Hello! Val here. I’m a traveler, photographer, writer, blogger, motorcyclist, and adventure lover. There’s nothing that excites me more than a great road trip to see new places and meet new people. Through my expeditions, I’ve traveled extensively through all of the 48 contiguous US states, most of the Canadian provinces, and Baja, Mexico. I’m an equal-opportunity adventurer which means I journey solo, with my two sons, or with friends — whatever I needs to do to feed my curiosity about the world.

great sand dunes - val in real life
Val at one of her favorite places, Great Sand Dunes National Park.

I consider myself a student of life and I’m continually seeking new challenges. I frequently attend formal workshops and classes to build my outdoor, photography, and motorcycle skills. Tapping into the offerings of organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the BMW U.S. Rider Academy, Leave No Trace, and NOLS, keeps my adventure skills well-honed.

The skills I’ve gained from those pursuits, combined with my Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from Florida State University and Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certification from the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, give me the tools to learn about places, landscapes, people, and experiences that make up the rich tapestry of real life beyond shopping malls, outside the suburbs, and away from interstate highways. Whether exploring by foot, car, or motorcycle, I know that the quickest route between two places is rarely the most interesting.

When not on the road, I plan my adventures from my home base in northern Nevada. Originally a southerner though, those adventures are often involve returning to my roots in Georgia and the Great Smoky Mountains, where my love of adventure began.


Sadly, it must be said for the less-than-scrupulous folks out there: Unauthorized use or copying of the material and images on this site or any other social media platform without express and written permission from Val in Real Life is prohibited. Excerpts may be used as long as credit and a link back to the original material at valinreallife.com is used.


Val in Real Life is a participant in several affiliate advertising programs which support the content provided on this site. These programs are designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to valinreallife.com. Thank you for supporting the adventures of Val in Real Life through your purchases.

For more images, please visit my photography gallery.


  1. Nice to meet you Val! Happy to have found your blog! Love your photos and your links; TED talks are so fascinating!!

    1. Thanks! I’m very happy to have such a wonderful tribe of adventurous families.

  2. Hi, Val. Love your blog! Your photos are amazing. And I noticed you are from Georgia. So glad to meet you. I am a transplant to Georgia (12 years now). Anyway, so glad to meet an outdoorsy, Georgia mom and blogger.

    1. Thanks Tiffany. I was quite tickled to discover another Georgia camping mom too. Looking forward to following your adventures!

  3. Heya!

    I thought I misplaced your pathtag for a moment! I am so happy I found it. It was such a pleasure meeting you at Going Coastal. My free time during the week is very limited but I will get through your blogs and will be in touch as soon as I can. I have a feeling I am going to have a great interest in your writing.


    Amy Davis (of “AmyOandThePipster”)

    1. So glad you found me Amy. Wonderful to meet you at GC. It does seem we’re of the same mind on many of these suburban issues. We’ll have to chat further soon! Of course, we’ll have to plan a cache date too.

  4. Love your spirit. Your pictures are awesome.

    1. Ah shucks….thanks mom!

  5. […] Val is a former geologist who now spends her time as a wandering homeschooling mom.  She believes travel and exploring nature are vital to kids and adults alike.  She chronicles the adventures of her family (aka Camp Granola) at Val in Real Life. […]

  6. Hey Val,
    LOVE your site! I am hoping to get the best email contact to be in touch with park news, updates, events, tips, etc. Please email me with the best way to reach you.

    1. That’s easy Marjorie…just val@valinreallife.com. Drop me a line anytime.

  7. Awesome sight! Very nicy done.Great pictures.Cherish the moments with your family. Looks like an real adventure.Ya did good!

  8. Just a quick (okay, longish) comment regarding pooches, their humans and the responsibilities that the humans must assume when taking pooches in the outdoors. A very large number of folks don’t understand the importance of taking a dog into the wilds. All too often, I’ve encountered a dog on the trail, seemingly alone and extremely unleased, who is just as suprised as I was and, as dogs are want to do, growled, barked and became agressive/protective. On one occasion I had to use my trekking pole to keep the dog at bay as he attempted to bite until he heard his human call out to “back off.”

    I wasn’t sure if the human was referring to me or the dog, but the dog did indeed run back to join the errant human. “Sorry, about that…he’s really friendly…he wouldn’t have bitten you…,” the human explained. Settling down, I reminded him that the dog needed to be, “on a fucking leash” to which he responded, “whoa, man…chill out.” I reminded him again, this time more slowly and calmly, “you’re right…my apologies…please put your dog on a fucking leash…now, please.”

    Silently, he complied and just as they were out of sight, I heard the dog once again bark agressively, likely to another passing hiker.

    Last year, I was taking a sunset stroll along the Parus trail in Zion, the only one on which dogs are allowed. Emerging from a tree-lined curve, a large dog came sprinting at full speed towards me but then veered suddenly into the brush to chase a deer. The dog’s bicycling human was in full pursuit, yelling at the top of her lungs in a vain attempt to call back the frenzied canine.

    We also gave chase as it was getting very dark by then and helped her find and finally leash her dog. Fortunately, neither deer nor dog were harmed, but it could have ended otherwise.

    In summary; Humans who have dogs, keep them on a leash while hiking with them. The regulations are there to protect dog, wild critters and others enjoying the trail. Also, pick up the dog waste deposited by your four-legged family member and carry the little blue bag out with you. Animals who are on the lookout for predators often mistake dog poop for that of an actual predator (especially if your dog eats meat) and will begin to avoid an area previously used and traveled.

    Full Disclosure: I am a longtime dog owner and lover.

  9. Well said Terry. Obviously I’m a dog owner and lover as well but you know what? My dog is always on a “fucking leash” as you put it, and a proper one at that. Inconvenient at times? Yes. Is everyone, including the dog, better off? Yes. And a 20-foot extendable doesn’t count… you have little control and certainly none quickly. I’ve seen both well-behaved and ill-behaved dogs both on and off the leash but the bottom line is that leash regulations are not arbitrary and they need to be heeded. It’s also important to be realistic what you and your dog can handle. Don’t bring them if you’re not prepared to watch them constantly. And that’s not just for protective dogs, even a super-friendly dog can be over-enthusiastic about meeting new folks and bowl over little ones.

  10. Found your pathtag and swapped it with mine in Clinton, CT. LOVE geocaching. Me and my husband started in June2012 and have 342 finds. It takes us to places we never knew existed. Thanks and you have a great site. My husband said I should start a blog, and you gave me some inspiration. Have a good summer….

  11. I am an adventurer and photographer. I shattered my femur and cracked my pelvis in a mountain biking accident 2 years ago. Unlike your situation, this accident was my own fault…I simply made a mistake and instantly was on the ground. I got back on the bike about a year ago and it was the best thing I ever did. Interested in following your story.

    1. Wow, that’s a huge comeback. Congratulations! I know how hard you must have worked to get back to it.

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