BTS in Acadia National Park

Here’s the thing about photoshoots: they’re not always the glamorous, linen soirees they’re made out to be. When we went to Acadia National Park on the eastern shores of Maine for our Fall photoshoot, we got rain, snow, ice, stuck cars, closed roads, and an emergency drill. It was a far cry from blow dryers and lemon water – so naturally, we were stoked. 

Protruding into the Atlantic, Acadia National Park takes up the better half of Mount Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”, it’s a Maine thing) on the Schoodic Peninsula. It’s home to ragged cliffs, precarious lighthouses, bucolic lakes, and Cadillac Mountain — the tallest mountain on the eastern coastline and  first place in the USA to see the sunrise. Of course, the road to Cadillac Mountain is closed during the winter (news to us), so we changed the plans and started back at the beginning. 

The main entrance to Acadia NP is through Bar Harbor, ME – a shingled seaside town that ebbs and flows with tourists and the tides. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s a sea of baseball caps and tail lights. In the winter, you can have it all to yourselves (and a few hearty locals). 

Just outside of Bar Harbor we picked up the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a one-way “best of” tour of the park. Driving slowly and with our Kodaks at the ready, we hopped out to explore when the mood struck us: a jaunt up Precipice Trailhead, scrambling to unnamed overlooks, and a heated debate over whether to take the plunge at Sand Beach or not (we settled for a toe dip – and yes, it was freezing). 

Just short of Otter Cove we stopped off at Thunder Hole, a formation named for the cacophony of sound emitted from waves crashing against rocks. It did not disappoint. 

Likewise, Otter Cliff coaxed a few holy mackerels from our lips. These 110-foot granite cliffs are dotted with evergreens and icy waterfalls that quietly spill down into crystal green waters, beckoning you to take a plunge… I mean, if the otters can do it… 

When we rounded the corner to Jordan Pond our excursion came to an abrupt end due to a Park Ranger safety drill. So we did some calisthenics and picked up Route 3 back to Bar Harbor, in search or the one joint still serving cold brews and hot chowder. 

 

Local’s Guide to Peaks Island

4,600. That’s the number of islands that belong to the state of Maine. Somewhere in there is Peaks Island – a busy little suburb off the coast of Portland and home to one of our all-time favorite Toads, Ponch. He’s our National Retail Development Manager and has been heading up our flagship store in Freeport since 2001. A few things you should know about Ponch: he’s part polar bear, can fix literally anything, and he’s the greatest pizza chef in the state of Maine (unconfirmed, but trust us on this). He’s got every skill you need to live on a tiny Maine island for 365 days a year (which he does with his wife, 2 daughters, and 2 pups). When were out there for our photoshoot this fall, we sat around Ponch’s kitchen and got the local’s take on Peaks Island living.

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How many years have you lived on Peaks?

This stint is 13 years, but Jess and I did a previous 3 year stint.

What’s the easiest way to get there?

Casco Bay Lines Ferries out of the Portland harbor – same spot they’ve been running out of since 1880! It’s a 17 minute ferry through the bay, and you pass the old Fort Scammel, can see lighthouses and the Portland skyline. It’s really pretty (You can always take a water Taxi if you plan a late night out on the town).

What’s your last stop before the mainland?

Standard Baking Co. for incredible bread and Old Port Spirits and Cigars for libations.

Best place to get a pizza on the island?

My house! There aren’t any pizza joints on the island, but I like Portland’s Flatbread Pizza, or Micucci’s for a Sicilian Slab.

What’s the best way to get around on the island?

When you get off the ferry, walk up the hill, take the first left, walk a few blocks and visit Brad’s Recycled Bike Shop – you can rent all sorts of 80’s and 90’s bikes, plus some old Schwinn tandems and even kid carriers – great for your beer and lobsters, or dog, if not your kid. Walking is also great as is unicycling.

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Best place to watch the sunrise?

Picnic Point – I recommend walking out past the rope swing.

Best place to watch the sunset?

Picnic Point is still a great spot, or the front of the island to watch the sun set over Portland.  

Best spot to the get creative juices flowing?

The Illustration Institute cabins. The Illustration Institute is a non-profit based in Portland that allows artists to spend a few weeks off the grid, living in quiet cabins on the island just working on their craft.

Best spot for a cocktail?

Make your own in advance or pack the ingredients, put it in a thermos, and go hang out on the rocks.

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Best place to pitch a tent: 

It’s not necessarily legal, but can’t say it doesn’t happen… Best advice is to be friendly, and don’t make a mess, but know that most of the land is private and the rest of the island is Portland City property.

Best piece of advice for living on an island: 

A friend of mine had recently moved to the Great State of Maine and was considering buying a house but didn’t know where. He asked me about Peaks but had heard that it was a pain. My response to him was “It’s only a pain if you don’t like boats.” You have to know that you can’t get home without a boat and you can’t come and go on your own schedule. You have to share transportation with a whole bunch of people – some you know and some you don’t, some you like and some you don’t care for. BUT it’s a very pleasant way to start a commute or end a long day or week. 

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For more local tips about Maine, catch up with Ponch and the rest of the Toads at our Toad&Co Freeport store at 11 Bow Street in Freeport, ME.

Our Favorite Camping Hacks

If you tuned into our most recent episode of Toad Hacks on Instagram, you saw Toads Lindsay and Drew share a few of their most tried and true camping hacks. Because this is prime camping season (changing leaves and fall sunsets, yes please), and we want you all to enjoy it as much as we do, here are those hacks plus a few more.

Bring The Heat

A good central fire is key to any campout. Store charcoal briquettes in a cardboard egg crate before you get to your site, then light it to start your fire easily when you get there. You can also save dryer lint and put it in the middle of old toilet paper rolls.

Camp Kitchen Essentials (aka all the amazing things from home you can reuse)

We’d be lying if we said mealtime around said fire wasn’t one of the main highlights of every camping trip we take. So we mean business when it comes to our camp kitchen setup.

Breakfast – An unexpected plot twist for your condiment bottles: Save them to reuse on your next camping trip. Before you head out, fill them with pancake batter or eggs (shells off and pre-whisked) and pop them in the cooler. Come breakfast at the campsite, you’re ready to go with an easy meal (and impressive too, if that’s what you’re going for).

Lunch and Dinner – We love a meal in a cast iron pan because the possibilities are literally limitless. You can use it on the camp stove or over the fire, and you can cook virtually anything in it.  And anything that’s sturdy, durable, and lasts a lifetime is a win in our book.

Pantry Essentials  – On one of our Toad campouts, someone realized that an old toolbox makes the perfect camp kitchen kit. Who knew? It’s the ideal size for spices, utensils, bottle openers, and mini bottles of booze. Cheers!

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Cleanup – Take an empty laundry detergent dispenser, fill it with water, flip it upside down, and you have a hand and dish-washing station right at the campsite. Put a bucket below to catch runoff water. Whoever’s on dishes duty will thank you.

The Sweet Stuff

We recently learned an epic tip that will flip your S’mores world upside down (thanks to Toad Lindsay’s Mother-in-Law and everyone’s favorite Toad mom Kathy). Put the piece of chocolate in the middle of your marshmallow before roasting. It’s gooey and delicious and trust us, you’ll never look at a S’more the same way again.

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The Every Campout Checklist

Keep your checklist by your camping gear so you never forget the essentials. We don’t leave home without our headlamps – key for keeping your hands free for more fun things than holding a flashlight (see: S’mores and whipping up a stellar breakfast). Also important to the checklist: Mini first aid kit, microfiber towels (compact, quick-drying, and lightweight), and reusable cups and utensils. 

reusable cup

What We’re Wearing

Lindsay’s favorite is the Telluride Sherpa Jacket – “Not only is it two jackets in one, but it also makes a perfect pillow. The triple threat of eco-friendly jackets.”

telluride sherpa jacket

Drew’s loving the Epiq Jogger – “Fitted ankles keep the critters out and the Hemp and Organic Cotton blend makes them cozy enough to double as jammies.”

Epiq Jogger

Travel Packing Tips and Tricks

If you’ve been following along with our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable tour, you know all about our buddy Drew (AKA Dr. Drew) – Toad Customer Service Sorcerer, and leader of our first leg of the tour. Fresh off the road, we couldn’t think of a better expert on summer packing. So our Superstar Web Merchant Lindsay sat down with Drew on our most recent episode of Toad Hacks (check out today’s Insta Story to see their chat IRL) to talk packing tips. Here are the highlights, plus some bonus tips ’cause we love ya.

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BEFORE YOU GO

There are a couple of things Drew suggests you do before you head out to keep it simple and keep it sustainable once you Bon Voyage.

  • •Pre-trip recycling – If I buy something before a trip that comes in a wrapper or box (like a new phone charger or stick of deodorant), I make sure to recycle the packaging before I head out. Not everywhere has a streamlined recycling system, and this guarantees it makes it in the bin.
  • •Unplug before you…unplug – Before I leave for an epic adventure or a little R&R, I unplug the electronics in my house. It helps with my electricity bill and cuts down on energy usage, because did you know that electronics can steal power even when they’re turned off? Those sneaky little things…

 

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THE CHECKLIST

Check it once, check it twice. Drew never hits the road without these essentials.

  • •Headlamp – It’s second nature to remember socks and underwear, but you never know when an extra light will come in handy.
  • •Power converters – It’s so easy to forget that you might need adapters depending on where you’re traveling. I keep these close to my passport to remind me when I pack.
  • •Layer it up – When it comes to clothes, it’s all about finding the right layers to get you through any situation. Plus, choose versatile options that work as well hiking and exploring as they will going out to dinner.
  • •Shoe bags – Bring shoe bags (or better yet, recycled shopping bags) to keep clothes from mingling with dirty soles.
  • •Stay organized – I don’t go anywhere these days without these packing cubes (genius invention). They’re great for separating groups of clothes when packing, but I appreciate them most when they double as dirty clothes hampers to keep the stinky clothes from going AWOL all over my good ones. Plus, the 3 cubes weigh less than 2.2 oz total, so no stress about packing extra weight.

 

ALWAYS KEEP IT ECO

As a master of eco-conscious living, Drew always keeps these tips in mind.

  • •Utensils – Nothing bums me out more than a bunch of single-use plastic. At the minimum, I keep a spork on hand but when I’m feeling extra I’ll travel with my whole utensil set.
  • •Water bottle and beer mug/coffee cup – I’m a thirsty guy, but I’m not going to sacrifice the planet to wet my whistle. A reusable water bottle’s a must, and my beer mug easily doubles as a coffee cup.
  • •Pack light – Not only will your back thank you from saving it from major suitcase schlepping, but going easy on your bag weight is way better for the environment. The more weight a plane (or a train, or a car) carries, the more fuel it uses, so keep that bag lean.

 

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FAVORITE TRAVEL PIECES

We asked Drew and Lindsay to share which Toad pieces are on their summer packing lists.

  • •Drew – I lived in the Rover Short while I was on the road. I love these shorts because they clean up well, but they’re also super durable, quick-drying, and retain their shape.
  • •Lindsay – I love the Liv Dress for travel. You can take it from a hike to dinner super easily, plus it won’t wrinkle, no matter how rumpled your packing gets. Plus, it’s quick-drying, AND has pockets, so it really has everything you need for any sort of adventure.

 

For more hacks from the man, the myth, the doctor, check out Drew’s tips for car camping.

 

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The Solstice Challenge

Nothing beats a summer day that’s packed to the brim. The kind of day when your bones are tired from a day of rebel-rousing and joy-seeking. It’s the kind of tired that fuels your next wild idea. And that, friends, is The Solstice Challenge: We challenge you to use the longest day of the year to do something EPIC (pssst: there are prizes).  Post a photo and quick itinerary of your ultimate longest day to Instagram and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes a $200 Toad gift card. 

Need some inspiration? We asked some of the Toads to recall their most epic days… 

“I went to Fiji with my dad for a surf trip last October. The weather was horrible but we’d heard rumors that it was better on the other side of the island. So we took a taxi at 4am to the other side of the island (2 hrs), then hopped on a tiny boat (1 hr) to a world-famous surf spot, “Cloudbreak,” in the middle of the ocean over a reef. The boat dropped us off in the middle of the lineup with only a few other people. My dad and I spent the whole day surfing a world-famous wave in the middle of the ocean. When we got back to our side of the island, we were formally “accepted” into the local village through a traditional ceremony involving Kava and a lot of singing.”

– Danny, part fish/part Sales Manager 

“The most epic day was when I went spelunking in the largest cave system in the world, Vietnam’s Son Doong. I spent the day climbing cave walls, examining rare geological formations, swimming in subterranean rivers fed by underground waterfalls, and capped it off with sleeping in (literally) complete darkness. (Does it count as the best longest day if it’s pitch black?)” 

– Sarah, our Office Manager and resident geologist 

“One time, I took a trip Amsterdam to play in an ultimate Frisbee tournament for one day, and it was totally worth it!”

– Holly, Product Tech and master of spontaneity 

“I woke up to the desert sunrise in Nevada at 6am and hopped on my Harley. It always gets windy around the Nevada/California line in Mojave. It’s a gusty wind so riding becomes really physical. At certain points my whole body was on an incline, just fighting the wind. But I had to get back to Santa Barbara that day for my buddy’s wedding that night. So I drove about 600 miles through the desert, cleaned up nice, and made it to the wedding. That was actually a pretty epic day… now I’m getting excited for another trip…” 

– Anthony, Graphic Designer and professional wedding date 

“I recently spent an epic day in Philadelphia… coffee on the “Rocky” steps, a stroll through the Museum of Art, a planetarium show at the Franklin Institute, not one but TWO cheesesteaks, whiskey tasting in Fishtown, a tip o’ the hat to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, wandering along Spruce Street Harbor, open mic night at the Magic Garden, bar hopping on South Street, rooftop rosé for sunset (at 9pm!), and a dance party on Electric Avenue. I walked 16.3 miles that day…”  

– Daisy, Content Manager and amateur Rocky impersonator 

“A few years ago my buddies and I woke up at 5am to drive to Mount Baldy (the highest point in LA County) to catch the first chair lift of the day. Over lunch beers we had the wild idea to blaze back to Venice Pier in time to catch a few ankle biters… That day was an epic day.”
– Napper, Creative Director and eternal “hell yes man” 

Don’t forget to post a photo and quick itinerary to Instagram of your ultimate longest day and tag #ToadSolsticeChallenge. Winner takes home a $200 Toad gift card. Winner announced on 6/22, so hop to it!
 

Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour: Meet Our New Master Roadtrippers

When one eco-friendly trailer door closes, another opens. While Dr. Drew’s passion for sustainability and general stoke for life have been integral to launching our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable mobile tour, his time on the road has come to an end. While Drew returns to the Toad mothership in Santa Barbara, CA, we’re kicking off a new chapter of the tour in Freeport, ME—with a new rad couple at the wheel.

Rob and Rachel
Don’t worry, Dr. Drew always has his place on the tour.

 

Meet Rob and Rachel. Originally from Atlanta (Rob) and Connecticut (Rachel), the pair met at Appalachian State University, tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. They most recently lived in Denver where Rob worked as a land use planner and Rachel was working with geographic information systems for the city. Now, they’re onto their next big adventure as they hit the road to spread the word about how we’re helping to clean up the apparel industry.

Toad HQ: What made you want to join the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable tour?

Rachel: We had been tossing around the idea of a big road trip for a while now, so when we heard about the tour through my sister Sam (who works at the Toad&Co Freeport store), we knew we wanted in! I’ve been a big fan of Toad for a while now and love the word that this tour is spreading.

Rob: We’re already fans of the brand and really support Toad’s ecologically responsible practices. We really wanted to be a part of increasing awareness of the environmental impacts of the apparel industry (4th largest global polluter—real bummer) and offering an alternative (go nude, or wear sustainable clothing). It was a no brainer!

What are you most excited about in the months ahead as you lead the charge on the STP tour? 

Rob: I’m excited to see parts of the country that I’ve never been to, and engage the local communities as we raise awareness about sustainability.

Rachel: Aside from the two stops (Freeport and Chicago) on this next leg, every place will be new so I’m really stoked to see cities we haven’t been to and connect with the people in those communities.

What’s your favorite U.S. city to visit? 

Rachel: It’s always whatever’s next! Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time in Santa Fe and we love it. The sunsets, food, and hiking are killer.

What about your favorite national park?

Rachel: Rocky Mountain National Park, without a doubt.

Rob: Ditto! Living in Denver gave us the opportunity to spend plenty of time there. I’m stoked to visit new parks along the trip, especially Glacier NP and Northern Cascades NP. Who knows—maybe we’ll wrap up our time on the tour with a new favorite…

How about your favorite road trip songs?

Rob: Can’t go wrong with a long Phish or Dead jam to crush some miles!

Rachel: You’ll usually find me listening to some folk or bluegrass. There’s a lot of John Prine and Vampire Weekend in my current rotation.

Which one of you is most likely to get caught belting out your favorite tunes while driving?

Rachel: We have a few solid duets in our repertoire, but probably me!

At Toad, we stand by the idea that every day is an adventure. What are your best tips for living life this way? 

Rob: Go for it! If you’ve ever wanted to do something, you can find a way.

Rachel: And don’t wait. Just make it happen!

What outdoor activities get you most fired up?

Rob: Backpacking and fly fishing. But also into hiking, cycling, running, and climbing. I guess this is also how I live every day as an adventure!

Rachel: I love biking around to check out new spots, backpacking and hiking, and I’ve recently gotten into fly fishing with Rob.

Even the most adventurous of us need a little downtime. How do you like to spend yours?

Rachel: I love to bake (mostly pies) and garden.

Rob: Playing guitar, eating good food, and an occasional binge watch on a rainy day.

Can you share your best hacks for living life on the road sustainably?

Rob: Bring reusable cups and utensils, say “for here!” when ordering food and coffee, wear clothes a lot between washes (dirty is the new clean), and stop to make food on the road.

Rachel: We try to limit our waste as much as possible—make our own food, bring to-go containers, eat in if we don’t have them, and always say no to straws!

STP key handoff
The official passing of the torch (aka keys to the rig).

 

If we learned one thing from Drew, it’s that the search for the best cup of coffee and most tasty beer is critical on a long road trip (just kidding, Dr. Drew, you taught us a lot). What’s currently topping your list? 

Rachel: I’ll get a vanilla latte when I’m treating myself, and my old neighborhood coffee shop in Denver, Queen City Collective, makes the best cuppa Joe. When it comes to beer, I’m really into the Milkshake IPA right now. WeldWerks in Colorado does ’em best.

Rob: You can’t go wrong with a good IPA, clear or hazy. Right now we’re in Maine and I’m loving Lunch from Maine Beer Co. For coffee, I typically go for a local light roast in whichever city we’re in.

Have you ever gone nude in the name of sustainability (we have to ask…)?

Rachel: We haven’t yet, but anything’s possible on the tour, right?!

Rachel and Rob

What are your favorite Toad clothes to keep it comfy on the road? 

Rachel: Definitely the Hillrose Short Sleeve Shirt (in the Pink Sand Resort print) when I’m feeling fun! And the Tara Hemp Pant—the perfect summer pant. Dress ’em up, dress ’em down.

Rob: I love the Taj Hemp Short Sleeve Slim Shirt and the Rover Short!

Learn more about the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable tour and find out if we’re coming to your neck of the woods.

 

Dr. Drew’s Car Camping Hacks

When the phrase “car camping” comes to mind, you might envision the well-curated craft of surviving in the out-of-doors a la Wes Anderson. It’s a well executed blend of home sweet home meets the great outdoors into a savory alfresco. But when is comes to driving a rickety 1959 trailer across the country on our Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour, the line between survival and car glamping begins to blur. But Dr. Drew, our Tour Manager and Master of Wingin’-It makes tight tour dates and long hours between the white lines look like a breeze. We caught up with Dr. Drew for his advice and insights into easy summer car camping. 

Cot or inflatable or sleeping pad? No more sleeping pads! Cots or inflatable only to help keep the ol’ back in fighting shape.

Sleeping bag VS. Blanket? What you want is a high “warm and cozy” factor and the freedom to move freely. In the summertime, I go blanket. Currently using: ​Down-filled Kammok Bobcat Trail Quilt (mostly because I like the name). For a lighter but equally cozy option, I’m all about the Cashmoore Blanket

Jerky – A tasty protein filled snack that keeps froth levels high and hunger levels low. Currently munching: Epic Provisions, high quality product and a mission-based company. 

Kitchen – Never hit the road without a way to heat up water. No matter where you are, you can fire up a hot meal and warm the soul. Currently using: Jet Boil Genesis Base Camp System. Lightweight, packable, everything you need to get gourmet if you want. 

Quinoa – Fills you up in desperate times. Good sweet or savory. 

Trail Mix – When the Jet Boil runs out of fuel and you have to go caveman style. I’m currently snacking on Shar Snacks (rhymes with “bear”), which I picked up in Austin. Organic and responsibly sourced. 

A good book – Currently reading: History of Haight Ashbury by Charles Perry.

Audio Book – The sound of another human’s voice can be quite comforting on the open road, especially when it reminds you of home. Currently listening to: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

Illumination – Headlamp: Princeton Tec. String lights: Revel Gear Trail Hound 30ft. Back up: Bic Lighter and soy candle.

A good sweater – Keeps ya warm and doubles as a pillow. Currently wearing: Midfield Hemp Crewneck.

Tunes – DemerBox for indestructible tunes and a long battery life. Currently jamming to: 2 Spotify playlists, Highway Sounds (more rocky/bluesy) and I’m With Her (all the badass ladies). 

Bug Control – When you’re in Charleston in the summertime, you need all the help you can get. I’m not a fan of the chemical sprays so I like to wear clothes with Insect Shield® Technology built right into it. Currently wearing: Debug Mission Ridge Pants and Debug Peak Season Shirt – they keep the bugs out and still look presentable for date night. 

Trash – Rule #1: try not to make any. I like to make my own meals, buy in bulk with mason jars, and avoid takeout. But if you’re driving, stick a box on the passenger seat floor, a perfect receptacle for cherry stems and peach pits. 

Hydration Station – My ultimate long drive hack: strap a Camelbak to your seat and never deal with water bottle caps and spills again! 

Happy Trails. Come out and see the Save the Planet, Wear Sustainable Tour on the road. Check out national summer schedule here

The Best National Parks

Alright, full disclosure: There are a ton of National Parks that we could add. It’s hard to say that any ONE park is the BEST park. What’s not to love about Yosemite’s Half-Dome or the Grand Canyon’s… well, GRAND canyon? And the Great Smokey Mountains! One of the most mind-blowing network of trails on the planet! But try we must. So here’s our super-scientific, definitely not-subjective list of Best National Parks: 

A marmot by Hidden Lake and Reynolds Mountain in Glacier NP. (photo via Tobias Klenze)

Best For Epic Views: Glacier National Park

With more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park has no shortage of jaw dropping views. Bonus: cross the border to explore the Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. It’s all part of the same range (because borders are a human thing, not a nature thing).

The campsite Jumbo Rocks really lives up to its name.

Best For Camping Under the Stars: Joshua Tree 

Big rocks, dark skies, and some really freakin’ cute “trees.” There’s no better place to catch nature’s celestial spectacular than Joshua Tree National Park, the mystical rock field at the nexus of two great deserts. Plan your trip around a meteor shower and don’t forget to pack layers (it’s the desert!).

The Pacific Northwest rainforest ranges from Northern California to British Colombia.

Best For Getting Wet: Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park actually has four different regions – the epic Pacific coastline, the western temperate rainforest, the alpine regions and the drier eastern forests. On the west side of the park is Hoh Rain Forest, where rainfall (12-14 feet annually!) and a lush canopy of coniferous and deciduous trees create perfect rainforest conditions for mosses and ferns to flourish. 

Eye spy something pointy… (photo via Burley Packwood)

Best For Tacos: Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is split into two sections that straddle Tuscon, AZ, making it an excellent park for people who love a taco pit-stop. On the East side, start at the Douglas Spring Trail and head up to Wild Horse Tank, then hit up Street Taco and Beer Co (free chips!) in downtown Tucson, then head to the West side to catch the King Canyon Trail before the sun goes down. The namesake Saguaro cacti abound.

They’re cute until they steal your lunch. (photo via National Park Service)

Best For Solitude: Channel Islands National Park

Off the coast of Central California are five remote islands where island foxes reign supreme and there’s no such thing as cell service. The only way to get to the Channel Islands is by boat, and once you’re there it’s just you and your legs. Camping is available on all five islands, with some spots a half-day’s hike in. But it’s all worth it for a true off-the-grid experience and run-ins with the locals: The Channel Island Fox, the smallest (and cutest) fox on the planet.

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley (photo via Wolfgangbeyer)

Best For Rocks: Death Valley National Park

Before joining the Toad team, our Office Manager, Sarah, was a geologist by trade, running all over the US looking at rocks. So according to our resident expert, “Death Valley National Park has some of the most insane rocks.” These sedimentary rocks make up the hottest, driest place in the USA and consist primarily of sandstone, limestone, conglomerate, hornfels, and marble. They date back to the Triassic Age and you can actually see the markings in the rocks from earthquakes that happened millions of years ago. Now that rocks! (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves).

Bass Harbor Head Light (photo via NPS, Kent Miller)

Best For Craft Beer: Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is unique in that it shares Maine’s Mt. Desert Island (pronounced “dessert”) with a handful of 19th century fishing villages. Located along the Atlantic Coast, Acadia is surrounded by picturesque towns and harbors that you’ll drive through (or bike through!) as you drive the Park Loop Road. Stop in Bar Harbor to try Atlantic Brewing Company and Bar Harbor Beerworks. When you’ve gotten back to the mainland, hit up Fogtown Brewing in Ellsworth – all 3 come highly recommended from the Toads in our Freeport, ME store.

Life’s a breach in Kenai Fjords National Park.

Best For Kayaking: Kenai Fjords National Park 

Thanks to the food-rich waters in the Kenai Fjords, this national park is known for its lively residents of sea otters, humpback whales, dolphins and orcas. Get set up with a kayaking tour out of Seward, AK (we recommend a guide as the tides can be tricky) and dip your paddle into Aialik Bay or Bear Glacier Lagoon.

Wonder where the Double-O-Arch gets its name from? (photo via Flicka)

Best For Mountain Biking: Arches National Park

“The best mountain biking is in Moab, hands down. Plus, they have wild porcupines!” That review comes from Napper, our Creative Director, and with good reason: With over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, towers, and spinnakers in Arches National Park in Moab, UT has some of the best views you can see on a bike. To note: you can’t bike on hiking trails, but you can bike on paved roads (and you’ll want to – summer traffic can be brutal) and some dirt roads like Willow Flats Road and Salt Valley Road. There are also plenty of biking trails outside the park in nearby Moab.

Stalactites hang from ceilings, stalagmites rise from the ground. (photo via Daniel Mayer)

Best For Vampires: Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Described by Will Rogers as “The Grand Canyon with a roof,” New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns are a subterranean sensation. There are 119 known caves, with the grandest one of all, The Big Room, clocking in as the largest single chamber in North America! Wander the caves at your leisure but make sure you’re out before sunset to catch the great Bat Flight at the main entrance to the caverns. At sunset, thousands of Brazilian free tailed bats take to the skies in search of dinner. Don’t worry, you’re not on the menu… yet…

With 61 national parks in the United States, it’s hard to pick just one -– tropical islands, active volcanoes, soaring peaks, teeming wildlife refuges, apocalyptic sand dunes…. But if we had to say which National Park is the BEST, we’d say it’s the one you’re currently visiting. Every time. 

Summer To-Do: Shakespeare in the Park

A warm summer breeze, an open bottle of wine, men in tights… it’s a midsummer night’s dream, or, Shakespeare in the Park. Whether you’re a longtime fan of The Bard or have fuzzy memories of that one high school English class, get thee to this summer tradition. The tradition goes back to 1954 (well, 1599 if you want to get technical), when a few New York visionaries wanted to make Shakespeare theater as free and accessible as library books. Well, turns out people love free stuff and outdoor drinking, so the idea was a hit and has since caught on with communities all over the world. So without further ado, here’s our list of the best FREE 2019 Shakespeare in the Park festivals in the US. Pack a picnic and bring your kin.

New York, NY – The grand dame of Shakespeare in the park and the one that started it all. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The New York Shakespeare Festival runs May through August and offers two shows: May/June catch Much Ado About Nothing staged with an incredible all black cast! and July/August is Coriolanus, a riveting political epic of democracy and demagoguery. Ah, art imitating life.

Asheville, NC – On a campy-but-lovable Olde English stage,The Montford Park Players put on North Carolina’s longest running free Shakespeare Festival. Prepare with bug spray or our new Debug clothes.

Kansas City, MO – Does it get better than sonnets and BBQ? Kansas’ City’s Heart of America Shakespeare Festival knows how to party. This season’s show is Shakespeare in Love (we’re sensing a pattern…) and you can reserve your seating online beforehand.

Boston, MA –  The 24th season of Boston’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company goes off at the Parkman Bandstand 6 days a week. This year’s show is the little known mystical dramedy, Cymbeline, about the fates of King Cymbeline’s family. Expect mistaken identities, twists and turns, and the all-consuming quest for true love.

Louisville, KY – Coming in at the most ambitious company, The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival is putting on no less that 7 different productions. No tickets required, and dogs are welcome. All of Louisville’s a stage…

Buffalo, NY – Mark your cal for June 20th  when the 44th summer season of Shakespeare in Delaware Park kicks off. The first half of the summer will bring The Tempest and late July switches to Love’s Labour’s Lost (the story of a king and his comrades who swear off women for three years… hilarity ensues.)

Dallas, TX – Park your lawn chairs at Shakespeare Dallas’s series at Samuell Grand Park, now in its 48th season. Catch Shakespeare in Love (not technically by Shakespeare but hey, it’s on theme) and As You Like It, a classic rom com where “Love is merely a madness…”

San Francisco, CA – A little different than the traditional set-up, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival actually travels to 5 different venues throughout the Bay Area. This year they’re toting a musical version of As You Like It from June – September.

Los Angeles area, CA – From San Pedro to Hermosa Beach to Torrance to Venice (and many stops in between), Shakespeare by the Sea makes the rounds. This season catch The Comedy of Errors (two young visitors arrive in the city unaware that their long-lost twins already live there), and Henry V (Shakespeare’s most patriotic and inspiring play tells of a young King Henry V who seeks to unite his beloved England). Gird your loins and your flip flops.

Seattle, WA – In the mood for some hormone-induced teen romance? Romeo & Juliet is calling your name. Love the idea of love triangle in Elizabethan drag? Twelfth Night is for you. Get your fill as the Seattle Shakespeare Company tours the Puget Sound region all summer.

But what will you wear?!