Exploring the Orlando Neighborhood : The Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek, Kissimmee Florida

Tinsel and I (not so much my husband) love to hike and we are always looking for new adventures to go on. This weekend we finally had perfect weather and hit up the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek > Kissimmee, Florida! This place has been on my bucket list for a while and I was so excited to finally get to check it out!

Just a 30 minute drive from the heart of Orlando, with minimum time on dirt roads this short weekend adventure was well worth the trip. Here’s the link to their website for more information!

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We arrived at that trail around 10AM on Sunday morning and the parking lot was virtually empty. There were a few vans parked out in the lot and to our surprise there were A LOT of families with small children. If you are bringing your dog along that does not get along with children, be sure to pass on this trail. There a lot of bikes, children and families picnicking! The good news? There is not many dogs, so if your pup is like mine (not friendly with other pups) this trail is for you!

ALWAYS BE PREPARED: Even when on shorter trails it’s important to have the essentials. Interested in what kind of day pack I use for trips like these? “>Here’s the exact day pack I use on my day-ventures with this cutie. (Affiliate link). I always carry a first aid kit (for myself and Tinsel), a pop out bowel for her to drink from AND PLENTY of water! I’ll be posting a “day packing guide” later on! But you can see all of our hiking and camping adventures here.

Start off straight from the parking lot and hit up the first .8 mile loop (short I know). Make sure to take lots of breaks with your pup, the path is made of crushed shell rock and might tear up your pups feet. After the loop, keep left and follow the longer “brown” trail markings through the picking area. The brown trail will lead you to a multitude of other trails, all around 1-2 miles round trip. Pick and choose your trails, these are fully pathed. Great for biking too! There are plenty of picnicking spots along the paved path; next time we will bring a packed lunch!

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There is a historic pioneer village in the middle of the trails (that is NOT dog friendly), but great for kids! That part of the park hours vary, so be sure to check before arriving.

We had a blast checking out all of the trails this park has to offer and you should too! Perfect for familes, safe for solo femal hikers (like myself) AND perfectly suited to bring your best fur buddy along. We hiked just under 3 miles, but we were EXHAUSTED. Next time, we plan on starting a bit earlier in the morning to avoid the heat.

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Have you checked out this trail before? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻 Thank you all for reading! Be sure to check out Tinsel & my Instagram @TheTangledTinsel to see all of our weekend adventures!

Life Hack : A look inside my private writing (and hiding) space 🧘‍♀️🧘‍♀️

My husband, Tinsel the dog and myself live a medium sized condo – we have one bedroom and one bath. Although we love living in our smaller lifestyle (Less cleaning/maintain everything), sometimes I feel like I have no “me space.” A space for me to focus on my writing and meditation. AND to also find somewhere I can show off my cacti collection 😏😏

So I set my mind to it this weekend. I wanted to create a my own zen space. I started off by collecting some floor cushions, I was lucky enough to have been given these by a friend FOR FREE! I snagged an extra shelf from our storage closet. I picked up these ADORABLE black and white printed outdoor rugs from IKEA for $15!

Aren’t these rugs freakin’ adorable?? This is my second set of these same rugs….since my little bunny nibbled on the last set 🐰. I set up a small couch with the floor cushions, added some throw pillows AND BAM! Wondering what that black fence thing is in the background? That’s my DIY bunny fence. I can easily pull it out and pin him on the patio for a little bit of fresh air and exercise. Normally he stays out here during the day, getting some much needed exercise and fresh air. I even make him cardboard box houses to play in (OK so he doesn’t look happy – trust me he just has RBF). 🤷🏻‍♀️♥️🐰

So that’s kind of it. I now have this incredible zen-like work space. Especially that I have been sick, this is my sitting space to get some much needed fresh air. OH and space for my cacti collection (see below)….now that I have a bit more space….I think it’s time for another trip to the Florida Cactus Company – Check out my article about them here.

What’s your zen space look like? Do you have a little reading nook or hiding space away from the kids? I’d like to hear about thembelow!

Travel Tuesday : Let me tell you about the worst vacation I have ever been on

So I took a week off from writing – My husband and I were going on this incredible vacation and of course we were also spending time with friends and family for turkey day. ANYWAYS THAT SAID – sit back and let me tell you about the worst vacation I’ve ever been on and ALMOST died during. (Spoilers)

To preface this, let me tell you our actually plan:

Saturday morning leave around 7AM and drive up to Savanah, Georgia for lunch. Then continue driving to our campsite in Asheville, NC before 5PM. Set up camp, cuddle and make s’mores . There was a meteor shower that was happening this night! So we were planning on staying up late to see it.

Sunday morning wake up and see the sunrise over the mountains at our campsite. Then drive further up north to Grandfather Mountain to do a little hiking before lunch. For lunch, drive back to Asheville and check out this taco joint downtown. Head back to the campsite, enjoy a hot dinner and get a good rest.

Monday morning wake up and pack up camp. Head back to downtown Asheville and find somewhere to have breakfast. After eating, start driving to Charleston, SC for lunch and site seeing. After lunch, head home and be home before dark.

It sounded like a perfectly simple plan. Super relaxing. Not over-planned (like my usual style) So let me tell you what actually happened:

We packed up our little Kia on Thursday, Friday we pre-made our meals and packed the cooler. We were prepped! We don’t normally drive our Kia, my husband and I are blessed enough that we don’t need a second car. But our little Kia is there in case we need it. So it doesn’t have many miles on it and it’s relatively new. (I’m going somewhere with this – just hang on).

Friday night: we couldn’t sleep. This vacation was going to be AMAZING. Around 3AM on Saturday, we decided “HECK we are up – Let’s just go!!” So we did. Tinsel the dog, my husband and I pilled into the small Kia crammed with our camping gear and we headed off to Georgia.

Around three hours in, our car starts giving out. The Kia is sputtering down the highway and we make the call to turn around. Still staying positive, we decided to head home and pick up a rental car. As long as we were back on the road by 9:30AM we could at least make it to our campsite before dark.

My husband pre-paid for our rental car and set a time for us to pick it up. We got to the dealership early and two ladies got there before us! They even cut our place in line, spent 45 minutes inspecting the car (it’s honestly like they never saw a car before) and we still didn’t get a car until 10:30AM!!! (Ok calming down). We finally made it back to our house with our rental car, we moved over all of our camping gear and got back on the road.

At this point we decided to forgo seeing Savanah, Georgia because we simply did not have enough time. We knew at this point, that we would have to put up our tent in the dark. Surprisingly still optimistic.

We drove straight to Asheville; a full eight hour drive. We got to the point where “google maps ends” and we had to follow the written instructions up the mountain side to our campsite. (In the dark, while it was raining, in a unmaintained gravel road).

Saturday 7PM: Our campsite was BEAUTIFUL. A fully fenced in, private deck overlooking the mountains. Oddly, the wind was picking up? We had no cell phone service and it looked like a storm was rolling in. At this point, we had no choice but to set up camp. We didn’t know how to get back down the mountain side, we had no cell phone service and the storm was starting to pick up.

My husband quickly threw me the tent. I grabbed it and quickly tumbled down two flights of stairs to our deck. Luckily, it was so cold – I felt no pain 😂😂 (to update currently: my wrist is swollen, along with a severely bruised knee)

We set up the tent and the wind started getting worse. We decided to take all of our camping gear out of the car to help weigh down our tent for the night. My husband finally got a little phone signal and was able to look at the weather for a split second. We were in a dangerous wind advisory – 50-60 MPH winds were going to hit us directly on the mountain cliff and we were stuck. We had to open the windows on the tent in order to allow some of the wind to pass through – which meant we were drenched from the rain. It was dropping bellow 30 degrees and the wind was tearing apart our tent. We could feel the deck shifting below us due to the strain. We could hear our car slipping and sliding in the gravel above us. The tent was lifting us off of the ground. And we were trapped.

We didn’t sleep at all. Around 2AM we heard two loud SNAPS. Two of our tent poles collapsed under the pressure.

Oh did I mention? Tinsel (our pup) got so terrified she peed. She peed all over me. Fantastic I know.

Sunday 5AM: The sun was starting to peep out. We had enough light that we could finally leave. Our tent shifted so much, the tent door was now on the roof and we were pilled under our belongings. We quickly threw all of our belongings into our car and headed off to town. We found a Starbucks about 45 minutes away and quickly filled up on warm beverages; keeping the heat on full blast in the car.

My husband (being the real hero of our whole trip) stayed positive. He asked me “Ok so last night sucked. What else is on your list?” I knew the answer to that one – hiking Grandfather Mountain. So we hoped into the car and headed off. As we were driving up, snow to fall ! (For this Florida girl – it’s a HUGE deal). Tinsel got to play in snow for the very first time and had a BLAST.

We had an incredible time playing in the snow – but now we were even more excited about hiking in it. So we kept driving. We made it to the state park and started driving up the mountain. The car slipped in the ice and slide right into a ditch. We tried to get it out, but the car was saturated in ice and was unable to move. We had to call our AAA service to help us out. The good news? Our nice warm car had no cell phone signal. We had to leave Tinsel in the car and walk a mile down the mountain side to get cell phone signal. The even better news? The towing company wants us to stay by the cell phone service in case he needs to call us. The even better better news? It was going to be two hours before he could help us. See that cute little black dot walking down the road? That’s me

For those that are uncomfortable about things: just skip this paragraph all together. Remember that venti Starbucks beverage? Well yeah I finished it and now we were stuck on the side of the road waiting. I had to PEE. I had to pee more than I have never needed to pee in my entire life. I HAD TO GO. So I took that venti Starbucks cup and I FILLED it.

We waited. We waited some more. We played in the snow. We waited and waited. AND FINALLY the tow truck guy showed up! He pulled us right out and we were on our way in less than 30 minutes!

Exhausted and fed up. We decided the best bet would just to head home. We were exhausted, our tent was destroyed and we had little supplies that were not ruined. The three of use pilled back into the car and headed towards downtown Asheville for lunch. We wanted to get a good meal before another eight hour drive.

We stopped at the White Duck Taco and got well…..tacos 😉. We ate while driving. About three hours into the drive, my husband looks at me and says “I don’t feel so well.” Yeah you guessed it – poor guy got food poisoning it time. We are still trying to stay optimistic- so we get a hotel room in Charleston, South Carolina. We decided to make the most of this terrible trip and stay over night in Charleston. This way, we can still go sight seeing in Savanah and Charleston AND make it home before it gets dark (driving exhausted in the dark down the highway is not one of my favorite things).

Monday morning: Charleston is beautiful. Stunning. So many perfectly colorful buildings. Incredible architecture. I love this small town filled with southern charm. In Charleston, we hit up Rainbow Row (the beautiful colorful buildings in the top picture) AND we got to see the famous Pineapple Fountain in their Central Park. We stopped off in Charleston for breakfast and to refill our caffeine fueled hearts and we were off to Savanah, Georgia for lunch.

Fueled up, warm and fed: we finally made it to Savanah. We stopped to sightsee their Forsyth Park for a bit and take in the old oak trees. The weather was finally starting to warm up as we wandered back to our car.

Overall this was an insane trip. My car died, we almost died on a mountain camping,our car needed to be towed out of a snowy ditch AND we got food poisoning. But you know what? We didn’t argue once and we stayed positive the entire trip. I’m a little worn out still (and a bit bruised up), but next time we will be better prepared! We are currently in the midst of planning our next road trip, Florida to the Alamo!

Travel Tuesday : Eight States in Three Days 

I know I’m not alone on this, but sometimes I just get that need to jump in the car and drive, that yearning for adventure, the need to see something different.

Near the beginning of June I got that “Let’s just go” feeling. Of course My husband, Andrew, and I cannot take off work for more than a day so we had just a three day weekend to make this happen.

I packed just one suit case for my husband and I, we stuffed our cooler into the trunk and filled up the car with gas! The plan? Driving from Orlando, Florida to Indianapolis, Indiana in just three days/two nights.

(I LOVE road trips if you couldn’t tell)

Saturday morning we left at 5:00AM from Orlando, Florida headed towards Atlanta, Georgia. Just about an eight hour drive, our first stop was downtown Atlanta. We strolled around Central Park, refilled our Starbucks cups and jumped back into the car. Atlanta is beautiful, but it was our first stop and we were anxious to get back on the road!


Next stop Nashville, Tennessee! What we didn’t plan for? Actually checking the community website before visiting. We planned to walk around Nashville during the CMA (Country Music Awards) festival. The town was PACKED. We found a few secluded parks and decided to only stay a few hours in order to make the last stretch to Kentucky.

Bowling Green, Kentucky is the quintessential small, southern town filled with cobble streets and small cafes. Why Bowling Green? Kentucky was the perfect stop before reaching Indianapolis and a five start hotel on a weekend cost us under $100 for a night (can’t go wrong with that!).



After a good nights rest we started driving towards Indianapolis (of course stopping to refill our coffee cups along the way – I don’t have a problem 😉). The drive to Indianapolis is LONG, there isn’t much to look at and it seems to go on FOREVER (about a four hour drive). We ended up stopping for lunch along the way, packing sandwiches and chips is a road trip standard for us. Not to mention – currently McDonalds has drinks for $1! Fill up on unsweet tea and keep drivin’.


We finally made it to Indianapolis just after lunch! We strolled along White River State Park over looking downtown Indianapolis, we drove over enormous bridges and marveled at the city’s architecture. Indianapolis will defiantly be on our list to see again next summer.


Headed to out next stop on Sunday afternoon – St. Louis, Missouri. Seeing the Gateway Arch was on my bucket list, so this was a huge deal for me! Another four hour drive we finally made it to St.Louis to see the Arch. They just refurbished the area to include a beautiful walkway and a brand new dog park.


Tinsel and I loved strolling around cobble streets;we could not have asked for better weather.


If you are in Missouri,you have to stop to see Lafayette Park. A breath taking neighborhood of perfectly lined town homes and a quite park. Take a stroll downtown or stand mouth-open like I did, day dreaming of living in this neighborhood.


Our last stop on Sunday was to find somewhere to stay for the night, closer to Memphis, Tennessee.

My #1 suggestion for road trips – the Stay the Night app for iPhone. This searches your area for hotels that are looking to fill their rooms for the night for a discounted rate. It’s perfect for road trips, when you are done driving, turn on the app and it will hook you up with the best deal at your location. (They also have a filter for dog friendly hotels!)

The first hotel that popped up for us – Elvis’s Guest house right on his property in Memphis. $125 for the night in a five star hotel. The last leg of our second day – just over two hours and our hotel was just what we needed to refresh us. The hotel was RIGHT ON Elvis’s property and our room overlooked his estate. A beautiful room, with a rain shower and deluxe bed (heaven).


Our very last day, Monday morning. We started early, well rested from the night before, around 5:00AM. We started off strolling along The Mississippi River. We loved Memphis, but after all of this driving we were starting to get a little home sick and WE WERE WAY SICK OF MEAT SANDWICHES.

Our very last day, we wanted to see Alabama on the way back to Florida.

My #2  for road trips – download the Gas Buddy app on the iPhone. Open it up while you are on the highway and it will give you the best price for gas in your area.


Our VERY last stop was in Georgia. Providence Canyon State Par has been sitting on my summer bucket list for years and we finally got to visit. The State Park is well known as the “Mini Grand Canyon.”


Just as we’re standing at the edge,  a short walk from the parking lot, it started to downpour. This Canyon took my breath away, as it started to rain the deep orange rock started to change color to this beautiful rusty orange. We stayed right there in the rain to enjoy it, reluctant to get back into the car.

Another five hours and we were finally home in Orlando. Soaked to the core, covered in red clay but this trip was worth it. We saw eight new states, 12 cities and made memories to last a life time.

It never takes much to travel, just the willingness to get yourself out there. Overall for this weekend we WOULD have spent around $800 on gas, hotels and food.

BUT we saved on hotels by booking the day of, we saved on gas by using an app and we saved on food by packing our cooler. What we actually spent? Just under $400.

Pack up your car. Take your dog. And get out there to see something new!

Exploring the Orlando Neighborhood : Kayaking Shingle Creek, Florida

A suggestion from a friend led us to kayaking Shingle Creek two weekends ago in June. Off of Highway 192 in Kissimmee is a small kayak rental shack called The Paddling Center. ($13 for a single Kayak/$16 for a tandem kayak – for two hours). You will have to reserve your kayak eight hours in advance; but they are pretty easy going and will allow you to call in less time and reserve if they have a kayak available.

(they allow you to sign all of your waivers via email before hand – this saves A LOT of time)

Right off of Highway 192 you will find the entrance. Enter the park and travel down a steep hill and into a dirt parking lot. Parking is limited. After you check in at the wooden shack, the team will lead you down to the beach and push you off into the water. At the time that we were there, the second route was closed due to too strong of a current, so they told us to head straight under the bridge towards the first route.

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Head straight underneath the Highway 192 Bridge (there was a lot of homeless people under the bridge, which was kind of off-setting) and paddle upstream. The water was murky and there was not much wild life; I am amusing due to the proximity of the bustling city. We paddled for about 30 minutes upstream before we hit the “turn around here, No Entry” signs. That was it. We let the current take us back to the launch point, drifting slowly. We still did not see any wildlife. Overall the adventure took us about 45 minutes and was actually disappointing for what we paid.

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The Paddling Center also offers bike rentals if you are in for that as well! I defiantly would call ahead first to see if all of the kayaking trails are open before spending the money. Even an inexperienced person on a kayak would not be able to fill two hours worth of time. My husband and I will be back to try out the second route eventually this summer, but we will call ahead to see!

Exploring the Orlando Neighborhood : Kayaking in Blue Springs, Florida

For starters, lines start before the park even opens! My husband and a friend tagged along for a celebratory birthday weekend kayaking trip. We headed out from our home in Orlando at 7:15am (of course feeding my addiction of Starbucks Matcha Tea on the way). Even arriving at 8:00am the lines already started to form. If you’ve never been kayaking before, you are in for a treat at Blue Springs!

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Parked in the parking lot and armed with supplies we headed out. To the right there is a wooden board walk with short over looks of the Manatee Spring, follow the board walk all the way to the right and you will find a row of small souvenir shops and cafes. Perched on top of a hill is the historic Thursby House that is free and open to the public to tour. The Thursby House was built in 1872 and greeted steam boat h on the St. John’s River. It is definitely a site worth seeing, but it does get busy later in the day.

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(They have this cute manatee counter at the State Park check in booth – BRING ON THE SEA COWS)

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Follow the board walk further to the left and you will start seeing kayaks and canoes parked along the water. Further still, you will see the wooden shack filled to the brim with young college kids that will help you get set up with your rental. My husband and I have learned from past mistakes that canoeing is not even worth your time; spend the extra money rent a kayak.

Here’s my soap box – Canoes are UNCOMFORTABLE, sitting on a wooden bench, hunched over with one paddle. Just be ready for the arguments with your spouse!! (PADDLE LEFT. RIGHT. LEFT. RIGHT) Again, just spend the extra money rent a kayak, you’ll thank me later!

For the Blue Springs Kayak Rentals you are looking at about $16-$20 an hour. Check out their site here!

Side note – They do not allow paddling directly into the spring for the protection of the newly born baby manatees (you heard me right, this time of year it is easy to spot a little baby cow floating around in the spring!)

Sitting comfortably, lay back in the lounger and stocked with Starbucks; the college kids pushed us out onto the water. The college kids armed us with a poorly drawn paper map of the area, marked with hot spots for wildlife. We started off paddling to the right and headed out onto the large river (UP STREAM MIND YOU). Then we took a sharp left into a canal. Breath taking, sweeping views of marsh surrounded our kayak. Giant blue heron swooped over our heads while smaller birds called out to each other. Just pause here and take it all in.

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Continuing on, we paddled for a short while and made it to the “Snake Bend.” The canal was so narrow that you could reach and touch both sides of the canal. Elegant trees shade the canal, while Spanish moss swayed silently above our heads. We paddled here for a short while and ended up turning around, taking the entire Snake Bend to the end is a three hour trek.

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We turned around and headed back out the Snake Bend, then making a left onto the large water way. (Watch out for boats here!) We continued down this large water way and to our surprise, manatees were leaving the spring and swimming along both sides of our kayaks! Leaving our kayaks behind, we started our short trek down the wooden board walk towards the Thursby House. Down the wooden board walk you will pass several small outlooks over the Manatee Spring (look out for the little babies!) Make sure you stop by and take a photo with this cutie:

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Further down still you will reach the small cafe and gift shop. Here you will find every kind of manatee trinket you can dream of! Even further still, there is a short one mile hiking trail behind the gift shop, certainly worth a look! By 12:00pm the crowds really started to form! The one thing that I would have changed was to remember to pack a picnic lunch for my husband and me! It was a perfect afternoon to spread out under a shady tree and enjoy this beautiful Florida weather. Please comment below if you have any questions about this trip! Kayaking with the Florida Manatees was an experience I will never forget!

(FYI – Boat shoes are a must ($5 at Walmart). You will thank me later. Bonus points if you and your spouse match!)

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Exploring the Orlando Neighborhood : Hiking the East Pine Loop, Hunters Creek Florida

A730BAD3-C62A-4B46-8312-8E01E1052EBAOne of my favorite short day hikes is the Pine East Loop Trail in Hunters Creek, Florida. Surprisingly, the East Pine Loop Trail is part of the Everglades National Park and its right here in Orlando! Literally, tucked away behind the Hunters Creek Middle School Bus Loop is the Trail Head, a short board walk through the thick Florida brush. You can find the trail here. 

For those of you with your own kayak or canoe, you can launch your boats at the trail head.

Just a short note – this entire trail is dog friendly as well! Be warned though, there will be many dogs and people on the narrow hike, if your pup has a fear of dogs and people you might want your pup to sit this one out.

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Taking a left onto the first step down off the board walk will take you on a short, straight two mile hike (there and back). A narrow path is front of you, to the left there are high pine trees and oak and to the right is Shingle Creek! As you hike you will pass over several handmade wooden bridges that run over the creek along with a lot of exposed roots (watch your footing). This winding path leads you straight down underneath a highway. The path will continue under the bridge, but the path is covered in broken glass and ends abruptly. When you reach the highway underpass, just turn around and head back to the board walk. The trip is roughly two miles. If you are looking for a short day trip, it is perfectly fine to step off here or to continue to walk the many trails this park has to offer.

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Back on the board walk, make a left and pass over Shingle Creek. At the end of the board walk there’s a step down to the right. Now with the creek on your left, follow this path for a half a mile until you reach a clearing for the power lines. Make a left here and follow the path for another mile straight. I have hiked this trail several times and each trip was breath taking. With marsh on both sides of the trail, you will see a plethora of wildlife, from red-winged black birds to white hereon to brown ibis. Make sure to pick up a cheap bird pamphlet if you have the time to stop and watch the wildlife!

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Continuing on, to the right there is a small entrance to the official East Pine Loop. Just a few steps in is a covered pavilion, a perfect midday stop for lunch. After eating, my husband I normally head off on the loop trail. This short trail is approximately 4 miles round trip. For miles around, the trail is sounded by pine woods and eldom pine trees. Wait until the winter months in Florida before tempting this hike (unless sweating/burning/chafing/dying is your thing). In the pine wood flats you can see coopers hawk and the seldom bald eagle!

After this loop we normally head back out to our car, making a left when you exit the East Pine Loop and continuing down the power lines until reaching the last right. Parking can be kind of tight during the weekends at this park, so we make sure to get there early! Either for a short day hike or a longer half fay hike this park really has it all. Well covered so you won’t get burnt by the sun and even access to kayaking! If you have any questions or comments please leave them below! I would love to hear your adventures!

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