Author: Alysia

Backpacking, Travel

The W Trek Patagonia Chile


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My first time in South America.❤️

February 17-18 – Due to COVID-19 there were some extra hoops to getting into Chile so my very first recommendation is to absolutely do this trip, but wait until the borders are a little more open. Chile requires everyone to get tested upon arrival and then you MUST quarantine until you are cleared via a specific-to-you QR code, which could be 8 hours or could be 24 hours who’s to say. So upon arrival in Santiago my friend, who had already been cleared, handed me a mushroom empanada (10/10) and I went to bed. When I got up I was cleared! I did have to wait for the rest of our group to arrive and also be cleared so wandered around Santiago for a bit, got more empanadas, and we could finally head off to Puerto Natales.

February 19 – To say that Patagonia is far from the U.S. would be a whole understatement. It is quite the travel experience and is basically as far south as you can get without touching Antartica. So we arrived in Puerto Natales with just enough time to eat, meet some street doggos, and go to bed before waking up for day one of The W.

February 20 – Bus > Ferry > Legs. Up early to hop a bus (where we caught a glimpse of Guanacos) to arrive early enough to get on a ferry taking you to our start of The W; we went West to East. Upon arrival at Paine Grande we hiked the first section of The W which takes you from Paine Grande to Glacier Grey. Patagonia has a series of Refugios along the route where you are allowed to camp but these must be booked far in advance and they are the only places you can stay in the park. It’s mainly tent camping with bathrooms and eating areas so you do not have to carry all your food if you choose to eat at the refugios.

When we arrived at Glacier Grey some of us chose to do a bonus hike (always do the bonus hike) to this suspension bridge overlooking the glacier.

February 21 – We hopped on a little boat for a very cold ride to Glacier Grey. After a quick safety tutorial and gear change we were off to walk around a glacier for a while. We filled our water bottles with fresh glacier water and looked into deep and beautiful crevasses. And here’s the thing about hiking The W, it’s actually a W shape so we hike up the first section of the W and then you have to hike right back down, so at the end of the day we landed back a Paine Grande for the night.

February 22 – Day 3 and the LOOOONG day. So if you can imagine we begin at the bottom of the first line of a W and today we hike up the second line, back down, and then about half way up the last line of a W. If you’re looking at a map, it would be from Paine Grande, up Valle del Frances, back down and over to our final refugio, Refugio Chileno. It was absolutely beautiful, and pretty rough on the legs.

February 23 – Mirador las Torres the main event! To see the sunrise over las Torres you have to get up around 3am to start the hike, and there is a really good chance you’ll see nothing at all for your efforts. We got lucky, there was not a single cloud in the sky for our entire trek and thankfully this day was no different. The sun lit up these granite towers and what a wonder. We then hiked back down, had a quick brunch and headed out of the park ending our Torres del Paine adventure.

February 24 – After a lovely night in a cozy bed we did a bit of horseback riding and enjoyed some final views of southern Chile. Best, until next time Patagonia, maybe the Argentine side? 😏

Backpacking, Camping, HIking, Travel

Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls Trails Iceland


Let’s go backpacking in Iceland! An absolute dreamland of a country.

August 6 – One major plus of Iceland is that it’s so easy to get to. There are many nonstop quick flights to get there and it feels like just a popover.

This was our very first time using a travel company (Zealous Travel Co.) to plan and organize the whole thing and it was awesome. No worries about permits, or where to stay, or literally anything; which made this trip so much more relaxing despite it being a lot of long days of hiking. Full disclosure this is my friend’s company, but I’d recommend them even if I did not know them!

Upon arrival, we toured around the city of Reykjavík. This city is really cool and I would totally spend more time there some day, but we were quickly on to bigger and better things!

August 7 – Icelandic horses are super cute! They have the fluffiest bangs and are very sweet. We did a short ride and even got to experience their breed-specific gate. We also toured a sustainable tomato farm and restaurant (very tomato-forward meals 🍅), and relaxed in a natural hot spring before we wrecked our bodies on the Laugavegur Trail 😉.

August 8 – Here we go!

Day one of backpacking made Iceland feel like a truly otherworldly place. We had many firsts on this trip including this being our first backpacking trip with a guide, food provided, and though we slept in tents each site has huts for bathrooms, food, and water. It really felt like glamping in comparison.

You are also able to drink from most any stream because there are very few animals carrying disease and the water flows directly from glaciers (so cold and tasty). All of this meant that our packs were quite light with very little in them. At just 7.5 miles hiking this first day, it was a pretty easy one, though still a lot of ups and downs over the rolling hills.

August 9 – Day two hiking. We headed out early and this day had so many river crossings. Day two was pretty short as well, but we did add a bonus hike at the end to see Iceland’s “Grand Canyon”. I think I will always do the bonus hike when available. Even when you’re tired and have hiked all day, it’s worth it.

August 10 – This section of the hike was a bit more boring (if hiking in Iceland can ever be boring), it was also super sunny, hot, and windy. I somehow got sunburned in Iceland! I would fully have expected cold and rain but it did not rain one time during our full 10-day trip. So this day was a bit of a slog with the exposure and hills.

August 11 – We completed the Laugavegur section of trail and are on to Fimmvörðuháls (no I can not say this trail name aloud). This day just happened to be our 10-year anniversary and it was one of the most beautiful days of hiking ever. It was a LONG one but waterfalls and terrain absolutely made it fly by. We hiked along glaciers, really interesting rocks and ash, because you are basically walking on a giant volcano in Iceland always, and saw more waterfalls than I’ve ever seen in my life. There were very few moments when the sound of rushing water couldn’t be heard.

We ended the hike at a really popular waterfall called Skógafoss which you are able to drive up to. It’s always interesting to me when I’ve hiked a long time and finally get to a destination and that destination is also easy to get to if you drive it; so you are dirty, and stinky, and tired, and other people around you are dressed up, and fancy, and look really well rested.

August 12 – After a good hard sleep we got up and took a ferry to Heimaey Island to visit the absolute cutest birds in the whole world, puffins! They are just like adorable penguins but also a toucan and they flap their wings so so fast so they can fly. We also stopped by the black sand beach which has been known to sweep people out to sea, but it didn’t get us.

August 13 – After our relaxing day with puffins it was back to exercise! We kayaked a glacier lagoon for quite a while and then popped over to Diamond Beach, which is super touristy but also really cool. It’s this black sand beach with enormous chunks of glacier either stuck on the beach or out to sea. It’s a little bit sad to see these huge pieces of glacier melting off right before your eyes, anyone claiming global warming isn’t real can just go see it quite literally.

This was our last night together as a group, I had only met 2 of the people on the trip before this but I’ve made lifelong friends and everyone was just absolutely wonderful. So thanks to Zealous Travel for bringing us together.

Backpacking, Travel

Mint-Bomber Traverse Alaska


Flying in the world of COVID-19. Not as bad as I thought it would be; most everyone kept their masks on and were thoughtful of other people. O’Hare airport wasn’t as empty as I maybe expected but it certainly wasn’t packed. We couldn’t find the TSA pre-check lane at first so we started out waiting maybe 5 minutes in the regular security lane and then once I got up to the TSA person she said “you know you have pre-check right” and pointed us to the other side of the airport where we went through pre-check with no line at all.

September 25 – The flight to Alaska wasn’t completely full, but back to Chicago seemed to be a full flight. There were no meals but we were given drinks and snacks so people took their masks off to eat and drink.

We spent our first night in an Airbnb in Anchorage and set off in the morning for 3 days and 2 nights in the Alaskan wilderness. One of the most difficult hikes I’ve ever done but worth the effort and if you’re planning on doing it just do 1 million squats to prepare. 😆

September 26 – We started out on Gold Mint Trailhead at around 11 a.m. and while a bit muddy and overgrown in places overall it was a simple trail fairly flat until you get towards the end where Mint Hut hides just about a third of the way up the mountain.

The hut is adorable and we were the only people there so we sprawled out and I made a monster bed out of the mats and sleeping bags that were left behind. There is a spot just off to the right to fill up water, we didn’t filter since we were high up and it’s a flowing stream but it probably would be a good idea because we did hear there’s giardia in a lot of the water around Alaska. It got down just below freezing but I was quite warm in the hut. We also heard some of the huts have heat systems but this one didn’t seem to and we didn’t really need it anyway.

September 27 – The beginning of this day is a straight slog of bouldering up more than 3,000 feet to Backdoor Gap. We needed to go through what looks like the goal posts in the second image but were seduced by a shorter looking gap a bit to the right which turned out to be very incorrect, treacherous, and added about an hour of time to our hike since we had to turn back and course correct. It should be noted that there is no set trail through any part of the hike between Mint and Bomber Huts, you should have a good GPS and topo map available to know navigate this section specifically.

When we finally reached the top of Backdoor Gap (4ish hours later) I yelled with joy because the terrain changes drastically to Penny Royal Glacier and you’re just so happy to be done bouldering. Heading down the glacier was fairly simple as it was covered fully in snow so we just popped on our crampons (we just had micro-spikes and those worked well for us) and easily walked across and down to bomber hut. After the glacier there may have been a bit more bouldering but mostly you walk through a soft tundra. There is one river crossing but there are a good number of places to cross without getting your feet wet. I fell on my butt slipping on a wet rock though so, lol, be careful. You’ll also want to fill up your water at the river as there’s not a great place to fill up near the hut.

Northern Lights! There were four other hikers at Bomber hut when we got there but there is plenty of space for 6+ in the hut and they turned out to be awesome hut-mates because they stayed up and woke us at about 3 a.m. when the Northern Lights were out and just unreal. I didn’t know this because I’ve only seen photos but the real life Northern Lights are not green! They are swooshy and white and beautiful but totally different than photos can capture.

September 28 – We’re on the clock… We had to make it out, hopefully shower, and get to the airport by 9 p.m. At first we thought there was just no way we wouldn’t make it and then throughout the whole hike I flipped between “it’s fine” and “we’re screwed”.

We got up fairly early and out the hut door by 9 a.m. Leaving behind our four friends who we were sure would still beat us to the trailhead. The start of this hike is just gentle tundra with some rocks, then you get to the glacier area and put your crampons on and it gets a bit tougher. It’s a pretty good uphill but compared to bouldering for hours I can do glaciers all day. To get to the Bomber wreckage you have to head left a bit and it took us a minute to find it but once you recognize the wreckage is not just another boulder it’s impossible to miss and worth the little bit of extra time to go see this WWII bomber.

After a few moments at the wreckage you head to the right where you’ll likely see human tracks leading to Bomber Pass. There are ropes at the very top to help you get up the steepest section and then from the top it’s bouldering, once again, all the way down to Reeds Lake. It had started to snow right as we got to the top and that was ok but near the bottom it turned into drizzle and did make the rocks a bit more slippery.

There is a section after Reeds Lake of flat trail and then a bit more bouldering which at that point was a bit punishing since all you want to do is walk on a trail of solid ground, especially when you have a plane to catch. After a few more sections of bouldering over a river we made it out to Reeds Lake Trailhead, but we parked at the Gold Mint Trailhead which is about 3 miles away. Lucky for us one of our four friends from the Bomber Hut was insanely fast and made it out ahead and drove us to Gold Mint meaning we had time to shower quickly at a rest stop/gas station before heading to the airport and making our flight ❤️.

Backpacking, Camping, Dogs

Huron-Manistee National Forests


2020 is the year all your plans shoot right out the window right? Well ours sure did. For about 6 months we were planning a backpacking trip to Canada, looking at either the La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney Provincial Park or the Lake Superior Provincial Park Coastal Trail. Buuuuuut COVID-19 is still happening and Canada is not really accepting Americans across their border. So we changed plans and ended up with a short trip along the North Country Trail and Manistee River Trail in the great state of Michigan.

The best thing about this hike is that it is completely free, no registration fee, no entry fee, no parking fee. Kudos to you Michigan and thank you to whomever volunteers their time or resources to keeping up this trail.

July 6 – We started out fairly early driving 2 hours from our friend’s home in Muskegon to the Upper River Road Trailhead parking lot. This is at the South end of the trail and we followed it clockwise so we did the North Country Trail section first.

We hiked a bit over 7 miles to our campsite among the tall pine trees. This campsite is off the trail a little ways and has a super clean creek running near it where you can get fresh water, we always filter but there were some other hikers who drank straight from the stream and had no problem.

Franklin tried out the hammock for the first time and I can’t say he’s a fan but maybe after a few more tries he’ll get used to it.

July 7 – The longest and most interesting day with sweeping views of the Manistee River, suspension bridge, and several small waterfalls. We did about 9 miles to campsite 7A but there were already people at that site so we moved on to the only open site, 8A, which turned out to be just perfect, and maybe more picturesque, anyway.

We had planned on getting water from the Manistee River but we were up the side of a steep embankment so it took quite a bit more effort than we had hoped. Once we made it to the water’s edge though we had our own private mini-beach and dipped our sore toes in the cool water. On the way back up a frog jumped on my hand unexpectedly and I screamed and everyone thought I fell off the side of the cliff so that was fun.

I also had my first encounter with some kind of creature in the night. I did not remember to put my toothbrush in the bear canister or the bear hang so at a certain point in the middle of night I heard a little chewing and really thought nothing of it really but made some sounds from inside the tent, Franklin did nothing so I figured it was just a dream. When I got up though my pack had been pulled out from under the tent garage and some small holes were bit out of the top right where my toothbrush was. Also our bear canister had been knocked over and rolled a bit so whatever creature it was really wanted in our stuff!

July 8 – Last day and just 4 miles through mainly the pine forest but plenty of little streams to romp in and Franklin realized about 3 minutes before we got to the car that the hike was over and he laid down in the grass in protest :). Overall a really fun hike with friends where we felt free and normal and able to recover a bit from all our time stuck inside.

HIking, Travel

Spain & Portugal


There’s never enough time and we went vegan in Spain!


November 16 we set off on a whirlwind through Spain and Portugal.

November 16-18 – We took off late on the 16th for a long flight to Madrid with what was supposed to be a short layover in Lisbon. It wasn’t short, we missed the connecting flight and were stuck for about 8 hours. That meant we lost 8 hours in Madrid which was already going to be a short one. So the moment we landed and checked into our hotel we headed out to wander the streets and see as much as we could.

We stopped by Palacio Real de Madrid and Plaza Mayor and then the rain came… So we grabbed something to eat and headed back to the hotel. That is about all we got done in Madrid and bright and early we headed off to the train station because it was time to move on!

November 18 – Córdoba is a cute little town just a quick train ride from Madrid and we spent a few hours taking in it’s wild history. Right across from the train station there is a bus station where you can store your bags in lockers for the day, but get there quick as there is very limited space.

Once we were bagless and oriented we headed to brunch at Maddow, an adorable cafe with awesome vegan friendly treats. We just chilled here for a while and watched the sleepy street.

Around one o’clock we had a guided tour of the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, it’s the thing to do and the history of it is unreal.

After our tour we walked around Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos and then it was back on the train to head to Granada.

Ohhhhh Granada, this would be our longest stop and it was a wondrous place to linger.

We first stopped off at this little flamenco bar/restaurant, Le Chien Andalou, to pick up the keys to our Airbnb. The Airbnb was perfection, just off the Paseo de los Tristes–Granada’s most romantic street–with unbelievable views of the Alhambra from the roof-top terrace we couldn’t have picked a better spot. Even the little courtyard was something out of a fairytale.

After getting checked in and cleaned up we headed back to Le Chien Andalou to get some food, drinks, and authentic flamenco entertainment. This little hole in the wall was literally a hole in the wall, it’s a cave. It’s quite busy and small so you need to make advance reservations (ask for the front seats) but it’s such a good show.

November 19 – Alhambra day! This palace is just beautiful and historic. We didn’t do a guided tour but probably should have, there is so much information about how this place was built and I’m sure we missed things. It’s important to get tickets well in advance and be on time to your scheduled entry as they only let a certain amount of people in at a time. A very sad woman in front of us missed her entry time and was denied access she had come from Russia to see it.

It takes a good 4 hours to wander through the Alhambra so we spent most of the day getting lost in all the rooms and buildings of this fortress.

November 20 – Favorite of all the days. We had always planned to do a full day of hiking in Granada, we originally considered renting a car and finding some trails in Sierra Nevada but the weather was a bit against us and they were covered in snow while we were there. So we decided to not to rent a car and it was kind of awesome.

We walked quite a few miles just to get to the trail but we got to see so many small towns and just daily life along the way and it was totally worth it. The actual trail is Los Cahorros de Monachil and it is so cool. Loads of hanging bridges and interesting terrain. In all we walked a bit over 21 miles that day and by the end of it I was exhausted.

November 21 – Best laid plans, like getting up to watch the sunrise over Mirador de San Nicolas, go down the drain when you walk 21+ miles the day before. So we didn’t see the sunrise but we did see the view, the sunrise over the Alhambra would have been unreal so if you can get your lazy butt out of bed, do it. Our last day was spent wandering through markets, visiting the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte (Cave Museum), and drifting around several historic bathhouses.

The end of the day was spent being pampered at the local Hammam. These Arab baths also include a massage and and special surprises that were perfect for our sore bones. It was a relaxing end to our beautiful adventure in Granada.

November 22 – Adiós Granada, hola, Sevilla. The trip between Granada and Sevilla is…interesting. We bought train tickets but it turns out that the train lines haven’t been built yet, so we ending up riding bus after bus after bus and then finally a train. We also had some trouble with our hotel reservation but after a bit of a rough start Sevilla became my favorite stop.

Once settled in our sweet, suite we headed out into the rain to do a quick stop at the Plaza de España, the best time to go is in the rain because no one else was there! The evening was spent eating and drinking and once night arrived we popped over to Metropol Parasol (heart eyes!)

November 23 – Back to the Plaza de España all morning. This city is just a fantasy, I mean look at that tree, and the dirt is mustard yellow (the color of my soul). We spent our last day getting lost in all the parks and touring the Alcazar of Seville. By evening it was time to say goodbye. Note: the airport in Sevilla took about a minute to get through so no need to arrive super early.

Hit the ground running in Lisbon. We walked up to Parque Eduardo VII to watch the sunset and along the way spotted the best little trolleys. We also stopped to watch the Elevador de Santa Justa and . This city is so interesting and built on hill after hill so there’s not just trains to carry you there’s an outdoor elevator.

November 24 – First stop! Healthy breakfast at 8 Health Lounge. Amazing vegan options here. I will say that of all the cities we visited Lisbon was by far the easiest to navigate for vegan food. We grabbed tickets to Castelo de São Jorge and ventured around the castle with its sweeping views of Lisbon.

We decided to walk the length of the riverwalk to the LX Factory, a series of shops, restaurants, bars, and basically a 24 hour arts fest. This would have been the perfect time to rent a bicycle but we didn’t think of it until we were nearly there. At the LX Factory I purchased a yellow bike bell from Happy Bicycle and it’s now one of my most prized possessions.

We continued down the riverwalk to Padrão dos Descobrimentos where we took the elevator to the top for more awe-inspiring views of the city. At the top it started to rain a bit so we took an Uber back to our hotel to rest a bit before taking an evening stroll around the streets of Lisbon and picking up a too pretty to eat gelato (my one non-vegan moment on this trip).

November 25 – Our last day and so sad to leave we said tchau to our hotel, grabbed a breakfast crêpe and did as much more exploring as we dared before getting an Uber to the airport. The airport in Lisbon is kind of crazy and you need to get there early as boarding begins well in advance due to the way it’s set up; you’ll likely board a bus to get to your gate.

Chicago greeted us with a warm and beautiful sunset but even still Spain and Portugal left us wanting to return and spend much more time basking in their rich cultures.

HIking

Starved Rock & Matthiessen


Labor Day, the perfect time for a day trip to our southern State Parks, and apparently every family ever thought the same. We’ve visited these parks before (some of these photos are from our other visits) but I’ve never seen it so busy and filled with screaming children. I don’t love crowds; I love that more people want to get outside and enjoy nature but I usually go hiking to get away from the people.

Anyway complaining time over and lesson learned, we made the best of it. Patience was the theme but we could all use a little more of that in our lives. We hiked for a few hours and enjoyed the waterfalls and though I’d avoid both parks on high traffic days here are some other tips to enjoy your time.

1. Go early – This is true of every park but the earlier you arrive the more likely you are to, get a parking space, enjoy alone time, and get there before people start leaving trash around…

2. Wear shoes you can get wet – Much of the park trail is in or through the revines and if it’s rained the streams can be deeper than the stepping stones. Too many people spend all their time trying not to get their feet wet and I have a secret…they are going to get wet. A father spent 5 minutes yelling at his child because she fell in the stream during a crossing and her shoes got dirty. Kids can’t balance. Adults can’t balance. You’re hiking and you should be wet and dirty by the end of it. Be like Franklin and plow on through.

3. Visit both parks – Matthiessen is my personal favorite but both have waterfalls and nice trails and they’re 5 mins from each other so go to both, but start with Matthiessen.

Backpacking, HIking

Porcupine Mountains


It’s been a year since our last backpacking trip and I need to get outside!

July 20th we set out to meet a friend in the Upper Peninsula and explore the Porcupine Mountains.

We all met up at a campground in Hiathawa National Forest near Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore for one night.

July 20 – We decided to do a boat tour since we only had one day at Pictured Rocks and it was awesome. I highly recommend doing a boat tour, if we have more time I think a kayak tour would also be really amazing. The views from the water are so beautiful and you can see so much more in a short time. They also have complementary dog kennels so, though Franklin wasn’t thrilled, we had a place he could stay while on the tour.

July 21 – The next morning we got up early and drive the 3 hours to the Porcupine Mountains, picked up our backcountry permits, and headed up the Government Peak trail toward Mirror Lake. Around 8 miles and 1,000ft elevation gain. The trail was fairly muddy and somewhat difficult to keep our footing but overall a great start to our adventure. There is no view, at least in the summer, at the top of Government Peak but there is a sign that lets you know you’ve made it.

We ended the day at Mirror Lake (site ML-1). The camp site is not on, or even near, the water but it is a large site with a fire ring and bear pole and it’s up a little hill so you’re away from the trail. We went to sleep super early because we were exhausted by the end of the first day.

July 22 – The start of our longest (by miles) day we headed out to conquer the whole of the Little Carp River trail. We got up early and we were all still feeling a little sore so we decided to skip the trek up Summit Peak. I think for us this was the smart choice but maybe it’s worth it to go there, we may never know.

Other than a few river crossings the trail is fairly flat and even though it was 13ish miles relatively easy. Even the river crossings were pretty simple, the usually had stones to step on and it’s shallow so if you fall in just your feet get a little wet.

We got to our camp really early which was wonderful because it was by far our favorite site (site LS-7). Right on the shore of Lake Superior we were able to swim in the cool water. Filtering water from the lake was a breeze because it’s basically already crystal clear.

The only downside was the waves. At first you’re lying in your tent thinking “oh this is lovely, hearing the waves as they gently crash against the shore” and then an hour later you think “oh my gosh, waves can you please shut up!” We also had a storm roll in which was a little scary but no rain actually fell. Just huge bursts of lightning and thunder for maybe 30 minutes. I would not have traded those views for a silent night though.

July 23 – Day 3, the Big Carp River trail, another long day with a literal uphill battle. I like to save what I think will be the best views for the last days, when you’re tired and you don’t really want to hike anymore but then, bam, those views make it all worth it. Day 3 did not disappoint. We had a few more river crossings but by far the difficulty came in the elevation gain. The Big Carp River trail ends at Lake of the Clouds and you have to hike up up up to get here.

We picked campsite ES-2 and though it was fine I would absolutely recommend sites BC-1, 2, or 3 as they are right near the edge of the cliffside (not unsafely near) and still away from most foot traffic. Our site was right on a busy trail but with no view. It’s very busy at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook since there is a parking lot about a quarter of a mile from the overlook but that was about the only busy area we came across.

We hiked around 9.5 miles with an additional few miles back down to Lake of the Clouds to fill our water; I recommend filling while you’re still near the Big Carp River, the Lake of the Clouds water is super gross and took a long time to filter. It was an exhausting day and with just one last day to go we went to bed super early to get an early start.

July 24 – Last Day! With just 4 miles back to the car we started our day just at sunrise and it was lovely. The last leg was down (and sometimes up and then back down again) the Escarpment trail. If you were to only do one trail I’d choose this one. With sweeping views of the lake and river running mostly along the cliffside it’s just beautiful. We made it back to our cars fairly quickly and said our goodbyes. Until next time friends.

Dogs, HIking, Travel

Devil’s Lake


The dreaded July 4th, where our neighborhood exhales the sounds of war and Franklin cowers under a table for weeks at a time. While we can’t leave Chicago for the whole month of July–that’s how long the fireworks persist–we can leave for the long weekend and what better place to enjoy the silence than a little town outside of Madison.

We have a backpacking trip coming up and needed to get in as many straight days of hiking as possible to get some training in. We started set off early, as we usually do, to drive up to the Brooklyn Wildlife segment of the Ice Age Trail. We hiked 9 miles and it was horrible. The trail was insanely overgrown in most places with briars and thorns, the mosquitoes were the worst I’ve ever experienced (see photo below of me whipping my hair around to try to keep them off me), and though he had plenty of water Franklin got overheated which was a little scary but he came out fine. Still we made the best of it and certainly earned our showers and soft beds.

The next day we headed to Devil’s Lake State Park. It was a much nicer day and though it was hot we thought Franklin could swim from the dog beach areas if he got overheated. We were wrong, as soon as we go there we saw warning signs for “swimmers itch” I’d never heard of it so we did a quick search and it’s parasites that get under your skin and cause a rash. Yuck! And it hurts dogs much worse than humans so no swimming for Franklin but luckily it was cool enough and Franklin had no problem with overheating.

We hiked up the East Bluff Trail from the south which means a decent elevation gain with some rock scrambling. I love this trail, we’d done it once before and even though there’s no real risk–the trail is well maintained and they’ve built decent stairs from the rocks–it feels rugged.

Since it was a holiday weekend the park was fairly busy but we made the best of it and hiked around maybe 6 or 7 miles.

On our last day we wanted to get another long hike in so we started out in Madison and hiked the Capital City trail to the Capital Springs Dog Park, one of the largest dog parks we’ve ever seen. The trail is meant for bikers and we saw a few but since it was a grey day and had rained most of the morning it was fairly desolate. It’s a relatively boring trail along a mostly industrial area but it served us well for training. See you later Wisconsin!

Running, Travel

Milwaukee


It’s time to give up summer, I know, I know, it’s nearly the end of October but I really like to hold on to summer for as long as possible. But the air is chilled and leaves are turning so I’m embracing the autumn with open arms.

For the last few years we have made the drive up to Milwaukee for one of our favorite 5Ks, the Milwaukee Beer Run. On our way, and in keeping with our new found love of fall, we stopped by Richardson Adventure Farm to eat some (ok a lot) apple cider donuts and take glamour shots of Franklin with the pumpkins, and he got to meet a goat!

We made it to Milwaukee and our Airbnb was so cool! Nestled in the middle of a beautiful garden we stayed in a little cottage off of the main house at Sanger House Gardens.

Milwaukee has so much to offer, beer, pretzels, markets, cheese, cheese curds, cheese everything. There’s more than just food of course but when in Rome as they say. We brought our bikes because Milwaukee is a wonderful city to explore by bike; though there are more hills than in Chicago so our fixies made us work a little harder.

After a wild 5K–think whipping rains, gusty winds, and getting smacked right in the face by multiple leaves…In. My. Face.–we stopped by Milwaukee Public Market for lunch and then it snowed! I said I was embracing fall not winter! It was just a dusting but quite unexpected.

Just a quick weekend trip so it’s back to Chicago for us three, hopefully it’s not snowing there yet.

Camping, Dogs, HIking

Ludington State Park


Fall camping trip! Just about every fall we meet up with our Michigan friends for a quick weekend camping trip. This year we visited Ludington State Park and it did not disappoint.

The perfect blend of forest terrain and sandy beaches Ludington is a great end of summer spot. This one falls under the “small adventures” category so there’s little to tell but we stayed at Cedars Campground, which is where most trails begin so we would just pick a direction and off we went!

The only trail I know we took is the Lighthouse trail which follows the dunes along Lake Michigan. We had a great time and I’m sure we’ll visit again.