Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 5 Gear Gifts for Your Girl

If your adventuring lady is in need of some fashionably rugged gear this holiday season, look no further. Here are 5 super sweet picks that will be sure to keep her feeling warm and looking fine this winter:

1. Columbia's Powerfly Down Jacket.  Columbia's patented Omni-Heat® thermal reflective reflective lining promises body-heat-retaining technology and also features a rain-repellent exterior. A lightweight down jacket that not only deflects moisture, but also packs a powerful punch of efficiency by recycling your body heat? That's a tall order to fill, but fortunately the Powerfly Down Jacket lives up to the hype.

The 800 fill-power down insulation makes it warm enough for really cold temps with a good base layer, but it's also very easy to compress and comes with a storage pouch that's great for tucking into your pack or purse.

Runs small. Dark colors are preferred to avoid seeing the down feathers through the material. 


Flattering puffer jacket with several color options that will keep your lady warm on single digit days. 


Lighter colors allow the dark down feathers to show through, making the jacket look dirty.

Pricetag: $220 on Columbia.com.

2. Sorel Women's Slimpack Riding Boot.  Ok, known fact that I am partial to all things horses and riding. But, I am also really picky when it comes to my boots - riding or otherwise. So, I was delighted to find these equestrian inspired winter boots that many ladies are wearing to the office, to run errands, and out to social functions. The slim shaft of the boot contours nicely with jeans, leggings, or skirts and the waterproof, micro fleece and leather upper will keep those calves warm in sub-zero temps. The lower boot is constructed of waterproof rubber, which is guaranteed to repel moisture and allow your girl to spend hours trekking in the snow. 

Runs large. Best way to order is to call direct and speak with a sales representative to ensure a good fit.

Pros: Very fashionable and rugged multi-purpose boot.

Cons: Sizing issues are rampant with this brand and boot shaft may be snug.

Pricetag: $210 on Sorel.com.

3. Suncloud Colfax Polarized Lenses. The 90s are back, baby! With new and improved technology. I'm a big fan of Suncloud sunglasses in general - they are hardy polarized lenses with a comparably small pricetag for the value. Take the Colfax - lightweight polarized polycarbonate frames with subtle retro style. They're also extremely scratch-resistant and come with a lifetime warranty.

Comes in three colors. My personal favorite is the pyscho black frames with brown lenses.

Pros: Super lightweight, but durable fashion-forward shades with an affordable pricetag.

Cons: None!

Pricetag: $49.99 on Suncloudoptics.com or REI.com.

4. Darn Tough Socks.  I know, I know. No one wants socks for Christmas. Except your girlfriend. Trust me, she'll want these babies. These high quality, extremely durable and comfy socks will keep your lady toasty during those cold winters and they come in some rad patterns. Made of Merino wool and Coolmax® materials, with a performance fit, and guaranteed for life, you can't beat this toe-warming technology.

There are options for outdoor activities of every variety and plenty of color patterns to choose from.  I'm a big fan of the ski/ride and the hike/trek varieties.

Pros: Pretty AND practical! And guaranteed for life - which means she can be as tough on her footwear as she is on her feet.

Cons: None!

Pricetag: $17-27 on Darntough.com 

5. GoFit Foam Roller. Ok, this one is even more practical and less sexy than the socks. But it is one of those little luxuries we often overlook when buying for ourselves. And it does come with the caveat that you can always transition from foam rolling into a nice massage.  

The GoFit Foam Roller makes this list because it is has so many therapeutic uses after outdoor activity - rolling out your back after a few days of sleeping on the stony ground, stretching out your IT bands after a long day of biking, or massaging those calves after hours on the slopes. It's durable and you can use it together to amp up the intimacy of a good workout.

Pros: Affordable, practical gift with theraeutic uses and an intimacy payoff.

Cons: She may not appreciate this one at first.

Pricetag: $19.95 on REI.com.

And the BONUS gift!

This one is a not traditional gear, but in today's outdoor world - you'll frequently have one in your pack and it could score you some great pics in the backcountry.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active is designed for people who want a cutting-edge smartphone with rugged tendencies   I've had this phone for about a year now and am really enjoying some of the more outdoorsy features - including the water and dust repellent features, the bright flashlight option (great for finding things in your tent), and the camera shooting modes with quick-share functionality (great for sharing a photo update on your rafting transport).

Here's a more in-depth review for all you technophiles.

Pros: Full functionality of a smartphone with a bit of extra protection for those wet, soggy days.

Cons: Not as rugged as advertised.

Pricetag: $199.99 with 2 year committment on AT&T.com 

Wahoo! Get any of these great gifts and you are gonna have one happy trail-ready lady!



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Hiking: Chief Mountain

Hi friends,

If you happen to be in the Front Range, you might be wondering why I'm posting about hiking in these frigid temps. Or, if you're crazy like me, you're thinking hiking might be in your weekend plans. Even if it means freezing like a popsicle.

I want to share a very special hike I did about a week ago with my future in-laws on Chief Mountain in the Front Range. This is a special hike for me because it was with my new family and it was one of their first in Colorado. I always cherish the hikes when friends and family from the East Coast get to witness the splendor of Colorado for the first time. Especially when it's covered in snow.

Chief Mountain is a great hike any time of year, with sweeping 360 degree views of several 14ers, gradual elevation gain (Class 2), and close proximity to Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding burbs.

The trailhead is accessible from Squaw Pass Road (Located along Squaw Pass Road behind Echo Mountain ski lift. Visit Summit Post for directions).

The trail winds through lodgepole pine forest with constant, but gradual elevation gain. During the summer months, the trail is bogged down with tourist hikers, but on a cold winter day traffic slows to a few adventurous snowshoers and wary chipmunks.

I've done this hike in the summer and winter months - and I gotta give it up to winter. The snow transforms the dense forest into a winter wonderland. Lodgepole pines morph into ice giants, fallen logs become sparkling snow drifts, and pictures look like postcards. The craggy summit delivers views of all the snow covered Front Range 14ers and simply cannot be beat.

So, if you happen to be crazy (and have no plans this weekend), you might want to consider strapping on those snowshoes, breaking out those poles, and heading on a frosty hike.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Gifts for the Great Outdoors

Hi there,

So as usual, it's been awhile since I've posted. Chris and I have alot going on these days, with a wedding to plan and a new business venture (more to come on that!). But I thought I should pop in with some last minute ideas for outdoorsy holiday gifts....

My picks under $30:

1. Turtle Fur. Yes, turt-l-e fur. These unique hats, scarves, socks, blankets, and even clavas are 100% handcrafted and protect against even the coldest Rocky Mountain winds. They're great for skiing/snowboarding to protect your face and neck, and can be extremely useful for a variety of winter sports. They're also trendy enough to wear everyday. I swear by the Fur. (Shop online at www.turtlefur.com or you can find a good selection at your local REI).

2. Leatherman Knives. If you're the least bit outdoorsy, you'll have heard of these. These knives are the ultimate tool in the wild in terms of performance, durability, and multi-tasking. Think Swiss-Army knife on crack. Pretty much any model will do the job, just depends on your needs and budget. (Shop online at www.leatherman.com or at your local REI)

My picks under $60:

1. The North Face E-Tip Gloves: These gloves allow you to comfortably use your phone, MP3 player, or laptop mouse pad with warm hands thanks to gripper palm and click-wheel-compatible thumb and index finger. They aren't the lowest of temperature ratings, but they are great for the urban outdoors or short local hikes without hours-long exposure. These bad boys are my stocking stuff this year. (Shop online at The North Face or at your local REI).

2. Kahtoola Microspikes. They're as bad-ass as they sound. These pull-on spikes allow you to tackle any terrain, from icy driveways and sidewalks, to wet rocks or slick trails.  Because they're pull on, they're easy to grab quickly and throw on over whatever shoes you happen to be wearing (high heels excluded ;) And did I mention, they won the 2012 Backpacker's Editor's Choice awards? Nuff said. (Shop online at Kahtoola or at your local REI).

My picks under $120:

1. Atlas Snowfall Snowshoes: These are great for beginners to experts on maintained trails and flat terrain. There's a men and a women model, so you can get a His-and-Her set. The clip in system can fit over any hiking or trail shoe. (Shop online at www.atlastshowshoe.com or www.REI.com for the best deal - and member discount!)

2. Black Diamond Trekking Poles: Always one of the things you never think about until you need them. Or you wish you had them. I invested in these a few years back and they have served me well in the Rockies. And they're also great for getting around on an icy day (i.e. if you're embarrassingly clumsy like me). (Shop online at www.blackdiamond.com or at your local REI).

Hope these ideas help you on your shopping adventures! Happy holidays from Colorado!


Friday, October 19, 2012

A Proposal at 14,000'

Hello there!

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I wanted to share one of the happiest moments in my life with you.

He proposed! (okay, the title kind of blew the surprise)...

Although, I certainly was surprised!

On Labor Day weekend, we set off to hike yet another 14er - Mt. Huron (14,000') in the Sawatch Range.  This would be my 10th hike of a 14er since moving to Colorado in 2011. So to me it was already rather special, although I had no idea how special it would become.

We set off at the crack of dawn to make the 3 hour drive from Denver with our dogs in tow.  The best trailhead to leave from is at 10,560' just past the tiny town of Winfield (directions).  The access road requires a 4WD vehicle and is extremely rocky, but my good ol' Jeep Cherokee managed to make it.

This hike is one of the more beautiful and moderate 14ers that I've done.  The climb is a Class 2 and the hike is relatively short at 7 miles, with 3,500' of elevation gain.  The first few miles are surrounded by dense lodgepole pine forest with views of the encompassing Sawatch Range.

After several miles, the hike quickly steepens (as they always do) and breaks out of treeline.  The trail is rocky, but well maintained and easily tracked.  This is where you start to feel the elevation gain, but the views are incredible.  There's a small valley containing a little pond and colorful wildflowers peek out from the tundra grasses.

Chris beat me to the summit like he always does, so I was as yet unaware of the life-changing moment that was approaching.  He had hidden the ring box in what he was gleefully calling a geocache.  I reached the top and went a-geocaching, only to discover the most beautiful engagement ring, exclaiming, "Is this MINE?!?" for all our fellow hikers to hear.

He uttered the words every girl dreams of hearing, "I love you. Will you marry me?" while the fresh mountain breeze played with my hair and the snow capped peaks gazed down.  We celebrated with a kiss, a pat for the pups, and an Oskar Blues Old Chub.

It couldn't have been a more perfect proposal or a more fitting beginning to the rest of our lives together.  A perfect Colorado love story....


For more information on hiking Huron Peak, visit 14ers.com

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekender: Great overnight in the Snowy Range

If you're in the Denver Metro, Boulder, or Fort Collins area and you're looking for a great weekender in nearby Wyoming - look no further than the Snowy Range.

We headed up here on the third weekend of August looking for a beautiful campground near a lake and within range of tackling Medicine Bow Peak. And we certainly found it!

The Snowy Range is about a 3 hour drive from downtown Denver, which takes you north on I-25 through the grassy Northern Colorado plains, through the college mountain town of Laramie, and westward on Route 130.  Approaching the Snowies, you'll head through the tiny town of Centennial (pop. 100) and up through the Snowy Range Scenic Bypass (Rt. 130).

Along this bypass, you'll have easy access to some of the prettiest camping I've experienced in the Rockies.  There are several campgrounds with lake access that can accommodate small to large parties with room for cars and RVs.  We headed up early on a Saturday afternoon with no reservations and were able to find a beautiful campsite in the Brooklyn Lake campground with no problem. Your best bet is to drive along Route 130 until you see signs for the campground of your choice (http://goin2wyo.com/POI/sr_ne.pdf).  We chose Brooklyn Lake, which has 19 sites and access to the Lakes Trail, which takes you to North Twin Lakes, Sheep Lake, and the Lost Glacier Lakes.

We spent Saturday beside Brooklyn Lake playing disc golf, romping with our dogs, and daring each other to take a dip in the still-freezing lake.  Later in the afternoon, we headed up the Lakes Trail from the Brooklyn Lake campground trailhead.  We hiked up to Lost Glacier Lakes (1.8 miles).  The scenery was beautiful - the late afternoon sunshine was glinting off the changing golden-green aspen leaves along the trail, framing the reflecting lakes.

After tracking back along the Lakes Trail to our campsite on our out-and-back route, we set up the fire and got ready to watch the sunset over Brooklyn Lake.  The campgrounds are relatively quiet through the night and there is access to running water.

The following Sunday morning, we woke early and packed ourselves up to head over to the parking lot next to Lake Marie for our summit hike of Medicine Bow Peak.

Lake Marie is a stunning place where the Snowy Range drops down dramatically into the adjacent lake and the views are epic.  From here, we accessed the Medicine Bow Peak Trail (5.33 miles) to head up the side of the tallest peak within the Medicine Bow/Snowy Range.

The trail ascends steeply for the first mile along the ridgeline of the peak, but then evens out gradually for several miles over rolling plains and boulder fields.  The last several miles are difficult (nearing 14er status) and the elevation gain of 1,600 feet occurs mostly in this last portion of the hike.  When you reach the summit (12,013'), you'll have views of the surrounding valley, Lookout Lake, and Mirror Lake.

After the summit, the trail winds steeply down the opposite side of Medicine Bow Peak, culminating in several miles of more gradual descent back towards your car in Lake Marie parking lot (10,500').

For help planning your camping and hiking, click here for printable map.
Total trip mileage: 3.6 from Brooklyn Lake to Lost Glacier Lakes; 10.66 miles from Medicine Bow Peak Trailhead to summit and back down Lake Marie.

Hope you enjoy a wonderful weekend of camping & hiking the Snowies!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Trip Planner: 9 Places to Stay in Costa Rica

Hey there!

I recently returned from a 3 trek to Costa Rica and wanted to share some of my favorite stops along the way. This entry is dedicated to recommendations for places to visit in Costa Rica, complete with hotel, restaurant, and activity reviews.

The Trip:
In July 2012, my boyfriend Chris and I headed on a trek to Costa Rica that tracked down the Atlantic Coast, up through San Jose, along the Pacific Coast, and finally down to the Osa Peninsula. We planned the trip ourselves using Frommer’s Guide to Costa Rica 2012 edition and by mapping through route for travel by shuttle, boat, rental car, and plane.

The Stops:
Cahuita (CR), Bocas del Toro (Panama), San Jose (CR), La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano (CR), Rincon de la Vieja National Park (CR), Montezuma (CR), San Jose (CR), Playa Carate (Osa Peninsula, CR), and San Jose (CR).

About Us: We’re a 28 year old couple living in Denver, Colorado. We’re both active and enjoy hiking, camping, skiing, and playing with our two dogs. As outdoorsy adventurers, the places we chose to stay in Costa Rica catered to couples getaways, hiking, zip lining, horseback riding, kayaking, and other active options.

First Stop: Book a direct flight out of Denver using Frontier Airlines to San Jose. Share a ride in a shuttle (www.caribeshuttle.com) from San Jose to Cahuita. Book a room at the El Encanto Inn (www.elencantoinn.com), which is a charming hotel with private bungalows, a secluded pool, and is run by a friendly French couple. The beach access to Playa Negro is about a 5 minute walk, and so is the walk to town. Eat lunch or dinner at La Fe (try the camarones al coco and you won't be disappointed) and then head over to Coco's Bar for a nightcap or some dancing.

Second Stop: Wake up early and catch a shuttle (www.costaricajust4u.com) from Cahuita direct to Bocas del Toro, Panama. You'll have to get out and cross the border by foot via a rickety wooden bridge, and pay $3 to the customs agents. You'll hop in a shuttle on the Panama side of the border, pick up a water taxi shuttle at Almirante, and then flag down a $3 water taxi ride to Bastimentos Island. Check into Eclypse de Mar (www.eclyspedemar.com) and let the exotic adventure unfold. You'll feel like you're like at world's end, soaking up the setting rays from the deck of your private bungalow. After waking up with breakfast in bed, spend the the day snorkeling right off the porch or take a water taxi over to Red Frog Beach. Red Frog is, in fact, abundant with red frogs as well as three-toed sloths, monkeys, and a variety of birds. Take the side trail over to Playa Tortuga to have the beach all to yourselves and grab some lunch at the beachside restaurant. For dinner, head into Bocas Town to El Pecado for high-end international cuisine or over to Bastimentos Town to Roots for a home-grown Caribbean vibe.

Third Stop: After detoxing from the island life, catch a shuttle from Bocas Town back to the mainland and onto San Jose (www.caribeshuttle.com). From here, head over to Hotel Aranjuez (www.hotelaranjuez.com) in NW San Jose. If you're hungry (and I'm betting you are), walk over to Vesuvio for some delicious home-cooked Italian. You can't beat a restaurant where the host is the waiter and is also the chef - and the food is amazing!

Fourth Stop: Wake up early and feast on the plentiful buffet at the Hotel Aranjuez (warning: this may be the most gluttonous free breakfast buffet I've ever seen). After that, pick up a rental car from Economy (www.economyrentacar.com) and cruise up to Poas Volcano on your way to La Fortuna. You'll have to get there early to see the crater, but at the very least you WILL see a purse snatching squirrel. Head out by early afternoon and drive to La Fortuna to see the Arenal Volcano. The volcano isn't currently active so there are no lava flows, but the view is still pretty spectacular. This is a very touristy town, so you'll have plenty of options for zip lining, horseback riding, hot springs, and volcano tours. Spend day doing something active and bed down for the night at Arenal Backpackers Resort (www.arenalbackpackersresort.com). This is a clean hostel offering shared dorm rooms, private safari tents, or private rooms.

Fifth Stop: When you're ready to escape the tourist crowds, take the scenic 3 hour drive over to Monteverde to visit the Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. You can spend the day hiking here and exploring the small town of Monteverde. Those on a budget can stay at the Monteverde Backpackers Hostel (www.monteverdebackpackers.com), but be prepared to meet some students and other random wayfarers.

Sixth Stop: Since you're already in Volcano Country, you'd be remiss not to visit Rincon de la Vieja. This "town" is actually made up of a few ranches and hotels bordering the Rincon de la Vieja National Park. The Hacienda Guachipelin (www.guachipelin.com) is a working cattle ranch and offers horseback riding, zip lining, rafting, waterfalls, volcano tours, and more. There are plenty of crystalline waterfalls hiking destinations near the hotel and the Rio Negro Hot Springs are free with your stay. We took a trip over to the National Park and spent the day hiking to hidden waterfalls and volcanic mud pits. For meals, check out the Hacienda restaurant or take the 20 minute drive into Liberia for dinner and shopping.

Seventh Stop: After all this volcano trekking, you're probably about ready for the beach again. Drive down the Nicoya Peninsula's eastern coast to the small beach town of Montezuma. A popular destination for surfers, this beach town has a low-key, authentic vibe. Stay at the Hotel Amor de Mar (www.amordemar.com) and spend your days relaxing on beachside hammocks, shell hunting in their tidal pools, and visiting the local shops. The hotel property is right on the water and the atmosphere is very romantic. They also offer a rental house that might be straight out of Swiss Family Robinson for family getaways. For a small town, you can't beat some of the dining options. For lunches, visit Puggos and ask for one of their shrimp dishes. Delight your senses with an upscale, romantic dinner right on the beach at Playa de los Artistas.

Eighth Stop: The swan song of your visit to Costa Rica has to be the Osa Peninsula. When you're ready to head to the jungle, drive back up to San Jose to catch a flight to the Osa. For an overnight stop in San Jose, visit Casa 69 (www.casa69.com) and enjoy the friendly hospitality that downtown has to offer. You'll be able to walk down Calle Central to all the National Museums, shops, restaurants, and night life. Visit the Mercado de Artesanias on your walk back for some great souvenirs.

Ninth Stop: You'll be able to catch an early morning flight from San Jose to the Osa Peninsula via Puerto Jimenez on either Nature Air (www.natureair.com). From Puerto Jimenez, you'll take the collectivo open back truck through the jungle to Playa Carate. You'll get a real sense of what leaving civilization is like while piled up between sacks of potatoes and rice. Hop off at Finca Exotica (www.fincaexotica.com) and begin your Osa adventure. Finca Exotica is a private ecolodge which features tiki tent and cabin lodging. This is where you'll really tune in and check out (there's no hot water and limited electricity - yikes!). The Osa Peninsula is one of the more remote and pure places to visit in Costa Rica, with an abundance of animal and plant life. You'll be able to surf the waves, kayak through the lagoon, practice yoga to the crashing of the waves, and gallop horses along the beach at sunset. And if you're really lucky, you might even see a sea turtle laying her eggs..

I hope all this information helps you plan your trip. I can't wait to hear about your Costa Rica adventures!

Pura Vida,

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Living on Tico Time: Pura Vida

In Costa Rica, they have a saying. Chances are, you've probably heard it by now...

Actually, it's even more than a saying. It's a way of life. It means letting go, living in the moment, and enjoying all life has to offer.


I'm not going to lie - before I left for the trip, I thought it was BS - a local saying that once had meaning, but that had become such a marketing shtick for the tourist industry that it no longer had relevance.

And there was certainly some of that. A few drunken American tourists and Disney-like  tourist agents chiming it like mockingbirds mimicking speech, but having no understanding for the deeper meaning. 

But after a few days there, I actually found myself saying it. And living it.

Let me explain:

We arrived in San Jose International Airport and immediately set off for Cahuita, which is a very small town on the Atlantic Coast. We arrived here, settled into our extremely charming hotel, and took a walk down to the beach. At this beach, and in this entire town, there were almost no tourists. And it's probably here that the first seeds were sown..

After spending a great day eating, drinking, and meeting the locals, we headed to Bocas del Toro in Panama. Which is an amazingly haunting place - boating between a small group of islands that make you feel like at the edge of the world. The beautiful beaches and luxurious ecolodge were in direct contrast to the poverty that was evident. There, I felt a deeper understanding of the concept of Pura Vida - while many people were living in extreme poverty, there was an appreciation of life in a way that materialism can obscure.

In the coming weeks, I found myself more and more in tune with this way of life. As we traveled through the rest of Costa Rica, I found myself unwinding a little more every day. Things move fast in the States - we're always looking for the next meal, or meeting, or party, or trip, that we seldom stop and enjoy the moment. It wasn't easy to let go and get down with Tico Time (which is vague and could mean anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 days), but the longer we stayed, the more I was able to accept it.

As I slowed down, kicked back, and relaxed - I noticed that the days felt longer, the sun was a little brighter, and it was all good.

Now it's been 3 weeks and I'm back in the States, back at work, and back at home.

And I find that I've brought Pura Vida home with me...