I just got back from a relaxing weekend in Columbia, Missouri. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Battlefield Lavender Farm in Centralia, Missouri, which is about 25 minutes from Columbia.
My sister pre-purchased our reservations online. The tickets were $6.00 each. You can order tickets here.
We decided to clip a mixed bundle of lavender from the wide variety growing on the farm and were provided with an adorable wooden crate, measuring guide, and clippers. Several of the lavender varieties are edible and could be used for cooking.
Once our lavender was picked, we headed into their barn to pay for the bundle ($15) and view the lavender merchandise. I bought a lovely lavender hand lotion, and my sister purchased a linen spray and lavender soap. I regret not buying more because I think the items would make such unique and thoughtful gifts. On the bright side, I have a good excuse to go back!
After picking lavender in the heat of the summer, we treated ourselves to a refreshing scoop of ice cream at Sparky’s in downtown Columbia. Inspired by our excursion, I ordered the honey lavender flavor.
My sister and I split our bundle of lavender. I brought my half back home and will have it hanging up for the next few weeks to dry.
Overall, I would recommend a visit to Battlefield Lavender Farm, especially for a ladies outing or a romantic date. I don’t know if my little ones (ages 4 and 6) would have been able to trim the lavender safely – for them or the plant. There was also a lot of bees, which is awesome for pollination, but something to keep in mind for those with allergies. Picking season is short, so check out their website or follow the farm on social media @battlefieldlavender for all the details!
Today I want to share one of the highlights of our year. We took a family trip to Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama over Spring Break in mid/late March 2021.
We drove from our home in Fayetteville, Arkansas to Gulf Shores. The drive takes approximately 11 hours, so we broke up the journey by spending the night in a hotel on the way down. After so many hours in the car, we were eager to get out of the car and explore the Lodge.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park is A Hilton Hotel. We booked the 1 King – 1 Bunk Bed Studio Suite. The girls loved the bunk beds and the view of Lake Shelby across the street. My husband and I also used the studio suite as a cozy office space.
Another feature of the room we liked was the private balcony. This was a relaxing spot to sip a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise over the ocean. The girls also used the balcony as an art space to do watercolor paintings.
The only challenge with the room was the small mini fridge. For families who need gallons of milk like ours does, I recommend bringing a good cooler. We also took advantage of the onsite restaurants including Roasted Oak coffee shop, Dragonside pool side, and Food Craft. My favorite meal was the Gulf Shrimp and Grits.
The average temperature in Gulf Shores, Alabama in March is between 58 and 70 degrees F according to weather-us.com. The beautiful outdoor pool was not heated, but our girls were brave and enjoyed splashing around in the pool almost as much as they liked playing in the waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
This was our youngest daughter’s first time seeing the ocean. As a parent, I can’t imagine a better memory than watching my kids take in the vastness of the ocean for the first time.
We also had a blast searching for seashells on the long, white beaches that stretched for miles outside the Lodge.
We decided to leave a day early because of Red flag conditions and thunderstorm forecasts. This left us feeling like we had more to explore including the hiking and biking trails around Lake Shelby. Here is a map of the full park. Here is a link with more ideas about things to do in Gulf State Park.
Overall, I highly recommend the Lodge at Gulf Shores State Park. If you want to enjoy warmer temperatures, plan for later in the season. However, if you want lower prices, Spring Break was an awesome option for our family. Personally, I’d like to go back during Sea Turtle season which is May through October.
This year I decided to go back to school to get a master’s degree in teaching, and I also started working part-time as a preschool teacher. I love it, but I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write on this site. Now, as the school year is winding down, I’m excited to start planning our summer and begin writing again. The first thing on our list is our annual Memorial Day trip to the mountains. It is hard to believe that we will be heading to our cabin in Estes Park, Colorado in just a couple of weeks.
This Memorial Day, we are excited to host our friends who have never been to Colorado before. As we talked through the new timed-entry permit and the restrictions on hiking in areas of the park due to recent wild fires, I realized that planning a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park feels pretty complicated this year. I’ve attempted to summarize the new system below:
Rocky Mountain National Park Timed-Entry Permit
What: 2 hour reservation to enter the park. There isn’t a restriction on how long you can stay. Parking is not guaranteed. Reservations must be made in advance.
Some of our favorite early season hikes such as Hollowell Park, Cub Lake and Fern Lake are inaccessible right now (as of 5/16/21) because of damage caused by wildfires in 2020. Before planning hikes, make sure to check out the latest information on closures here.
The Wild Basin tops our wish list because it wasn’t impacted by the wildfires and the elevation is lower compared to other areas in the park, which means typically there is less snow in May/June. There are also several beautiful waterfalls, and the trail is pretty easy for young kids to hike (ages 4- 7).
Gem Lake also avoided fire damage. Even though it is a short hike, it gains a lot of elevation (1,000 ft.). I’m not sure if we will make it to the top, but there are great views along the way and unique rock formations that the kids will love. Even if we make it half way, the hike will be memorable.
Lily Lake is our go-to hike. No matter what time of year or time of day, it’s always a great choice. We enjoy adding the Lily Ridge trail to lengthen the otherwise short hike around the lake.
Bierstadt Lake and Sprague Lake are in the Bear Lake corridor. This means they are popular attractions and require the Bear Lake corridor pass. These start at decent elevations, so it’s possible to encounter slush or even significant snow in May. We’ve spotted elk and moose in this area, and the views of the continental divide are truly spectacular at both destinations.
I can’t wait to share our favorite places with our friends. Even though it’s a little complicated, I know our trip will be well-worth the extra effort. I’m also hopeful that the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park that have been overused will benefit from less traffic, and that those impacted by fire will be soon on the road to a beautiful recovery!
This post was written by Eric after a quick solo adventure on New Year’s Eve 2020.
Sometimes when I hike, it’s easy to get so focused on the planned destination that I just put my head down and grind through the miles on the approach, paying little attention to the beauty along the way. So on New Year’s Eve a few months back, I set out on a hike with the specific intention not to reach any particular landmark on the Long’s Peak trail. I knew that I didn’t have the experience or gear to attempt a winter summit of the trail’s namesake on my own, nor did I intend to try to cross the steep ridge over to Chasm Lake without much knowledge of the conditions. I just wanted to get some miles in on a snowy trail through the woods, and pop above the tree line for as long as the typically blustery winter conditions would allow.
Below are some pictures from an absolute treat of a hike—the weather was perfect. Though the temperature was in the single digits at the trailhead, there was almost *no* wind, which again, can be quite rare on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter months. The trail was generally well-packed, so snowshoes were not required (yak tracks were helpful). It was also wonderful to be nearly alone on one of the busiest 14er trails in all of Colorado; a stark contrast from the parade of headlamps that ascend through the early morning darkness during peak “summit season.” With no objective to achieve, I was able to just soak in the incredible surroundings and be more present for the entire adventure.
I hope to build on this memorable experience and take a “destinationless” approach to hiking more often throughout the year.