The Best Part of Spring? It’s Almost Summer!

I’ve been struggling with a case of seasonal blurring lately. A few months ago, the clear lines separating winter and spring began to run together. Weeks of sunshine were littered with days of spontaneous snowstorms that dwindled in frequency until there was nothing left but warmth and wildflowers. It’s easy to distinguish between winter and spring – but where do we draw the lines between spring and summer?

According to the calendar, summer doesn’t start until June 21st this year, but I don’t necessarily agree with that deadline. In my world, a transition period exists between the two defined seasons – and it’s the best part of the entire year. The weekends are full of cookout invitations and outdoor adventures; I got my first sunburn at the Five Points Jazz festival; rooftop patios are the place to be; and farmers markets are coming into season. It’s warm enough to spend a day sunning on a blanket at a park, but not hot to the point where you can’t stop thinking about air conditioning. It’s just perfect.

Need further convincing? Here’s why is the best time of the year:

Everything is in bloom.

Up in the mountains, the wildflower blooms won’t be in full force until much later in the summer – but down here in the city, blossoms are pushing up from from every garden patch and crack in the sidewalk to bask in the sun. I never knew so many varieties of tulips existed until I took a stroll to my neighborhood coffee shop last week. Bulbs planted long ago have sprung to life, and every sunny morning beckons neighbors to roll up their sleeves and dig into a little urban gardening. I even have my first tomato growing on my little patio plants!The blossoms at Denver Botanic Gardens My sister and I at Denver Botanic Gardens.

Afternoon rain – ’nuff said.

As a southern gal, there is nothing I love more than a good afternoon storm. In Florida, they come like clockwork during the warm seasons. A cloud appears, thunder rolls, lightning strikes, and rain pounds like the pavement – and then an hour later, the sun is shining again. It’s one of the things I miss the most about the south, but Denver has been delivering all sorts of stormy satisfaction lately.

I mean, I could have done without the tornado sirens and quarter-sized hail – but beggars can’t be choosers. (No, seriously, I was taking a very long, relaxing shower last week when my housemate started pounding on my door saying “Uh, I think we need to GO” – trying to plan out your this-is-the-end strategy while running around in a towel is not very relaxing y’all.) Bring it on, Colorado! Puddles. I like stepping in 'em.

Cookouts and Farmers Markets

Here’s a little secret: there is nothing I love on this planet more than food. If my physical being reflected my inner foodie, I would triple in weight immediately – and probably get diabetes. I adore eating, cooking, growing vegetables, and buying fresh produce. As spring collides with summer, the season for outdoor cookouts, spending weekend mornings at farmers markets, and eating lunch out on the stoop is officially upon us.

Food is one of my favorite elements of city adventures. You can tailor an entire day around edible explorations. My favorite food-centric weekend adventure goes a little something like this: wake up, cook a homemade breakfast with all the windows open, stock up on veggies at the local farmers market, invite a herd of cohorts over, spend the afternoon grilling in the backyard. Wham-bam, baby.It's officially the season for backyard barbecues.

Everything is Outside

No, really – everything. This perfectly in-between season is the best time of the year to do everything outside. I don’t work in an office, and turning your kitchen into a cubicle every morning gets pretty monotonous – so when the weather strikes that delicate balance between breezy and warm with sunshine, I like to move my office outdoors.

I am actually sitting outside on my third-story stoop right now – I’ve been doing this for weeks. My yellow snapdragons are exploding with petals, Sylvan Esso and songbirds are making music, and my creative energy is way more inspired than when I was sitting inside. Why would anyone work inside when they could do this instead?

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Work isn’t the only typically indoor activity you can move outside on sunny days – everything from dinner and boardgames to afternoon naps are better enjoyed out in the fresh air. The key is to make your outdoor space functional, comfortable and inviting. I recently transformed the small, cluttered stoop on my third-story house into a wonderful little nook, and now I am constantly outside. (I’ll be posting a how-to later this week!)

If you aren’t outside at least once a day to soak up this mid-season glory, you’re seriously missing out. Take it outside! It won’t be long until summer settles in, and just the idea of being outside all day makes you start sweating. Take advantage of every opportunity to put a little dash of the outdoors into your day.

* This post is part of my annual series celebrating nature with Nature Valley. Compensation for this content was provided by Nature Valley. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.  

Embracing Everything Spring (and all the in-between)

This morning, I spotted my first potato beetle of the season. He was perched on the wooden railing on the porch of my new house in Denver – and even thought he didn’t make any sounds, his existence in that moment was screaming “SPRING!

The official start of everyone’s beloved post-winter season was officially on March 20th, but this entire month has been a spring reckoning for me. I experienced the signs of spring in places from my backyard in Miami to the trails of my favorite greenway system in Denver.

My first glimpse of spring was in Tallahassee. I woke up one morning, looked out my bedroom window – and there they were: branches and twigs crowded with fuscia blossoms. It was still cold enough outside to warrant sleeping with socks on, but the sight of blooming Japanese magnolias offered hope. Always the first flowers to boldly declare the promise of warmer weather, their purple petals made the final few weeks of living in Tallahassee a little brighter. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMornings in Tallahassee were pure perfection.
When I retreated south to Miami, the signs of spring were less obvious. Winter is nothing more than a few weeks of evening sweater weather so far south, but even the warmest part of Florida managed to deliver the kind of natural bliss that makes this year the most sanguine season. While the earth was already full of green, I spotted the kind of delicate growth that only the touch of spring can bring – dotted along the massive sea grape in my backyard were freshly hatched orchids, capitalizing on the perfect combination of sunshine, rain, and warmth.

Spring is everywhere, if you know where to look.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Here in Colorado, spring has a more erratic yet defined feel. One day, the ground is blanketed with late-season snow – and then the next, I’m wearing a tank top while hiking on perfectly dry trails. There’s something gratifying about the pronounced transition from cold to warm. I have absolutely no control or effect over the weather, yet it feels like I’ve somehow earned these days of sunshine after an afternoon of snow flurries.
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This spring has been a season of changes in my life that reach far beyond watching grass go from dry wintry straw to lively green growth. There is so much adjustment to adapt to as I settle into my new home, so many personal revelations to embrace, and a whole new world to explore. All of this change is putting me in the best place I’ve ever been in my life – and this is exactly the season to be experiencing it all in. Cheers to spring!

What does spring look like in YOUR neck of the woods?
Do you have any tell-tale signs of spring you wait all winter for?

*Note: This post is sponsored by Nature Valley. For more outdoor inspiration, check out their fantastic Nature Project Tumblr.

Local Adventures: Exploring the Outdoors Within City Limits

After a year living on the road and traveling to some of the most coveted outdoor destinations in America, I was terrified that settling down and “staying in place” would ruin my sense of adventure. Suddenly, I went from wide open spaces to the confines of city limits – and yet I quickly learned that it’s easy to find adventure close to home.

Whether you have all day on a weekend, or just a few hours during a lunch break, those who truly seek adventure can find it anywhere. To prove this point, I went out in Tallahassee and found fresh air, a scenic lake, a great 40-minute walk for my pup, and heaps of sunshine – all less than a mile away from the errands I was running on a busy day.

The easiest place to find adventure close to home is a local park. My little excursion brought me to Tom Brown Park, one of Tallahassee’s finest public spaces complete with mountain biking, a dog park, disc golf, and more. You could easily spend the entire day at Tom Brown Park, but since I was seeking just a quick moment of adventure to balance out my hectic day, I simply chose to wander along the trail around Lake Leon.

Niko and Amble take a stroll on the boardwalk along Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, FL.The trail itself is mostly paved, with a long boardwalk portion that takes you over the lake and along marshy wetlands full of lily pads and turtles sunning themselves on half-submerged logs. Amble got quite a kick out of peering over the boardwalk to look down at the water, and it was a great place to practice her “heel” command.

Even though the path is less than a half-mile long, strolling along it for a quick lap offered the perfect little escape from being indoors and scurrying around town. I think adventurers spend too much time focusing on big trips, and not enough time slowing down to enjoy the little, simpler moments of getting outside that can add a literal and figurative breath of fresh air into any day.

Amble and I pause for a quick photo while walking along the Lake Leon trail at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.Another view of Lake Leon at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.One of the many resident turtles that call Lake Leon home at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee.

After soaking up a little sunshine, watching a turtle warm itself on a log, and meeting a few new dog friends, my mini adventure came to an end and I returned to the hustle and bustle of life in a city. The entire excursion lasted all of 40-minutes (an amount of time that anyone can spare in a day!), but it provided exactly the break I needed to remind myself that I am an adventurer, and being outdoors is where I find my happiness.

Want to find local adventures in YOUR backyard? Here are a few tips:

– Recruit friends or co-workers to get outdoors with you on lunch breaks, after work, or on a sunny weekend. Once you expose your cohorts to how refreshing it is to get outside, create accountability and make it a reoccurring activity to keep getting outdoors on a regular basis. 
– Combine your mini adventures with an activity: pick up disc golf, join a weekly dog park meet-up, start trail running, or bring your lunch outside on a picnic. 
– Do a little online digging and find the best parks in your neighborhood. I love using Yelp to find favorite local spaces. Better yet, ask fellow locals for their recommendations – they may even join you on your next outing!

How do you find local adventures in your city?
What’s your favorite spot to explore close to home?

*Note: This post is sponsored by Nature Valley. For more outdoor inspiration, check out their fantastic Nature Project Tumblr

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You’re Not in Nature)

5 Ways to Stay Connected to Nature (Even When You're Not in Nature)Living in a van on the road for the past eight months has been the ultimate way to immerse myself in nature every moment of the day – but this lifestyle just isn’t a permanent reality. I got my first taste of “being stuck indoors” while Niko spent a month working in Boulder – and quickly learned that I needed to get creative when it came to getting outside. Since we can’t spend every day out in the wild, why not make the most of the fresh air we can easily access on a daily basis?

Here are five easy ways to stay connected to nature any day:

1. Go for a walk.

Seriously. It’s that easy.  So many readers complain about how hard it is to get outdoors when you live in suburbia – but after a week of house-sitting in Westminster, CO, I am here to debunk that myth. All you have to do is find a plot of greenery within walking (or a short drive) distance, and you’ve got yourself potential for mini adventures. In Colorado, I found myself exploring Lake Standley each morning while walking the dog I was sitting. Every excursion introduced me to new flowers, little creatures, and more fresh air than my lungs could handle – and it was all within a stone’s throw of the house.

And it’s not just because I was in Colorado, the land of epic adventures. In my hometown of Miami, there are a number of destinations waiting to be explored. There’s the neighborhood park full of canals and climb-able trees, the mangrove hammock and marina where crabs litter the bike paths, and even a historic bayfront estate – all within a five minute drive of my house.

2. Take your work outside.

When folks sit in a four-walled room staring at nothing but concrete and computer screens all day, it’s no wonder they get stir crazy. Just because you have a dozen deadlines to complete by next week doesn’t mean you’re confined to the clutches of a cubicle – pick up your work, and bring it outdoors. Move your home office to the back porch for an afternoon, or add sunshine to the agenda with an extended working lunch break at an outdoor café.

If all else fails, and you absolutely must stay indoors – open up a window, and take a break every hour to gaze outside and refresh your senses.

Ditch your dining room, and take your meals outside!3. Ditch your dining room.

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, mealtime provides a perfect opportunity to inject a little outdoor time into your schedule. If the weather is welcoming, there’s no reason to eat cooped up indoors – relocate your plate to the patio, or set up a blanket on the lawn for a picnic-style feast. I’ve found that food tends to taste better when it’s enjoyed with a nice view. Bonus points if you’ve got a garden nearby: fresh basil is a readily available condiment!

While I eat most of my meals outdoors these days, I actually miss mornings spent sitting outside on the little porch of my old house in Tallahassee – it was such a pleasant way to start the day, chowing down on hot oatmeal while the crisp air woke up my body. Make it a goal to eat at least one meal a week outside, and soon you’ll find that it becomes an everyday habit.

4. Trade TV for stargazing.

After a long day of work, it’s absolutely excusable to want to do nothing more than sit around and let your mind unwind – but that doesn’t mean you should head straight to the television. Instead of ending your day staring at yet another screen flashing with mindless media, turn off the boob-tube and go outside to enjoy the evening.

Stargazing is obviously ideal with a clear night sky, but there’s more to be had than just an eyeful of twinkling lights. Relax to the sounds of crickets in the grass and wind blowing through trees while the crisp nighttime air breezes over you. Bonus points if you have a hammock! For Niko and I, sprawling out on a patio was a great way to have some “together” time – it’s pretty romantic to sit out under the stars, instead of zonking out next to each other on a couch watching reruns.

Our little hammock camp at my house in Miami.

5. Pitch a tent (or hammock) in your backyard.

We all get a little cabin fever when we’ve spent too much time residing indoors – but few people seem to embrace the quickest cure: go camping in your own backyard. Especially great if you need to break in some new gear before heading out into the backcountry, setting up camp in your yard is a fantastic way to “get away” without having to really get away.

Pitch your tent (or hammock), haul out some sleeping bags, get a little fire pit blazing, and bask in all the fun of camping – any day of the week. For the full experience, try to avoid going indoors for any reason. Cook your meal over a fire, roast some marshmallows, fill up water jugs, and if your backyard permits, do your business in a bush too!

While it’s all too easy to feel like your outdoorsy style is being cramped by your day-to-day life, it’s just as simple to inject a dose of adventure into your week. Try out each of these five methods of getting “outdoors” without straying too far from home, and figure out what works best for your lifestyle. Maybe it’s spending one night a week in your backyard campground, or maybe you’ll find that eating dinner outside quickly becomes a nightly ritual. Anything to keep your adventurous spirit alive in between big trips!

How do YOU stave off cabin fever when during long periods of time between outdoor adventures? Share your best tips in the comments! And for more outdoor inspiration, check out the Nature Project Tumblr powered by Nature Valley.

 * Compensation for this content was provided by Nature Valley. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.