Hiking with Kendra: Best Shoes for Hiking and an Innovative Use for a Bungee Cord

The one thing you can’t go hiking without: Chacos, they’re great for a light hike or for crossing through streams. They are my go-to shoe for everything.


A mistake you learned from on the trail: Don’t wait to go to the bathroom.

The surprising thing that saved you from a bad day: Once I used a bungee cord for a belt.

Best song to keep the bears away: Just singing “No bears, no bears no bears no bears.”


Favorite food for car camping: Build your own burritos bar

Favorite food on the trail: Clif bars

Most important planning detail: A minimalist mindset- pack light, but pack the essentials.

What is your signature move on the trail? Stopping to take pictures every two seconds because I am so amazed at every turn.


First memory of camping: I remember breakfast more than the actual sleeping part. Mom making eggs and bacon over the campfire.

What to do after camp is set up: Go for a sunset hike.


Top Three Best Trips:
1. Glacier National Park
2. Going out west for work as a trip leader
3. Went rafting in New River Gorge in West Virginia, also for work


Most wow moment on the trail: Waking up at Arrow Lake in Montana, and seeing the sun rise over the lake.

Best book about outdoors: How to Shit in the Woods

Best book to read outdoors: The Hobbit.” It’s pocket sized!


What do you enjoy about hiking? The view. Being outside.

Why do you hike? To explore places you can only get to on foot.

What’s the most developed trail you’ve ever walked that’s still difficult?  The steps leading up to Red Rock Amphitheater. Or really, any hill.


Question I should have asked: How do you choose a trail?

Your answer to that question: I look at the mileage, water sources along the way, and experience of others on the hike.


Hiking with Thor: Advice from my Brother on Finding Food and the Best Views Ever

The one thing you can’t go hiking without: My Nalgene.

A mistake you learned from on the trail: Bring enough water, don’t go on a long hike on an empty stomach. I once- this was more of a suburban walk than a hike- I went on an 11 mile walk with no water and no food, and I was eating wild greens on the way back. So bring food and water.


The surprising thing that saved you from a bad day: I accidentally forgot to put on my Tevas, and wore sneakers instead to a hike to Sperry Glacier, and the last mile or two was all through snow banks. If I had worn sandals, I would have been hurting, so the tennis shoes came in handy.

Best song to keep the bears away: 

Favorite food for car camping: Thor-bread: Mix one box of Jiffy cornbread mix with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 carton of sour cream. Baked in dutch oven.

Favorite food on the trail: Rice pudding or canned fish


Most important planning detail: Coordinate arrival times “We were hiking with friends, three of us went in one car and the other guy was meeting us. He thought we were hiking at 8:30, but we were meeting at 8:30. We got there while he was there, but he was already on the trail, and when we got off the trail he had already left.”


What is your signature move on the trail? Foraging for food, and hiking quickly ahead of the group

First memory of camping: Camping at our dad’s property (82 acres of trees) in the pines trees.

What to do after camp is set up: Explore the area, walk around and see what trails are around


Best trip yet: Baxter State Park in Maine, Mount Katahdin

Most wow moment on the trail: Turning around while hiking Mount Katahdin and seeing the valleys below, and seeing the nearby mountains. “When we got up to the top, it seemed like we were on the tallest mountain in the park.”

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Best book about outdoors: Mushi-shi



Best book to read outdoors: The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkein

Question I should have asked: What’s the most developed trail you’ve ever walked that’s still difficult?

Your answer to that question: A hill outside of Heidelburg, Germany, that was all stairs and switchbacks.

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What do you enjoy about hiking? Walking is a fun motion to do. It is one of the most fun exercises there is. I’m always rubbernecking when hiking.

Why do you hike? Seeing a lot of stuff, and just getting to go look around at the world, I guess. Like, a scenic hike is great, and it’s also a fulfilling form of transportation, you feel like you moved yourself, instead of being moved by petrol-chemicals.


Camping 101

For the people who have never ever ever never camped!

After having gone backpacking a few times, car camping feels a bit like glamping. This is glamorous camping, because you can bring anything you need for maximum comfort, including whole food (as opposed to dehydrated meals) and luxury items like an air mattress, or pillows! Here are some basic camping tips from around the web.


From Liz Stanley of Say Yes
Skip the campground. Campgrounds feel like cities, only you’re closer together. The only thing between you and a bunch of drunk college kids is a thin sheet of nylon. If you’re scared of bears, campgrounds are the worst place because they know that’s where food is. In Yosemite, we saw a couple a day! You are allowed to camp in any national forest or wilderness area surrounding a national park.

WHY IT’S SO WORTH IT: It’s so nice to wake up in the morning when it’s chilly, and have a long hot breakfast with coffee or hot chocolate… Sitting around the campfire at night — drinking a mug of wine, talking, making s’mores — is amazing. Since it gets dark at 8pm, we’ll often hang out for a while yet still go to bed early, which feels so good, too. My husband and I once took a kayaking trip and ended up on a gorgeous lake under the Grand Tetons. We went skinny dipping at midnight. I loved that combination of paddling and camping. It was magical.

Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo
Do periods attract bears
Poor Joanna was shamed into sleeping in a cage while camping on a school trip. She reports that periods do not attract bears. Yellowstone reports that polar bears are likely attracted to menstruation, but black bears are definitely impartial. Grizzlies? Unknown…


From Ranger John
Make campsite reservations as soon as you can. Campsite Reservations have become the norm in today’s campgrounds. Packing a car at the last minute on a Friday afternoon and rushing to a park typically leads to disappointment and driving around to multiple campgrounds all with their Campground Full signs posted. You end up camping in your car overnight at the Wal-Mart parking lot or the local motel/hotel with everyone complaining about this being the worst vacation ever.

Pack bacon!  I consider bacon the official torture smell for all Park Rangers. There is nothing like going to work and heading through the campground and smelling bacon cooking everywhere. For some reason, this smell triggers all hunger senses in your brain and you too now want bacon. I will look at my watch and have another 3 1/2 hours to lunch and the sandwich I packed doesn’t smell as good. Of course, I will notice other campers getting up walking to the restroom starring at the campsite next to them cooking bacon, they have this look of wanting to invite themselves over for breakfast too, perhaps the look of plotting how to get the bacon from them devising a scheme used by the famous bear known for stealing picnic baskets. Save yourself this torture and pack your own bacon and be the envy of the campground.

Carry the 10 Essentials! I encourage everyone to carry the 10 essentials with them anytime they head outdoors. It’s the one thing you hope to never need but will also be your best friend if the occasion arises and you do need it. Click here for a list of the 10 essentials you should have with you camping!

From Joanna Hawley of Jojotastic
Use the Airbnb of Camping: 
When it comes to travel, I have two schools of thought: living like a local via Airbnb and dirt-bagging it by camping. I’m a mix of hi/lo, luxe and earthy. Plus, if I’m camping, often that means I’m also climbing… which equals one very happy Joanna. So you can imagine my excitement to recently discover Hipcamp, which is like Airbnb but with campgrounds, ranches, farms, even a vineyard! This is definitely the option for the adventurous of heart.

Nature Week Book Club!

John Muir is wilderness famous. With parks and trails named after him, his legacy is a permanent part of American history. This collection of short stories is the easiest insight in to his writing and philosophy on natural preservation. In his stories, he urges readers to not only take part in a great appreciation for nature, but to actively strive to preserve it.

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My photo from Muir Woods

I started reading Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey while living in the Southwest, and Abbey showed me how to slow down and notice the native animals and native rocks and native people in a thoughtful way. When exploring the west, he showed me how to peel away the unnecessary layers of “protection” and go out into nature with only what I needed, in an effort to know the land a little better. His criticism of the National Park System is paralleled by an acknowledgement of its importance- all spoken from the voice of a Moab Park Ranger/ New Yorker. In fact, the friend that recommended the book to me was at the time a Moab Park Ranger/ New Yorker. It is interesting how nature can pull people away from the glamour and appeal of the big city. I loved Desert Solitaire so much that I am currently reading this Collection of Short Stories by Abbey. When searching for these links, I found these Files on Edward Abbey, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation! Presumably these investigations regard his dissent for the system and maybe acts of eco-terrorism? That is pure speculation, I suppose I need to read these. Related: Journeys of Simplicity, featuring “Traveling Light with Edward Abbey.”

Life in the Woods by author Henry David Thoreau is an American classic. I am embarrassed to say that I have not read it! Any way of life, city or otherwise, during the age of the industrial revolution seems very back-to-nature in our 21st century eyes. With that perspective, in fact, I would argue that the pioneer lives featured in Little House on the Prairie really harken back to nature. Back to Thoreau, his writings are early sources for the environmentalist movement, and like Edward Abbey after him, he was comfortable criticizing the system in place to utilize and preserve nature.

I have always written off my dad’s love for Foxfire books, in part because I didn’t know what they were about and in part because when you are a kid you think your parents are boring. As an adult, though, I realize that my parents and I share an affinity for good books and information, a mutual appreciation for nature and a desire to acquire new skills devoted to a greater sense of self-sufficiency. NPR has a great article about how Foxfire came to be. On the topic of long-term hiking accounts being turned into movies… A Walk in the Woods will soon be made into a film. This narrative details the trek through the Appalachian trail. I have not yet read this, but my sister has and loves it. This is now her bucket list hike. Of course, you can’t talk about books about the great outdoors without talking about Wild. This book is Cheryl Strayed’s account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail… solo. If you haven’t read it, you might have seen the movie. I know many avid backpackers are annoyed by this book, because they think it makes light of a serious situation, and because it has inspired many people who are unprepared and inexperienced to try this trail themselves. I certainly wouldn’t admit to this book being my first exposure if I was chatting with other hikers on the PCT given the harsh criticism many have given it. All of that criticism being taken into account, however, this book is a story of nature being used as a metaphor for life, and of championing months of meditation through solo hiking. Since reading this book one year ago, I have now taken 2 backpacking trips, and am making a third this week. The “elite” hikers may criticize this story, but it was the first inspiration for me to take my hikes from day trips to multi-day explorations.

“Named after a bioluminescent fungus that glows in the hills of North Georgia on certain summer nights, Foxfire started in 1966, when an English teacher in Rabun County was having a difficult time engaging his students. Out of ideas, he let the kids design the lesson. They chose to publish a magazine that would document the mountain culture all around them.”

With my growing interest in understanding the struggles of Appalachian people, I am inclined to read the whole series. They also have books specific to the topics of music, folk remedies, and of course, pickling and preserving. You can also visit the Foxfire museum and headquarters! I might have to plan a trip for Dad and I.


Intro to Nature Stories: I was raised to have an appreciation for these types of books. Growing up, I read the survivalist stories Hatchet and Touching Spirit Bear. Before that, I had engulfed Where the Red Fern Grows, where all the action happens outside, and of course Little House on the Prairie. As I said before, any pioneer life feels downright in touch with nature because… well, back then you had to be.


Other book lists: Summer Re-Reads, Dystopian Novels that Warned You this Was Coming, and The Most Relevant Book

Nature Week!

Welcome to Nature Week on The Wonder Of. This week you will learn how to glamp properly (even if you have NEVER been camping!), learn 3 perspectives on backcountry camping and hiking in National Parks, discover the best books for outdoorsman, and how to pack for a backpacking trip.

The bonus to all of this is that while these posts are going up, my family and I will be on vacation in Banff and Jasper Canadian National Parks! So, throughout the next two weeks, I will interrupt scheduled posts (about nature) with photos… of nature!

I am really excited to share these posts with you. To be sure not to miss anything, please sign up for an email subscription or follow the blog on Facebook or Instagram!


Back to Nature in 24 Hours




Image of Kettle Moraine State Park, Southern Unit from Rootsrated

24 Get Back to Nature:

Sunday, before noon, pack car

Packing List:

Sunday, early afternoon: arrive at park, hike out, set up camp
Sunday, late afternoon: take a day hike past campsite, explore water and wooded areas
Sunday evening: chill by the fire, maybe sing folk songs and have s’mores

Monday morning: have a hot breakfast, coffee, and pack out. Return home.

Weekend Link Pack!


I am really excited about camping soon, and when it is a short trip, you have the option of cooking over a fire! Love this paella recipe. Not camping? Try it on the grill or in your firepit!

29018cba-939e-4308-a42c-14fee8572a26.jpegJuly 22nd is National Hammock Day! I am loving this limited edition campy print.


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Did you end up getting anything on Amazon Prime Day? We didn’t, but now that we have paid bills and assessed our finances and needs for the summer, we are placing a small order. As an active freelance musician, it is crucial to be able to record and livestream performances. We are going to take the plunge and by the simplest, cheapest Go Pro. We are also solving all of our back problems with a foam roller, and file under weird: we are getting a squatty potty for that “back to nature” experience. Don’t ask. Just watch these ridiculous videos.


pwbJ40RUO179-yMOyt5j_AndriusBurba5.jpgAbsurdly cute photos of cat bellies.


Have you seen the voice of Gollum reading Trump’s Tweets? HILARIOUS!


ac9497672748fd60314b6c63b1ac55b18a9e4c3e.jpegCheck out this incredible Chicago loft!


download (2).jpegNPR draws parallels between our beloved undercover investigators and the reality of today’s FBI investigations.



Don’t follow the norm too closely. Humanity is getting stupider.


I know it’s still a month away, but I am so excited for the next season of Broad City! It feels like the contemporary Seinfeld, and sometimes walking around downtown Chicago in the summer feels like being in my episode of these New York based shows. My dad says it’s because I’m “urban” now. I guess he’s right! I definitely love trading smoothie strategies with my best friend.

19050652_1916497905230123_2233495599372566528_nWhich shade of millennial pink wins your vote?


How sweet is this? Did you cry? Did you call your grandmother and tell her you love her? What a wonderful celebration of life.

Summer Getaway Goals

Have you ever heard of this National Park- Isle Royale? I was looking for some backpacking in the Midwest, and I found this gem! A 42 mile one way trip, on a wild island in Lake Superior, with otters and foxes and wolves around! It takes about 4-6 days to cross the island, going one way. This is definitely on my summer bucket list!



Force of Nature

REI has launched this great “Force of Nature” campaign, and as a company they have taken specific action to increase equality in experience and opportunity for women to be active outdoors. A direct quote about the quality of women’s gear: “We don’t just “shrink and pink” our clothing.” One of the important elements of this company policy is that they will have as many options for women as they do men- be it unisex options, or gear designed for women’s bodies, women will have the same variety and quality available to them as do men.

These things may seem small, but having access to resources is a major step towards equality in any context, and it is a move I stand behind. I feel a little better about all the money I spent at REI for my recent trip knowing that they are promoting equality outdoors. Read more about their “Force of Nature” project here.

Tripstagram: East Coast National Parks Road Trip

An update from my AMAZING little brother and sister. We saw my sister on a crag here: Summer Snapshot: Acadia National Park, and now it is time for her point of view. On every family hike, we see my brother’s back until he disappears into the trees. Case in point: 2017-05-30 10.16.39 1.jpg

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I am so jealous of their trip and mainly jealous that they are on summer break. I am so excited to travel and hike this summer, and so happy to get to spend some time with my family this summer!