Ecuador Packing List

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Howdy! Nine days until I fly to Ecuador and I can tell you, I’m not ready! I’m just beginning to pull out my backpack and lazily toss things inside.  I’ll be in Ecuador for about two weeks. The first week, I’ll be attending and working at a yoga retreat. The second week, I’m planning on climbing a couple mountains. While packing, I always think back to this article and while I can’t pack quite as light as that couple, I’m really going to try to take only the bare minimal on this trip. I’ll need some equipment for trekking and a few gadgets for my photo work, but otherwise not much.

Here’s what I’m taking:

That’s it for now. I plan on taking my hiking backpack and a small shoulder bag to carry everything.  I’ll also pack everything inside big plastic bags for protection. Am I forgetting anything?

 

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Winter (Van) Camping

We like to get outside every chance we get, whether it’s a quick run, a day-long hike, or a weekend camping trip. You can see all of our outdoor adventures here, and more of our Colorado hikes here.

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Last weekend we packed up the van and headed into Rocky Mountain National Park for an overnight adventure! Since winter camping is not a common past time, especially if you have little kids, I thought I’d share some details about our adventure, and hopefully encourage you to take off into the snowy mountains for a weekend of fun.

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Within RMNP, Moraine Park is the only campground that’s open year-round, and in the winter it offers 77 sites on a first-come-first-served basis (for only $18/night!). When we arrived on Saturday, there were a handful of other campers, but most of the sites were open!… at that point, Calder and I considered this trip a success, because it’s often impossible to get a campsite in Colorado without reservations made months in advance.

The Moraine Park area is a wide valley within the park that’s great year-round for wildlife watching and in the winter, it provides a beautiful backdrop for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

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What do you do during a winter camping trip? Much of the same stuff that you do in the summer. Instead of just hiking, you do it with snowshoes, and instead of shorts and a t-shirt, you do it with plenty of layers.

We arrived Saturday afternoon, set up our site and let the boys explore, and then went out for an adventure. Calder skied with Alex on his back while I snowshoed with Luc. Once we got back to the van, we lit a fire and started in on dinner. After breakfast the next day, we headed out to the Fern Lake Trailhead for a long hike, and then we hopped in the car, drove into Estes for lunch, and headed home.
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What gear did we take? Great question. Since we were van-camping, we had the luxury of being able to bring more gear than we would on a hiking trip, but even so, we keep it very simple.

CLOTHES : We are notoriously light packers, and even for this trip we kept it simple. Since we already do a lot of winter day-trips, it’s easy for us to pack our bags with the exact winter layers that each person needs. For each of us, that includes good boots, a hat, gloves, coat, snow pants, and an under-layer. We brought a change of clothes for everyone, but honestly, Alex is the only person that needed extra clothes because he has a knack for covered himself in muck. The rest of us were too lazy and warm to change out of our clothes for day two.

SNOW GEAR : We brought the chains for our van (they are always packed), a snow shovel, a sled, snowshoes, and a pair of skis fitted with AT bindings and skins.

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CAMPING GEAR : I talked about most of this gear in another post on van camping, but I’ll give you a quick run-down here. We brought our camping box that contains all the basic necessities for eating – matches, cookware, camping stove, silverware, french press, can opener, etc. During the winter, we’re serious about a warm and cozy bed set-up, so we bring two extra large thermarests that cover the van bed, and two down comforters, one for under us and one for over. Luc sleeps in the bed with us, while Alex sleeps in his own nest on the floor (he is snuggled into one big down comforter).

ENTERTAINMENT : We rely on nature to keep the kiddos happy while the sun’s out. When we go into the van for the night, we’ve started playing Go Fish and other card games with Alex (while Luc makes it his goal to disrupt the games in any way possible). We also packed a few good books for everyone, knitting for me, and podcasts for Calder.

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FOOD : Just as with the clothes, we keep it simple. For this quick trip, I’ll tell you exactly what we brought (all packed in one large cooler).

  • drinks : coffee, tea, milk, hot chocolate mix, G&T fixings (obvs!), and water
  • lunch/dinner : soup, hotdogs & buns, smoked oysters
  • breakfast : bacon & eggs
  • misc. : marshmallows, oranges, sugar

The soup was leftovers from the previous week. It was actually a blend of this broccoli & cheddar and this creamy chicken – we had a little of both, and the mixture turned out to be delicious! Does that seem weird? We’re soup-mixers from way back (we’re guilty of making soup cocktails at every soup bar we visit). Soup is great for a winter trip because you’ll want something warm, and having it pre-made makes reheating really easy.

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I love to take the fixings for G&Ts on camping trips. The easiest way I’ve found to do it, particularly for a short overnight trip, is to take just the shot (or two) of gin in a flask, and the appropriate number of 8oz cans of tonic from Trader Joes. Those cans are the perfect size for a single drink. And they’re cute.

The smoked oysters may seem a bit random, but they are a common Schu-family appetizer. They are particularly awesome on a cold-weather camping trip when the extra calories may come in handy and when you need something quick to eat while you’re waiting for the fire to get going and your drinks are already flowing.

Our boys love smoked oysters, but I’m sure many wouldn’t even want to try them. Although as all parents know, kids are more risky eaters on camping trips, so if your kids have never had them, your next camping trip is the perfect time to introduce them to this little piece of oily heaven.

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Most of the photos above were from our first day of our trip. The photos below are from our second day. Hot Chocolate in the van, followed by our hike on the Fern Lake trail. The trail is so well-traveled that on the day we went, snowshoes were unnecessary.

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This was our first winter camping trip with two kids, and it was a major success. As I’m writing this post, Alex is talking to Calder about the trip and wondering when we can go again (soon, little guy, soon!). We had a great time, and I’m so happy that we’re introducing the little guys to year-round camping adventures.

I know that getting out into the snow with kids can be daunting on a typical day, so camping may seem like an absurd idea, but really, if you have the right clothes to keep everyone warm, and you’re ready for a weekend of adventure in the snow, you’ll have an amazing time!

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Like Haiyaha Hike

We like a good hike, and every once in a while we have the chance to hike slow, take pictures, and share the adventure with you. You can check out some of our previous Colorado hikes here.

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These are photos from a hike that we took a few months ago, and I just happened to find them here in an unpublished post. I was so sure that I wrote about this hike, but a few searches finally convinced me that I’m crazy.

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I have this thing where once a season full hits, I have a hard time remembering what other seasons are like. When we’re covered in snow, I can’t remember exactly what a hot summer day feels like. And vice versa. You would think that looking at pics would help, but I’m just confused and trying so hard to remember what this hike felt like. Welcome to my twilight zone.
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This is a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, and this page has a great description of the trail and details about getting to the trail head, so I won’t repeat those details. The one thing I will emphasize is that RMNP is CRAZY PACKED during any nice day, including this particular one. It can be really difficult to find parking. They have a park shuttle that will take you to many of the roadside trail heads. If you are flexible, that may be the way to go. Since we had the boys, two packs, and other gear, we chanced it and luckily we found a parking spot, but it was touch and go.  liveseasoned_haiyaha3liveseasoned_haiyaha4 liveseasoned_haiyaha5 liveseasoned_haiyaha6

This hike was particularly nice because the trails take you past a number of small lakes and there are plenty of scenic overlooks. On the day we were there, the weather was in flux. It started out sunny but windy, then there was a light rain, and at the top of the mountain, snow! It made for some pretty beautiful and dramatic scenes, but it’s also a reminder to be prepared for any weather when hiking in the mountains. We dressed in layers, and were comfortable throughout the hike.
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As you can see, we hiked with both boys in packs, which had become our m.o. last fall. Many of the hikes we were doing were well over a couple of miles and involved patches of rugged or steep terrain, so to keep everyone happy, it made sense to carry the kiddos. Even though our boys are bursting with energy, they both were happy to be carried (who wouldn’t be?!).

I love for the kids to be awake and experience nature as we hike, but with some of these longer hikes, it can be nice to plan the hike so that it overlaps with naptime. That’s what happened here. Calder and I still had a beautiful hike, and the boys were happy to nap for a portion of the hike. liveseasoned_haiyaha10 liveseasoned_haiyaha11 liveseasoned_haiyaha12 liveseasoned_haiyaha13 liveseasoned_haiyaha14

Of course, when you get to the lake, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing quite like an alpine lake. The water is clear, cold, and this particular one was slightly green/blue in color. We sat on the rocky banks and ate a little snack before heading back down the trail. We didn’t pack a full lunch because we were saving our appetites for some mountain dogs.
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Ahhh, seeing this photos, I really can’t wait to get back to the park for a winter visit! It’s going to happen one day soon… liveseasoned_haiyaha17

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2017 Resolutions

Want to see how this list compares to the past? Here are my 2016 and 2015 resolutions.

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I know everyone’s not in the same boat, but I love setting intentions and goals for the new year. I like that it creates a challenge within a timeframe. I’m always trying to better myself and create a better home for our family in a number of ways, but saying and writing specific ideas down at the beginning of the year gives me a bit of focus that I don’t have when I just say “become more healthy”, “do more of this or that with the boys”, etc.

I also like that when creating the coming year’s resolutions, we take a moment to look back and reassess how we did the previous year (who am I kidding, since I live with the Resolution Master, our assessing starts in August!). With that in mind, I thought a little looking back would be nice before diving into 2017.

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As I titled last year’s resolution post, it’s always a lot of same same, but different. I’m so SO happy with how well-nourished our family was in all aspects of mind, body, and soul. We ate so well (did you see those farm share posts?!). The boys are growing and learning new physical and mental skills left and right. As a family, we spent so much time outdoors. We filled every weekend and many weekdays with adventures, some big and some little, just like I wanted. Personally, I ended the year feeling really happy and content, and I think this is a reflection of how much I was able to take care of myself with exercise, creative projects, and doing it all while taking care of the day-to-day business without feeling overwhelmed. So, while the world seemed to be crashing down around us (I’m looking at you, presidential election), in our home, all is well.

This year, my biggest goal is just to keep on, keeping on. I want to keep doing all that good stuff, and improve it with a few key goals.

  • 100 sun salutations – last year I wanted to do a sun salutation a day. I kept this up for a long time, but then it fell by the wayside, and somehow I had that mental block where I couldn’t start it again because I had already missed too many days. Why do we do that to ourselves?! Anyway, rather than a daily task, I’m shooting for 100 total (but maybe really 1-a-day, wink wink).
  • sew some clothes with knit fabrics (think sweat shirts, t-shirts, leggings) – I was give a serger for Christmas, and if you know anything about sewing machines, then you know that these are great for sewing clothes (they create the tidy seams that you see if you look inside almost any factory-made shirt). And sergers are particularly handy for sewing knit fabrics because they create a stretchy seam that’s necessary for that material. So, I want to stretch my sewing and clothes-making muscles by making some clothes for myself and the boys.
  • weave! – I also received a table/lap loom for Christmas and am so excited to start using up my crazy yarn stash by learning to weave. My exact goal is to make a wall hanging for one of our rooms. I have this idea to create something that’s actually going to be a combination of multiple individual weavings (more on that in another post!).
  • make a specific curriculum plan for the boys – I’m going to talk about this more in a series of posts, but a quick summary is that the boys are still young and they’re home with me rather than in daycare/preschool. I love it this way, and the educator in me loves to think of ways to integrate learning opportunities in our day-to-day play. It’s been going great so far, but I think it would make me happy to have an overarching plan to some of our play. I know that’s a bit vague, but I’m hoping to explore the idea on the blog in real time.
  • get to Great Sand Dunes NP! – Great Sand Dunes looks like such a crazy place, and it’s in our state! I’m making it a personal goal of mine to get our family there for at least one visit this year. Hopefully it’ll involve camping and a bit of exploring that area of Colorado. eek!

Those are my big goals for the year. I think it’s such a manageable list, but what’s not on it are some of the goals that I keep setting and then not finishing. I’m looking at you, room full of instruments. I would really love to spend more time practicing the piano and violin. I decided not to make it a specific resolution this year, but I’m hoping that as I spend less time changing diapers, I’ll eventually find more time for making music.

I’ve also taken this excitement of the new year to make a few simple changes. I was getting tired of my old exfoliating face wash, so I picked up an alternative that I’m loving (more on that after a few more weeks of testing). I also decided that I want to drink more water, but somehow this seems too lame to be a resolution. I’m doing it and tracking my progress in Streaks (also tracking my daily sun salutations and how much I read), and I hope that’s enough to make me more aware of my water intake, and that in a few weeks it’ll just become habit… hope springs eternal (ha! pun intended).

What about you? Any resolutions that you’re excited about this year? Any that you’re re-doing from last year?

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Winter Break Snapshots

What a winter break we’ve had! We have one more day left tomorrow, and we’re going to do what we’ve been doing the past couple of weeks – spend it outside. It seems like we’ve really hit our stride this year when it comes to embracing the winter. Of course, it’s all about good clothes, a good spirit, and just doing it, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Today, I’m sharing just a glimpse of what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

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We started our break in Steamboat Springs, CO (one of our favorite ski towns in the state!). We arrived at the start of a snowstorm that lasted well into the next day and maybe the day after? I can’t remember. But we still had a great time skiing and snowshoeing all over the mountain.

On our third, and final, day in town, we visited Strawberry Park Hot Springs before driving home. We had been here once last winter, and it was just as magical as I remembered.

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We arrived home the same day that Sarah and our family flew into town, and then every pitched in and helped us prepare to host a big party for C’s office. There was definitely a moment of “what are we doing?!” the night before, but in the end, the party was awesome, the food delicious, the company amazing, and the music pumping.
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The party was followed by a day of rest and then it was off to the mountains to ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad with Santa! We did this last year and I was really excited to do it again. When you arrive at the station, there’s hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts to munch on. Then you board the train and start riding with the excitement of knowing that Santa’s going to come and sit with you to say hi. It’s such a nice way to visit Santa, because there are no lines – you just wait in your seat on the train until Santa gets to you, meanwhile, the train’s moving through the beautiful Colorado mountains.
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Back in Boulder, we did more hiking. christmas_break2016_12

And snowball throwing. christmas_break2016_13 christmas_break2016_14

And then it was off to the mountains again for more skiing and snowshoeing!
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Home for more hiking…christmas_break2016_24 christmas_break2016_25

And here we are, relaxing, making our list of resolutions, and preparing for one more day on the slopes before we’re back to a regularly scheduled week.

I hope your break was full of warmth, family, food, and all of that holiday magic. xo

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads. breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to enjoy new experiences with complete strangers, it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me. I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost for a total of $550 for seven days of retreat at Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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Sticky Waterfall – Bua Tong

During my adventures, I’m often captivated by the natural beauty I witness. I’ve felt the sudden and overwhelming need to hug trees, lay down in the dirt, and literally salute the sun, but every once in a while there is a place that leaves me in complete aw. A place so magical that I know I will visit again because I must show someone else the wonder. Bua Tong is that place. All afternoon I felt dumbstruck. How is it possible that this type of beauty exists in nature? I felt like I was transported to Neverland, there was just no way that what I was seeing and experiencing was real. Was I asleep? Did someone slip me acid? Am I in a storybook? Nope, the earth is really this amazing and I had the opportunity to experience it.  Let me attempt at explaining what I experienced at Bua Tong although surely no words or images will come close.

What is Bua Tong, the sticky waterfall? As unbelievable as it sounds, it’s just that. It’s sticky not slick, so one is able to walk quite easily up and down the slope of it even with water rushing by. What makes it this way? An abundance of calcium carbonate runoff.  Calcium carbonate is commonly found in Limestone, which is what lies under the thick deposits that you see covering the falls. Even though I briefly researched the waterfall (I didn’t look at any photos) before visiting, it didn’t prepare me for the experience.


Walking up a waterfall. How absurd. That’s what I thought while reading about Bua Tong. Once I arrived, I stripped down and slathered on sunscreen all the while keeping my eyes on the handful of people walking up the falls. They were making it look so easy, but they looked athletic and young, surely it was harder than it appeared. Then it was time to try it for myself, I braced myself, felt my core tighten and prepared to face plant as I took my first step. Complete shock and amazement washed over me as I took one step and then another upwards through the rushing water. With my mouth hanging open and my eyes wide, I looked around at my friends, ‘are you seeing this!?,’ is what I’m sure my expression read. Pure bliss and bewilderment followed me around the rest of the afternoon and I climbed up and down, up and down, all around  Bua Tong. The mineral deposits look like white, cloud-like  sponges and actually feel similar though a little bit harder and slightly pricky, the surface even gives slightly under a firm touch.  There were a few patches that were slick, but it is because the calcium carbonate was covered with a mossy slime. These spots are easy to see and avoid.


In the company of only about two dozen other travelers, Bua Tong had truly felt like one of the most enchanting places I’ve ever visited. Usually while traveling you’re forced to share the magic, but here it was all our own. As I looked around, I saw that most people had carved out a little space on the waterfall’s slope to sit in the sun and marvel at where their life had brought them. It was only a few minutes later that I joined my best friend, Natasha, on a sunny log in the middle of the rushing current to simply be. As I lay meditating, tiny tickles of what I thought were mosquitoes kept dragging me back to the outer world. It was in the midst of one of these tickling sensations that I opened my eyes and realized, it wasn’t mosquitos at all, but dozens of colorful butterflies. I closed my eyes again, determined to be at peace with each coming sensation. As I reflected on my weeks in Thailand, the friends in my company, my path in general, I had the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that materialized as a single teardrop from each eye. Life is beautiful. There is magic everywhere and I have so much to be grateful for, sometimes it takes a trip to never never land to remind you that every single day is a gift to be cherished and spent wisely, whether you’re climbing a sticky waterfall or navigating your work week.


Are you ready for a spiritual awakening? Kidding, but here are more details on how to reach Bua Tong and what to experience while you’re there.

What to pack:

  • Money for gas and snacks
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Book
  • Camera
  • Dry bag/waterproof bag if you have one
  • Long sleeve or sweatshirt (the ride home will be a little chilly)

How to get there:

Located over an hour outside of Chiang Mai, Bua Tong isn’t on the beaten tourist track, but still worth a visit. We rented motorbikes for the duration of our stay in Chiang Mai, which costs roughly 200-300b per day. I personally enjoy driving and navigating through crazy Thai traffic, but to some this may seem dangerous or unappealing. If you are in the latter group, you can ask your guesthouse or a tour operator for a songtaue to Bua Tong, but because it’s so far outside the city, it will be kinda pricy for Thai travel standards. I would find a cool crew the day before and convince them that they need to join you on this quest, that will surely reduce the price of the songtaue. If you’re in the former and you’re down to drive a motorbike, download either the app maps.me or google maps and download the northern Thailand map, while you have wifi that way you’ll have to problem navigating to Bua Tong. It really isn’t too tough and once you are about twenty minutes outside Chiang Mai, the traffic really slows down. I think driving the motorbikes to and from Bua Tong really added to the adventure and it was nice exploring the falls at our own pace instead of knowing a songtaue driver was waiting around for us.
What to explore :

Obviously you came for the sticky waterfall. If I were you, I’d take the stairs all the way to the bottom, stash your bag on a log (most people left their bags near the bottom of the falls unattended, I did the same and didn’t worry about my $3,000+ camera once, but do what feels comfortable to you) and start the climb up. Find a nice space to sun yourself midway or hike all the way to the top in one go. Now it’s time to hike down. Slightly scary, but equally easy. There are several ropes along the way to offer support in tricky areas  and ensure your decent is safe. Don’t you dare chicken out and take the stairs back down. You only live once. Once back at the bottom, continue a little further than the bag drop area where the stairs end. You’ll find another smaller waterfall with a shallow plunge pool at the bottom. Submerge yourself and dig your toes down into the soft, glittery sand, you did it.


After you’ve had your fill of the waterfall, hike back up to the tip and explore the natural seven colored fountain. Even if you’re famished and tired (we were both) you can make it to the fountain. It’s less than a five minute walk and it’s a wooden boardwalk the entire way. You’ll be amazed at how insanely clear the water is and you’ll enjoy leafy jungle views on the way to and from.

There’s also another short hike depicted on a large wooden sign near the entrance to the fountain trail, we decided against it only because we were sure to die of hunger (or morph into hangry demons) at any moment. We contemplated buying a snack from the small restaurant on site and then completing the hike, but we wanted to have time to stop on the road for a late lunch and return to Chiang Mai before dark.


Where to eat & stay:

On the way back to Chiang Mai, we stopped at the loveliest little guesthouse and restaurant. If we had more time, we certainly would have stayed the night. The guest house is called Howiman or Horwiman. You pull off the road across from Lhongkhoa Resort and head straight down the dirt hill, you’ll immediately see a grouping of dark wooden buildings on the left and you’ll probably hear a yapping little dog, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. If we could have stayed and drank our Chiangs in frosty mugs all evening we totally would have. Next time I visit Bua Tong I will.  


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A few of my favorite things…

Oh Amazon, how I love you 364 days a year, until Amazon prime renewal day when you swipe a hundred bucks out of my bank account. I’ll show you! I’ll just order a bunch of stuff and get free two day shipping. Hah! Makes sense, right? I know, I know, but really, I always end up ordering a bunch of stuff the day after my account gets renewed to justify it all. It’s called Sarah science guys. Here are some items I ordered, some items I want and a few others that I already own, but use pretty much every day. Most would make great gifts. Fa la la la la la la la la…

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My essential travel gear includes a well-made backpack, a hydration system, a sleeping bag to stay cozy and a light to guide the way. Here’s a gift list for the adventurer in your life.

While adventuring, I’m either hiking, practicing yoga, bouldering, or simply being.

If I’m simply traveling around town for the day, I always take my mason jar, cuppow and holdster.  My phone of course, handy dandy chapstick & balm, and a camera.

If I have no errands to run, it’s likely I’m inside trying to stay warm, dressed in a onesie, under my blankets, reading a good book or coloring this hilarious (for adults only) coloring book.

If my friends are stopping over, I’ll light a candle, prepare a cheese plate and pour some wine. To keep them occupied, I’ll put on a record and set out some of my favorite coffee table books – one, two and three. We may even get into a game or two.

If we’re talking gifts, you can never ever go wrong with a nice pair of socks, comfortable slippers, blooming tea and duhhhh luxorious body oil – although you may have to provide the massage.

At the end of the day, as much as I loooove Amazon, I’m a total sucker for local, handmade goods. If you can meet the maker and purchase items made with love and intention, you’re the real winner. This past weekend, I bought some Christmas presents from these lovely makers and shakers : Haand . Gather Goods Co .  Lo & Behold . Shop Wind Blown . JaxKelly . Kate & I also stocked the Live Seasoned Etsy Shop for the holidays – there are even some goodies for the littles in your life.

I also make an effort to buy beautiful goods from thrift stores and vintage shops. There are always treasures to be found, you just have to dig a bit. I don’t want to give away any surprises here in case my siblings are reading, but oooo did I find some sweet steals from half a century ago. More on that after Xmas.

Full disclosure : if you purchase anything through these links we’ll get a few cents from each purchase. It doesn’t increase the price on your end, but it helps us out a little bit. Cheers!
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Happy Mountain Day!

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Sup mountaineers! Did you know that yesterday was International Mountain Day? In 2003, the United Nations designated 12/11 as International Mountain Day. A day meant to encourage the international community to organize events at all levels in order to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Of course, with all the crazy going on this month, we missed it. We missed national letter writing day too, but I’ll fill you in on that another day. Anyway, this year’s theme is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity. From hiking the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, to climbing Mt. Agung under the stars, to trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I’ve experienced enough mountain magic to be hook. Mountain spaces are sacred, enchanting and come with an immense feeling of satisfying insignificance like I’ve never experienced elsewhere.

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If you’ve ever wandered high up into the mountains, you will have noticed that remote mountain villages are home to ancient cultures and traditions. These traditional lifestyles are largely determined and linked to sustaining a living in harsh and remote mountain landscapes. Isolation helped to create and maintain immense diversity between villages and allowed these cultures to stay intact. Of course, as decades pass, mountain populations experience change and culture loss through migration and urbanization.

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Whenever I experience remote mountain life, I’m captivated by the use of land, for farming, raising animals and capturing fresh water. Mountain people are so in tune with their unique environment and how to properly respect it while gaining what they need to prosper. Mountain people’s deep respect and attachment to the land quite often has religious ties. Mountains have commonly been revered as the home of deities throughout history because of their fresh water sources and their seemingly close proximity to the sun. It’s no coincidence that you often see crosses, pilgrimage sites and places of worship high on mountain tops.

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Obviously I’m quite conscious of my place while visiting mountains. I’m always a guest, a traveler, an ambassador of society at large and therefore I take my role very seriously. As much as possible, I strive to find community-based tourism that I can support. Tourism that will help maintain the culture, not parade it around and inevitably degrade it. I also distribute my dollars broadly to local people. Spending a little bit here and there, not a bunch in one place. Lastly, I ensure everything I hike in with also comes back out and of course I respect the ecosystem by not wandering off trail. As a visitor to these spaces, I have a big responsibility in ensuring these ancient cultures continue for future generations to experience. Hiking into mountain villages is like stepping back in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking and there’s no way I can aptly describe it, but maybe these images from the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will help a bit.  10-14-15-web-muktinah-3310-09-15-web-upper-pissang-77 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-88 10-09-15-web-upper-pissang-10110-11-15-web-manang-57 10-11-15-web-manang-62 10-11-15-web-manang-8010-13-15-web-new-phedi-82

I’m planning a trip to Nepal for October & November of 2017. Want to join me on a trek?

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