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Friday, December 30, 2016

A year in review: 2016

I say this every year but this is always my favorite post to write.  A chance to stop and look back at the year and all the things iv'e done.  When I start to feel stagnant, reading these post are reminders of all the amazing things I have done.  Looking back, 2016 was crazy mix of mountains and oceans.  I spent about half the year in the west, and the other half in the east.  Some months I climbed peaks and others I went scuba diving.  This post, above all, was a reminder that 2016 was pretty good to me.  If you love these reviews as much as I do, you can check out A Year In Review 2015 and 2014.  In the meantime, lets take one more look at 2016 before ringing in the new year.  Or in other words, see some pictures of Katie in awkward poses around the globe. 

This year started out with a BANG!  Right after the holidays I took off for a week to the beautiful Madeira Island with my parents and 6 other aunts and uncles.  I did some scuba diving, saw some mountain peaks, visited a trout farm, saw the botanical gardens, sled down the streets in a toboggan, toured some lava tubes, and saw the natural pools.  I took a trip to NYC and ate some delicious Brooklyn Pizza.  Towards the end of the year friends were in town and we got in some skiing at Brighton, Snowbasin and Snowbird.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Elms - Newport Mansion

When the weather gets cold and the hiking is a little less inviting, I hit the map to see what kind of "alternative" adventures I can find on a chilly December day.  I woke up with the intention of going hiking, but when the temperatures hovered in the low 20's, I decided to get creative and find something else to do on a chilly but sunny Sunday.

After spending some time on google maps, I decided a day trip to Newport was just the ticket to a well spent weekend.  I have been to Newport many times but this trip was to see some of the Mansions decked for the Holidays.  That many Christmas trees brought on the holiday spirit and a tour of two mansions I had not been in before, The Elms and The Marble House.  With so many mansions decorating Bellevue Avenue, it takes several trips to Newport to see them all.  My first stop on the Mansion tour was to The Elms, one of the first mansions on your tour towards the water down Bellevue Avenue.  

This was a tour of a beautiful mansion and one that actually felt "lived in".  Great audio tour throughout the mansion.  Parking is on-site which made it easier for us, especially because we had our dog in the car.  The grounds were beautiful with a stable, expansive lawns and gardens and amazing crazy sculptures.  We did not do this but you can go on the Servant Life tour to see how the servants lived and access the mansion (advanced reservations required).  In the summer, you can have lunch at the cafe at the rear of the property at the Carriage House Cafe.  This mansion did not abut the water and did not have the amazing ocean views that some of the mansions have. The back lawn is still one of the best things about the property (you have to see the crazy sculptures for yourself.  Or scroll to the bottom of this post).  Every time I walk into one of these mansions, I am so thankful for conservation and preservation societies that keep these pieces of American history alive, so we can all daydream about the Gatsby era. See aerial footage of the mansion here. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Must Reads for Hikers

I have to admit, December is starting to get me down.  Temperatures will be 50 for a day or two before plummeting to the 20s and single digits at night (and that's without a wind chill).  yes yes, it is New England and winter happens this time every year.  But you start to feel like a caged animal when it gets dark at 4:30, the ground is frozen and the weather is just bitterly cold.   So, what do you do when you can't go hiking?  You read about it of course.   I have been reading a ton of books lately, especially audiobooks on my commutes to work and I have been on an outdoorsy adventure biography book kick lately, reading about other people's outdoor adventures.  One of the best ways I get inspired is a good blog, an excellent movie or my very favorite,  a good book.  These are some of the books I highly recommend and the books I want to read.  Make sure you tell me your favorites (or what you thought of these) in the comments.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Newport Storm Brewery - Rhode Island

The new theme of the weekends for me has become "An adventure and a brewery".  If I leave the borough to explore a new town or hike a new trail, I try to find a new brewery on the way or nearby to try.  After spending the day visiting the Newport Mansions decked out for the holidays, we decided to stop at Newport Storm Brewery in Newport, Rhode Island. 

Newport Storm is Rhode Island's most popular microbrewery.  Located in a commercial area outside of historic downtown Newport, you can get away from the crowds and sample some Rhode Island beer.  If rum is more your style, you can also check out Thomas Tew Rum by Newport Distilling Co., (both the brewery and distillery run by the same company) operation that started in 2006.  I had to drive so the rum tasting would have to be on another day with a different driver.  

Newport Storm has the beginning of most of your New England breweries. They all sort of go a bit like this: some guy working in corporate America questioning his life and worth in his field decides to take a leap of faith, open a brewery and after a lot of ups and downs, hard work and a vision, a brewery is born. Newport Storm has a similar story, their story goes like this: "4 guys from college came up with an idea to start a brewery. Coastal Extreme Brewing (or The Newport Storm Brewery as we are known by many) was the dream of Brent, Derek, Mark, and Will. These four spent their years at Colby studying the science that would help them understand how to make beer while also doing the “sampling” that would make them love beer. In 1997, staring at graduation and a life just working in “a job”, the idea was hatched to start a brewery". 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The most comfortable hiking boot: Pacific Mountain Ascend Mid Review

For a long time, I stuck to my trail running shoes as my main form of hiking shoe.  I laced up my Salomon trail running shoes instead of a typical hiking boot because I wanted something versatile, comfortable and light.  When I was first on the hunt for a hiking shoe, I wanted something I could use for trail running but still wear for longer hikes.  I would glance at your traditional hiking boot but I always ended up buying more of a sneaker type shoe.   All I could picture was the scene in Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" where the Timberland looking clunky heavy hiking boot leaves her feet blistered and raw (before throwing one off a cliff).   I was turned off by their steep prices, clunky shape and heavy weight.   I would look at a pair of hiking boots and immediately state "that cannot be comfortable..." and generally, they weren't.  

My use of trail running shoes on the trails worked for a while, especially on the drier climate of Utah's trails (packed dirt, not too much rock unless you are unlucky enough to spend hikes scrambling over boulders).  However, after moving back East, my routine switched.  Hikes through New England's much rockier and root filled glacial terrain proved that I needed a real hiking boot with ankle support and a sturdier sole.  This really came to light after hiking Mount Washington in my Salomon trail runners instead of a REAL hiking shoe because I did not want to haul a pair of clunkers up 4,000'.   Note:  This hike is a strenuous one and Mt Washington is known as the world's most dangerous small mountain (read boots are important).  My feet were swollen and in pain from crossing over sharp edges of rocks along Tuckerman Ravine's unforgiving trail, scrambling across sharp rock edges and the climbs and drops of the hike in a flexible running shoe.  I decided enough was enough and it was time to convert.  

Turns out, hiking boots have come a long way from those traditional leather high tops.  After researching, I learned I really needed a shoe with a steel shank to protect my feet when crossing over the sharp edges of rocks. I didn't know much about shoe shanks until I read about them from Pacific Mountain.  "The steel shank is a supportive part of the shoe that is made of a flat piece of metal located above the outer sole located between the heel and ball area of the foot just below the arch. Shank protection is crucial to the functionality of hiking and backpacking boots as they diminish the load incurred by the person's feet and calves over the course of their journey. Along with protection from rock bruising, and any potential bottom punctures".

I also needed a higher shoe with ankle protection, a toe cap for when you accidentally kick a rock as I do often, waterproofing for wet conditions, something not too heavy and clunky, and preferably one that had a feminine, not so militarized touch to it, more hiking shoe, less work boot.  And of course, I wanted a company with great customer service and a boot that wouldn't break the bank.  After doing my research I found what I was looking for in Pacific Mountain.

Pacific Mountain's awesome website, detailed product information and customer service attracted me to their company and hiking boots.  With free shipping and returns, a 100 % satisfaction guarantee and 1 year warranty, I knew this was a company who stood behind their product and cared about their customers. Before I reached out to Pacific Mountain, I wanted to know a little bit about the company.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas at the Newport Mansions

The Newport Mansions are a history lesson and a reminder of another era.  It is here in Newport, Rhode Island where the wealthiest spent their summers.  While that time in American History is exactly that, history, the mansions remain thanks to the Preservation Society of Newport.   These mansions are now open to the public year-round to transport you to a time when swans filled the fountains, Gatsbys danced in the ballrooms and gold covered the walls.

Summer is a great time to visit the mansions.  Walking the expansive lawns at the edge of the water you can really "time travel" to the gilded age when these mansions were used as summer cottages.  The warm New England breeze coming off the Atlantic is the perfect occasion to pop in and out of mansions, with a few stops at the raw bar and various Newport restaurants in between. 

Gates to The Breakers
However, Christmas is what I consider to be the perfect time to visit these mansions.  December means less tourists (less crowds, more parking) cheaper ticket prices and most important, the mansions are decorated for the holidays.  And not just a wreath or two, I mean exquisitely decorated Christmas trees, a ton of ornaments, poinsettias, elaborate mantles, beautiful candles, and festive wreaths decorate the mansions inside and out. 

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 that 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. 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-Monadnock 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.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stonington Vineyards- CT Wine Trail

On the Connecticut/Rhode Island border, where the Towns of Stonington and North Stonington merge and shift from coastal community to farms and casinos, three vineyards offer a variety of Connecticut grown wines on beautiful estates.  There is Jonathan Edwards in North Stonington, Stonington Vineyards right on the Stonington/North Stonington line, and Saltwater Farm Vineyard at the edge of the borough, closest to the water.  Stonington Vineyards was my second stop on the Stonington Wine Trail and I was pleasantly surprised by this vineyard nestled in by farms and field in beautiful Stonington.  Pour yourself a glass of wine (it is Friday after all) and read all about Stonington Vineyards.

. . . First Impressions . . .
One of the oldest vineyards in the state.  SV is a vineyard first, and venue second with opening hours that make sense, a nice change from most vineyards whose priority seems to be weddings.  This vineyard is dog-friendly (outdoors) and you can bring your own food.  There is a beautiful patio and lawn for the nicer days, as well as a gorgeous tasting room renovated in 2014.  The tasting was the cheapest I have been to yet, at $10 including a glass to take home.  The wine was good, but nothing "blew me away".  The prices were affordable and I brought home their award winning Seaport White for just $12.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Best Connecticut Hikes: Lantern Hill Hike

*** If you entered my giveaway on Instagram, head to @Katie.Wanders to see if you are the winner*** 

When the weather drops to the 50's and the last few leaves are clinging to the trees I try to soak up every bit of sunshine I can.  The hiking here is so different and sometimes I get a little discouraged to get out there as our hikes don't get above the tree line and we don't have amazing peaks or high altitude lakes.  Instead, our hikes are more of a nice stroll through the woods. 

Wide start of the trail to Lantern Hill Overlook
I did some research on some of the best hikes in the state and this hike came up a few times.  Okay Connecticut, I have been spoiled rotten by Utah hikes but let's see what you've got.

I know that Connecticut hikes rarely reach any sort of view point (we're always below the tree line) so I was excited to find a hike with a vista.  It is a popular classic because of its rock faces, little climbs, and vistas.  Oh and in the fall, this is an amazing spot to take in the fall foliage.  You can also spot Foxwoods Casino, the biggest casino in the country. It's mostly of an eyesore, but kind of a cool view at the same time.  If you want a classic easy fall hike with some of the best vistas above the treeline, here is your hike.  

According to a local newspaper, the Courant, local historians in the state claim there is a special spot on this hike known as "the Sachem's seat" on the steepest side of the hill.  History has it that this is the spot where "Pequot chiefs would scan their territory in search of enemy tribes and, later, English ships at sea. According to local legend, during the War of 1812 the hill became known as Tar Barrel Hill, when residents gathered at the hilltop and burned barrels full of tar as a warning that British warships were entering Stonington harbor".

Monday, November 14, 2016

Gear Review & Giveaway! Hill Hiking Water Bottle/Thermos

It feels good to sloooooooowly start upgrading some of my gear.  And as I find products I like, or companies that I love, I thought this would be a perfect space to share with you all the additions to my gear shelf.  If it is a product was given to me (as this one was) or if it was something I purchased full price on my own (as most my gear reviews are), my opinions are still my own and 100% honest.  So lets ease into a gear chat and talk about my new Hill Hiking Bottle, a Double Walled Vacuum Sealed Insulated 16oz Hill Hiking Water Bottle/Thermos.

Testing out my new bottle on the trail 

I have been wanting to join the fancy water bottle bandwagon for a while.  My beloved Nalgene has stood the test of time, and as sturdy as it is, I needed something with a little more "va va voom".  I wanted something that would keep my steamy drinks hot and my iced drinks cool.  Because taking a nice swigs of hot plastic nalgene water is pretty much the anthem of my summer.  The ice cubes melt instantly and you are left with a jug of uncomfortably warm water.   On the other hand, I need something to keep my hots hot.  Equally as frustrating is when you head out for a quick winter hike with your thermos just to realize your perfect hot tea you lugged to the top is officially of the iced variety.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

B.F. Clydes Cider Mill - Old Mystic

It's fall so and the leaves are turning and PSLs haven taken over the nation.  So, let's rave about some boozy cider and a historic cider mill.  Today we are talking about a mill in Old Mystic, the iconic Fall New England day trip, B.F. Clydes.

Oh, B.F. Clydes.  I had such high expectations for you.  I have heard so many amazing things about your boozy cider and oh-so-New-England vibe.  Here are my first impressions on my visit:  The cider was good (really good) and I loved the variety from normal cider, to alcoholic/fermented ciders, to fruit wines.  The setting cute and the history of the place makes it what it is.  You can purchase a variety of locally made goods from dressings to pickled eggs, and a variety of baked goods. 

But the reality was the customer service was awful, the whole operation crowded and confusing (and highly unorganized) and the apple cider donuts were a cold sad mushy interpretation of one of the best things about fall.  The weekends are a zoo and I am sure a trip mid-week would be much more inviting. So now that you have a quick overview,  let's discuss the good, the bad, and the 12% cider.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

In and Around Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is constantly being talked up and the "new" spot in New England. That new trendy city where 20 something and 30 something New Englanders are flocking to eat good food, drink local beer, and enjoy what city life has to offer. Well, city life in New Hampshire that is. 

Mid October was my first trip to Portsmouth (ever). Since returning from Salt Lake City in May, I have made my quest back east to really explore more of New England. When two good friends moved to Portsmouth and then bought a house, we had more of a reason to visit than ever. We cleared the weekend, sent the dog to Auntie Ashleys, and made the 2 hour trip north across Rhode Island and Massachusetts to the beautiful state of New Hampshire.

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Famous Tugboats of Portsmouth- Photo: Mr.TinDC
Portsmouth New Hampshire is only about 20-25 minutes north of the Massachusetts border, and sits on the Piscataqua River, serving as the border between New Hampshire and Maine. Just an hour north of Boston, and an hour south of Portland, you are between two amazing cities. At the mouth of the river, and on the Atlantic Ocean as far as location goes, Portsmouth has it all. This was the biggest selling point of the area for me- a hub of amazing places to visit? Yes, Please.  Awesome location with that New England small town feel. You can surf, and bike, hike and ski all in the same weekend. Watch out California... East Coast is the Best Coast. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Applecrest Farm- New Hampshire

Ever been to a farmers market and wish there was also a restaurant?  What if it also had a store, gift shop, apple orchard, horse wagon ride, stuff your own scarecrow station, pumpkin patch and petting zoo?  If you would like to buy some apples and eat a delicious homestyle breakfast before buying local maple syrup and mingling with the cows, this is your place. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

North Country Hard Cider - New Hampshire

Breweries are great and I am happy to say they are popping up everywhere.  I mean, we have over 40 breweries in the small state of Connecticut and more every year.  But Cideries?  Cideries are rare, unique, and so so delicious.  Where can you find a specialty brewhouse making cider, only cider, and six different kinds of cider?   Locally sourced apples, unpasteurized, unfiltered, without additives or preservatives.  If you are in New Hampshire, you can find this at North Country Hard Cider Company. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Mountain Biking Kingdom Trails - East Burke, Vermont

It wasn't until I moved to Utah that I rode my first mountain bike.  I quickly adjusted to this new hobby and while the learning process can be rocky (pun intended), I finally started to get the hang of propelling my bike up mountains, enjoying time spent on trails on two wheels instead of two feet.  

I learned in Utah and I learned to love Utah's trail network.  A lot of Utah's trails are flowing groomers or steep climbs, giving you a chance to "gain some vert" over a well-groomed trail with some insane views. When I moved to New England and took my bike on the trails here, it was entirely different.  No real elevation and the trails are technical, with a lot of roots, rocks, and bridges over streams.  I hated it.  I hated how technical all the trails were, how disconnected the systems are, and pretty soon decided this new(ish) hobby wasn't worth breaking an arm or a skull over in the rooty rocky trails of New England. 

When I heard about a group trip to Kingdom Trails in Vermont, I was eager to take my bike on some different terrain.  I heard about flowy well-groomed trails stretching over an expanse trail network.  I was excited to experience some groomed trails, and even find some elevation in Vermont.  It all sounded like a fairy tale, a taste of my favorite riding back here in the northeast.  And so, off to the Northeast Kingdom we went.  

Biking Trails at KT

"Kingdom Trails is a charitable non-profit conservation organization, driven by a volunteer Board of Directors, working in partnership with private landowners, local businesses, government agencies and other non-profit organizations to create and manage out-door recreation opportunities and preserve and protect trails. During all seasons of the year we offer an extensive trail network for non-motorized, multi-use recreation activity. Currently, all mapped trails in our local area are on private land. Kingdom Trail Association was formed to create legal access to these trails and manage the system. In order to generate the funds needed to maintain the trail system and manage usage on private land the Association requires all users to purchase either a Day Member Pass or a Membership to access the trail system. We strive to keep our rates extremely low so that everyone will be able to enjoy the trails…"

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hiking Mount Mansfield, Vermont

I forgot how beautiful the state of Vermont is.  And I guess I just never fully witnessed how beautiful it is during fall.  I knew Vermont was famous for its covered bridges and foliage, maple syrup and country roads, but I just hadn't witnessed it all as beautifully as I had this weekend.  The leaves were in their prime, and the hues of greens, yellows, reds and oranges were straight from a New England postcard.  While fall in Utah was absolutely beautiful with its shades of yellows and aspens, mountain peaks and alpine lakes, I am convinced the fall in New England just can't be beat.  Oh, those vibrant reds in contrast with all the other hues were just so dreamy.

Driving west from East Burke to Stowe 
Covered bridge on my way to Stowe 
One of the best places to see some awesome fall color is from the "ceiling" of Vermont. From it's highest peak, the "chin" of Mount Mansfield, you can see the amazing gradient of rocky peaks, changing to dense evergreens, before putting on a show of oranges, yellows, and reds before mixing more mixes of autumn foliage and green in the rolling hills of Vermont.

So far, I am half way through summiting the six New England Peaks.  I have hiked the highest peaks in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, with only Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island left.  I had plans to head to Vermont for the weekend to join a bunch of friends mountain biking at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont (that's an entirely awesome post next on the blog).  When I saw that the Town of Stowe and trailhead to Mount Mansfield was only about 1.5 hours away from where I was staying, I decided to seize the opportunity. I left the mountain biking crew to spend Saturdays on a solo hike with Olive- to the top of Vermont's highest peak and a "New England 4,000 footer" .

View from Sunset Ridge Trail above the treeline 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Guest Post: 5 reasons why Queensland should be on your bucket list

Variety is the spice of life, and variety is one thing I strive for in my day to day life (and this blog!).  Today I am off to Vermont for a weekend in the mountains but in the name of spicing things up, we are taking the blog to Australia. 

I love to feature different travelers on this blog, especially the fierce female off-to-see-the-world variety. Nicole is an avid traveler and yoga aficionado passionate about healthy living, interior design and fashion. She is a contributor to several lifestyle blogs and editor at HighStyLife magazine. When Nicole reached out to me to share her article on my blog, I jumped at the chance to share her experiences and photos with you all.   Australia is at the top of my bucket list and Nicole is here to tell you all why Queensland specifically should make the list. 

Unless you live in New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, Australia is probably a far destination for you. Still, it has an amazing tourist offer and almost 8 million tourists visiting it annually, with Queensland being one of the most popular destinations. Also called the Sunshine State, Queensland has everything you can imagine: from vivid urban areas, indigenous cultural experiences, World Heritage sites, dreamy paradise beaches, to mesmerizing biodiversity that cannot be found anywhere else in the world and amazing activities that help your experience the land down under in a way you’ll never forget. Here are five reasons why it should be on your bucket list.