The Beauty of Being Outside

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

April is a special month for considering the natural world and our connection to it. Earth Day happens in April, and it may be the first month of the new year that brings enough sunshine and thawing to begin spending more time outdoors again.

In keeping with this year’s theme of contemplating life’s greater meanings, I’ve been thinking about the many gifts nature presents, and several come to mind. Forget for a moment the idea of going out to exercise, and instead, take a step outside to experience what it feels like to simply stand in a lush green area. Do you hear the sounds of birds and insects? Can you feel the warmth of the sun on your face as you turn it up to the sky with your eyes closed? Even spending a few moments outdoors brings peace.

There is joy in taking our cues from nature. Seasons do not change overnight; they transition over time. If you feel your body needs time to catch up with the mind, listen to it. Start increasing your time outdoors and in the benefits of nature by taking a 10-minute walk with a friend or reading a chapter of your book outside. Focus on how nice it is to pause and inhale fresh air rather than rushing to your next destination.

Do not be surprised if you feel compelled to spend more and more time outdoors, and don’t underestimate how doing so strengthens your mind-body connection. Mother Nature is the friend who is always happy to hear your thoughts.

One Foot in Front of the Other

Most people view running as the best way to engage in cardiovascular activity, but did you know that walking has the same benefits with hardly any of the risk for injury? More and more health care professionals and physical therapists recommend walking versus running as a healthy way to stay active throughout one’s life.

At Touchmark, there are many opportunities for walking. All communities have Touchmark Trekkers, a walking club with varying routes and outings appropriate for different seasons and abilities. Indoor walking paths get you moving without having to brave the elements, and you’re likely to run into familiar faces as you do so. Outdoor courses provide the opportunity to engage with nature and enjoy the fresh air. Some of the key benefits of regular walking include:

Improved circulation
Walking gets the blood pumping, which lowers blood pressure over time and strengthens the heart muscles, reducing the risk of heart disease.

Increased bone density
One of the lesser known benefits of walking is its effect on stopping and reversing bone density loss. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) study of postmenopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.

More socialization
Unlike running, it’s easy to hold a conversation while walking. Taking a walk with a friend or group of people is a great way to tend to both your physical and mental health.

Release of endorphins
If you’re in a lousy mood, research shows going for a walk outdoors is sure to turn it around. Walking releases endorphins: the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Resident Joanne McCann is an avid fan of walking. “I like to be out and active. All my life, I’ve done it. It’s easy to do, and I feel good when I do it. I go different places and I get to see different things. I walk on the Centennial Trail with the Touchmark Trekkers. I actually like to walk outdoors best, but in the winter, I walk indoors,” she says.

For those seeking adventure, check with your Health & Fitness or Life Enrichment/Wellness team members about upcoming Trekkers outings.

How to Detect the Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s

Each year, nearly 60,000 Americans and 7,000 Canadians are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As you age, the likelihood that either you or someone close to you will develop Parkinson’s greatly increases. The Touchmark community of team members and residents are very familiar with the disease and its effects on individuals living with the disease and their families. So, in honor of April being Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we’re highlighting the early warning signs that may signal either you or someone you know has Parkinson’s, and how to best help once diagnosed.

Shakiness

A slight shake or tremor through a person’s hands or head could be an early indicator of a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Shaking can also be caused by overexertion, stress, and certain medicines, so an occasional tremor shouldn’t cause immediate concern.

Hyposmia or loss of smell

Whether your family member is recovering from a cold or flu or just battling seasonal allergies, a decreased sense of smell might not warrant an extra trip to the doctor. However, if your loved one’s health is in otherwise good condition and they begin to notice a decreased ability to smell foods like bananas, lemons, onions, and cinnamon, they may be experiencing symptoms of the first stage of Parkinson’s.

Difficulty sleeping

Does your spouse often keep you up, tossing and turning throughout the night? Many people with Parkinson’s experience increased movement while they sleep, and those movements are often sudden and severe. A few restless nights aren’t a cause for concern, but intense ‘acting out’ of dreams could be an early sign of the disease.

Constipation

A number of things, including dehydration, lack of fiber, or new medicine, can cause constipation. If these three causes can be safely ruled out, continued constipation may be a sign of something more serious.

Lightheadedness

Feeling an occasional rush of dizziness when standing up too quickly is common among people of all ages. The frequent feeling of vertigo or lightheadedness is often due to a sudden drop in blood pressure, also known as orthostatic hypotension. While blood pressure medication may be a cause, a doctor should be consulted, as it can be another sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Changes in speech

One of the major symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is slurred speech, but a similar indicator can help detect Parkinson’s in its early stages. People who begin to talk unusually softly or in a monotonous tone may be presenting one of the early warning signs of the disease.

Slow, stiff movements

Along with a slight tremor, moving slowly and stiffly is one of the key warning signs that someone has developed Parkinson’s. Early in the disease, this decreased range of motion likely will be limited to just one side of the body and cause some difficulty walking or initiating movements.

Cramped handwriting

The shift from regular handwriting to small, cramped letters is known as micrographia, a condition that is often linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

There is currently no known cure for Parkinson’s disease, but recognizing the warning signs as early as possible and taking action on interventions, such as exercise and therapy, can help slow the disease process. Showing signs of one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily determine a Parkinson’s diagnosis, but it’s always best to speak with your health care provider if you begin to notice a combination of these symptoms.

If you do have a loved one with a known Parkinson’s diagnosis, there are a few precautions you can take to make sure they remain as healthy and happy as possible. It’s important to help them manage their daily medications, assist in making financial decisions regarding medical treatment, and provide daily care as you contemplate in-home care or amove to a residential community. Touchmark’s Gold Standard hospitality, award-winning Full Life Wellness & Life Enrichment Program, certified fitness professionals, and highly trained staff are available 24/7 to ensure residents receive the services they need and a full, enriched life.

While more than one million Americans and Canadians will be living with Parkinson’s by next year, it’s important to note that people with Parkinson’s can still live a full and active life, especially if diagnosed early. By familiarizing yourself with the early warning signs, many of which are noticeable up to 10 years before motor functions are severely affected, you can ensure a higher quality of life. We recommend speaking to your doctor if any of these symptoms regularly occur. In addition, our team at Touchmark is always available to answer any questions about the services we provide for families living with this increasing disease.

A Little Bit of Weight Loss Goes a Long Way

Image of an older woman and older man on stationary bikes side by side in a fitness gym.

To lose weight, it’s best to set small, achievable goals. One success leads to the next. How much weight do you need to lose? Research suggests losing as little as 5% of your starting weight will make a big difference.

Too much weight increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked into how much weight loss would be necessary to reduce the risk of these life-threatening conditions.

Food for Thought

Their study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, examined 40 obese volunteers who showed signs of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic condition that interferes with the ability of cells to use insulin for absorbing glucose—the sugar your body makes from digesting carbohydrates. Glucose is used as energy by all the cells and organs in our bodies. If unable to get into the cells, glucose builds up in the blood and damages the lining of blood vessels. Cells become starved for energy, triggering the pancreas to produce even more insulin in an effort to help cells absorb glucose.

Blood vessel damage caused by glucose attracts plaque deposits. Left unchecked, insulin resistance ruins the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, while the body’s cells lose their ability to use insulin. The outcome is Type 2 diabetes, which further increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of people with Type 2 diabetes.

5% Dividend

In the study, volunteers were assigned randomly to programs designed to either maintain their weight or to lose 5%, 10%, or 15% of their weight. Those who lost only 5% showed significant improvements in pancreatic function and the ability of cells in their body to use insulin. Those who lost slightly more showed even greater improvement.
The takeaway from the study is that if your weight has you worried about your health, take heart that losing as little as 5% of your body weight will send you on your way to a healthier future.

SMART Goal Setting

Focus first on what you want to accomplish today. Achieving daily goals will give you the ability to meet weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Setting SMART goals will help build your confidence to commit to the 5% target:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Rewarding
T – Timely

Unlike the general statement “losing a pound,” walking 300 minutes in the next week is specific. Instead of “walking more often,” 300 minutes a week is measurable. If 300 minutes a week is unrealistic, 150 minutes a week may be more attainable. If you don’t like to walk, perhaps riding a bike or swimming would be more rewarding. Finally, one week is the timely standard that ultimately determines whether the goal is met.

Article by Bill Jennings, ACSM-CEP, Touchmark Fitness Professional

What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Brain

Image of two hands cupping a plastic heart.

As one of the hardest-working muscles in your body, it comes as no surprise that the human heart has a significant impact on the functionality of the body’s other organs. Your brain relies on your heart to deliver a continuous blood supply, so the healthier your heart, the lower your risk of developing dementia and heart disease.

With February being American Heart Month, it’s a great time to focus on how you can improve both your heartand your brain with just a few simple changes, including some surprises you canenjoy this season.

Stick to a healthy diet.

Eating clean, nutritious meals is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. Those who maintain a healthy diet typically have lower cholesterol and blood sugar levelsas well as a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Foods that are good for both brain and heart health include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meat, and fish. Limiting trans and saturated fats is another beneficial change you can make for your overall health.

Let yourself indulge.

While we still recommend moderation when it comes to sweets, letting yourself indulge in treats like dark chocolate can offer your heart some benefits. As long as the dark chocolate is high in cocoa content (and low in added sugar!),consuming it in moderation offers a good source of antioxidants, lowers yourrisk of heart disease, and increases blood flow to the brain.

Another example of an occasional heart-healthy treat is enjoying some grapes, whether as a glass of red wine or grape juice. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red grapes, has been shown to help protect blood vessels and lower your risk of heartattacks.

Get moving …

Research has shown a direct connection between fitness for the heart and fitness for the brain. All Touchmark Health & Fitness clubs andstudios have state-of-the-art equipment. The Expresso HD bike is one example.This stationary bike gives users an interactive riding experience that is funand works large muscle groups while stimulating the brain.

Resident and Club member Bill Hines discovered the bike is a good exercise alternative when he doesn’t take his road bicycle out on trails around Edmond. “I don’t want to sit somewhere and stare at the wall,” he says. “This gives me a way to feel like I’m really there. It’s neat. I can shift gears. I can steer. I can watch peoplepass me on the road and try to peddle faster to pass them up.”

A unique password allows riders to login and track their accomplishments and ride data, even allowing one torace against previous record times. There are also monthly challenges to helpkeep riders motivated.

We recommend individuals exercise for 30 – 60 minutes a day and include cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance in their routines.

… and keep it moving.

Sitting is the new smoking, according to a study performed by the Mayo Clinic. While it may sound like an extreme claim, it holds true. After just 30 minutes of sitting, our body’s metabolism slows down by 90%, good cholesterol drops by 20%, and we become likelier to develop high blood pressure and blood sugar.

There is good news, though. Moving for just five minutes after 30 minutes of sitting can greatly improveyour health over time. This small amount of movement will help protect yourmuscles from deteriorating, increase your energy, and assist you in keeping offunwanted weight.

If you spend hours reading or looking at your computer each day, investing in a standing desk can help you stay on your feet and get your blood flowing. Transitioning to a standing desk can also reduce back and neck pain, according to Start Standing. This transition may feel uncomfortable at first, but soon, your body will be thanking you.

Maintain your friendships.

Next time a friend or family member suggests you get together, say yes. Studies show that routinely interacting with friends and loved ones can improve your physical health by strengthening your immune system and fighting off common sicknesses.

While all social interactions can improve your health, face-to-face interactions are best. After all, humans are social creatures and have always done best when interacting within a community and social setting.

Having a healthy heart and brain starts by committing to these changes daily. To learn more about the different health and wellness programs offered at Touchmark, visit our website, Touchmark.com. Happy Heart Month!

The Many Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults

Image of an older adult with a kitten, both of whom are reaping the benefits of pet ownership.If you are a pet lover, you’ll most likely be one all of your life. Those who have owned pets know just how rewarding having a furry friend can be, and how pets quickly become members of our families.

People derive many emotional benefits from owning a pet, even more so as older adults. In this post, we’ll examine some of the best reasons why you should consider having a cat or dog (or other pet) around in retirement.

Companionship

Even if you’re an introvert, everyone needs socialization in their lives, lest we feel lonely and isolated. Though your cat or dog can’t “talk,” they are more than capable of providing friendship and loyalty. Just like humans, domestic pets have unique personalities, skills, and habits that you can treasure and enjoy.

Exercise

For most of us, the most enjoyable form of exercise is the one that doesn’t actually feel like exercise. Going on a leisurely stroll outside with your dog each day is a great way to get moving and feels completely different mentally than tracking your time on the treadmill. It’s fantastic for your dog’s health, and yours! You can exercise with a cat as well by engaging in high-energy play throughout the day.

Sense of Purpose

Being a caretaker is a big responsibility that can provide a meaningful significance in our lives. Knowing your pet depends on you for their well-being, happiness, and health is a great motivator to keep active and positive. Everyone deserves to feel needed and appreciated.

Stress Relief

Did you know that scientific research tells us that holding or petting an animal is an effective form of stress relief? Specifically, it lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol production is the leading cause of physiological stress and anxiety. What better way to achieve serenity than to snuggle with a soft and cuddly companion?

Safety & Comfort

If you’ve grown accustomed to living with a spouse or partner, it can be challenging to maintain that sense of security after they’re gone. Though having a pet cannot replace your loved one, it can help you feel safer at night or when you’re alone. Dogs also serve as excellent deterrents for burglars if home safety is a concern for you when you’re out. Even tiny dogs sound intimidating when barking behind a closed door!

Routine

Having some things to do each day provides stability and structure from which nearly everyone benefits. Incidentally, pets best behave when they have a routine and boundaries, too. Keeping even a loose daily regimen with your pet will provide the foundation you both need to find comfort in your home life and free up your brain for more exciting activities.

New Friends & Interests

Having a pet is a hobby that you can share with others if you choose to view it as such. You may see the same people walking their pets each day, or run into familiar faces at the dog park or groomer. These days, there are groups that exist solely to participate in pet-centric activities and excursions. So if you feel like you’d like to expand your friendship circle, hop online and see if others are nearby who want to plan a pug playdate or a mastiff meetup.

In summary, life is better with friends. If you feel something is missing in your life, or you’d like it to be sweeter, consider adopting a pet today. You’ll be doing yourself and your companion a world of good!

To learn more about retirement living at Touchmark, visit our website or Facebook.

Fun, Adventure, and Involvement—The Perfect Recipe for Active Aging

Image of Marion Travis, Touchmark residentWhen Marion Travis, 62, decided to move to Touchmark at Wedgewood almost two years ago, she was looking for peace of mind and a sense of community. “There are less worries here. If I need something, there’s someone who can help, and there’s always someone new to meet and talk to.”

Choosing a community in a familiar part of the city and close to her three children was also a huge benefit for Marion, especially after her husband Wesley passed away. “There’s no point in being sad. I want to keep busy and try to keep moving.”

Originally from England and interested in traveling abroad, Marion worked temporarily as a nanny. This adventure led her to Alberta, Canada, where she met her husband of 35 years. They made their home in Edmonton’s west end to be near Wesley’s family. Marion then went to work as a Radiation Therapist at the Cross Cancer Institute until she retired two years ago. Though she has eased into and enjoys the relaxation of retired life, she makes sure she remains active every day.

“I take my 12-year-old-dog Kodi on long walks twice a day. I also just set up my Bowflex® gym and elliptical in my basement so I can improve my cardio and fight joint stiffness—three times a week.”

Marion also still enjoys golfing once a week, a pastime she and Wesley used to enjoy together. “I am part of a golf league at the Stony Plain Golf Course, and I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s Touchmark Golf Tournament. Golf is like gambling. There’s just that one good shot that keeps bringing me back each time.”

During the winter months, Marion heads south to her second home in Arizona, where she has recently taken up tennis. “My sister-in-law got me into the sport. It’s fun to hit the ball around, but honestly sometimes we have more fun talking than we do playing,” she laughs.

While physical activity is an integral part of Marion’s lifestyle, keeping fit mentally is equally vital to her routine. “It’s important to keep your mind healthy and active. I love trivia and games, and I volunteer in the Touchmark store and every Wednesday as a caller for bingo. I also sing in the Touchmark Glee Club as an alto-soprano, though it really depends on the key as to which way I go.”

Marion is also enjoying some of the new experiences her new community has to offer. For example, at a recent creative workshop, she made a terrarium, and she volunteers as a porter when residents living in the long-term care neighborhood go shopping.

“I don’t want to be a couch potato,” exclaims Marion.

Her top tips for active aging? “Find something that you enjoy. Find something that gets you out. And find something that gets you socializing.”

The Slow-Moving Art of Tai Chi

Image of Earl, demonstrating Tai chiMy tai chi journey started about four years before my major medical event. Tai chi was initially a way to stay at least peripherally connected with my martial arts background as I aged, but classes then became a big part of my recovery from sudden onset paralysis due to a brain mass and rare infection. One morning in late October 2012, I simply could not get up out of bed. A head CT at the emergency room revealed a two-centimeter benign tumor in my right frontal lobe. Fortunately, my vitals stabilized, and a surgeon removed the mass several days later. Despite the tumor removal, I spent nine long days completely paralyzed on my left side due to inflammation from the infection. It was unclear how much mobility I would regain.

Mind-body Balance

The gentle slow-moving art of tai chi focuses on balance and body awareness. It is incredibly beneficial to anyone suffering from mobility or balance issues, and can even be learned and practiced while seated. Shifting weight from one leg to the other and stepping forces both sides of the body to work. Simply learning the form also helps with memory, as the 108-move Yang-style (long) form consists of three distinct sections. While tai chi is fundamentally a martial art, it can be practiced by anyone and is not at all aggressive. The best description is “a moving meditation.”

GRATE{FULL}

I am thankful I was able to call upon my tai chi skills which helped in physical therapy. Balance, awareness of my center, and being able to funnel chi (energy) into my paralyzed left side helped tremendously. I recovered my ability to walk, work, and play guitar and ukulele. At Touchmark Meridian, we are very lucky to have Jeffrey Vik—one of the best instructors that I’ve ever encountered anywhere. Join us for the next class and feel the stress melt away!

This guest post is told by Earl, Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village resident and avid Health & Fitness Club member. It has been edited for brevity.

Top Outdoor Attractions in Touchmark States

As summer begins drawing to a close, you may feel compelled to spend as much time outside in as many awe-inspiring locations as possible. Always striving to be HELP{FULL}, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most beautiful outdoor attractions within a day’s driving distance of each Touchmark community.

Alberta, Canada

Banff National Park

Image of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada

Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park, and just a few hours away from Touchmark at Wedgewood. Every year millions of people travel to Banff to explore the breathtaking mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes, and enchanting forests. The park offers exciting activities all year round, including boat tours, dog sledding, bird watching, golf, museums, and much more. Travelers of all activity ability can find something fun to do at Banff National Park, making it a memorable trip for anyone and everyone.

Bonus: Strap in for an otherworldly adventure atop the largest accumulation of ice south of the Arctic Circle. See a variety of different landmarks and top it off with a ride on the Ice Explorer over the ancient landscape of the Columbia Icefields. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Arizona

Coconino National Forest

Image of Cathedral Rock in the Coconino National Forest.

Known as one of the most diverse National Forests in the country, Coconino offers something for everyone. The geography of the park boasts the famous Sedona red rock peaks and canyons, Ponderosa pine forests, high desert land, and even alpine tundra. Visitors can hike through the forests, wade in lazy creeks, take helicopter tours over red rock formations, or go on white-knuckle, off-road 4×4 rides.

Bonus: Stop by Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona to sign up for one of many exciting ridealong tours, including ancient ruins with hieroglyphs from the Hopi and Sinagua tribes, Mystic Vista and other famous vortex sites, or Coyote Canyons chockfull of native wildlife sightings.

Idaho

Sawtooth National Forest

Image of hot springs in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho.

Covering more than two million acres of land, the Sawtooth National Forest is a beautiful landscape of mountains and valleys. A close neighbor to Touchmark at Meadow Lake Village, the Sawtooth is a fun day trip for any nature lover. The forest is home to four of Idaho’s beautiful scenic highways, which makes sightseeing easy and fun. While there are things to do all year round, Sawtooth is known for its winter activities. Its peaks and valleys make for amazing skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Bonus: If you’ve worked up and appetite, head to Limbert’s at Redfish Lake Lodge for fresh elk and trout entrées.

Montana

Glacier National Park

Image of Perito Moreno Glacier in Glacier National Park.

Located on the northern tip of Montana along the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is the gem of Montana. Glacier has a long, rich Native American history, perfect for the history buff and the outdoor adventurer. Contained within the borders of the park is the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, a largely preserved ecosystem that is almost completely untouched. Visitors will see almost the exact same view that European explorers saw when they first entered the region. The main attractions for outdoor enthusiasts are the many beautiful lakes and waterways within Glacier. Lakeside camping and hiking, kayaking, historical sightseeing, and stargazing are just a few of the breathtaking attractions in the park.

Bonus: Make your way over to Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 52-mile scenic highway through the park which crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. You might catch a glimpse of mountain goats, bears, moose, and other wildlife!

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Image of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Just two hours away from Touchmark on West Century, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is not only a beautiful sight but also a historic landmark. Before becoming president, Roosevelt fell in love with the rugged terrain and bought two ranches in the surrounding area. After his death, the park was established to celebrate his life and love of the North Dakota landscape. While visiting the park, you can overlook the Painted Canyons, explore Roosevelt’s ranch, or take scenic drives to see the beautiful rock formations and wildlife.

Bonus: Visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame and step back into the time of the Wild, Wild West! Learn about real-life cowboys and horses of the past and present, go on a horseback tour, and maybe catch a glimpse of a rough-and-tumble-style wedding.

Sheyenne National Grassland

Coming in at over 70,000 acres of land, the Sheyenne National Grassland is the largest and only National Grassland in the prairie region of the United States. Visitors can participate in many activities, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and sightseeing. Exploring the Grassland will lead you through bubbling creeks, historic bridges, a pioneer cemetery, and an old fire tower.

Bonus: Keep an eye out for the rare Dakota skipper and regal fritillary butterfly, two endangered species present only in North Dakota’s grassland.

Oklahoma

Natural Falls State Park

Image of waterfalls in Natural Falls State Park, Oklahoma.

Located near the Oklahoma/Arkansas border and only two hours from Touchmark at Coffee Creek, Natural Falls State Park is a fun day trip for those near Oklahoma City. The park’s main attraction is the 77-foot waterfall that cascades down fern covered rock formations. Railed and well-maintained trails allow visitors to look at every angle of the falls. The dense greenery offers fantastic flora and fauna, and cool forest trails. For those looking for a weekend, overnight trip, the park even offers several yurts to stay in.

Bonus: The 77-foot waterfall, called Dripping Springs, was the filming location for the 1974 movie that made us all cry, Where the Red Fern Grows. See if you can spot the famous backdrops from infamous scenes!

Oregon

Crater Lake National Park

Image of Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Located in south-central Oregon, Crater Lake is one of Oregon’s most treasured attractions. The famous cerulean blue water has been welcoming travelers for over 115 years. Visitors have many activities to choose from while exploring the lake and Crater Lake National Park. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, lovely campgrounds, and unlimited fishing.

Bonus: Stand in the center of the crater on Wizard Island! Tours will take you there and back via boat and give you plenty of time to explore, hike, fish, or swim. If you are interested in hiking to the summit of the island, we recommend taking the morning tour as opposed to the one in the afternoon.

Mount Hood National Forest

Just a quick, hour-long drive from Portland, Oregon, the shorter list would be what you can’t do on Mount Hood. Mount Hood National Forest offers unparalleled hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, skiing, and wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. Historical Timberline Lodge is a National Landmark, and known for its beautiful views, architecture, and fluffy St. Bernards. Mount Hood is also located only minutes off Oregon’s notorious Columbia River Gorge. Cities along the Columbia are known for their intriguing history and delicious foodie scene.

Bonus: Stop at Frog Lake in the late summer and early autumn to see literally millions of tiny frogs hopping around the lake or sometimes dried-up lakebed. Just be careful not to step on any of them, as they are everywhere!

South Dakota

Black Elk Peak

Image of Black Elk Peak, South Dakota.

If you truly want to feel like the king or queen of the world, you must make a beeline to Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills National Forest near Mount Rushmore. It is the highest point in the entire country east of the Rocky Mountains at 7,242 feet and provides stunning 100-mile views from the summit.

Bonus: Several trails lead to the summit, but the Harney Peak Trail Number 9 (Southern Approach Hiking Trail) is the most frequently climbed and is likely the easiest route up. Set out from the Sylvan Lake Day Use area and prepare for about a four- or five-hour trek roundtrip through granite towers and pristine lakes.

Badlands National Park

History and geology buffs, come round! The striated plains and pinnacles throughout Badlands National Park are downright awesome. These views allow us to see the true power of Mother Nature and her ability to transform.

Bonus: In addition to many hiking trails, Loop Road takes you through the park and allows you to absorb the scenery from your vehicle. There are many viewpoints at which you can stop, stretch your legs, and snap photos.

Washington

Mount Rainier National Park

Image of wildflowers at the base of Mount Rainier, Washington.

A short drive for the folks at Touchmark at Fairway Village, Mount Rainier is a sight to behold year round. Snow-capped trails in the winter give way to flower-laden meadows in the spring and summer. Most of the trails are accessible during the majority of the year and don’t require any hiking equipment.

Bonus: If wildflowers make you swoon, start off at the Paradise Area with an elevation of 5,400 feet. During the summer and early autumn, this area explodes with native flower species, butterflies, and honey bees.

Mount Spokane State Park

Only an hour away from Touchmark on South Hill, Mount Spokane State Park is a beautiful day trip destination that everyone can enjoy. As one of the largest state parks in Washington, Mount Spokane offers hundreds of miles of trails, activities for every season, and spectacular wildlife viewing.

Bonus: Summit Road is perfect as a lower impact or even drivable adventure. Drive to the top and take in the views, stop at the Vista House with a view of six different lakes, and walk easy trails around the summit.

Wisconsin

Apostle Islands

Image of the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin.

The Apostle Islands are an idyllic collection of 22 islands located on the coast of Lake Superior. The National Lakeshore offers provides the opportunity for a plethora of water sports, bird watching, and cave exploring, but is first and foremost (surprisingly) a botanist’s dream. Within the lakeshore, over 800 plant species can be found; many of which are endangered, threatened, or uniquely native to Wisconsin.

Bonus: These islands have a rich geological history. Glaciated several times independently, you will find rock formations, mineral deposits, and other natural wonders not typically found all in one spot. Maritime Forest, Sandscape (includes beaches, sandspits, cuspate forelands, and tombolos), and Maritime Cliff State Natural Areas are all ready for exploration within the Lakeshore.

Cool Down With Summer Mocktails

With summer temperatures rising, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated. Getting enough water can be difficult sometimes; especially if you’re craving something with more flavor. A nice cocktail by the pool is a fun alternative, but the alcohol can increase the risk of dehydration. To find the best of both worlds, take a look at these fun, hydrating mocktails, or cocktails without alcohol.

  1. Watermelon Lime Punch

This delicious punch combines the hydrating power of watermelon with a refreshing hint of mint to create a tasty punch for any garden party. Just blend fresh watermelon, stir in some honey and lime juice, add mint and ice, and enjoy! For the full recipe click here.

  1. Cucumber Lime Mojito

Mojitos are a fun summer treat, but all the sugar in them can make you thirstier than when you started. This version switches out sugary syrups for cooling cucumber and a hint of citrus. In a glass, muddle cucumber slices, mint, and a dash of sugar. Fill the glass with ice, and top everything off with lime club soda. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Blackberry Lemon Spritzer

For a tangy, bubbly twist on lemonade, try this Blackberry Lemon Spritzer for your next party. Pour lemonade and lemon club soda into a pitcher. Then, mix in your blackberries; lightly muddling about half the total amount. Chill until ready to serve, and then add ice and a few more blackberries for texture. For the full recipe, click here.

  1. Pomegranate Sparkler

For those who enjoy a more tart beverage, check out this Pomegranate Sparkler. Be careful to choose the right pomegranate juice though, as many brands add a lot of extra sugar. To make this drink, mix sparkling water, pomegranate juice, and lime juice. Top with ice and enjoy! For the full recipe and others like it, click here.

  1. Raspberry Fizz

If you want to try out some more advanced mixology techniques, take a shot at this Raspberry Fizz Mocktail. In a shaker, muddle raspberries and lemon wedges. Add in ice, a dash of sugar, and—if you’re feeling adventurous—a bit of rose water. Shake well, strain into a glass with ice, and top with club soda. To get the full recipe, click here.

What are your favorite summer beverages? Let us know!