Tag: Hiking

4 spots for a hiking trip which might surprise you

Hiking vacations remain a popular option for those seeking adventure, which has led to ever-more exclusive locations opening up to international travelers. Such exclusivity means that even younger travelers are willing to pay more – with one in three millennials, for example, saying they’d be willing to spend about $5,500 on the right vacation!

Choosing a more unusual location for your hiking trip is not only cheaper, it’ll also help avoid the overcrowding that can spoil the most famous routes. Here’s a few ideas for those willing to go further in search of rare challenges and unspoiled landscapes.

1. The Wave, Arizona, USA

In 2009, Microsoft refreshed its line-up of desktop wallpapers with an image of The Wave in Arizona. This now-iconic photo shows a dreamlike landscape of sandstone, full of curves and stripes, which has inspired thousands to seek out its real-life location.

However, experiencing it for yourself is still a real challenge, with the daily number of hikers strictly capped by the Bureau of Land Management to protect the unique attraction for future generations. Only 20 hikers are permitted on-site at a time, meaning those who make it won’t have their experience diluted by having to navigate crowds – but also that many won’t get the chance at all (as it stands, there’s a less-than-15% application success rate).

Getting a permit online is – literally – a lottery. So, if you want to be one of the few to walk The Wave, it’ll mean planning ahead, paying for a ticket and crossing your fingers.

2. Gheralta Mountains, Tigray Province, Ethiopia

While high-altitude trekking is always guaranteed to deliver breathtaking views, the real draw of Ethiopia’s rarely-visited Gheralta Mountains is what’s not even visible from the ground below. This is because, if you accept the challenge of hiking high into the cliffs, you will join one of the world’s smallest congregations – those who’ve set foot inside the churches carved directly into the rock there.

It’s not a route recommended for the casual walker, as even reaching the destination will involve free-climbing in challenging conditions. But for those who do, monks will welcome you into Ethiopian Orthodox places of worship where you can see beautiful frescoes of biblical scenes which are hundreds of years old.

Legend has it the churches were hidden in such inaccessible locations to hide them from armies – and also bring them closer to God. Conquering the sheer drops of Gheralta may well make you feel the same.

3. Laugavegur, Iceland

One of the strangest hikes in Europe is also Iceland’s most popular trail. And, although only really accessible for a fraction of the year (between mid-June and early September), it provides a constantly surprising selection of the country’s famous geothermal attractions.

The weather is often unpredictable in Iceland, but those taking a summer trek are guaranteed to experience 24 hours of daylight. And, as the altitude varies between 100 and 1,100 meters, natural sights similarly alternate between walls of lava, natural hot springs and black volcanic sand. Even the rocks here come in a spectacular rainbow of colors.

As befitting such a popular destination, the route is easily accessible from the country’s capital, Reykjavík. And to keep it that way for the foreseeable future, it’s very much advised that travelers prepare to leave as little trace of their journey as possible – the ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to litter.

4. The Great Wall of China

When most tourists consider this wonder of the world, they likely imagine a day’s visit. However, to really experience the enormity of one of mankind’s most awe-inspiring creations, it’s become increasingly popular to walk the wall and marvel at a broad swathe of China’s rich landscapes as you do so.

Different lengths of hike are available – from a day’s sampling of a stretch, to a more comprehensive 12-day expedition. Most trip organizers will focus on the parts of the wall less frequented by day-trippers because, wherever possible, the aim is to leave the traveler alone with the ancient structure and the rolling landscape.

Encompassing dramatic ruins, authentically-restored watchtowers and even the spot where the wall meets the sea, it’s a journey that will bring you face to face with history. When it comes to really understanding one of the world’s great civilizations, it’s seriously hard to beat.
This post is published as a guest post.

Tips for Exercising with your Dog

Fido is man’s best friend for a reason. He is loyal, cute and a fur ball of energy. To keep your beloved four-legged friend his happiest and healthiest, exercising your dog must be in your daily routine. Dogs have special needs when it comes to staying active. Follow these steps to ensure you’re getting the most out of your time with your pup.

Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii
Pono and I on a hike together in Hawaii

Check the weather: This sounds like a no-brainer, but often times dogs are left in hot cars for long periods of time unattended causing overheating and even death. Also, while on a run or a hike, a dog is exerting him/herself just like you. Cold winter months can be brutal on not only you, but on your pup. Visit your local pet store and buy a coat for you dog if necessary. In areas where it snows, salt might be dropped on the sidewalk or street to prevent people from slipping. Be mindful that winter salt is hurtful and harmful to your dog’s paws. Always think about how you like to dress and prepare for the day outside and make sure to follow suit with caring for your dog.

Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out
Pono loves the snow, but we had to limit how long he could stay out

Mind your city’s off-leash rules: It might be tempting in some areas to let your dog off the leash for a full-blown run, but before you free Fido, learn the local leash laws of your area. Leash laws are not meant to limit the fun you and your furry friend can have together, but actually work to protect the two of you. Factors such as aggressive dogs, small children, wild animals and traffic can turn even the most innocent run or hike into a chaotic situation. In many areas if you’re caught by the authorities with your dog off the leash you’ll likely face a hefty fine. Do yourself a favor and follow the rules.

Offer plenty of water and food: Just like when you go for a jog or swim, you burn calories and work up to chugging about a gallon of water. Given that your dog is right by your side, make sure you bring water and a small bowl for them to drink out of. Water should be kept cool if possible and must absolutely be clean. Try to discourage your dog from drinking any stagnant or running water you don’t know to be bacteria-free. Also, when possible, bring snacks or food with so they can replenish their energy as they go.

An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog
An active dog is a hungry and thirsty dog

Carry around plastic bags for clean up: Nothing’s worse than a steaming pile of dog doo-doo- especially if it doesn’t belong to your dog. One of the best signs of a great dog owner is one that diligently picks up after their dog. Carry some small plastic bags with you on your excursions so that when your pup relieves himself you can tidy up after him and move forward.

Let them rest: After a long hike or fetch session, your dog is zonked. Give them a space in your home that is their sanctuary: whether it’s a nook in the corner with a special pillow or a doghouse they can relax in and recharge, it’s important to give your dog time to rest their batteries in between excursions.

Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike
Just relaxing on the beach after a long hike

Offer rewards: Dogs are extremely loyal and respond well to rewards. Given your dog was well-behaved and focused during exercise, immediately rewarding them with a small treat or new bone is an excellent way to reinforce continued good behavior. It’s also a good way to see their tale wag and watch them trot off to their happy place.


Hiking the Wa’ahila Ridge Trail

Hiking the

Sometimes, I get overly ambitious.  This morning and I woke up and said I wanted to go for a hike. Leave it to my boyfriend (and Hawaii local) Jonathan to take that sentiment to a whole new level and bring me to the Wa’ahila State Recreation Area to the Ridge Trail.

I knew it was going to be a somewhat difficult hike from the beginning, as to get to the trail head, we had to drive up and up Saint Louis Heights, a notoriously steep neighborhood. Tucked in the back of Ruth Street was the trail head.


Legend has it that the Wa’ahila Ridge trail is home to the sleeping giant of Manoa, Chief Kauhi. Because of a lover’s spat between the beautiful princess Manoa, the gods eternally condemned Kauhi to spend the rest of his days contemplating aloha (grace) and pono (righteousness) along the top of Wa’ahila Ridge.

The trail is easy to follow with pink ribbons delineating your course. The entirety of the trail to the summit Mt. Olympus will take about 4 hours, but a great 2 hour (4 mile round trip) hike offers sweeping views of Honolulu.

The landscapes of Hawaii always surprise me. One minute you’re sweating as if in a desert, the next you’re in a breezy pine forest. This is where your hike begins.

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About a half-mile incline later, you’re in the middle of the valley face-to-face with some up and downhill boulder climbing. You certainly won’t need rappelling equipment, but there is some real rock climbing involved in this trail. I would never attempt this hike in the rain or right after it rains, as the ridge can be slippery and one false move will plummet you over the cliff.

Going down!
Going down!

Luckily after the boulder climbing ends, the trial evens out and twists and turns through some of the densest strawberry guava tree forests I’ve ever seen. None of the trees were fruiting at the moment, but I’ll be sure to come back when I can get my fill of those sweet tropical fruits!

Through the thicket, onward and upward
Through the thicket, onward and upward

Next you’ll be snaking your way up the mountain, taking the trail marked on the left through some more pines and visible roots. The good news is that the hardest part of the hike is over. Ready yourself for some fun and funky landscapes and amazing views.

Me and my pup Pono goofing around
Me and my pup Pono goofing around

After taking a water break and posing in this cave, it was up we went. Just a mile further will lead you to a grassy clearing where you can bask in the glory of a hard-earned view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.

I think I see my house! Just kidding, it's behind that crater on the left.
I think I see my house! Just kidding, it’s behind that crater on the left.

This is where we stopped, 2 miles up. You can keep trekking onward to Mt. Olympus for stunning views of the windward side. It’s so steep, you have to climb a rope to get up!

For this hike, I would definitely recommend going when it’s dry and not too rainy. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and save energy for the hike down. Boulder climbing going down isn’t always easy on the quads and knees.

O’ahu pleases once again with a hike that was challenging enough to get me out of my head and into a space to enjoy nature.

Give me a home, where the puppy dogs roam…In Evergreen, Colorado

Colorado is an amazing place for several reasons: 300 days of sunshine a year (in Denver, at least), craft beer practically free-flowing from water fountains, liberal politics, amazing festivals…I can go on and on.

So it didn’t catch me by surprise when my neighbor recommended perhaps the most amazing off-leash dog park I’ve ever seen. Among other amazing attributes that make Colorado famous, it’s probably most loved for its limitless outdoor recreation opportunities.

Elk Meadow in Evergreen, Colorado was no exception. The ride from Denver is about 35 minutes up the mountain to Jefferson County. You are immediately greeted with open spaces, amazing mountain vistas, lush evergreen trees and incredible fresh air. Mountain bikers race past your car and even McDonald’s looks worth a visit with its log cabin motif.


Upon arriving in Evergreen, you’ll notice it’s a quaint mountain town with plenty of opportunity to explore its natural beauty. Elk Meadow Park spans roughly 1600 acres and offers hiking, biking and views of the Continental Divide. Most importantly for dog owners, though, it offers an off-leash dog recreation area.

The off-leash dog area is about 2 miles down the road from the main entrance to Elk Meadow Park. Once you arrive, especially if it’s a weekend, you’ll be greeted by a boatload of furry friends and their owners’ cars. We didn’t have a problem parking, as people are coming and going all day long.


Enter Elk Meadow Off-Leash Park. An amazing lush landscape literally tucked into the mountains where dogs can roam free! Best of all, you can get your hike on while Fido runs alongside of you, playing with other amazing, fun dogs along the way.  There are two spacious fenced in areas for doggy playtime, as well as nearly 3 miles in trails and a creek for the dogs to play in. TIP: There is no water here for dogs, so make sure to bring some for your furry friend! With over 107 acres to explore, you and your dog will surely get thirsty.

Everything is awesome!
Everything is awesome!

Pono, Jon and I hiked 2 loops while enjoying the great scenery. Anyone in the metro Denver area must immediately bring their dog to this park. It’s by far the best place I’ve seen. Even if you don’t have a dog, this park is worth a visit just for the hiking and views alone. The best part is, it’s only a short drive from the city. Once you get your country fix, you can head on back to the city and catch happy hour. Score!

To learn more about Elk Meadow and their Off-Leash Dog Park, visit : http://jeffco.us/parks/parks-and-trails/elk-meadow-dog-off-leash-area/

Hangin' with other dogs on the trail
Hangin’ with other dogs on the trail

Staying fit on the road

It’s time to address an issue that has been on my mind my whole life, but most recently more so ever since hitting the road: staying in shape.

I’m a person who has been technically overweight my whole life. Part of this is because I truly love to eat. Something about food tastes so darn good. Flavors, textures, you name it…if it’s about food, I’m all about it.

Ain't no shame. Grinding on a hoagie in Maui
Ain’t no shame. Grinding on a hoagie in Maui

As I grew older and more self-conscious (and self-aware of my health), I realized that I, personally, needed to work out at least 3 times a week. Not only that, but I had to cut out many of the foods that I loved so much growing up: soda (pop as we in the Midwest call it), chips on a day-to-day basis, mayonnaise and chocolate among other delicacies.

The heaviest I ever grew was in college to 23o pounds. Freshman year was when I put on the most weight, drinking, partying, eating pizza and junk food into the wee hours of the morning, stuffing my face with dorm food, ordering takeout, you name it.

The heavier years...
The heavier years…

I visited the doctor for a routine check-up that he told me I had high blood pressure because I was overweight. That was the nail in the coffin for me. How could I have high blood pressure at age 19? I wasn’t a 65 year old man with high cholesterol. Worse, I was not educate when it came to eating healthy and staying fit.

That doctor’s office visit was the wake-up call for me to lose some weight and try to maintain a more conscious lifestyle.

Since then I’ve lost 35 pounds and managed to keep it off. I have fluctuated somewhere between 185-195 for the past 5 years. I can’t say it’s been all easy, nor have I been a saint.

These days I like to stay active outdoors
These days I like to stay active outdoors


The ways in which I keep off weight to me are simple (most days):

If it makes you feel gross eating it, don’t.

If you can feel sugar in your teeth after you eat/drink something, stay away.

Water is your best friend.

Stick to granola, bananas, hummus, pretzels, apples, and other light, healthy snacks.

Don’t deny yourself some pleasures.


Another key to staying fit is working out. I am a runner, albeit a rather slow one, but I do try to get out there at least twice a week and run a few miles. I practice yoga about 3 times a week, I lift weights and do pushups. I also love hiking, biking, climbing and swimming when the opportunity presents itself. My workout routine is moderate at best, some weeks ranking in at sluggish. Though I do sometimes feel guilty about this, I give myself one small allowance: I work on my feet as a waitress about 8 hours a day, clocking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles walked daily. Not to mention, I’m constantly, bending and lifting.

Hiking Green Sands in Hawaii
Hiking Green Sands in Hawaii

Routing is probably the best way to keep a healthy lifestyle, but with travel sometimes this becomes difficult.

When on a road trip, it’s almost impossible to pass up chicken fried steak in the south, the new-to-you IPA in the Rockies or huge T-Bone steaks on the grill in the country. This is life and it’s worth celebrating. Most often we celebrate with food and drink. It’s hard not to say “Screw it! I’m having a burger!”

It’s easy and fun to throw caution to the wind when it comes to eating and drinking. I find that the most exciting culinary experiences happen on the road. You get to try new flavors which initiate new sensations. Who couldn’t get behind that?

While all this is true, it’s also a recipe for disaster. I have been guilty of letting one small freebie turn into days, sometimes weeks on end of freebies. That’s when I get a little cushy, for lack of a better term.

Beer: one of my many vices
Beer: one of my many vices

Life most things in life, all things are good in moderation. While on the road, instead of indulging into my boyfriend’s bag of beef jerky, I’ll grab a granola bar and a yogurt. Let it be known, though, middle-American gas station selections rarely weigh on the side of healthy. I’m more often disgusted and would rather listen to my stomach rumble than eat taquitos and old, dry rotating hot dogs.

Another tried and true tip I use is if I’m full, I stop eating. This becomes increasingly difficult if I’m noshing on a plate of nigiri sushi, an amazing burger and beer combo or a huge, delicious steak. Other vices include kettle cooked potato chips and the occasional soda. What can I say? After all I’m American.

Soda in a bag in Thailand. What's up with that?
Soda in a bag in Thailand. What’s up with that?

Staying fit on the road isn’t always easy, especially with endless opportunity and deliciousness knocking on your door at every turn. But with a little conscious decision making, staying in good, healthy shape can make your adventures last a lifetime!