• Cool Down with a Kayak

    You guys know my forever fav outdoor activity is hiking but when you live in Arizona, hiking can be a brutal hobby.

    Before summer arrived I invested in a kayak to both keep me cool and keep me sane. When I get cooped up inside during the summer I start to get totally bummed!

    Before I got my kayak, there were two factors preventing me from making the purchase:

    1. Where would I store a kayak?
    2. Am I going to put it on my car incorrectly and lose it on the freeway?

    I eliminated both of those concerns by getting an inflatable kayak!

    The kayak I bought was $80 on Amazon.  I waited to test it out a few times before writing a post on my experience and now I can happily report, I AM OBSESSED WITH THIS THING! It folds up to to be the size of carry-on luggage and it’s super easy to set up!

    I was afraid it would be flimsy or easily pop but it is durable and sturdy! I have had so much fun taking this to spots all over Arizona!

    The kayak comes with a foot pump but I highly recommend investing in an electric handheld pump and plugging it into a power convertor connected to your vehicle. It will save you time and frustration.

    Keep in mind, in most places, you are required by law to wear a life jacket. I got mine for $20 bucks at Walmart. I bring my dog Ace kayaking so he has a lifejacket too. I found his on Amazon.

    Also, summer comes with danger from Monsoon storms in Arizona. Make sure you check the forecast and if there is any risk for thunderstorms in your region you need to reconsider your plans. If you were planning to kayak on a river or tributary you should absolutely not go kayaking if there is inclement weather forecast in the region.

    Okay now back to the fun stuff! Here’s where I went kayaking and you can too! Even if you don’t want to buy a kayak, you will find rental information below.

    1. Lake Pleasant: We dropped the boat in at Pleasant Harbor and even took a lunch break at Dillion’s BBQ. It really was quite pleasant but I highly recommend going early and getting off the water by 1pm before the big boats take over and sadly some of their operators are intoxicated.
      • Address: 40202 87th Ave, Peoria, AZ 85383
      • Rentals:
    2. Show Low Lake: This is a small lake but it’s just right for a calm afternoon on the kayak. It is ambient and the scenery is beautiful with pine trees surrounding the water. Only boats with 10 horsepower or less are allowed.
      • Address: 5800 E. Show Low Rd,Show Low, AZ
      • Rentals:
    3. Watson Lake: I love this lake so much I almost felt I shouldn’t share, but I trust my readers treat every spot they visit with respect. Please prove me right. Watson Lake is magnificent. It is small and full of kayaks and paddleboards. It has unique formations called Granite Dells where you can even “island hop” and go for little hikes. See pic below!
      1. Address: 3101 Watson Lake Rd, Prescott, AZ 86301
      2. Rentals:

    Last thing… bring cash for parking/fees!

    Now you’re ready to have a kayaking adventure of your own!

  • Here with Her: Emiley Stroud

    Emiley Stroud is an adventurous mama and military wife. This is her story:

    For as long as I can remember, I thought about what was next — how hard I was going to have to work to get from here to there and if I could only just make this one thing happen, then I would be happy… Then I could slow down and enjoy things. It was an insane way to live and I ended up missing out on a lot because of it. By the time I graduated college, I had worked for a few of the biggest names in sports, a newspaper in a top ten market and got a job right out of school — something most people dream about. A few years into it, I got burnt out. I lost my passion and myself. All the years I spent climbing a ladder that was leading me further and further away from who I was. 

    About that time, I got married and my husband deployed for the 4th time. I didn’t know how to handle the stress of him being in another war torn country, on the other side of the world for 7 months with barely any communication. I needed an outlet for all the worry that came along with being an infantryman’s wife. I needed a way to deal with not being able to talk to him or know whether or not he was ok.

    Running became that thing for me – it was my outlet, my way of coping and, I believe, the one thing that really kept me sane through it all. It also gave me a lot of time to think — about my husband, about my family and about how my passions had shifted. I realized that there was more to life than a 9-5 and decided to leave my career and the life I had built for myself in Arizona to move to 29 Palms, CA.

    What people assumed would be my biggest struggle — no corporate offices or big time jobs — turned into just the thing I needed. 29 Palms is about as no frills as it gets and in the time I was there, I was able to unbecome everything Arizona had made me into.  I found my way back to me.

    I ran a lot. Hiked a lot and spent as much time with my husband as I could. I started to realize that THINGS didn’t matter. As long as my husband was safe and my family was healthy, I didn’t need much else.

    We’ve since been through two more deployments, the workups that went along with them,had our first child and moved to a place that’s even more remote and secluded than 29 Palms. This time in Coleville, CA where we’ve been able to explore all of what the Eastern Sierras have to offer. I’ve been doing a lot of running, a LOT of hiking and spending as much time with my son, my dog and my husband as possible.

    I’m working again, but my life is much more balanced. My passion is back and I’m sure as heck not going to miss out on anything anymore.

  • Escape the Heat with a Night Hike

    I recently got the opportunity to collaborate with Chirag Patel for a photoshoot. Chirag takes the kind of photos that prompt you to stop scrolling through Instagram, pause and truly appreciate the talent it took to capture nature so beautifully. Chirag’s specialty is taking mesmerizing night portraits.
    Check out some of the photos he took of me at Piestewa Peak.
    Night hiking is truly an experience unlike any other. At night everything is different…sparkly…magical! With it being dangerously hot during the day, it’s the right time to take up night hiking at trails that permit it. I’ll have details on which trails are open plus gear at the end of the post.
    Chirag is so comfortable night hiking, I wanted to share his story and advice with you in this interview.
    Kristen: When did you start night hiking?

    Chirag: I started night hiking accidentally a few years ago, when I used to hike up Thunderbird Mountain and Deem Hills at sunset to capture the Full Moon rising.  After I would capture the Full Moon rise, I quickly realized that it was dark and I had to hike back down the mountain in darkness.  It was a pleasant, surreal, and eerie experience at first, now it is an exhilarating experience.

    Kristen: What makes night hiking special to you?

    Chirag: Night hikes gives one a different perspective than the known daytime views.  First thing to notice is the sunset and the changes in sky colors as the sun goes below the horizon.  You will notice the beautiful Earth’s Shadow in the sky.  If you are really lucky, you may even see the Earth’s Shadow along with Anti-Crepuscular Rays as shown below.

    Chirag: As the sun goes down, one will also see the city lights come up tracing the popular streets of the city making them come alive with street lights and car trails.  See below.

    Chirag: The views become really stunning and spectacular!

    Kristen: Where is your favorite place to night hike regularly?

    Chirag: My favorite night hike is Piestewa Peak using the Summit Trail to the top.  Biggest reason is because it has the best 360° views anywhere in town and it is also the only place within the city where you can hike until 11 pm, legally!

    Kristen: What gear do you recommend for night hikers?

    Being in the desert, one must carefully select gear that is appropriate for the hike.  In the summer, water and snacks are an absolute necessity!  Not having enough water has caused many emergencies and could become very dangerous.  I would also highly recommend headlamps, smartphone with maps, and even a light jacket in case it gets really cool after sunset.

    Kristen You’re an incredible nighttime photographer. Where are your favorite nighttime locations?

    My favorite night time locations are below:

    Piestewa Peak, for its incredible 360° city views. (Hey, that’s Kristen and her boyfriend Neil in the pic)!
    Fremont Saddle on the Peralta Trail:

    Watson Lake in Prescott:

    Kristen: What does it require to take great photos at night? Gear? Patience? Education?
    Taking photographs at night is a bit more challenging due to the lack of light.  But, images can still be captured using long exposures to gather and capture the limited available light.  To capture an image using long exposures requires a tripod and the use of high ISO and longer shutter speeds in the camera.  There are lots of resources on YouTube teaching you the basics of long exposure photography.


    Kristen: You’re incredibly committed to your photography hobby. You even sacrifice sleep on Fridays! Talk about a memorable journey you took to get photos.

    Chirag: Because time is extremely valuable and has to be allocated appropriately between work, family, and leisure, time must be used wisely.  Sometimes regularly sacrificing sleep one day a week to do some night photography and being with the family the by the time they wake up the next day.  Thus, it has become normal for me to be up awake for about 36 hours in a row once a week.  My typical Friday/Saturday consists of working all day, coming home for dinner with the family, hiking and photographing all night, and spending the rest of the day Saturday with the family.  I finally sleep Saturday night after being up awake for 36 hours.
    Kristen: What would you say to someone who is nervous to try night hiking?

    Chirag: Your headlamps will make it seem like daytime on the trails!  It is very comforting when you can see everything.  Here is one available on Amazon that is rechargeable and extremely bright.

    I can’t thank Chirag enough for his photos and insight. Please give him a follow on Instagram.

    As of April, night hiking is now a regular hobby for me! I had a bad experience with buying a headlamp online so I highly recommend heading to see my friends at Just Roughin’ It Adventure Company in Scottsdale. They’ll also give you a ton of advice and answer your questions. Just Roughin’ It is a shop and a tour service so you’re talking to the experts!

    If you aren’t afraid of buying online and don’t want anymore advice, then check out my head lamp online. It is Black Diamond, a great price point and is very bright!

    Keep in mind, it’s cooler than daytime but if you’re night hiking from June- September it’s still going to be toasty so you need to bring just as much water as you would for a day hike.

    I also always bring a spare flashlight, snacks and a first aid kit.

    Watch out for snakes. As I embarked around sunset for my last night hike, a park ranger stopped to tell me a lot of rattlers were out and warned me to be careful.

    If you’re hiking with a pet, remember the temp has to be below 100 degrees to legally take them hiking in many areas so make sure the temp has dropped. 90s are still toasty for dogs. I only hike with Ace when it’s 85 or cooler. If your dog handles 90s, well definitely clip a light to them. Here’s one I like.

    Let’s talk about where to go night hiking. You can’t just go anywhere. Try hiking at night at the wrong spot and your car will get towed!

    Here are some places where you can night hike but keep in mind the gate into the parking lots typically close at either 7:00 pm or 9:00pm and the gates to get out close at 10 or 11pm. It’s night hiking, not OVERNIGHT hiking.

    Click on each area listed for more details on trail times:

    Phoenix Mountains Preserve

    Trails until 11:00pm

    South Mountain Regional Park

    Trails open until 11:00pm

    Lost Dutchman State Park

    Trails open until 10:00pm

    White Tank Mountain Regional Park

    Open until 10:00pm on Friday & Saturday

    Note: Camelback Mountain closes at Sunset.

    Have fun, be safe and let me know how your night hike goes!

    Make sure you’re following me on Instagram.

  • Here with Her: Jackie Blackburn

    Meet Jackie Blackburn, founder of She Guides The Way. This is her story of how the outdoors raised her self-esteem, transformed her career and helped her (in her words) drop the “bullshit stories”.

    Feet grounded, heart open, arms stretched out wide and head tilted back, flowing in the energy of the sunset on the side of a mountain. For me this is a sacred space of aligning with I who really am. Basically, dropping  all of the bullshit stories I carry in my mind and in my body. The stories of not being good enough, being too much, basically being too whatever everyone thinks I should be, our do, or look like. Most importantly finally actually loving who I am and know I am enough just as I am, for the first time in my life. The letting go wasn’t anything that I had learned, this is what my soul was crying out for.  So I asked for guidance and I went with it, I trusted my inner-knowing to begin teaching me how the Universe really thought of me and how it wanted me to let go of my perceptions of how the world is and it did all of this through hiking and connecting with nature.

    When I first began hiking alone, I did so because everyone was busy. Well I couldn’t just wait around for someone so, I created the motto “Make Your Own Adventures.”  I would hike only a couple of different trails, a few hours before sunset.  It helped me to gain my confidence in my abilities especially with my feet and unstable rock.  “Let the feet do the thinking” quickly became my motto, because when you overthink your steps that’s when you fall.  You’re body knows what to do and that is the beauty about hiking, it teaches you to trust your mind, body and soul. This is the part that lights me up, because so often as a child and even a grown adult I didn’t feel capable of doing anything like this. I had my fair share of childhood accidents that made me feel incapable and hiking changed all of that for me. It helped me to completely shift my mindset from fear to I got this!

    With my self-esteem built up, soon I was hiking up the mountain later to meditate and watch the sunset and for me  this was my everything. It quickly became a ritual for me because if you have ever seen an Arizona sunset you know why!  On weekends I would get up early to hike before people were on the trail, sometimes taking a nap on some rocks or reading a book.  As I spent more time on my trail the more I was connecting to the magic I had never seen before. My spirit animal the red tailed hawk kiting over me on numerous occasions. The hooting of great horned owls. Little creatures like lizards, the caterpillars that would you have to walk around, and sparrows tweeting so loudly. Hiking the same trail and seeing the  subtle changes of the seasons over the years.  I like call all of this “Tangible Divinity” because when you pay attention to nature you can see that the divinity that is in all things is also within you. There is Divine Love connecting us all.

    With all of these spiritual truths coming to me as I hiked and finding myself, I was beginning to see a new path being created for me. This would eventually become my life’s purpose of guiding people into their own inner-knowing.  So I created my company, She Guides The Way. I am a Life Coach that likes to get my clients on the trail, connect with nature, tap into their own inner-knowing, all while building their confidence in their capabilities.  I lead Full Moon group hikes that helps people connect with the sun, moon, Mother Earth and Father Sky.  These are powerful ceremonies full of love, healing and intention setting.

    But let’s be honest here for a second, there were always nay sayers and people concerned with my well-being.  Saying things like, “A young woman like you shouldn’t be hiking alone in the dark.” And while I honor their point of view, it has always been my responsibility to stay in my peace and know my abilities.  I was always responsible with the right gear and a head lamp. It is so easy to go on the path of illusions with your fears.  It is a constant resurgence of trusting yourself.  This is how inner-power is built, because at the end of the day no one knows how to live your life better than you.

    You can follow Jackie on Instagram: @sheguidestheway

  • Here with Her News!

    When I started Here with Her I wasn’t exactly clear on what it could become. I knew I wanted to empower women to get outside and feel the freedom I do in nature. As I moved toward this calling I put my faith in a higher power to guide me. I wrote this prayer:

    “I know you put this dream in my heart because you want me to see it through. I will walk in your path as you guide my steps. I turn my fears over to you and trust in your plan. Thy will be done.”

    The path started to become clear when I posted this picture (above) from The Moanalua Valley Trail in Hawaii. I wanted to share this moment of pure elation on my hike through the most breathtaking beauty I’ve ever seen. For the first time in my life I didn’t care that I was about to post a photo with my hair totally out of place, my crow’s feet showing, no fake lashes, no eyeliner. I wanted to share my experience, my accomplishment and my bravery on this hike.

    Up until last year, I placed my value on my appearance. I thought what my body looked like was more important that what it was capable of. I needed my physique to be perfect, my hair to be glamorous, my lashes to be long and my skin to be free of any imperfections. It turns out, I didn’t actually care about any of these things to please myself, I cared about them to please others.

    I spent my entire adulthood in the TV industry where I had to endure cruel opinions about my appearance. I felt ashamed about the way I looked. I was born with light blonde hair that grew to my hips by middle school. I got curves at 14 years old. I was told so many times during my career that my hair was too blonde for TV. I looked too much like Barbie. My boobs were too big and needed to become less of a distraction. I endured the humiliating experience of having a consultant take me BRA SHOPPING. It was reinforced for many years that no one would take me seriously because of my appearance.

    Do you know how much that hurts? To be told your appearance is going to hold you back regardless of your effort, skills or intelligence?

    Somehow public judgment of my appearance was worth more than my talent.

    Unfortunately, I believe most women understand this pain. For one reason or another, the way we look seems to somehow be used against us at some point in our lives. For some it’s because we are a so-called Barbie, others are considered overweight, some are judged for the color of their skin, maybe they’re considered masculine. I mean, we’re too skinny, not skinny enough, we’re too old, we’re not old enough… BLAH BLAH BLAH!

    The pressure for me to change and look another way doesn’t align with who I really am. Succumbing to judgment does not align with who any of us really are.

    When we get outdoors there is no judgment. Nature doesn’t think I’m too blonde. Nature doesn’t get offended by my curves.  Nature doesn’t mind my wrinkles. Nature doesn’t care that I bite my nails and have an autoimmune disease causing my hands to peel.

    Nature only cares that I show up for her.

    The person I am out here… this is who I really am. Out here, I don’t think about what I look like. Out here I just think about how I feel. Out here I don’t think about my legs having cellulite, scars and stretch marks. I think about where my legs can take me. Out here I don’t worry about judgments. In fact, I don’t worry about anything.

    I thank God for giving me a love for the outdoors. The outdoors saved me from a superficial life. The outdoors saved me from this trap of trying to be perfect. The outdoors saved me from the prison of public opinion.

    From here forward, I am dedicating this brand to not only sharing beautiful outdoor destinations, but also to sharing stories of how nature has helped women defy society’s insane expectations of them.

    So please ladies- share your stories with me. Tell me how nature has helped you see the REAL you. Tell me how it’s changed your life for the better. We want to hear your story. We need to hear your story.

    Please tag @here_with_her in your Instagram posts and use #herewithher. You can also send an email with your story and photo to

    Thank you for your support!

  • Checking In: The Tavern Hotel

    You can get quite cozy in Cottonwood at The Tavern Hotel. I enjoyed this stay so much I am already looking forward to our next visit! Every detail made me feel comfortable from the patio furniture to the luxury shower.

    This darling boutique hotel is just a 90-minute drive north of Phoenix. The building, just like the city itself, is historic and charming. The historic building was a grocery store in 1925. It was preserved and transformed into a hotel packed with luxury accommodations in 2011.

    Now the hotel offers 41 gorgeous guestrooms, two plush penthouses and even an entire cottage!

    Our stay landed us at the cottage and we couldn’t get enough of our accommodations. We had our own huge seating area with comfortable adirondack chairs all to us. When we stepped inside, we couldn’t believe the amount of space we could have all to ourselves.

    The cottage includes:

    -A full living room with a leather sectional couch

    -A full dining area that could seat seven to ten people

    -A full kitchen and bar counter that seats four (stove, microwave, huge fridge, pots + pans, too!)

    -Two bedrooms that sleep two people (with the comfiest pillows ever!). Each bedroom has a TV and a large closet

    -A bathroom with a large counter, double sinks and a gorgeous shower (seriously, the tiles are insanely pretty)


    The cottage would be perfect for a family adventure, a girls’ trip or a bachelor/bachelorette weekend. The two bedrooms have very unique pieces of furniture and accent pieces. Some of the items were so cute, I was checking for tags to see if I could figure out where to buy them! (Does anyone else do this?!)  I especially loved the metal yellow chair pictured below.

    The kitchen is spacious and bright with a white backsplash, hardwood floors like the rest of the cottage, and stainless steel appliances. There’s even a cute tea kettle!

    Beyond the cottage, we enjoyed the beautiful lobby and outdoor areas. From wall art, to the landscape and seating areas near fireplaces, we couldn’t get enough of the property. By the way, all of the cute decor makes this property INCREDIBLY instagrammable. 🙂

    When we did pull ourselves away from the hotel, we were pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do in Cottonwood! The first thing I recommend you do is head to The Tavern Grille because upon check in, the hotel hooks you up with complimentary cocktails at the Grille!

    We enjoyed going in the shops right outside our hotel. There was art, apparel, southwestern decor and unique southwestern souvenirs to be found in Old Town.

    If you want to do some more exploring, just hop in the car for a short drive to Jerome. Jerome is known for paranormal activity to most, but for me I know it for the incredible shopping and extremely unusual sights including creepy old buildings and fascinating artwork.

    The shops here are just different. I always find something I have to buy but wouldn’t have known it even existed without a trip to Jerome. This trip that something was a book on colorstrology. I also fell in love with kaleidoscopes at one particular shop called Nelly Bly. I did not buy one but I sure wish I did. As they say, “nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy.”

    There are also some incredible views so take advantage of the elevation!

    We finished our night with pizza and beer at Pizzeria Bocce. This spot has a great selection of local beer (the key to my heart). I tried the Grand Canyon Brewery pilsner and it did not disappoint. I think a crisp, golden beer is always perfect with pizza. You have to get the Pesto Chicken pizza. The combo of pesto and ricotta cheese with chicken and mozzarella was perfection!

    Before heading out of town, we redeemed our breakfast vouchers from the hotel at Crema Craft Kitchen+Bar. Our breakfast was divine but the real treat here is their insane bloody mary served with a hard boiled egg and bacon on top. What a way to start the day!

    We mostly stuffed our faces with food but I do also want to let you know there are wonderful wineries in Cottonwood plus access to hiking and historic site like Tuzigoot National Monument.

    For videos from my trip, head to my Instagram page and watch the “Cottonwood” highlight.

    I hope you can experience Cottonwood and this lovely hotel soon!

    To make a reservation at The Tavern Hotel:

    To shop my wardrobe:


  • Hiking up Holbert

    If you haven’t seen Phoenix from South Mountain, you’re missing out!

    Hiking the Holbert Trail on South Mountain will take you to an Arizona treasure known as Dobbins Lookout. The structure on top was built in the 1930’s and it offers an incredible place to relax and enjoy the highest point you can access on South Mountain.

    Holbert is a 4 mile out and back hike with an elevation gain of approximately 1,000 feet. This hike is rated hard but I would encourage you to give it a try even if you typically stick with the easy and moderate levels. I saw numerous families and puppies who were owning this trail! The elevation gain feels very gradual as you make your way to the top.

    The terrain is rocky but you never have to use all fours to get through the rocks. There is a lot of loose gravel so proper hiking shoes are a must. I am obsessed with my new Merrell kicks. You can shop them here. They’re on MAJOR SALE!

    I have not spent a whole lot of time on South Mountain and I enjoyed seeing the city of Phoenix from this point of view! When you get to the top and arrive at Dobbins lookout, be sure to check out the structure and snap some pics. My friend Hailey and I sat on a bench to take in the view, eat some snacks and bond with the local squirrel friends.

    What I love most about Dobbins lookout is even people with limited mobility can access it. You can skip the hike and simply drive up! I live with a bladder disease called Interstitial Cystitis and for years a hike like this was physically impossible for me. I love when I get to post about a fantastic viewpoint that is accessible to everyone! No one should have to miss out on this scenery.

    Address to lookout: North Summit RoadSouth Mountain ParkPhoenix, AZ 85042

    Address to Holbert Trail: 10919 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85042

    Permits: None required

    Hours: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Dogs: Allowed on leash

  • Find Serenity at Saguaro National Park

    Just south of Phoenix is a pristine national park covered in a sea of saguaros.

    It’s a hiker’s paradise with a wide range of trail options. Instead of seeking a strenuous hike like usual, I opted to hike at a slower pace and soak in the serenity.

    The drive from Phoenix took us two hours. After paying the $15.00 park fee, we went on a scenic 3.5 mile drive through Saguaro West. Acura of Peoria hooked me up with their gorgeous MDX SUV so we had a smooth ride on the otherwise bumpy road. While an SUV is highly recommended, there were a number of people finding their way through the park with small cars.

    We stopped at the Valley View Outlook Trail. This trail is super easy but comes with a heck of a view. It’s only .08 miles out and back. This is friendly for the whole family regardless of their skill level….. or the length of their attention span. It’s only a 36 foot elevation gain!

    My sister and I brought our niece and her best friend. They’re 11 years old and enjoyed the hike. They even stopped at the top to take in the sights while commenting on the beauty and the quietness of the spot. At one point they even pulled out one of our blankets and laid down to take a nap. Talk about relaxation!!

    While the Valley View Outlook Trail is short and sweet, near the start/end point it does connect to another short hike called the Wild Dog Trail. If you do both you’ll get two different views, with a total of hiking 1.7 miles and spending about an hour to 90 minutes walking with minimal elevation gains. The Wild Dog Trail has an elevation gain of 177 feet. Ironically, dogs are not allowed on these trails.

    Our favorite part of this trip was setting up camp in the back of the MDX and just staring at the saguaros blanketing the desert. I grew up in Arizona and I’ve seen a lot of cacti but there’s something extra special about the views at Saguaro National Park.

    While I only had time to explore the west side of the park, I plan to go back and check out the eastern region as soon as I can!

    TIP: If you go between April and June you can catch the saguaro flowers in bloom!

    BE AWARE: Temperatures can reach 100+ degrees in the summer. The monsoon brings the threat of dangerous thunderstorms, blowing dust and flash flooding from June 15th to September 30th.

    Address to Visitor’s Center (West side of park): 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85743

    Permit Price: $15 per vehicle (credit cards accepted)

    Bring: sunblock, water, snacks, hat, sunglasses, a jacket because temps drop quickly in the desert.

    For those of you wanting more info on my ride, the MDX is a 3-row luxury SUV that drives like a dream! While it is a full-size SUV, it’s easy to handle and doesn’t feel bulky like some other big SUVs. The car has beautiful leather seats, a sleek interior, tons of space for friends plus all the gear I needed for our journey. The MDX makes me feel safe and comfortable! Here are my absolute favorite features on the Acura MDX and why I believe it’s the perfect vehicle for a road trip:

    • Adaptive Cruise Control. This feature is incredible. I couldn’t believe how smart this car is! All I had to do was set the cruise control and the car did the rest. If traffic slows, the brakes automatically apply to keep you a safe distance from the cars around you. In stop-and-go traffic it even braked when cars in front of me stopped then accelerated on its own when traffic starting flowing again! This is a dream feature for a road trip!
    • Lane keep assist: If for any reason you start to drift from your lane, you will be automatically guided back to safety. You don’t lose your ability to steer, but if you don’t signal and move out of your lane it will gently steer you on course without jerking the car. It’s amazing! When you do signal, it checks for other cars in your blind spot. A light will come on inside the car near your side mirror if there is another vehicle and you’ll also hear a beep so you know not to move into the other lane yet.
    • Collision Mitigation Braking System: The MDX has technology that uses a radar system and cameras to figure out the speed and distance of cars or objects in the vicinity. If it detects that you got cut off, traffic is slowing or there is anything you could hit it will apply the brakes for you. At this point it also starts alerting you that there is threat of a crash so that you are paying attention and take the steps necessary to avoid an accident!

    To take it for a test drive, call my friends at Acura of Peoria: (623) 385-1478 or visit at 9190 W Bell Rd, Peoria, AZ 85382.

    For more incredible pics from my photographer Zach, check him out on Instagram @Stackary


  • The Crazy Climb up Koko Head

    It will only take you 1,048 steps to get this view. Here’s the catch, those steps are going to be steep. Really steep.

    Koko Head Crater Trail gives you an 800+ foot elevation gain in less than a mile. A guy on our hike pulled out a level app and measured the grade at 81 degrees. Godspeed.

    This was honestly one of the toughest physical challenges of my life and you all know I am an avid hiker. It was just so continuous, so daunting. It was also hot and humid as heck! I took a handful of breaks and made it to the top in about 30-40 minutes.

    The tricky thing is the steps are pretty sketchy. They’re actually railroad ties that create this staircase. They’re what’s left of the railway the military built to send supplies to the top of Koko Head. Up there they had lookouts set up during World War II. The history buffs will definitely enjoy checking out the structures that are still intact.

    When you make it to the top of the steps you could go left or right but you will immediately see those old pillbox bunker buildings. We first went right so we could check out amazing views of the ocean and Hanauma Bay. If you head to the left you’ll get incredible views of the whole island and Waikiki.

    This is a very straightforward little adventure. Here’s a video I made on the journey.

    Your knees will not be happy on the way down. There is one particular section that’s even trickier while descending. There is a part where the staircase isn’t just laying on dirt. It’s actually dozens of feet above ground so if you fall, you’re going to hurt yourself. I took my sweet time in that spot.

    The most important things I can say about this hike are bring lots of water, take as many breaks as you need, and wear shoes with good traction. I would not recommended taking young children or small dogs on this hike.

    Distance: 1.8 miles out and back

    Address: 7604 Koko Head Park Rd, Honolulu, HI 96825

    Parking: Free lot

    Permits: None Required

    You can do it!

  • The Trek to Tonto Natural Bridge

    This is Arizona destination is not to be missed! If you have visitors coming to see you in the Valley, you have got to take the two hour drive up to this spot and show off your scenic state!

    Tonto Natural Bridge is an incredible natural display of beauty in Payson, AZ. It is believed to be the world’s largest natural travertine bridge. It’s beautifully formed by erosion and you can even walk beneath the bridge to explore the stunning scenery within. The bridge is 400 feet long, 183 feet high and 150 feet wide.

    Underneath the bridge, you’ll experience the erosion in action as water drips down the sides and ceiling of the bridge. It actually seems like it’s raining. There are green plants breaking through the rock and thriving. It is truly magical.

    I recommend taking the Pine Creek Trail which is a ½ mile scenic route to get under the bridge. If you like an adventurous trek this is for you! You’ll be climbing big boulders, stepping through river rock, and hearing the sound of a waterfall as you get closer and closer to the bridge.

    You do not have to hike to the bridge. What I love is that a whole family could enjoy this scenery whether they are a little one in a stroller or an adult with limited mobility. This state park provides viewing areas that are just a short distance from the parking lot and have ramps. You can go to one of those areas and look down at the bridge!

    Permit prices:

    Adult (14+): $7.00
    Youth (7–13): $4.00
    Child (0–6): FREE

    To get here from Phoenix you can take Highway 87 all the way to USFS Road 583 and you’ll see the signs to enter the park. Stop in at the gift shop to buy your permits on site (you can’t get them online) and then you’re all set.

    The parks opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. HOLIDAY HOURS: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and CLOSED on Christmas.

    Things to keep in mind:

    • Dogs are allowed at the park but not on hiking trails.
    • The gift shop does accept credit/ debit cards
    • Travertine is very slippery so be careful underneath the bridge