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Dispatches : Travel

How to Kid-Proof Your iPhone

I’ve already sung the praises of digital distractions—in moderation—when traveling with young children. But even the best kids’ apps are useless if your toddler keeps pushing the home button and navigating away. Not only is it annoying, but it’s also dangerous for your data. The last thing you want is a rogue preschooler trolling through your email or photo files, accidentally trashing your stuff.

BubCap on iPhoneThis will save your life—or at least your data. Photo: BubCap

Now there's hope. The BubCap is a stiff, oblong rubber shield that adheres to the home button on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It’s rigid enough that little digits can’t depress it, but adults can. The BubCap comes in three “strengths:” Regular, Ultra, and Max. Regular is designed to be toddler-proof, while Max claims to be burly enough for older kids and devices with bigger buttons, like the iPad.

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Summer Camp: Not Just for the Kids This Year

If you’re like most people, your summer strategy probably looks like this: Dispatch the kids to day camp while you spend the sweetest season behind your desk. But research shows that while children may be quicker studies, adults benefit hugely from learning new things, too. Good news: Now you can all go to summer camp together—and no, you won't be sleeping in bunks. Get ready to reclaim your summer with the top six learning adventures for rippers of all ages.

Sea Kayaking the San Juan Islands, Washington
On REI’s San Juan Family Adventure, families with kids eight and up explore the San Juan Islands’ cliffs, tide pools, and trails by kayak, bike, and foot. An overnight paddle to Jones Island State Park, where you’ll set up base camp, will satisfy your littlest wildlife junkies: Watch for porpoises, orcas, seals, and sea lions. During an afternoon at the University of Washington Labs, biologists will treat you to a private tour of the invertebrate touch tanks for an up-close look at the strange and fascinating life of the Salish Sea. Day hikes to lighthouses and island peaks, plus a visit to Friday Harbor’s whale museum, round out the six-day trip. Bonus: The San Juans sit in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, so summers there are typically dry and warm. From $2,299; kids under 17 receive a $200 discount; www.reiadventures.com.

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Zen and the Art of Adventuring With Kids

DSC_0533In the flow, finally: Conejos River, Colorado. Photo: Katie Arnold

Whenever you take young children on outdoor adventures, there will invariably come a moment when you’ll ask yourself, head in hands, between clenched teeth, possibly on the verge of tears or mental breakdown: How could this possibly be worth it? At the time, invariably, the answer is: It’s not. At least not yet. No matter how gorgeous or remote the wilderness, how soothing the river rushing by, how blissfully tuned out you are from the racket of the rest of the world, you will arrive at this moment. And it will suck.

In northern New Mexico, the Rio Chama cuts a winding path through tawny sandstone walls and banks thick with sagebrush and ponderosa pines. Georgia O’Keefe lived and painted in Abiquiu, near the mouth of this wilderness canyon, for decades. Federally protected as a Wild and Scenic River, the Chama is so serene that an order of Benedictine monks live nearby in a solar-powered, sustainable monastery, Christ in the Desert, they built on the banks. Visitors come from around the world to live in silence for a few days, and on some still mornings you can hear the sound of the monks' chanting rising up above the steady downstream thrum of the river. My husband and I have camped, kayaked, canoed, and rafted here every summer for the past 12 years. Less than two hours from Santa Fe, up a rutted dirt road a dozen miles from pavement that becomes impassable when it rains, beneath buttes shaped like wedding cakes and natural amphitheaters carving themselves into the creamy cliffs, this is our happy place.

DSC_0533Sunset on the Rio Chama, New Mexico. Photo: Katie Arnold

Or at least it was until last weekend.

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The Top 5 Areas for Bouldering in Ireland

BoulderingGuideCover

Last week, while trolling through adventure videos, I came across a short of two guys bouldering in Ireland. It was a simple, effective edit: the rock was wet, the valley was green and bracken, the guys kept finding beautiful, big, dark rocks to climb. It inspired me to abandon my search for early morning news and type “bouldering Ireland” into Google. A site named The Short Span showed up in the first two spots. I clicked. There were videos, of “Ireland’s Strongest Dad,” of “The Beast from the East” and “The Wiener from the West,” and of the 2012 Gap of Dunloe Climbing Meet. There were forums and an archive of posts packed with data on remote Irish climbing locales.

Most of the posts were written by Dave Flanagan. He included pictures and detailed tips about where and when to climb. I eventually emailed Flanagan with a few questions, including why and when he started the site.

I just wanted to share information about the great bouldering I had found. The site started in 2000, I think. No one ever asks me where the name came from, I think they assume it’s related to bouldering, but it actually is a reference to a poem by a British climber and writer Geoffrey Winthrop Young.

 “In this short span between my fingertips and the smooth edge and these tense feet cramped to a crystal ledge, I hold the life of a man.”

 Stirring stuff.

I hadn’t asked the question either, but wished I had. Flanagan also sent his list of the five top bouldering sites in Ireland, which I did ask for. His picks are listed below. If you want to know more, you can check out The Short Span or purchase the e-book version of Bouldering Ireland.

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Expedition Watch: Revolutionary Road Trip

Steve_inkeep_map
Inskeep couldn’t find a map that covered his route, so he pasted two together. Photo: Nick Fountain/NPR

When Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep started planning a 2,000-mile-long drive from Tunis, Tunisia, to Cairo, Egypt, he couldn’t find a map detailed enough to set his course. So he bought two and started cutting. There will be a lot more innovation from Inskeep on his three-week-long expedition to document change in North Africa. "We did a lot of planning on this trip, but a lot of a trip like this is being able to improvise," he said. "Make it up as you go along and be willing to follow what you discover to its logical end."

The 43-year-old reporter has covered the war in Afghanistan, the hunt for Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and the war in Iraq. Since he started at NPR in 1996, he’s taken home three Alfred I. duPont Silver Batons—the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. On June 4, he, producer Nishant Dahiya, and photographer John Poole will drive through Tunis and file their first report from the ruins of Carthage, the city destroyed by the Roman Empire in 146 B.C. Then they'll drive from town to town, filing story after story for a series called Revolutionary Road Trip. We called him shortly before they left.

Where did this idea come from?
These are three of the most interesting countries on earth. They’re connected geographically and they’re connected as part of the same gigantic story. It just seems like one huge, almost once in a lifetime, opportunity to see a rapidly changing part of the world in a really, really wide angle.

Is there something that doing this as a road trip offers that jumping in at different points wouldn’t offer?
Totally. We’ve done this before. We did a road trip across South Asia—several correspondents, producers, and me—along the Grand Trunk Road, from Calcutta, or Kolkata, to Peshawar, Pakistan.

It affects the kinds of stories you seek out, it affects the kind of people you look for, it causes you to think about the relationships between different places along the road, and often, there’s remarkable similarities, human similarities, between places that are very different and people that may even hate each other. You find out that they eat similar foods, or that they have very similar traditions in some places. It really affects your outlook.

Another thing is this, whenever I’m reporting and especially when I’m reporting overseas, it’s important to be open to the idea that the story that you discover could never have been pinpointed from a distance. Putting yourself on the road creates many opportunities to discover stories that you would never have thought to go look for.

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