Ever dreamed of a family mountain bike tour of the North Dakota Badlands? How about a kayak for one of the biggest fireworks in the country? Or slide through a ravine? Or maybe climb a frozen waterfall?
If not – or if your just thinking about doing one of these with a kid is so daunting you’d rather sign up for another semester of distance learning – it’s time to get a copy of 50 Adventures Across the 50 States to buy. This beautiful new hardcover book, written by foreign correspondent Kate Siber and illustrated by Lydia Hill, is a roadmap to family-friendly adventures in the United States. For each state, Siber highlighted an outstanding activity in a specific location, such as B. Dog sledding in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters or road rides along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. Then she sprinkled fun facts to shed light on the natural and cultural wonders of the region.
(Photo: Courtesy Wide Eyed Editions)
You could read this book as sort of a nature-based bucket list of things to see and do to check off, but it’s also much more than that. At a time when many of us are bogged down with the COVID-19 pandemic and a long winter Spending near your home, 50 Adventures reads like a compilation of possibilities. My daughter is only two years old, so many of the experiences (aimed at five to ten year olds) are a little out of our reach. But when we looked at the pictures and talked about what people were doing, I found myself fantasizing about everything we can do together now or after the pandemic is over. Maybe we won’t be mountain biking the 144-mile Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota, but reading about it was the inspiration I needed to look for gentler bikepacking routes near our home in the Rockies.
That’s exactly the kind of spark Siber hopes her book will ignite. “Sure, maybe people do some of the adventures, and some maybe do all of them,” she told me. “But I hope more that it motivates or inspires families to develop an adventurous mindset. Children are already so curious and adventurous that the question for me as a writer was: How do you maintain it? How do you stir up and encourage and celebrate it? “
In answering this question, Siber tried to see the natural world through the eyes of a child. It was a perspective that helped her find solace in a dark time. As she researched and wrote the book, Siber was affected not only by a global pandemic, but also by a diagnosis of breast cancer. When her world was limited to the confines of her couch, home, and hospital, 50 adventure games offered an antidote. It was “all my life wasn’t,” she wrote in a recent article for Adventure Journal. It reminded her that there is still magic in the world and that you don’t have to travel to an exotic place to find it. It’s in your own back yard, your own state, or even on the pages of a book.
As a longtime travel and outdoor sports journalist, Siber had little trouble finding ideas to fill the pages: every adventure is either something she has already done or something she has long wanted to do. The part that took more time was making sure each proposal was appropriate for the children and families where Siber interviewed guides and outfitters in each state. The book does not include contact information for these services, but she has made sure that they can be easily found online.
Some of Siber’s initial ideas – like abseiling down a fern-lined sinkhole in Alabama – were ultimately discarded because they weren’t well suited for children. The ones that made the final cut are a mix of adventures that are accessible to everyone as well as those that are more ambitious. On the beginner-friendly side of the spectrum are activities that don’t require special equipment or skills, like digging for crystals in an Oklahoma salt flat. Then there are things like white water rafting that require either depth of experience or a local guide. Overall, the mix feels just right. It’s an invitation to dream and plan post-pandemic travel, and at the same time a kick-start to explore areas closer to home.
Over the past few weeks I’ve kept coming back to the book and flipping through the pages, even after my daughter fell asleep. At a time when the world often seems frustratingly limited, 50 adventures in the 50 states are a reminder that it will be expansive again.
Buy the book
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Main photo: Akela – From Alp to Alp / Stocksy
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