Ernie Allison is a grandfather and nature writer who drags his family on nature hikes and camping trips year round.
Vacations are a much anticipated time in most people’s years. That one or two week span where we get to take a temporary break from our daily lives and experience something fun and exciting for a prolonged period of time. For decades my family and I have ventured to the more exotic locations available for our yearly vacations. As a result my wife and I took yearly vacations all over the globe. Just me, her, and exotic locales. What is the point of taking a vacation and sitting at home? That was my father’s perspective and as it became my own. It wasn’t until my later years that I learned the true value of a vacationing at home, aka The Staycation.
It began with an unfortunate turn of events. My wife tired of venturing across the globe, refused to accompany me to the beaches of Hawaii. “But it’s Hawaii,” I protested. I threw my hands in the air.
“We’ve been there before, and besides your son needs us to baby sit the girls,” she replied.
Children, you love them, but they do tend to be mood killers at times. This was one of those times.
I was devastated by my loss of Hawaii. I had been dreaming of beaches and tropical birds for months. What did I do to escape that funk? I considered going on vacation without the wife…but that was just depressing. The second option, the only option really, was to create a staycation that my co-workers would be envious of.
Every morning I would begin my staycation with a fruit smoothie on the back porch. There is nothing like drinking a smoothie at sunrise near a lake. I watched Louis and Verna, the ducks that frequented the area, waddle around the backyard before their brood of chirping ducklings. Above the staggered group hummingbirds flickered around the bird feeder. Every morning was a marvelous experience, made even better with the presence of my grandchildren squirming around me. I spent a few mornings and evenings like that. Basking in nature and conversing with my family.
Due to the fact that I actually wanted to produce the illusion I was on a vacation, my wife, the kids, and I went out to eat at one of the local restaurants for dinner every night. Due to the fact that my wife and I always eat in, we had a lot of restaurants to choose from.
One morning after breakfast, I packed my grandchildren into my truck and hit the road. A few hours later we were at Jump Creek, a nearby canyon that is a wonderful place to hike and enjoy nature. It had been years since I had frequented the trails. I had missed the sagebrush, the wild flowers, and local animal life. My grandchildren exclaimed in awe at the cliff swallows and hawks that crossed our path. The screamed when a snake slithered onto the path.
At the end of the trail there we came across a 60-foot waterfall. The cascading water sparkled in the sun. It was a gorgeous site that I did not need to tarry far from home to experience, yet I had deprived myself of this very accessible site for years. After I had fished my drowning grandchild from the pond, my wife, the kids, and I trekked back to the car. With all the excitement they didn’t even remember to ask “are we there yet?” once.
The day ended with my family back on our deck watching the birds and bees flitter around the yard. We didn’t even mind all that much when the mosquitoes joined the fun. Since that first staycation, I have made an effort to explore the environment of my own surroundings. What is the point of experiencing exotic locations when you barely know your own?
You can follow all our science-y travels on the Have Science Will Travel map.