Severson Moc Toe – Unisex
I had always dreamt of hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, but I never would have ever imagined I would be doing it twice, 6 weeks after the first one, and along side two incredible groups of humans.
When I learned about the mountain, many moons ago, I thought to myself, ‘How cool would it be to do this as your honeymoon’. I know it’s not the typical relaxing, romantic honeymoon people usually book, but such an incredible experience, to share with your loved one. When the opportunity came up to host a trip there, I thought ‘Okay now how do I combine this with a honeymoon’, as my husband and I had planned to get married before the trip dates. Craig was able to join me on the first dates, in July 2022, and even though the hike was spent with 14 other ‘strangers’, we then continued on for 10 days after, safariing and exploring Tanzania even more so. Best of both worlds. Having the support from a large group, summiting one of the 7 highest peaks in the world, and with your loved one, then being able to combine it with a more romantic, unique experience afterwards. We figured we would extend our stay in the country seeing as we were going to be flying WAY across the world.
Our guiding company was ‘Monkey Adventures’. They were SO wonderful. The lead guide Remmy was with me both times, and then there were 5 assistant guides as well, helping the entire week. There were 3 porters for every traveller, and then cooks etc. We had a group of 75-78 people going up the mountain.
July-September are the busiest seasons on the mountain, and for good reason. Its dry season, so you won’t be hiking in rain every single day, and the temperatures are reasonable. YES it is still freezing at the top. I will talk about that more as the blog post goes on.
Packing for Kilimanjaro was a feat in itself. I felt I spent way too much time adding things to piles, taking things out, and so forth. By the second trip there I feel I was able to perfect it.
The following are MY recommendations and what I was comfortable in. Some other people may have more or less or different items. You can also choose to rent a lot of items in Moshi, in Tanzania. Depending on whether or not you are comfortable bringing your own gear, or maybe you are traveling for a lot longer and don’t want to haul gear around. The rental prices are very reasonable and the quality of gear is great. I personally just liked the comfort is knowing I had my own gear.
Below is a photo of the 70-90lb duffels and day packs.
The porters will carry your big bag, and you will have your day pack everyday.
The guiding company provided wonderful 4 season tents, the sleeping pads, and breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday, along with coffee/tea/hot chocolate. They also provide all the cooking gear, plates, bowls, cups, utensils, so you don’t have to worry about bringing any of that. I did bring my own coffee thermos the second time around because I love mine, but they do provide one.
The guiding company also provides water purification items and first-aid supplies.
I have linked as many of my clothing/gear items. They are affiliate links and I do earn a small commission from sales, so if you do love it and would love to purchase any items, and want to support me in that, it would mean a lot to me if you used the links to do so ❤
- 3 long sleeves – 2 to hike in, 1 to sleep in
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 tank top
- 2 Puffy’s – One thinner and one thicker for summit day
- 3 pairs of leggings – 2 to hike in, 1 to sleep in. I made sure to bring a pair of fleece lined leggings to wear for summit day.
- 2 hiking pants – windproof/water resistant
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 ski pant for summit day
- 1 vest – I love a good vest all the time.
- 7 pairs of underwear – one for everyday
- 4 pairs of socks – 3 for day to day and 1 to sleep in
- 2 fleece – one pull over for at camp and then a zip up to hike in
- 1 pair of hiking boots
- Camp sandals/runners to wear at camp. No one wants to be in their boots ALL day. You could also bring camp booties. It felt so good to take the hikers off at the end of the day.
- 2 hats – baseball cap and a wide brimmed hat with more sun protection
- 1 rain shell
- Ski jacket – for summit day
- 2 buffs – it gets dusty, and to protect from the sun. Necessary for summit day as the wind can be intense.
- 2 pairs of gloves. 1 thinner pair for day to day and one ski glove for summit day.
- 1 toque
- 90L duffel bag – which your porter will carry for you. This will be where you place ALL your gear – sleeping bag, extra clothing, snacks etc. Minus the tent and sleeping pad they provide you with.
- 30L backpack for day to day
- Hiking poles
- Sleeping bag (-17C or a -7/-10C with a -10 liner). I have linked two options here.
- 3L water bladder, and a 1L Nalgene bottle. I highly recommend a bladder. I didn’t pack one for the first trip and do regret it. It made it easier to stay on top of my water consumption. They won’t let you on the mountain without 3L of water space. No plastic bottles allowed either on the mountain. An insulated one is important to as the hose can freeze on summit day.
- Head lamp – make sure it works/new batteries!
- Gaiters – can be packed. I didn’t pack any but they are recommended in some packing lists.
Other packing items:
- Phone for photos – I kept my cellphone off the entire week, though some people chose to turn theirs on every once and a while as the mountain does have cell coverage in some locations if you are wanting to get in touch with loved ones.
- Garmin Inreach – I brought one but its not necessary. I brought it to text my husband on the second trip, at the end of everyday to let him know I was safe and sound at camp. The guiding company has devices.
- Camera – if you have a camera you want to bring. It does add a lot of weight to your day pack
- Charging blocks – you are on the mountain for 7 days so making sure you have a way to charge your phone or other electronic devices.
- Sport watch – I pack mine with me everywhere. Kept track of my mileage everyday.
- Sunscreen – high SPF. The sun is so intense.
- Lip-balm – SPF
- Medication – Tylenol, Benadryl, Gravol, Advil, Pepto, TUMS. These are some items I brought with me. Like I mentioned above the guiding company has first aid supplies, but I am always more comfortable bringing some medications for myself incase.
- Altitude medication – Make sure you book a medical appointment before you go and talk to them about altitude meds!
- A book – if you like to read there is lots of down time at camp.
- Hand sanitizer and baby wipes
Like I mentioned above the guiding company does provide breakfast. lunch and dinner but NOT snacks. I made sure to bring a lot of things from home. There are snacks available in the town of Moshi but comfort items from home are lovely to have with you. I would put a few things in my backpack every morning. Some things I brought:
- Sausage sticks
- Gummies – sugar is key – watermelon candies, gummy bears etc.
- Gold fish crackers & pretzel sticks
- Dried mangos
- Granola bars/protein bars – high calorie bars
- Electrolytes for your water
- Mio/Kool-aid drops to add flavour to my water
- Kuju Coffee – they do provide you with coffee, but for the second trip I decided to bring my own as I LOVE Kuju!
What is the bathroom set up like on the mountain?
- There are bathroom porters who haul up portable toilets and set up individual tents around them.
- They provide the toilet paper so bringing your own isn’t necessary.
Are you able to rent gear there, instead of bringing your own?
- Yes. You can choose to rent a lot of items on site in Tanzania (Moshi). Depending on whether or not you are comfortable bringing your own gear, or maybe you are traveling for a lot longer and don’t want to haul gear around. The rental prices are very reasonable and the quality of gear is great. I personally just liked the comfort is knowing I had my own gear.
- You can rent gear ahead of time – there are many different gear stores. Whichever guiding company you go with may have a recommended store you can rent through.
Is it really that cold at the top?
- YES. Don’t underestimate it. My toes and fingers froze both times. Making sure you are packing GOOD quality gear or renting proper layers will make or break your summit experience. Weather can be unpredictable and summit day is cold. The wind adds to it. Your guiding company will make sure to check ALL of your layers before you step foot on the mountain to make sure you have what you need to have a comfortable summit experience. Even though I had warm mittens and hiking boots/socks, along with hand warmers/foot warmers I still was chilly. Looking back I may have brought heated gloves/socks with me. Again this is a personal recommendation as I often have cold toes and hands!
What if you are vegetarian/vegan or have specific food allergies/preferences?
- Our company was amazing with this. We just let the company know in advance our food preferences/dietary accommodations and they cooked accordingly. I assume all other guiding companies would be the same way. Whether you are meat free/gluten free/lactose etc.
Was the altitude a big issue for you?
- Altitude sickness is a real thing. It can effect anyone, especially if you are not use to higher altitudes, and hiking. Making sure you book an appointment with your doctor before you go/pharmacist is necessary. They will go over your current health, and make sure you are fit to climb, and if you are approved to take altitude medication. If you are good, you will be prescribed altitude medication, that you will then take daily there.
- My husband and I booked an appointment at a local travel clinic, which was a huge help. They went over the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness.
- The guiding company also checks 02 levels and heart rate daily, and carry oxygen tanks with them incase of emergency.
Is a visa necessary for Tanzania?
- YES. You can google how to do this. Depending on what country you are coming in from, the type of visa you will apply for will vary. As a Canadian we had single entry (ordinary) visas, but as a United States citizen they had multiple entry visas.
- Visa Link – it took ten days to come in.
- You can also apply for it upon entry, but I advise doing it in advance, in order to avoid any delays at the airport.
Was it cold at night?
- This will depend what time of year you go. It only got below freezing one night I think for us.
- The guiding company provides 4 season tents which were lovely!
- The thicker sleeping pads were great keeping us off the group. You can also opt in for a double thermarest for $10 extra for the week.
- A -17C degree sleeping bag is ideal. Or a -7/-10 with a heated liner to make it -17.
- I comfortably slept in tights and a long sleeve every night and with a toque to keep my head warm on the even cooler nights.
Did you share a tent with someone?
- They pair you up – 2 people to a tent.
- The first trip I shared a tent with Craig, but second time I was on my own as the company I hosted for had me by myself. I suggest sharing a tent for warmth, or you can opt in to have your own for a bit of a higher cost. This will change depending on the guiding company you are with.
- Remember the porters carry all this gear up, so sharing a tent with someone will also allow for one less tent needed to be carried, which helps.
That is the water/washing situation like?
- Everyday you will be provided with 3L of clean, filtered drinking water.
- Between my bladder and a nalgene this was perfect.
- At camp you are provided with hot cleaning water, in a tub outside your tent. This is where a pack towel comes in handy. You can have a little ‘towel bath’. I did this and used body wipes every day.
- The only camp you’re not provided hot water at is base camp, because there is no water source, so only drinking water is ported up to the camp.
How did you train for the hike? Was it hard?
- I always find this question a bit challenging to answer. Yes you do have to have some some sort of baseline fitness. It really is ‘pole-pole’ which means ‘slowly, slowly’. They have you go slow, never hiking at a fast speed, it’s just for longer durations and the altitude really does start to effect people. I found it to be more mentally challenging than anything. Day after day, throwing on that bag and putting one step in front of the other. I also have a lot of hiking and running experience, endurance and elevation wise.
- Training at altitude would be helpful but some people don’t have that option, with where they live. If there are no mountains then resorting to the stair climber at the gym, or stairs in the area would be a great backup. Biking, swimming, yoga, jogging are all great ways to get ready for the hike. ‘Gym activities including step aerobics, treadmill,bicycling, or elliptical trainers to name a few. A modest weight training program focusing on the muscles that support the ankles, knees, back, and shoulders is also beneficial’ – TrovaTrip.
- Getting out for longer walks/hikes on mixed terrain/rocks would be a good idea. Being sure to break in your hiking boots/trainers before the hike. Increasing the weight on your backpack too when you go out. On the hike you will be carrying no more than 20lbs. Having a backpack that fits you properly is important, as I did find my back to even start to get sore as the days went on, with the weight everyday, and having it on for many hours at a time. Train with it 🙂 ‘Start with short hikes (1-hour in length) with a light daypack. From week to week build the length and difficulty of your hikes and gradually increase your pack weight until you’re comfortably able to hike 6-8 hours a day carrying the weight you’ll have on your trip (refer to your trip packet for exact pack weight). Unless you’re in great shape it is ideal to begin your training at least 12 weeks prior to your trip’.
- There are quite a few training plans that can be found online, for Kilimanjaro, that you can follow.
Did you tip the guiding company? The porters?
- The guiding company does rely on tips. Their income is not very high, so tipping after the trek is expected. I will attach a link here that will help guide you with tipping. It depends on group size (how many travellers are with you), and how many there are helping guide/support the group (lead guide, assistant guides, porters, cooks, etc). These are recommended numbers, to guide you, but if you feel the local teams have added to the experience, you can always tip more.
- With our group of 16, the recommended per person tip to the group was $250USD, though some gave more. This can all be placed in an envelope at the end of the trek and given to the lead guide, who will then disperse it amongst the group.
- For vaccination info: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/tanzania
- ‘Due to the trek’s high elevations, travel insurance covering high-altitude treks is required to be purchased before departure. TrovaTrip recommends World Nomad’s Standard Policy which covers treks up to 19,685 feet (6,000 meters)’. TrovaTrip is the company I hosted the trip with: www.worldnomads.com
Where did you stay in Moshi? Before and after the hike?
- We stayed at Lindrin Lodge – We loved it here. Highly recommend it.
Day to Day on the Hike
We took the Machame Route up the mountain. There are 7 different routes linked here. I also attached a photo below to show the various routes on the mountain.
Here is a day to day break down of what things were like for the 7 days. You can do the route in 6 days but 7 is recommended. Some people go directly from Baranco to Bafaru camp (basecamp), and skip Karanga. So your day 5 would be 9kms instead of 5kms, then 4kms. There does tend to be a higher success rate, so i was told for those who stay at Karanga. This helps with altitude acclimatization and more time to rest.
‘The trek begins in the south-west area of the mountain at Machame Gate. The descent is down Mweka, on the south-east side of the mountain. Because of the ascent in the west and descent down the north, Machame offers great vistas of Kilimanjaro. Additionally, Machame visits stunning places such as Shira Plateau, Barranco, and Lava Tower. Machame is ideal for those who want a more difficult climb, and are confident in their ability to hike over extended periods of time on sometimes steep terrain. Climbers using Machame place a premium of varied scenery, but also accept heavy traffic’ – Kilimanjaro Routes.
Day 0 – Lindrin Lodge
- The lead guide and a couple assistant guides came to meet our group in the evening before we started the trek.
- They went over the entire trek, how it would look day to day and then had us all bring our duffel bags and day packs/items we planned to bring on the hike with us, to show them what we had.
- If they felt as though we had to much weight, or not enough gear/had to rent certain items they made a list and tracked down those items for us/anyone who needed specific things. This helped prep the group and made sure everyone would be comfortable on the 7 day trek. Example, making sure everyone had a headlamp, and batteries charged, and proper layers for summit day.
- Then we enjoyed a welcome dinner.
This entire break down of the 7 day trek below was taken from: https://kilimanjaroroutes.com/machame-route
Machame Gate to Machame Camp
Elevation: 5,380 ft to 9,350 ft
Distance: 11 km
Hiking Time: 5-7 hours
Habitat: Rain Forest
The drive from Moshi to the Machame Gate takes about 50 minutes. The journey passes through the village of Machame which is located on the lower slopes of the mountain. As we leave the park gate, we walk through the dense rain forest on a winding trail up a ridge until we reach the Machame Camp.
Below are photos from the first day. Starting at Machame Gare and the trail to Machame Camp. I have mixed in photos from both my July trip & my September trip.
Above are photos from the morning at Machame Camp, before starting our trek for the day. I do recommend getting an earlier start the first day if you are going at a peak time. The gate gets VERY busy and paper work there and organizing the crew does tend to take a long time. Both times we left a bit late and ended up getting to camp when it was dark.
Machame Camp to Shira 2 Camp
Elevation: 9,350 ft to 12,500 ft
Distance: 5 km
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
We leave the glades of the rain forest and continue on an ascending path up to a steep, rocky ridge. On the Shira Plateau, we pass through heather and open moorlands, then cross a large river gorge to Shira 2 Camp.
Photos below are from the morning at camp to the Lava Tower. Every morning they would check out O2 levels and Heart Rate.
Shira 2 Camp to Lava Tower
Elevation: 12,500 ft to 15,190 ft
Distance: 7 km
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert
Lava Tower to Barranco Camp
Elevation: 15,190 ft to 13,044 ft
Distance: 3 km
Hiking Time: 2-3 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert
We continue to the east up a ridge and then head southeast towards the Lava Tower – a 300 ft tall volcanic rock formation. We descend down to Barranco Camp through the strange but beautiful Senecio Forest to an altitude of 13,000 ft. Although you begin and end the day at the same elevation, the time spent at higher altitude is very beneficial for acclimatization.
This was one of my favourite days. I loved the Barranco wall! We left camp a little bit later in the morning to allow for other groups to get through the wall, that way we wouldn’t have to wait for them. It was a shorter day anyways to the next camp, so made sense to wait longer.
Below are photos from the morning at Barranco Camp.
Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp
Elevation: 13,044 ft to 13,106 ft
Distance: 5 km
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert
We begin the day by descending into a ravine to the base of the Great Barranco Wall. Then we climb the non-technical but steep, nearly 900 ft cliff. From the top of the Barranco Wall we cross a series of hills and valleys until we descend sharply into Karanga Valley. One more steep climb up leads us to Karanga Camp. This is a shorter day meant for acclimatization.
Below are photos from the trek to Karanga, and at Karanga Camp.
Morning at Karanga, then the hike over to basecamp.
Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp
Elevation: 13,106 ft to 15,331 ft
Distance: 4 km
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Habitat: Alpine Desert
We leave Karanga and hit the junction which connects with the Mweka Trail. We continue up to the rocky section to Barafu Hut. At this point, you have completed the Southern Circuit, which offers views of the summit from many different angles. Here we make camp, rest and enjoy lunch to prepare for the summit day. The two peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo are viewable from this position.
Photos of basecamp below. You will see my summit attire layout pictured in one photo. We arrived at camp at around 1pm, ate lunch and then went to bed, sleeping from 2-10pm. 8 hours of rest and then the guides woke us up and we had a later dinner, and packed up and prepared to hike to the summit.
We started hiking to the summit at midnight. Below are photos from the hike to Uhuru Peak and then back down to basecamp.
This was a VERY long day. I found my July summit to be much harder than my September, maybe because I knew what to expect, but also feel I was more acclimatized. It was VERY cold. I had hand-warmers, and foot warmers in my mitts and boots.
Our guides/porters kept us so motivated and positive. It was a long 6 hours in the dark, before the sun started to rise. They sang, they took our backpacks, they helped us with our poles/gear if we looked like we were struggling. They were overall just SO amazing.
Barafu Camp to Uhuru Peak
Elevation: 15,331 ft to 19,341 ft
Distance: 5 km
Hiking Time: 7-8 hours
Uhuru Peak to Mweka Camp
Elevation: 19,341 ft to 10,065 ft
Distance: 12 km
Hiking Time: 4-6 hours
Habitat: Rain Forest
Very early in the morning (around midnight), we begin our push to the summit. This is the most mentally and physically challenging portion of the trek. The wind and cold at this elevation and time of day can be extreme. We ascend in the darkness for several hours while taking frequent, but short, breaks. Near Stella Point (18,900 ft), you will be rewarded with the most magnificent sunrise you are ever likely to see coming over Mawenzi Peak. Finally, we arrive at Uhuru Peak- the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro and the continent of Africa.
From the summit, we now make our descent continuing straight down to the Mweka Hut camp site, stopping at Barafu for lunch. The trail is very rocky and can be quite hard on the knees; trekking poles are helpful. Mweka Camp is situated in the upper forest and mist or rain can be expected in the late afternoon. Later in the evening, we enjoy our last dinner on the mountain and a well-earned sleep.
When we got back down to basecamp, we had 2 hours to rest up before waking up, eating lunch and heading down to Mweka Camp. The reason they don’t allow you usually to stay another night at basecamp is to try to get you down to lower elevation ASAP. We were SO tired and it was hard waking up and getting going but as we descended it felt GREAT!
Below are photos from basecamp to Mweka Camp. Arriving just as the sun was setting both trips.
We woke up early on the last day and had a 2.5 hour hike out to Mweka Gate. Breakfast and then our lead guide had the entire group get together for some introductions, along with a final ‘hurrrahhhh’ song and dance.
Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate
Elevation: 10,065 ft to 5,380 ft
Distance: 10 km
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Habitat: Rain Forest
On our last day, we continue the descent to Mweka Gate and collect the summit certificates. At lower elevations, it can be wet and muddy. From the gate, we continue another hour to Mweka Village. A vehicle will meet us at Mweka Village to drive us back to the hotel in Moshi.
Gate photos/certificates below.
It is extremely difficult to put these two trips into words, summarizing what an incredible experience it was, both times. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely challenging for me to go back the second time. Both trips I was quite ill (a whole other can of worms to open up with that one), but I powered through and can say I summited Kilimanjaro twice, and so close together.
It would not have been possible without the people in the groups, along with the most supportive local team. They were all incredible hard working, caring humans. I would highly recommend Monkey Adventures to anyone wanting to climb Kilimanjaro in the future.
If you have any questions about the above, whether its gear related, travel, or on the hike itself please feel free to leave a comment, or email me at email@example.com. Or you can always send me a DM on Instagram @brookewillson.
Thanks so much for reading! ❤
After the July trip, Craig and I headed out for an 8 day safari. This will be a whole other blog post COMING SOON!
After the September trip, Danci (a traveller on my September kili group), a friend Tara, who lived in Las Vegas (who came on my Alaska trip), and I all went to Egypt for 3 days. Again this will be a whole other blog post also COMING SOON!
May 9-15th, 2022.
Utah has always been one of my favourite states in the US. Growing up and spending most of my days in the rocky mountains, makes Utah’s landscape extra special to me. My first time visiting was back in February 2017, with my friend Andy. We drove around both Arizona and Utah in his van for 7 days and after leaving Utah, I already couldn’t wait to come back. The red rock, canyons, waterfalls, trails, the way the sun rises and sets, it’s just a gorgeous place to be and to explore.
My second time visiting was in 2019 with my husband (boyfriend at the time). We decided to take a 10 day road trip down to Utah, starting in Alberta, right after we graduated from our education degree. Having been before I was familiar with some of the National Parks and felt confident going back again having a better handle on what I was doing there, and this time able to show Craig some of the places I went, along with experiencing many new trails together too.
Both times I visited Utah, I never drove South enough towards St.George and the area where Coyote Gulch is, and told myself one day soon I would 100% be back to through hike it. When Trova Trip offered me the opportunity to host a 5 day women’s only backpacking trip, I was all over it, and launched it pretty quickly after, to take place in May of 2021. I launched it at the beginning of COVID, not knowing how long the pandemic would hinder travel plans for so unfortunately as May crept up we had to move it to May of 2022, and as much as postponement hurt, it ended up happening and it was well worth the wait.
The group size max’d out at 9, and then there was myself and 2 guides, Sam and Jessie, who are husband and wife. They had the lovely opportunity of guiding our group and work for a company called ‘Wildland Trekking’, and more often guide separately, but happened to be placed together to lead ours. They were absolutely amazing, from their organization, knowledge, experience, and humour to their cooking abilities, we were well taking care of. We did not have to worry about anything and very confident on the trail.
When I launched this trip I really did want to make it so women who have never backpacked before, or perhaps only a little bit prior, would feel comfortable joining. Whether you were an avid backpacker or a beginner, you were welcome to join and prepped well in advance to succeed on the trail! The trekking company really does provide almost everything you need, other then the clothes you plan to wear, your own toiletries, water bottles, and you do have to bring a sleeping bag or camp pillow if you so choose to (I used my puffy jacket rolled in a ball every night but that’s just me).
Here is a packing list of what I brought, followed by a list of things the trekking company provided us:
The trekking company will suggest what to pack, though this is what I packed:
- Sleeping bag (-7C, 20F)
- 2 tank tops
- 2 long sleeve – 1 to hike in, 1 to sleep in
- 1 puffy jacket
- 1 rain jacket
- 3 pairs of socks – 2 to hike in and 1 to sleep in/at camp
- 2 pairs of shorts – Guide Pro, and Departure Amphid Shorts. I brought the amphid shorts incase I planned to swim/go in the waterfalls
- 2 pairs of leggings – 1 to hike in and 1 to sleep in
- 4 pairs of underwear
- 1 buff – for the dust. Was so happy to have this!
- 1 hat – I would have packed a large brimmed hat if I had to hike it over again, cause of the sun.
- A pair of sunglasses
- Sandals – I ended up hiking in my sandals most of the trek and wore them at camp
- Hiking boots – the guides suggest trail shoes and not ankle high but I brought my ankle ones and they were fine. You are trekking through a lot of water so my sandals I found were better anyways!
- Toiletries – toothbrush, face wipes.
- Sunscreen, bug spray (luckily didn’t have to use it)
- 3 – 1L water bottles
The guides were adamant that I did not need this many clothes haha. They are expert backpackers, ultralight being the way to go and wore the same clothing items the entire trip, but for comfort purposes I packed a bit more and so did most on the trek.
What the trekking company packed/provided:
- 1 single tent each
- Sleeping pad
- Trail snacks – 16 snacks – 4 for everyday
- All the cooking supplies – stoves, bowls, plates, cutlery etc.
- Water filtration supplies
- First Aid supplies
- Backpacks – you can bring your own but they do supply them if you don’t have one
- Trekking poles
- Water sock booties (neoprene) – which you can put in your shoes or wear with your sandals so they keep rocks out. Everyone but me wore these. Depends on your comfort level. I was okay without.
- Emergency communication devices
The trekking company cooked up the most delicious meals, for breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert. We were so impressed the entire trip. I will be sharing some details of these meals throughout the blog post.
A bit about the hike itself:
‘This is our most popular hike in Utah and deservedly so. We give you a glimpse of what Glen Canyon was like before being flooded by Lake Powell, and as such this is a true treasure. Highlights include beautifully sculpted stream beds, intimate cascades and waterfalls, deep overhangs and alcoves, and numerous natural bridges and arches. This hike has incredible diversity, as we finish with an exciting ascent out of the canyon and across a stretch of signature Utah slick rock.
Our backpacking trip begins in St. George, Utah where we get an early start and drive to the remote trailhead. From the trailhead we’ll work our way down the Coyote Gulch drainage. For the next four days this dramatic canyon takes us through some of the most beautiful country in the United States. It culminates on Days 3 and 4 with an amazing arch, natural bridge, pictographs, waterfalls, fantastic side canyon exploration, and a memorable ascent out of the canyon. Our guests tend to fall in love with this route but we want to forewarn you, the power of this place awakens strong emotion. People often feel compelled to return again and again throughout their lifetime in search of more “good times!” – Wildland Trekking
Reading this over it’s 100% true! I did fall in love with this place and can’t wait to bring my husband back one day, and children to experience it.
We flew into Las Vegas airport (LAS) at different times on May 9th (some arriving the day before and staying in Vegas a night before meeting back at the airport) and together we all shuttled to St. George as a group.
Accommodations before and after the trek were at the Best Western right downtown St.George. This was a perfect location as we were able to walk around a little bit to get a feel for the place, with shops close by.
The hotel provides you with a secure/safe storage room for you to leave your gear in, that you do not wish to bring with you on the trek, seeing as some spent longer in Utah, before and after, and after the hike meeting some people chose not to bring some gear they originally planned to, or brought with them.
We went for a welcome dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, before coming back to the hotel for a pre hike meeting.
During this meeting the guides went over EVERYTHING. You had the opportunity to unpack your backpack/bag and repack it with them present. They went over how the trek would look day to day, the mileage, the group gear and how that was going to work, separating the group gear amongst all of us. They handed out gear we were borrowing etc. Basically a few hours of making sure everyone had all the info and gear they needed for a successful 4 days out on the trail. This was a bit of a late evening, and we knew we had an early morning, so we all went to bed around 11, then up to leave by 630am the next day. They provided us with ‘breakfast to go’ the night before as we were leaving before continental breakfast started (though they gave us coffee, which is essential for me and some others).
Start of the Hike
We left the hotel at 630am, and had a 5 hour drive to the trailhead. 3.5 hours on pavement and 1.5 on gravel, with a few stops to grab water, snacks, use the bathroom etc. We got to the trailhead around 11 and we organized a few things in the parking lot, making sure everyone had everything they needed. Due to us arriving around lunch Jessie and Sam also prepped lunch, and we all had the opportunity to eat before heading out. We had taco bowls! YUM!
Jessie also went over how we were going to use the bathroom on the trek. This is the first time EVER that I have had to pack out my own poop. That’s right, you ain’t leaving that stuff behind in the desert. Each one of us were provided with 4 clean waste bags, one for everyday, that you would use and then pack back out with you. Poop doesn’t decompose out in the desert SO could you imagine if everyone went #2 out there and NEVER packed it out? GROSS. It was a bit intimidating at first, but we all got the hang of it and it ended up not being too bad.
- Mileage: 5 miles
- Elevation Loss: 300 feet
‘This Utah backpacking trip begins at a remote trailhead at the “headwaters” of Utah’s Coyote Gulch. From the trailhead we hike a short distance before entering an open and dry wash, the upper section of Coyote Gulch. The day’s hike continues downstream and gradually the wash begins to resemble a canyon as short walls of Navajo Sandstone begin to appear on either side of the wash and we come to several pour-offs and short waterfalls. Just as the canyon begins deepening we’ll find ourselves in a beautiful cottonwood grove and our camp for the evening.’ – Wildland Trekking
I started out hiking in pants, a longsleeve, hat and boots, and by lunch I was down to shorts, a tank and my hiking sandals. The guides did recommend we keep a sun longsleeve on, and pants because of the thick brush scraping against your arms and legs but I did not find it that bad and was too hot. It is all about your own comfort. I just made sure to wear a hat, apply sunscreen a few times and stay hydrated. It also felt so good to walk in the water in my sandals. A good pair of hiking Teva sandals would also be a good option, or light weight hiking shoes, not ankle hiking boots that are heavy.
We were never in a rush getting to camp, always stopping if anyone wanted to take photos, and the guides were so great at explaining the area around us and answering any questions we may have had. When we got to camp we set up the tents, and went for a little side hike, getting up above the trees. Camp back, had dinner (burritos), then a few of us all went back up to the view point for sunset before returning back again. Camping by the canyon wall was pretty neat.
- Mileage: 6 miles plus optional day hikes
- Elevation Loss: 200 feet
Breakfast first. Coffee. Always coffee, and a yummy rice pudding breakfast.
‘Continuing our hike downstream through stands of cottonwood and willows, the gulch deepens and narrows and encloses us in a towering corridor of sandstone. The creek is flowing continuously now and there are numerous crossings. As we progress, the day’s changing light plays on the canyon’s walls in a brilliant show of reds, yellows and browns. These imposing walls are the backdrop for features closer at hand: beautifully sculpted streambeds and intimate little cascades and waterfalls.
After a few miles of hiking, in an especially sinuous and narrow part of the gulch, we’ll hike by an amazing backcountry arch. Another half mile hike downstream brings us a natural bridge. We’ll walk directly underneath this unbelievable feature and make camp in the vicinity.’ – Wildland Trekking
This was an amazing day. Endless canyon walls, and arches, the winding trail through the gulch. Again taking our time, and enjoying it to its fullest along the way. We stopped for lunch at the Jacob Hamblin Arch which is an iconic photo spot, this is the place that really attracted me to this trip in the first place. There is a cool little side hike you can scramble up to get a bit higher and you’re then able to look down both sides of the rock face. Again the meal prepared by our guides was delicious, a backcountry charcuterie spread. Can’t ever go wrong with that!
We continued down the gulch, and were originally supposed to stay close to another iconic arch, though a group was already camping there, so we simply took a few photos and continued another km to an empty open space.
The wind was WILD this way, blowing dust, so we were very happy to have our buffs to cover our mouths/nose and the guides did their best to set up the camp spot/kitchen area in a place that wouldn’t be COVERED in dust.
We stayed up until 9pm (yes I know seems early but long days make you tired) chatting and then made our way inside our tents for a restful nights sleep.
Native American Ruins/Waterpark day
- Mileage: 2.5 miles and 2 miles optional day hiking
- Elevation Gain: 600 feet
- Elevation Loss: 600 feet
We woke up, had oatmeal for breakfast and then went on a little side hike before coming back to hike to pack up and head out for the day.
‘We ended up exploring the truly amazing Native American ruins nearby. Bands of Fremont people, a pre-columbian culture that lived contemporaneously with the Anasazi through 1300 AD, once called the Gulch their home. They farmed plots of land and made their dwellings beneath the canyon’s walls. Our second night’s campsite allows us to see a fine pictograph panel at the base of the Navajo Sandstone, a small ruin littered with artifacts, and a Fremont Indian dwelling.’ – Wildland Trekking
‘A casual morning and delicious breakfast will precede more beautiful hiking downstream. Several miles from camp we’ll hike beneath yet another wonderful rock feature, a spectacular arch several hundred feet above the canyon floor. The character of the canyon changes again as we progress, becoming wider with steep vegetated hillsides beginning to appear beneath the canyon’s walls. Larger pour-offs accompany a higher stream volume and sandstone terraces begin to appear above deep overhangs where the stream flows.
Later in the day we’ll use these terraces for easier hiking and ascend 200 above the stream to our dramatic campsite overlooking the confluence of the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch. after traversing a sandstone slab we’ll arrive at the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River.
Camping here under a steep cliff wall, and looking directly through Stevens Arch. We’ll make camp here under steep cliff walls and, time permitting, we’ll have the opportunity to attempt to day hike to the confluence of the Escalante River or to a remote and spectacular side canyon. Those so inclined are more than welcome to relax in camp and enjoy the breathtaking views of the stunning Escalante Canyon rather than day hike.’ – Wildland Trekking
We didn’t have time to day hike to the Escalante River, but we enjoyed some time at camp in the later afternoon before going for a little sunset side hike up the sand dunes, for a better look over at Stevens Arch, and it had a great view up above of the campsite. This also gave us a good taste for what the day was going to be like tomorrow. The sand dunes are no joke, especially with a heavy backpack in the morning, and continued elevation gain.
One neat thing about this evening/night was the amount of bats around, don’t let this scare you, they were harmless, and ended up providing us with a lot of laughs. They were circulating around the campsite, swopping low to the ground and we had to dodge them, getting out of their way as they flew close to us.
- Mileage: 2.5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 800 feet
- Shuttle to St. George: 5-hour drive
‘Following breakfast we’ll break camp and begin our ascend up a long sandy slope. It is a strenuous hike in soft sand to the “crack in the wall,” a narrow crevice we’ll use to escape the canyon’s upper-most cliff wall. From the top we’ll have a brilliant view of the Escalante River and the surrounding canyon system.
After the guide hauls everyone’s backpack over the rim with a rope we’ll hike two miles across the desert to our ending trailhead and our vehicle. Refreshing drinks and a comfy suburban signify the end of our Utah backpacking trip and will get us safely back to St. George.
Please Note: participants must be able to fit through an 18 inch “crack in the wall” on the final day of this tour. To test whether you can fit through, we recommend opening up a door to 18 inches, turning sideways and shuffling through the opening. If you’re unable to, we recommend looking at the Boulder Mail Trail as a great alternative Utah backpacking trip.‘ – Wildland Trekking
What a day this was. I really did enjoy the crack in the wall, it certainly added to the trek. We had to work as a team to get everyone through the crack, and then all the bags up. Our guide Sam went up the crack first to check things up, and checked where would be a good spot to drop a rope down, to haul the bags up, and once that was done reported back. We all dropped our bags on the one side of the crack, and continued through it one by one, as 3 stayed back, 2 travellers and Jessie the guide to assist in tying the bags up one by one also. 3 ladies helped Sam at the top stringing the bags up. I hope the photos help to showcase the ‘art’ and thought put into this process. Once all the bags were up successfully, the 3 ladies at the bottom made their way through the crack and up to join the rest of the group. The views were unreal from up here. One way looking down into the canyon, seeing how high we really climbed, and the other was desert all the way back to the parked vehicle.
We hoped into the shuttles and started our journey back to St.George, but first we made a stop for lunch in Escalante.
We had lunch at the Escalante Outfitters Cafe, where our guides placed orders in advance, so it was quicker once we arrived there. The pizza, the salad, the iced coffees, etc. never tasted better. They also had a wide range of delicious sweets/desserts to choose from. It was such a treat!
We got back in the vehicles and then did the rest of our 3.5 hour drive to St.George. You can enjoy a beautiful picture of myself below, after being in the same clothes in the desert for 4 days. WORTH IT!
We stopped at the hotel quickly for a rinse off/dropped our bags and then headed to find a place for dinner. I recommend reserving a dinner place if it’s on a weekend, especially for a larger group.
This evenings farewell dinner was bittersweet, they always are. It’s at the end of the trip when you really start to feel like you have gotten to know people well, and making all those connections, just in time to have to say goodbye. I know it won’t be goodbye forever though, as I do hope to adventure with these ladies again someday, or meeting up in their home towns, or perhaps showing them around the rockies if they come to visit.
I woke up early this morning to get out for a run to explore a bit more of St. George. It is such a cool place and I do hope to return again one day soon to explore it even more. There are so many trails, for running, and biking which would be perfect.
When I returned back to the hotel, we all decided to go to a cafe down the street, called Feel love Coffee (pictured below), and wander around a bit downtown before our shuttle was picking us up at 10am. I would recommend staying ONE more day in St. George if possible so you could check out some of the local shops and walk the streets.
If you have any questions at all about the trip don’t hesitate to reach out, via instagram @brookewillson OR email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to answer them!
February 17th – 24th, 2022.
The trip finally happened, and was worth the long wait! After a couple postponements due to COVID-19, the trip was finally a go. I had 15 travellers join me. I hosted the trip through a travel company called ‘TrovaTrip‘, where trips are designed and hosted by topic experts. This was my 3rd hosted trip, the first being to Peru in 2019, and to Patagonia in 2020. Iceland was originally supposed to be in February of 2021, but the world had other plans. I like to say that it was all meant to be and that the timing, and travellers were all meant to travel together for a reason.
I am going to be sharing a detailed packing list of what I brought with me on a Winter trip to Iceland, and then go ahead and share a day to day itinerary of what we did, along with some tips for traveling in the country.
Iceland in the Winter is no joke. It’s cold. The temperature may read a certain degree, but then add in the wind and humidity and it does chill you to the bone. Having appropriate layers, and quality gear will certainly help you enjoy your trip a bit more. No one likes to be cold! My bag weighed in at 43lbs (with a 50lb cap at the airport).
Iceland is a country you can travel to and easily use a larger wheeled suitcase for it. Everyone in my group had a large suitcase, as Winter packing is more bulky and heavy. I used this Expedition 34 Duffel 2.0 from Eddie Bauer.
- Parkas – I brought two with me. Both Eddie Bauer. One shorter red one (Superior 3.0 Down Parka) and one long one (Glacier Peak Seamless Down Duffle Coat). I was going to only pack the shorter red one but was VERY happy I brought a longer one as well, which covered more of my legs, and I found I wore it a lot more walking around the city. With the unpredictable weather having outerwear that is reliable is important, and both good to at least -40C. Both are storm repellent (waterproof) and VERY warm!
- Down Jacket – I brought a down jacket for hiking (Downlight 2.0 Hooded Jacket). This was a lighter option (which is great as it doesn’t take up weight when packing). It is good to -28.
- Windbreaker/Rain shell – I packed a jacket for this, but didn’t end up having to use it as I planned to have it incase it rained while hiking, and needed to put it over my down jacket (above).
- Arcteryx LT Hoody – I packed this to wear on my morning runs. If you don’t plan to run at all I would stick to one ‘puffy jacket’ you would use for hiking/adventuring.
- Fleece – I packed two – one thinner 1/4 zip, which has a 4 way stretch and breathable and another thicker 1/4 zip, ultra-soft and cozy.
- Long-sleeves – I packed two casual cotton long sleeves which I wore in the evenings with jeans, just walking around, and to dinner. I also packed two Lululemon long-sleeves for exploring/running. I did get out for morning runs a few times so used one for my runs and then one for my adventures/exploring/hiking.
- Plaid long sleeve shirt – Perfect to throw over a t-shirt or hoodie (also great for photos if its warm enough some days).
- T-shirts – I packed two t-shirts to have to wear under my plaid, or under a hoodie for a bit more warmth.
- Hoodie – I wore a hoodie on the plane (there and back) and would toss it on in the evenings when at the hotel. Can’t go wrong with a cozy cotton hoodie!
- Leggings – two Lululemon align leggings, and one fleece lined long pair of leggings, from Eddie Bauer.
- Fleece lined pants – also Eddie Bauer. Polar Fleece-Lined Pull On Pants. Storm repellent, which sheds moisture. SO warm. These pants over top of a pair of leggings and you’ll be cozy in the cold.
- Windbreaker pants – I brought a pair of Eddie Bauer Guide Pro pants to wear over top of a pair of leggings. Perfect for hiking/day to day adventuring.
- Jeans – I brought two pairs with me to wear in the evenings.
- Hiking Boots – Eddie Bauer K-6 Hiking Boot is what I brought over with me. Make sure the hiking boots are water proof and warm, with good grip.
- Day to Day warm boots – Soft-Moc Fleece Lined Slip-Ons – To wear when not adventuring or hiking/around town. Easily to slip on and off and warm with the fleece. Anything waterproof and fleece lined/warm would be good. There are plenty of options out there, but the waterproof is necessary as it does get wet and chilly.
- Running Shoes – Waterproof
- Crampons for your hiking boots – The ice is no joke. Packing a pair of crampons was needed, as we wore them almost daily, t different locations throughout the day. You can rent them in Reyjkavik but if you have your own I advise you bring them!
- Swimsuit – If planning to visit any hot springs or if your hotels have a hot tub/sauna.
- Underwear – Can never have too many I always say! Packed 10 for a week.
- Socks – I packed 5 pairs for a week. GOOD wool socks that breathe, and I packed a couple running socks.
- Toque/beanie – I brought a couple different ones – as we wore them every single day.
- Mitts/Gloves – I brought two good pairs, one thinner pair of gloves for our hikes and another pair of VERY warm mitts to wear day to day. I made sure my mittens were waterproof!
- Head Buff/ear warmers- I don’t go anywhere without one or two. Versatile Buffs.
- Ski goggles – This may seem silly, BUT we all wish we had a pair for the snowstorms/insanely windy days.
- Hiking poles – depending on how much hiking you plan to do. I didn’t bring mine because the hikes we were doing weren’t ‘crazy’ long or difficult, and I wasn’t planning to have a heavy pack on.
- Towel – A lighter one if you plan to do your own hot spring visits. Blue Lagoon provides them for you if thats the only one you plan to visit, though there are private hot springs all around the island you can visit too!
- Backpack – 30L is a good size. I always bring a backpack traveling, on the plane, for my camera gear, laptop etc. I used my backpack everyday for layers, snacks and water.
- Fannypack – for day to day. I never go anywhere without my fannypack these days.
Most hotels have a blow dryer, if this is something you need (you can check this in advance too – most hotels list this on their amenity list).
- Full frame camera – Canon mirrorless RP. With extra lenses. Extra batteries and charger.
- GoPro – Extra batteries and necessary cords.
- Iphone – & charging cord.
- Power adapter – make sure you have the correct one for Iceland!
‘The power outlets used in Iceland are Type F. This type of outlet is recessed; meaning the faceplate of the outlet is deeper in the wall. Type F outlets and are round with two small holes that fit a Type F electrical plug (also known as a Schuko plug). The Type F plug fits into the outlet has two 4.8mm round pins spaced 19 mm apart. The Type F outlet and plug type are commonly used in Northern European countries. Type C plugs are also used in Iceland and are similar in appearance to Type F, although they are being switched out more and more for Type F.
Electricity in Iceland is 230 Volts with alternating electric currents of 50 cycles per second (50 Hertz).
If you are traveling from the United States or Canada it is important to note that the electrical outputs are half that of Iceland. For example, electrical devices from the United States are usually 120V and 60 Hz so be sure to check the voltage range on your devices. This information can usually be found labeled on the back or bottom of electronic devices.’ – Power Adapter
Day to Day Itinerary
February 17th – Day 1 – Arriving in Reyjkavik – Skuggi Hotel
630am – We all flew in first thing in the morning and got a shuttle to our hotel. TrovaTrip pre booked shuttles for the group, though this can easily be done online. We arrived at our hotel at 8am, which was well before check-in. If you plan to arrive at this time, and are coming from a ways away, with quite a bit of time change, I would advise you email about a potential early check- in to your hotel, OR even pay for a night before so you can check in and get cleaned up, organized, unpacked etc. Our group wasn’t able to check in until 3pm that day, and most coming from 7/8h hours time change, so we were walking zombies around town for 7 hours. Many hotels also serve a buffet breakfast which is convenient!
We loved Skuggi Hotel as it was right in the heart of downtown, and you could easily walk to all the shops and restaurants.
Morning – Walking tour of Reyjkavik. Some people booked ahead of time, though ended up paying more then we did when we booked in person, as we weren’t paying a third party. This was a 3 hour walk, about 5kms of easy terrain, in a small group with a great guide.
Lunch – at Kaffi Loki. Located across the street from the Hallgrimskirkja church in downtown Reyjkavik, where the tour started. A traditional Icelandic home style restaurant serving classic Icelandic cuisine.
We checked into our hotel at 3pm and freshened up before dinner. I suggest having a day in the city before you start touring around, and a full day after incase you’re wanting to grab any souvenirs and rest before flying home.
Dinner – Bastard Brew & Food – A 10 minute walk from our hotel.
February 18th – Day 2 – Golden Circle
6am – Solo morning run to explore Reykjavik. I like being able to move my legs a bit before a travel day starts, its also a great way to see new places.
9am – Left the hotel with all our luggage as we were moving to a new hotel for the night.
Thingvellir National Park – We started at Bingvellir, where we got to see the only place on Earth where tectonic places split apart (here at the pace of almost 2cm per year). This area of Iceland is made up of mountains, lakes and forests (which are no where near like the forests we have in Alberta). You can also find the ruins of historic buildings.
Our group hiked to a Pigvellir waterfall along the trail, which allowed us to stretch our legs a bit.
Geysir Visit – We walked around a geothermic area, and observed and photographed several water sprouts from Strokkur, the most active geyser in Iceland.
Lunch – at the local restaurant across the street from the geyser.
Gullfoss – This was our last stop of the day, where the milky Hvita river drops into a volcanic fissure, displaying Gullfoss, a very powerful waterfall! We spent time walking around it and taking in the views. In the Summer you can walk down closer to it, though in the Winter the trail is blocked off due to the snow and ice/danger below.
Transfer from the waterfall to Land Hotel – 1:15 minute drive. On the way we stopped to see some Icelandic horses, which you can see all over Iceland. Many people refer to them as Icelandic ponies but locals don’t love when you call them that. They are indeed ‘horses’. Fun fact: once a horse leaves Iceland it can’t ever come back!
Land Hotel – We LOVED this hotel. It is relatively new, opening a few weeks before COVID hit. The perfect place to watch the northern lights, if the sky is clear and the aurora is on high alert! They have a sauna, and are soon opening a gym. They have a great selection of food at the hotel restaurant too.
February 19th – Day 3 – Lava Fields
Our journey continued along the south coast of Iceland. Due to the weather our itinerary had to change a little bit. If you plan to travel Iceland in the Winter you have to come with an open mind and flexibility because plans can change at any time, due to road conditions and weather. I will write up our original plans here:
Breakfast – Complimentary at the Land Hotel.
Lakis Lava Field Sightseeing – The original plan was to do a short afternoon hike in Skaftafell National Park Area, but the weather didn’t allow us too. We instead stopped quickly and walked out onto the lava fields. I recommend hiking here if the weather calls for it and you have the time.
Skogafoss – We did have the opportunity to visit Skogafoss, even though it was crazy winds we were able to get out and see the falls and hike up to the top. I highly recommend crampons, if hiking here in the Winter time. The stairs are quite steep to the top, but it is great seeing it from both angles. The group were such troopers throughout this weather madness.
‘When visiting Skogafoss Iceland in Winter, you must be extremely careful. The combination of the water, snow, and cold coat the rocks at the base of Skogafoss Waterfall with dangerously slippery ice. It is still possible to walk on the ice to reach the base of the waterfall, but you must be aware and be super careful’. – Iceland Trippers
Checked into Hotel Skaftafell at around 5pm. Dinner at the hotel. I went for a little walk around the property with Miguel after dinner.
February 20th – Day 4 – Skaftafel Hotel
The weather was WILD during our time in Skaftafel, with winds up to 200+km/hr, and snow blowing for 2 days, so we ended up changing the itinerary around a little bit, and having to skip out on a couple hikes. We were supposed to hike Svartifoss and in Hveradalur for a hot springs hike. Even though we had to pass up a couple hikes we made the best of the days!
Morning – I woke up and looked out the window only to see our van trailer flipped over. The wind was blowing so hard all night and we knew we probably were going to be stuck at the hotel all day. THIS ended up being the case.
Breakfast – Skaftafell Hotel
After breakfast I headed back to my room for a little full body workout.
As a group we all played some games like ‘Heads Up’ and ‘Fruit Bowl’. Drank a lot of coffee and ate snacks and had some great conversation in the lobby/gathering areas!Lunch – Skaftafell Hotel
Some of us decided to go outside and brave the elements for a little ‘yoga’ session (pictured below), and attempt hiking up a tiny hill. The winds were so strong that I was able to ‘sit’ on the wind. I am sure from the inside of the hotel, looking out some people in it thought we were CRAZY, but we didn’t mind, it was just nice to have some fresh air time and laugh A LOT. It is tough to even put this experience into words (my group can speak to this). Not everyone came for this part, but they all did join on a little hike before dinner.
Fagurhólsmýri Hiking trail – The best part of the Skaftafel hotel is their hiking trail right behind it that leads back to the glacier. It’s about a 15-20 min hike along a well-marked trail to where you can see the glaciers and small lagoon with the mountains in the background. With the wind speeds it took us quite a bit longer to reach the end of the trail. Again everyone in the group joined and together we made it to the top view point. People falling over from the wind speeds, and helping each other up. What memories!
February 21st – Day 5 – Skaftafell National Park, Vatnajokull National Park
7-8am – Breakfast at Skaftafel
9am – Meet in lobby to depart to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.
‘Jökulsárlón literally means glacial river lagoon and that is what Jokulsarlo glacier lagoon is, a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. It developed into a lake when the surrounding glaciers started receding into the Atlantic Ocean. Huge blocks of ice break off the glacier and float on the lagoon’. – Iceland Trippers
We wandered around for a bit, took some photos and then 45 minutes later met up with our Ice Cave tour guides for an ice cave adventure! The Ice Cave visit was an optional add on, though everyone chose to partake. The guiding company was ‘Local Guide‘, which I highly recommend.
Lunch – At Glacial River Lagoon – there is a small shop that has sandwiches and hotdogs/drinks.
After visiting the ice caves we had to quickly hop over to ‘Diamond Beach‘, which is on the other side of the highway from the glacial river lagoon. The weather window was small, as a storm was rolling in so we maybe had 20 minutes to explore the beach. SO happy we were able to see it, even if it was for a short time. This was one of my favourite parts of Iceland, when I visited it 7 years ago.
We then headed to a new hotel ‘Foss Hotel‘. Checked in and then all had dinner together, and stayed up later playing cards and chatting. I love these trips and the conversation!
February 22nd – Day 6 – Seljalandsfoss, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Vik
Morning workout – A few of us decided to get up early to get a workout in before breakfast.
Kirkjubaejarklaustur Waterfall – Our first stop of the day.A quick walk from the side of the highway.
Fjardárgljúfur Canyon – a 2 km (1.24 mi) long canyon in the South-East Region of Iceland. The canyon is about 100 meters deep and through it runs a small freshwater stream. It’s known to be one of the most picturesque places in Iceland.
Fun fact, it is best known as the location of Justin Bieber’s video, “I’ll Show you.” Since the video was released, the visitation numbers to this canyon have increased by A LOT!
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach – I was so excited to get back to this beach. A must stop. From the black sand itself to the rock pillars/formations it is extremely picturesque. Watch out for the tide, it likes to sneak up on you. I could have easily spent hours here hanging out.
Lunch – The town of Vik – Just down the road from Reynisfjara, is the little town of Vik. A great stop for lunch. We stopped at Smidjan Brugghus, a brew pub, after going up to Myrdal Church, an awesome lookout point above the town.
Seljalandsfoss – A waterfall along Iceland’s southern coast is fed by melting water from the famed glacier- capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano. This powerful waterfall cascades into a pretty meadow. However, the path that runs behind the curtain of water is the main attraction. There you can enjoy a truly unique viewpoint of the waterfall’.
In the Winter the path behind the waterfall is closed due to ice/snow and dangerous conditions.
Drive to Reykjavik – After our stops we then started our drive back to the capital, to check into the same hotel we stayed at the first night.
February 23rd – Day 7 – Reykjavik, Blue Lagoon
Morning run – I love running when I travel, as I am able to see more of the areas in which I am visiting. Myself and two others from the group went for a little 6km in Reykjavik before getting ready for the last day at the Blue Lagoon.
Breakfast – Skuggi Hotel
Blue Lagoon – ‘When visiting Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect place to unwind after busy days sightseeing. Don’t risk the chance of tickets selling out, and instead, guarantee your spot by pre-booking an entry ticket. This flexible experience allows you to choose from Comfort or Premium packages, and add on transfers if required. Once you get the Blue Lagoon, spend hours relaxing in the mineral-rich geothermal water pools. Guarantee entry to the Blue Lagoon by pre-booking a ticket Spend time relaxing in geothermal outdoor pools Flexible experience—choose from Premium or Comfort entrance Entry includes a towel, drink, face mask and other perks with premium entry’ – www.viator.com
This was the perfect way to end the week trip to Iceland. A way to unwind and just to soak in all the memories and enjoy a few laughs, drinks, and face masks. I never had the chance to make it to the Blue Lagoon during my first trip to Iceland, so this was a treat.
There was a handful of us who decided to stay one more night, so a group got an air bnb together downtown and myself and a friend got a hotel not far from them. We wandered the city together, got hot dogs and reminisced about the week. The group got along so well, which always makes my heart happy! These trips are about connecting with like minded folks. So many come on group trips because they are unable to find others willing to travel with them, or just aren’t sure where to begin when it comes to planning trips, and then finding others who may feel the same.
If you have ANY questions about Iceland, or about group travel in general, feel free to comment on this blog post OR email me directly at email@example.com.
“Running teaches us we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined” – PattiSue Plummer
This blog has been a long time coming… but seeing as SO many of you have questions about running, I felt it was time to address them all here, in ONE place. From finding and maintaining motivation, training for a 5km, what to wear in the different seasons, choosing the right shoe, preventing injuries etc. I do hope this will help you all, or be a starting point, if anything.
- My story. How I got into running.
- Going from running 400ms to running a 5km.
- Fuelling your body and staying hydrated.
- Finding the right shoe.
- Running attire. Dressing for the weather/season.
- Winter Running Tips
- Running apps/watch recommendations.
- Finding and keeping your motivation.
- Injury prevention.
- How to increase your speed.
- First off, I will tell you a bit about how I got into running…
It all started in the Spring of 2008, my graduating year. In grade 10 I had stopped all sports, soccer and dance, so was not partaking in any exercise on a regular basis, and decided I should start SOMETHING at least. Sooo…. I started running. I figured that was something I could do anywhere, anytime and with little ‘equipment’. Also we have SO many beautiful trails in our city, it was a great way to get out and explore them. I had a pair of running shoes and attire that I figured would work, starting out and I just got out there. I wasn’t able to run consistently for longer then 400m when I started, but at least I was out there, giving it my all. I have already been pretty self motivated, so when I told myself I was going to start this I was determined to keep at it. Consistency is key!
Everyday, or couple days I would go for my run and slowly worked my way up to being able to run for longer and longer durations. I ran on my own. I felt like for MYSELF at the start, running solo was better, as I didn’t have to keep up with anyone else, oh and no one had to see me struggling hard. I was my only competition. I do know lots of people who find motivation in others (which I will address later), but I enjoyed the ‘self time’.
In the fall I got on with the Red Deer College Cross-country running team. It was my first year in post-secondary, attending RDC for my Social Work diploma, and figured, why not? What could it hurt? Maybe I would make a few new friends in the process too. My father was on the RDC team when he attended years ago, and actually had the same running coach as me. My Dad was one of my biggest supporters, with my running. He was SO good, and he encouraged me to push, and go harder. He use to tell me, ‘If you’re not laying on the ground after your race, almost dead, you didn’t run hard enough’ haha. That may sound harsh, but to be honest, I LOVED with encouragement and it was all in good fun. He knew I had it in me. Besides, our coach was pretty chill, and really taught me to LOVE the sport. Yes he wanted us to have great times for our runs, BUT most importantly he wanted us to LOVE running.
I also trained with a couple teammates in Lacombe, with another coach, on the side, who I guess gave us that littttleeee extra push we needed. I remember that during some practices I wanted to give up. Those days that you could taste blood… ya those were hard days haha. BUT I saw the results, and loved it!
We became a little family, the cross-country team. Outside of running we also had team bonding trips, to the mountains, and house gatherings, celebrations etc. I met one of my very best friends on the team, and she is not my maid of honour. Joining the running team was intimidating, but also was one of the best decisions I ever made. It helped balance me outside my studies, and gave me a purpose. Little did I know how much running was going to change my life.
I have raced 5km trail runs, 10km road races, half marathons, and have completed one full. Even though I don’t race as much as I use too, I do have goals! I hope to get into longer distance trail running over the years to come, combining my love for running and the mountains. 40-50km runs is the plan. Running brings me so much joy, and I hope you’re able to find joy in it too.
2. How did I go from running 400ms to running a 5km?
By not giving up. I was committed. Before joining the cross-country team, I ran solo, like I said earlier. Everyday I would push a little more, run a little further. I used light posts to gauge how far I could go. Every time I would go out I would try to run one or two more light posts further. I did not have a running specific watch so I used different landmarks, and my regular watch. I also used different houses, and bridges depending on the area of town I was in. I also never focused on my speed, strictly distance, and pushing further everyday, even if it was slow.
I also would go for ‘run-walks’, meaning I would try to run for 30 second, walk for 30 second, run for 30, walk for 30 and kept at that for a certain amount of time. Eventually I would change it to run for 45, walk for 30, run 45, walk 30. Then run for 1 minute, walk 30 seconds. Eventually I was at the point where I was running for a 5 minutes and only have to walk for 30 seconds, before doing that all over again. From there I kept adding distance. Running for 10 minutes (2kms) and walking 30 seconds, and so on and so on, decreasing the amount of time I spent walking during my runs.
“It takes patience. It takes consistency and it takes commitment to conquer longer distances,” – Michael D’Aulerio
Every bit of success I had, I held onto. It is amazing, the feeling of accomplishment and feeling yourself getting better and better at something, because of the time you put in. When I started running, I told myself that I was going to be able to run 5kms non stop, in 4 months time, at the end of Summer (as I started at the beginning of May). Guess what, I did it! I ended up running even further than 5kms (I think it was 8km), non stop in those 4 months, because of my commitment. It takes time and consistency. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Again, when you are starting out, DO NOT worry about how fast/slow you are going, only pay attention to how far, and try pushing further and further. This just gets you out and moving off the start. Once you hit your goal of being able to run that 5kms, if that’s your goal, you can then turn your focus to more speed work, which I have wrote about near the end of the blog.
3. FUEL your body and stay hydrated.
FOOD IS FUEL. Aside from just the training, there all things food related. When I began running, let’s just say I wasn’t always fuelling properly, and paid for it, in injuries. I have learned over the years what my body needs to feel strong. Don’t deplete your body of things it needs, and remember, but because you go our for a run doesn’t mean you can eat EVERYTHING in your house, or think it’s okay to crush that sugar loaded donut daily haha. I am a fan of treating yourself, but just be conscious and choose foods that will benefit you in the long run. I am no EXPERT on this topic, and it has certainly been a learning curve for me over the years.
If you’re concerned about your diet/exercise mix, especially if you are getting more and more into running, and putting on the kms, it doesn’t hurt to meet with a dietician, if you can, about what fuelling your body may look like. Regular doctor check ups are smart too! I find we are all a little different in that sense, depending on our health history, our height, weight, and needs. For example, I LOVE running fasted, in the mornings, and I feel good doing it. Though I also know some people who feel absolutely sick if they don’t eat before a run, and some that can’t even run until the evening, because they need all three meals in them before. I also weigh less then say, my fiance Craig, who needs a lot more food before he runs, and after than I do.
Majority of the time, if I am running in the early morning, I eat a half a banana with some peanut butter. This gets me through. Oh and I always have to have my coffee… and a washroom break before. Yal get my drift. Makes us a little lighter on our feet. I have never taken any pre workout supplements, so I don’t have any advice in that regard. During race season, I will usually have a piece of toast with banana and PB/honey.
If you need to have something to eat before a run, here are some suggestions:
- Plain greek yogurt with berries and granola.
- Whole-fruit smoothie.
- High-protein oatmeal and berries.
- Banana with peanut butter and honey – my FAVOURITE.
- Apple with almond butter and raisins.
- Nut berry energy balls – or other types!
- DIY sports drinks – “Just blend water, freshly squeezed citrus juices, sea salt (sodium chloride), and honey, and you have your own carb- and electrolyte-rich blend.”
- Homemade granola bars.
- Low- fat cottage cheese and dried apricots.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich – Use whole-wheat bread and natural nut butter.
Runners World states that, ‘Aside from sodium, getting enough potassium and magnesium is important, and that a deficiency in either mineral can exacerbate the symptoms of dehydration and cause extreme muscle cramps. A well-balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes will ensure you get enough of these nutrients. These sources are particularly good choices: Magnesium: Leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin seeds, tofu, flaxseeds, broccoli, lentils Potassium: Bananas, sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, oranges, pomegranate juice’.
Best foods to eat after a run: What I eat after my run is different then what others eat, based on their own person goals, or preferences. Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, or just training for long distances… you should be eating different foods. I could easily share what I eat on a day to day basis, but that may not necessarily help you (even though I will share down below). Attached are a couple articles that lists various food options, depending on your goals.
How To Eat to Run: Fuelling the body for performance – Map My Run Blog
What I like to eat post run/throughout the day: Rice cakes, with tuna, avocado, melted cheese and pepper. This is my go too snack! Also love a good omelette, or yogurt with berries/granola, apple and peanut butter, hummus and veggies/pita chips/crackers, or a real fruit smoothie. For dinner we like to make sure half our plate is veggies. Then we have a protein and a starch. Craig laughs at me cause I always need a little ‘cold with my hot’, meaning a cold salad with a hot meal. We mix up our meals with salmon, chicken, steak, ground turkey, and rice, pasta, and we eat a lot of sweet potato. Lettuce wraps are also one of our favourites. If I plan to do a long run the next day, usually I will toss on a little bit more of that pasta on my plate. My diet really isn’t that complicated, and I have figured out what works for me. I eat clean/healthy most of the time but certainly am not afraid to treat myself. I love a piece of chocolate everyday after dinner, or some chips/popcorn. Pizza night here and there is NEEDED. It is all about that balance. Hope this gives you a bit of an idea to start out.
Don’t forget to Hydrate
Don’t just hydrate the night before your run, or the day of, instead you should be hydrating all week. Make it part of your routine. Try to avoid chugging a lot of water RIGHT before you go out, as it can be harder on the stomach and cause cramping. Runners World states: ‘Aim to drink about 2-3 mL per pound of body weight at least 4 hours before your run‘. If you are running in the am, have a small glass before you go out. Listen to your body. Headaches, cramping, fatigue, or lowered heart rate may be signs of dehydration. Lastly, consider adding an electrolyte mix to your water or incorporating a salt tablet during long runs or races’. Pedialyte also has Advanced Care Electrolyte solutions to rehydrate, by the litre and individual packets.
People also ask me, ‘How much water do you bring with you on your long runs’, ‘Do you carry any sort of water pack while running’. I don’t actually. Though some people NEED the water during their runs. It changes from person to person. So if you need those sips of water, buy a running water bottle hip belt, or run vest. I JUST recently got into longer trail runs and purchased a running vest (Salomon Advanced Skin 8L), the one I am wearing below is an older Osprey pack. If I am out for hours and hours, or all day for that matter, that’s when I feel I need the hydration and electrolytes. Oh and there are pockets for snacks. YUM. Trail running is a whole new ball game I feel…
4. Choosing the right shoe for you.
So many people ask me, what shoes do you run in!? Well, I can give you my shoe of choice, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for you. We all have different foot types, strides, running styles etc. That’s why there are so many types of shoes out there! If you really want to get into the sport it is SO important to be in a shoe that is right for YOU. Stopping be a run specific store and talking to a shoe expert would be a great place to start, especially if you are training for a 5km, or any type of distance race, and are going to be in them often. Your shoe can make or break your enjoyment, and can be one way to help prevent injury.
I ran in Asics Nimbus for years and years, as that is what I was recommended, and so many others on the team ran in, though eventually my body was telling me something was up. I was getting injured. I had achilles problems, and my hips weren’t so happy. I went to a run clinic and met with something who told me that I was in the wrong shoe, so they switched me over to a Mizuno Rider. Our feet change and that’s okay! The Mizuno shoe worked for me and was my go-to up until about 3 years ago.
On Running had reached out, asking if I wanted to partner, and try out some shoes. I was hesitant at first, because the Mizuno Rider was working for me, and if you are a runner reading this you understand our hesitation when switching brands, moving away from something that works. But I did say heck with it, I will try them out, but I wasn’t going to promote the shoes until I tried them for a few months and figured out if my body agreed with them. Wellll…. lets just say I never went back to Mizuno. I am dedicated to my On Running shoes and haven’t had an injury since switching.
Here are the types I use for various running terrain/seasons:
Pavement running – Cloud Flyer – A lightweight shoe with supreme support and cushioning. I wear these in the Summer months on pavement, yet haven’t put them on in the Winter months, as I tend to need more grip.
Trail running – Cloudventure Peak – I wear these year round when trail running, and in the snow. A lightweight trail-racing shoe with Missiongrip, along with the Cloudventure – A lightweight trail running shoe that’s big on cushioning and grip. The grip is amazing and I highly recommend them for Winter running, when it gets slippery out.
All three styles also come in a waterproof option, if you live somewhere where it rains a lot.
You can complete the Shoe Finder questionnaire to figure out which On Running shoe would work for you, based on your needs. ‘Whether you need a shoe for cross-town commutes, marathons or mountain ascents, ensure premium fit and comfort‘, by completing the questionnaire – On Running.
It is important to monitor your shoe life as well. It can vary from person to person, but usually shoes have to be replaced after 300-500miles depending, or every 4-6 months if you’re running 20 miles a week. Though just pay attention to your body, and how it’s reacting. I have ran 250kms a month, for the last 5-6 months in my one pair of Cloudventures and my body still feels great. I guess I also owe kudos to the On Running brand. The kicks are holding up SUPER well. If your arches are blown, or there are holes in the sides, and you have pain in your hips or ankles, back etc. Perhaps it is time for new shoes, though try not to let your body get to that point and be proactive. New shoes may be costly, but it’s sure worth it. Tracking your mileage on a calendar would help with this.
5. Running attire. Dressing for the weather/season.
Okay… this is a topic MANY of you asked for me to touch base on.
Your attire can certainly make or break your run, depending on the weather or temperature. I have learned this over the years, and have grown my running wear collection, to better meet the various temperatures/conditions outdoors. First off, I do want to note that we all are different, and some of you may get colder easily and need more layers then I do outdoors. I get hot SUPER easy, so there for am conscious of wearing too many layers when I go out. This will be a learning process to start, but I promise, you will figure it out. I am now able to just check the weather app, the temperature, along with the wind (ALWAYS checking the wind speed), and the ‘feels like’ temperature. From there I dress appropriately.
I am sharing my own layering/attire for the temperatures/seasons, so just remember that, when reading. You may have to adjust a bit, accordingly. I have been a ‘Lululemon girl’ since I started running, and have sworn by their gear. I have been wearing some of the same items since college, so over ten years and they’re still in great shape. So even though is may be pricier, I find it worth the investment.
I sweat a lot when it is hot out so I like to have gear that is sweat wicking, light, breathable, non chaffing (so seamless helps), and not too tight to my body. Try to avoid cotton if you can. Nylon, polyester, elastane, are all great materials.
- Lululemon – Low-rise Hotty Hot Short II 2.5″ – Designed for running. They come in a 4″ as well, and a high-rise version, if you prefer those. They have built in liner, a continuous drawcord, a discreet zipper pocket, a secret stash pocket in the liner and reflective details.
- Lululemon Track That High-Rise Short 3″ lined – Designed for running. The waistband lies flat and won’t dig, a continuous drawcord, built in liner, and a side zipper pocket. There is also a 5″ version.
- Lululemon – Swiftly Tech Racerback, and the Sculpt Tank, which is designed for running and training. I like to have both length/fit options. Both are sweat wicking, quick drying, stretchy, and co comfy. The sculpt tank sits below the waistband, which allows for more coverage, and is an easy, loser fit.
- On-Running – Performance t-shirt
- Lululemon Energy Bra – for B to D cups. I wear this by itself sometimes too, for indoor workouts or outside running and hiking when it is too hot for a tank over. It is extremely comfortable. Great support, with the band and back straps. If you neemore/less
- support Lululemon has many other options.
Also lets talk socks for a second… if you are like me and your feet sweat a lot, make sure you have a few good running specific socks. 95% nylon, which allow your feet to breathe easier. Nothing like sweaty, chaffing feet, or socks that ride down your foot while you are out. Some people prefer a higher sock, so the lip of your shoe doesn’t rub against your skin (depending on your shoe choice).
My three go-to long sleeve tops are:
- Lululemon – Swiftly Tech long-sleeve, I have it in probably 6 colours. It is designed for running and training. Again, minimal seams to reduce chaffing, lightweight, breathable, sweat-wicking and added elastane which improves stretch and shape retention. Also, they have thumbholes, which I love in a long sleeve top. I also have one thicker swiftly, and wear it if I need even more warmth.
- Eddie Bauer – High-Route Grid Fleece. I love the 1/4 zip, as I can do it up, or unzip it if I get to hot. It is four way stretch, and fleece lined, so it is a bit warmer on its own, but still breaths well. Sometimes I layer the Lululemon swiftly tech under it was added warmth. Oh and again… thumbholes. The chest zip pocket is great to throw keys in, money, bank cards etc.
- Sweaty Betty – Athlete Seamless Long-sleeve – very similar to the Lululemon Swiftly Tech long-sleeve.
When it is a bit cooler I often toss on:
- A vest – Eddie Bauer Microtherm Down Vest which keeps my core warmer, but also allows my arms to breathe. I have been wearing it for the last 5 years and love it. The stretchy side panels allow for breathability, and mobility.
- Thin jacket – Eddie Bauer Sandstone Backbone Jacket – which I toss on if it’s a bit cooler/windy.
- On Running – Trail Breaker Long-sleeve – 1/4 zip. Thumb holes and a watch window. ‘Featuring zonal water repellency and ventilation, the Trail Breaker is engineered for running through the rain‘ – On Running.
- On Running – Waterproof Anorak – Waterproof and Breathable, Trail Breaker Long Sleeve & All Weather Jacket
- Thin jacket – Eddie Bauer Sandstone Backbone Jacket – which I toss on if it’s a bit cooler/windy.
For tights, when running, 90% of the time I am in Lululemon, and like I said earlier, some of these have been with me for over ten years, so the exact styles are a bit different online currently. I love 7/8 length, and full length pants. I have also recently been training in Sweaty Betty tights. Here are some suggestions:
- Swift Speed High-Rise Tight – full length tight, which is designed for running. I LOVE a good high-rise tight, as I feel it doesn’t ride down. Also I love drawcords on my tights, which help to keep them from bagging/riding down also. Sweat-wicking, stretchy, breathable, reflective detail, side pockets (which I love to be able to put my phone in, or gloves if I get too hot). There is also a secure back pocket.
- Fast and Free Tight – which is a 25″ length (7/8), also designed for running specifically. Five waistband pockets, two side pockets. The waistband is tighter then other styles, so you aren’t yanking them up, along with a drawcord.
- Eddie Bauer – Trail Adventure High-Rise Legging – moisture wicking, odor control, secure pocket, UPF 50+, and stretchy!
- Sweaty Betty – both come in 7/8 and full length options.
BUFFS! I am always wearing a head buff, when it gets chillier out, to keep my ears warm, and hair out of my face. Spring, Fall & Winter, I am in one! I just fold it over a few times and use it as an ear warmer. You can also use one around your neck/cheeks if you get colder in the cooler months, or if there is wind. You can get fleece lined buffs too.
Gloves – For Spring/Fall weather I like to wear a thinner glove. The Lululemon Run For it All Gloves are a great option. I have similar ones, the styles are always changing a tad, but these are the most comparable online currently. They breath well, are light weight, water repellent and are brushed for warmth. Your local running story will have similar options, or try Winners (if you have those where you live). I have found more affordable options there.
The most difficult type of running to dress for, and it can make or break your run. Making sure you are warm enough, and wearing gear that is still breathable, and gives you mobility. I sweat a lot, so the fabrics I choose have to allow for circulation, or else you just freeze. I try not to run in anything colder than -25, as it is hard on my lungs and on my body in general. My face takes a beating.
My top layering consists of a long-sleeve top, and a thicker jacket. I rotate between a few different styles of each, and stay comfortably warm. I know some people who run in like 6 layers in the cold, but I am a FIRM believer in quality of pieces, over quantity. If you are wearing quality pieces (warm/good material), you will be warm. 3 layers is enough for winter running. A base later long sleeve, a fleece lined pullover, a good jacket, and you’re good to go!
- Lululemon – Swiftly Tech long-sleeve, I have it in probably 6 colours. It is designed for running and training. Again, minimal seams to reduce chaffing, lightweight, breathable, sweat-wicking and added elastane which improves stretch and shape retention. Also, they have thumbholes, which I love in a long sleeve top.
- Eddie Bauer – High-Route Grid Fleece. I love the 1/4 zip, as I can do it up, or unzip it if I get to hot. It is four way stretch, and fleece lined, so it is a bit warmer on its own, but still breaths well. Sometimes I layer the Lululemon swiftly tech under it was added warmth. Oh and again… thumbholes. The chest zip pocket is great to throw keys in, money, bank cards etc.
- Sweaty Betty – Athlete Seamless Long-sleeve – very similar to the Lululemon Swiftly Tech long-sleeve.
Here are a couple jackets I highly recommend, that I have worn to -25 Celsius.
- Eddie Bauer – MotionLoft Hybrid Jacket – Great for running and everyday. Packable Hood. Thumbholes. Close to the body, without restricting mobility. StormRepel finish, helps repel moisture, which is SO important if you sweat a lot. 650 down fill.
- Sweaty Betty – Fast Track Thermal Running Jacket – Thermal, sweat-wicking, ultralight and breathable. Water resistant, fleece lined, thumbholes and reflective detailing (which is great if you plan to run in the dark).
- On Running – Insulator Jacket – ‘A lightweight breathable jacket that keeps you warm whether you’re exploring in the mountains or the city‘ – On Running. The stretchy side panels allow for great mobility.
For -15 and warmer I will usually only wear one pair of tights, and anything colder usually I will throw on a second pair, or one fleece lined pair. If its -25 I will be wearing a regular pair of tights and then a fleece lined over top, or a windbreaker/run pant.
- Lululemon – I have a few fleece lined pairs, that I have owned for YEARS. They currently don’t have any on their webpage, but do stay on the lookout for when they release some. Depending on how cold it is out in the Winter I will wear a ‘brushed’ pair. Some options for -15 and warmer:
- Fast and Free High-Rise Tight 28 – Non-Reflective Brushed Nulux – Brushed on the inside for softness and lightweight warmth.
- Align leggings – I have quite a few pairs of these (for lounging) and will sometimes wear them underneath of my fleece lined pair, when it gets really cold.
- Eddie Bauer – I did pick up a fleece lined Trail Adventure High-Rise leggings earlier this Winter, but they are sold out. Keep your eye out for future pairs to pop up. I did link a pair in the fall section of this blog.
- Sweaty Betty – Thermodynamic running leggings – Thermal, squat proof, high-rise, side pocket, back zip pocket, reflective details, need I say more. They come in 7/8 or full length.
- On Running – Running Pants – ‘Running pants that are at home on and off the track. Unique design features mean these pants can be changed to match the season or run‘ – On Running. I would layer these on top of a pair of thinner leggings, like the Lululemon aligns.
Gloves – For winter you surely want gloves that are a bit warmer.
- The Lululemon Run Fast Gloves are a great option. I love having a mitt with a fold over glove top, for extra protection when it’s even chillier. Also water repellent. Or again, check out your local running store, or Winners.
- Arcteryx – Venta Gloves – Bulkier then average but WARM. Brushed inner lining. Touch screen. Water repellent.
Running spikes – I find that my Cloudventures are grippy enough that I don’t need spikes in the Winter, but some people are more comfortable wearing them, or don’t want to have to buy a new pair of Winter specific shoes. Here is a pair I would recommend:
I listed my shoes of choice up in section 4. Choosing the right shoe for you.
6. Winter Running Tips
So you want to run outside in the Winter hey? Good on ya! As a runner, I see/hear of so many people who run outside in warm temperatures only, and then when it gets at all cold out, they turn to indoors only, or stop running all together until it warms up again. This is due to a few reasons. The fact that they don’t have proper Winter running clothes, which I spoke about above, it tents to get icy and the running surfaces can be uneven, which can lead to injury. Also it is overall harder, especially starting out. It is cold, takes a bit longer to warm up, it can be harder to breathe, you tend to get tired more easily. All of these things lead people to putting those shoes aside for a few months, BUT you don’t have too. I am hear to make you feel more comfortable getting outside when those temps drop.
I find that after running outside all Winter, come Spring when the snow melts I feel a lot stronger, and faster. My core. My ankles. Mental strength. It also revs up your metabolism, burns more calories, and overall increases our aerobic activity. Let’s not forget that fresh air, which is good for us, but keep an eye on that weather. Too much cold air exposure can effect your lungs, so starting out slow is important and not running if the risk is too high.
Here is an article that goes further into Tips for Winter Running:
- Checking the forecast
- Dress appropriately
- Start slowly
- Wear something reflective
- Stay hydrated
- Tell someone where you are going
- Warm up and cool down
- Pay attention to the weather
- Stop if something goes wrong
7. Running apps/watches.
Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you have lots of options. Our phone can be the best place to start, as there are various apps that you can download to track your time and distance. They may not be as accurate as a running watch, or reliable, as our phones can die and they can be awkward sometimes to run with, BUT they can do the trick, if you are not wanting to spend more money right away. I currently use Strava and Garmin, but there are lots of other options out there, these have just worked well for me.
- Strava – An app I used for a long time before buying another running watch. Also you can connect with people on the app, following one another and motivating each other. You can join monthly challenges and push yourself that way. Strava awards you when you reach different goals, when you hit personal records, and more. It can be a very fun way to track progress.
- Garmin – My father gifted me a running watch in my first year of college, when he saw me getting more serious about it. I guess he thought I was worth the investment haha. I LOVED having my Garmin Forerunner, as it made it easier to check my progress, during training and while racing. It also came with a hear rate monitor (which some runners like to have – I don’t use it personally). My current, the 6S Pro, has all the features one person would need, and can definetely can be great, if you’re planning on using all/most of the features, but for just starting out there are more feasible watches. I also use mine for hiking, and it has all the pre downloaded maps, biking, strength training and more, as it has many different sport options.
I have been using Garmin for 13 years now and have nothing but great things to say about their watches. They have more simple options like the Garmin Forerunner 45S which is $279CDN, then theres the 6S Pro which retails at $949CDN. If you are still unsure, I would hop into your local BestBuy or another store locally and chat with someone about which watch may work best for you!
8) Finding (and keeping) the motivation.
1) Attire – Making sure you are prepared for the sport. Purchasing proper running shoes, and comfortable clothing, will help you get out the door (or on the treadmill). Investing in a new outfit or pair of shoes helped to motivate me, and continued to as the years go on. Nothing like a new clean pair of running shoes, or tights to get a person going.
2) A buddy system – Find someone to run with OR someone to keep you accountable. Like I said, I have always been pretty self motivated to workout/run, but having a buddy can help make your runs go faster, or keep you accountable. If your friend shows up at your door step at 6am for that run, you can’t say no. Right? Plan to message each other and check in. Send screen grabs of your runs over to one another, if you can’t run together in person.
3) Join a challenge – I find that there are always challenges going on at various gyms, or online that you can join. Having a goal can be motivating. Even if you can’t find any challenges, make your own, or create a challenge with friends or family. I had the honour of hosting two challenges with my followers over the last year, with sponsorship from On Running. #May100withBrooke and #NovemberRunWithBrooke , as a community we came together and ran as much as we could, sharing stories and motivating each other on Strava and Instagram. Oh and there may have been some prizes involved… Who doesn’t like prizes?
4) Write your workouts down – Some of us need to see things in writing/on a calendar. Don’t just try to ‘sneak’ that workout in – make time for it, in advance. Even if it means waking up a bit earlier. Maybe you work from home are are able to fit in a lunch break run. Once done, check it off!
5) AN AWESOME PLAYLIST – Need I say more? Having a good playlist on my phone helps me a lot. Download some of your favourite songs, ones that will get you pumped up. I notice a huge difference in my motivation when I have some new tracks to listen to while I am running. OR if you are into podcasts, downloading some to get ya through those runs!
6) Change things up – As you continue to run, the same routes may get boring, so change it up. Map out new routes, drive to new trail heads in town. Run different distances. Plan some runs outside of town too – in new cities. New scenery makes a run go by faster I find. This also challenges the body, and keeps ya on your toes. Do some interval training, mixed in with stairs, or strength training. Try not to OVER run. Allow your body to have breaks and don’t be afraid to take a rest day. BUT if you are going to rest, don’t get too use to it haha. Get back at it when you are feeling good again!
This last one is my favourite. It gets me out the door every time:
7) Think ahead! REMIND yourself of the AFTER feeling. No matter how much I don’t want to run some days, or am feeling unmotivated, for whatever the reason may be, I ask myself, ‘But how good will you feel once you ran?’ I have never regretted a run, only have regretted not going. There’s nothing quite like a ‘runners high’. I find I am in a better mood after I exercise, get some fresh air or get my body moving on a treadmill, if the weather is saying no to outside. A little sweat can change my day. I also enjoy my food more after I run, I tell myself, ‘If I run I get an extra scoop of potatoes, or that piece of chocolate for dessert’ haha. Whatever works for you!
8) Put the watch away – Sometimes we feel defeated, and want to give up. Slow is okay, and our bodies need it sometimes. Don’t worry about how fast you are going, instead just focus on enjoying your run, going whatever speed your body is happy with. Reminding yourself it is okay to walk. Do not compare your times to previous times of yours, or anyone else’s. Just be proud of yourself for getting our there.
9) Celebrate the little victories – Yes, you got it. You deserve to be celebrated. When you have a ‘crappy’ run, just remind yourself that not every run will go as planned. Hang on to and remind yourself of the small wins you have had in the past. Maybe it is about having ran for 22 minutes straight, without stopping, where before your time was 21 minutes. Maybe you ran a 5 km in 35 minutes, instead of 34 minutes. Maybe you ran one light post further, or a block further (if you are like me and use landmarks). Maybe you got out and ran, even for a couple kms, when you didn’t feel like it AT ALL. Celebrate those moments.
10) Don’t give up – Even when it gets tough. Remind yourself constantly, that running taking patience, consistency and commitment. Not everyone is going to love running overnight. It can be hard, but hard is what makes it great! When you start to see those little improvements over time, it will become easier to keep going.
9) Injury prevention
I have learned this over the years, as I was not always very good at listening to my body. I have become WAY better at balancing my runs, not over training, fuelling my body, stretching, switching things up, cross-training, making sure I change out my shoes before they get worn out, and being conscious of the surfaces I am running on. If you are anything like me, and find it hard to take rest days, remember, our bodies with thank us in the long run. If your body is hurting, don’t run. It can be easier said than done.
I had a lot of people ask me to share various ways to treat particular running injuries, like: IT band syndrome, achilles Pain, shin splints, and more. As healthy as we think running may be for us, it can surely lead to injury if we don’t do things to prevent it, or catch it at earlier stages. If you are anything like me you would do whatever it took to keep running, whether that was denial, pushing it too far, not wanting to go to the doctor because you were scared they’d tell you not to run.
I found an awesome blog post: ‘Common Running Injuries’, written by Amanda Brooks, which may help you figure out what running injury you are dealing with.
Another blog post written by Amanda is: ‘9 Running Injury Preventions’. Instead of re-typing it all here, you can head on over and give it a read. It goes into depth about these 9 topics:
- Build mileage gradually
- Listen to your body
- Strength Training
- RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation
- Do not race or do speedwork TOO often
- Cross train
- Wear properly fitted shoes
- Run on a level surface
I would also recommend warm ups, foam rolling, and reminding yourself that SLOW is not a bad thing. Some days our bodies just need to take it down a notch. Put the watch away and focus on the run. The faster you notice an injury and deal with it, the faster you can get back out there. Don’t be like the old me and push and push until it gets worse.
Stretching is a large part of injury prevention, but I figured it deserved a portion of its own in this blog. I am guilty of not doing enough of this over the years, and have really tried over the last few months to bring it into my routine and make it a daily thing. My body is already is thanking me.
Back in college we always warmed up before our runs, beginning with dynamic stretching. Dedicating 5-10 minutes to this, before your run, will improve your run as it utilizes momentum, and increases your range of motion.. In the end it will make you a better runner anyways, and help you prevent injuries. It is about loosening up the muscles, and helping to improve your stride.
Seeing as I am not an expert in this field, I found an awesome blog post on the topic. I asked Amanda Brooks if I was able to share them here and I was given the go ahead. She states, ‘If I had to pick a few key dynamic stretches, I’d start with these‘:
- Leg Swings – Forward and back, side to side, do both for roughly 10 swings on each leg. Hold on to a wall or bar for better balance and don’t try to push the leg, just let it swing and the range will increase.
- Knee Circles – Rock out with your bad self and circle those ankles, knees and hips. It lubricates all the joints. You quite literally place your knees together, bend a little and rotate in circles with knees remaining touching.
- Lunge Matrix – If there is one thing my athletes have learned it’s how to do a couple moves from the IT Band lunge matrix before every single run! It’s just a great way to hit muscles from different directions and activate the glutes.
- Figure 8’s – Lifting your knee up to 90 degrees, move the knee through a figure 8 motion to open up the range of motion in your hips.
- Bent Over Toe Taps – Standing in a star position, bend at the waist reaching your right arm to your left toe. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite side. Great for warming up the trunk and getting you to start engaging your core.
Amanda stated that these dynamic stretches, along with a cool down walk, helps keeps IT band issues at bay. She also wrote a blog for warming up in the Winter, ‘5 minute indoor warm-up‘. Which are a mix of dynamic movements and fast-paced moves, to get your heart pumping!
Dealing with tight hips? This is a VERY common occurrence with us runners. Amanda wrote a blog post titled…. yep you guessed it, ‘Tight Hip Stretches for Runners’, which includes these 5:
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Deep squat
- Childs pose
- Assisted quad stretch
- Lying knee lung
I try to stretch out my hips daily, in the evening. I don’t rush through it, instead take time to breathe through the different stretches, taking 60 seconds for each. It’s easy to find time for… hope onto the floor while watching TV. Also if you are dealing with IT band issues or knee pain, these will help. Your body will thank you!
All of her blogs are quite detailed and include photos and/or videos of the dynamic warm ups and stretches, if you are more of a visual person, like me.
11) How to increase your speed.
People tend to ask me ‘How did you get so fast?’, ‘What is your secret to increasing speed!?’, ‘Tell me, how do I become a faster runner’, etc. No matter if we are running for leisure, or wanting to race, its natural for us to want to be faster. Though it is important to first focus on getting some mileage in, before we can talk about speed. Yes mileage over speed first, like I wrote earlier in the blog. It is important that you simply focus on getting outside, putting some kms in, even if its slower, to build your strength up, and endurance. Once you are happy with your distance, maybe it’s having accomplished running 5kms without stopping, you can start to incorporate some speed work.
In college I remember having quite the training schedule – I would look at the calendar on the bulletin board to see what was in store for the week, ‘Interval training’, ‘Track work’, ‘ Longer run’, ‘Hill work’, ‘Short run’, etc. We would also begin every practice with a warm up – slow jog, dynamic stretching, and working on our cadence.
Here are some tips to increasing your running speed:
- Run MOST of your runs at an easier/leisurely pace. It sounds a little backwards, but it is necessary. Do not over train, or go out sprinting on every run. Incorporating those easier runs during your training will help you in the long run. This helps to prevent over training, and gives your body time to recover, yet still being able to put those kms in. Easy runs should be 60 seconds slower/per km, than your goal pace. This is something I have found to be difficult, but worth it.
- Incorporate interval training. In college, we would usually have two interval training practices a week, one being on the track and the other out on the trails, in the trees, seeing as we were training for cross-country running. Speed work is vital, for becoming a better runner, but knowing WHEN to do it can be tricky, and not over working your body. Like in college, we usually had two speed workouts a week – which should be the MOST in a week. I would start to focus on one day a week, where you focus solely on quickening your pace. If you are planning to race, or do have a goal in mind for minutes/km, make sure your shorter intervals/quick intervals are FASTER than that goal pace. This will push your body a bit more and give you more confidence when you go into your race day, or when you go out for that goal run.
- Try a variety of different intervals:
- 400m repeats – Running ‘fast’ for 400m, then jogging it out for 400m (or resting), and continue to do that 6x over.
- 800m repeats – Running at ‘fast’ for 800m, then jogging for 400m (or resting), and continue to do that 4x over.
- km or mile repeats – Running at ‘fast’ for 1 km/mile, then jogging for a bit (or resting), and continue to do that 3x over.
- Race pace kms/miles – During your longer runs try running some of those kms as ‘race pace’. So if your goal is a 5minutes/km for a 5km, maybe you will run your first km at a 6minute/km, then 2nd at 5, 3rd at 6, 4th at 5, then last at 6 again.
- Intervals + strength work – I like to switch it up too, and incorporating interval training with some core work, example. Sprinting for 400m (200m out and 200m back) and then doing 10 push ups, 10 jumping jacket, 5 burpees, etc. Resting for a minute and then doing it again, for a certain amount of sets – say 4x over.
- Try a variety of different intervals:
- Hill sprints – My least favourite workout, because it can be a grinddddd. BUT I always see an improvement with my pace long term when I incorporate hill work into my training. Find a hill in your town and do hill repeats. Sprint up it, and jog down, and rest for 30 seconds/a minute and then go again. Do this as many times as you see fit. Also depends on how long the hill is haha. Every fall I compete in a 10km race in the mountains, and there is one HUGE hill, so training for this, I am sure to add hill sprints/runs into my routine. Once a week, I would go and run hill repeats. 500m faster up a slow gradual hill in town, and then would jog down. I would do this 10x over (so would take about an hour). I found HUGE success in this. My training hills, I found that my pace on flat ground increased drastically.
- Strength training – No matter how much you run, day in day out, if you don’t incorporate some strength training, you will plateau. Our body likes to change it up. Ab workouts, and doing body weight/weighted workouts, you will see increased strength out on your runs. Core strength is key, and just building muscle in other parts of the body, not just in your legs. I love doing little half hour circuits at my house – and there are SO many YouTube HIIT/strength videos online you can follow. Having some small weights at home may be a good idea too. Try also incorporating one strength session per week.
- FUEL your body – I already touched base on this section, but this is a big factor. Make sure you are eating properly, and hydrating. Up the protein and healthy fats throughout the week. Increase fast acting carbs before and then re-fueling after with sugars and protein after. If you aren’t eating right you will feel sluggish, and not see improvement, and all those training sessions won’t even matter.
- Perfecting your running form – Cadence and form are KEY. We all run differently, and can exert unnecessary energy, just in the way we may be arching our backs, leaning forward, swinging our arms, over striding etc. If you swing your arms to much, and are taking really big strides, you will tire yourself out more easily and will have a harder time increasing your pace. You want to be striking mid foot, and by shortening your stride, you will be able to do that.
- Negative Splits – Do not go out SPRINTING, you will tire yourself out and end up with a slower time then desired. Over the years I have always been one to start my runs slower, and finish faster. I feel out my run, and try to have some of my fastest kms during the second half/near the end of it. Training faster on those tired legs seemed to help. Training this way will get you ready for race day. My watch and Strava both show me my km split times, and I find my most successful/best feeling runs are when I went out slower and finished quicker. I tend to start my run, and get in a nice rhythm without tiring myself out TOO much, all while keeping an eye on those in front of me, and then over the last km or so I would step it up a notch and hammer out the last km or couple harder, usually pacing those people I was pacing. In college coach always loved to see those negative split times during training, and on race days!
Garmin – https://www.garmin.com/en-CA/
Eddie Bauer – https://www.eddiebauer.com/
Fuelling your body – https://blog.mapmyrun.com/eat-run-fueling-body-performance/
Lululemon – http://lululemon.com/
On Running – https://www.on-running.com/en-ca/
Running Faster – https://runninforsweets.com/how-to-run-faster/
Run To The Finish – Amanda Brooks – https://www.runtothefinish.com/
Prepare yourself for a long blog post… so much to write about during my trip to Peru! From how it all came about, to the itinerary, the experiences, the memories, the accommodations and more.
To start let me tell you how this trip even came about…
Back in August of 2018 I got an email from Trova Trip (@trovatrip), a new group travel company asking me if would be interested in hosting an international trip. At first I didn’t think too much into it and was hesitant but then I said to myself ‘How cool would it be, getting a group of ‘strangers’ together, with similar passions for adventure, somewhere around the world.’ So I emailed back asking for more information and details as to how exactly it would roll out and what my options were for destinations, timelines etc. What would my role be and expectations on the trip.
They had said that they would like to do a poll with my audience saying ‘If I were to host a trip somewhere internationally, would you be interested in joining!?’ So I did that and the responses were quite high, so after that we decided on two destinations that my audience may be interested in going to, we ended up deciding Peru and Costa Rica, so I did another poll asking ‘If I were to host a trip, where would you want to go, Peru or Costa Rica?’ Majority responded back saying Peru, sooo….. we chose some dates that would work for me and chose some dates (July 15-22nd, 2019). Once the itinerary was lined up, I threw up the sign up page and eventually had deposits rolling in.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about hosting a trip, I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually sign up, spending money to come travel with me, with other random strangers etc. but I ended up getting 20 sign ups (which is the max). By the time the trip came around there were 14 people who came. Due to the sign ups being months before the actual trip took off, some people had things come up/changes personally, with work, etc. where they had to opt out, though that is life, it can be hard to plan months in advance!
Of the 14 people who came, 2 were from Canada (Calgary and a friend from Red Deer who is also a teacher), and the rest from the U.S. There were two trip managers with me as well, Hope and Belen. Usually there is only one with @trovatrip, though it was Belen’s first trip so Hope came along to guide her and for support. We also had a local tour guide, Yuri, who spent the 8 days with us, touring us around Peru.
I had been to Peru about 4 years prior, with another group travel company, I acted as their social media promoter and photographer. This was with a group of 20, and I found it to be a ton of fun. The bonds made and experiences shared are ones to remember. Though the timelines were way different. My first time in Peru I spent 20 days with the group, with TrovaTrip it was only 8 days, which I feel is more then enough time to see a lot of great things, our itinerary was FULL to say the least, and tiring, but well worth it.
Peru is FULL of colour, culture, food, history and endless adventure. I truly believe it is a destination that suits all passions and ages. Whether you are into hiking everyday, or hanging out in colourful markets, or touring temples, museums and studying the history of Peru, you can stay very busy. Our itinerary was a mix of it all. The group trip didnt start till July 15th, but myself and Dessee left on July 9th in the evening, and had a few days to travel around and see some other things before meeting up with the group.
There following is our itinerary broken down day by day:
Our flights down to Peru involved over 24 hours of travel. We got to the airport at 1030pm July 9th, flights were out at midnight, and then we didn’t arrive in Lima Peru until around 1130pm on July 10th. We had layovers in Toronto and Mexico City, and then we flew to Lima. We booked a hostel in Mira Flores, a downtown district in Lima, which is a popular place for tourists to stay, as it is close to most things (the ocean, hostels, restaurants, shopping, sight seeing etc.) We arranged for someone from our hostel to meet us at the airport, to avoid any hassle of trying to figure out transportation to the airport/our hostel. We finally got to our hostel around 1am and crashed quickly! We booked with Inka Life Hostel, which was about a ten minute walk to the ocean and close to so many things.
The hostel was $90 USD for two nights for two of us.
We woke at around 8am , got changed and didn’t want to waste anytime. We were only giving ourselves 24 hours in Lima, to explore, get organized and figure out our bussing over the next couple days. I didn’t plan anything in stone for us in advance cause I know how easy it is to book things once you get to your destination – and if you are anything like me its WAY easier to talk to people in person and book then try to do it online or over the phone.
We went straight to a local historic sight (Huaca Pucllana), that’s popular for tourists in the area, about a 10 minute walk from our hostel. They are ancient ruins in the middle of modern high rises. We did a one hour tour from 11-12 and then headed down to the shoreline to find a place to each lunch. Last time I was in Peru I remembered going here and really wanted to visit again, so I led Dessee, myself and two friends we made at the tour down to this on the ocean restaurant for Ceviche and Pisco Sours (Peru’s local drink)
Below is the restaurant we had lunch at (La Rosa Nautica) – which I highly suggest visiting if you have the chance, along with photos of the ceviche, which is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, typically garnished and served as an appetizer (but I think I ate it daily for lunch or dinner as well). I LOVE it, but it can be an acquired taste.
After we decided to head to Peru Hop – a bus tour company to book our bus to get to Huacachina, which is located five hours south of Lima. The desert oasis is home to an extraordinary adventure tour of dune buggying and sand-boarding. I really wanted Dessee to get to experience this! We endedup booking a ‘Get to Cusco Quick’ bus tour, which was going to end up dropping us in Cusco, with stops to Paracas along the way (around 2 hours South of Lima, and then 3 more to Huacachina). The bus is a hop on hop off type deal and there are a variety of options you can opt in on depending on what route or how many days you are wanting to stay in Peru. I do highly suggest them as a company to book through, for the convenience (even though it in not necessarily cheap). The bus picks you up from your hostel and drops you off at your hostel in the next destination (or a bus stop and has a taxi arranged to drive you the rest – if certain places have roads to narrow for a bus to get through).
We ended up meeting up with Paige and Brittany – who were both booked in on the group tour, but also decided to fly in a couple days earlier to visit Lima and Huacachina as well. We met them for a later lunch down by the water, at ‘Mango’s’, another little restaurant I advise poppin’ into if you have the time.
After dinner we headed right back to our hotel and were in bed by 830 as we knew we had an early morning, our bus was picking us up at 6am, we were the first – and had to be waiting by 530am in the hostel lobby.
We didn’t end up leaving Lima till 7am by the time we picked everyone up and got on the highway. We arrived in Paracas (Southern Peru – a beach town) at around 9am and had a boat tour booked to tour Ballestas Island. The town is becoming more and more popular with travellers heading South of Lima, and a great little pit stop. You can book your tour through Peru Hop or on your own once you get to Paracas, depending on what you do for transport. They also do day trips from Lima if you plan to go back to Lima after.
Once we were done the boat tour we had lunch in Paracas and then were on our way to Huacachina.
We arrived in the afternoon and got settled in at our accomodation. I had booked La Casa de Bamboo weeks prior to ensure we had a place to stay as there are a limited amount of accommodations. Though once we started to talk to other people we realized how easy it was to just book your accommodations even a day or two before. If we were to rebook I would have chosen to stay at Banana’s Adventure Hostel, which was just across the street from Bamboo. Banana’s is a cute little hostel with a pool and many food options on site and also very affordable. Bamboo was also very affordable at only $30USD for a double occupancy room.
Once we were checked into Bamboo we got changed and made our way to the dunebuggy/sandboaring tour which started at 5pm – it was a sunset tour meaning we would watch sunset from out in the sand dunes.
After the dunebuggying, we went for dinner, the hostel had their own little restaurant and we ate there out of convenience, though there are multiple options all within walking distance around Huacachina. We went to bed around 9pm and then were up early the next day.
We decided to do a little hike up the sand dunes the next morning, when it was a bit cooler. We headed up around 8am and took in the oasis from an aerial view, it only took about 45 minutes to hike up to the top of the dunes from our hostel (pictured below).
We hiked back down and walked around the town for a while – and were stopped by a school group. The group was practicing their English and asked if we would help the students out and ask them some questions – they had to ask us and respond in English. As a teacher I found this so awesome, as the students were out chatting and interacting with the tourists in the area.
We left the town at around 3pm that afternoon – on the Peru Hop bus that was going to take us to Cusco, we were going to be doing a night bus. From Huacahina to Cusco it is 17 hours direct, though with Peru Hop it ended up taking us almost 27 hours to get there, with the stops and the ‘detour’ to drop other people off in a different town.
We stopped at the Nasca Lines – which are about 200miles Southeast of Lima – we stopped here in the evening and they allowed us a few minutes to get up high on top of a tower to view them. In total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1,200 feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building).
Peru Hop would stop at various places for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So after the Nazca lines we stopped for dinner before continuing to Cusco.
We spent the entire day on the Peru Hop bus again! So not much to say other then that it was a very very very long day. Many people opt to fly from Lima to Cusco to avoid the bussing. The persons who choose to bus also break it up into a number of days and make more stops in between. Some people stay over night in Paracas, then in Huacachina they spent more then one night, then often will stop in Arequipa, a place we decided to skip due to being limited on time and the group tour starting on July 15h.
I would highly suggest stopping in Arequipa and visiting Colca Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, second to the Grand Canyon. Last time I was in Peru we spent time hiking in the canyon and stayed overnight at the bottom of it which was such a neat experience.
We did not get to Cusco until around 630pm – and checked into our hostels and then I went and met up with Belen and Hope, from Trova Trip to chat about what the next 8 days were going to look like. It was nice to finally meet them after months of anticipation waiting for the trip to start. We were in bed by around 930!
I woke up early and took a little morning stroll through some of the streets of Cusco, grabbed a coffee and then met Belen and Hope in the lobby of the hostel at around 10am, as we were going to pick up a few of the group members from the airport, where we were going to begin our journey!
Kathryn, Reimon, Kaitlyn and Kayla were all being picked up, then we headed towards Pisac, a town where we were going to be spending our first night together as a group!
There were some other group members that had already been in Peru for a while, traveling around and had already had the opportunity to meet one another. A couple had been in Cusco days before and were planning to make their way to Pisac on their own, so we ended up meeting them a little bit later in Pisac, so the 5 of us explored a bit on our own then joined up with them.
After we got checked into our hotel (which was my favourite accommodation of the entire trip) we headed out to explore the town a bit, scoped out some of the markets and potential coffee shops (always scouting those out) and some restaurants. There was a celebration going on in Peru – so the streets were filled with colour, dancers, music etc. They were celebrating Virgin Carmen, this continued to other towns we ended up passing through and staying at during our time in Peru as well.
When we got back to our hotel around 4pm, we met up with some of the other group, and the final few made their way to the hotel from the airport (Britt and Paige who had flown from Lima to Cusco – instead of bussing).
It was SO nice to have the entire group together, and meeting face to face for the first time though it was weird, it also felt like we had known each other for a while already. I had created an instagram group chat as members joined the group so people had been chatting prior to leaving, and also some had the opportunity to travel a couple days together before.
We had dinner all together in the evening, making sure to do some introductions, got rid of some of the initial nerves and gave the group opportunity to ask questions and get to hear a bit more of what the week was going to look like together.
Due to the long travel day for some we went to bed at a decent time, in order to get some good sleep and prepare ourselves for our first full day together!
Born To let Go: Quebec Trip
I received a message from Bella during the early Summer asking me if I would be interested in joining in on a trip to Quebec with herself and 4 other women, to explore a few regions within Quebec (through @tourismequebec). I immediately jumped on the opportunity, as I had never spent much time in the province, other then when visiting Montreal and Quebec City years ago. The trip was set for August 26-31st which was perfect timing, right before the school year started up and once things kind of slowed down for me during the Summer. I have spent a lot of time traveling internationally, though little time exploring other provinces, especially when it comes to the East coast of Canada.
The other 4 women on the trip were Bella (@bellabucchiotti) from Vancouver, Krystle (@dineandfash) from Toronto, Isabelle (@allons.y) from Toronto, and Julia (@juliathompson) also from Vancouver. Braedin @braedin came as the photographer on the trip, helping us with content (photos and videos) along the way, he is also from Vancouver!
We all flew into Montreal on August 26th, in the later afternoon and once we all arrived we made our way to our first region, The Laurentians, where we stayed at Camping du Domaine Lausanne (@campinglausanne), the ECO-CHIC Outdoor Centre they say is characterized by its mountains, it felt as though we were completely immersed in nature. We stayed in a floating cabin, which was the neatest thing, as I had never had the experience to do so before.
The next morning we woke up early so we could catch sunrise on the water – which was around 6am. The fog that ended up rolling in on the lake made for such a neat mood and for some great morning shots. We ended up walking down to a dock further down the lake and had some coffee and breakfast before getting picked up for 8am.
Our drive was only an hour, to Mont Tremblant National Park (@parcmonttremblant), where we were going to be doing some hiking. We dropped in at the visitor centre where we met up with our guide. We learned that within the park there are 40 mammal species, 6 rivers and more then 400 lakes and streams, which makes for a canoer’s dream! When we were hiking, we were able to spot some canoer’s down below enjoying the water. I was a little jealous and hope to be able to return one day to spend more time within the park, and get out on the water as well.
The hike we did was titled ‘La Corniche’, one of the most popular in the area and for a very good reason. It is only 3.2km round trip, can be done year round and offers wonderful views of the lake down below.
After the hike we headed to lunch, at The Resto Pub, a restaurant at Hotel Mont Tremblant (@hotelmonttremblant) , which is within the heart of Mont Tremblant Village. We hung out in the sun and enjoyed a little break before we headed off again to go scootering. The scootering was self guided, though we did a little ‘intro session’ to begin before they let us go off on our own. This was done with the company Geo Explora (@geoexplora). It was another different experience, where we were given i-pads that directed us on the road, and once we arrived at certain locations we had trivia questions to answer. These trivia questions had us learning about the history of the area, all while exploring the back country roads.
After the scootering we had only a one hour drive to our next accommodation, in the upper Laurentians, a place which I was very excited about staying at. Les Toits du Monde is the name of the location, offering a variety of ‘accommodations’ such as a tipi, tree houses, a Mongolian yourte, and a hobbit house. Braedin stayed in a tipi, while the rest of us stayed in the yourte, though even though we all slept there we were able to get out and explore/see some of the other cute accommodations. The enchanted setting is perfect for couples traveling, families, or just any adventurous person wanting something a little different then your usual hotel or cabin. The owners of the property were SO welcoming and had everything prepared for us when we arrived. You have to park your vehicle in a main parking lot and they provide you with little ‘wagons’ where you load your stuff in and then ‘hike’ to your accommodation, which are all different lengths of time away. It took about ten minutes to get to our yurt where we were able to get settled in.
Below are photos of the other accommodations on site. Their newest treehouse was finished just recently (which we visited the first evening right after we arrived), whereas their older cabin they have had for almost 8 years (we visited the next morning)! They have built the accommodations themselves and are very proud of their enchanted forest, which they have created for people to come and enjoy from all over.
After stopping in at the newer treehouse we headed for a little sunset hike (Rocher Capitaine), which the owner took us on. The hike started just across from the property. We enjoyed a beautiful view of the lake, and had some wine and snacks which he carried up for us. His pup Yuka also joined in on the fun, their husky who lives on site as well (photos by @braedin).
Once we got back down from the hike we enjoyed a nice dinner, which the owner had prepared for us, a cheese fondue, salad and home made bread! The yourte did not have running water, which means yes no running water for showers or washing dinners. We had to boil water to wash dishes, and they also provide you with a kettle, so can boil water if you are wanting to shower/rinse off – there is a shower ‘bag’ and area you can do so if you please, though we did opt out of that. Some of the other accommodations on site have running water, just the yurt did not. After dinner we enjoyed a fire, and yessss we made smores!
Again we woke up early (a usual thing everyday on the trip). It was a cozy night in the yurt, as we fell asleep to the sound of rain. It was raining in the morning as well, but was kind of nice, as we were pretty covered in the forest. We decided to make our way over to the other accommodations, the tree house, and the hobbit house (both pictured below).
At 10am we departed to our next region, Abitibi-Temiscamingue (@tourismeat). This was a long driving day. We drove for approximately 2.5 hours before stopping for lunch, then after we continued another 2.5 hours on the road before arriving to our next stop, Refuge Pageau (@refuge_Pageau), a place that has an incredible relationship with animals, they take in lost or injured wildlife, and are rehabilitated and then returned once they are safe to do so, or are provided long term shelter. The diversity of wildlife within the refuge is incredible, from bald eagles, to owls, foxes, wolves, bears, porcupines, squirrels racoons and more. Photo’s by @braedin.
Once we were done at the shelter we continued onto Rouyn-Noranda, a town where we stayed for the night. We slept at the Quality Inn, rested up, showered and enjoyed a complimentary breakfast before another long driving morning. When I got to the hotel that evening I decided I was in much need of a work out so I hit up the hotel gym, to get ‘back on track’, sometimes a person just needs a little sweat session, a good shower and a comfy bed to feel like a million bucks again!
After breakfast at the hotel we headed for Opemican National Park. This was another very long driving morning, but well worth it. We stopped for lunch in Ville-Marie, where we enjoyed a nice meal at Chez Eugene. I would be lying if I said I loved long drives… as beautiful as the scenery is and the endless lakes and lush forests throughout the regions as we drove, I get motion sickness quite easily so was poppin’ the gravol to keep my head on straight.
After lunch we continued another few hours and arrived at Opemican National Park (@parcnationalopemican) . We checked into our accommodations for the night, which were brand new ‘Ready-To-Camp’ Etoile, cabins on Kipawa Lake. When we got there we went and asked about renting paddleboards, canoes, bikes etc. which are all available for anyone staying in the area. We checked into the cabins, got settled then headed back to the visitor centre to grab paddleboards, and headed out for a bit on the water. We also got bikes, to ‘bum’ around on from the cabin, to the water, to the visitor centre etc. everything is within walking distance of each other, though having a bike sure makes it that much easier.
After we had dinner we headed back down to the water for a little paddle in the canoes. We weren’t too sure of the weather we were going to have, but decided to hope for the best and enjoy whatever it is that we were given. It drizzled a bit, though there ended up being a beautiful rainbow of which we got to enjoy. After we headed back to our cabins, and started a fire which we hung out by for a while, though again we had another early morning next day so I headed to bed at a decent hour. Sunrise was waiting for us again!
We woke up at 545 to check whether or not the sky was clear to shoot sunrise, though it wasn’t… but we were up anyways. The bus was also picking us up at 7am, so we rose, cleaned up around the cabin, had breakfast and I headed down to the water on the bike to take in some of the morning light. We got on the bus at 715 and prepared ourselves for another long drive. 5 hours to our next stop!
We were off to our third and final region of the trip – Outaouais (@outaouais) . At 12:30pm we arrived in Chelsea, where we popped in at the visitor centre. We met up with Christine, a tourism employee who was going to show us around this region. She took us over to lunch across the street at a little restaurant called Biscotti & Cie (@biscottichelsea). The meal was DELICIOUS! Nothing like a good iced chai latte, charcuterie and a tofu kale salad to perk a person up during a long drive. Oh and there desserts are to die for – there selection in store was endless!
After lunch we headed for Pink Lake, which was in Gatineau Park. The hike was only 2.5km but was the perfect little after lunch ‘leg stretch’.
After the hike we headed for our final accomodation, Fairmont Montebello (@fairmontmontebello), which was a one hour drive.
This was the PERFECT place to end the week, after ‘glamping’ and bussing, and late nights and early mornings, spending a evening and morning relaxing at Fairmont Montebello was exactly what we needed. Since I am often so busy during the days when I am exploring or in the mountains I rarely stay in hotels or even cabins, where instead I am often sleeping in a tent, in my SUV or a cost friendly accommodation. So this was a nice treat. The Fairmont is conveniently located between Ottawa and Montreal, which makes it a nice pit stop for those traveling in between the two. It is the largest log castle in the world, making it even more special to stay at. I could have spent hours just hanging out in the lobby (pictured below). It is known for its rustic, yet luxurious accommodations, and it excellent service.
When we arrived we got checked in, and enjoyed a drink and snack on the patio, before we had some free time before dinner. I chose to go for a run, which helped as we have had some longer travel days. There are some great trails throughout the property, a 3 and a 5km loop. I did the 5km loop, came back showered up and got ready for dinner.
The dinner was AMAZING, I was blown away and surely went to bed with a full stomach. It was a BBQ out on the terrace – with a lake view. They had ALL the options.
We woke up early yet again, around 530 in order to get down and meet in the lobby for 550, we had a little coffee (as always) and then headed outside to find a spot to catch sunrise on the water. It was the perfect way to start the day! After some of the group went for breakfast, while I chose to get another run in, an 8km around the property – circling the 5km loop and then adding on the 3km loop. After I got showered up and headed down to the buffet breakfast for some food. They had it all – name any breakfast food and it was there.
We left the Fairmont at around 9am, in order to get to Omega Park (@parcomega ) for 930am. It is a place to discover Canada’s wildlife in their natural habitat. Animals such as moose, elk, bison, wolves, bears etc. The park offers several activities for all ages such as animations, picnic areas, hiking trails, everyday of the year. You can drive your vehicle right into the park, and observe from the comfort of your own seat, or choose to get different types of transport such as ‘caged’ trucks (where you are in a metal cage and driving amongst the animals), or a safari bus (which we took). As you enter the park several deer and elk will greet you, where you are able to feed them carrots, which can be purchased from the Park House. The drive is 15km by car throughout the park and takes about 1.5 hours, to ensure your safety though they ask you remain in the car at all times, besides one point where you are able to get out and feed the deer (this was my favourite part).
At the end of the tour they took us to visit their new ‘Wolf cabins’ they have on site – where you can rent your own cabin and sleep behind a giant glass window where wolves are roaming. If you are a wolf lover like me you could be all over this, though others may be right freaked out! They currently only have two cabins ready to go, though are building 4 more due to increased interest in the experience.
Once we were done at the cabins we headed for the airport where we said our goodbyes and parted ways. What an experience it was to get to travel through three regions of Quebec – @tourismelaurentides , @tourismeat and @outaouais , with all of these ladies! Like I said at the beginning, I have traveled a lot, and more so internationally, having left my own country on the back burner a bit too much. I am already dreaming of returning to Quebec and exploring even more so. The endless lakes, lush forests, and adventure experiences is endless.
Thanks again to Braedin (@braedin) for helping us capture all the beauty through your photos and video on the trip.
If you have any questions at all regarding our itinerary, where we stayed, what we did, feel free to reach out!
Thanks for reading,
April 27th – May 5th
I had been to Utah a couple years before, though I had never been to the Moab area, so I figured why not make this the year to do that! My boyfriend Craig and I set off for a one week post graduation trip. We didn’t realllyyyyy have a plan but we had some sort of outline for what we wanted to do with the 8 days on the road. Utah can be slightly overwhelming, as there is SO much adventure in the state, whether you are into hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, ‘ATV’ing’ and more. We had just planned to hike, but for those reading who are also into other activities, know that Utah is FULL of possibilities. Or perhaps you just want to go to relax (you can do that too), there are a number of campgrounds, restaurants, ‘pull-up’ attractions and places to just enjoy throughout.
We left Alberta on April 27th, and started on our 14 hour (1,642km) road trip to Spanish Fork, Utah, where Craigs sister lives. We stopped there for a night before making our way to Moab the next day, another 2.5 hours South East. We ended up meeting up with friends who were also planning to camp, they had a site at Williams Bottom Campground, right along the Colorado River. They had brought their climbing gear so we decided to join them for a bit before heading out on an evening hike.
Delicate Arch, Moab – Arches National Park
We left for Delicate Arch at around 530, making our way into Arches National Park, where we picked up our South East National Parks pass, for $55.00 which allows us to get into Arches, along with Canyonland’s and Natural Bridges National Monument, the pass is good for one year. We began hiking at around 630. The trail is approx. 3.1 miles round trip, though 613ft elevation gain. We wanted time to walk around before the sunset, which we wanted to catch at the top! We ended up getting extremely lucky and experienced a rainbow above the arch before sunset. This was the perfect way to begin the trip.
I had many questions from people wondering which air bnb we stayed at in Moab, though it was Craig’s sisters cottage, just 15 minutes outside town. Having family in the area sure helps with accommodations, and it is nice to have a shower and a comfy bed after a long day of adventuring!
Negro Bill Canyon Wilderness Area – Grandstaff Trail & Corona Arch
We set off for a morning hike on Grandstaff Trail – approx 4.3miles round trip. The trail is rated as moderate. At the end of the hike to come to ‘Morning Glory Natural Bridge’. The trail was perfect for the morning, with only 387ft of elevation gain, and over a longer duration. The hike is perfect for people of all ages. The trail crisscrosses a river, so waterproof shoes would be recommended. Once we reached the Natural Bridge there were being repelling from it, so we were able to have a snack, watch them, and visit with some others before heading back out.
After that we went and hung out at our friends camp for a bit and relaxed, played cards and hit from some rain. We decided ‘why not head out on another sunset hike’, so at about 6:00pm we set out to hike to Corona and Bowtie Arch, one of the most popular hikes in the area, and for a very good reason. It’s a 2.3 mile out and back hike, with 469m of elevation gain. We were taking a risk with the weather, as it had been raining most of the afternoon and evening forecast was calling for a bit of rain but the clouds cleared and we set out! We got very lucky and ended up having great views of Corona Arch, where it just began to rain on the way out. Corona is a 140ft x 105ft opening.
Devils Garden Loop – Arches National Park & Mesa Arch – Canyonland’s National Park
The next day we decided to head back to Arches National Park to do a trail that came recommended by many, one that has a number of arches you cross along the way, Devils Garden Loop. With 7 arches during the hike, this is one that if you are in the area for a limited number of days or even just one, is a must do! The hike is 7.5 miles long and with 1,069ft of elevation gain, takes a bit longer then others but very much worth it. The trail is rated as difficult. There are some challenging sections in the middle of the loop that require a bit more confidence and skill level – moving up and down the rocks and if slippery it can be that much more challenging. The main trail is well maintained and wide. The first bit takes you to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch, and then on to Landscape Arch (pictured below).
The trail then leads you to Wall Arch, then have the option to take a spur trail to Navajo Arch or Partition Arch. From here you can retrace the main trail back or continuing from there to Double O’ Arch (pictured below) and Dark Angel.
Some people choose to do the trail the other direction (counter clockwise) if they are uncomfortable with some more difficult sections and do the other direction as far as they can. We came across some taking this option.
The same evening we decided to head to Canyonlands National Park for the evening to visit another arch and to watch sunset. We stopped for a view of the canyon (pictured below and then headed to the famous ‘Mesa Arch’, a heavily trafficked trail of 0.6miles and 62 feet of elevation gain. Even though we went in the evening, this spot is most popular at sunrise, due to the sun rising just behind the arch, and because of its accessibility.
Once done at the Mesa Arch we headed for ‘Island in the Sky’ (pictured below), not very far down the road from Mesa Arch into Canyonlands, where we wanted to take in the sunset, but due to crazy winds/weather we didn’t last too long and ended up driving back to Moab a bit earlier, telling ourselves we would come back next day when enjoying it was a bit easier. If you continue reading you will see photos from here!
Firey Furnace – Arches National Park / Upheaval Dome – Canyonlands National Park
When we arrived in the Moab area we had went straight to the visitor centre to make sure we got a ‘down-low’ of the main things to do in the area and to get any permits we may have needed. We were told that the ‘Fiery Furnace’ in Arches National Park is one of those musts, and it’s weather dependent. We knew we were in the area for a few days so looked ahead at the schedule and booked it for 9:00am on May 1st. This was SUCH a unique experience – it’s like an adults playground. You could spend HOURS exploring throughout the fiery furnace. At the visitor centre they will have you sit down and watch a video of the area before you can go in, talking about rules and regulations in the furnace (what to watch for, where you can and can not go), about the vegetation etc in the area. You can sign up for a guided tour OR explore on your own, we decided to explore on our own.
We headed for lunch before going back to Canyonlands National park. We wanted to hike around Upheaval Dome, so we headed there first. We started via the Crater View trailhead. It’s a 1.5 mile out and back trail, with 301ft of elevation gain (to the main viewpoint), though we decided to continue a lot further down the trail and take in more views. After hiking for a couple hours round trip, we had decided the best views were at that first viewpoint. If you are short on time or don’t want to hike far the first view point should be your end point, though me being me, I usually like to make it longer, getting steps in, and since we had so much time. The first view point gives you spectacular views of a geological formation – a mile wide crater of mysterious origins, perhaps formed by a meteorite. Worth the visit! Craig found this place to be one of his favourites from our whole Utah trip!
After this hike we headed back to ‘Island in the Sky’ to watch sunset (pictured below). You can pull into the parking lot and you can walk up to this viewpoint. The sunset was unbelievable. I didn’t want to leave! We found a quiet place to sit and take it all in.
We planned to stay at the campground in Canyonlands, though all sites were booked, so after sunset we ended up driving 4 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park, and pulled into a campground there last minute. I don’t advice driving this road through the night if you do not have to due to the large amount of deer on the road, but we were eager to get to a new National Park! Again we werent really sure of our schedule but this ended up working well!
Bryce Canyon National Park
This was my second time visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. LOVE it here!
We woke up early, checked out of our campsite (we camped just outside the park) and headed for the park. I don’t think we could have covered any more ground in Bryce even if we tried. The most popular little hike in Bryce was closed for maintenance (Navajo loop) so we took advantage of every other trail we could. Craig and I set out into the main area first thing, hiking from 9-12. We had friends we were meeting so we set out with them in the afternoon from 1-4 and hiked the other side (the Fairyland loop).
We parked at sunset point and began our first loop – we hiked 0.8km to Sunrise point and started the Queens Garden Trail, and continued on to the Peak-a-boo Loop (theres a horse and hiker trail), and hiked up to Bryce Point. Here you have the option to take a shuttle 1.5 miles back or you can hike, we chose to hike! All together we completed 9.4kms in the am stopping along the way to take photos. Photos below from the morning hiking.
After lunch we did the 12.9km Fairyland Loop. This is a less popular trail, but lovely as well if you have the time! If you are limited on time I recommend staying on the other side (in Navajo Loop is open – best to do that one).
From here we headed straight for Zion National Park. I would recommend staying another night in Bryce if you can, but because we didn’t have anything booked and had time to drive we headed for Zion National Park! We also really wanted to get there before the weekend hit (so wanted to wake up on a Friday to get in Angels Landing!
Angels Landing – Zion National Park
I had been to Zion National Park before and was SO excited to come back. It’s extremely busy in Zion in the Summer months, the last time I had visited was over 2 years prior, in February, so this was a bit of a wake up call. Though there is a reason it’s popular… it’s BEAUTIFUL. The whole drive into Zion I was silent, the red rock and massive rock walls literally take your breathe away. It’s like no park I have ever been to.
We never reserved camping in Zion National Park, so were unable to stay in the park, but were able to find some BLM land just 20 mins outside the park. We camped there for two nights, which ended up being a blessing, as downtown Zion can get very crowded and loud during the day and evening – out in the BLM land we felt like the only people around.
Thursday night (3rd) we went to bed early knowing we wanted to get up EARLY to get on the first shuttle up to Angels Landing (the most popular hike in the park). The first shuttle leaves at 6am from the visitor center so we planned to get to the parking lot for 515 – once we arrived there was already many lined up. We were able to get on the first shuttle. I highly suggest getting here very early if you want to get up before the heat of the day and avoiding waiting in the line for a long time. From 6-8 shuttles run into the canyon every 15 minutes. There are a number of stops along this route – so be sure to look ahead in advance to see what else you may want to stop and see along the way. If you are feeling eager, you can bike or hike into the canyon before 6am, which also avoids the crowds. The trail starts at the Grotto shuttle stop.
Angels landing is a 4.1 mile out and back trail, rated strenuous with 1617ft of elevation gain. It is not for the faint of heart… and should be approached with some hesitation, not only because of its narrow paths and steep drops but cause of the ‘busyness’ of the trail. On our way down there were HUNDREDS of people on the trail and we had to wait at various points to allow those coming up to pass the narrow trail, then those heading down to do the same. With steep drop offs on both sides it can be dangerous if not careful. The first 2 miles are well maintained and paved, then you enter ‘Walters Wiggles’, 21 steep switch backs, which takes you to scouts landing, before you begin the last half mile up to Angels Landing itself. Some people just take the hike to this point and not continuing on the last half mile. Be sure to avoid hiking this trail when its wet, raining, in a storm or when there are strong winds. Safety first!
We finished the hike in the later morning and from there headed into town (Springdale) to walk around and check out what was around. We grabbed lunch and went to some of the shops – and ended up spotting a bike rental place. We got to bike rentals for $40.00, for three hours. I highly recommend doing this, as it is a GREAT way to see the canyon. You get exercise, and are able to get off and on as you please, stopping at different little sites and hikes along the way. They supplied us with helmets and a bike lock. Worth every penny!
Since we were camping out in BLM land we went to ‘Zion Outfitter’ for a shower. There is one place in town that offer public showers, for around $5.00, they also do laundry. We went out camped, and played cards. Listening to the sound of the crickets as we fell asleep.
Our last day! Can’t believe how quick this trip went. We got up early, enjoyed the sunrise and headed for the Canyon Overlook, another little hike before hitting the road. The hike was on our way out of the park, so it worked out nicely. It is a quick 1.0 miles out and back trail, with only 213ft of elevation gain it is good for all skill levels and offers a wonderful view of the canyon. We played around with some of the canyons with handstands! On travel days I feel I always need to get a run in, or some sort of workout before sitting for many hours.
After the hike we heading for Spanish Fork again, where we spent time with Craig’s family and enjoyed a good shower and a nights rest before continuing North back to Red Deer the next day.
If you have ANY questions regarding any of the hikes, places we stayed, packing list etc. feel free to message me through email firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram @brookewillson.
Thanks for reading!`
A close girlfriend and myself, along with our dogs, Ellie & Timber, decided earlier in the Spring that we wanted to plan some sort of week long road trip, to kick off the Summer. Contemplating various destinations for a bit, we decided on Whistler, BC, with a couple stops in between. I had been twice before, though Alanna had never been, so it was the perfect opportunity to check that off her bucket list, which it had been on for quite some time. We set out on June 27th, arriving back home, July 2nd. Our itinerary was large, and km numbers ahead was quite big, but that didn’t scare us away. Nothing like some good company, road trip snacks, great tunes, and stops along the way, to pass time rather quickly. The drive is also half of the road trip fun. Who agrees!?
June 27th – Starting in Red Deer, Alberta, we drove for 3 hours West, tackling a hike the first day, just off the Icefields Parkway. We hiked to Helen Lake, with the dogs, a 16.7km heavily trafficked out and back trail. With an elevation gain of 754m. The trail is best used between June and September. Dogs are welcome, though they must be kept on leash, and remembering to pick up after them. It was also very hot, with temperatures hovering around 28-30 degrees celsius. Extra water is never a bad thing on a day like that, luckily there are creek beds that you do cross along the way, and the lake at the top, making for great rest stops and drinking opportunities for the dogs. It was also a great way for myself and Alanna to cool down!
From there we continued West, stopping at Takakkaw Falls (pictured beside), just before Field, BC, before making our way to Golden BC, where we checked into a campsite for the night. We cooked dinner, had a fire and relaxed, before having to get up for another early morning start. The distance from the hike to Golden was only about an hour and a half!
June 28th- In the morning we got up and headed to Glacier National Park, BC, to hike Asulkan Valley, an area both of us had not explored before. The hike is 12.8kms round trip (6.4kms to the hut). The weather was a bit colder, and rainy, though refreshing! We were one of few on the trail that day, and ended up having to turn back around earlier due to hitting snow and losing trail. We weren’t all that well prepared as well, without tall Winter hikers, and gators. We were approximately 1 km away from the Asulkan Hut, before having to turn around. The valley was stunning and there were beautiful views of waterfalls, and glaciers along the way, and it was a great hike to stretch out legs and tire out the dogs. We will for sure be returning to this hike. It is a great hike all year round, snowshoeing in the Winter, and popular with backcountry skiers. You can reserve Asulkan hut in advance, and stay the night, in the backcountry if you so desire. From the hike we continued to Vernon BC, where we were visiting a friend for the night.
June 29th – We stayed in a hotel, and relaxed, getting up early yet again the following day and set out on a little hike close by, with a coffee in hand, overlooking Kalamalka Lake. After two big hiking days. There are a number of walking, mountain biking, running and hiking trails all throughout the parks. From there we then set out on our 6 hour drive to WHISTLER, the morning hike was a perfect start to stretch the legs.
Arriving in Whistler, we found a campground just a few minutes outside of town, and set up. Cal-Cheak campground is the name, and it is first come first serve, $13.00 a night, with 55 sites to choose from. The sites are heavily treed, and campfires are allowed (when there is no fire ban in effect).
Once we set up camp we headed back out to go and explore Brandywine Falls, which is located only 20 minutes outside of Whistler (and a couple minutes from the campground). This is a perfect stop for those traveling through Squamish, Whistler area, who are looking for a short walk to some unbelievable falls. The trail starts from the parking lot and crosses over a wooden bridge, and train tracks shortly after, continue along until you reach a platform overlooking the falls (70m’s).
You can continue on the trail a short distance for a view of Daisy Lake, or if you are feeling adventurous you can continue down to below the falls for a different view (pictured below).
We did have both dogs with us for this hike, though Ellie, Alanna’s dog struggled a bit more, without as much hiking experience, Timber on the other hand is a little billy goat and had no issues. Again dogs have to be kept ON LEASH. After our hike we headed back to our campsite to cook up some dinner, and were in bed early.
June 30th – It rained ALL night, and continued into the morning, so we didn’t stick around camp for long. We got up, packed up and were gone by 10am, and headed for Cheakamus Lake hike, a 14.3km moderately trafficked out and back trail. There is a 403m elevation gain. The hike was only a few minutes from our campground We didn’t let the rain stop us from adventuring, so we got ready for the hike, got the dogs on the leash, arrived at the trailhead only to read a sign saying ‘No Dogs Allowed’, so unfortunately had to leave the pups behind in the car, and our casual ‘hike’ turned into more of a quicker trail run. Which was okay and a great challenge! Soaked and tired, but it was well worth it. I had hiked Cheakamus Lake in the years prior and the views never disappoint. There were a number of people on the trail, of all ages, and levels of hikers. Some were coming back from overnight hikes, and others heading into camp, others just out for day hikes, and some were trail running. Someone was even hauling a canoe out on wheels, full of camping gear… now that’s some dedication!
From the hike, we made our way back into Whistler Village and checked into our hotel room at ‘Summit Lodge – Whistlers Boutique Hotel and Spa’ AKA @summitlodge , where I have stayed with a couple times in the past. The first two times I stayed I did not have Timber, though this time around we both had our pups, and they are well known for their hospitality with dogs! They even have their own insta feed @summitlodgedogs . We all immediately felt the love and a warm welcome from the hotel. Summit Lodge is located in the heart of Whistler Village, just minutes in walking distance from Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
Visit: https://www.summitlodge.com/ to read more on the hotel. It felt SO good to be in a warm cozy hotel room, after a couple colder, wet nights of camping. We showered up then headed out into the village.
With Canada Day just around the corner, there were a number of people in town, and festivities happening. There was live music in the park that we ended up watching after dinner. The orchestra was unbelievable, nothing like a relaxing’ evening after an adventurous couple days. Walking around Whistler is a treat in itself, with so many outdoor, ice-cream, coffee shops and endless restaurants and pubs to choose from. Also, an iconic picture with the olympic rings, is always a must.
I was shocked at the number of dogs also walking around the village, and the shops whom welcomed our pups with open arms. Whistler is a great dog friendly place, if you have a fur baby, though being aware a number of hiking trails within the area are not dog friendly, Garibaldi Park specifically does not allow dogs on their trails. LUCKILY @summitlodge does have dog sitting/walking services, if you are wanting to head out hiking, and are unable to bring your dog with you.
July 1st – HAPPY BIRTHDAY CANADA!
We woke up and headed for a hike that had been on my bucket list for QUITE some time, and have seen a number of photos from in the past. Why not kick off Canada’s Birthday by celebrating its beauty, hiking? We thought this was the perfect way to celebrate the amazing country we live in, and are blessed to call home. We left Ellie and Timber in the hotel room, for the few hours we planned to be out hiking, and ran into the village quick to grab a treat for the hike. There are cute coffee and treat shops everywhere!
We then headed for Wedgemount Lake, in Garibaldi Provincial Park, which was only ten minutes from the town. It is a 10.3km moderately trafficked out and back trail. The hike is rated as difficult, more so for the quick elevation gain, the gain is 1, 200m ! It is a very popular trail, for those wanting to camp overnight at the lake, where we came across a number of people coming down from a chilly night of camping, and on our way down we passed a number of people hiking up to spend the night. I already can’t wait to return back and do the same one day soon! The hike is best used from July – September, as it takes a bit for the snow to melt (there was still plenty of snow at the lake when we arrived). Even though it was crazy steep, and we were dripping sweat, it was well worth every step.
The hike took us about 4 hours round trip, 2.5 up and 1.5 down, though we were trekking pretty quickly. I would say on average it would take 6 hours, at a moderate pace, with breaks. We only stayed at the lake for about 15 minutes, as there were crazy winds, and also wanted to get back to the dogs at a decent time. It felt so great to kick off the day with a challenging, yet rewarding hike. From there we headed back to Whistler Village, cleaned up and took the dogs out for a long walk. There are a number of trails all throughout the village, and nearby, that are great for walking the dogs. We sure put on a number of kms everyday, from hikes, to dog walking, to simply exploring all around, wherever it is that we were.
We headed back to the hotel, to settle the dogs back in, and then headed out into town in search of some good eats! We treated ourselves to a tasty dinner at HY’s Steakhouse, before going back out, grabbing the dogs, and enjoying another night of live music in the park. Timber even dressed up in his Canada Day shirt. The orchestra was playing again, and we were able to meet up with some friends of mine, who are locals in the area. Overall a PERFECT last day, spent in Whistler. Every Canada Day, the village puts on a spectacular firework show, though due to the rainy conditions this year, that started again once the night came, the fireworks were a ‘no-go’, though it was a perfect day nonetheless.
@summitlodge is well known for its spa services and hot-tub, which if we had brought our swimsuits, would have been the perfect, relaxing way to end a long day of hiking! There is always next time 🙂 They also had little snack and candy samples, and drinks available for guests in the lobby, and coffee! Always coffee. Alanna, myself and our pups very much enjoyed our time spent with @summitlodge and already cannot wait to return to the area! There is so much more to explore and do. From endless hiking, to mountain biking opportunities, the sea to sky gondola, and more.
July 2nd – We woke up EARLY and started our 14 hour drive back to Red Deer. Straight through. Even though we had a long drive ahead of us, it was worth every km of driving there! What a trip. Great conversation and memories made. Until next time!
Another successful trip, with thanks to @keencanada . I brought with me on the hike, two pairs of shoes. The Terradora Waterproof Mid Hiker for during the day, along with the Terradora Ethos, for at camp, both pictured below.
How did this trip come about?
In mid July I was on a backcountry camping trip with some friends, out to Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Just like any other hike or backpacking trip, you come across others on the trail, who are just out day hiking, or camping as well. One of my favourite parts about getting outside and these types of activities, are the people you meet along the way. Also when you are out somewhere with no service at all, it lets you be even more in the moment, conversing with others on the trail, at camp and around the campfire at night.
At our second campsite we had met a couple guys who we ended up visiting with all evening. The morning after we were planning to hike out, and they asked us if we wanted to join them in a different more ‘adventurous’ path out, different than the one he originally planned. We agreed, and ended up joining them. Aaron and I began chatting about other trips we had up and coming this summer. Aaron mentioned that him and him, his sister and her friend had the North Coast Trail booked for 5 days out on Vancouver Island. The NCT (North Coast Trail) was a trip I had on my list for a while now. I hiked the West Coast Trail last summer (pictured below) and was looking forward to getting back to the island. He told me I was welcome to join, and so I agreed!
We swapped info and soon enough we were all making plans to go and hike mid August. His sister ended up not being able to do the hike due to an unfortunate concussion, and it was a trip they had planned to do together so we then had choices to make… Juan de Fuca was an alternative trail, along with doing some ‘touristy’ things on the island. Nothing like last minute changes!
The Juan de Fuca trail is a 47km trail that begins just South of the more popular West Coast Trail. We decided to do the trail from North to South, though you can approach it from either direction, and can even start at different points throughout it, if you are not wanting to hike the entire duration. A few beaches along the route are also accessible as day use beaches/camping as well.
The trail itself is open year round, though most popular between mid June and mid September. Reservations are not required for back country camping, though there is a fee of $10.00 a day per person. You can either pay cash at the start using a self registration envelope, or online. From there you can then make the call as to which campsites you are wanting to stay at along the way, campsites are first come first serve (with the exception of China Beach Campground) – on the South end. There is no limit for bookings, unlike the West Coast Trail takes only 20 people from both the North and the South per day. Even though there was no limit, we still found it not to be TOO busy, which we were a little concerned about to begin with. I do know that during PEAK times some campsites can get a bit crowded, so best to start hiking early in the morning to arrive at camp at a decent time to snag the ‘best site’ with the best views!
Unfortunately due too the wildfires all over British Columbia, there was a fire-ban on, so we couldn’t have any during the 3 days. The air quality and far out ocean views were also effected due to the smoke, but beautiful still, without a doubt.
Also there is ZERO service on the trail, so be sure to let someone know where you are, or bring an in-reach/spot device. The great thing about this trail is that is is busier, and there are always people on it in the summer months. If something were to happen, you wouldn’t have to go to far to find help, though the devices are always encouraged, especially if you are hiking solo.
Trailheads on the Juan de Fuca
Do I start from the North or South?
If you’re planning to backpack the entire 47kms, then you’ll need to decide whether to start at Botanical Beach near Port Renfrew (where we started) in the North or at China Beach, which is at the Southern end, located just North of the Jordan River. The driving distance between the two ends is approximately one hour, also be prepared for windy roads (I get car sick easily so this wasn’t super fun). We drove from Victoria, and found that doing that hour drive at the start was best, cause once we were done we wouldn’t have to face the windy roads, and would have a shorter drive back to Victoria from there. Aaron’s sister dropped us off and picked us up, though if you don’t have someone who can do that, you will either have to drop a car at one end, then drive to the other OR you can book a shuttle bus through the WEST COAST TRAIL EXPRESS. The shuttle can pick you up from China Beach, just make sure you plan to arrive well ahead of time so you don’t miss it. There is also a bus you can book that will take you from Port Renfrew back to China Beach, if you plan to hike South to North. You can ALSO take a bus right from Victoria, to either trail head if you don’t want to drive a car out.
What if I don’t want to hike the entire 47km?
That’s one nice thing about this trail, is it’s flexible. Like I said at the start, there are a couple of entry points along the way. It’s possible to just do some day hikes, or a shortened version of the trail. You can get to the trail through Sombrio Beach and Parkinson Creek. I did also read the locals know of a road which takes you to Bear Beach but I’m not sure of its location (you may have to do a little more research yourself for that). You can also just day camp at either Sombrio or Parkinson if you would like.
How many days do you suggest taking for the hike?
Well, that would be a individual answer, depending on your fitness level, and number of days you have to work with. We did it a lot quicker then most, 3 days and 2 nights, which meant a lot longer days of hiking, though nothing like a good challenge, right? I read online that it is suggested you take a minimum of 3 nights (which looking back may have been the best option… as we would’ve had more time at each site and could’ve gone a lot slower, making more stops during the day to simply enjoy it. We ran into a couple people along the hike that were powering through the entire 47km in a single day. If you are big into trail running, this may be a great challenge for you to do in one day, or if you are up for a LONG day hike.
What are the campsites like?
Everyone on the trail is asked to camp at the established camping areas ONLY, which have outhouses and bear bins provided. There are NO garbage cans provided along the way. You MUST pack out what you pack in.
There are two campsites in the forest, and the rest are on the beach. The two forest campsites are at km 40 (Providence Cove) and km 33 (Little Kuitsche Creek). We didn’t plan to camp at either of these, as I much preferred the ocean view campgrounds! When you are at Little Kuitsche you can hike down to the beach, though aren’t camping by the water. If you are not planning to hike from Botanical Beach to Sombrio (18km) you will have to chose one of them.
What was your itinerary?
Beginning at Botanical Beach (km 47), we had planned to camp at Sombrio Beach and Bear Beach – which we were told were the two most scenic beaches. We hiked 18kms the first day (from km 47 to 29) and then 20kms the second day (from km 29 to 9). Again these were long days.
Day 1 – We started hiking at 10am and arrived at Sombrio Beach around 4pm, making little pit stops along the way.
It felt so great to be back hiking by the ocean again, as it had been over a year since I hiked the West Coast Trail (which I have a blog post of as well). I LOVE my mountains but I also LOVE the ocean. There’s something great about going to bed and waking up to the sound and sight of ocean waves crashing against the shore.
If you look at the trail map (scroll up a bit) it shows what parts of the hike are rated as, easy, moderate, difficult and most difficult. Sombrio to Bear was rated as moderate.
We hiked down the beach, to a waterfall tucked away. If you plan to camp at Sombrio be sure to check it out. It is located at the Southern end of the beach, if you follow the creek bed up a minute or two into the woods.
Day 2 – Hike from Sombrio to Bear Beach. 20kms. First thing first – wake up, coffee, breakfast. Is there anything better then morning coffee when out camping?
This part of the trek is rated as ‘difficult and most difficult. 99% of people split this into 2, or even 3 days. We Hiked for approximately 7.5 hours, with breaks along the way, but we were powering through. We took a break for lunch at Chin beach (pictured below), which was 8kms in.
We may have underestimated this section a tad. It was continuous up and down, up and down. We did about 1000m of elevation gain, throughout the day. It felt so great to get to Bear beach, and set up camp. Enjoying sunset, before hittin’ the sheets early. After a long day, crawling into your sleeping is such a great feeling. Then add the sound of crashing waves, if that doesn’t put ya right to sleep I don’t know what would.
Day 3 – Hike from Bear Beach to China Beach. 9kms. We planned to have a quick hike out the last day. His sister was to be picking us up at noon, so we left camp at around 830, which left time to stop at Mystic Beach, 7kms down the way.
The lighting in the morning was unbelievable. If someone were to ask what my favourite part of the hike was, I would’ve said the 3rd morning, waking up to this view (above) and hiking for the first km or so (pictured below).
Mystic Beach – Many people do this as a day hike, as it is only 2kms in from China Beach (4kms round trip). You can camp here as well!
What did you pack for food?
Three days, two nights is a lot easier to pack for then 5 days and 4 nights, on the West Coast Trail. I usually am pretty simple when it comes to back country food, every trip I go on I often pack the exact same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Coffee – @kujucoffee
- Oatmeal – I brought individual packets. Though sometimes I will portion out oats in baggies, and then bring brown sugar to add into it. Boil up some water and you’re good! If you need a bit of a heftier breakfast, add in peanuts, chocolate bits, raisins or peanut butter. I often have a difficult time eating TOO large of a breakfast before hiking.
- Granola bars – Clifbar, Kind bars, Solo bars (My three favs)
- Clifbar shot blocks or Honey stingers
- Pepperoni sticks
- Candy! I often bring a pack of skittles or 5 cent candy for a little pick me up.
- Individual seasoned tuna cans (which you can get at any main grocery store) & pita bread – My ideal lunch snack!
- Avocado/hummus tastes great on it as well if you are comfortable packing that in as well.
- Dehydrated meals – Backpackers pantry was my go to for this trip!
I am always open to hearing what other pack for their backcountry trips, as my food choices can become repetitious and boring, but hey it works and I always feel energized. Also always pack a bit extra then you plan on eating! Nothing worse then running out of food, and you burn so many more calories then you think hiking, with a heavy pack on.
What gear did you pack?
- 55L + 10L Deuter backpack
- 0 degree sleeping bag & sleeping pad
- I would recommend a lightweight tarp and tent footprint if the forecast is rain
- Stove, pocket rocket, pot
- Bowl, camping mug
- First aid kit
- Sunscreen & bugspray
- Quick dry towel
- Bear spray
- 2 pairs of shoes
- @keencanada Terradora Waterproof Mid hikers for during the day & my Terradora Ethos for at camp
- Rain jacket & light weight puffy
- One long sleeve, three tank tops, two sports bras
- One pair of capris & two pairs of shorts
- You may want to bring a pair of light weight waterproof pants as well if rain is in the forecast
- Bathing suit
- A buff, hat & sunglasses
- Hiking poles
- 3 pairs of socks
- A pair of light mitts (which I didn’t end up needing, but always bring incase)
- Gators (optional) – due to mud (which there was a lot of)
A reminder: We were super lucky with weather, and had zero rain. Though if is in raining be prepared for a TON of mud, and be cautious when hiking. Hiking poles and gators are a must, along with waterproof covers for your backpack, a tarp and tent foot print. A change of clothes too – nothing worse then having nothing dry to change into when you get to camp/crawl into your tent for the evening.
If you have any questions at all regarding the hike, planning, gear, food anything, feel free to reach out and I will do my best to make suggestions.
After we ended the hike, I still had 2.5 days to enjoy the island, so we did some touristy things! Shopping downtown Victoria, touring parks, and a couple other little hikes, one which is pictured below (Trestle Bridge Hike). Victoria and area in itself has SO much too offer, and I feel I barely scratched the surface.
Again, a huge thanks to @keencanada for making this trip possible, alone with Aaron, for joining me on this adventure and helping me with all my pics. It was the perfect way to end an eventful, adventure packed summer & I already can not wait to get back out to the coast!