National parks are a great way to explore natural beauty close to home and in other countries. Today, we chat with Michelle Stelly who fell in love with hiking, backpacking, and camping. She runs the The Wandering Queen blog, where she talks about her adventures and shares tips and tricks for beginner and experienced hikers and campers. Michelle’s enthusiasm and love of nature is contagious as she talks about how she began, where she’s been, and her favorite places to go.
Michelle and her husband are in Washington where they have access to great national parks. They’ve also traveled to Patagonia in South America, Iceland, Switzerland, Australia, and all over the US. Her favorite park is her first one visited which is Zion National Park in Utah. Michelle gives tips for exploring hiking and national parks. She talks about travel tips, activities, choosing accommodations, and why you should make a reservation. We also get a first hand look into top essentials and extras you should bring, what to wear, how to save on park fees, and Michelle even shares what she likes to eat on her trips.
[01:54] Michelle runs The Wandering Queen which is an outdoor hiking travel blog.
[02:17] She was born in Panama, but grew up in Houston Texas.
[03:05] She is also an engineer. She didn't start hiking and camping until after she graduated from college.
[03:21] Michelle began indoor rock climbing. She was afraid of heights. She was invited to go outdoor rock climbing, which eventually led to hiking and camping.
[04:30] She then became obsessed with exploring the outdoors.
[04:59] Michelle, her husband, and her two dogs started their outdoor adventures.
[05:52] Their first national park was Zion National Park.
[07:27] Michelle began exploring cities and then discovered that national parks were it for her.
[08:09] Her first backpack trip was in Canada. Then they went to Patagonia and Iceland.
[09:30] After moving to Washington, finding great places to hike became so much easier.
[10:19] She hikes, camps, and backpacks almost every single week.
[11:05] She goes winter backpacking in the snow and is able to hike in the rain.
[11:31] Patagonia is in South America.
[13:33] It's a good idea to check the weather before you go hiking. It's better to hike in warmer climates in the fall, winter, or spring.
[14:25] Find the nearest airport, and you'll have to rent a car.
[15:50] There's so much to do at national parks. You can hike, kayak, backpack, rock climbing, and just about any other outdoor activity you are interested in.
[16:17] Choose your activity before booking your accommodation.
[17:30] When choosing accommodations you may be able to find a hotel, but you can also camp or backpack.
[19:29] Some camping and backpacking areas are first come first serve, but for many of them you have to make reservations at recreation.gov. Michelle would recommend getting a reservation.
[22:46] Camping is usually around $10 to $20 a night. You can also get an America the Beautiful Pass for around $80 to handle yearly park entrance fees.
[23:40] Be sure to pack the ten essentials which include navigation equipment, sun protection, first aid kit, a firestarter or matches, hiking tools, extra food, extra water or water filter, emergency shelter, headlamp, and extra clothes.
[26:59] You might need a daypack, trekking poles, camera, bear deterrent, a personal locator beacon, and bug protection.
[30:00] Michelle has seen moose, elk, and bears. She also shares a warning about the attacking squirrels.
[31:59] Don't wear cotton. You want wicking material. Have a rain jacket or a poncho and dress in layers. You can also bring a sweater just in case. Leggings can be more comfortable and you could also wear hiking pants. Wear hiking shoes or hiking boots. Also bring wool socks, a hat, and sunglasses.
[37:19] A typical weekend hike could be from 4 to 11 miles depending on the weather. Michelle has a 19 mile goal.
[38:43] Michelle brings things like fruit, jerky, nuts, protein bars and sometimes sandwiches. When she camps, she likes burgers and s'mores.
[40:34] Michelle's top three national parks include Zion National Park, Mount Rainier, and Canyonlands National Park.
[45:03] You can start hiking at any age. Be sure and check out Michelle's hiking course.
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