Backpacking

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, 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.

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.

Backpacking, Camping, HIking, Travel

Paria Canyon


Long road trip. Short hike.

Many of our friends are teachers so if we want to adventure with them we usually have to wait for summer or in this case spring break. We decided to embark on a 4 day, 38 mile backpacking trip to Paria Canyon which crosses through Utah and Arizona.

One of the best things about Paria (other than it’s remote and beautiful) is that you can bring your dog (off leash)! So that meant a tacking on a road trip from Chicago to Utah but it also meant we could travel around to visit a few national parks as well.

But Franklin, our dog, maybe had too much fun, too fast. Here’s a quick video about what happened to him.


You now know the untimely demise of our trip but this is how we got there.

We set out on a lovely day in March with our first stop at our local dog park since we had a lot of hours of sitting in the car ahead of us. We made a lot of stops along the way to make it fun but it still was a lot of driving. I used roadtrippers.com to plan our trip and loved it. On day one we stopped at:
– The Iowa 80 Truck Stop “World’s Largest truck stop”
– Thornberry dog park in Iowa (we went to a lot of dog parks)
– Monument to the First Train Robbery in the West
– A giant Volkswagen Beetle Spider (Iowa you’re a little weird)
– We meant to stop at Holy Family Shrine but missed the exit and only saw it from the road, it looked awesome

Road trip day 2 started at Fort Cody Trading Post but we also made stops at Bighorn Park Off Leash Dog Park and some Giant Soda Cans. Not nearly as many official stops as the day before but we stopped at some random quick hikes around Colorado (because they are everywhere) and pull offs in Utah, I couldn’t tell you where we were but no matter where we were it was lovely.

We made it to our first real destination on March 25th. Bryce Canyon was our first stop. There aren’t too many places where you can bring a dog at most National parks so we covered Bryce Canyon and Zion in one day. If you don’t have a dog with you give these parks the time they deserve, Bryce Canyon is my personal favorite.

Next we picked up our backcountry permits in the lovely city of Kanab, checked into our hotel and packed up our bags!

Hike day one where our small tragedy began. We met up with our hiking buddies at Lees Ferry campground (where we were meant to end our hike) and after picking them up we drove to White House trailhead to begin! I did quite a bit of research on the best path for us and decided to follow this awesome blogger’s plan (yay for other people doing the legwork!)

Everything was so beautiful and we really loved every minute. Franklin (our dog) just ran and ran and was so happy. Once we made camp we noticed that he was acting really strange and though he normally holds his tail up he was unable to lift it. He also wouldn’t poop because he couldn’t hold his tail up so that’s when we got really nervous.

We decided to wait for morning to see if we could go on but he was having the same problem in the morning so we made the hard choice to go back. We just didn’t know what happened; it turned out to be a sprained tail that just needed to heal on its own but we didn’t want to chance it in the backcountry. We hiked back and then scrambled to find a place to stay for the next 2 nights.

We ended up finding an Airbnb where Franklin could recover for a full day and then headed to Lake Powell for some much lighter hiking.

Since we lost some good hiking time we found some other gems to visit including a, most hidden, trail used by bikers that is on the back side of Zion National Park, a Dessert Botanic Garden, and the well known Horseshoe Bend.

We weren’t quite ready to head back to Chicago so our last major stop was to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is not my favorite place. It’s fine, some people love it, I just don’t. Maybe it’s the crowds or how tourist-y it’s become but it’s never been a go to place for me; I’d seen it before and wasn’t a fan then either but everyone should see it once.

Our road trip home was through Route 66 so you know we made a lot more stops including:
– The World’s Largest Petrified Tree
– Petrified Forest National Park (an out of this world place with blue and purple sands
– The continental divide
– A giant red arrow
– Cadillac Ranch (super cool)
– VW Slug Bug Ranch (super creepy)
– Britten Leaning Water Tower
– The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ (it’s huge)
– Wind Turbine Blade Display
– Oklahoma City National Monument
– POPS Soda Ranch
– The World’s Largest Praying Hands
– The Golden Driller
– Blue Whale of Catoosa
– Laumeier Sculpture Park & Museum
– Railsplitter Covered Wagon (giant Lincoln)
– Paul Bunyon Statue

There were a lot of giant things to look at.