Backpacking in Banff National Park

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Last week, my family vacationed in Alberta, Canada. I would like to walk you through our travels in this photo-journey!

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetMy siblings and I flew out 4 days earlier than the rest of the family for our second annual backpacking trip. We stayed in the Lake Louise Village of Banff National Park. The photos above are of the famous turquoise lake herself.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetWe got a late start on our backpacking trip, and after hiking up a highway for hours and hitchhiking the same distance in 15 minutes, we finally made it to the trailhead. Our first hour was spent on lunch and packing up to the halfway hut, where we hid from the sun and mosquitos and accidentally took a nap.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWhen we were finally loaded up and ready for the next 4 hours of our hike, it was late afternoon and we were anticipating some hiking in the dark. (Although, as we learned, the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. up there!) Just as we set out on the trail, it started raining, and more concerning, it started lightning.  There had recently been wildfires in the area, and there was a strong fire risk at the time. Feeling uneasy about our late start and the storm, we regrouped and decided to camp at the site near the halfway hut. Even though it was not the site we had reserved, we felt much safer and there ended up being extra tent sites there.

Processed with VSCO with  presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 presetThe campsite we stayed at was a short hike away from Hidden Lake, and as advised by other backpackers, we set up our tent and then hiked our dinner out over a kilometer to cook and eat bug-free in the tranquil space by the lake. It was a beautiful spot that felt like a secret, and the bear tracks on the trail meant that we were the only people crazy enough to head out there. Our only regret was not taking our sleeping clothes and blankets, because it was frigid and very windy.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with  presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetThe next day, determined not to repeat the day before, we were out on the trail by 8 a.m.. My patient brother and sister stopped at least 5 times so that I could adjust my layers. It was too cold to wear shorts, but too hot to wear sweatpants. We were on sheer and windy mountainsides, and I finally found the right combination of long and thin layers. The rest of the morning was spent in the etherial beauty of the Skoki valley. The meadow between the mountains was in the full bloom of alpine spring.

Processed with VSCO with  presetProcessed with VSCO with f2 presetProcessed with VSCO with  presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with  presetMuch to the surprise of last night’s campers, we arrived at Baker Lake campground by noon! We had lunch and a nap, then took a tip from some other early morning hikers and wandered down the path less traveled in search of two small waterfalls.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThe hikers told us that we would first see a small waterfall. Even though it was beautiful, they insisted that it is quite small and unimpressive compared to our actual destination. Just past it, there would be much larger falls.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetProcessed with VSCO with c1 presetPhotos don’t capture the sheer scale of what we encountered. This photo of Kendra and Thor shows them right next to the falls, which are blocked by the boulders they are standing on. You can see how far up we are, standing where the river turns to waterfall.

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Processed with VSCO with  presetWe spent the rest of the day relaxing. We took in the view of Baker Lake, made dinner, and played cards. We should have packed a book of card games, because basically all we could remember how to play was Blackjack and Go Fish.

Processed with VSCO with g3 presetWe were out even earlier for our return hike the last day, leaving by 7 and stopping for second breakfast and coffee by 9 or 10.

Processed with VSCO with  presetThe last part of our hike was down an access road, which kind of a crappy ending to backcountry camping deep in the park, far from roads. We were fortunate to catch a ride and hitchhike again, which saved us hours skidding down gravel roads. Our Canadian driver was listening to a public radio program about wolves in Indiana and drove us all the way to our campsite in the park.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetWe each made ourselves an easy feast. Thor bought a bag of raw vegetables and a half-baked baguette with a big hunk of cheese. Kendra has rosemary crackers with cheddar. I learned you can stick a can of chili right on the pocket stove and it heats through faster than a microwave! After a shower and an evening walk along the river, we slept through a night of rainstorms full and happy.

This is just the first 4 days of an 11 day trip! On day 5, we took an amazing hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, and I will share that story tomorrow. Following that, I will share our adventures from Jasper National Park, where we spent the next 5 days of our trip. There we visited hot springs and met families of elk!

Until then, be sure to read hiking advice from my brother and sister, see what we packed, what we read, and what you should read.



I Started a Patreon!

I am so excited to have the opportunity to gain support directly from my community. If you have never used Patreon, all you need to know is that it is a simple and direct way to support artists and freelancers you love in a quick and painless way. Patreon also allows us to meet goals together. When I reach $100 a month on Patreon, I will start a new interview series, chocked full of photos and personal details about everyday people- veterinarians, teachers, designers, servers, runners…. everyone!

Patreon is a security blanket that lets me dream about expanding this blog in big ways. Big ways like paying to host the site, upgrading technology, hiring a photographer, traveling for the blog, attending conferences, and traveling to new places to share with you. I hope we can do all of these things together!

Thank you for your endless support. Please support my Patreon here, and give anything you can. Your support will change this blog in a big way. If you can’t give today, then share this page, instead. The more eyes the more opportunities for this blog to grow. Thank you thank you thank you!!!



Related: Money Minds and Summer Saving
                Summer Resolution

Salad Inspiration

I ordered a simple shrimp salad and was struck by two things:

  1. This is so simple and delicious!
  2. I could make it better.

The restaurant I was dining at did not use the freshest veggies. I prefer fresh or frozen corn in a salad over canned corn. When I use corn and black beans, I like to season them with lime and red pepper. I would love to make a spicier, zestier version.

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Action for Climate Change is On YOU

I am not interested in debating the semantics and politics surrounding climate change, but I am interested in keeping our planet clean. If you have ever hiked at a major park or taken part in beachside clean-up, then you know that there is plastic in the ocean and plastic in the trees and plastic everywhere. It seems that as a nation we are not going to be taking immediate action towards addressing climate change anytime soon… what can we do, as individuals, to decrease our carbon footprint?

      1. BYOB- Bring your own bag. Chicago just rolled out a $.07 bag tax that has motivated many to start carrying their own. I LOVE these baggus. 41b8bKoSbsL._SL250_
      2. My sister took part in a beach clean-up along Lake Michigan last year, and since then I have not been allowed to use disposable straws. Do we event need straws? SOMETIMES a smoothie or iced coffee really is best sipped through a straw. Get a set of reusable straws and always keep one in your purse so you are ready at the coffee shop. Don’t let this happen.2015-06-06-07-16-40
      3. This shower timer has been a bit of a morning-routine/water bill game changer for me. It runs for 5 minutes before it needs to be flipped, which means if you want a 10 minute shower, you know to flip it once. Otherwise, that 5-10 minute shower easily turns into 15-30 minutes… and now you’re late for work, and you wasted 2 gallons of water for every minute spent in the shower. Two gallons of water is more than you are drinking in a day, and could save an entire family from dehydration. Time your showers!41GI1cbBLXL._SL250_

Wonderful Ways to Eat Your Greens!

I am on the Kale in the smoothie train, and even though I can’t taste the greens I swear it is making me crave more… well, greens.

I can’t wait to make these Pan-Fried Butter Beans and Greens



And this Summer Salad is my faaaaaavorite. (Have you tried toasted Halloumi??)


I make this for every potluck and family party, and even salad-haters are converted by the end of the meal.


Formula for the Healthiest Start to Your Day

I recently posted about my indulgent overnight oats formula, but now that it is warm and now that I own a blender, I am moving on to smoothies. I have a weekday rule (Monday-Thursday, anyway) of no added sugar in the morning. That means I have been enjoying my oats without honey or brown sugar, and my smoothies are the same. Fruit is the only sweetener I am adding.

Flavorful fruits: I slice and freeze some fresh peaches, cherries, strawberries, oranges, bananas, kiwis, and raspberries on the weekend, and dump them in my smoothie the morning of. I may add a handful of fresh fruit, too, especially if I want to modify the flavor of my smoothie.

SUPER NUTRIENTS: I have been aware of the magic of kale for some time, but don’t love eating it. The smoothie is the best way to load up on that low-calorie high-content power produce, easily and tastily. Yes, it makes your smoothie green, an YES, it makes you feel fit and full.

Protein: Through in a spoonful of nut-butter or a handful of healthy nuts, like almonds, walnuts, or pistachios! Any variety of seeds and grains are also good, and a dollop of yogurt will add protein and good-gut bacteria!

Fat: Avocado and yogurt add important fats that your brain wants and needs, as does flax seed, chia seed, and coconut oil. Bonus: these things all greatly improve the texture of the smoothie. Avocado turns any pureed snack into a fluffy pudding-like dream!

Extra goodness: Add cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cacao or other spices with health properties. Many of these are inflammatory or promote healthy blood circulation and joint health.

This has been my favorite smoothie source for years, and has some great baseline recipes. Do you have any favorite smoothie recipes or morning routine habits that promote a good and healthy day?

DIY Jungle Leaf Garland

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Materials Needed:

-Thick, green paper in various shades
-A large needle, like an upholstery needle


  1. Carefully cut out a leaf shape of your choice. To use my hand drawn stencil, go here.
  2.  Lay out leaves in alternating pattern or same direction (whatever looks best to you) and measure your length of twine. Mine was 10 ft. with 8 leaves.
  3. Thread the twine through the needle and tie a knot where you want your first leaf to be. Poke the needle through, sew one stitch by poking it through the opposite side, and tie a knot to hold the leaf in place.
  4. Repeat until all leaves are in the desired place. If needed, you can untie knots to reposition a leaf.
  5. Hang your garland in your fabulous jungalow!


No time to make your own? Order a hand cut garland from me here.

April Showers bring chilly hours!

It’s getting warmer outside, but it is also getting… wetter. So we all want to expose our kneecaps and elbows… but the rain brings along a bit of a chill!

If you have ever come in from the rain in your light spring clothes only to sit in front of the A/C with no jacket… you know how important it is to have some spare spring sweaters- for your bag, your car, even to keep at your desk! As we are anticipating a drizzly week in the midwest, here are some mood and shoulder warmers to the rescue!


Each cardigan below is $25!
For pulling over a light denim dress when you want warm arms and a place to store your phone…. we need some millennial pink with pockets!

But I ALWAYS need a green option, and the mossy short-sleeved choice adds some nice color to my otherwise hunter green choices.

Spring Upgrades and Earth Day!

I am quickly settling into a carefree springtime attitude, and am making lifestyle adjustments to match my demeanor.

  1. Health

    When we “sumitted” the Grand Canyon, I was full of a sense of accomplishment, but also filled with a new determination. Now I had confirmation that I am strong, I wanted to maintain that powerful feeling… so I took the plunge and committed to a month of Brookly Boulder’s (Chicago location) “Beginner to Badass” program.

    This led me to the Earth Day event, Camp BKB. Where I got this amazing shirt:

    save the

    t-shirt photographed by my sister in our tent

  2. Feet!

    Seriously, one of the best things about the warming weather is giving your toes a chance to breathe! I am eyeing these for the business in the front and these for the party in the back.

  3. Bright (healthy) skin

    When I was at Camp BKB ringing in Earth Day, they had representatives from LUSH giving complimentary facials. After being slathered in mango and having my face massaged with a warm towel, I was given a card with a description of my treatment. I had The Sacred Truth mask, which must be purchased at the store so that it remains chilled. Made with fresh mango, this mask has a short shelf life but is soooo worth it! My specialist cleaned that up with the Eau Roma Water as a toner. Finally, and this was a game changer, she used this Vanishing Cream, because I said I wanted more even color and texture on my skin. This was amazing! For the next two days, my face was baby-smooth and an even color all across. I was floored. Now that I am browsing this purchase, I’m swallowing hard at the price but sucking it up because I know the results.