Saturday, January 20 , 2018, 4:56 am | A Few Clouds 48º


Captain’s Log: Head to the Great Outdoors for Economical Fun

Weather the recession and stay entertained with the wondrous opportunities of an 'outdoors economy.'

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Hiking is just one of many opportunities in the great outdoors for no-cost or low-cost fun. Capt. David Bacon calls it an “outdoors economy.” (Capt. David Bacon photo)

Economy got you down? Worried about your ability to continue those frequent restaurant meals, plays, shows, theaters, spa visits, long drives with hotel stays? When a friend or family member asks the common question, “What do you feel like doing?” those are some of the common answers. Ah, but then you think about how you should be saving (or at least spending less) money to weather the tough economic times. Different answers are needed.

Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
Looking for alternatives that provide quality time on a recessionary budget? Just look outdoors for enough low-cost opportunities to keep you and your family entertained and growing together until the economy improves and you feel comfortable spending copious quantities of money again.

I call this an “outdoors economy” because the great outdoors can be enjoyed in so many ways without the economy becoming much of a factor. For example, one answer to the age-old question “What do you feel like doing?” could be: Let’s go play chess (or insert your favorite game) at the park. Our parks serve us well as places of solitude with scenic grandeur until school lets out, and even then it is fun to watch the kids at play while waiting for your chess partner to ponder all the possible moves. Your cost? Just bring along a small cooler with snacks and drinks.

The monarch butterfly reserve by Ellwood is another picture-perfect outdoors economy destination. The only cost fore a stroll through the place might be a donation to help maintain the precious resource.

December is a great time for a walk along the beach. You’ll get some exercise, enjoy the essence of what makes our coastal community so wonderful, and if you’re lucky, you might find a gift from the sea washed up on shore. Keep one eye seaward to spot porpoise swimming through the waves or an early California gray whale. The annual whale migration is just beginning, and you may spot an advance guard.

A few hours of pier fishing on Stearns Wharf, Goleta Pier or Gaviota Pier lets you combine an outdoors activity and increase your chances of glimpsing porpoise and whales. Pier fishing is free (with the exception of parking on Stearns Wharf), and you don’t even need a fishing license. It is a great deal!

Exercise, especially during the holiday season, is increasingly important, and hiking our foothill trails is a fun way to get your heart rate up while enjoying stunning vistas. Our local creek beds, meandering through neighborhoods, are fascinating places to take a hike without going far.

I prefer this to a walk through the neighborhood because it feels like a nature hike rather than a neighborhood stroll. In the late afternoon and early evening, the croaking of frogs can be surprisingly loud. The amount of minor wildlife is surprising to those who go slow and take the time to look carefully. Our creeks offer plenty of nature and wildlife, usually within a few blocks of home.

Need more ideas? Just sit and ponder the possibilities that include exercise and nature while not costing more than a few bucks. An outdoors economy can be rewarding.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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