Two Perfect Summer Days in Vail

I had always thought of Vail as a winter destination, so when I was invited to spend three summer days in Vail, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can now confidently say that Vail is an excellent summer destination, offering fun mountain activities and stunning views. I will definitely be back.

We stayed at the Sonnenalp, which is a gorgeous, conveniently located hotel with four restaurants, a golf course, and a spa. I could have spent three days at the hotel alone!

DJI_0011.JPG

Arrival Night Dinner – Bully Ranch

Bully Ranch is one of the restaurants in the Sonnenalp. We got in late, so it was easy and convenient to have the restaurant right there. The restaurant has a cowboy vibe and the portions are large and filling.

Breakfast at the Sonnenalp

Staying at the Sonnenalp, heading downstairs for breakfast is easy. The buffet is filled with options – from hash browns to waffles to smoothies to açaí bowls. Yum! I enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice every morning. It didn’t hurt that the breakfast room looks out over the pool and hot tubs – what a view!

I loved that as a vegan, there were plenty of options for me. I had freshly squeezed orange juice, mini açaí bowls, and dairy free oatmeal to which I added raisins, cherries, chia seeds, almonds, goji berries, and soy milk.

A Day at Piney River Ranch

We spent our first day at Piney River Ranch and it was wonderful. Everyone at the ranch is so friendly. It’s such a hidden gem.

We had lunch then went horseback riding with NuNu. The horses were incredibly sweet and well taken care of. NuNu was knowledgeable and her love for the horses was apparent. She talked to us about the personality type of each horse and matched us with horses based on our experiences and personalities. We had a great ride and she even let us go on a little trot! Plus, the view of the mountains was fantastic.

After we finished riding, we went for a canoe ride on the lake. The stunning mountain backdrop combined with the serenity of the isolated lake made for an unforgettable ride.

DSC03044.jpg

Although we didn’t get to stay at the cabins or glamping tents at Piney River this time, I highly recommend staying for a night or two if your schedule allows. We already have plans to go back next summer and stay overnight!

Dinner in Vail

Vail is a cute town with a European vibe. We walked around after our day and ended up eating at Tavern on the Square. We started with freshly made artisan bread that was fluffy and delicious. They even had a vegan menu, so ordering was easy for me. The food tasted fresh and the restaurant had a cool vibe. Our server was friendly and talkative. He gave us great recommendations for our trip.

Second Morning

We started our morning with a quick walk around the town then had breakfast at the Sonnenalp again. It was just as good as the first day!

Rock Climbing with Paragon Guides

We spent our second day in Vail rock climbing with Paragon Guides. We requested “easy climbing with good views” and Jim, our guide, delivered. It was clear that Paragon put safety first – we wore helmets and although we knew how to climb, Jim explained all of the safety equipment. He also checked with us the night before and made sure to bring food we liked for lunch the next day.

DSC03133.jpg

We talked with Jim about some other tours Paragon offers – including mountain biking, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and multi-day backpacking. Needless to say, we’ll be seeing Paragon again!

DSC03073.jpg

Climbing photos by Caroline Foster

Dinner at Matsuhisa

We had dinner at Matsuhisa, an upscale sushi restaurant in Vail village. We enjoyed cocktails, wine, and sushi in a hip environment. Our waitress was very helpful and gave us great recommendations. There were plenty of vegan options (yay) and the food was delicious. The portions were perfect for sharing and we got to try a bunch of different dishes.

It was an excellent finish to an amazing trip, and we can’t wait to get back to Vail!

 

Havasupai Packing List

I’ve had a few people ask me what to pack on a trip to Havasupai, so I put together my suggested packing list. Hope this is helpful!

  • Overnight backpack: the 10 mile hike to and from the campsite isn’t easy, so don’t overpack and make sure your heavier items are closer to the bottom of your backpack.
  • Daypack: a backpack you can carry around during the day. If you have an overnight backpack with a removable top, even better!
  • Water bladder: there is a spring at the campsite where you can fill up.
  • Water bottle
  • Water filter: if you’re going on long day hikes and don’t feel like carrying all of your water for the day.
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sun hat
  • Hiking shoes
  • Water shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking poles: the hike in/out is hilly and rocky, so poles can be helpful.
  • Bathing suit
  • Shorts
  • Long durable quick-dry pants: especially if you want to do a long hike with river crossings.
  • Short sleeved shirt
  • Long sleeved shirt: to shield from the sun
  • Socks (bring a few pairs)
  • Tent or hammock
  • Sleeping bag
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Food: snacks, and meals if you want. The village that sells food is two miles from the campground.
  • Cooking system
  • Camera
  • Solar charger: if you want to keep your electronics charged

Enjoy your trip! If you want to see some pictures from Havasupai check out my Instagram.

Egyptian Pyramids with KKday

I received a complimentary tour in exchange for writing this post. This post contains affiliate links which I may receive compensation for.

I visited the pyramids in Egypt with a guide set up by KKday. KKday made the process seamless. Our guide picked us up in a comfortable car and handed us waters before telling us all about Egyptian history. We reallllllly wanted Starbucks (typical Americans) so our guide found the nearest Starbucks and made a stop for us. Talk about good service!

We stopped at the Nile River on the way to take a photo. When we got to the pyramids, our guide gave us a safety briefing and told us everything we needed to be aware of. I’m glad I was warned not to leave my expensive camera on a tripod to take selfies! Our guide even told us which places were good for buying souvenirs. We walked around and our guide explained the history of the pyramids to us. He was so knowledgeable! He was also very patient with our obsessive photo taking and had no problem re-taking the same photo 20 times until we were satisfied 😉 We went to the Sphinx after the pyramids and our guide took us to the best photo spots and explained all of the history.

I loved that the whole trip was catered to our preferences. Our guide was great about finding out what exactly we wanted to do and making it happen. KKday was extremely helpful throughout the process and made setting up a tour with a local guide in a foreign country easy.

DSC_0429.JPG

DSC_0419.JPG

DSC_0465DSC_0472DSC_0481DSC_0485

How to Get to the Wave in Arizona

After receiving a handful of Instagram messages asking how to get to the Wave, I decided to it would be helpful to write a blog post on it. Going to the Wave requires a permit from the Arizona BLM.  There are 20 persons allowed to visit the Wave per day. There are three ways to get a permit:

  1. Apply for the lottery online four months in advance. 10 permits are available through the online lottery.  The online lottery is the least risky way to try to get a permit for the Wave.  The lottery is done on a monthly basis and is open four months before your desired trip month.  For example, right now (October), the lottery is open for February permits.  The lottery has been open all  month and will close at the end of the month.  Then the lottery will happen and permits will be issued.  You can only submit one application per month and the lottery fee is $5 USD.  It is non-refundable; you don’t get it back if you lose the lottery.  You can select up to three date choices.  Use the this link and the following path to apply for the lottery: Coyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Apply for Lottery Here
  2. Check for cancellations. Your chances aren’t good with this option, but on the rare occasion there are cancellations or open dates, you can check the Coyote Buttes North calendar four months in advance.  I’ve never seen a cancelled permit available online, but it’s worth checking.  Check hereCoyote Buttes Permits – Apply for a Coyote Buttes Hiking Permit – Check Calendar
  3. Apply in person the day before your desired trip date.  10 permits are available in person the day before your desired trip.  To apply for a walk-in permit, go to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah (745 E. Highway 89 in Kanab Utah across from Walkers gas station and Wendy’s restaurant) from 8:30-9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time -Utah- (9am Daylight Savings Time in summer) to submit your application.

Read more about how to get permits at the BLM website here.

Ten Things You Should Know before Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro 

The roof of Africa and the easiest of the seven summits: Mount Kilimanjaro. I quickly realized that Kilimanjaro has a bit of a mixed reputation. Some people will assure you that it it’s no more than an easy hike – everyone’s mountain. Others stress that altitude is altitude and at 19,341 feet, nothing is easy. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. The first few days were easy – almost too easy. But summit day was tough. Not so much because the hike itself was tough, but because after an hour of sleep, hiking at midnight when you can’t feel your extremities and you’re losing oxygen isn’t fun. Here are ten things I think you should know before climbing Kilimanjaro:

  1. You need a guide. It is a legal requirement to have a guide to climb Kilimanjaro. You don’t have a choice, so prepare to hire a guide. 
  2. Your guide choice matters. I’ve heard horror stories of guides rushing people with altitude sickness up the mountain. Then I saw it. I saw climbers who couldn’t stand on their own being pulled up the mountain by guides. I guess companies want their success rates to be higher. Remember that you lose good judgment when you have altitude sickness, so having a bad guide could literally be life or death. Find someone who you trust will take you down the mountain if you’re feeling sick. I would also recommend going in a private group. It’s a more personalized experience and I think everyone’s needs are catered to better. I went with three friends and we were all very glad we had a private group. 
  3. Slowly is better. Your body needs time to adjust to altitude, and the way you feel can change quickly. Don’t risk it. Climbing Kilimanjaro is expensive. If you’re paying the money, you want to summit. If you don’t know how your body typically reacts to altitude (disclaimer: no one knows what causes altitude sickness and even someone who has never gotten it before can go to altitudes they have previously been to and get it), then choose a longer route. I did the 7 day Machame route. I think that was a good amount of time. 
  4. Mental stamina is key. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a marathon, not a race. The guides will tell you “pole, pole” meaning “slowly, slowly”. Listen to them. Knowing that the trek was going to be 7 days was tough for me. I hate camping, so I started counting down the nights right away. I was very focused on the end goal and sometimes I just wanted it to be over with. Learn to love the process. That’s something I struggle with, but want to work on. 
  5. Pack appropriately. You’ll be trekking through quite a few different climates. At the bottom, you’ll be hot and sweaty in a t-shirt. On summit day, you’ll probably be freezing no matter what you’re wearing. Bring clothes for every environment and bring lots of layers. Weather changes quickly. 
  6. You’re going to smell. Horrible. You’re going to smell horrible. And so is everyone else. There are no showers. Do everyone a favor and bring some wipes. 
  7. It gets cold. Especially at night. Yeah, I learned this one the hard way. I wasn’t paying much attention when I packed my sleeping bag and accidentally packed my summer sleeping bag instead of my winter sleeping bag. Big mistake. By the third night, I was freezing and couldn’t sleep. Luckily I learned a few tricks that kept me warm later nights. If you find yourself cold at night, stuff your sleeping bag with clothes. Try to eliminate any air pockets. Bring hand warmers and toe warmers. If you’re really cold, throw a few in your sleeping bag. Ask your guide to fill up a water bottle with boiling water, wrap the bottle in your winter coat, and put it at the feet of your sleeping bag. If you’re really prone to getting cold, bring an emergency outdoor blanket (one of the thin foil ones) and wrap it around your sleeping bag. 
  8. Bringing Diamox doesn’t hurt. I don’t like taking medicine unnecessarily. But I also don’t like dropping $3,000 to not summit a mountain. I got Diamox from my travel doctor and brought it just in case. Someone at the hotel I stayed at before I left told me that people who take Diamox have a 30% better success rate. I felt fine and my oxygen levels were high. But then I thought about how quickly things can change with altitude. I didn’t want to risk not summitting, so I started taking Diamox on our third day. I’m not sure whether I needed it, but I didn’t have any issues with altitude. I’d like to test how I do without Diamox, but not when the success of a $3,000 trip is on the line. 
  9. Injuries and deaths do happen. Yes, deaths. They are relatively rare on Kilimanjaro, but they do happen. I saw a dead person being carried down in a stretcher the day before our summit. I didn’t know he was dead at the time because I was far enough away that I couldn’t tell there was a sleeping bag covering his face. I assumed it was an injury, but later learned it was a death. The man had gotten dizzy, fell, and hit his head on a rock. He died instantly. Remember the risks associated with what you’re doing and take precautions to minimize those risks when you can. Take injuries seriously. Don’t push through injuries that shouldn’t be pushed through – that can lead to more serious problems. You’re at the mercy of the mountain. Remember that. 
  10. Tips are nice. Your guides, cooks, and especially your porters work hard. If you’re satisfied, tip them. Especially your porters. Imagine carrying all of that crap up and down the mountain. It’s tough work. 

Solo Travel as a Female – Kenya Edition

What am I doing? Is this a bad idea? Maybe I should change my plans. Thoughts raced through my mind in the weeks leading up to my trip to Africa. Let me be clear that I have traveled alone many times. Usually it does not phase me. But this time was different.

I had made plans months before to climb Kilimanjaro then go on a safari in Tanzania with friends. I have a goal to travel to every country in the world, so I thought it would be cool to stop in Kenya alone for a couple of days on my way back. Without doing much research, I booked a two night stop in Nairobi. Sometime close to my trip, I became aware of the political turmoil going on in Kenya. Elections had been held and there were allegations of unfairness. The country invalidated the elections and rescheduled them for shortly after I was to be leaving Kenya.

At that time, I started to do more research. The US State Department warned of the political unrest and advised against travel to Kenya. News articles covered the protest. I remember reading one article saying that Kenya is likely heading towards a civil war. Am I stupid?!, I thought. How could I have planned something so dumb. But, as I typically do, I tried to take my focus away from my fear. I didn’t want to cancel my trip, so I figured I would be careful and hope for the best.

Despite my efforts to quell my fears, my anxiety rose in the days before my departure. Things changed quickly during my Kilimanjaro trek. I’m not sure what it is about being in nature and challenging myself physically, but it always seems to put things in perspective and make me feel strong and capable. After all, maybe Western media was exaggerating the dangers. The few Tanzanian locals whom I told I was going to Nairobi didn’t seem to think anything of it. Phew. I felt better.

I landed in Nairobi at night. The hotel I was supposed to stay at was going to send a driver to the airport for me. I went through immigration and customs, got my bags, and walked outside. I was instantly harrassed by about 20 taxi drivers who wanted to give me a ride. I politely declined and walked over to the pickup area. I looked for my name on a sign. Nothing. Ugh. I waited for 30 minutes. I had free wifi for an hour, so I emailed the hotel then sat down next to some of the drivers. I started to get worried that I didn’t have a ride and I didn’t feel comfortable getting in a taxi alone at night. I had about 20 minutes of wifi left. The sign next to me read “Intercontinental Nairobi”. Okay, I thought. I’ll use this last bit of wifi to book a room at the Intercontinental so I can drive with this guy. So that’s what I did. When I got to the hotel, I had to step out of the car and put myself and my belongings through a metal detector. Maybe this place isn’t so safe, I thought.

I felt quite safe once I was in my room. The next morning, I woke up and thought about what I should do that day I usually like to experience new places by going on adventures and checking out the natural attractions. However, I had just spent a week on a safari in Tanzania. I didn’t have time to go to Masi Mara and the parks in Nairobi seemed less exciting than what I had already seen. I went downstairs to talk to the concierge, and ended up deciding to walk around the city. I was given a map. I asked whether it was safe to walk around alone and was shown the areas where it would be safe to walk. I was told to avoid talking to anyone. I shouldn’t let anyone be my tour guide and I shouldn’t allow conversations to last more than a few words.

I left the hotel. A tall, blonde, American female. Walking alone. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I saw one other white person the whole day, and it was an older man sitting in a coffee shop. I walked assertively with my head up. I didn’t want to look unsure of where I was going. My passport and wallet were in the waist of my pants, not visible. I wanted to see the area, but I didn’t want to look around too much and make it more obvious I didn’t know where I was. Everyone stared at me. And I mean everyone. I acted like it didn’t phase me. Some people talked to me. I responded confidently and tried to keep conversations short. When anyone asked how long I had been in Nairobi, I said either three weeks or a month. It was enough time to seem pretty knowledgeable, but not too long. People believed me. A young girl hit my arm and said “Give me water, sister.” I ignored her. She demanded that I give her water again. I tried to walk by, but she stood in front of me. Other children joined, putting their hands out. I ignored them too. It’s not that I’m against helping people, but I am against parents training their children to beg like that. I went to a market. Everyone tried to talk to me. I might as well have been a walking dollar bill. I repeatedly said that I had no money and was just on a walk for exercise. People tried to sell me stuff anyway. Several people tried to “guide” me around the market. I walked around the market then left to continue my walk.


I walked farther, and soon realized I was past the area where the concierge had told me to stop. Whoops. I saw a parking lot where people were skating, so I sat down to watch. Several people came up to me and asked whether I wanted to try. I said I had no money. I was just there to watch. One man told me I could go for free and said I was wearing the right clothes for skating. He was right. And I did want to skate. But I had my passport and wallet in my pants, and I didn’t know whether I should trust anyone, so I declined. I watched everyone skate around for about an hour then started walking back to the hotel.


I stopped at a coffee shop on my way back. I’m a vegan and I don’t drink coffee so I asked whether the shop had soy milk then asked the barista to make me a smoothie with bananas, ice, soy milk, and vanilla syrup. I’m pretty sure I was the most complicated customer they had ever had. When she handed me my drink, she warned that she had no idea how it would taste. It was actually quite good.


I walked to the park I had been warned to avoid because of theft. I stayed on the outside and walked back to my hotel. When I got to my room, I saw a newspaper. The front page was about the elections.


That night, I thought about what I would do the next day. I had done some research on the Giraffe Center and animal orphanage. Both helped rescue and rehabilitate animals. They weren’t zoos, so I was ethically okay with them. Maybe it would be fun to go. When I woke up, I went back to the coffee shop and ordered my complicated drink again. The barista remembered me.


More people talked to me on my way back. I noticed that race was a popular topic of conversation. I guess that makes sense considering I’m a white female from America, which now has a reputation for racism (Thanks, Trump). One man asked me “Trump or Obama?” I responded, “Obama” and he gave me a high five. Another man asked how we treat blacks in America. All I could think of is…we’re all people, aren’t we? I was embarrassed. I felt bad. I didn’t want to be associated with racism, but that’s the reputation Americans have these days. Ugh.

I wasn’t sure how long to let conversations go. I did want to talk to locals, but I was unsure of their intentions and I had been warned by the hotel. One man told me that the best way to learn while traveling is to talk to people. I agree, but I questioned why he was saying that and why he was so eager to talk to me. I still kept my conversations short. I’m not sure whether I should have.

More people begged for money from me, especially children. One girl followed me asking for money for “the baby”. I felt terrible. I wanted to help. I used to give old clothing to people like that. I don’t anymore. This trip I gave my clothing to my Kilimanjaro guides and porters and hotel staff. Maybe they don’t need it as much, but I don’t want to encourage people using their children like that. I hate it.

I got back to my hotel and asked about the Giraffe Center and animal orphanage. It was about $60 to go. After having spent a week on a safari, I just didn’t feel like spending that kind of money. I headed up to my room to check emails and get some work done. An hour or so later, I heard a few booms. I ran to the window and saw smoke rising on the sidewalk. People were yelling. It was a demonstration. Shortly after, police with tear gas arrived. The demonstrations were on and off. They didn’t seem violent, so I decided to go take a walk.


I walked. I felt safe despite the demonstrations. I remembered how nervous I had been before I came and laughed. The demonstrations were relatively small, but I felt like I was learning a lot by being there. Even though I just spent the weekend walking around Nairobi doing not much of anything, it was one of the more impactful trips I have taken. I left feeling stronger, more sure of myself, and a little more empathetic.

10 Photos that Prove Glacier National Park Should Be at the Top of Your Bucketlist

People often ask me where my favorite place to travel is. I can’t answer that question – there are just too many beautiful places I’ve been! Another question  I am frequently asked is what my favorite national park is.  Now that I have an answer for…in the US at least.  Glacier National Park has teal blue lakes, hiking trails for every ability level, plenty of mountains to climb or ski, and beautiful wildlife.  Below are 10 photos that prove that you should put Glacier at the top of your bucketlist (if you haven’t already):

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  
  9.  
  10.  

The Best of Banff

I first visited Banff in October.  It was cold and relatively empty.  It was a stark contrast to my most recent trip in early September when there were crowds everywhere and finding a parking space a popular places was pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery.  It hasn’t even been a year since my first trip to Banff, but it’s one of those places that keeps calling me back.  Banff is stunningly beautiful and there is something to do in every season.

  1. Visit the teal blue lakes
  2. See the aurora
  3. Climb/scramble a mountain
  4. Watch the sunrise over the mountains
  5. Do a winter sport – ski, snowboard, or ice climb

Touring the Great American Southwest from the Inn at Entrada

I received a complimentary stay from The Inn at Entrada and complimentary tour from ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours in exchange for writing a review.

We spent six nights in southern Utah and I still feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface on seeing this beautiful area, but here is what we did:

 

ATV Tour with ATV &a Jeep Adventure Tours

We started our trip riding ATVs around the desert. The views were gorgeous and our guide was knowledgeable. It was a great introduction to the area.



Zion

Most people think of Zion when Southern Utah comes up – and for good reason. Zion is one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve been to. It’s filled with red rocks, crazy drop offs, and beautiful water. The downside to Zion is that everyone knows how great it is, so it can get really busy. To avoid the crowds, we got permits for a technical canyon. Talk about an amazing adventure! It was a tough 15 miles filled with rappels, downclimbs, and sliding into pools. If you have the technical skills, getting permits for a canyon is a great way to avoid the crowds at Zion. We didn’t see another group all day!

The Wave

The Wave is probably one of the most insta-famous and iconic locations in the world, and we were lucky enough to be one of the 20 people to score a permit one day! For those of you wondering, there are two ways to get a permit for the Wave. The first is to apply online at the BLM website four months in advance. https://www.blm.gov/programs/recreation/permits-and-passes/lotteries-and-permit-systems/arizona/coyote-buttes. The second is to show up to the BLM visitor center in Kanab and enter the drawing for a next-day permit. Either way, your chances of getting a permit are very slim. There are about 2,000 applicants a day for 20 permits. If you do happen to be lucky enough, it’s a fairly easy hike – about 3 miles each way, however the trail is not well marked. Please be careful and study a map beforehand. And don’t forget to bring enough water!



The Inn at Entranada

Last but certainly not least, our beautiful accommodation. We stayed in a casita at the Inn at Entranada in St. George. I cannot recommend this place enough! It’s conveniently located about an hour from Zion and right next to Snow Canyon State Park. The Inn in stunning. The staff are friendly. Every last detail is looked after meticulously. The property blends right in with its surroundings, and you enjoy nature even when you’re inside. If you’re ever in St. George, you know where to stay!

coloRADo

As you probably know, I have done my fair share of traveling.  I’ve been fortunate enough to see many places.  And Colorado is on the short list of places I want to live.  In fact, I think I’ll be moving there in the not-so-distant future.  Anyway, here are a few of my favorite places in my favorite state:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Boulder


Garden of the Gods


Mountains


Rocky Mountain National Park


Who wants to move to Colorado now?!