Category: Activity

Things we find to do along the way.

Writing Our Story of Adventure

Writing Our Story of Adventure

I had never finished a #NaNoWriMo. I usually started with some gusto but faltered as soon as the “you should be here” line towered above where I actually was.

I didn’t give up. Every year I started . . . determined to make it through.

In 2014, I had an idea sparked by a story about a shipwreck being uncovered by a hurricane along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“Mystery Rock” follows three brothers as they tried to unlock the mystery that they had discovered after a hurricane. The best part about the book was it was inspired by real events and real people – the conversations were often word for word what my sons were saying in the other room (adjusted only for context). Is that cheating?

I already knew I wanted to incorporate letterboxing into the book design. It was important for you to see the locations and to experience them for yourself.

Book 2 of the Scouting out Adventure series is “Secret of the Mounds.” It continues the pursuit of the mystery uncovered that day on the beach. This time the brothers discover the mounds of Alabama.

Book 3 will be “Shadow in the Caves.” If my family stays on me, then it will be ready for a full launch by the Summer of 2017

The thing I learned most when creating these books was to write what inspires and entertains you and others will be inspired and entertained as well.

The Mom
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About the Books

Family fun and Alabama adventures – join three brothers as they uncover a secret long hidden and follow the clues around the State of Alabama to the amazing end. Mystery Rock, Secret of the Mounds, and (coming soon) Riddle in the Cave.

Mystery Rock from the Scouting Out Adventure series

About Kathryn

Kathryn offers phrases of hope in order to shine the Light on the moment. She works through her columns, articles, books and workshops. Her personal hope is that every person who encounters her words will feel as if those words were written (or spoken) just for her or him.

“In my fiction, I tell a story that provides an uplifting message entrenched in hope. In my non-fiction and columns, I offer words that will point to hope. In my talks, I tell stories that inspire hope. Helping others discover their path to hope is my focus.”

Twitter: @Kathrynclang
Facebook: theKathrynCLang

Backyard Field Trips – Steele Orchard

Backyard Field Trips – Steele Orchard

Every week my sons and I took a field trip. Keith worked a traditional job on only had the opportunity to attend on a few occasions. Some of the trips were just to local playgrounds while others were too amazing “backyard” locations – like Moundville, Alabama.

I scheduled a few trips when son #3 came along, but the logistics soon became a nightmare. The older boys were NOT interested in trips that would entertain the youngest and I would have had to hogtie the youngest to do the trips the older boys would enjoy.

It is a new season for the TraveLangs and that is opening up doors for field trips again.

We took the first leap with a trip to a local orchard. I intend to do many more of these agricultural trips because the youngest has declared an interest in having his own farm.

Goodies from Steele Orchard with TraveLangs

The drive was easy enough, but I did pack snacks just in case the tour took longer than expected (or food was necessary just to make it home). Keith was able to make this one with us.

I had forgotten how much “fun” (and by fun, I mean noisy, chaotic, squealing free play) that appears when a whole gaggle of homeschoolers gathers. The tour was also informative, although the orchard had the barn decorated for haunted house tours and the older boys were distracted on more than one occasion with the tunnels and decorations.

Apple varieties at Steele Orchard with the TraveLangs

The tour taught about bees, Johnny Appleseed, and apple varieties. The taste testing was one of the favorite stops for all.

I appreciate small farms and growers that are continuing to not only pursue their passions but that open their doors to share those passions.

Thanks to Steele Orchard for sharing with us. You can see more about the orchard by clicking the link and viewing the video Keith put together about the orchard and the fun we had.

Watch the Video

Hiking Lake Guntersville Sate Park

Hiking Lake Guntersville Sate Park

The day offered blue skies and cool breezes. We packed a lunch and drove up to the Lake Guntersville State Park. Growing up, I spent many hours at the lodge. In my teen years, I spent many hours hiking the trails. Now it was time to begin sharing the wonders with my children.

Trail hiking can be tough, but it does not have to be out of the grasp of someone (like me) who hasn’t taken the time to stay in the shape that she desires. We chose a path that had been marked easy and that offered a long hike, but not impossible for the beginner.

Finding parking proved to be one of the greatest challenges. We have learned to adapt over the years because parking a suburban under any conditions often proves challenging. My husband made it work and we unloaded. I left behind my water because it was a short hike and we would be back in no time (spoiler alert: they tell the boys to “always be prepared” for a reason).

Lake Guntersville State Park with the TraveLangs

The leaves were turning and provided a colorful backdrop for the pictures. The cool weather offered comfort that our colorful but slithering friends would be safely tucked into hibernation. We walked along, enjoying the sites and each other.

The trailed curved around and the view opened up to the lake. It offered another great opportunity for pictures, but showed no signs of turning back onto itself to get us back to the truck.

We kept walking and I envied the soda peeking out of my husband’s pocket.

The path finally stopped at a small creek and waterfall. It took all we could manage to keep the youngest from jumping in. “I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m thirsty.” You should have heard his complaints – those were just what I was thinking.

A quick look at my watch (better known as the phone) and I knew that we would never get back to the car on schedule. It was taking twice as long for us to meander along the path. I also realized that there was no continuing path and to get back we would just have to follow the same path again. I eyed the hill we had walked around and wondered if we could just walk over it, but my family had already started back down the path.

The youngest threatened to boycott and just sit on the side of the trail. I considered joining him, but wondered how the others would get the suburban down that tiny path to come and get us. It took some encouraging (of myself) to begin encouraging my youngest, but we managed to get going once again.

The path back to the car was not as colorful and the views were not as amazing – although they were the same. I thought of little more than something to drink. My saving grace was the counting. I counted each step we took back out to try and determine where we had gone wrong.

We survived and back at the car I started to rehydrate while studying the map. Although the posted trip was 2.5 miles on the website, the printed map had a notation that showed the trail was not a loop. What started out as a short hike became twice as long because of the return trip.

What I learned from Hiking in Lake Guntersville State Park

  1. ALWAYS carry the daypack. I fill mine with the hiking first aid kit, water, and snacks most days.
  2. Measure twice so you don’t have to hike twice. It turns out that everything you read on the internet is not always true – or not always the whole truth. A little more research and we could have been better prepared for what we were going to be doing.
  3. Avoid trying to do too much. This seems to be the “rule of thumb” for all family outings. We were trying to get in a hike before we had to be at another event. The need to rush back to the car caused stress, exhaustion, and irritability (and that is never something the family wants in the mom).
  4. It is worth the effort. Despite the issues we encountered, the memories and the pictures were worth every step!

Take advantage of the cool, fall or spring days and enjoy a hike. Be sure to pack a day-pack to carry along with you, and include a map in your pack. Take the family and have some fun exploring the beauty in your own backyard.

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What have you learned from you adventures or misadventures with the family? Share your tips here in the comment section or link to your own post about the activities you have enjoyed with the family. You can also connect with the #TraveLangs on Facebook.

Letterboxing in the Gulf State Park

Letterboxing in the Gulf State Park

The Gulf Coast holds many secrets that a family ready for adventure can discover. We set out on a mission to uncover one such secret. The thrill of breaking down clues and finding treasure never gets old for The TraveLangs.

We were first introduced to letter boxing almost a decade back, although our interest has peaked and faded over the years. My newest middle school book, Mystery Rock, ignited our interests once again (partly because we get to plant our own letterboxes in association with the book).

When you picture letterboxing, think about treasure maps. Some of the maps might have complex clues – almost riddles – that you have to decode. Some of the maps may have simple steps you have to take (like go to the “Y” and take ten steps to the left). Some of the maps may have rhymes for the hints. The best part of letterboxing for us is that you have to decipher the map to find the treasure.

What is the treasure? Most letter boxes include a custom stamp that you get to stamp into your notebook. Some letterboxes include pre-stamped post cards that you can fill out and mail in when you find the letterbox. Some letterboxes will include a log book that you can stamp with your own letterboxing stamp.

We carved our own stamps back when we first started letterboxing. The boys were all much younger, and it shows in the results. Pulling out those older stamps made us all realize that it is probably time to tackle the personalized stamps again.

The Gulf State Park only revealed one letterbox, which came as a surprise. I get that there are storms in the area that might make it difficult to maintain boxes for some folks. There are so many amazing sites in the area that I feel the need to go down and plant dozens to give letterboxes around the globe a great destination.

The one box that we did find proved to be a challenge for us all. I lived down in Gulf Shores MANY years ago, so that helped us figure out the starting point for the map. Even with my insider information, it still took us several tries before we found the treasure. My middle son braved the stash, knocked away a black widow, and we were free to enjoy the delightful stamp left behind.

We hid the box back in the space and went in search of a second treasure that was listed as hidden nearby. We tried several different starting points, but none of them panned out. Since the last recorded connection to the box was 2011, I believe that it has long since been lost to the sea.

Even with just the one letterbox find, it was a fun addition to our Gulf State Park tour. We look forward to adding our Mystery Rock letterbox to the area, and potential adding many more letterboxes in the months ahead.