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Summer Issue: Abroad, cross-country and at home

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If you’re planning a trip abroad or seeking an alternative to the typical tropical vacation, here are a variety of places that might fit your fancy:

May I suggest Bruges, a small city in Belgium that looks as if it were pulled from the pages of a fairy tale.IMG_0962 copy

Simply walking the cobbled streets of Bruges in the shadows of its medieval architecture is nothing less than magical. Quaint stone bridges cross canals as swans can be seen gently floating beneath them. Towering cathedrals poke the clouds as they shelter the comfortable outdoor cafés from the sun. Pubs, taverns and shops line the old streets, offering a delightful variety of hearty Belgian cuisine, specializing in treats such as chocolate, waffles, fries and beer.

SubstandardFullSizeRender copyHaving a rich, yet bloody history, Bruges offers mystery and intrigue hidden amongst the various castles and cathedrals, a gem for any history buff. Yet once the sun goes down, Bruges’ streets alight with merriment, as pub-crawlers and festive tourists offer toast to one another over a pint of iconic Belgium ales.

To not fall in love with this city would be absurd, whether you drift off into a daydream aided by the city’s ambience or find yourself with a special someone strolling hand-in-hand through the amber glow of street lamps, Bruges will romanticize you.SubstandardFullSizeRender (1) copy

I highly recommend staying at the famous hostel of St. Christopher’s at Bauhaus.

If you’re planning a cross-country road trip, I urge you to stop at Joshua Tree National Park, located in Southern California. Spanning from the Mojave Desert into the Colorado Desert, the park is named after the iconic Joshua Trees that sprout up throughout it.IMG_0671 copy

With campgrounds spread throughout the park, you can camp out for a week for just a $20 entry fee. The vastness of the desert is somewhat overwhelming, but the beauty of the land is awe-inspiring. The isolation of the area provides amazing stargazing at night, but make sure you stay warm because the temperatures drop in the evening.

Many desert critters, from black-tailed jackrabbits to southwestern speckled rattlesnakes, can be seen scurrying about the park throughout the day and night. Every nook and cranny can provide a surprise here, so a feel for adventure and common sense is all you need to enjoy a safe and fun excursion.IMG_0673 copy

IMG_0741 copyThe Joshua Tree National Park is really a must-see on a cross-country road trip because of the enormous rock formations that tower above all. An endless playground for hikers, explorers and rock climbers, the rock structures provide challenges for all levels of adventurers. Whether you just want to hop around boulders the size of trucks, or find that special belay line for an ideal rope climb, the park is a perfect place for serenity, exploration and natural wonderment.

If you don’t have the time or cash for a trip abroad or a cross-country adventure, try exploring the vast trail systems of Fort Rock in Exeter.

More commonly known as the Henderson-Swasey Town Forest by hikers, it was dubbed Fort Rock by local mountain bikers who find thrills and exercise here by meandering through the woods and marshlands. The trails offer challenges for mountain bikers of all skill levels with smooth trails that flow with berms and wooden bridges to highly technical routes that are abundant with roots and rocks to test your balance and finesse.

But don’t let the mountain bikers deter you from exploring Fort Rock on foot. The trail system is large, and there will be plenty of time lapses where you won’t come across another person. It’s a perfect place to find a sense of serene solitude, escaping the bustling business of your responsibilities and priorities.

Prepare for your hike or ride by studying the trail map, and provide yourself with enough time, water and sustenance for a couple hours of exploration. The trail system is extensive, and with intertwining paths and plenty of interesting landmarks, it is easy to get lost; but with a little sense of direction, you should be okay.

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