Monthly Archives

April 2016


The Great American Road Trip: Grand Tetons – Paintbrush Canyon Hike

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19 miles, 9 hours, 1 black bear cub, 2 moose, and 2 new friends

I think it’s safe to say the Grand Tetons have bewitched me. They awed me then and they continue to have a hold on me now. I have this sneaky feeling that our paths will cross many more times.

Today’s hike was the highlight of our time in the Tetons. Just thinking about it slaps a silly grin on my face. We planned to hike the Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon loop in one day, but after a late start, we ended up hiking up through Paintbrush Canyon and the snow-covered Paintbrush Divide (in August!) at 10,720 feet and then back. I swear my smile must’ve been detectable from space.

The hike begins by String Lake and immediately begins a steep ascent through lush forest, switchbacks through dense bushes and boulders, into the canyon, across fields of boulders, along gushing rivers and falls with water clear as glass, past Holly Lake, and up and up and up until you’re sitting on top of the world. Higher up in the canyon, you could hear enormous boulders breaking off and tumbling down the sheer mountain faces. I loved the thrill of pushing my body so hard and for so long for hours of switchbacks and thin air. How can this world be so breathtaking and vast?! No matter how much we evolve as humans, or how cizilized we get, our hearts cannot ignore the beauty of the mountains; A rock can bring us to our knees and set our hearts ablaze.

At the beginning of the hike, we passed a black bear cub, happily munching on a huckleberry bush and extremely disinterested in our attempts to scatter it. Not wanting to cross paths with mama bear, we kept on. On our descent I came around a hairpin turn and almost ran smack into a moose’s butt. A quick back track and an attempt to bushwhack around it, had us back on the trail waiting for the moose to move. Holy cow are they massive! Our group of two turned to four as we were waiting and we all hiked down the last couple hours once the moose moved. We came upon another moose blocking the path a while later and one of the guys tried blowing his whistle to move the moose along. If you’ve never been death-stared by a moose, well lucky you I guess. Mr. Moose was not pleased and took his sweet time moving.

We made it back to the car as the sun was near setting and all piled into the car to Jackson for a burger and ice cream feast. Best Day Ever! Best Day Ever!

More info here.

Keep adventuring,

xoxo Alina



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The Great American Road Trip: Sawtooth Mountains Backpacking – Alice Toxaway Loop 1
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May 2, 2016

Bear Safety 411

Great Bear Steakout...Programme Name: Great Bear Steakout - TX: 25/04/2013 - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows: Grizzly bears in Katmai National Park, Alaska.  - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jeff Wilson

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Gear, Cooking and Sleeping

  • Treat all odorous products such as soap, sunscreen, deodorant, and other toiletries in the same manner as food.
  • Bear bag tutorials
  • Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food/toiletry odor. Don’t sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating.
  • If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.
  • If you hear a bear outside your tent at night, make noise. Clap, talk; Let it know you’re there!

On the Trail

  • Make bears aware of your presence on trails by making loud noises such as clapping, talking loudly and singing. This lessens the chance of surprise encounters and startling a bear, which are the cause of most bear-caused human injuries in the parks.
  • Hike in groups when possible.
  • Use caution where vision is obstructed.
  • Do not run on trails and do not wear headphones. People have been known to literally run into a bear around a hairpin curve in the trail.
  • Avoid carcasses as bears often defend this source of food.

If You Encounter a Bear

  • Get acquainted with the differences between black bears and grizzly bears. Grizzlies are much more aggressive than black bears. Black bears are much more relaxed and you can usually scare them off pretty easily. Grizzlies require a lot more work on your part to avoid an attack.
  • Do. Not. Run. Bears can run over 30 miles per hour and running may elicit an attack from otherwise non-aggressive bears. In the parks, bears see us as fellow predators, but by running you become prey and initiate a cat and mouse game.
  • If the bear is unaware of you, detour away from the bear. If the bear is aware of you and nearby, but has not acted aggressively, slowly back away.
  • Some bears will bluff their way out of a threatening situation by charging, then veering off or stopping abruptly at the last second.
  • If a bear is acting aggressively and charges you, use your bear spray to create a smoke screen between you two. Spray in a sweeping motion from the ground up. The bear spray will hinder the bear’s sight, smell and taste for a couple minutes, disorienting it. Take this opportunity to back away from the situation and clear the area. But Do. Not. Run. The bear can still hear and the sound of running will trigger their prey drive.
  • If you are attacked, play dead. Drop to the ground, lift your legs up to your chest, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Another position is to drop to the ground, chest and face down and clasp your hands over your neck and head, elbows out. This stabilizes you more so the bear cannot flip you.
  • The bear should back away after a bit. Stay on the ground for a while until you are sure the bear has cleared the area. However, if the bear is prodding you for a prolonged time or starts to eat you, stop playing dead and fight for your life. Go for the eyes and throat. Way easier said than done, I know. I can’t even imagine this situation and I have goose bumps writing it, but fight like your life depends on it, because it does.

Bear Spray

  • All bear sprays are Not created equal. Make sure you do your research and are giving yourself your best chance at safety. We carried this one.
  • I advise more than one bear spray canister per group because you might deploy one and encounter another bear down the trail. Also invest in a bear spray holster for your belt. You have seconds at most to get out that spray and create the smoke screen. Precious moments you can’t spend fumbling for the spray.

Head over to Bear Smart for much much more information on bears and bear safety.

Photo Sources: 1 / 2

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Nordic Boho

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I could get lost in the rabbit hole of Nordic design. Looking at these images makes me want to stay up all night white-washing everything in my house. I am not alone in my love for all things Nordic, and I think it all lies in how peaceful and zen these spaces are. They feel like a home where I’d wake up to the first rays of sunshine and enjoy coffee in bed, snuggled between all the lamb skin throws and blankets. It feels like a place that would instantly unwind you after a long day of work. There is a crispness and nonchalantness to it all at the same time. And I love how the zen backdrop provides the perfect canvas for art work or plants or textiles to really pop!

Enjoy the rabbit hole :)

xo Alina


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April 12, 2016

The Great American Road Trip: Grand Tetons – Death Canyon Hike

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What more can I say besides look! Just look at how incredibly beautiful and rugged and impressive this place is and I dare you not to go all starry eyed. As I mentioned before, my chest cough was at an all time high while we were in the Tetons and I was not feeling my best. We spent the morning relaxing at camp and on Signal Mountain and didn’t start this hike until 2 or 3pm. Our plan was to just hike in and out about 4 hours. It was absolutely breathtaking and I guess I’ll just have to come back and hike the whole trail. Maybe a couple times :)


The Death Canyon trailhead starts by the White Grass Ranger Station and Phelps Lake. If you’re coming from Jackson, drive north 12 miles; turn left on Teton Park Rd. After .7 miles, turn left on Moose Wilson Rd. After 3.1 miles, turn right on Whitegrass Ranch Rd. Keep left after .7 mile and park at .9 miles.

Hiking Options

Create a 24-mile loop from Death Canyon Trailhead by heading up Open Canyon Trail, over Mount Hunt Divide, up Granite Canyon to Marion Lake, over Fox Creek Pass and back down Death Canyon.

Create a 25 mile loop from Death Canyon Trailhead by heading up Death Canyon Trail to Fox Creek Pass, north over Death Canyon Shelf, through Alaska Basin, then back over Static Peak Divide, and returning to the Death Canyon Trailhead.

The two hikes above are strenuos but oh so rewarding and you will have the trail to yourself. They can be made into sun-up-sun-down dayhikes with fast paced hikers or two day hikes. Make sure you plan ahead if you want to camp in the back country. Check out the information here regarding obtaining permits.

Alternatively you can create an in-and-out day hike to Static Peak divide and back.


Keep adventuring,

xoxo Alina


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May 12, 2016
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May 2, 2016
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The Great American Road Trip: Guide to Grand Tetons National Park

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We stayed at Headwaters Campground at Flagg Ranch on the northern border of Grand Teton National Park. We chose it for it’s proximity to both Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, allowing us to be flexible with our schedule and return to Yellowstone if desired. There’s tent camping, RV camping and log cabins and primitive log cabins available here. And there’s a lodge! If you didn’t know, the Tetons can be particularly moody and it was wonderful to take refuge by the warm fire and sip cappuccinos and read my book when the heavens were pouring down.

One such time, it rained so much that our campsite flooded! Thank goodness our Big Agnes tent has a high wall before the mesh starts and saved our sleeping bags from drowning…again. And thank goodness our neighbors had an extra tent handy and let us join them in their non-flooded campsite. They’re a cheery father and son duo and from day one I was already sad to part ways. On that note, we met some really wonderful people in the Tetons and at our campground. So many memories of lovely conversations and shared meals and stories from the road and trail that I’ll cherish forever.

Headwaters offered plenty of ranger lessons and campfire talks. Like always, I urge you to go! We attended a bear safety talk on our first night that delved into the differences between Grizzly and Black Bear protocol. I left feeling half empowered with knowledge and at ease and half terrified and ready to run. I’m putting together a bear safety post that I hope to post in the next few weeks. (Because I’m a regular bear (ahem cow) expert don’t you know).

See & Do

Honestly you can NOT go wrong in the Tetons. Every. single. bit. of. it. is. stunning! Here are my top 5 musts:

  1. Paintbrush Canyon – Cascade Canyon Loop: This 18 mile loop was the absolute highlight of our time in the Tetons. The views and wildlife make my heart soar. This hike can be done in one sun-up-sun-down day or broken up into two days. Keep an eye out for a detailed post on this hike next week.
  2. Death Canyon Trail: This trail can be the jumping off point for a number of different stitched together loops. Another highlight and must see while in the Tetons. If making this a loop, expect a 24 mile hike. Keep an eye out for a detailed post on this hike next week
  3. Signal Mountain: You can drive to the top of this mountain for an expansive view of the valley and Jackson Lake. We ventured up here on a day when we were both feeling exhausted and my chest cough was particularly bad. True to its name, there is a signal tower at the top and we took the opportunity to reconnect with the outside world and assure our mom’s we had not become grizzly bait yet.
  4. Jenny Lake: Enjoy the blue waters set against Storm Point for a lunch break and dip in the water. You can rent canoes and kayaks.
  5. Table Mountain Hike: Access this 11 mile out and back trail from the South Teton trailhead.
  6. Bonus must: a visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

Miscellaneous Tips

The Tetons are known to have some serious afternoon thunderstorms. Start your hikes early and plan accordingly so you’re not at the summit / above the tree line in the afternoon.

This time of year (August), the mama bears and babies can be seen on the roadside. They are trying to get away from the males who want to mate and will kill the cubs to do so. You can spot them int the early morning hours and at dusk. A side note: follow the speed limit folks! The roads are winding and the leading cause of death for these majestic beasts are car crashes.

Keep adventuring,

xoxo Alina

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The Great American Road Trip: Yellowstone – Grand Loop Road

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Today’s morning wake up was cold cold cold. I loved getting up at 6 am with the sun when we were in the Badlands, but since then our campsites have been shaded and mornings are freezing. It’s 30 degrees outside, but I’m toasty in my new Shopko sweats. Useful and stylish Yeahh. (No no, just useful).

On the agenda today was exploring the Great Loop Road (also known as the Rim Road). Sights along the way were Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Falls, Dunraven Pass, Norris Geyser Basin, Steamboat Geyser, Monument Geyser Basin, Lower Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pot, Upper Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, and Yellowstone Lake. We even made a quick pit stop to boop Montana. Running around and ogling all the geothermal activity felt like I was back in high school science class. The sights on the Rim Road are beautiful and interesting and must sees, but they’re also crowded and you lose that in-the-middle-of-nature feeling. Old Faithful embodied that most of all, with hundreds of people crowding around it on the man-made boardwalks and benches, eating ice cream and snacks from the lodge only yards away. How beautiful and amazing these geothermal sights are, but we felt a little like we were in a zoo. On our way home we pulled over and sat on the shores of Yellowstone Lake for a while, splashing in the still waters and reflecting on our day. Back to camp to unwind!

Quick tip: the hot springs let off poisonous gases. Don’t spend hours camped out at one and if you start feeling faint or dizzy, retreat back to fresh air or your car and move on. In the winter, animals such as the Buffalo, hang out by the hot springs for warmth and have died if they linger too long.


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Food, Health Posts

On Changing How We Speak to Ourselves

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Think of what you say to yourself when you look in the mirror or open your closet each morning. How about when you’re in the changing room shopping for new clothes? Or when you’re going over what you ate that day. Studies show that most of us are not very nice to ourselves. Personal experience shows that we are not very nice to ourselves. Now think of that same language, but someone is saying those things about your friend. It’s not okay right? You would step in and squash that negativity, because you love your friend and know how wonderful they are and even if they have a flaw, that type of language is just plain cruel and unnecessary. If someone spoke like that about you constantly, or even once, chances are you wouldn’t be friends anymore. So why then do we talk to ourselves that way? Why do we girls find it so hard to be nice to ourselves?

I recently listened to a webinar by Marna Thall and she spoke about our use of the words “good” and “bad”. Fries, ice cream, pizza, bagels, junk food, soda, bread, sugar – BAD. Carrots, apples, oatmeal, shrimp, avocados, spinach – GOOD. (But too much of good = bad. ugh). Depending on which category we eat from that day or how our calories stack up, we say “I was good today,” or “I was bad today.” It seems harmless, but think about how you just categorized yourself. Over time we get used to calling ourselves bad and letting our inner goodness and love for ourselves depend on what we ate that day. As if by eating the pizza, I take on the negative qualities of it. If I eat beer and wings or berries and yogurt, that does not constitute who I am as a person. We know this, but after years of calling ourselves good or bad, we subconsciously start to believe it. We allow our sense of accomplishment or self worth to teeter on the scale, threatening to move from good to bad with each bite. And that one bite can ruin your whole day and make you feel awful and unhinged. Then that feeling can lead to more bites and so on until negativity is breeding negativity and you’re so far past “being bad” you can’t even see it anymore.

As I mentioned here I thought for many years that I was gluten intolerant until I found out it was the yeast in the bread and beer that I was intolerant too and not the gluten. That night I sat down to a pasta dinner, but there was something very different about that particular meal. For the first time in five years, I felt no regret, no shame, no inner dialogue of how I was harming my body and health. I felt nothing but the joy of pasta and it was freeing. It dawned on me how much my emotions are tied up in food. Not only because what you put in dictates what you put out and eating poorly can affect your mood, but also because with my constant autoimmune and health struggles I always felt like such a failure and a weak person for giving in to cravings I knew would only make me feel worse. It wasn’t until this meal that I realized how down on myself I had gotten. Even though I love myself and am my own cheerleader, I had also become the person in the crowd booing and heckling myself. After years of the seemingly simple “good” and “bad” connotations we use so mindlessly, that negativity had snuck up on me.

I’m riding that aha moment and changing my inner dialogue. I no longer use the words good or bad to describe my food or myself. Instead I say “I ate healthy today,” or “I did not eat in line with my goals for myself,” or “I don’t like eating X because it makes me feel jittery and sluggish.” It seems like such a silly and miniscule change, but it has been such a huge one. I hope this little trick helps you or a friend to be nicer to yourselves.

xo Alina

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The Great American Road Trip: Yellowstone – Seven Mile Hole Trail

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The Grand Canyon is a must for your visit to Yellowstone. It is a magnificent sight to behold, with gushing waterfalls, red-hued soil and rocky sloping cliffs. The viewpoint names say it all: Inspiration Point, Artist Point, Point of Sublime. Although a lot of the lookouts are accessible from the road, it is much more rewarding to get out on the trail and away from the crowds. As I mentioned in my Yellowstone guide, the crowds here are frustrating. Yellowstone is the most visited U.S. destination after all. More than NYC! Thankfully (but also sadly), most visitors to the Park do not venture away from the loop road, geysir boardwalks and air conditioned cars, leaving the trails nearly empty. We only saw one couple on our hike. How wonderful to have this slice of heaven to ourselves for the day!

We explored the northern rim of the Grand Canyon via the Seven Mile Hole trail. Starting at the Glacial Boulder trailhead, this hike combines all the best aspects of Yellowstone. You begin at the northern rim with stunning views of the canyon below before descending through pine forests and passing by meadows. This is prime Grizzly viewing area so keep your eyes peeled. (And your bear spray ready). Next the trail makes its way back to the canyon wall and descends 1,690 feet to the river past geothermal activity and hot springs. This hike is roughly 10 miles roundtrip and moderate to strenuous. You can make it a day trip or extend it into an overnighter using one of the three backcountry campsites. Note that fires are not permitted in the backcountry, so plan meals accordingly.

We stopped to eat lunch, perched on the cliff’s edge. Watching the wind swish the trees, listening to the rapids rumbling below, and breathing in the sweet-smelling pines, I had a “This is exactly why I quit my job!” moment. Today I felt wonderfully joyous, rejuvinated, and thankful to experience the sun on my cheeks, and the peace of the evergreens.

**We later learned that due to the geothermal activity under the canyon, the cliffs are extremely unstable and have been know to collapse and calve without warning. Ahhhhhh what?? Good thing we definitely veered off the trail to peer over them and ate lunch perched on their edge. Seriously, there should be signs at the trail head! (I read them and this no biggie lifesaving fact was not mentioned). So stay on the trail by the cliff edge people!!**

The Glacial Boulder trailhead is here. Coming from Canyon Campground/Canyon Village, make a left onto Grand Loop Road. Make your first left onto North Rim Drive. Make your first right onto an unmarked road and a minute or so down the road you will see a very large upright boulder on the left. This boulder marks the trailhead as well as a bulletin board with notices and information. You will most likely see cars parked on the side of the road too.

For more info of the Grand Canyona and Seven Mile Hole, check here and here.


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