Weddings are the perfect time to catchup with old friends and explore different cities. We had the pleasure of attending our friends’ wedding in Minneapolis this month and loved exploring so many lush green spaces – parks, sculpture gardens, golf courses and more.
The Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Parks & Rec host the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, an 11 acre park with wide open green spaces and 60 works of art. A staple has always been the Spoonbrige and Cherry, and now also includes the blue rooster, “Hahn/Cock,” by Katharina Fritsch.
In between the park walks, we loved having brunch at The Copper Hen (don’t leave without having a bloody mary!) and dinner at Cafe Lucrat, which has a great view of Loring Park.
Rounding out the trip, our friend’s wedding ceremony took place at the Woodhill Country Club and we loved spending the day there with croquet, drinks overlooking the golf course and a lovely & lively reception. 🙂
Feeling so grateful to have had the chance to celebrate with our friends and explore Minneapolis a bit more. I hope your month has been filled with love and exploration too!
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! On May 20th I was the 3rd to cross the finish line at San Diego’s inaugural TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE, a one-day, 26+ mile hike to raise awareness and funds for Make-A-Wish San Diego. It was an incredible journey following the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) via the Cougar Crest Trail and ending at Onyx Summit near Big Bear, California.
I had so much fun with my girlfriends and loved meeting the other participants; we really created a little family, encouraging each other and drawing from each other’s strength and positive energy. It was inspiring to hear the participants’ pasts and stories. Hikers varied in age and hiking experience — 21 to 75 and Mt Whitney veterans to brand new hikers, and most special of all was meeting fellow hikers who were parents to Wish-kids and learning how the organization has brought such happiness to their lives.
Get all the race day feel-goods with this video captured by the event’s photographer and see my race-day recap below. Stay tuned later this week for my Top 7 Tips for a Hiking Race if you’re ready to sign up for this challenge or a similar one soon.
RACE RECAP: TEAM ADVENTURE APPEAL TAKES ON THE TRAILBLAZE CHALLENGE
We started this long but glorious day at 3:15am when the 80 hikers, event staff and medics met for roll call and breakfast. We were soon out the door for the starting line with our headlamps on. My girlfriends and I started in wave 7 at 4:15am, and in the pitch black night it was so much fun to see the string of lights below and above us on the trail. Before long, the light was breaking and we watched the sun rise over Big Bear Lake, a truly beautiful sight.
The race course included 3 aid stations and they were the perfect markers for recapping later with our fellow hikers and friends. Before the 1st aid station we acclimated to elevation, navigated the trail in the dark and were moving quickly, high on coffee and race-day adrenaline. Next, we hit our stride for a 7-8 miles, going long stretches of slight incline and steady downhill. These provided gorgeous viewpoints of the valley and lots of Mojave yucca spotting.
At the 2nd aid station there were Make-a-Wish cheerleaders, friends and family with signs and cowbells and a feast of snacks. Everyone partook in some much needed restoration here and I shed a lot of layers as the sun become stronger.
The next stretch was long and solo. I hit my stride and saw few race-day or PCT through hikers for the next 9 miles. Following the race map, PCT markers and taking countless pictures and funny videos I kept on track and in high spirits. The terrain was a mix of narrow dirt paths and wide loose rocks with seemingly endless views of the Johnson Valley.
Clocking in at the 3rd aid station, I was mindful not to spend as long as I did at the 2nd, since there were just 5 miles left of the race. These 5 miles were the toughest yet, a steady climb uphill precisely when your body and mind start to break down. I kept repeating positive mantras in my head and seeing the friendly face of a fellow race-day hiker at mile 27 really motivated me to keep going.
1 mile from the finish line, the extra adrenaline and excitement of finishing was taking over and views of Onyx Summit were starting to form. We even passed the famous couch rest stop (next time ;)). Because this was a hiking race, the finish line wasn’t as clear, and myself and a fellow hiker wound up passing it, increasing our mileage and our excuses for lots of delicious treats later.
Happy, hungry and in awe of the process, I ended the race at 10 hours and 15 minutes, clocking in 29.15 miles and finishing 3rd. It was exhilarating, humbling and altogether such a push mentally and physically. Thank you for this incredible opportunity, Make-A-Wish and to all those that provided encouragement and support!
Two weeks ago, I flew back to the east coast for a fun filled gals weekend. Before the bachelorette festivities and family gatherings began, I met up with my college roommate for a little adventure. We took a half (or really, two-thirds) day excursion out to the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Humpback Rocks, and added a brewery lunch with a view and ice cream treat on the way back into town. It was a great way to catchup with one of my best friends and keep up with my Trailblaze Challenge training while traveling.
The Blue Ridge Parkway covers 469 miles along the southern Appalachians through Virginia and North Carolina and contains 360+ miles of hiking trails. From where we accessed the National Park, is about a 2-2.5 hour drive from DC. Google knows best, but we recommend taking I-66 W to US-29 S, then taking I-64 W to State Rte 610 in South River. We took a quick stop right outside the park at the Rockfish Gap Tourist Center to gear up with handfuls of maps, advice and bathrooms (helpful!). From there, you quickly enter the Blue Ridge Parkway and head to the Humpback Rocks parking lot in between mileposts 6 and 7.
The trailhead is conveniently right there. Once you’re on the trail (be sure to take the first trailhead entrance) the climb is full of shady steady switchbacks, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail. Cell service is spotty, so bring those old fashioned trail maps, a dowloaded version on your phone and follow the markings along the trees. The hike is definitely all levels, and good for experienced hikers and novices alike. A little more than 3/4 of the way through the loop, you’ll find yourself at a sign for Humpback Rocks. Take this scramble up and be prepared for the epic view. We thought we hit the jackpot of a view…
And it only got better!
From there, hang out and enjoy the view and take the path down. At first, it feels more like stairs and then widens to be more of a path versus a trail feel. If you’re pressed for time and just want to soak in the view, you can just go up and back from the parking lot, by using the second trailhead entrance. This will quickly present you with a “staircase” style hike up to Humpback Rocks and you’ll take the same path down.
Afterwards reward yourself with a gorgeous view, a burger and beer at Blue Mountain Brewery. We sat on the patio, looked at pictures from the hike and checked the traffic for our way back into the city. The last stop we made was at my all time favorite ice cream spot, Moo Thru! Well deserved after that hike, right?!
Visiting DC soon? Add this half day excursion for your fill of hiking, brews, views and handmade ice cream! And, as always, my quick and dirty review is below…
HUMPBACK ROCKS TRAIL ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
Location: Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia
Best Time of Year To Go: spring through fall (best foliage peeping is in October)
Hiking Distance: 4.2 miles (loop)
Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
Permits are not required and it was free to park.
This loop offers tons of shade and is dog friendly.
Pack a snack and picnic with friends — tables located at the start of the trailhead — or hit up a Charlottesville brewery or winery for lunch.
Plan on losing (or at least dropping) cell service on the way to and during the hike. Bringing paper maps and pre-downloading maps on your phone are the way to go.
From the parking lot there are two trailheads, one for the loop and one straight up. The .8 miles straight up path gets much more crowded and can be quite slippery after recent rain.
Is there a sign preventing you from entering the parking lot / trail? That means a bear was spotted! Good thing there are lots of other trails nearby.
See someone that looks and smells like they’ve been hiking a long time? They’re probably hiking the AT, and be sure to let them pass you. #trailetiquette.
Rating: Gorgeous view but tough following the trail at times (4 /5 stars)
Long weekend trips with friends are some of my favorite! This past weekend my husband and I joined our friends in Banff for a little ski, snowshoe and relaxation.
Each day had a rhythm: get caffeinated, get active, aprés ski and end with a big group dinner. This format worked so well for a big group, where there were different interest areas and schedules. Our group loved skiing at Sunshine and Lake Louise (don’t miss Boomerang!), snowshoeing (my favorite!) and seeing all the frozen waterfalls at Johnston Canyon. Below you’ll also find our favorite bites and sips of the trip.
All in all I was so thoroughly in love with the trip, and can’t wait to come back in the summer or fall! Check out my recommendations and insider tips below, and add your favorite spots in the comments section below.
ADVENTUREAPPEAL’S BANFF WINTER GETWAY GUIDE:
♦ Know Before you go
♦ Get Active
♦ View From Above
♦ Other Hot Spots
♦ How to Get There
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Explore 3 day ski packages to save money and time buying lift tickets.
Activities where there aren’t a lot of operators (like dog sledding) fill up quickly, so be sure to book in advance.
Temperatures in Banff are no joke. Bring lots of layers and glove liners so that you can operate your phone and camera without exposing your digits to negative digit temps.
If you have a big group, consider booking reservations 3-6 weeks in advance. The restaurants tend to be smaller and if you hate waiting in line this advice will be key.
Standing room in bars doesn’t really exist, as establishments are required to have a seat for every person.
Don’t forget your swim suit! Most hotels have indoor and outdoor swimming facilities and there are a few fancy spas you may want to check out too.
In the winter, renting a car isn’t necessary or smart if you aren’t used to icy conditions. Opt for using the Airporter, Banff bus routes, shuttles to the ski lifts and private taxis / cars. If your hotel is in town, there are plenty of walkable options for shopping, dinner and drinks.
Weekends (especially Saturdays) are busiest, so try to tack on a couple of weekdays to your stay if you can.
There are tons of options to stay active while on your winter vacation to Banff, the most obvious choices being skiing and snowboarding. Other favorites from our group were snowshoeing, taking hikes and signing up for group workout classes at the Fairmont (drop in fees are available for classes if you’re staying elsewhere in town).
Through this Ice Walk Hike we got up close an personal with multiple frozen waterfalls, noshed on hot cocoa and cookies and watched the adventurous ice climbers (an activity for next time!).
Our group had the best tour guide, Saul, and we clocked in 3.6 miles along a railed pathway leading to the Upper and Lower Falls. These massive structures look like moments frozen in time. Pun intended!
Snowshoeing at the Continental Divide
About 45 minutes from Banff, we spent the morning snowshoeing through the trees at Kootenay Park.
Snowshoeing is the BEST way to stay warm! It was -10 C, and we all shed layers as we shuffled through the powder along the Continental Divide. A couple of tips for new snowshoers: take small steps and try to stay on top of the snow; don’t worry if you fall, it’s fun making snow angels; and lastly stretch afterwards as you’ll be using stability muscles you might not normally workout.
The Bison Restaurant and Terrace // Upscale feel without being pretentious. Our group rated this the best Bison burger in town and we paired it with Caymus’ sister wine the Conundrum Red. My husband loved the escargot bone marrow appetizer too.
Rundle Lounge at the Fairmont Banff Springs // Seats are first come first serve, so be sure to snag a spot by the windows. Luckily, there are a few rooms and you can either stay for drinks (coffee, tea, cocktails, etc) or a meal.
Park Distillery // This establishment is just 2 years old, and makes all of their spirits using glacier water. Try a custom cocktail (they also have mocktails), a spirit sampler tray or just go for the food and distillery tour.
Whitebark Cafe // My favorite spot for morning almond milk lattes, cheddar chive bacon scones and homemade granola bars.
Wild Flour Bakery // Indulge on super sized breakfast sandwiches with homemade focaccia bread and add peanut butter to the yogurt parfait for a little extra protein and the most PBJ-tastic experience.
VIEW FROM ABOVE
Everywhere you turn in Banff is another gorgeous mountain view. Besides at the top of the slopes, some of the best places to take in the views are via the Banff Gondola and the view from the Fairmont Banff Springs, specifically outside the Rundle Lounge.
We loved taking over the suites at the new Moose Hotel! Everything at the hotel was new and clean, and the heated pools, hot tubs and fire pit all had great views of the mountains. Insider Tip: the pictures on the Moose Hotel’s website don’t do this property justice!
Looking for a family friendly hotel? Opt for the Fairmont Banff Springs, where there are lots of options for kids and adults alike, several restaurants on property, and a collegiate / historic feel. Plus, the views are pretty phenomenal!
Our group landed in shifts so we all met at the Yakima Social Kitchen + Bar (Marriott’s downstairs lounge restaurant) for bites and craft cocktails while we waited for the shuttle van. It sounds odd, but this airport terminal gem is not to be missed.
OTHER HOT SPOTS
Banff really has endless activities: dog sledding, sleigh rides, hot springs, ice skating on Lake Louise, cross country skiing and more!
I hope you enjoy every second of your trip and be sure to comment below with your favorite not to miss wintertime adventures in Banff!
Travel is my ultimate adventure, keeping my adrenaline pumping and eyes wide open trying to soak in as much as possible. Last month I visited my 34th country and am dreaming about the day I move from 6 to 7 continents visited.
One of my favorite recent getaways has been Big Sur — nothing quite compares to the beauty of this place! We had the most incredible visit, taking in this California escape along Route 1. Our days were filled with hiking and relaxing at the pool, and our nights with cocktails and star gazing. Below are some of my favorite memories and travel tips for your next adventure.
NOT TO MISS
Spectacular views from McWay Falls Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This is the quintessential viewpoint for Big Sur and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The trails were very easily marked and you can’t miss the entrance due to the small crowds and parked cars. If you’re lucky there will even be some seals splashing around below.
VIEW FROM ABOVE
Besides our hiking views, we couldn’t get enough of the infinity pool at the Post Ranch Inn, where the pool met the Pacific in the most relaxing atmosphere.
There are so many trails to explore when visiting Big Sur. Our two favorites were the McWay Falls and Ewoldsen Trail. Ewoldsen Trail was a great recommendation from a friend because we pretty much had the trail to ourselves and there were heaps of great views of the mountains and ocean. Insider tip: If you come to a fork in the trail with one path leading to your right (and seemingly straight up) – definitely follow it – as incredible views away just 200 yards up.
Don’t forget to stretch those sore muscles from hiking with a yoga class in a yurt. This was a bucket list item for me, and a great way to start the day.
Coffee at Big Sur Bakery with delicious cinnamon buns.
Grab a glass of wine with lunch at the Nepenthe for the best view in town.
If you don’t stay at the Post Ranch Inn, consider joining for breakfast or a sunset dinner, as the edge of the restaurant is all windows and gives the appearance of floating over the ocean.
We couldn’t recommend the Post Ranch Inn more! Every detail was considered and it was truly a memorable splurge. The outdoor tub was one of my favorite parts of our room where you could relax and look at all the stars. The Post Ranch Inn books up quickly and several other places in town come highly recommended by my friends including: Ventana for luxury, Adobe Motor Lodge at Glen Oaks BigSur where you can rent your own mini cabin and Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn for the romantics.