How To Plan A Hiking Vacation

Vacation can mean different things to different people. Some individuals like to plan beach vacations where there main goal is to find a beach chair and bake in the sun while reading, sleeping or listening to the waves crash into the shoreline. Some, on the other hand, would rather feel as if they need a vacation from their vacation since often times doing something active when they are at home simply is not feasible and it’s what they yearn to do. For us….its the second scenario. And that is what I am going to discuss here today. I receive so many email questions on how I plan our vacations that I decided instead of answering each and every one I would make a few suggestions and pointers here.

#1 You must look at your group size and the ages of your vacationers. This for us is easy since our son has become and adult. He is able to do anything we can do which is nice. However, that being said, he is often not willing to do everything we want to do. What I do is gather everyone going and discuss things we all would like to do in the area we chose to vacation and then look at every ones ability levels.

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#2 Pick a place you can all agree on. This is often times that hardest thing. Take for instance my family. Our son wants, in the worst way, to go to Washington or Alaska. Mom(me) however, will NEVER go to Alaska….I already live in the frozen tundra of Green Bay. And Washington is beautiful, it has mountains(snowy mountains) but it is often rainy and I love sunshine. Which means that is a no go also! So we agree to disagree and someday he can go and send me pictures from those states. Then we have my husband, whom usually agrees to go on any vacation. He is not too fussy. Although, this last vacation in Virginia showed him that mountain hiking may require some extra knee support next time. And then you have my destinations…..the list is LONG!!!! I like it HOT! And I like ELEVATION!

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#3 Decide on how may days active and inactive you will be vacationing for. I made a big mistake our first trip to Utah for our 20th anniversary. We were there on our first guided trip ever and it happen to be our first ever mountain hiking adventure also. It was four days of long, hot, very steep switchback hiking in the most gorgeous place I have ever seen in my life. When the guides dropped us back off at our hotel for the night after hiking four days and traveling three hours from Utah back to Nevada we could hardly walk. We were hungry and the hotel offered a buffet right on the premises where we stayed and neither of us even wanted to walk down the hall to eat. We were so exhausted, sore, and oh so very sore. So I vowed from then on to plan one day of relaxation…..shopping, driving scenic roads, or just pool time. And no more than 3 hiking days in a row. This is what we did the first time we brought our son back to Utah with us and it worked so well. Yes, it was still exhausting but we could at least still function after a short rest. This goes back to knowing your activity levels of your group.

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#4 Now pick your activities, gather your maps, talk with professionals, and get to know your surroundings. I always pick our trails after researching online, hiking forums, and park websites. Once I have the trails we plan to hike chosen, I then make sure none of them need permits to do. If they do make sure you have time to apply and get the proper permits. Research parking, trail heads, animals/bugs/snakes to beware of, and GPS coordinates. Park rangers, if you are visiting a park or even near a park, are useful individuals. They often will know things you cant find online. Also, all national park websites have alert pages you can check up until the day you plan to hike. Flash floods, trail closures if there has been an accident, warnings regarding wildlife problems and so on can all be found here. I also love forums….they offer priceless information about many things you would lever think of… from what to eat on the trail to where you can find basic water while in the backwoods.

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#5 Plan for the climate you are headed to. We have a completely different packing list for Utah/Sedona than we do for Tennessee/Virginia. Desert hiking and forest hiking are two different animals completely. Again, research sample packing lists for different climates. Know that if bugs are an issue head nets will be your friend. Or if bears are active in the area make sure whatever you bring to protect yourself is legal in the state you happen to be hiking in. Find out when hunting seasons are in the area you plan to vacation. Hikers and hunters are typically not the best of friends….at least not here in WI. And know that bear spray canisters are not allowed on airplanes. Whomp….whomp!!

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#6 Pick a place to stay. Whether its a hotel, campsite, or resort with all the amenities, pick this out and make sure everyone is on board with the choice. I know after a long day on the trails there is nothing better than a warm shower. We almost always vacation while on our hiking trips in a hotel. We sleep in beds and have flushing toilets. Ice machines are always a bonus to fill ziplocks with for sore muscles too…..just being honest!!!! Pools are simply a bonus after a long day.

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#7 Means of travel there and while there. Ahhh, the big question of fly or drive? We have done both. We have had issues with both. No one way is perfect. Logically speaking, this is a crap shoot so good luck.

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As for traveling when you are there….if you flew you will more than likely need a rental vehicle. Know your trails and if they are on fire roads to reach the trail head. Some trail heads will require a high clearance vehicle to reach the trail head. Sedona, AZ was a place where we needed a high clearance rental…so research, research, research….you will not be sorry you did.

#8 Research the area your staying in and make a packing list from this research. Are there grocery stores? Are there outfitters if you forget something important…like your boots? Where is the closest medical building if you get bit by a snake? ( I would be dead of a heart attach for sure before reaching the ER but its still good to know where it is) Is there cell service typically in this area or will you need a SPOT global locator? I am sure there are more but all these are super important. First, when we traveled to Utah there was one grocery store in the small town we stayed in and Clif Bars were 2 for $5……here I can purchase and entire box for $5. We have learned to pack as much trail food from home as possible. Its just easier, cheaper, and saves you a trip to a store before you begin your adventure when you arrive. Animal/ plant encounters happen often, so pack first aid but also know where your nearest emergency room is. And just know that there really are still places where cell phones will not work in this world.

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#9 Have a backup plan. Life happens and if it can go wrong it often will. Prepare to change up the plan at any moment. We did this a few times thanks to flash floods in Utah, hurricanes hitting close to a trail head, broken vehicles the day before leaving for an 8 day road trip, wild fires in Tennessee, search and rescue closing down that days planned hike etc…..just have a backup plan.

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#10 Remember your on vacation….Dream big, not impossible!!! Don’t pack yourself so full that it causes worry and stress to get it all done. See what you can and leave the rest for next time. List the most important things and do them first and follow the order until it’s time to leave. Take us for instance, in Sedona we all wanted to climb Cathedral Rock so we made sure this was first. Then in Virginia my dream was to hike up McAfee Knob so we did this first. Make a plan and stick to it. However, even though we did both of these wants first, we still have not finished our list of things to hike in either Arizona or Utah so we know eventually we will return.

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I am sure there are many more pointers by people that plan many more active vacation trips that I do. Although, these are the ones I follow the most. I am a planner and have found my planning abilities make our trips pretty flawless. It does take time but trip planning for me is fun. And, as a bonus, when it all goes as planned it’s even more fun.

If you are thinking about planning an active vacation and want to ask specific questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help make your vacation as wonderful as ours have been. So whether your headed to somewhere warm, tropical or to the good old state where I live….Wisconsin….enjoy the journey.

 

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Roasting Poblano Peppers On A Gas Stove Top

I have received a few questions on how I roast poblano peppers. Honesty, the first time I did it I swore I would never to do it again. However, then I tried a different way and this time it was a breeze.

First, clean your peppers under water.

On a gas stove, light the flame and lay the peppers right over the open flame on the grates.

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Turn them every few minutes until the entire pepper is blackened….about 10-15 minutes.

Next, take a large plastic bag and seal the hot peppers in here for about 10 minutes.

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After 10 minutes or so, fill a large bowl with some cold water and taking one pepper at a time gently rub the blackened skin off in the water. Slit one side and carefully pull the stem off and dip the pepper in the water until all the seeds are out.

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Lay each pepper on paper towel to dry.

****Now if you have a garbage disposal you can do the cleaning step right under the faucet. I do not have a garbage disposal so I clean mine in a large bowl of water and then drain the water to discard the skins and seeds.

After cleaning your peppers you can stuff them, chop them, or slice them to enjoy however you wish.

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Recent Favorite Finds

I am pretty excited and happy to share some of my favorite finds with you all today. I am not a big internet buff so I typically find my favorites in grocery stores and on trails…that of which I have not been able to enjoy much of yet this year. So if your into food and fun read on.

A few weeks ago I bought a jar of these and had to go back for three more jars to last me awhile. They are so fantastic and I love them as an afternoon snack.

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As I plan for our upcoming camping trip I happily came across a new to us dehydrated meal that I am excited to try. We have learned the hard way never to buy a different brand than what we like when that will be the only food source we have available while hiking. This however, will be an addition to a regular campsite meal so no one will be going hungry if it turns out to be horrible.

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We watch a lot of cooking shows on television and many use creole seasoning in their dishes. I have been dying to try this and finally found one in our local grocery store. I LOVE it. It is now my go to seasoning for anything that needs a bit of a kick.

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Have you  ever tried scrambling eggs in a Blender Bottle? We did and it was genius. So easy, fast, and simple. This would be awesome at a campsite….less mess:-)

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Applesauce is one of the dullest fruits in my opinion. Recently, when I was at a bed and breakfast we were served applesauce with a bit of fruit on top and now I add some fruit at home and my kids eat this up without any hesitation. They enjoy it more and so do I.

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One pot meals call to me in my sleep sometimes. OK, maybe not exactly, but when I dream of doing dishes it’s time to concentrate on making more one pot meals. And that is exactly what I have been concentrating on for family meals. This one was outstanding with pasta, shrimp, and veggies all cooked in one pot. Add the cheese at the end, stir, and serve. Now is that easy or is that easy?

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Remember those pancakes we tried to see if my stomach could handle keeping these down unlike all the other pancakes we have tried in the past? Well, I have good and bad news to share. First, the good news….they are probably the best pancakes I have ever tasted. Bad news, they still made me ill. (Do you want to know why…read here)

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That should do it for me today…..do you have anything to add?

Items That Help Me Survive Winter In Wisconsin

It’s no secret winter is not my favorite season. I suffer from seasonal depression and literally count down the days on a calendar until the clocks change again, daylight appears past 4p.m., and I see green grass. Once the holidays are over is when it really gets rough for me. Although, I have lived here my entire life and have found some things that I simply could not live without during the winter months. So for all of you making plans to visit us here in the midwest during the winter or for all of you thinking about moving here from a warmer climate…read on!

#1 Lotion: Once the heat is turned on and the water we shower in is turned up it’s like death to your skin. You dry out, you itch and it’s just plain rough on the skin to be out in the elements of winter.

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#2 Lip Balm: Much like our skin, our lips are every sensitive to the cold also. I have these little tubes of moisture in every little hiding spot I know…..SUV, car, pockets of all my jackets, next to the bed, in my purse, and even in my backpack if the urge would hit for a quick snowshoe hike through the woods somewhere.

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#3 Tea/Coffee etc: You may think being in a warm house you could drink anything and maybe so, but something mentally happens when it starts to snow and you literally crave something warm to drink. We here are not all day coffee drinkers but tea makes an appearance quite often during the days of winter.

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#4 Down: I will never regret buying my down bed comforter and my down winter jacket. They are the best investments I have made to help me survive winter.

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#5 Hobbies: I am not sure if you would call this a hobby but it does take my mind off the snow and the days that are so incredibly short and cold. We do jig saw puzzles during the winter months and its always a goal to see how many we can finish before the snow melts.

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#6 Memories: What once was will come again. I look back at my summer time pictures often during the winter months. They help me recall a much happier time in life and give me something to look forward to.

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#7 Exercise: You know it baby….it’s the only time I can break a sweat during the winter months. Sometimes I will workout twice a day just to feel warm.

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Are you from the midwest?

What is one thing you could not live without during the long winter months?

Tips For Hiking In Sedona, Arizona

We learned a few things really fast with our first visit to the Sedona, Arizona area. And even though we only spent three full days hiking the desert trails and exploring the area, I know these tips will come in handy for anyone else visiting the area also. So I thought I would share some with you all today.

#1 WATER: You would think this would be obvious desert hiking but from what we saw, it was not! You will need water and lots of it. We planned two hikes per day and even kept a gallon jug in our SUV to refill our water containers between trailheads. Yes, its warm and not very refreshing to drink warm water, but it’s water and in the desert water is a necessity.

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#2 BOOTS/HIGH SOCKS: We were told to bring boot and higher socks to protect our legs from cactus plants that are sometimes very near the trail edge. This was a great recommendation since both my husband and son rubbed up against a cactus while hiking. These plants are vicious and you don’t want to get to close.

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#3 GPS/TRAIL MAPS: I did alot of research on what trails we wanted to hike during this trip. We, however, ended up adding two extra and changing one up due to rain we received overnight in our area. Which meant we did not have all the proper maps with us. Although, we did have the GPS which meant we were just fine. Most trails are marked very well in the Sedona area but it’s also very easy to get turned around or get on an intersecting trail by mistake. At each and every trailhead we hiked, we marked our vehicle so we knew no matter what we could find it again.

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#4 RED ROCK PASS IS REQUIRED: Some trailheads require a RED ROCK pass to park at the assigned lot. Many…..and I mean many people do not get them and then are upset when they return and find a ticket on the windshield. These passes are cheap, can be purchased by the day, week or year, and are easily located throughout the area at different businesses. We bought ours our first night at the Safeway Grocery Store(located on SR89A), for the week which was $15. They can also be purchased right at the trailhead if you wish.

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#5 TRAILHEAD PARKING LOTS: A few things here….arriving early makes it much easier to find a spot. They fill very quickly, especially on the weekends. Second, some have bathroom facilities and some do not. And the ones that do, don’t always have toilet paper in them….so bring some and leave it in your vehicle just in case. They are all pit toilets with no water at all….so prepare to clean your hands on your own. Lastly, some are located on back forest roads that require a high clearance vehicle. I researched which ones did and did not before deciding where we would start each hike. And when they say a high clearance vehicle is needed here, they mean it……here is one forest road with huge ruts in it.

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#6 PROTECT YOUR VALUABLES: There are signs everywhere to protect your valuables at the trailheads. We had no issues but we also left nothing but water and jackets in our vehicle while hiking.

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#7 READ THE SIGNS: All trails are different…..some allow dogs, some tell you what to do and not do, and some tell you exactly what will happen if you do something stupid. Read them ,follow them, and keep this place beautiful for everyone.

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#8 YOU WILL BE DIRTY: Hiking here for us was a whole different experience that back home. We spent alot more time using our rear ends to get back down many different areas, our boots were covered in red dust by the end of the day, and we had red dust lines where are socks ended. Everyone around us had dirty backsides and the same red dust coating there skin. So prepare to be dirty but have a great time getting this way.

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#9 HAVE A PLAN B: We were (un)fortunate enough to receive rain one evening while we were here and that made us change up our plans for the next day due to where we had planned to hike. Although, everything turned out fabulous and we could not have picked a better alternate hike because it ended up being my favorite of the entire vacation. So even though you have a plan, be flexible.

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#10 SEDONA IS NOT A CHEAP PLACE TO EAT OUT: We were very fortunate to have an awesome hotel with a great balcony facing the mountains that made meal times even more special for us. We did eat out one evening(the evening we arrived) and the bill was over $50 for three sandwiches and two lemonades. (That to me is expensive) So we headed to one of the many grocery stores and picked up breakfast items for four days since we planned to leave earlier in the mornings to hike. And dinner every evening was also bought here and enjoyed on our balcony. It was cheaper, tasty, and I did not have to keep my boots on to eat:-) We met many of the same hikers every evening doing the same thing and all covered in dirt which made us not feel so bad.

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We did not do hardly any shopping in Sedona’s downtown area. We drove through it to get to the Oak Creek scenic drive and it’s was bustling with many people. We did locate two outfitters while here and found one had much more “needed” supplies and one was more a clothing/fashion outfitter. We did visit one park while here, Grasshopper Point, simply because my husband had a wish to jump off a canyon wall into the water. Which he fulfilled.

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Other than that we hiked everyday. We enjoyed our hotel pool and all the warm sunshine.

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We enjoyed our first ever acai bowls(We all ordered the Summit Bowl) as a treat one evening.(Again, I thought super costly, 3 smalls were $30)(Although, the smalls were HUGE)

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If you plan to visit this area and have specific questions for me, feel free to comment and I will answer them if I can.

(***Keep in mind that we were here strictly to hike, it was the end of October and temps never got above 87 degrees)

*** To see the hikes we did in the Sedona area, click here and scroll down to the Arizona section and take your pick of which adventure you wish to read.