Fall Favorites!

For those of you who don’t know me…FALL IS MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR! Like if fall could be 9 months out of the year (with summer being the other 3 obviously,) I think I would be the happiest girl in the world!

I’m not sure I can chose my favorite thing about it: the cool temperatures (hello jeans+sweatshirts,) the beautiful colors of the leaves, football games, outdoor activities or pumpkin spice lattes. Either way, the vibes of Fall are just something I look forward to all year long.

This year was especially fun and special; being that it’s Fitz’s first Fall experience! Does anyone else feel like Northern Michigan really lucked out this year with some warm, sunny and colorful days! Kwin and I definitely took advantage of this with lots of hiking, biking and “fall-ish” activities. Let me know if you enjoyed any of these too; or if we need try some new things next year!

Hiking and Biking

  • Vasa Single Track– HIGHLY recommend going here for an epic bike during the fall! NMMBA has done an awesome job recently of creating more trails for you to explore all over the state land in Williamsburg, MI. You can also hike or RZR on designated trails.
  • Electric Bikes on the backroads– We invested in some Electric bikes a couple years ago, specifically for bike rides like these! We are able to cover so much ground, and still enjoy the ride. Plus adventuring on back dirt roads is always so much fun with Kwin. Shoutout to Oma Jo for hanging out with Fitz so we could have a little day date!
  • Home Sweet Home– We’ve spent so much time over the past five years working on trails around our property. I’m not lying when I say they are my favorite trails to hike! The dogs can be off leash, so many different trails to choose from, and the beauty of the landscape makes it great too!
  • Mt. Holiday– A local favorite for skiing in the Traverse City area is also a favorite for hiking year round! Climbing to the top of the main ski hill really gives you an epic view of both East and West Grand Traverse Bay!
  • Marquette Trip– Our annual UP fall trip took place in Marquette this year. It was a beautiful and sunny weekend; filled with lots of hiking! Some of our favorites are Hogsback, Sugarloaf, Deadriver Falls and catching sunrise on Lake Superior. Fun fact… FOUR years ago Kwin and I got engaged on top of Hogsback Mountain; and look at us now with our beautiful baby girl in the same spot! This hike will always have so much special meaning to me.

Fall Treats

  • Pumpkin Spice Lattes– I’m usually not for frilly drinks, I’m pretty lame and just prefer a good black coffee. BUT this time of year calls for all the frilly pumpkin drinks I can get my hands on. If you’re in the Traverse City area…. go to Espresso Bay and get their pumpkin spice latte (it’s made with REAL pumpkin, no fake sugary syrups) YOU WONT REGRET IT.
  • Third Coast Bakery– Donuts aren’t really my jam, and I usually only have one pumpkin donut a year. However, after trying one of there HIGHLY RECOMMENDED GF donuts… I was converted to a donut person. Lets just say we made it a Sunday tradition to get a few of these bad boys! If you’re in the Traverse City area and looking for a bakery that is Gluten Free and very allergen friendly (soy, dairy and some items even egg free) give this place a try! I haven’t had a bad bakery item yet!
  • Pumpkin Patch– Is it really fall if you don’t go to a pumpkin patch? Unfortunately with COVID, this wasn’t the “usual” pumpkin patch experience…but we still made the best of it!

Sports

  • Lions Games– Even though the lions let us down 75% of the time, we still spend our Sundays cheering them on!
  • Elk Rapids Sporting Events– I love fall because of all the sports! And with Kwin taking a break from coaching this year, we had more time to go support the other teams; like football, soccer and volleyball! Fitz is enjoying going to all these games too. I’ve got a feeling she’s going to be a little sports star!

Family Fun

  • Sauna Season – I missed out on sauna season last year, due to being pregnant. But let me tell ya, I’m so excited the weather is cooling off and the sauna is being lit again!
  • Hot Tubs– Kwin and Fitz have some fun bonding time in the hot tub before “tubby time” almost daily! My heart melts watching her splashing around in there and interacting with daddy. She really is a water lover already.
  • HalloweenEEEEKKK, I was looking forward to Halloween so much! In fact, Fitz rocked three outfits and looked absolutely adorable in all of them. Dottie from a ‘League Of Their Own,’ A Polar Bear, and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!

Writing this on our first wintery day -hello white stuff&40mph winds– and getting a little sad that fall has come to an end. We are lucky in Michigan to experience all four seasons, as it really makes you appreciate whatever season you are currently in.
So I’ll sign off hear and say: Until next year Fall!

The Great American Road Trip, Part 2. Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks!

And the road trip continues! 

If you missed my last blog, check it out HERE.

July 2, 2019

Start– Gros Ventre Campground-Jackson, Wyoming

Destination– Signal Mountain Campground, Grand Tetons National Park 

The trick to getting a good camp spot in the National Parks is to GET THERE EARLY! Living in Northern Michigan, we are part of the Eastern Time Zone; So one of the perks of traveling out west is the time change. Waking up at 6am is more like 8am at home…so it’s kinda like sleeping in, am I right? Not only does waking up early help with getting a good camp spot, but being able to see the sunrise in the mountains is pretty beautiful too! 

Kwin and I were both very excited to be going into the Tetons! Of all the parks, this was the one that most people told us would be our favorite. 

-We’d heard it was less crowded

-There were mountains everywhere

-And there would be lots of hiking, biking and paddling 

Our morning started out again at the cute coffee shop in Jackson, Cowboy Coffee, and then we hit the road! Pulling into Signal Mountain Campground promptly around 7:30am with a train of other campers having the same intentions as us. Luckily, we were able to snag the BEST spot in the campground [well in our opinion at least] right on Jackson Lake.

After setting up camp we decided to do hike Taggart Lake Trail: a 3-mile, rated easy hike, but with spectacular views! We both agreed that it was one of our favorite hikes in the park. 

In the afternoon we did a nice long paddle across Jackson Lake using our inflatable Tahoe SUP paddle boards, and let me tell you …it felt like we were paddling with a green screen in-front of us! I mean just look at those mountains, plus the crystal clear blue water!

Funny story, Kwin and I set up the tent while cooking dinner because we thought it would be fun to sleep under the stars. We didn’t put the rain fly on, that way we would be able to see the stars while going to sleep. Before bed we both wanted to do some reading, so we sat in the camper …. and well we both fell asleep! Around 12am we woke up to the sound of torrential downpour rain! We were dry …. but our tent, sleeping bags and other camping gear wasn’t.  

July 3, 2019 

Start– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park

Destination– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park 

Once the rain stopped, around 8am we got coffee at the Signal Mountain campground store and then hit the road to our first hike of the day. Grand View Point Trail: a 5-mile, moderate ranked trail, that definitely fit its name perfectly! The trail at the beginning was pretty wet, thanks to the rain from the night before, so the mosquitoes were bad! However, once we got up to a higher elevation they seemed to disappear. The top of the trail had a beautiful view of Jackson Lake, along with the Tetons in the background! Again, I felt like I was looking at a green screen! 

Our second hike of the day was definitely more busy than the first, Jenny Lake Trail. Despite there being a lot of people, it was still a really nice hike! About 7 miles in length, and I would rate as Easy. 

July 4, 2019

Start– Signal Mountain Campground- Grand Tetons National Park 

Destination– Norris Campground-Yellowstone National Park 

I mentioned this before about getting to campsites early if you want to get a spot in the National Parks. Another helpful thing is this website here: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm it’s a great source of information regarding camping, or really anything in the National Parks. There is an area that lets you know when the campgrounds in the parks had been filling. 

Our number 1 campground choice was Norris Campground, due to its central location. We saw that Norris Campground was usually full by 9:30am…so we got there at 7:30! After two hours of waiting we finally got a spot, set up camp, and then went for a nice bike/hike to Norris Geyser Basin (about 1 mile from our campground!) FUN FACT: one of the largest Geysers in Yellowstone is found at Norris Geyser Basin- Steamboat Geyser– and it erupts every 4-8 days apparently. While we were standing in line waiting for a campsite, it started steaming and showing an increase in its activity. The ranger pointed it out to us all, and said it was due for an eruption! Unfortunately, it didn’t erupt while we were there…but it was really cool to see the activity of Steamboat! After a quick hike we drove out of the park to Gandier, MT to meet up with Megan and Tommy- Kwin’s sister and our brother-in-law! We got groceries for the next couple of days, then went back to the campground and did the same hike we had already done, that way Megan and Tommy could warm up their legs for the upcoming days! Megan and Tommy were planning to stay with us for the remainder of our trip!

July 5, 2019

Start– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park 

Destination– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park 

Alright guys, not only do you need to wake up early to get a good campsite….but while in any National Park you’ve also gotta wake up early to get to the most popular hikes! We had heard horror stories before going to Yellowstone, saying there could be thousands of people standing around ONE SINGLE GEYSER! I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for claustrophobia to me! With this being said, we decided to get to one of the most popular geysers in the park, ‘Old Faithful,’ bright and early! This geyser is the most predictable of all the geysers in Yellowstone, and erupts about every 60-90minutes. I can’t compare the eruption to anything else, because it’s the only geyser we saw actually erupt, but it was pretty cool in my opinion! It shot up about 50-75ft in the air and lasted about 5 minutes. We were very fortunate to be there with only thirty or so people [compared to the thousands that can be there later in the day!]

 After that we went to probably our favorite hike in all of Yellowstone! The Mystic Falls & Geyser Basin: a 3.5-mile, moderately ranked hike WITH AMAZING VIEWS! It’s about two miles away from the ‘Old Faithful Geyser Basin,’ so when we hiked to the overlook point we were actually able to see all the geysers there! If you look closely in the picture below you can see all the steam coming up from the different geysers! As the name says, there was a waterfall as well: Mystic Falls. All of us really enjoyed this hike for the views, the waterfall and also the bring blue/sapphire colors of the geysers were pretty awesome! 

We managed to get in another hike this day and did a highly recommended hike Mt.Washburn. This was a 7-miles, moderately ranked hike that ended on top of a mountain overlooking the entire park! In-fact a functioning firetower was at the top. For those who don’t know what that is, a park ranger lives in this fire-tower, which was built in the early 1900’s, from June through October and is constantly monitoring for forest fires! 

June 6, 2019

Start– Norris Campground- Yellowstone National Park

Destination– Norris Campground-Yellowstone National Park 

Our last day in Yellowstone! Our first stop was the ‘Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.’ Now I’ve never actually been to the Grand Canyon, so I can’t really compare it to anything, but man was this beautiful! There were two waterfalls- The Upper and Lower Falls- and then beautiful rock formations lining the actual canyon. By the time we were leaving the parking lot was nearly full-mind you this was about 8am. So get there early folks! 

Our next hike of the day was a “spur of the moment” hike called Elephant Back Mountain Trail. This hike was about 3.5-miles, most of which was uphill! Kwin and I really enjoyed this because we could “feel the burn,” and once you finally got to the top you had a beautiful view of Yellowstone Lake. 

We ended the day by biking the ‘Osprey Falls’ trail- it’s one of the only bike friendly trails in the park- and then got dinner with Megan and Tommy in Gandier, MT.

If you’re planning to stay in Yellowstone, I would highly recommend going to visit this town. It’s located at the Northern entrance of the park, and has so many unique stores and restaurants! You should definitely make sure to stop in and check out Yellowstone Wildlife Galleries too. The store owner is a phenomenal wildlife photographer and has a store full of beautiful pictures!  

Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park were truly amazing! We loved both parks for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I would definitely say that Grand Tetons was my favorite(: 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, and I can’t wait to share about our time in Bozeman, MT, Glacier National Park and all the stops we made while traveling home!

MOAB UTAH, Round Two

One of the perks of being married to a teacher, are the breaks that he gets throughout the year. Anyone who knows my husband, knows that he cannot sit still and is always planning our next trip.

Living in Michigan, where winter seems to run forever (from October 1 through May 1,) we are always itching to get to the heat by the time Spring Break arrives. With this in mind most people (Including the Morris Clan) flock to the south, seeking out the sun and warm temperatures!

So, where to go?

MOAB, UTAH!

If you’ve never been before, let me try and paint a picture of what Moab is like. Red Cliffs. Snow covered mountains in the distance. The Colorado river flowing through town. TWO National Parks just outside of town- Canyonlands and Arches. An Infinite amount of mountain biking and hiking trails….basically an active individual’s dream!

It was a no brainer that Moab was going to be our destination for spring break. Kwin and I went out to Moab two years ago (plus Kwin has been to it three times before that too,) we just love it. The road trip out there is long….but exciting (yes its about 25 hours straight…but road trips are fun with your best friend!) 

Going into any vacation, we try to have a “skeleton plan” of things that we want to do. But it’s also important to us to be spontaneous…because spontaneousity is what makes life fun, am I right? With this being said, I’d like to share some of our favorite things to do while in Moab!

  • Sunrise and Sunset Hiking– With the two hour time difference, it’s pretty easy for us to be awake in-time for a good sunrise!
    • Some of our favorite sunrises are in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park (beware, that A LOT of people also like to see the sunrise at these parks, so it’s definitely busy…GET THERE EARLY.) My advise would be to see the sunrise at Delicate Arch and Mesa Arch at least once in your life, because the view really is incredible! But after that, there are plenty of other secret spots to watch the sunrise that would be a little more intimate and less crowded too!

Some of our favorite sunsets are Corona Arch, Moab Rim Trail, or really hiking up on of any cliff you can find! You’re in the middle of the desert so the sunsets are pretty epic from anywhere.

Mountain Biking– Moab is one of the best mountain biking places we’ve ever been too! Honestly, while driving through town I don’t think you drive past a car without a bike on it. They have biking for all levels…but mostly moderate-to-advanced trails! I remember when we were there two years ago I was terrified to do any of the trails because of how “technical” they can be; But this year (with the encouragement of Kwin) I went past my fears and just DID IT! I’m glad I did because the trails were HARD but SO MUCH FUN!

    • Slickrock Trail– Yup, I DIDN’T do this…but I did hike this one. Kwin and our friend Joe crushed this trail, and had so much fun! It’s an advanced trail with some pretty crazy descents and climbs all on sandstone rock.
    • Canyonlands– The drive to the national park from the town of Moab (which is about 30 miles) is littered with trails! A combination of sandstone cliffs and desert riding. These trails range from moderate to advanced and were a blast.

Klondike Trails– Something unique about these trails is that you are riding near or on dinosaur tracks! Thats right, I said dinosaur tracks! Something unique about Moab and it’s terrain is that the sandstone is actually petrified sand dunes, so the geographical history behind the land is pretty awesome! Kwin and I really enjoyed these trails-note they are definitely more on the advanced side, but walking part of the trail is not too bad because of the views!

    • Porcupine Rim Trails– Again, a trail that I DIDN’T do…but Kwin and Joe absolutely killed it. The crazy thing about this trail is that you descend DOWN a mountain about 4000ft. I’ve hiked part of this trail, and it blows my mind that people can bike down it…crazy people!
  • Petroglyphs– The Native American’s- believed to be the Pueblo People- who use to live off the land in Moab left behind some pretty cool pieces of artwork (rock carvings made by hammer and chisel.) Petroglyphs are believed to be a way of communicating and/or celebrating achievements. You can’t see them everywhere, but always be on the look out for the cool pieces of artwork while hiking!

Camping– Kwin and I have created a pretty cool rig that we live in while traveling. With our Aliner camper, an EZ-up Canopy, Solar Panel’s to help keep our camper battery charged, Solar heated shower bags, and all the water and food one could need, we are able to be completely unplugged and off the grid! Camping can be so fun when you have a good set up(:

Being with friends– This year we were lucky to have another family join us…the Shorts! Trips are always so much fun when you’re with other people, and able to make memories with them too. Joe, Leah, Simon and Elmer thanks for making this trip a great one!

As much as we love Michigan, it’s always so sad when vacations are coming to an end (yes, the dogs were sad to be returning to snow again too.) The freedom and spontaneousity of life that vacations bring about are the best! Trips like this one are rejuvenating and make getting back into daily routines exciting. It also excites us for all the upcoming trips that we’ve got planned!

So, can anyone guess where we will be going for next years Spring Break?

If you guessed Moab…YOU’RE RIGHT!

New Traditions, same old Upper Peninsula

Someone told me the other day “Jeeze, you guys are always in the Upper Peninsula..why don’t you just move up there?” This is a great point, and honestly Kwin and I have talked about it! The vast open land, crystal clear blue waters of Lake Superior, tranquility, and history of the land is VERY special to us. However, our family is here [in lower Michigan,] our friends are here; and if we lived in the Upper Peninsula then we wouldn’t have a place to escape to!

With every trip that we take to the UP we try to cover new territory, and this trips destinations were nothing short of AMAZING!

Grand Island

Kwin and I love camping at the Tourist park in Munising [it really is a perfect location!] Being that it’s only a short 1/4mile paddle across to  Grand Island, it makes for fun day trips and awesome sunsets!

Our first “new destination” was biking around ‘Grand Island.’ The bike trail is about 23 miles long. I would rate it beginner/moderate difficulty. IF YOU EVER GO TO GRAND ISLAND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THIS! Not only is it a great workout…but the Lake Superior views are stunning.

Grand Islands history dates back to the 1800’s, when the Native American Chippewa tribe were the main occupants. The secluded nature of the island, yet still having an easy paddle to the main land, made it a pretty ideal location! If you are interested in learning more about the history, check out the book ‘Face In The Rock’ by Loren Graham; Kwin absolutely loves this book. He actually has ‘Chemaun Poll’ (a Native American legend believed that if you tapped your birch bark canoe while saying this you could go anywhere in the lake…and FAST) on his board during the lake crossings.

While on Grand Island, we had the pleasure of meeting Loren Graham. Thanks, to Corey Adkins from 9&10News, Kwin and I were able to tour the North Lighthouse (privately owned by Loren and his wife) along with talking to him about the book, the Native American culture, and the history of the lighthouse! Check out the interview and short segment on 9&10news here!

Marquette

We couldn’t go to the UP without making a stop in Marquette! Biking, hiking, jumping off black rocks, epic sunsets, and paddling are only a few activities that we did.

Our Second “New Destination” was paddling to a secluded island just off the Presque Isle shoreline. Let me tell you, having a beach to yourself to read, swim and cliff jump is something special! What makes the Lake Superior shoreline different than any of the other Great Lakes is the rocky appearance-Hello Cliff Jumping!

Michigamme

Between Marquette and our cabin is a little town called Michigamme. A little history lesson: in 1985 the Department of Natural Resources wanted to reestablish a Moose population in Michigan, and what better place than the Upper Peninsula. January 1985, 29 moose were transported from Ontario, Canada to Michigamme, MI. Sense then the population has grown to 400+ moose! Some of them have traveled to other parts of the Upper Peninsula, but if you’re in the Michigamme area your chances of finding a moose are pretty high!

Our Third “New Destination” was setting up camp at the Van Riper State Park, and biking all around the area [we ended up doing about 47miles] HOPING TO FIND A MOOSE! I have never seen one in my life, and Kwin has only seen a handful before, so we were determined! Unfortunately, it was sunny and 90+ degrees…so most of the moose were tuckered away from the heat.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed, and now that you’ve made it through the beautiful pictures, check out Kwin’s video [HERE] of the trip!

East Coast Travels!

This years spring break (Yes, we still get to go on spring break as adults…PERKS of marrying a teacher!) Kwin wanted to show me some new territory, so we took a road trip down the East Side of the country!

Smokey Mountains 

We Started our journey in the Great Smokey Mountains! Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are the two towns located just outside the park where most of the tourists stay. Honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of either of these towns; mostly because I am not huge into “touristy” things, but GOTTA EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING ONCE. After we got away from all the people and into the Smokey Mountain National Park I loved it!

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the greatest while we were there…but it didn’t stop us! We hiked the Chimney Tops hike along with the Grotto Falls hike. For those who do not know, the last 0.25miles of the Chimney Tops hike is now closed due to the forest fire in 2016. Apparently the trail experienced some erosion and damage from the fire-I’m a little bummed because Kwin said that was the best part of the trail!

kwin waterfall

me waterfall

Asheville 

We have heard that Asheville has some pretty great Mountain Biking, so going there was a must! We stopped for breakfast at City Bakery and it was phenomenal-local and organic whole foods! From there we made our way to DuPont State Park where we did some hiking, mountain biking and found more waterfalls!

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rock carin

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Finally no rain, so we could have a campfire!

Lake James State Park 

FINALLY WE GOT SUNSHINE! After three days of rain and clouds we were very excited to finally see the sun come out. We had full intentions on paddle boarding while here…but the wind was a bit too strong!

 Sunshine+awesome mountain biking trails+beautiful hiking=one of our favorite days. 

she jumped

kanyon window

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Visiting Family! 

One of the main reasons we went on this trip (bedsides seeing new territory) was to meet up with Kwin’s sister (Megan) and brother-in-law (Tommy). They just moved into their new house-which is beautiful, congrats guys! While there we went to Hanging Rock State Park.
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the hike K&M

hanging rock

kwin&meg

Washington DC

Our last stop on the trip was a day trip to the Nations Capital. At the age of 24, I cannot believe I have NEVER been here before! Along with the day at Lake James, this was another favorite of mine! Kwin and I are both kinda nerdy…but we love learning, especially about history.

Things I loved about Washington DC

  • Dog Friendly-except you couldn’t take your furry friends into the actual memorials
  • Such an active town-there were people walking, running, riding bikes, playing soccer, playing ultimate frisbee…you name it and it was going on!
  • Bike trail from Washington DC to Mt.Vernon
  • SOOO MUCH HISTORY

kwin&dogs at memorial

memorial

Traveling is something that Kwin and I have a huge passion for! We love exploring new things as a family (yes that includes taking our dogs everywhere we can!) and being off the grid as much as we can!

We also have a NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS rule (we cook mostly in our camper, but sometimes it’s nice to go out.) Here are some cafes we went to- City Bakery (Asheville), Grind Cafe (Morganton)

I hope you all enjoyed! For any questions regarding trails or another travel questions feel free to ask!

Also, SHOUTOUT to my amazing husband for getting me the best birthday present I could have asked for! I love my new Sony A6300 Camera, it sure took some amazing pictures this trip! 

New Zealand Honeymoon!

New Zealand, where do I even begin? It truly was the vacation of a lifetime! Kwin and I are so fortunate to have spent our honeymoon making such great memories. I’m sorry that this blog is kind of on the long side…but I could write forever about how amazing this country is. I hope you enjoy(:

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Christchurch

We arrived in New Zealand on Christmas day, ready to start our adventures! Little did we know that ALL of Christchurch was shut down for Christmas! It was a ghost town. We ended up renting some bikes (Next Bike) and headed to New Brighton Beach for the day. It was a nice ride (mostly because nobody was on the road). PS-For those who do not know the ozone layer in the Southern Hemisphere is thinner than the Northern Hemisphere so the sun is INTENSE! Unfortunately we both got pretty burned that day….

Christchurch also has a Botanical Garden and Historical Museum which we were able to walk around on our last day. Such a cool place!

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Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki

 December 26, we picked up our Mighty Camper van as early as we could, stocked up on groceries and then started on our adventures. Our first stop was Lake Tekepo, this was our first glimpse of the crystal clear, aqua blue water of New Zealand lakes. TRULY INCREDIBLE. After hiking around a little bit we finished our journey to Lake Pukaki and stayed at Glenntanner Holiday Park (Just outside of Aorki National Park-Mount Cook). Something pretty neat about the Holiday Parks in New Zealand was that they have community kitchens for everyone! It was such a cool atmosphere to be in: people from all over the world, cooking and eating dinner together! NOTE: We did not stay in holiday parks all the time, but in specific areas in New Zealand its illegal to Freedom Camp, so just know the laws wherever you are!

Mount Cook-Mueller Hut Hike

This was probably Kwin and I’s favorite hike of the whole trip! It was a 3-hour round trip hike. It was definitely a challenging hike: with steep incline and mostly stairs the whole way up. We stopped multiple times (both to catch our breath, and also take in the beautiful views.) Once at the top we had an amazing view of Mount Cook- The tallest Mountain in New Zealand- along with the surrounding glaciers and glacier lakes. Kwin got this crazy idea that we should hike back down, grab our Tahoe SUP  inflatable paddle boards, do a shorter (less vigorous hike) to the glacier lake and paddle it. Unfortunately, after carrying our boards almost 2 miles, we got to the lake and found a nice cliff, which meant NO ACCESS to the lake. Frustrating, I know…but hey, at least we got some beautiful pictures!

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Queenstown

New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world…and well Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand! It is perfectly located in the middle of the Southern Alps, and along Lake Wakatipu. A perfect set up for hiking, biking, paddle boarding, white water rafting, paragliding, etc. WE LOVED THIS CITY! It has so much to offer, we could have easily spent a week there! However, due to our limited time we only had 4 days, so we packed them full of fun!

Bungee Jumping: We went to the Nevis Canyon Bungee jump (part of the AJ Hackett company) and jumped off a 137m (440 feet) platform in the middle of a canyon! This was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done, but let me tell you it was amazing! Felt like I was flying!

White Water Rafting: We went down the Shotriver, which is full of grade 4 and 5 rapids. It was a fun and a beautiful ride! I would have to say that the scariest part was the bus ride out to the river! The roads in New Zealand are unbelievable… drivers have no fear and the roads are in some crazy areas! This road specifically was an old Gold Trigging road: dirt, pot holes, winding through the mountains, steep drop offs, spots of erosion- FREAKED ME OUT! (These roads are considered historical, so no repairs are allowed to be made.)

Hiking: We did the Queenstown Hill hike which was also pretty steep, but definitely do-able. It has beautiful views overlooking the entire city of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

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Bike Wine Tour: Queenstown and all the surrounding towns have this awesome trail system (mostly mountain bike friendly) extending for miles! It’s hilly, winds through the mountains, and alongside vineyards and wineries.

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Paddle Boarding: Lake Wakatipu was is one of my favorite paddles EVER! Seriously, the scenery of the crystal blue water and mountains was just amazing. Also it was pretty easy to find secluded beaches to relax on. DISCLAIMER: It is illegal to paddle board in New Zealand (or any watersport) without Life Jackets! We did not know this at first! 

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Milford Sound

We were advised to go to Milford Sound by everyone we talked too! While here we did some paddle boarding through the coves, but didn’t end up making it too far out due to the strong Sea Breeze that came in! It was a beautiful place, and the ride out there was beautiful too! I would definitely suggest getting out there and either doing the kayak tour (these are early in the day due to the sea breeze that always comes in) or the bout tour-if that’s your kind of thing!

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Roy’s Peak

We completed the Roy’s Peak hike which was LONG and tiring. It was all steep uphill hiking. (Talk about a calf and butt workout!) The hike took us about 4.5 hours to complete but is slotted to take about 5-6 hours. The views were incredible the entire hike up, overlooking Lake Wanaka and the surrounding Mt. Aspiring National Park mountain range. If you’re ever in the Wanaka area hit up the Burrito Food Truck! It was possibly the best burrito I’ve ever had in my life! 

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Fox Glacier

A guided  Helicopter/Glacier Hike is pretty popular to do while in New Zealand, so we figured why not! There are a couple different glaciers to choose from, but we did Fox Glacier.  It was really cool to be able to walk around on-top of a glacier, while also learning the history them. This was also my first time ever in a helicopter!

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Arthurs Pass

First we did the most iconic hike in the Arthurs Pass National Park- Punchbowl Trail. A beginners hike, but has a really cool waterfall at the end of it! After, we hiked the Mt. Aoiki trail (stems off the Punchbowl Trail) which was intense! Very steep, mostly like rock climbing at times, but a super fun hike up. It had a beautiful view at the top of the whole Arthur’s Pass valley.

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Freedom Camping

 Before leaving for New Zealand, Kwin and I were extremely nervous about freedom camping and the laws/regulations on it. For anyone who is planning on traveling to New Zealand (the South Island) the best advise I can give to you about freedom camping is that IT IS ALMOST EVERYWHERE! Most of the cities/towns do not allow it when you are within city limits, but they have signs everywhere telling you where freedom camping is and is not allowed. Some of Kwin and I’s best camp sites were ones that we found freedom camping!

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Our Itinerary 

Day 1: Christchurch- Bike to New Brighton Beach

Day 2: Glenntanner Holiday Park- Lake Tekepo and Lake Pukaki

Day 3: Queenstown Holiday Park- Mt.Cook and Walking around Queenstown

Day 4: Freedom Camping along Lake Te Anu: Milford Sound

Day 5: Queenstown Holiday Park- Nevis Bungee Jump, Paddle Lake Wakatipu

Day 6: Arrowtown Holiday Park-White Water Rafting, Queenstown Hill Hike

Day 7: Freedom Camping in Mountains- Bike Wine Tour (Arrowtown, Queenstown)

Day 8: Freedom Camping along Ocean-Roys Peak Hike, Swimming in Lake Wanaka

Day 9: Greymouth- Fox Glacier Helicopter Hike

Day 10: Freedom Camping, Craigburn Skiing Area-Arthurs Pass Hikes

Day 11:Christchurch-Botanical Gardens & Historical Museum

 

 

 

 

Top 12 Mountain Biking Trails in Northern Michigan!

Northern Michigan is home to a lot of avid bikers; Mountain biking being only one of the many different types. Here in Michigan we are lucky to have so many different trails, each with different things to offer like: terrain, distance, difficulty, etc. I myself, am not an expert mountain biker by any means..however, I love getting out there, trying new trails and enjoying the beauty of Northern Michigan in a different way!

I’ve created a list of my top 12 favorite mountain biking trails in Northern Michigan.(This includes the northern lower peninsula, and upper peninsula.)

1. Woopidy Woo East/West Trail-Copper Harbor, MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate/Difficult

 Copper Harbor is home to some of the most beautiful biking trails in Michigan. With its granite rocky terrain, and beautiful scenic overlooks, it is really hard to beat. Woopidy Woo East starts with a long hike up the side of Brockway Mountain-it’s exhausting and nerve-wracking (as you are riding the mountain side the whole time), but extremely rewarding when you get the the top! The trail then turns into Woopidy Woo West, where you start your decent down the mountain! Yes, it’s a little easier because you’re going downhill, but the rocks and roots make for an exciting and technical ride! I would highly recommend this trail, especially if you want an amazing view of Lake Superior!

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Our Friends John Fahey, Kelly Kin and a few others taking in the beautiful views before their decent down the mountain!

2. Green Loop (South NoquemanonTrails)-Marquette,MI 

Difficulty: Beginners/Intermediate

The South Noquemanon Trail system in Marquette is full of so many different trails, all with different expertise levels (makes it easy for a group of riders to choose based on their comfort level.) My all time favorite trail though is the Green Loop. Yes, green does signify ‘easy’ in the mountain biking world, but I love it more because of the views you get, along with the distance (being about 9 miles), and the overall enjoyness of it. Like any UP bike trail it has quite a few rocks and roots, but overall is not too technical of a ride. While on this loop, you get to ride along the Carp River and pass by the Morgan Falls waterfall.

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After you can easily jump on the paved sidewalk bike trail that goes everywhere throughout Marquette and hit up the ‘Marquette Co-Op’ or Sol Azteca for some good grub!

3. Bullwinkle-Copper Harbor,MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate

Copper Harbor again! Bullwinkle trail connects to the trail system that I mentioned above. Woopidy Woo West ends at the bottom of the mountain and branches off into three different routes, one of which is Bullwinkle. This trail is full of a bunch of small ups-and-downs, quick turns, and a couple bridges crossing little rivers throughout. It doesn’t have the scenic overlook of Lake Superior like the other trails, however, it flows so beautifully through a thick Pine forest, which is beautiful itself.

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4. Glacial Hills– Bellaire,MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate

Most people know Bellaire, Michigan for the famous ‘Shorts Brewery,’ and lets be honest you definitely have to hit that place up if your in the area! But first, take a fun trip to the mountain bike trails of Glacial Hills! It is a spider web of trails weaving  amongst the hills and forest covering 30+ miles of land. This trail is more groomed than other trails with few roots and rocks! The trail is very well marked, but can get confusing if you don’t stop and read the signs at all the intersections. It is beautiful all year around, but definitely makes for one of my most beautiful Fall mountain bike rides in Northern Lower Peninsula!IMG_3504.JPG.jpeg

5. Vasa Pathway-Traverse City,MI

Difficulty: Intermediate/ Advanced

Traverse City also is a hotspot for a lot of different biking trails, with the most popular being the Vasa Pathway. The pathway has two different “main trails” being the 10K and 25K loops-both which are super fun! There are also a ton of different unmarked trails branching off, creating a web of different biking opportunities! The trail system is definitely one of the harder ones due to the rocks, roots, and sand but it extremely fun!

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*If you are in the area and need to get a bike tune up, want a new bike, or just want to look around check out our friends at Einstein Cycles and ask for our friend Dan Curnayn!

**Also, grab a before ride breakfast/after ride lunch at their neighbor store Breakaway Cafe! They’ve got the best breakfast burritos in town, along with some amazing coffee, and other delicious treats. Make sure to say hi to Breanne Fortuna for us!

6. Gorgeous Trail  (South Noquemanon Trails)-Marquette,MI

Difficulty: Advanced

Another breathtaking trail in Michigans’ northern peninsula is the Gorgeous Trail in Marquette. Unlike the green one mentioned above, it is considered a black diamond (biker scale=difficult.) This trail is yet again along a cliffside overlooking the Carp River. It has pretty difficult terrain, covered in rocks and roots, but is definitely do-able (especially if I can do it!) The pretty cool thing about this tail though is that it ends right along M28-which has a paved trail leading to downtown Marquette. This trail is used for biking, walking, running, etc.

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7. Stairway to Heaven-Copper Harbor,MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

Stairway to Heaven, is that suppose to be a metaphor for how one would feel going down it? When you first approach it…thats exactly how it made me feel! This is the end of the Copper Harbor Trail system-the final decent of the mountain! Catch is you have to ride wooden bridges down the entire thing…and they don’t have a side rail. All that set aside, it’s a super fun end to an awesome trail! Flying dow the wooden planks with a scenic view of Lake Superior, you really can’t beat that at the end of a ride!

8. Sandlakes-Williamsburg,MI

Difficulty: Beginners/Intermediate

Home sweet home! This bike system is right around the corner from where I live, so it makes for an easy trail to ride in a time crunch. This trial is around a system of about five small lakes: great for camping, fishing, or just hanging out for the day. Here, there is also an awesome spider web of different trails to take, but my favorite is the big loop around it all; about an 8 mile round trip.  This is more on the beginners difficulty, but a fun and beautiful ride still!

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9. Arcadia Dune Mountain Bike Trail– Arcadia,MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate

Arcadia trails, another beautiful northern lower peninsula trail!It has a lot of fun uphill climbing and fast downhill sections. The terrain is generally smooth and hard packed with a few sand traps mixed in. There is a mix of fun winding back and forth and passing through some farm fields along the way! Just down the road is the Arcadia Bluff’s dune climb and hiking trails. This place could easily have a day trip out if it!

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10. Harlow Lake Trails-Marquette,MI 

Difficulty: Intermediate/Advanced

My husband and I tried this trail system out for the first time this past summer and really enjoyed it! Snuggled in by Sugarloaf and Hogback mountain in Marquette, this bike system is definitely unique! It reminded me of those out in Colorado..you start riding in fields of grass, and then end up on a mountain side! Like most of the other bike trails, this also has a spider web of trails that you can really go as far and long as you want too!

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11. Vasa Single Track– Traverse City,MI 

Difficulty: Beginners/Intermediate

Similar to the Vasa pathway that I mentioned earlier, but different in the fact that it is only single track and definitely less difficult than the pathway (most of the time.) This is 12 miles of marked trail weaving through more flat, but wooded forest terrain. Extremely beautiful, fast and fun bike ride!

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12. Kalkaska Trails-Kalkaska,MI 

Difficulty: Beginners/Intermediate

This mountain bike trail is unnamed and unmarked along the trail. Found just off M72 and W Kalkaska Rd. For anyone who rides the Traverse City Iceman, this is part of the course at the very beginning! Kwin and I really enjoy riding this trail during the fall colors time!

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