Hike, Cook, Eat, And Explore….Just A Few Of My Favorite Things

I don’t get a whole lot of down time with being a wife, mother, childcare provider, and a person that will not pass up a day outside if the sun is shining. However, there have been a few things consuming what little free time I do have.

Trip planning…..I should have been a travel agent. Although, do people even use travel agents any more???? Who knows. Anyhow, I have been working hard at planning our next adventure vacation and I am finally at a place where I can say it’s complete. I till have two places to book for the night but for the adventure part of the trip, it’s complete. Sleeping is just details anyhow…right? This vacation is going to be like no other since I am not ready to live the airline HELL again any time soon, so we are driving this one, exploring many places, and of course hiking to some of the places on my bucket list.

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Cooking….again something I have been enjoying but I know will soon become a chore for the next few months with the warmer weather. There is nothing worse than having to come in from outside to cook…uggg. Why do we need to eat in the summer time….its such a waste of good summer time hours? Anyhow, I splurged and bought a spiralizer and have been experimenting with it. My husband is a bit scared of what I may put on the dinner table in the next few weeks and our son has already said to give him notice and he will go out for dinner. Party pooper!!!

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And I have been roasting veggie mixtures like crazy and found that I LOVE roasted lemon slices on my veggies. Lemons turn to sweet slices of heaven when they are roasted. You have to try it!!!

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We are planning frantically for camping season and I could not be more excited. OK, well maybe if it were paddling season but that is still a ways away for me. Waters are still a bit chilly so why not camp instead. I placed and received my yearly order of grab and go camp meals for when the urge hits and we have no time to prepare…we just grab and go.

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I have to mention my new love…..sushi. I have had sushi in the past at a few places but this months dinner out with my brother was for sushi at an actual sushi restaurant here in Green Bay. I was nervous,excited, and a little scared to be honest. They often will serve fish eggs on many items and being married to a avid fisherman, I cannot eat fish eggs from any species. However, we easily worked around this dislike and I was amazed at how wonderful our meal tasted, looked, and I cannot wait to return. We had the chef prepare everything we ordered on one plate to share between the three of us and it was like a party in our mouth, literally!!! Look at this plate of food. I am loving these monthly dinners with my brother, he is an adventurous soul and a great foodie at that. And, I will never again have to try and figure out where to go for my future birthday dinners….without a doubt it will be out for sushi.

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That sums up my free time as of lately. I will leave you all with an end of week rainbow and a wish for a great weekend ahead.

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Did You Know….

Did you know….that in WI you can purchase your yearly state park entry sticker for full price ($28) and they offer a second sticker for a second vehicle for a reduced rate? We never did until a few years ago and for us this is a bonus since we need three for our household.

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Did you know…. that my dream someday is to section hike the Appalachian Trail? As of today I have 6 miles completed which is hardly a start but it’s still a start. I have read numerous books about it and just started one that was recommended to me called AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller. So far I am really enjoying it.

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Did you know….I cannot mix meatloaf or meatballs without wearing rubber gloves? My husband thinks this is hilarious. Although, he has learned not to laugh at me since he loves both meatloaf and meatballs and if he laughs at me then I don’t make them.

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Did you know….I love to grab takeout menus from various restaurants and recreate some of the dishes at home? I think this is such an easy way to come up with variety for home menus. Plus, typically there are many different things that sound so wonderful and who can order more than one entree while out for a meal. My friend recently chuckled at me when I grabbed menus at every restaurant we stopped at and I told her this is what I do with them. Doesn’t anyone else do this???

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Did you know….pancakes are one of our favorite camp breakfasts when we are headed out for a day of hiking? However, since surgery (January2016) I have a hard time eating pancakes….and I mean a real hard time. Well, as you all know, we have made our first camp reservations of the year and I am also convinced that I can find a pancake I can eat without losing the contents of my stomach within minutes, by this trip. I recently was told to try Kodiak brand so I picked up a box and we are going to give it a test run here at home. Let’s hope for the best since these are full of protein and would be perfect for a prehike breakfast.

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Did you know….that even though our son takes family, graduation, wedding, and professional pictures for everyone else, I have never had him take a professional picture of our family? Why you ask…..well honestly, a nicely dressed, matching outfits, sitting on a stone man made fence is not my idea of what my family is and/or looks like. So why would I want a picture that does not describe who we are as a family? I have some of the best pictures of all of us, us as a couple, and just myself on trails in some of the most beautiful places ever and I cherish these and the fact that he was there to capture the moment with his camera.

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Did you know….that I am so ready for winter to be over with already? We had a burst of spring like temperatures and now we are back to full blown winter. Add in the few snowfalls we have also had since these nice days and ugggg, I am ready to be done. We have some big plans for this upcoming weekend and hopefully it will be all good. I am in the market for some new hiking boots, a stop at Trader Joe’s, and a nice dinner somewhere other than in good ole Green Bay. Hopefully this brightens my mood and if it doesn’t I think we may plan a hike on a WI state trail that we have not visited in a while. Rarely, do we hike south of Green Bay but I recall it being a nice trail. If we make this happen I will be sure to keep you all updated on the trail conditions in this area.

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Rocky Mountains N.P., Grand Tetons N.P. or Shenandoah N.P.

I need some help from all my fellow hikers out there in cyber land. We are trying to plan our next big adventure and we all have different thoughts on what direction to go. And this time our plan is to drive and not fly. So this is really going to be an adventure. Although, our last vacation was also an adventure in itself flying…that is after we finally got off the ground, found our luggage twice, and rented a car to drive the remainder of the way home since the airlines could not seem to get us home for two more days. So driving it is because I am not ready to board another airplane any time soon.

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So I need some advice, thoughts, suggestions, and any information you can share in regards to these three national parks or their surrounding areas. Best hikes, best places to stay, things to do, and any things not to do.

Comment or email me at rednatural1973@gmail.com.

Thank You!!!!

 

 

Appalachian Trail to the Boulevard in the Smoky Mountains National Park

The second hike we did in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park would be the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) to the Boulevard.

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This was a bucket list dream come true for me. I have always wanted to hike on the A.T. and this was my moment to do it.

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We started this trail at the Newfound Gap parking area where there is once again, ample parking with great photo opportunities right from the parking area.

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Here we did find that the restrooms were open in January unlike the other trailheads in this national park.

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A few things to note about this trail. Unlike the Alum Cave trail, which was at a lower elevation, this trailhead was much colder. We found snow in the parking area,

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and it did not take long for my husbands fingers to freeze.

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So if it’s warmer down below, be prepared to have layers on up above. We were not prepared for this at all, especially since we did not even think we would be hiking in the national park while visiting Tennessee. Although, we did have enough supplies to safely do what we did and not put ourselves into danger.

As for the trail itself…..it’s strenuous with a capital S!!!  You will be boulder climbing at times on the edge of cliffs, stumbling on tree roots and everything in between. If your anything like me, you will love every second of it.

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When we arrived at the signs that said we had made it to our goal,

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we had the pleasure of being greeted by some friends of nature. I am amazed being so far back in the wilderness, these two deer were very friendly and not afraid of us at all.

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After taking a short beak and photographing these fury friends we headed back to the trailhead……standing around made me very chilly and we needed to get moving again.

My family hiked a total of 6.3 miles on the A.T.

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and I have the memories and the photos to look back on and remember forever.

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This trail is not for children, it’s is strenuous and is hard on the ankles with many spots that accidents could happen. The first mile or so you will see people, after this you will be alone and come across few if any individuals.That being said, if you get the chance and are in good shape, go for it, I am sure you will not regret it.

 

Alum Cave Hike In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We did two hikes while in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in January. One being the Alum Cave hike to the bluffs.

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According to the day hikes guide we picked up at the Sugarlands visitor center upon arrival,

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it was a fairly short hike, 4.6 miles round trip and rated as strenuous.

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This trail was amazing…..there were so many different things to look at, experience, and explore. First, I must remind you, we were here in January and this particular day was a Saturday. The trail was no doubt wet. Some spots were wetter than others but easily doable.

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A bit down the trail we came to our first of three one sided bridges that were over water.

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This trail does follow a stream/river almost the entire way which makes for some very nice photo opportunities along the way.

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(photo courtesy of our son, Quade Byrnes Photography)

Eventually you will come to a cave opening that has steps built into it that will bring you up and over away from the stream. This is Alum Cave. There is cable built into the wall of the bluff for guidance but it is not difficult in any way, in my opinion.

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After going through the cave we came across our first water crossing without a bridge. In January we found it easy to find big enough rocks to make it across with dry feet.

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Upon reaching the bluffs, it was still very foggy and made for a good rest spot while our son took all the photographs he came to get. This also made a nice spot to stop and have a snack and cool down. It was a warm hike, being about 60 degrees outside on this day, but it is straight up the mountain the entire way.

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After this we headed back down the same trail we came up and back to the parking area where we began. Of course, there were more photographs to be taken along the way.

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For us this trail was great. Our GPS read 5.6 miles round trip when we returned to the vehicle. Now, we did make a few extra steps for necessary reasons but an extra mile I would have to wonder about. However, after many years of hiking I have found no one measurement of mileage on a trail is ever the same so for us it ended up being 5.6 miles proudly!

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A few things I must mention…..in January you will not find the restrooms at the trailhead open. So take care of “business” before hand. The parking area for this trail is well mark, easy to find and has ample parking. However, in January when we returned from our hike, vehicles were lined up on the road due to full lots everywhere. I can only imagine summer/spring and fall to be even worse. So I would say, arrive early during all seasons.

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And, as near other trailheads we have visited, this one was also well marked to take all valuables with you.

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I would highly recommend this hike if you are in good shape and like mountain hiking. Children will also be able to easily do this trail with parent supervision. Cliff edges are easily manageable and the views are breathtaking.

 

A Taste Of Southern Living

Hello, hello!! It feels great to be home…although life has been crazy since we walked back in the door here, it’s still great to be home.

My family has spent the last week in the state of Tennessee and we had a great time living life southern style. I tried turnip green for the first time ever and loved them.

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We all enjoyed sweet tea at almost every meal.

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Southern hospitality is much better than midwest hospitality…let me tell you!

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And as a recommendation from a fellow blogger, one of the first things we made sure to try was pimento cheese spread. My son was very reluctant but ultimately, we ended up going through two packages of this fabulous cheese spread in the 6 days we were in the area. It is so yummy, I can’t wait to remake this recipe at home.

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And for me….well the temperature in this area in January is something to be so thankful for. I was thrilled to walk off the plane, pick up our rental vehicle, and see the temperature was 70 degrees at 6 p.m.. I told myself over and over all through the week, Karen it is January….and it is still COLD at home.

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In all honesty, this trip was quickly planned and we ended up replanning once before leaving home and once while sitting in airports delayed by ice storms all along the way. Originally, we were not planning on doing any hiking over three miles if at all, we knew we needed to do some business while in the area, and it was basically going to be a bonus if the area was snow free, warm and we could find time to have some fun. Well, we had much more fun than business and I am pretty proud of what we did with no training what so ever for this trip.

This is one amazing state to see and it was a great escape of the midwest winter I suffer through every year. I can’t wait to share more with you about what we all did in the area but for now here is s sneak peek.

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Questions I Am Asked Most Often Being A Female Hiker

Being a female hiker is not common in the WI, at least this is what I have found in my journey. Maybe this is the reason I loved visiting Utah an Arizona so much. Clearly, there were just as many, if not more, female hikers than males. With that being said, I do know of a few women who like to hit the trail and often will be asked questions by them in regards to my likes and dislikes. Which I thought would be informative and fun to share with those of you that are wondering some specifics in regards to this activity.

So here are some of the most asked questions and my answers to them all.

Water Bladder or water bottle? For me it’s a bottle every time. I have tried a bladder and both my husband and son love theirs…..I just can’t get past the rubber bag taste. I know it would be much more convenient but for the short trails I mostly hike(10 mile or less) I don’t mind having to carry a bottle(s). I love my Nalgenes most but the collapsible Platypus brand are very nice also.

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Pit toilet or cathole? Clearly there are moments where there is no option….but if at all possible I will wait till we get to a trailhead and use a pit toilet. I have learned either way it is a “crapshoot” since some pit toilets are down right horrendous. The worst pit toilet I have ever seen was at Scouts Landing on the way up to Angels Landing in Zion National Park…..we all decided to do our business behind the building because this pit toilet was not even “hold your breath” tolerable!!!! I will never forget it!!!

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Distance or elevation? This really depends on a few things. For me here at home, there are really no elevation hikes, so scenery and distance is usually the goal. When we travel to hike while on vacation….I am an all or nothing elevation hiker. The higher the better for me….I love the feeling of being as close to heaven as possible without being deceased. If I am hiking for stress relief, any place and any distance will do as long as it’s a dirt trail with very few people.

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Boots or trail shoes: This is completely personal but I would never hike any trail without my boots simply because I have very weak ankles and need the extra support.

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Trail map or GPS: Both! Before I hike any new trail, I do tons of research. I always have a trail map along and we almost always bring our GPS with us with our vehicle marked before starting the trail . You just never know and I am a better safe than sorry type of person.

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Alone or with a group? I rarely get the opportunity to hike alone….but when I have I find it very peaceful. I can go at my own pace for as long as I wish. However, there is something to be said about hiking with my husband and son and also with a group since I have done both. They all have there pluses and minuses so I like all of them for different reasons.

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What do I use for personal protection: I always hike with bear spray…and not always for the bears I may come across. My thoughts are, if it works even a little bit on a bear, it will work enough on a person so that I can at least have a chance. Plus, I also use my husband for protection…..I believe this man would give a limb to save my life.

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Forest or desert hikes: Both since here at home I have only forest. When we travel and it’s my choice where we are headed….it’s always the desert. I love it hot!

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Squat or female urine device: Female urine device every time. I am not a fan of peeing in my boots…which sometimes happens when you squat. It’s much more discreet when hiking with men, which is almost always who I hike with.Plus, imagine this….temps are 20 degrees, you have a ton of layers on, and snow is up to your knees when you step off the trail to go squat. Now you tell me if you want to drop your drawers and squat to pee. This is what I hike in 4-6 months out of every year which is why I love my female urine device.

What are my biggest dislikes about hiking? I have two big dislikes. One being garbage left by humans on the trail. Some of us are just plain old pigs and need to learn to clean up after ourselves. My other dislike is bushwhacking…..you know, going off the trail to a so called trail that is really not a trail. Ugggg, this is a big dislike for me. We actually came up with a new family rule when we recently traveled to Sedona and hiked in the desert. If the trail is not as wide as my hips I am not hiking it!!!! My husband and son seemed to think this was funny……but we did not hike anymore trails on this trip at least this wide.

What’s the one thing I would not hike without? My boots

Am I scared? I am asked this very often and every time I am not sure what to answer. Scared of what is always my thought. In my opinion, there are bad people everywhere, there are guns everywhere, there are animals everywhere, and there are places in my every day life that I could be in danger. If it’s my time , then so be it. I can only hope that when it is my time it is somewhere beautiful, I am wearing by boots, there is a smile on my face, and dirt under my feet. So no, I guess I am not scared.

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If I could choose one place to hike where would this be? Such a difficult question. I have hiked in some places that have taken my breath away, made me feel emotions I have never felt in my life, and have given me such a feeling of accomplishment that it is hard to explain. So, in all honesty, I don’t know where I would choose but I know it would be the southwest region without a doubt.

These are the most commonly asked questions of me in regards to what I hike, why I hike and what I do differently as a female on the trail. Hiking does not have to be technical, it can simply be a walk in the woods. Women often think because of there shape, size, time of the month, physical ability or the fact that there is no one to do this with, that it is not feasible. I am here to tell you it is and if you have ever considered trying this activity to do it. I think you would be surprised at how much you will enjoy it.

****Keep in mind, these are all my personal opinions and are not meant to guide anyone one way or the other. I consider myself a casual hiker and my no means a long distance or an ultralight hiker.