We had an amazing summer. You may have already read about our trip to Hot Springs National Park, but here’s how the rest of the summer shaped up.
In June we were tourists in Chicago to celebrate Jeff’s mom’s 75th birthday, and it was really fun. We rode the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, saw ourselves in “The Bean”, enjoyed amazing art at the Art Institute, and spent an afternoon at the Shedd Aquarium.
We also made a quick trip to the newest US national park, Indiana Dunes, which is so new its sign isn’t even mounted yet! Since it’s new, it wasn’t too crowded, and we mostly had the place to ourselves.
From Chicago we flew to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and spent a week exploring Hot Springs National Park. We did a lot of hiking in this shady, forested area of Arkansas which was much more beautiful than we’d expected. And of course we spent some time in the spas, too. All in the name of research, of course. Many of the highlights of this park are in the town of Hot Springs, but you can get away from the crowds just by heading out on any of the many trails.
We connected with a Birding Pal in Arkansas, our first time making a connection in this group. BirdingPal, a “Bird Watching Club for World Travelers,” connects local volunteers with travelers who’d like to see birds in the volunteers’ areas. Our birding pal, Jerry, was fantastic! We saw several new species and made a new friend! If you’re interested in birds, check out BirdingPal. It’s a great value at only $10 a year.
We spent one of our Arkansas days in Little Rock. The Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site has perhaps the best national park museum we’ve ever seen. It was fascinating, and we spent a few hours there. We highly recommend it. We also visited the well-done Clinton Presidential Library and stopped by the welcoming headquarters of Heifer International, also based in Little Rock.
Early in July we did some family camping trips. We love to camp, and Erin has LOTS of cousins, so it’s always entertaining when the gang gets together!
Late in July we headed to Iceland. Erin’s college roomie and her husband came along for the first week and we made the most of Iceland’s long days from our home base in Reykjavik! The second week we traveled around the country’s Ring Road. Iceland is a dramatically rugged and beautiful landscape punctuated by small villages, all of which seem to have a sweet, tiny church, and most of which have a waterfall or three or four… In addition to its natural beauty, the people are welcoming and the food is delicious. As you’d expect in a country purported to be the most expensive to travel to in the world, the prices are high, but it was worth it.
Our lodging in Chicago, Arkansas, and for a week of our Iceland trip were all home exchanges — so our accommodations were FREE! This is a great way to maximize a travel budget, and we highly recommend it. While several services exist, we’ve enjoyed using HomeExchange.com. You can receive a sign-up bonus via our referral link!
We finished our summer with a final camping trip up to Mt. Adams where we picked huckleberries and made wishes on shooting stars. We hope you, too, were able to enjoy some summer vacation time, whether it was for a week or a weekend!