Outdoor-loving family shares 20 years of summer bonding

Julie Steiner, known on Flickr as Oakley Originals, looks forward to planning her annual family summer vacation every year. But unlike other families, Julie doesn’t buy plane tickets to foreign cities or make reservations at an exclusive resort. Instead, the Steiners pack in their car in Oklahoma and hit the road for an adventure.

“In many ways our family is like the Cleavers meets the Grizwolds,” Julie says in this episode of The Weekly Flickr. “We love to travel, hike, fish and camp. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is spending time together and creating memories that will last a lifetime.”

Julie and her husband Jon have been taking vacations across North America with their two sons for nearly 20 years.

Hahn'sPeakColo campcoffee&cocoa

“Growing up my parents instilled in me a really deep love for the outdoors,” Julie explains. “We went on summer vacations every year. So when I married, my husband, and he shared the same adventure bug as me. Raising our boys outdoors came pretty natural to us.”

The Steiners prefer to drive to their destinations. Long hours in the car allow them to interact and bond with each other. Upon arrival, they choose to camp inside a pop-up trailer rather than stay in hotels.

Medano Creek Canoeing in the Tetons

“It helps us financially,” Jon explains. “Camping is where you really get down into the field and the thick of the whole experience. Sitting around a campfire, telling stories or bonding — you just can’t beat that.”

“We’ve really explored the backyards of America,” Julie says. “We’ve gone everywhere from the Grand Tetons, the Colorado Rockies to Yellowstone — even from Washington state all the way to Maine. We just love the different states and what they have to offer. Each landscape is so different.”

The View Family Paddle

One of their favorite locations was in Wabakimi Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The Steiners took an 8-day canoe trip and came across a few unexpected challenges.

“We expected our trip to have pretty simple portages,” Julie says. “But instead we were going over rock slides, boulders and cliffs. My husband and son carried the canoes. My other son and I carried all the supplies across these long places. It was a rigorous trip, but very memorable; the beauty was just wonderful.”

Over the years, the most rewarding experience for both Julie and Jon has been watching their sons grow up.

Family Backpacking Trip


“All these experiences have made a big difference in my sons lives,” Julie says. “Ever since they were toddlers to where they are now as upper teens, they’ve built a lot of character, perseverance, fortitude and patience as we’ve gone along.”

“One of the greatest things that our vacations have provided our children has been the education through experience,” Jon says. “Julie has been adamant about researching the places we go so that when we get there, we understand what we’re looking at. Our children have picked up on that, and it pays dividends down the road.”

String Lake lunchtime

The Steiners recognize a “change in times” when it comes to taking traditional family summer vacations.

“I think today people don’t value vacations like they used to, and it might be because of the economy or even time commitment, but I think it’s something people need to try and do,” Julie says. “At the end of the day, you get so much out of it.”

Rainy Hike at Deer Lakes, CO

Cutler Bold Coast Family Shot

“We go on these family vacations because it provides our small family an opportunity to spend high-quality time together,” Jon says. “And in the process, we do something really cool. When I look back on the pictures of the past, it allows me to go back there and remember all the details and relive that moment — even if it’s for a little while.”

More importantly, Julie hopes the family vacations will leave a lasting impression on her two boys for the rest of their lives.

“I believe these vacations will be a vivid memory in our kids’ lives and our times together because we learn so much about each other and our family together,” Julie says. “And I just hope they will hold onto those memories forever.”

Visit Julie’s photostream to see more of her photography.

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