Search Results for: hiking

Mountain Summit Photo on Colorado 14er

Hike Series: My Favorite Hiking Snacks

Hiking is one of my favorite activities, and when I consider it, the hiking snacks are one of the best parts! Often, I refer to my hiking pack not as my backpack, but my SNACKPACK. However, even on the trail, I’m mindful of finding healthy foods that provide optimal nutrition for the activity at hand. For my hiking snacks, I look for clean ingredients, no vegetable oils, minimal added sugar, and a balance of macronutrients. I’ll choose a few options that are higher in carbohydrates for glycogen replacement on long hikes, and plenty of healthy fats and protein to keep me satiated. Here are a few of my GO-TO hiking snacks for on-the-trail: Jerky – This is a high-protein, low-fat, and convenient snack to have in your bag. It’s lightweight AND packs a lot of nutrients per calorie (aka nutrient-dense). I like jerky in all its forms: Traditional Jerky, Jerky Sticks, and Jerky Bars! Some of my go-to brands are EPIC, PaleoValley, Chomps, and Thrive Market. Dried Fruit – I like dried fruit for the carbohydrate content. It packs well, and you don’t have to worry about it melting or getting bruised. I often snack on dried mango, dates, figs, and banana chips. One thing to watch out for is added sugars! I am careful to choose fruit that is simply dehydrated and unadulterated. If you’ve got the time, you can dehydrate your own. Some of my favorite choices: Joolie’s Dates, Bubba’s Nana Chips, and BARE snacks. Bars – This could be a post all on its own. The “snack bar” market is saturated. That can be a good thing, and a bad thing. It means there is A LOT to sort through when choosing a packaged bar. I always check ingredient lists for top allergens (dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts) and I am very mindful of the oils included. If you have a specific nut or seed intolerance, be very careful with your bars! When hiking, I look for a bar that is well balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. I avoid very high-fat bars as they tend to melt when stashed in a backpack all day. Instead, I’ll look for a fruit/nut/veggie blend. The sugar content of bars can be extreme. Check the ingredient list for hidden sources of sugars! Trail Mix – Trail mix is one of my favorite foods. I love a good sweet-salty mix. Unfortunately, many pre-made trail mixes are loaded with sugar and roasted in toxic plant oils (like canola oil). Instead, buy the raw ingredients and build-your-own! Check out this great post for ideas to create the perfect mix. Nut Butter – Single serve squeeze packs of nut butters are perfect for getting in calories without a lot of volume. This can be useful if you’re just not feeling like eating, but know you should. There are many varieties of nut butters out there. I like mixed nut butter, cashew butter, sunflower butter, and even coconut butter! Crunchy Snacks – Having something crunchy to munch on gives you some variety in your snacking. There are a number of packaged options that fit this category. However, anytime you’re buying roasted snacks (chips, etc) it is very important to check for Canola Oil and/or other hydrogenated oils. If you’ve got the time, consider making your own roasted chickpeas, beets, or kale! Other items to look for: Grain-Free Crackers, Crunchy Edamame, and Plantain Chips. Energy Chews / Electrolytes – I typically avoid “energy gels”/goos/chewables unless you are competing in an endurance race of sorts. However, an extended day hike may last 6+ hours at high-altitude. Having electrolyte and simple-carbohydrate-loaded chewables can help mitigate symptoms of altitude sickness* such as headache and nausea. Most individuals will not need to rely on these; but it can be a nutrition “tool” to have on hand when sickness strikes. Eat Before You’re Hungry Hiking in the high-country can be uncomfortable on the body. You are expending a great amount of energy to propel yourself up a mountain. Don’t forget that the hike doesn’t end when you’re at the top: you’ve still gotta make it down. At high-altitude you will find breathing more difficult, and it can also affect your appetite. You’ll perform better if you drink continuously, and eat before you feel hungry. Small snacks that are within reach are ideal, instead of stopping for a full snack or lunch break. *Some nausea or headache is possible, but know the warning signs of altitude sickness and retreat downhill if necessary. Happy Hiking! What are your favorite trail snacks? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking to expand my snack knowledge and find new options Click below for my Fueling For Hiking PDF from The 14er Experience- Have you considered hiking a Colorado Fourteener?! Join The Facility Team on August 28, 2021 for an ascent of Grays Peak. Our 14er Experience program is a 16-week program with training tips, nutrition guidance, and mindset lessons to get you ready for the big hike. CLICK HERE to learn more about THE 14ER EXPERIENCE Too late to join? Purchase the complete 14er Guide HERE. Shop This Article: Want to work with a functional nutritionist to personalize your diet? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let’s look at FOOD FIRST. Read more about Functional Nutrition at The Facility here. CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Nutrition Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!

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KateDaugherty : Functional Wellness

Functional Wellness // Welcome to the blog. Here, you’ll find my collection of recipes, musings, research, and life. I’m always learning and experiencing and sharing it all. I believe that health is a constant work-in-progress: a VERB not a noun. ——— I’m so glad you’re here. Learn More Get Deeper What is FUNCTIONAL nutrition? I define health by much more than what you eat and what you look like. I consider the system AS A WHOLE : how are your emotions? what are your passions? where do you find connection? F U N C T I O N A L wellness is about your ability to thrive in all aspects of life-  physiologically / structurally / mentally / emotionally  With nutrition, I take this to mean establishing a personal eating strategy that supports optimal well-being. Nothing is right for every person and the constant exploration is the beauty of our human existence.    My Approach TOPICS TO EXPLORE RECIPES LIFESTYLE NUTRITION ADVENTURE LATEST FROM THE BLOG All Post Adventure Movement Recipes Research Shopping Travel Wellness Chickpea Cookie Dough Bites (High-Fiber, High-Protein) May 5, 2022/Read More Spirulina vs Chlorella: Health Benefits + Recipes April 30, 2022/Read More Carrot + Tahini Breakfast Porridge April 24, 2022/Read More ” Nutrition should be personal. food is connection, food is community, food is love. find a personal eating style that moves you. ” kate daugherty Nutrition specialist 1-on- 1 NUTRITION SERVICES   I see patients in-person at my functional medicine clinic in Denver, CO and via Telehealth all over the country. I work directly with Dr. Mitchell Rasmussen, DC to investigate complicated autoimmune symptoms, immune dysregulation, hormone imbalance, and cognitive issues. We use advanced functional lab testing to work up cases and treat using nutrition and lifestyle medicine.     About The Facility Book Free Consult A Few of My Favorite Things Previous Next High-Quality SupplementsShop pharmaceutical-grade supplements at my online dispensary. It MATTERS how you buy the things you take! Shop HereThrive MarketMy favorite place to buy groceries (and the best prices on top brands!) Shop Thrive MarketWilla’s Oat MilkThe Cleanest oat milk you can buy. Willa’s Kitchen is doing it RIGHT. Buy Oat MilkClean BeautyDo you know what is in your personal care products? Makeup is notoriously toxic. Make better choices with BeautyCounter.Shop Clean Beauty SHOP ALL FAVEs Need Some Direction? Check out my on-demand PDFs specific for therapeutic diets like Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), Elimination Diet, and Low-FODMAP Diet. FREE RESOURCES Get In Touch Please fill out the form, so I can best help you. Facebook-f Pinterest

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Healthy Hormone Lifestyle Tips

The Lifestyle Habits You Need for Healthy Hormone Balance

Lifestyle habits are a huge component of healthy hormone balance. We live in a go-go-go time where we forget to honor ourselves. When we have poor stress-management, lack of movement, and a toxic environment it’s a recipe for hormone imbalance; manifesting as skipped periods, infertility, mood dysregulation, and general malaise. The five areas I look at that fall into ‘lifestyle’ include your diet, your exercise routine, your self-care, your sleep, and your environment. Poor performance in any of these areas can contribute to hormone issues that manifest as physical symptoms. Here are 5 categories of lifestyle habits for healthy hormone balance. 1 – Diet Your diet has a major impact on hormones. Start by eliminating any suspected food sensitivities or food allergies. If you’re not sure how to do that on your own, check out my Elimination Diet Guide. Next, start to evaluate the overall nutrient density of your diet. Choose real, whole foods. Eat plenty of high-quality protein, fats, and fiber. Do your best to ‘eat the rainbow’ daily to cover an array of phytonutrients. Incorporate Hormone-Healing foods like seeds, oysters, leafy vegetables, and legumes. Even when your nutrition is on-point, it may be useful to supplement with certain vitamins that are difficult to obtain from our diet. Things like Vitamin D, Magnesium, and Folate can fall in this category. Learn more about my top recommended supplements here. Lastly, make sure you stay hydrated! Aim to consume half your body weight in ounces or more, and drink to thirst. 2 – Movement Do your best to make movement a priority in and out of the gym. A successful exercise routine is any activity that you enjoy doing! This could be yoga, HIIT training, rowing, swimming, weight-lifting, or hiking. Don’t be afraid to change things up. There’s big power in listening to your cycle and adjusting workouts depending on how you’re feeling (a concept known as Cycle Syncing). A good start is adding movement after meals. Even a short, brisk walk can support cortisol and insulin balance. These hormones are tightly regulated by the liver and adrenal glands. Cortisol and Insulin are both involved in the endocrine system and will have downstream effects on sex hormones. Use your in-the-gym time to focus on resistance training. Even if it is just bodyweight resistance, this is important to increase/maintain muscle mass and support bone health. The more muscle you can build and preserve, the ‘hotter’ your metabolism will run. 3 – Stress Management / Self-Care Re-engage with yourself. Strive for balance, but recognize the natural cyclical changes that hormones bring. Get in tune with when you are at your highest energy (typically at ovulation) and when you need a slowdown (before menstruation). By leaning into your natural rhythm, you’ll be less frustrated when you do feel emotional. Find a regular self-care routine. This could include breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, yoga, time outside, prayer, art, or anything else that brings you joy. Not sure where to start? Kristen Milliron, LCSW, shares her tips for starting a journaling practice here.  You may never have a ‘stress-free’ life… but how you manage your stress makes a difference.  Also in the self-care realm: finding a way to connect with yourself (or your partner) is essential for hormone health. Oxytocin, the hormone of connection, is released during orgasm, breastfeeding, as well as massage, holding hands, and hugs. Sexual intimacy is not just important for trying to conceive, but also helps to regulate your menstrual cycle and improve moods. 4 – Sleep Get in bed. You likely need 7-8 hours of quality sleep to feel your best. Make this a habit by setting a bedtime alarm that says, “hey, time to get IN bed” in addition to your usual morning alarm. If you can establish a regular routine, your body will adjust.  Optimize your sleep environment. Turn off screens a few hours before bed, wear blue blocking glasses, sleep in a dark room, and perfect your evening routine. The better control you take over these manageable habits- the better quality sleep you will achieve. Ask for help. If you find yourself waking at regular intervals through the night, unable to fall asleep, dealing with negative thought patterns, or having physical symptoms preventing good sleep (night sweats, restless legs).. ask for help. A Mental Health Therapist, Functional Medicine Doctor, or Nutritionist can evaluate your symptoms and offer intervention. 5 – Environment A big part of Healthy Hormones lies in making an effort to decrease your toxic burden. We live in an increasingly toxic world and it seems to be closing in on us. Our personal care products, makeup, cleaning products, and food storage likely contain harmful chemicals that CAN be avoided. Do a deep dive of your environment by considering these questions: Do you buy organic food and/or avoid the Dirty Dozen? Do you use glass/stainless steel for food storage and avoid plastics? Do you drink filtered water? Do you buy pharmaceutical grade supplements? Do you use clean makeup and skincare products? We can best support detoxification in the liver by staying hydrated, pooping daily, and consuming adequate protein & fiber. ((Learn more about detox here)) Related: Dietary Fiber: Understanding Soluble vs Insoluble Fiber Changing Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Hormone Balance takes time. These habits are things to slowly adopt to get you more in tune with yourself. One day at a time. Free Managing Stress & Anxiety Cookbook: Want 20 recipes to manage stress & anxiety? Click here to get Kate’s Stress&Anxiety Cookbook that includes recipes that supply adequate magnesium, B6, iron, and fiber!  Want to work with a functional nutritionist to personalize your diet? Struggling with hormone imbalance, IBS, weight gain, mood changes? Let’s look at FOOD FIRST. Read more about Functional Nutrition at The Facility here. CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE 15-Minute Nutrition Consult with Kate to determine your best course of action!

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Stay in an Earthship on AirBnb Taos, NM

Earthship Community: Eco Travel in Taos, NM

What the heck is an earthship? : Travel to Taos, NM to the Global Earthship Community to find out. You’ll find the largest collection of off-grid housing grouped in one 640 acre community. An Earthship is a type of house built with natural and recycled materials with energy conservation in mind. It is designed to produce water, electricity, and food for its own use. It is a completely off-grid house that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels for living. The main features of an earthship are: Use of natural and recycled materials for construction Powered by Solar & Wind Energy Thermal Mass & Passive Solar Heating using soil Food Production (possible, with an added greenhouse) Water Collection/Recirculation of Rain & Snow Melt    The founder and creator of the Earthship concept is Michael Reynolds, who landed in Taos in 1969. His inspiration came from looming piles of garbage and pack of affordable housing. Over the next several decades, Reynolds turned trash into luxurious eco-homes by beginning to incorporate things like thermal mass, passive solar, and natural ventilation. Today’s earthships are built on a foundation of earth-rammed tires that require no foundation and provide heat and cool insulation. “Solar glazing” refers to the position of the exterior windows that allows the sun to heat the floors and walls without the use of fossil fuels or wood. Skylights provide natural ventilation to cool the home.  Earthship Community: Taos, NM Since the 1970s, The Greater World Earthship Community in Taos, New Mexico has grown exponentially. The world’s only completely off-grid community is 640 acres platted for 130 homes. The homes are certainly unique: resembling something from Star Wars. The adobe houses are built low into the ground, and camouflaged into the terrain of Taos.  The big draw of this community is an attitude of self-reliance. One resident sums it up: “You are the power company, the water company, the sewage-treatment plant and the food production.”  The Eco-chic designs are certainly unique. Earthship design seems focused on sustainability, less emphasis on aesthetics. You can experience Earthship living for yourself: through AirBnb and VRBO! I stayed in Holli’s cute eco home over the Thanksgiving holiday. It was a perfect off-grid getaway complete with fireplace, an extensive library, an old-school record player, and a scrabble board (a necessity). We used it as a jumping-off point for exploring the Taos Mountain Valley and the Rio Grande Gorge. It was cozy, unique, and a nice reset from the hustle-bustle of Denver. Interestingly, I never felt limited by the off-grid setup. The home stayed warm with the sun, the solar power was more than sufficient, and we made do with a gas cooktop (even on Thanksgiving!). Check availability for your next getaway! Next trip, I found this dreeeeamy Earthship kitchen! You know me, I love a good kitchen. This is impressive for any home, let alone an Eco-Home. Find the Famous Taos Earthship on VRBO. Not ready to stay in an Earthship, but still a little curious? Stop by the Visitor’s Center for a tour. If you’ve got some extra time in Taos, this is an interesting stop. It’s just past the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, worth the extra drive if you’re in the area. Final Thoughts on Eco Living I was so happy to learn and experience the possibilities of eco-living in an Earthship. It certainly opens my eyes to the stress that modern conveniences put on our available resources. While I’m not quite ready to fully commit, I think there are some lessons I can bring home. I’ll be more aware of water usage, leaving lights on around the house, and hopefully working towards less waste. I’ll definitely be back to Taos, and it makes me feel good to have the Earthship Global Community as an option for a home-away-from-home as needed. Stay tuned for more Taos updates (hiking, skiing, and eating). You May Also Like: Fall Weekend Getaway: Buena Vista Colorado What It’s Like to Row 150K in a Month

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AIP Lemon Coconut Power Balls autoimmune protocol snack idea

AIP Lemon Coconut Balls: Snacking on a Restricted Diet

Lemon Coconut Balls are the AIP-approved snack you’ve been looking for. Not to mention keto-friendly and loaded with healthy fat and protein. It’s summertime and my fridge is filled with all things bright and citrusy. I like having quick snacks that I can grab when I’m living an active life: out hiking, biking, paddle boarding, and exploring. Instead of reaching for a packaged snack, I take time to prep some clean-ingredient treats that I can store in the freezer. These AIP lemon coconut balls are just that! The best part? They are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free, seed-free, and hater-free. Unless you don’t like coconut. I like this recipe because it fits within the restriction of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP Diet). It can be tough to find bars and snacks that are nut-free! My AIP lemon coconut balls come together with the help of melt-in-your-mouth coconut manna. If you don’t know what coconut manna is yet, it is to coconut what peanut butter is to peanuts. A concentrated spread made ONLY with coconut. Delicious, clean, and filled with medium-chain fatty acids! Related: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Perfect Bars If you’re looking for a quick, nutritious, AND flavor-packed snack- here it is. These lemon coconut power balls come together quickly: with super-clean ingredients that keep you feeling your best.  “Lemon Coconut Balls” are a perfect quick snack that will help you reach your protein goals while maintaining a restricted diet. Try these mid-morning or mid-afternoon for a boost to get you through the day. There’s room for substitutions here, but this is my go-to ingredient list: -Unsweetened Shredded Coconut -Coconut Butter -Grass-Fed Collagen Peptides -Lemon Juice -Lemon Zest -Maple Syrup -Vanilla Extract -Sea salt Liven things up with these bright, citrusy AIP Lemon Coconut Power Balls! My coconut obsession is Nutiva Coconut Manna. I always order mine through Thrive Market! I order my ingredients from Thrive Market. I find shelf-stable products at cheaper than grocery stores. The AIP-filter is awesome for navigating a tricky diet! View this post on Instagram A post shared by THE FACILITY 📍Denver (@thefacilitydenver) You May Also Like: Oat Milk Blueberry Chia Pudding Gluten-Free Oat and Almond Bread Shop This Article: DISCLAIMERS: The statements made on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. You assume full responsibility for how you use this information. Always consult with your physician or other health professionals before making any diet or lifestyle changes. This post may contain affiliate links whereby if you purchase these products I receive a small percentage of the sale price. This allows me to keep the blog running and I thank you for allowing me to do that!

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Culebra Peak- 39th 14er

CO Hike Series: Culebra Peak

Culebra Peak is one of Colorado’s Fourteeners in the Sangre de Cristo Range Culebra Peak is one of Colorado’s 14ers – Mountains that rise above 14,000 feet. It is a lesser-known hike close to the New Mexico Border. Culebra is one of Colorado’s privately owned peaks, which brings up mixed feelings for outdoor enthusiasts.  This wilderness area is owned and managed by Cielo Vista Ranch. There is a fee to hike (and hunt) on the property. For me, I was happy to pay for the experience. Here’s why: The mountain is pristine and preserved due to controlled traffic. There are no trails above treeline, and only 20 hikers get reservations on summer weekend days. If you’ve spent any time on Colorado’s 14er trails, you know what a privilege this is. [I would estimate I generally see 300+ people per day on a similarly ranked mountain.] Due to the reservation system, we picked a day in late May and hoped for the best with weather. Our first choice was rescheduled due to rainstorms, and luckily we were able to secure a reservation one week later. The hike date: May 23, 2021.  This was still early in terms of the hiking season, so we knew to expect some snow coverage. Still, I was shocked by the amount of snow in the basin.  We arrived at Cielo Vista Ranch the night before the hike with plans to camp at the gate. There is a designated tent camping area just inside the fence, and flat parking for car camping. I chose to set-up camp in the back of my 4Runner- a familiar practice for me when hiking 14ers far from home.  We woke early Sunday morning to get dressed and prepped. Carlos came down at 6AM sharp to open the gate and check us in according to our reservation. We drove the short 1.2 miles up to ranch headquarters, where there is another parking lot. The ranch hand gathered all hikers there for a short safety briefing. Big things: You must be back down to HQ by 6PM. Otherwise, they begin search and rescue practices (and you get charged a fee). He also gave us intel that snow traction would be necessary, especially for coming back down.  There are two other parking areas higher in the basin. One is about 2 miles past HQ, and the final Upper Trailhead Lot is about 4 miles past HQ. Both require high clearance and 4WD. However, due to the recent wet weather and downed trees, we got the pleasure of beginning our hike from ranch HQ (…bringing the roundtrip distance to about 14 miles).  We were just happy to get the opportunity to hike! So, we started up the long dirt road at about 6:20am. The road certainly has some decent grade to it, but we maintained about a 2.5 mph pace pretty well. We had a few early morning showers, an ominous sign for Colorado as it generally doesn’t rain before noon. Luckily, we found gratitude for the cool temperature and trekked on.  Just before reaching the Upper Trailhead, we ran into significant snowbanks and donned our snowshoes around 11,000 ft. We could see a significant snow-covered incline to the ridge. The snow was hard to manage in this basin, even in the early morning. As the sun hit the snow and softened, we found ourselves sinking and stumbling over our bulky snowshoes. Once we gained a higher grade, the snowshoes helped with traction and hiking was generally straightforward.  There is a large cairn at the top of this ridge. It wasn’t as obvious as the route description makes it out to be, but we easily followed other snow prints and I never felt off-route.  I made it up to the cairn at about 10:30am and saw the infamous “snakelike” Ridgeline that gives Culebra its name. The high peak visible from this point is actually a false summit, but still provides a great vantage of where we were headed. The ridgecrest is at 13,350 ft of elevation, so there is still significant climbing from here.  We stashed our snowshoes, and switched over to micro spikes, as the snow was crusty and windblown. The traction is absolutely necessary, but flotation was no longer needed.  At this point in the hike, we were introduced to the wind. The never ending wind. I’ve never felt wind gusts like this in my life. Carrie and Avrohom (my hiking partners) described it similar to the feeling of indoor skydiving- where the wind tunnel is so powerful it suspends you in mid-air. [Note: When we got back down to HQ, they confirmed wind gusts of 40-50mph] The wind was so strong and so loud, we hiked on in without talking as we couldn’t hear each other, and barely our own thoughts. Honestly, if I had been alone, I would’ve turned around.  The ridge hike was much more enjoyable than the initial approach. It went much quicker than expected when viewing it. We did some boulder weaving, but it is mostly a straightforward walk without much exposure. Upon reaching the false summit, we got a great view of the final approach to Culebra. Beyond that, we were pretty socked in with cloud cover.  Again, the final approach seemed to go much quicker than expected, and before we knew it we were standing on top of the summit! This is an incredible feeling that never changes, no matter how many fourteeners I’ve completed. All three of us have 14er experience, and yet, all three of us got to share that euphoric feeling of “WE DID IT”. (This was Carrie’s 50th 14er!) We arrived on the summit around 12:20pm- 6 hours from the start, and about 7 miles of hike distance. We were fortunate to have a slight weather break that made it tolerable to rest on the summit for a bit. The wind was certainly still THERE, but not unbearable. We were able to get great views of the Spanish Peaks, Little

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Alaska Range in Winter from the Alaska Train

Winter in Alaska: The Ultimate Trip to the Far North

Time to plan an incredible trip to experience Winter in Alaska! Follow along for my full itinerary for a 6-day trip through the interior Alaska from Anchorage to Fairbanks. A trip north to Alaska in the heart of winter is definitely not on the TOP of most people’s vacation short lists. Winter in Alaska is COLD and DARK.   However, Alaska has been on my bucket list for a long while. So, I rounded up my warmest clothes and we set out to explore the interior Alaska in sub-zero temperatures in mid-January with hopes of catching a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).  Here’s my account of the trip from activities to food and how we pulled it off: All the hotspots we visited on this map from Wanderlog: Map courtesy of Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android Day 1 : Arrival, Exploring Anchorage I began the journey to The Great North with a connection through Seattle. This was a fun connection because I met up with my friends, Amanda and Jillian who are working in Washington State. They were both key collaborators to planning this trip.  The flight from Seattle to Anchorage was pleasant on Alaska Airlines. Current COVID restrictions mean capacity is still limited. We did pre-flight screening to comply with Alaska’s travel restrictions. The process went smooth, and we were cleared for entry within a few minutes of arriving.  We rented a car from the Ted-Stevens Airport in Anchorage, with plans to return it downtown on Saturday morning; then we headed out into Anchorage to explore. First stop: food. We settled on a highly reviewed and recommended spot, Moose’s Tooth Pizza. This little pizza joint had TONS of unique options and catered to a number of special diets. Amanda went for a veggie-loaded pizza on a regular crust, Jillian chose a whole-wheat vegan crust, and I tried a split topping on house-made cauliflower crust. There was A LOT of food. We ate half our pizzas, and saved the other half for later.  Once we were fed up, it was time to check in to our AirBnb. The Bear Tooth House was a modest spot centrally located. It wasn’t a standout, but it was sufficient for our ramblings. Having a car was useful, and we quickly got our bearings around Anchorage. The city has an eclectic mix of newer, commercial establishments and rustic, aging businesses.  We perused google for sights nearby and were intrigued by one standout: Star the Reindeer. His reviews are a mix of appalling and disconcerting. We couldn’t not go. It turns out, Star really is an aging Reindeer living in a pen connected to a house in downtown Anchorage. The most fitting review we read: “Star died in 2018.” Accurate. On the way back to the AirBnB, we found a great health food co-op: Natural Pantry. We loaded up on healthy snacks for our trail days and for the upcoming travel day. This grocer is a standout amid the chain stores in Anchorage. The early winter in Alaska sunset definitely got to us on this first travel day. We found ourselves barely able to keep our eyes open at 7pm in the darkness. An early bedtime was in order for all of us.  Day 2 : Anchorage Park Trails and a Fantastic Museum We woke up to darkness on Friday. Another odd sensation as we waited for the world to wake up around us. Cold pizza made a great pre-adventure breakfast.  The weather was mild for this time of year in Alaska: hovering around 25-30 degrees most of the day. We bundled up in a few layers and picked out a first destination to explore: Kincaid Park.  Kincaid Park is a trail system located on the southwest end of Anchorage, by the airport. We took the Coastal Trail which wound down to the beach along the Cook Inlet. From the beach, we were greeted by the sun at 9:54am. Across the bay is Fire Island and you’ll get great views of the Kenai Peninsula. Many of the other trails in Kincaid Park are skier-only. In fact, there are over 40 miles of groomed ski trails including 12 miles of lighted trails (for those dark days). We saw lots of amateur cross-country skiers enjoying the mild winter day in Alaska.  Alaskan Beach After a few hours on the groomed trail in Kincaid Park, we drove across town to Far North Bicentennial Park. This is another popular trail system for locals. Interestingly, we were among the few people on foot. There were so many fat-tire bikers!! Next time, I’d certainly try renting a bike.  In Bicentennial Park, we took the Viewpoint Trail. While the trail was enjoyable, a word of warning: there isn’t actually a viewpoint on this trail. We saw cool trees and lots and lots of snow. (I guess that’s Winter in Alaska for you) Instead of wasting daylight (you only get so much of it) on a lunch stop, we snacked on bars and jerky. I made my first stop at one of Anchorage’s infamous coffee shacks. They are all over the place! Little tiny drive-up sheds that offer a selection of hot and sugary-sweetened blended beverages. On my next trip to Alaska I’ll do a better job of mapping out exactly which coffee shops to visit. My family would love a coffee shop tour in Alaska! Next stop: The Anchorage Museum. I have to say, we were all quite surprised by this gem in Downtown Anchorage. The building is incredible. We enjoyed the permanent exhibits on traditional Alaskan cultures, Alaskan history, and Alaskan art. A rotating exhibit on Extra Tough Women of the North was particularly empowering (and a bit absurd at times). I would highly recommend a visit to this museum on a trip to Anchorage when you need a break from the cold.  We left the museum just in time to catch the sunset, at 4:00 pm. After learning about the Good Friday earthquake (the largest quake ever

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CO Hike Series: Cataract Lake

Fall hiking destination north of Silverthorne in the Gore Range of Colorado When my friend Rachel texted, “Hey wanna hike tomorrow?” I knew I was in for a good day. There are very few people who match my expectations of what it means to HIKE. Rachel gets it. We set off EARLY on a Saturday from Denver. That’s just how it is anymore. If you want to beat traffic on I-70 (especially westbound morning traffic), you’ve gotta get up before the sun on a weekend. I’ll give up my sleep for an easy drive and empty trail. As we drove up to the trailhead in the dark, we realized we didn’t have a headlight among us. Oh well. We were surprised to find a FULL parking lot before 7am. The Surprise Trailhead is a popular backpacking location, and accesses popular fall hunting grounds. The mild fall weather meant a good weekend for camping! Luckily, by the time we unloaded and laced up our hiking shoes the sun was up. For the first 1/4-1/2 mile we didn’t see anyone. We marveled at the last leaves hanging on the aspen groves. Soon we came upon a hunting camp (and pack horses). We passed a few camo-clad hunters and another hunting camp. Many hikers are not aware that most big game hunting in Colorado happens on National Forest Land (not private property). Yep, the same hiking trails that you’re on. BE AWARE in the fall, be respectful, and understand how to share the outdoors. Most of the trail was well-maintained single track that wound through dense forest. There are certainly steep stretches (we noticed these more on the way down); but largely the trail is a gradual incline. We hit a few areas that required manuevering around fallen trees. There is a significant trail split to be aware of. About 3.5 miles from the trailhead, stay left on the Upper Cataract Trail. Straight will take you along iconic Gore Range Trail. After about 5 miles, you get to a sweeping overlook. Below, you get your first glimpse of Cat Lake. Be prepared to descend into the valley below Eagles Nest Peak (and go back up). We happily down-hiked to the lake junction. Left takes you a short jaunt to Upper Cataract Lake (10,744′); right will continue to the shore of Cat Lake (10,395′). We made quick work of this 5.25 miles up to the lake. We only needed a short break for photos and a snack. Although Cat Lake was on the radar, this was a surprisingly beautiful and rewarding destination. The trail really shows its distance on the way down. We made great time, but I can tell you seeing the parking lot at the bottom was a welcome sight. Our roundtrip hike distance was around 11 miles and time was about 4.5 hours; a decent effort for a fall jaunt. Have you hiked near Silverthorne? Tell me your favorite hiking spots and mountain town restaurants! Shop my Hiking Favorites:

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CO Hike Series: Hartenstein Lake

Lesser known destination in Buena Vista, CO accessed from the Denny Creek Trailhead I was so fortunate to get a few days this fall to hike with my family. My Mom, Dad, Lucas, and Kelsey flew in to visit and we spent time in Buena Vista, CO. One of our favorite small towns. No, absolutely, our top favorite small town. We love to be on a trail and this weekend we were graced with absolutely perfect fall hiking weather! The trails were nearly empty, the sunshine was warm, and the fall colors made a breathtaking backdrop. Although we have several favorite hikes in the area, Hartenstein Lake was a new destination for us! How fun to explore a new spot in an area we’ve been vacating in for over ten years. I’ve been on the lower portion of this trail before with my mom. We climbed Yale together on my 19th birthday! It was her very first fourteener and I think my second. Great memories from that day. The trailhead is about 10 miles from the town of Buena Vista, off CR396 before you get to the top of Cottonwood Pass. The road is paved and there is a huge parking lot with plenty of room in the fall. We didn’t start our hike until around 11am on a Sunday. The initial ascent out of the Denny Creek Trailhead parking area will test your mental fortitude. Just know that this climb will ease (slightly). I enjoyed that much of this hike comprised of steep inclines followed by short reprieves of flat terrain. There are two trail splits to be aware of. The first comes about 1-1.5 miles in. Stay left to continue on to Hartenstein Lake and Browns Pass. Right will take you up to the summit of Yale. We took several breaks on the way up to search the surrounding high peaks for elk herds. It all looked so idyllic: I know there were elk in the area. We just couldn’t ever spot them! Oh well, the rest was needed after 10+ miles of hiking the previous days. Just as we were ready for an extended break and a lunch stop, we came into a flat meadow. Peaking through the trees we saw a reflection on water and knew we had made it! Shwew! You just kinda pop right onto the banks of this lake. We thought it seemed like the perfect lake for a moose. Alas, no moose. Earlier in the day, my Dad had purchased some Tamales from the Farmer’s Market in South Main. I packed them up to the lake and they were a surprisingly great trail food! We laughed about the mix of flavors and spice and celebrated a final afternoon in Colorado. The trail really shows its distance on the way down. We made great time, but I can tell you seeing the pavement at the bottom was a welcome sight. Our roundtrip hike distance was around 6 miles and time was about 4 hours; a decent effort for a fall jaunt. Have you hiked near Buena Vista? Tell me your favorite hiking spots and mountain town restaurants! Shop my Hiking Favorites:

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