Recent Thoughts, Recent Eats, Recent Randomness

Where should I begin…..

Thoughts, ideas, inspirations, dreams….do you all have them rolling around in your brain like I do? Sometimes they drive me a bit crazy but I often wonder if they aren’t meant to do that. Some of the things rolling around in my head range from where to camp this coming summer,

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to what trails I want to hike this year,

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to what state do I want to toss at my family and see if they are on board to go visit.

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I would love to plan a girls weekend where all my girl friends escape the role of wife and mother and just be us for a few hours. No worries where this child is or that child is, what we will be preparing for dinner, how high the dirty dishes are stacking up or how much laundry I need to eventually make time to get done.

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I am not a big shopper but I want to plan a Trader Joe’s trip(2 hours from us is the nearest) and also want to make a trip to the next REI garage sale day for members(again, another 2 hours from us).

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I have a million recipes I want to try in my new dutch oven. However, I have been using it quite a bit with old recipes and so far I am thrilled…it is fabulous. Big huge thank you to one of my daycare families for this wonderful gift.

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I also have a list of places to research for possible destinations to visit and I am really feeling the need for elevation…..a long trail that’s leads up where no one else is typically found when you finally reach the top. In other words, a little peace and quiet to gather all these thoughts and put them in order of importance.

So let’s move onto an easier topic….recent eats. This last week it’s been all about cleaning up the frig and open food in the pantry. I hate leaving home and having to throw out food. So it’s been a bit of random meals but still good meals per say.I have been really enjoying spicy black bean salads for my lunches. I am not a big side salad person but give me a meal salad and I am all in.

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With winter chill in my bones I have been really enjoying oatmeal for lunch also. Oatmeal is not a family favorite so when I get the chance to make it for just me I do.

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We had one bottle of Trader Joe’s curry sauce left and it was time to enjoy it since I had a few chicken breast we needed to eat up. My son and I were in heaven…..hubby…not so much. He had italian chicken breast instead. He is not a fan of curry in anything…party pooper.

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Let’s see, workouts have been going great. I have been concentrating on weekends at the gym and maybe one day during the week since right now it is so crowded it’s more stressful to go that not to go. Weekends are busy but not nearly what Monday thru Friday are at the moment. I have not been outside to exercise in quite sometime….and even though I miss fresh air, I have no urge what so ever to go outside to “play”! Too much snow for this desert loving girl!

I know my husband is waiting patiently to go ice fishing for the first time this winter which really causes me anxiety. Although, this year it seems he is going with someone new and it could prove to be very interesting to hear about when they get home. We shall see….

I am trying to figure out when and how I plan to surprise my boys with something they purchased me for Christmas and of course, I want them to share in the fun of it also. They thought it would be a great gag gift to buy me a brick of ration bars. Why…..who knows??? All I can tell you is, when they least expect good ole mom to have snacks in the snack bag while 10 miles back in the middle of nowhere….this is all I am going to produce and they are going to share in the fun of trying it if they are hungry enough. Fun will be had by all of us;-)

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For now I will leave you with all this. You may not feel better but I feel a bit lighter.

If you feel the need to get something off your mind…feel free in the comment section….I will listen.

 

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A Taste Testing Disaster….Among Other Things

A week ago we purchased some highly recommended products that apparently are great on the trail for backpacking (according to fellow backpackers). We got a nice assortment of cheese, meats and snacks.

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This past weekend we decided to have a taste testing lunch to make sure we liked everything before buying more for our upcoming Superior Hiking Trail trip. And let me just say, thank goodness we did. The only items we bought that were edible, in my opinion, were the hummus, coffee beans, and I am sure the salted caramels. Although, we did not try these yet and technically, did not buy these for the trail…..because in all honesty they wont last that long anyhow:)

I made sure not to refrigerate these items since we will not be able to do so on the trail either. I plated the meats, different cheese flavors, and added some olives and peppers to the mix. While cutting the cheese I was a bit leary already since it really felt like Velveeta(which I despise). Although, I had to keep an open mind and try it.

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Well, needless to say, I made something else for lunch and my husband was able to eat a bit more of this test plate but also gave into to making something different for lunch. The ending result was our son tried nothing and the entire plate went in the trash can.

So much for trying what others suggest. I think we have done just fine with our choices of trail food in the past while hiking some very long and difficult trails. This makes me believe we will be sticking to our normal trail menu. I am a true believer that you don’t change what works. For more on what our normal trail menu consists of click here.

Moving on…..did you hike any trails for National Trails Day? We did. Originally, we thought we would be picking up our son’s new kayak for him but since the delivery has been delayed we were home. The weather was not the greatest but not as bad as predicted either, so we headed to a local trail for a few miles. Add this to our 52 Hike trail log and we have almost accomplished our goal. Here is a few pics from our hike.

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There is just something about the serenity of a trail lined with wildflowers or even colorful weeds that can put your mind at peace. Add in some sights of wildlife and a rainbow and the world just looks a bit brighter.

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As for the rest of my weekend, it was a revamping of sorts. I said goodbye to two of my daycare kiddos on Friday after a 4.5 year relationship with them. They are relocating and moving on to another state. Saying goodbye is never an easy thing to do in this profession but it eventually always has to be done. Which means today I start a new child and this is always exciting and a bit overwhelming for all involved. This little guy is only a few months old, so I needed to dig out some baby supplies that have been packed away for awhile and have my husband take down a toddler bed, to then put up an infant pack and play. And since I know this week will ultimately be an adjusting period for everyone, I did some meal preparations so meal time after a long day goes a bit smoother. I am a firm believer in healthy meals for the week and meal prep on the weekends makes this so much easier to accomplish during the week.

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With my veggies and fruit cleaned and cut, hard boiled eggs made, and menu posted on the frig, I feel ready to face the week head on.

 

Do you meal prep on the weekends?

What is your favorite backpacking trail food?

 

 

Chapel Loop Trail- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If you are searching for a wonderful day hike I would highly recommend the Chapel Loop Hike- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. This is a 10 mile loop with breathtaking views along the gorgeous lakeshore bluffs of Lake Michigan.

This was our first time hiking this trail and I am extremely thrilled to say #1 we made the entire 10 miles and #2 it will be repeated again! Here is what we did, where we stayed, and advice for anyone thinking about attempted this hike.

We drove from our home in WI and stayed the night in Munising, MI which is about 20 minutes from the trail head. Before leaving home, I contacted the park ranger and we discussed the black fly problem and bear precautions. He informed me that the black flies are normally gone by September but could linger depending on the weather. We purchased headnets to wear in the instance that these were still lingering although we never needed them. The only place we encounter them was when we were on the beach and they were not too horrible. As for bear precautions, as much as I hated spending $50 on a can of bear spray, I did it anyhow. My husband wore this the entire hike on the outside of his pack for easy access if needed. Thankfully, the only bear we saw was in the backyard of our hotel and I was safely inside our room looking out at this fine creature. I will say, however, that along the trail we did run into a few other hikers and backcountry campers whom all had their bear spray visible and ready also, so I felt a little safer knowing that we had ours too. Now, as for the trail….we arrived just before 8am Saturday morning and the parking lot only had a few cars in it. We used the bathroom facility, took a look at the maps, warnings, and such on the board and decided to head the direction of Chapel Falls.

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The first part of this trail was wide and went through big, beautiful forest.

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Not far in we heard Chapel Falls.

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Then we headed further towards Chapel Rock. This was really amazing.

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IMG_2533After Chapel Rock you will continue down the trail to Chapel Beach. This is also the location of the first campsite area for back country campers.  IMG_2547

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And an area that had restrooms. I was very thankful for this and I must say, this was one of the nicest signs I saw along the trail.

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When I came out I found my husband had stripped of his pack, shoes, and socks and was enjoying the cool waters of the lake.

IMG_2562 IMG_2559 After a nice break here we headed up further to Grand Portal Point. These few miles went by so quickly because the views we saw as we hiked the bluffs edge were just spectacular.  IMG_2568  IMG_2594

IMG_2589As you round the back side of Grand Portal Point you come to a very nice area for a break. At this point you are about half way finished.  IMG_2631

If you decide to sit and have a snack, watch your packs, critters are very friendly on this trail. We met this little fella begging for one of our almonds.

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As you make your way further you will see beautiful blue water, rock ledges, and what is known as Lover’s Leap Arch.  IMG_2522

IMG_2520This is all while hiking along the lakeshore on, at times, a very narrow path near the edge, caution is needed.Your next big stop will be at Mosquito Beach/Camp which is also camp area #2 for campers.We found this much more busy with tourists and moved pretty quickly through this area toward Mosquito Falls.  IMG_2650

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By this time we were getting pretty tired. The trail had turned from packed dirt, to sand, and these last few miles were loose rocks and tree roots causing huge tripping hazards it seemed. We slowed our pace to not injure ourselves and upon arriving at the falls my husband actually took his shoe off again to soak his foot for a bit. (Remember, he is recovering from a herniated disc that has left him with nerve damage in that leg/foot and ice cold water helps)  IMG_2661

While he did this I explored the area.

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IMG_2628All that was left after this was the parking lot. Which seemed to be miles from where we were but was actually only about another mile. When we arrived back at the parking lot I was completely speechless……….there were so many cars that they had started parking up both sides of the dirt road for almost an entire mile. My advice is if you plan to do any part of this hike arrive early. Very early.

We accomplished this 10 mile hike is just over 6 hrs, with two breaks for a snack and two rest periods in the water. After finishing for the day we returned to our hotel, ate dinner, and were both in bed by 7pm exhausted but extremely grateful for accomplishing this hike. It was wonderful!

My personal thoughts: I loved this hike, however, I am one that loves rock, bluffs, and waterfalls. If you are the same, then you should also enjoy this hike. There is a lot of different terrain here, nothing severe, but different throughout. Roots and rocks can be detrimental to toes so sandals would not be your best choice of footwear here. I thought the trails were very well marked until the last few miles. From Mosquito Campground until the parking lot they can be somewhat confusing so remember your trail map. And one last thing, because I know every female will appreciate this, yes you will find restrooms at the start, at Chapel Beach Campground, and at Mosquito Beach Campground HOWEVER bring your own TP!

NOTE: We did run into one trail hazard along the route and it was well marked and a detour has been made by the park dept. It only brings you off trail a few yards at most. Be careful.  IMG_2626

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Summing Up Our Zion and Bryce Canyon Family Vacation With Some Pointers For Others Planning A Family Hiking Trip

As you can tell from the last few posts we had an amazing time vacationing in Zion and Bryce National Parks. I credit our amazing time to a lot of research, planning, and mostly to what we learned from our guides the first time my husband and I took a guided trip to this area two years ago.

On this trip we were on our own and I want to share some pointers to help anyone else have a successful trip, as we did, to this same area..

#1 Trail Map: This is something you do not want to forget….and if you do go back for it! You are hiking in the desert where it is easy to miss a turn off, get injured, and with mountains surrounding you on all sides cell service is quite limited. We found a family on our trail through Echo Canyon miles from the trail they had been searching for. When asked if they had a trail map, their response was, NO we forgot it.

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#2 Cell Phone: Bring it just in case you would need help and are lucky enough to get a signal.

#3 First Aid: You don’t need much but you also should never be without some first aid items. We actually offered some of our first aid supplies to a family we met on the trail because they left theirs back in camp. You may not get so lucky and meet someone on some of the more remote trails and an injury could really make the hike back miserable.

#4 Headlamp: We all think and plan to be done hiking and out by sunset, although you really never know what will happen until it happens. Hiking out of the mountains in darkness can be even more dangerous than in daylight. So carrying a small light weight headlamp is a smart idea and worth the extra pack weight.

#5 WATER: I cannot stress this enough. You will need water, and a lot of water. If you are doing more than one trail in the park you will be able to refill water containers at each trail head in Zion NP.

#6 Do not feed the wildlife: There is a fine in the national park if you are caught feeding the wildlife.

IMG_2038#7 Watch your pack when you take it off: Squirrels, lizards, and chipmunks are VERY BRAVE here and they will chew a hole in packs very quickly.  IMG_2093

#8 Snacks: Bring trail snacks and don’t worry about counting calories while hiking. You will need the energy and will burn the calories quickly here with all the elevation so eat often. IMG_1818 #9 Flash flood warnings and weather: Check the park website for the flash flood and weather forecast warnings everyday. If it’s too high, choose an alternate trail for the day.

#10 Have an alternate plan: Keep in mind that accidents happen and this is a remote area so it takes search and rescue personnel sometimes hours or days to reach people in need. Have an alternate plan if you would come across your chosen trail head and find it closed due to search and rescue trying to find someone. We thankfully did our first hike into Echo Canyon on our first day because the second day the trail was closed down all day and night due to search and rescue trying to help someone.

#11 Permit/Back country Passes: Research before you hike and make sure your chosen trail is not one that requires you to have a permit or pass. Some do and some don’t.

#12 Sunscreen/Hat: Desert sun is hot, lather up and wear a hat if you can.

#13 Adequate Shoes/Boots: You will come across cactus, snakes, wildlife, dirt, rock, water, and so on. Wear adequate shoes/boots.  IMG_1992

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#14 Electrolyte Replacement: I will attest to this personally…..you will sweat like crazy here in the summer time. Prepare to have some sort of electrolyte replacement with you on the trail.

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#15 Groceries: Bring what you can from home or stop in the nearest town before arriving at the park. Groceries are outrageous here….a jar of salsa in the local store we saw was $8 compared to maybe $2 here at our home store.  Clif bars were $3.50 each. We brought all our trail food from home and thankfully did not have to purchase anything at the little grocery store near the park.

#16 Bring Ziplocs: These are priceless….great ice packs for sore muscles, water proofing personal items in the Narrows, rain protection, keeping your packs organized, carryout, sealable garbage bag, etc.

#17 Have Fun: A vacation like this takes a lot of planning but if all goes smoothly you should have tons of fun, leave exhausted, and have memories that will last a life time. I know we did, we were, and we have all of these:)

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Feel free to email me or comment if you have any questions in regards to anything you see or that we did. I will be glad to answer anything I can for you.

 

 

Our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Family Vacation-Day 3

Today our plans were to hike to the 3 Emerald Pools and also do the Narrows. However, nothing happens until after a hearty breakfast just like yesterday. Again, we filled our stomachs with wonderful food while being surrounded by beautiful mountains and then boarded the shuttle back into the park.

Our first hike was the Emerald Pools. The trail head is located right across the street from the Zion Lodge in Zion National Park.  IMG_2017

We started out across a bridge and immediately noticed a horse corral and riders crossing the Virgin River. I have always wanted to try horseback riding but there are not enough allergy medications in the world for this to ever be possible, so I watched from the bridge with envy. IMG_2024This trail starts out paved and is well maintained until you reach the first Emerald Pool. There is a nice waterfall and a great little area where you pass behind and enjoy a sprinkle from above while doing so…..very refreshing.  IMG_2044 It was a great photography place and a nice area to cool off before heading up to the next two pools.  IMG_2049  IMG_2052 After getting all the shots my son wanted here we headed up the trail to Pool #2. The trail at this point was no longer paved and got a bit more rugged but tolerable. It took only a few minutes to reach pool two and we were happily surprised to find water in this one along with some tadpoles. This is the dry season so we were not sure what to expect at each pool.

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After a short time here, we headed back up higher to the last pool. This is where the trail became more like rock scrambling that hiking. It completely turned to a sand trail with boulders to maneuver up and over. This was right up to my expectations, one of my favorite things to do is rock scramble….and I loved it! This stretch offered very little shade and was hot and dusty but exciting all at the same time. After a while we crossed over a hill of boulders and were rewarded with the last pool and a nice large area of shade to rest.

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IMG_2078Our son took some pictures, we all sat on the big boulders to cool down a bit and this is also where we shared a trail snack before heading back on the same trail.

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Upon reaching the trail head we again boarded the free park shuttle and headed toward our next trail which was the Narrows hike.

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This is probably the most populated trail in the park in our opinion….and I will admit, not my favorite for this one reason. However, if this is your first time I would say it’s a must see and worth dealing with the crowd. This is a completely paved trail until you reach the rivers edge. There are rental places near the visitors center to rent water shoes and hiking poles to help you through the river up into the Narrows or you can do what many do and walk right in with their hiking boots/shoes. (We brought our kayaking shoes from home) When you reach the rivers edge there is a spot to change and put your personal belongings into dry bags/ziploks etc which you must also provide yourself. IMG_2089After you are all settled you walk down the steps into the river. Hiking poles, large sticks, and trekking poles are all a good idea….it is a river and there are many rocks.  IMG_2087

You start out down river and eventually make a turn into the Narrows passage….this is where the crowd is typically enormous as it was on our day here. I actually skipped this river walk this time around, last time it was not my favorite adventure. My boys were gone about and hour and we then made our way back to the shuttle bus for our return trip to the city shuttle which then returned us to our hotel.

Again, this was a very nice day, with temps over 100 degrees which meant we were in need of showers yet again before dinner. We ate tonight at a restaurant that had some amazing appetizers.

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And since it was vacation we ended the night again pool side with views of the mountains in the background.

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Have you ever visited Zion National Park?

What was your favorite hike?

Do you have specific questions regarding the park or the area? Feel free to email me and I will be happy to answer them if I can.

DIY Freezer Bag Meal: Lemon Pepper/Dill Tuna and Rice

Do you hike, backpack, have a child in college, work out of the home, travel for business or pleasure, or camp? Here is a tasty, easy to prepare, DIY freezer bag meal to enjoy.

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Lemon Pepper/Dill Tuna and Rice

1 quart size freezer bag

2/3 cup minute rice

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

1/2 tsp. dried onion flakes

1/2 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon granules

1 – 2.6 oz. pouch of no drain tuna

1 cup water

Mix all the dry ingredients together in the quart size bag. When you are ready to prepare the meal. Add the tuna pouch, boil 1 cup of water and add this to the bag also. Close tightly, mix with your hand by squishing it around and insert it into a bag cooking cozy for 10 -12 minutes.

After 10-12 minutes mix again, check for proper consistency, and enjoy.

You can learn what a bag cooking cozy is here:

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DIY Freezer Bag Meal: Mexican Rice with Fire Roasted Veggies and Chicken

Do you hike, backpack, have a child in college, work out of the home, travel for business or pleasure, or camp? Here is a tasty, easy to prepare, DIY freezer bag meal to enjoy.

Mexican Rice with Fire Roasted Veggies and Chicken

1 quart size freezer bag

2/3 cup minute rice

1/2 tsp tomato powder

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

dash of red pepper flakes

1 tsp ground flax seed

1 Tbsp. dried onion flakes

1/4 tsp oregano

1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup freeze dried tomatoes (ground these in the food processor for a few pulses)

1/3 cup fire roasted veggies(I used Mountain House brand)

1/2 package Tyson chicken in the no drain pouches

1 cup water

Mix all the dry ingredients together in the quart size bag. When you are ready to prepare the meal. Add the chicken (you could add the entire pouch if you wanted although, 1/2 was enough for each of our meals), boil 1 cup of water and add this to the bag also. Close tightly, mix with your hand by squishing it around and insert it into a bag cooking cozy for 10 -12 minutes.

After 10 minutes mix again, check for proper consistency, and enjoy.

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You can learn what a bag cooking cozy is here:

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