Looking for an inexpensive outdoor family activity? 

Geocaching is a modern day treasure hunt that gets the kids outside discovering new places. As a believer in the importance of family playtime, Geocaching is a perfect excuse to have a little fun competition together.

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What is Geocaching? 

It is simply a fun, contemporary take on treasure hunting. Geocaching is the perfect solution for those in search of a family-friendly hobby that’s high on both fun and outdoor activity.

Basically you just search online by location to find hidden containers, called caches, and then share your experiences online. People of all ages are enjoying geocaching all over the world! It sounds easier than it is, but I have to say my kids are much better at finding these than I am!

What do I need to begin Geocaching?

Geocaching is a great activity to get us all outdoors but the kids will also enjoy it because it does take a little technology! Instead of using a treasure map, you will need to have an IPhone or other GPS capable device to locate your treasure. Geocaching is free to begin, but if you enjoy it you will want to purchase the almost $10 App.

Log onto geocaching.com for free access to nearly 2 million cache coordinates. Geocache sites range from easy to challenging, and list their level of difficulty.  If it’s your first time out on the hunt, go after caches that have been logged most recently to ensure that there is actually something still there to find.

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What does this word “cache” mean?

Caches are various containers of all shapes and sizes that usually contain a log to sign and possibly a little treasure. Remember to stash your pockets with trivial trinkets of your own if you plan to take anything as a souvenir. Geocaching etiquette dictates that you leave something behind if you take anything out of the cache! I bought a lot of personalized pencils and sticky hands from Oriental Trading to have on hand at all times. Once you’re done with the geocache, remember to return it exactly where you found it.

Remember the goal, and treasure, of geocaching is the fun of the hunt – not the acquisition of the cache contents.

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What is a Travel bug or Trackable?

Travel bugs are different than trade items. Sometimes called “hitchhikers,” these are often intended to travel the world. They are fine to take as long as you promise to put it in another geocache. Be sure to log the travel bug number online so its owner can trace its travels.

Trackables are always an exciting find! It’s fun to log them and see where all they have been before they reached you. Before heading out on our big adventure around the USA I had some family trackables made with our family photo on them. I had these made by Darick who was fantastic to work with and he has a really fun Geocaching website as well! He’s got free printable logs and lots of other neat things for you, so check it out.

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Are you a Geocaching family? Perhaps you will be now…. Happy treasure hunting!

Most days I take for granted what an amazing physical world we live in. Every April 22, Earth Day reminds us to take care of our planet and be mindful of the footprint we are leaving on our environment. This Earth Day there’s a role for everyone. Small actions do matter and add up to make a world of difference for the planet we all share.

Here are some simple ideas for your family to do their part on Earth Day today!

1. Go on an Earth Dayte

Keith and I like to seek out festivals on this day or go eat at a new, healthy restaurant. Use Earth Day as an excuse to get out in your community and serve a local business or cause.

2. Head to a local farmers market and don’t forget to bring your reusable bags

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If you are in Arizona, check out Wednesday’s Uptown Market

A local farmers market just simply makes me happy. Buying organic produce and sustainable products locally is something we should all be doing when we can!

I have been using reusable bags ever since I lived in Europe many years ago. Europeans all bring their own bags for their shopping and we should get in the habit as well! My favorite reusable bags are my Envirosax. I’ve been using them for years and they’ve held up perfectly. You can throw them in the washing machine and they fold up tiny to carry in your purse!

3. Volunteer your time or join the Nature Conservancy

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There are many local events going on for you to get involved in. The Nature Conservancy is an amazing resource and you can check for local events right here.

You can be the one to help ensure that nature’s most vulnerable lands and waters are given the care, the love and the protection that they need by becoming a member of the Nature Conservancy or  Adopt an Acre® to help protect natural places you love – like the majestic forests of the Rockies and Central Appalachians or the acres of iconic coastal cypress in the Gulf Coast. With your help, we can ensure that amazing natural treasures like these get the urgent protection and restoration that is critical to their survival.

4. Make Earth Day snack cups and popcorn for your kids

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These are the cutest things I’ve seen! If only my kids were younger. But, all of you with little ones get on this! I loved this idea from Rebecca Cooper at Simpleasthatblog!

5. Seek out a Recycling Event

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So happy our local Whole Foods is having an electronics recycling event this week! I’ve been holding on to old laptops and video cameras for years. Even donating your clothing to a thrift store is a perfect thing to do today as well!

How do you like to celebrate Earth Day?

I’m telling you the angels were singing to me the day the nurse told me during my ultrasound that the baby I was carrying inside me was a GIRL. I could cry now just thinking back to that exact moment. If I had to name one best moment of my life, I think it would be this one. I was a Momma to triplet sons less than a year old at the time. I was just sure one of them was going to be a girl, but they all came out male. Then, unexpectedly expecting a fourth I needed to know if this special surprise was indeed my daughter. And yes, she most certainly was.

She is still the love of my life, but some days I have to really strain to hear those singing angels. But, I couldn’t be more proud of her and who she is today as she turns 12. I was nothing like her at this age, so she is fascinating to me. I was scared of anything and everything. She fears nothing and enjoys all.

Did you see the Always #LikeAGirl Super Bowl commercial or have you seen the campaign? It was my highlight to watching that game. I wanted to jump up and shout, YES girls, YES!! Instead, tears welled up in my eyes, as my sons stared at me in horror. I am all for raising and being a strong, confident woman. I know the Always campaign uses verbs like Run#LikeAGirl or Skate #LikeAGirl, but I want to use adjectives that describe my youngest who is growing up with three brothers ahead of her.

Here are 12 words that embody my daughter, along with my favorite pictures of her from our USA travels, in honor of her 12th birthday today. Turning 12 #LikeAGirl.

Brave

strong

daring
Independent

curious

carefree

fearless

Happy

athletic

silly

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confident

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As I reflect on our family sabbatical around the USA, I can’t help but think about how it affected our marriage. As Keith and I celebrate 17 years of matrimony today, I am in awe of how this epic trip strengthened us as husband and wife.

I knew that taking this profound journey would be great for our family. I knew it would be quality bonding time spending six months on the road together and all that was intertwined in that. I knew that we were making precious family memories that would hopefully sustain us all for a lifetime.

But, what I didn’t foresee was how amazing this trip would be for our marriage.

Marriage most certainly can feel stagnant, stale and simply safe after awhile. If you’ve been married for any length of time and have several kids, I’m sure you’re tracking with me. I knew that I was married to my best friend, but somehow on most days that didn’t even seem relevant. Keith’s NHL career obviously kept him on the road and focused on that for the first ten years of our marriage. Then for the past three years, his position with the Chicago Blackhawks had him traveling on most weekends, when I could’ve used his fatherly services the most. Weekends are a busy time around here. Nonetheless, we juggled it all just fine. Dare I say that I’m used to figuring out how to do things on my own and turning to my village of friends for help when necessary.

But, we knew we wanted more out of life than how we were doing things and the TIME WAS NOW. We talked for awhile about doing a crazy trip like this. Just leaving behind everything that was keeping us disconnected from one other.  NOW OR NEVER. The kids are growing fast and they won’t want to spend time with us like this much longer. Either we put the brakes on now or have regrets later. NO REGRETS. LET’S DO THIS.

This motorhome trip was Keith’s idea. People are always surprised by that and assume it was me that came up with the grand scheme. Always up for adventure, I am usually the mover and shaker of the family, so I can see how people would make this assumption. I hear a lot of wives say, “oh my husband would love to do that” or “I would love to do that but my husband would never.” Marriage takes teamwork and growth together to succeed. Maybe marriage is just about going along with that one crazy dream that your spouse has. Why not GO FOR IT together?

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When we were on the debate of turning the dream into reality, I told Keith, “you buy the motorhome and we’ll do this.” And do you know what? HE DID.

He figured out what needed to be done to buy the RV he wanted. He handled everything with the help of a dear friend and I wasn’t involved. I didn’t want any part of the material purchase. If he wanted this to happen, then he would have to figure out how to bring it to fruition. I honestly didn’t believe that he would.

Remember, that we had never spent one night in a motorhome camping in our lives. Keith had never even driven anything bigger than our Suburban before we headed out on this journey. He never even owned tools before this. Would he really be strong enough to leave a job with the Chicago Blackhawks to fulfill a personal dream for our family? The thought of him in charge of all this was scary to me. He honestly had really never been in charge of our family plan before.

But, he surprised me. Not with flowers or with some other mediocre sentiment. He surprised me by showing up. Day after day for six months. He was a rock star behind that wheel. For the first time, I really felt like I needed this man. I can’t say that much intimidates me, but driving Ally B and her sidekicks, the Buick and six bikes, most certainly did. Keith drove every time with utter confidence and pure enjoyment. I played flight attendant and served him coffee and snacks as we drove along America’s highways chatting and laughing. It’s no wonder I shunned my role as roadschooling Mom. This was way more fun than teaching math. Sure, go ahead and watch a movie kids. I’m busy having a good time shotgun my best friend up here.

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I have never been a hockey fan. I never married Keith because he was a hockey player. Sometimes it didn’t even equate with me that that’s what he really did for a living. He doesn’t fit the persona. My friends laugh when I say in all truth that seeing him drive and handle this RV trip was way sexier to me than any hockey game I’ve ever seen him play in. For real people. Because seeing someone try something new, fulfilling a dream that makes them genuinely happy, is extremely attractive.

He turned this grand idea into reality and that is appealing. Yes, he had to give up his good job to do this, but that was the point of it too. To really evaluate what is important in life right now and go the distance to make sure you cease the opportunity that is only HERE AND NOW.

There are many times on the trip that I would’ve pulled over on the side of the road and given up. He, on the other hand, never felt there was a situation he couldn’t handle which totally put me at ease. I felt safe and secure and taken care of. What more can you ask for?

I’m proud of us. 

And there’s nothing better than going into your 18th year of marriage feeling like that.

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But, first let me take a selfie…… our one night away at The Dean in Providence!

Writing notes and actually mailing them is something I’m very passionate about. I get that texting and emailing has an absolute place in our lives, but I hope you are also taking time to teach your children the importance of the good old fashioned handwritten note. Here are five easy ways to be sure you are doing so..

1. Send handwritten thank you notes for gifts received

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It seems like a no brainer to me that kids should express their gratitude by popping a thank you note in the mail to anyone that was kind enough to send them a gift. But, honestly how many notes do you receive from kids these days? I would assume if you are like me, not too many. I want my kids to grow up in this digital age with a strong sense of the importance of the handwritten note. Taking the time to send someone a meaningful thank you card easily tells that individual that they are appreciated. I still do my best to remind my kids to write thank you notes to anyone who thoughtfully mailed them a gift. I also try and teach them that a note is personal and should not be something that could be transferable to anybody. Make it unique and special to the person that you are writing to. Make it something that could not be written to anyone else. Thank you notes do not need to be written to those that have given you gifts in person and that you have thanked face to face! According to Emily Post, the etiquette expert, The rule of thumb is that you should send a written note any time you receive a gift and the giver wasn’t there to be thanked in person.

2. Send postcards when you travel

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Writing and sending postcards along our travels was part of my road schooling curriculum. See, I can teach my kids math all day long (which I didn’t) but if I’m not teaching the fundamentals of being a thoughtful individual with gratitude for the loving relationships in their life, than what kind of teacher am I? Our foursome picked out postcards almost everywhere we went and mailed them to their Grandparents and other friends and family along our journey. Postcards are a really inexpensive gesture that can go a long way! Sending a little love from afar never hurt anybody! Not even my 13 year old boys…

3. Lead by example

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I sat right there with the kids and wrote to important people in my life as well. I let our dear orthodontist know that everyone’s teeth were still intact from West Virginia. I wrote our friends at St. Vincent de Paul to keep them updated on our travels and let them know when we would be back to volunteer. I tried to remember anyone that asked for us to write them from the road. I also bought this fun template where I could make envelopes out of maps and sent a few of those off as well.

4. Print your pictures and send them off! Otherwise, what’s the point of even taking them in the first place?

I’m a big picture taker and lover of memories. I refuse to be the person that takes all of the photos and does nothing with them though. If you are spending your time and energy taking them than by all means do something with them! Get them printed! Organize them. Scrapbook them. Send them off. No one else is going to do it but you.

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I took time to make these cards for the individuals I worked with during our KOA partnership in 2014. I wanted them to visually see how much we loved our time at the various KOAs and what better way to show them than through the pictures I took along the way. Shutterfly makes this so easy and cost effective. I think notecards like these are so much more personal than any store bought card as well. There are always specials and times of free shipping, so plan accordingly!

5. Have a birthday card organizer book

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I live by my birthday card organizer book at the beginning of each month. I do my best to remember to mail out birthday cards and this organizer helps me be intentional in that. I can pick out cards in advance and store them in the pocket pages for when it’s time to send them. I then have each family member sign their name and add a personal note if they so desire. Then off it goes to hopefully get to the individual before their special day! There is no way I could do this without this handy book! Do you use one of these? I highly suggest one, if your goal is to be more deliberate in sending out cards this year!

Our family returned home to Arizona two weeks ago after a 6 month motorhome journey around the entire USA. My blog will now be a place for reflection and inspiration based on our experiences from the road!

1. Tenacity

It takes a lot of determination to follow through with a journey such as ours. People will think you are crazy and will tell you to your face. Others will be so intrigued and look at you through googly eyes. They will make bets on how long you will last and some will give you advice on how they think it should be done. Whatever. Do your thing. It’s your heart. Your family. Your dream. God will bless you through it all if you have the tenacity to make your family sabbatical happen. Just remember you’re talking about a very small portion of your life here. What can feel like an eternity definitely comes to an end. I know because I’m home now. Don’t give up.

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2. Flexibility

Obviously you can plan and plot away and things will happen to alter your course. Weather, breakdowns, sickness and the list goes on. If you aren’t ready to go with the flow, then you’d better stay put. Living as a family of six in basically two rooms for half a year is not what I would call easy. By no means were we roughing it, but by no means was it living as usual. Flexibility is the key to staying sane and happy.

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Rainy nights meant eating dinner inside sharing a tv tray.

3. A sense of adventure

If you’re going to take a family sabbatical, you might as well get out of your comfort zone once in awhile. I was apprehensive to go ziplining, caving or anything to do with heights, but I put myself in all those situations and survived. I figured if I’m out here doing this then I’d do it to the best of my ability and amuse my kids in the process. I still wouldn’t say I will seek out ziplining excursions in the future but I can at least say I’ve done it. Our kids are adventure junkies so this piece came easy to them!

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At Whitefish Aerial Adventures in Montana!

4. A nest egg

Yes, you will need some money in the bank if you plan to take off around the country in an RV with your loved ones. Things will happen that cause you to spend outside of your planned gas, food, lodging and entertainment budget. We had minor things break on the rig that had to be fixed immediately, causing us repair costs and hotel stays as well. You do not want to be in these situations and then stressed about the money going out to fix the problems either. You’re already tenacious, flexible and adventurous, right? You will make it through anything, but it will just be easier to do so if you have a nest egg set aside for unforeseen mishaps. Do not let money stop you from taking your dream sabbatical though. We met many a family out there living life together with little in their pocket!

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We got hit by a trailer coming out of St Louis and lost our passenger mirror!
Thank God this was the only time something like this happened as it was very minor.

5. Willingness to be a team player

This sabbatical is not about you or any individual bearing your same last name. It’s about unity. Yes, you will have to put yourself on the back burner for a bit in the name of the family sabbatical. It’s the point, right? You will wake up some days and look around you and “they” will all still be there. No one is going off to school or work. Your days and nights are spent together. It is a definite adjustment and some days feel amazing while others cause you to want to run screaming into the hills. Luckily, when you are surrounded by nature in the campgrounds it’s always easy to clear your mind and regroup. Many times I had to have talks with myself. “Amy, you got this. This isn’t forever. Embrace the day and the moments you have with your kids as it will be gone tomorrow.” My inner coach really got me through and most likely you’ll have to have talks with yourself too. Your personal time awaits you when you get home. Don’t worry it will be there. My yoga mat still functions and my nail tech is still accepting appointments.

6. A sense of humor

You had better be able to laugh if you take on a family adventure like this. The best times we had were when we were all cracking up about something together. Hearing the kids laughing amongst themselves, in between their quarrels, made it all worthwhile. Laughter is always the best medicine and you will definitely need that prescription along the way!

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Enjoying some zydeco music in New Orleans!

I fluctuate between feelings of complete joy and utter sadness that our epic journey is coming to an end. We drove our motorhome out of our Arizona driveway exactly 6 months ago. Our family of six was full of excited anticipation for what the open road had in store for us. Our story has now been written with 13,000 miles on the RV and 44 new states visited. Home isn’t far off and I’m not sure if I want to jump for joy or ignore what I’m seeing as this has all gone way too fast.

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Tonight, we are overnighting just a couple hours from home in Tucson. I feel like I could shed tears of excited anticipation of all that arriving home means. I miss my kitchen and laundry room. I miss my girlfriends. Our church. The kids sports teams and school. I miss having quiet space around me. We miss everyone and everything that brings meaning to our normal daily lives. But, we did it! We did what we so crazily sought out to do and I couldn’t be more proud of our family.

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The familiarity of this landscape mixed with the dry, warm air feels right. It feels oh so good after spending most of November in cold weather. Let me tell you, freezing temperatures make the camping lifestyle way less desirable!  Although our family is excited and ready to return, we have been reminiscing and laughing about moments made during our cross country trip like we may forget what we’ve just experienced together once we walk out the door of our mobile home and back into reality.

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Our map on the back of Ally B is complete for now. These are the states we visited along this journey. It’s hard not to mark off California, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado and Wisconsin though, as we have spent time in all of those great states, just not in the RV. I’m still torn on whether we should put those stickers on, because North Dakota and Alaska are our only two states that we have not been to at all…. yet! Thanks for following our journey! More to come once we get settled back in!

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Walking around the French Quarter in New Orleans, Morgan was drawn to his sign- Pick a subject, get a poem. Ok. Let’s do it! We gave David the subject of our family traveling around the USA in our motorhome. He asked us to give him 15 minutes to compose something and here’s what he came up with. Simply brilliant!

Life on the road in an RV

Running from one gas station

to the next smelling oil

and tire pressure across this

America landscape where the

plains meet the cities and

the cities run into mountains

from one coast to another.

Finding friends among

strangers and culture in this

frosty New Orleans air.

Living never felt so good

when you’re an explorer

and every destination is

a chance to learn something new.

America is your classroom and

experience your teacher.

-David Blanton

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David has been creating improv poems for tips along Royal Street in Jackson Square for 2 1/2 years now! Have you ever spotted him amongst the artists, performers and tarot card readers? Seek him out the next time you visit NOLA! Happy Friday everyone!

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Orlando was our next pitstop on the Florida tour! I have to say that without Give Kids the World, we most likely would’ve bypassed this popular city. We had no plans of going to any of the Disney parks, so why else would we come here then? I had signed us up to volunteer at this awesome Village in Kissimmee. I would’ve loved to fit in more charity work along our trip, but there just hasn’t been the time in most cases. I was determined to make the time and help out in some way here.

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Imagine a child whose illness prevents them from enjoying their childhood, from doing the things so many of us take for granted. Imagine a family that would do anything to ease their child’s pain, to make their child smile, to make their child’s dream come true. Give Kids The World exists solely to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, providing them a memorable, magical cost-free experience that will live in their hearts for years to come.

The grounds here are incredibly Disney-like! You are able to volunteer at Give Kids The World if you are over the age of 12, so this left out our dear daughter, which in turn left out dear husband who needed to look after her. It all worked out, as I got time with just my sons and they got to go out on a Father-Daughter date!

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We signed up to work a dinner shift at the Gingerbread House. This is where the families who are staying on the property can come for a buffet style dinner! This was right up our alley as our family serves monthly at St. Vincent de Paul’s family dining room back home in Phoenix.

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Serving others is a natural part of who I am and I have missed being able to volunteer during our trip. I love to serve those in need especially with my boys alongside me. The four of us spent the evening carrying trays of food for the guests to their tables and then cleaning up after them.

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This tile work is right outside the volunteer break room near the swimming pool. Love this!

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I just had to include this cute picture from our Orlando/Kissimmee KOA campground. I am not a Mickey Mouse fan by any means, but the light posts were a cute reminder of where we were and they made me smile!

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We didn’t know that our visit to West Glacier, Montana was just a bit too early in the summer season for nice weather. Unfortunately, it rained the entire three days of late June that we were here. Our Jackson Hole, WY weather must’ve conditioned us, because we didn’t let the rain keep us down!

We headed into Glacier National Park and found out that the infamous Road to the Sun was closed as they were still trying to remove all of the snow from a recent avalanche! This meant we were only able to drive 14 miles in to Avalanche Creek and hike the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. It was gorgeous and just slightly drizzling on our hike in. Once we got to the lake, it down poured and continued all the way back getting us completely soaked and muddy. What can you do but laugh and go with it?

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This is for my soccer mom friends. Thought you would enjoy seeing my Lululemon pants and Ecco boots soaked in mud. Definitely out of my league here.

Our final day in the area we spent in Whitefish. What a gorgeous area this is! We chose to spend the day at Whitefish Mountain Resort. They invited us to try the Aerial Adventure Park and the kids were stoked to try another mountain adventure. I was a bit apprehensive to do the course, but figured since I was going to write about it, I’d better join in on the fun. I was good with all of the climbing apparatus’ but it was the zip lining platforms that I had a hard time throwing myself off of. I don’t think I ever got 100% comfortable with it but I did have a great time and am proud of myself for testing my limits. How can you not enjoy yourself amidst such beauty?

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We honestly went through all four seasons in our time on this course. It started off like fall, with cool, but pleasant temperatures. Then, it turned really hot before the weather took a change and we found ourselves in the middle of a rain/hail storm. How in the world did I end up zip lining through hail and rain? Thankfully it wasn’t much and it’s a good job really as the chances of people who live in the area needing construction work done to their roofs could be very high. I’ve been told to use a company similar to Ace Roofing Company who are based in Texas if I needed to have any work done. Hopefully, I won’t need too though.

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I had to take a picture of the hail falling on my platform as proof.

Then, the weather cleared and it was gorgeous. We wanted to check out Whitefish’s alpine slide but it was closed due to the rain. The Whitefish Mountain Resort is awesome and offers many options for summer fun. We want to come back and try the zipline course and the alpine slide for sure but next time we’ll come in July!

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Of course our travel day leaving West Glacier to Wallace, ID was perfectly sunny. We stopped at The Amazing Fun Center so the kids could try out their mile and a half long maze and bankshot basketball. The kids had a blast here before the adults said enough is enough and off to Idaho we went!

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We’ll be back West Glacier and Whitefish. We only scratched the surface of your beauty!

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