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Guide to Beautiful Weekends
These activities are tailor-made for outdoor beauty-seekers
Finding new ways to experience the beauty of nature can be as easy as trying a new activity. Even if you have allergies, you can engage your senses in a new way with some of these nature-focused activities.
Anyone, anywhere can get into bird watching. The only problem, avid bird watchers say, is that once you’ve spotted your first few birds, you’ll be hooked. You can find birding “hot spots” in a variety of locations on the Internet or in books such as Birdfinder: A Birder’s Guide to Planning North American Trips, by Jerry A. Cooper (published by the American Birding Association). And check out Birder.com’s list of the best bird watching sites by state here. And the National Audubon Society has programs all over the nation – including nature camps for kids.
According to the Outdoor Foundation, bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in the United States. Taking a bike ride can be a low-impact way to get outside and experience nature in a leisurely way, whether you live in a rural or urban location. Even if you don’t own your own bike, most communities have ways you can rent one; some cities, including Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., Boston, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, have bike-sharing programs. The League of American Bicyclists is a great resource for all things biking, and has a tool to help you find resources like clubs and instructors in your area.
Taking an easy stroll through nature can be a great way to observe the world around you at a slower pace. It’s also a perfect way for families to learn about the world around us together. State and national parks often have well-marked trails that range in length and difficulty; city parks also offer opportunities for urban dwellers to get closer to the natural world. Many parks have educational centers or groups that lead periodic guided walks, and some communities have local clubs that offer trips and excursions that you can join. (For instance, the Appalachian Mountain Club has chapters throughout the Northeast U.S. that lead nature walks.) A quick online search will guide you to more information about parks and trails in your area. The National Park Service has lots of information about parks and a tool that lets you find a park in your state.
Travel agent Betsy Donley of Camelback Odyssey Travel in Phoenix, Arizona, recommends fly fishing as an easy but novel outdoor activity: “It’s rhythmic and beautiful, making the fly line float through the air, and you’ll learn about water ecology and hatches above and beneath the water.” There’s no need to travel to find good fly fishing spots and instruction; you can fish almost anywhere there’s a river, and chances are there are teachers in your area. The International Federation of Fly Fishers is a good online source of information.
Whatever outdoor activity you do, if you have allergies, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends avoiding dry, windy days, when pollen counts tend to be highest.