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Monday, December 5, 2016

Gift Guide for Travelers

It is that time of year folks.  The time of year when all your favorite blogs feature gift guides.  I have always find them slightly annoying yet really awesome.  Annoyed that beautiful pictures of hikes and travels are filled with products for sale and affiliate links, but also grateful for the gift ideas in the holiday season.  So if you are slightly annoyed and excited about this gift guide, I am sorry and you are welcome.  

This years guide is a little heavy on organization.  Why? Because this tends to be the biggest struggle I have when planning for a trip (how to pack everything I need as compact and organized as possible).  I also put in a few awesome electronics, a menu aid, a fun wallet, a genius idea for a water bottle, and a way to wash your clothes without a washing machine.  Without further adieu, lets talk about awesome gift for the traveler on your shopping list. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hiking Etiquette - Tips on the Trails

There have been countless incidents on the trails where I wish we had hiking etiquette signs posted at some of the popular trailheads.  Some people just don't know the informal rules of the trail and some people, well, need to be reminded every once in a while.  I will never forget the groups hiking through Bryce Canyon National Park who would stop in the middle of the trail to take endless selfies, or have a friend take pictures of something for a solid ten minutes.  Or you have the hikers who let their dogs go to the bathroom in the middle of the trail (dog hiking etiquette deserves and will get its own post).

So many times I told myself "You need to write a post about trail etiquette" because education is the first step to awareness. And as I mentioned, some of us need a quick lesson while others just need a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder.  Nothing too complicated, just the standard "who has the right of way" and how to be a better human on the trails so we can all enjoy the hike.

This can be a tricky thing to analyze on the trail.  Generally speaking, the uphill hiker gets the right of way.  However, they will often take the opportunity for a short break and let you pass.  The rule is that the uphill hikers gets to make the call!  All situations are different so use your best judgment while remembering that the uphill hiker gets the right of way.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Real or Fake? The truth about Christmas Trees

The ability to cut down my own tree at an adorable farm in December was something I really missed the last two years.  While living in Salt Lake City, you can really only get pre-cut trees unless you can get a state permit to cut a tree through land management agencies like the BLM or other forestry departments.   Living in my apartment I wanted the cut tree experience, but really didn't have the supplies to be chopping down a tree in the middle of a National Forest.  What this meant is that the last two years in Utah, we headed somewhere with a mass amount of cut trees like Lowe's to pick up our already-dead-needles-everywhere Christmas tree.  A few days after bringing it home, our poor tree was losing needles faster than I could sweep them.  I missed that hype of selecting and cutting a tree, that piney smell in my house, and our pre-cut tree barely made it to Christmas Day. 

Yes, I could easily avoid the hassle and just grab a fake tree at the store and solve my Christmas tree woes.  But if you are an all-natural Christmas tree fan it is hard to stop cold turkey and go the artificial route.  And I must say, I have some solid reasons for sticking to this Christmas tradition:  
  1. Storage! when you live in an apartment with no storage and tend to move a lot, hauling around a fake tree is just one more thing to put in the moving van.  They take up a lot of room and the fewer holiday items I have to store and move, the better.
  2. You miss the fun outing!  Think hot cocoa and sleigh rides with Christmas music.  What better way to get in the holiday spirit?
  3. It's more environmentally responsible.  Artificial trees are actually less environmentally friendly.
So a cut-your-own at a local farm provides a fun outing, the freshest tree, and no storage room needed after the holidays.  But why is cutting your own tree the most environmentally responsible option?  Glad you asked.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hiking the Seven Sisters- Mount Holyoke Range, Massachusetts

I spent the month of November in a hiking rut and I needed to switch up my routine.  I needed some elevation, sunshine and vistas in a new town to kick off the sunny November weekend.  

I wanted to stick to a 2 hour radius of home that way I could for-go hotels and keep  it a day trip.  So on my quest for a new hike I did what any last-minute-lazy-hiker does: I hit google maps to do a little research and see what I could find.  Pretty soon, I stumbled upon the ridge walk among the Seven Sisters across the Holyoke Range in Western Massachusetts, a hike which appeared to be exactly what I was looking for.  Elevation, a good workout, vistas, summits, historical hotels and an overall great hike in a really fun town.  The hike itself was a treat and the college town of Amherst with its breweries and restaurants was an added bonus. A Hike, a new town to explore and a few breweries? That is the Katie Wanders Way 

We jumped in the car and drove the two hours across the state of Connecticut and into Massachusetts to start our hike in Amherst. The plan was to follow the 6 mile hike along the ridge of the Mount Holyoke Range, following the Metacomet-Monadock Trail (a section of the New England Trail) across 10 peaks, to the Summit House and end at another trailhead on Mountain Road. If we were feeling really adventurous we could retrace our steps back across the 10 summits (as the famous trail race does) or the more practical option: call an Uber which would take us the 6 miles back to our car at the opposite trailhead ($8, 10 minute ride).  And yes, we are practical (and sometimes lazy) hikers.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

KW Fall Favorites - hikes, bikes, beers and drives

New England just received its first official snowfall.  Up to a foot in the northwestern portion of the state, and a mere dusting here on the shoreline.   Here in Stonington, it was just enough to shut down major highways when our bridges turned into a sheet of ice.  So as the snow falls and the accidents pile up, let's take a quick second to reminisce about fall (because who is ready to let go of the beautiful leaves and warm afternoons yet? Not I).  

Fall is one of the best times of year and it goes by so fast.  I've been lucky enough to spend many October months in New England, and a few out west.  Last year, I wrote a post on the fall foliage of Utah, and this year, I am updating the list throwing in some New England gems with the bunch.  Below, I have included some of my favorites as a farewell to fall.  Featuring some of the best hikes, drives, and the most quaint towns, this list below is some of my favorite things about fall from New Hampshire to Utah.   Enjoy. 

Oktoberfest at Snowbird (Utah)
To start the best of Fall on KW list, we have Snowbird's Oktoberfest.  Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah is beautiful during the fall months and Oktoberfest makes the scenery even better.  Beer,
bratz and the start of the foliage in Utah, this is the perfect way to kick off fall in the west. Be warned it can get crowded as Snowbird's Oktoberfest was voted one of America's 10 Best Oktoberfests by Men's Journal Magazine. Snowbird's Annual Oktoberfest attracts over 60,000 visitors and has grown to become one of the largest festivals in Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Bryce Canyon makes the list not for its fall foliage, but the chance to see snow covered Hoodoos and a less crowded park.  Bryce is my favorite National Park and it is so fun to visit with that chilly in the air as you hike the loop among the hoodoos.  Catch this in the fall where there are less visitor's and see the snow-capped hoodoos down in the amphitheater.  Be warned, because of the higher altitude this park can be quite cool in the park, bundle up and anticipate snow.