead into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area.

To get to the canyon from midtown, take Speedway Boulevard east until it turns into Tanque Verde Road and then turn north on Sabino Canyon Road to the recreation area, just north of Sunrise Road. There’s $5-per-car fee for one day, or $10 for a week. An annual pass can be had for $20.

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Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

Working with a palette of red-tinged rock for 150 million years, the sun, wind, and rain created the masterpiece that is Valley of Fire State Park (29450 Valley of Fire Hwy., 702/397-2088). Like Red Rock Canyon, this valley, six miles long and 3-4 miles wide, gets its distinctive color from the oxidizing metals in its Mesozoic-era sandstone. It is part of the Navajo Formation, a rocky block that stretches from southern Colorado through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and its monuments—arches and protruding jagged walls in brilliant vermilion, magenta, and gold—epitomize the Southwest.

The highest and youngest formations in the park are mountains of sand deposited by desert winds 140 million years ago. These dunes petrified, oxidized, and were chiseled into psychedelic shapes and colors. Underneath them is a 5,000-foot-deep layer dating back at least 250 million years, when brown mud was uplifted to displace the inland sea. The gray limestone below represents another 200 million years of deposits from the Paleozoic marine environment 550 million years ago.

This stunning valley was venerated by Native Americans, as seen in numerous petroglyphs in the soft rock, and it was part of the old Arrowhead Highway auto trail through southern Nevada.

road zigzagging through the Valley of Fire State Park
The distinctive color in the Valley of Fire rock formations comes from the oxidizing metals in its Mesozoic-era sandstone. Photo © littleny/iStock.

Exploring Valley of Fire State Park

A turnout near the entrance to the park has a self-service fee station: $10 entry, $20 for camping. An information shelter offers a description of Elephant Rock, one of the best and most photographed examples of eroded sandstone in the park; a short trail leads to it from the sign. Continue west past signs for the Arrowhead Trail and petrified logs to the cabins, built for travelers out of sandstone bricks by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935. Farther in, the Seven Sisters are stunning sentinels along the road.

The visitors center (8:30am-4:30pm daily) has a truly spectacular setting under a mountain of fire. Outside is a demonstration garden, and inside is the finest set of exhibits at any Nevada state park. Signboards by the front window describe the complex geological history of the landscape. You can spend another hour reading all the displays on the history, ecology, archaeology, and recreation of the park as well as browsing the changing exhibit gallery and the bookshelf near the information desk. There is a colorful interpretive signboard describing the most popular features in the Valley of Fire. Don’t forget to pick up a map of the park.

From the visitors center, take the spur road to Petroglyph Canyon Trail and dig your feet into some red sand. Mouse’s Tank is a basin that fills with water after a rain. A fugitive Native American named Mouse hid here in the late 1890s. The spur road continues through the towering canyon and peaks at Rainbow Vista, which has a parking area and a spectacular overlook.

The road continues four miles to Silica Dome, where you can park and gape at the walls, pillars, and peaks of sparkling white rock.

petroglyphs carved into a rock in Valley of Fire State Park
Petroglyphs in Valley of Fire State Park. Photo © Kojihirano/Dreamstime.

Head back toward the visitors center and take the through road, NV 169. Driving west, you come to a 0.25-mile loop trail to fenced-in petrified wood, the most common local fossil. On the other side of the highway, another spur road leads to the campgrounds and the high staircase up to sheer Atlatl Rock, which is inscribed with petroglyphs. This is the tallest outdoor staircase in the state, more than 100 steps up to the face of the rock; you’ll wonder how the petroglyphs’ creators got up here.

Atlatl Rock is between the two campgrounds. Together they total 51 campsites for tents or self-contained motor homes up to 30 feet. Both have piped drinking water, picnic tables under ramadas, grills, and fire rings.

The loop road continues back to the highway. Take a right and continue west to the Beehives, which are worth a look. From here you can turn around, return to the east entrance, and take a left on NV 169 toward Overton, or you can head to the west end of the park and back to Las Vegas (55 miles).

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7 Outdoors Adventures in BC

Outdoors enthusiasts will love the varied opportunities for adventures in British Columbia. Some can be enjoyed in just a day (plus travel time), but many of the activities involve multiple days to complete. Mix and match from the following highlights to create your own adventurous getaway.

Hike the West Coast Trail

Suggested Trip Length: 4-6 Days

Experienced backcountry hikers won’t want to miss the rugged and remote West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. This self-sufficient four- to six-day coastal trek starts west of Victoria and ends near the remote village of Bamfield. The majority of hikers leave their vehicles at one end of the trail and return to their starting point by scheduled shuttle. If you don’t have the time for the famed West Coast Trail, get a taste for the adventure in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, where short trails lead to wild coastal beaches or the Wild Pacific Trail day hike near Ucluelet.

rocky coastline along the Wild Pacific Trail in BC
Along the Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet. Photo © Kathryn Osgood.

Dive in the Strait of Georgia

Suggested Trip Length: 1-2 Days

The shallow waters off Nanaimo are renowned for artificial reefs created by ships that have been sunk especially for wreck diving. Tell the experts at Ocean Explorers Diving that you want to try a dive, and let them choose a site that best suits your experience, whether it be the 442-foot-long Saskatchewan or the popular snorkeling with seals option. Nanaimo’s Buccaneer Inn is the best divers’ hangout.

Surf at Tofino

Suggested Trip Length: 1 Day

Surfing at the beaches off Tofino is made easy by Live to Surf, who will outfit you with a wetsuit and surfboard for an hour or so of fun in the local breakers. Take a lesson if you’ve never surfed before. Pacific Sands Beach Resort is designed especially for outdoorsy types like yourself.

a surfer walks on the beach in Tofino BC
Hit the waves in Tofino. Photo © katyenka/iStock.

Camp in the Kootenays

Suggested Trip Length: 4 Days

For camping adventure, concentrate on the Kootenays. Here, amid forests, mountains, and lakes are dozens of delightful provincial park campgrounds. Try Gladstone for its warm water, Kokanee Creek and Wasa for family-friendly beaches, and Whiteswan Lake for fishing and hot springs in their natural state.

Hike in the Canadian Rockies

Suggested Trip Length: 3 Days

Many locals spend a lifetime hiking in the Canadian Rockies. Three days is just enough time to get a taste for the region, with a full day spent at Lake O’Hara and another on the lofty Iceline Trail. Spend the third day combining shorter hikes such as Stanley Glacier and Emerald Lake.

A canoe floats on the surface of Emerald Lake with the mountains reflected in the surface.
Beautiful Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Photo © donyanedomam/123rf.

Kayak in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve

Suggested Trip Length: 6 Days

Hop aboard a charter boat or floatplane to access this remote archipelago, famed for its abandoned Haida villages and fallen totem poles. Local outfitters supply kayaks and all the camping equipment you’ll need.

Drive the Alaska Highway

Suggested Trip Length: 10 Days

You could drive from Dawson Creek to the Yukon and back in under a week, but to fully experience this one-in-a-lifetime destination, 10 days is more appropriate. This allows time to explore the wilderness of Kluane National Park and the gold rush history of Dawson City. Stop for a soak in Liard River Hot Springs along the way.

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