Back at it Without a Bunion
This is my personal experience with the Lapiplasty procedure. Recovery times may vary. Only a healthcare professional can provide the recovery plan that is right for you. The following information about my experience with Lapiplasty® 3D Bunion Correction™ is brought to you in partnership with Treace Medical Concepts, Inc.*
Let’s talk about what it’s like getting back to my lifestyle after bunion correction! I’ve talked all about recovery and now I get to talk about the really fun part- getting back to going full steam ahead toward an active life getting outdoors and chasing a toddler around!
I want to tell you where I was in life at the 16 week post procedure point. This is when I was really able to get back to more extreme hikes, run, felt confident in a workout and walk around the zoo with my son!! If you recall, in the very beginning of this journey I knew I needed intervention for my bunion after going to the zoo with my son as an infant and having to leave because I was in such terrible pain.
I had Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction done in September and by January, we were back at the zoo having the time of our lives and I wasn’t in that dreadful pain anymore. It was an incredible experience to have everything come full circle and know my journey had such a happy ending.
I was also able to return to my favorite hike- Piestewa Peak in Phoenix. This is an intense hike without about an 1150 elevation gain in 2.1 miles. It’s basically an outdoor stairmaster and I love it. I’ve done this hundreds of times but this was my first time without my bunion distracting me. What a dream come true.
In February, I tried something brand new to me and that was snowboarding. Yes, I was snowboarding five months after my surgery! I had the time of my life learning this new skill.
Now, I did still notice some swelling after using my foot so much so icing after activities was still important!
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I love road trips. In fact, that may be why you’re here in the first place! The thought of being off my feet and being unable to drive was a huge reason I put off bunion surgery for more than a decade so I just want to reiterate how happy I am that I did not miss out on more than a few days without driving in my personal experience. I can now drive long distances and in early April even drive my sister and son on a road trip from Phoenix to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks in Utah. We even hiked the famous Navajo Loop and Queens Garden in Bryce.
By now you can probably see why I’m so thrilled with my decision to have this procedure done. It truly changed my life and I’ve made so many dreams come true with my little boy thanks to Lapiplasty. Here’s to hitting more trails and making more memories without bunion pain!
Thanks for following my story. And again, this is my personal experience. Individual results may vary and recovery takes time. There are potential risks. Click here to learn about benefits and risks. *Talk to your healthcare professional about your personal recovery plan as this may not be recommended for everyone.
Hiking After Bunion Surgery
The following information about my experience with Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction is brought to you in partnership with Treace Medical Concepts, Inc.*
I want to continue sharing my personal recovery journey following Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction. Undergoing any surgery is, of course, a huge decision so I want to help you understand what the days and weeks following the procedure looked like for me. Your own results and experience could differ from mine so please check out the Lapiplasty website to learn more about benefits and risks.
I got Lapiplasty done on my right foot in September 2021 and in this post, I want to tell you about my recovery as I transitioned out of the walking boot, got back into normal shoes and really began to live life without bunion pain.
At the 6 week mark following surgery, I was given the green light to transition out of the boot and wear regular, but comfortable and supportive shoes. Now, I had been working since the week following surgery with the boot on but I was very eager to transition out of the boot by mid-October because that’s when my job as an emcee for Arizona’s hockey team began again. I did not want to be navigating the arena in a boot and I was able to wear my normal shoes at that point!
I did, however, continue to wrap my foot with an elastic wrap and apply compression to my ankle. Here’s why: I lost some strength in my ankle while wearing the boot so it was important to understand my limits. In fact, when I was working at the arena from about the 6-8 week post surgery mark, I would still wear the boot to navigate the stairs and walking long distances before and after the game just to make sure I was not doing too much, too soon. I also tried to be diligent about continuing to ice my foot after long periods of walking and/or standing.
I could tell when I was overusing my foot when I would feel that ankle soreness or see swelling near my surgical entry points. As someone who has a tough time sticking to my limits, I needed some discipline to stay on track and remind myself I was still recovering but the great news is that by the time I got to the 9-10 week mark, I started to get my ankle strength back and swelling significantly diminished, even after a lot of activity.
As a hiker, it was really important for me to be cognizant of ankle strength issues as I got back on the trail. If you’ve been following my hikes for a while, you know I typically wear trail running shoes and not actual hiking boots. However, I found it was really important to use actual boots for ankle support as I got reacquainted with hiking. In fact, my hiking boots were so supportive and comfortable at this point in recovery that I ended up wearing them most of the time!
I still didn’t want to overdo it on the trail, especially while balancing my job at the hockey arena so at first I stuck to shorter trails but it felt amazing to be back at it without my bunion hurting! I really started getting back into my hiking flow at about 12-16 weeks after surgery.
Another activity I really enjoyed while recovering was paddle boarding. It felt incredible to be outside living life again . I was so grateful for my relatively short recovery period and the ability to get back on the water and feel comfortable with my balance and coordination.
The 6-12 week mark was also a really important time because that’s when I celebrated Halloween and Thanksgiving with my toddler and got geared up for Christmas. Halloween was at the 8 week point following surgery and as I mentioned earlier, at that time I was still putting the boot back on occasionally when I knew I was risking overusing my foot. A good example of that is when I went trick-or-treating with my little guy. I just didn’t want to face any setbacks after hours on my feet.
I do have a couple of scars from the procedure but they don’t bother me at all. One is on my big toe where the bunion used to be and the other is above my arch. At the 12 week mark I was still applying Vitamin E Oil to them but, honestly, the scars are just a reminder that I made a choice to take control of my future and move forward without bunion pain.
I am so excited to share the next parts of my recovery with you all because not only was I soon able to return to serious hiking, I also started snowboarding! I can’t wait to tell you everything because before this procedure, I wouldn’t have ever believed this was going to be possible for me.
Thanks for following my story. And again, this is my personal experience. Click here to learn about benefits and risks.
*Talk to your healthcare professional about your personal recovery plan as this may not be recommended for everyone.
Getting Back to the Trails Without Bunion Pain
The following information about my experience with Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction is brought to you in partnership with Treace Medical Concepts, Inc.
I started this blog in 2017 because of my love for hiking and the outdoors. I’ve told you many times how hiking healed me, strengthened me and brought me immense joy.
All of that became threatened as a bunion on my right foot worsened and caused severe pain that hindered my ability to hike. I have even finished some of my adventures barefoot because my bunion hurt so badly I couldn’t keep a shoe on. I have gotten really creative with bandages and moleskin to try to mask the pain while hiking Half Dome and I even backpacked out of Havasupai with only socks on (pictured below).
I kept pushing past the pain because I heard how painful bunion surgery is and how lengthy the recovery time would be. Frankly, I heard horror stories about “shaving off” the bunion and you probably have too. I knew I would eventually need intervention but I held out hope for the technology to improve. “Somebody’s going to come up with a better way,” I would think.
In my first year of motherhood, it became obvious the intervention I needed could not be postponed any longer. I wasn’t just in pain while hiking, I was in pain just pushing my son in his stroller. I vividly remember a day at the zoo when he was five months old. I don’t even think I made it 15 minutes before the walking hurt my foot so badly I needed to take a seat. I knew at that moment, I wanted to get my bunion fixed immediately so I could get back on track by the time my little boy wanted to go hiking with me. I mean, if I couldn’t even walk with him at the zoo, how were we ever going to have adventures in the mountains together?!
I went home and dug into research about bunion treatment. Immediately, I came across information on Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction. I learned that this is different from traditional surgery because it actually repairs the unstable joint that leads to a bunion instead of cutting the bump off. I knew this was the treatment I had been waiting for!
The next step was to set up consultations with podiatrists and find out if I was a candidate. At these appointments, the team took x-rays of my foot, told me about the device that would be used to correct my bunion and gave me the opportunity to ask lots of questions. I was mostly concerned about when I would be able to get back on my feet. When they told me I could be in a walking boot within days of surgery, I knew I wanted to schedule surgery ASAP! I got it on the calendar just a few weeks later.
I prepped for surgery by getting ice packs, ibuprofen and arranging for my mom to drive me to and from surgery. The morning of surgery I did have to fast because I would be going under and I arrived at the surgery center about two hours prior to the start of my procedure. The nurses administered a COVID test, got my IV hooked up and went over my health history. My doctor talked to me and checked in to see if I had any final concerns.
The anesthesiologist took time to talk to me about how I would be sedated and numbed. Something I found unique was the approach to minimizing pain. The anesthesiologist actually performed a block on my leg to keep my foot numb for about 24 hours after surgery so I would be completely pain free. This brought me a lot of comfort knowing I would not be in pain when I awoke.
Moments before surgery
In my next post about Lapiplasty, I’ll get into the details of my recovery but what I want to tell you now is this: I am so glad I chose to get this procedure done. I have so much hope for my future now that my bunion is corrected! I cannot wait to continue my healing and get back to hiking.
If you can relate to my condition and have been putting off bunion intervention yourself, I encourage you to learn more about Lapiplasty and schedule a consultation. You can get started here. https://bit.ly/2YNFHOy
Individual results vary. These experiences are specific to these patients only. Lapiplasty® is a surgical procedure. Potential risks include infection, pain, implant loosening, and loss of correction with nonunion. To learn more about the benefits and risks, please visit Lapiplasty.com/Patient-Risk-Information.
No Contacts in This Camp!
I am so excited to share that earlier this year I got LASIK and no longer have to wear glasses or contacts! Getting this procedure done with Barnet Dulaney Perkins has improved my lifestyle tremendously in so many ways but especially when I am camping and enjoying the outdoors in general.
Disclaimer: LASIK outcomes are different for every single patient. Please contact an opthamologist to discuss your personal situation.
I used to dread my glasses/contacts while camping for a few reasons including: my hands were never *really* very clean before putting them in my eyes to take my contacts in out or put them in, when I switched to my glasses at night and it was cold out they would often fog up while I was sipping on a hot drink, campfire smoke irritated the heck out of my eyeballs and last but not least, I felt super vulnerable knowing if anything went wrong in the middle of the night I would have to scramble to find my glasses.
Beyond camping, I always seem to be the person who gets something in my eye on the hike and used to hate dealing with my contacts and slowing the group down or having watery eyes on the summit.
Now, I get to wake up and just start the day with a clear view of my beautiful surroundings. It Is such a blessing! I love not having to think about where I left my glasses, being afraid I didn’t pack them or that I’ll drop so many contacts trying to get them in that I’ll ruin the whole trip (if you know, you know).
I can even go kayaking without the breeze driving my eyes insane. A few weeks after the procedure I went car camping and spent a couple of days on the water at Lake Pleasant. It was a wonderful introduction to my new life with perfect vision.
I got my procedure done in February and it’s crazy to think I’ve been wearing glasses/contacts for 23 years up to this point!
Prior to LASIK, I had a consultation with Barnet Dulaney Perkins to make sure I was a good candidate… I was. Yay! From there we booked the time for my appointment on a Friday morning and this is the most amazing part: it only took about TEN minutes to perform the procedure.
I know the number one question you want an answer to is this: did it hurt? My answer is “no”. It didn’t hurt actually and I was completely freaked out that it would. The team actually gives each patient drops to numb the eyes so keep that in mind. I did feel pressure on the edges of the eyes but that is from the tools used to make sure your eye stays open while the doctor works their magic. Oh and speaking of magic, they also give you a relaxant when you get to the office because let’s be real, the thought of a laser to your eye freaks everyone out!
What helped me the most during the experience was that the team was so incredibly kind and Dr. Scott Perkins talked through each step of the process as he was performing the procedure. I felt like I had known him forever and completely trusted him with my vision. It’s pretty cool that he also performed my mom’s LASIK procedure previously and she raved about how nice he is!
When the procedure was over, I had my mom pick me up and take me home. Once you get home it’s time to sleep it off and keep those eyes shut. I did feel stinging on the afternoon of the procedure but the drops the BDP team sent me home with helped a lot. They also gave me some sweet goggles to wear to sleep to protect my eyes.
A few days after the procedure, my son Teddy (who was six months old at the time) accidentally smacked in the eye while seeking comfort. It hurt a lot and I immediately called BDP. They squeezed me into their packed schedule, checked my eyes for any damage and told me exactly what to do to relieve the pain. My eyes turned out to be fine but that experience spoke volumes about how much the BDP team cares about their patients.
Now that it’s been five months since I got LASIK, I just feel so grateful that this source of stress has been removed from my life.I don’t have to worry about ordering contacts or running out, when I’m sleepy at night I don’t have to go deal with my contacts, I can take a nap without contacts sticking to my eyes and ruining the rest of the day and another thing I love as a mom is I don’t have to worry about Teddy pulling at my glasses!
If you have considered LASIK, I hope my journey has helped you feel more comfortable about the process. You can set up a consultation to find out if the procedure is right by clicking here or calling (602) 975-5015.
If you have any questions make sure you follow me on Instagram @kristenkeogh and shoot me a DM. I would love to chat with you!
Protecting Your Skin This Summer
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month so it’s the perfect time to talk all things sun protection before summer officially starts. I don’t know about you but I plan on spending a lot of time outside so I’m stocking up on sunscreen!
Did you know that serious sunburns can put you at a higher risk for skin cancer?! I don’t mean to scare you, I just want you to know how important it is to keep your skin safe from the sun!
I have a history of non-melanoma skin cancer in my family, so I am very committed to applying sunscreen, getting my skin examined by a dermatologist annually and making sure I’m up to speed on the best ways to protect myself. To date, I have probably had about a dozen moles removed because they posed a cancer threat. In a way it was a blessing to have serious discussions about skin cancer during my childhood because it prepared me to take action as an adult.
So, if no one has ever had the skin cancer talk with you, listen up: you have to protect yourself and your kids!
I talked to Dr. Rita Fisler, a board-certified dermatologist at Epiphany Dermatology in Peoria, AZ for the best information on sun protection possible. Please read and practice her advice!
- How does Arizona compare to the rest of the country when it comes to skin cancer risk? Arizona has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country. We believe this is due to several reasons – first, Arizona has over 250 days of sunshine per year, and also because more people are engaged in outdoor activities throughout the year, compared to many other states.
- What are the easiest ways to protect ourselves from skin cancer? The sun causes DNA damage, which then can lead to the growth of skin cancers and precancers. So sunscreen, sun protective clothing, seeking shade when possible, and avoiding being out during peak sun hours (10-4) are all important strategies. There are also supplements such as Heliocare and Vit B3, which can help reverse the DNA damage we sustain from the sun, but the best way to fix that dangerous DNA damage is to stop it from happening in the first place! We can avoid the more deadly or more aggressive skin cancers by getting regular full skin exams by a dermatologist. And if someone isn’t taking the time to look through your scalp or between your toes, then it’s not a complete exam!
- How do we know if we are at high risk for skin cancer? Anyone can get skin cancer, no matter what the skin type! We have a higher risk for the non-melanoma skin cancers if we have had blistering sunburns, have had a lot of lifetime sun exposure (DNA damage is cumulative!) are fair-skinned, or have red or auburn hair. Risk factors for melanoma include all of the above, as well as a family history of melanoma, many moles, and history of some other types of cancer such as breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.
- What should you do if you see something questionable on your skin? Are there any ways to tell on your own if a mole/spot is cancerous or not? The only way that has been clinically proven to determine if a mole or spot is cancerous is to do a biopsy. Dermatologists spend years learning to recognize moles and spots that might be cancerous, and use tools such as dermoscopy, but even then, the only 100 percent way to tell is to take a sample and have a dermatopathologist look at the spot under the microscope. Many times the spots that patients come in to have me evaluate are benign, but then I will see something else on their back or other parts of their body, that end up being a skin cancer or precancerous mole that they didn’t know they had! That is why we always advise patients get full skin exams, even if they are only coming in for one spot or for another issue.
- For those of us who want to commit a little more to sun protection, what products/protocol should we be aware of? I love the broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) mineral sunscreens that go on easily and provide some DNA repair as well. My favorites are the ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50 lotion, that I use everywhere because it’s light, easy to apply, and gives great coverage and repair, ELTAMD Clear for the face and UV Sport for the body, Skin Better’s Sheer Stick SPF 56 that I use on my face before I go out running or hiking, and Skin Medica’s Total Defense and Repair. I also love the Colorescience powder or the ISDIN SPF 50 powder, that I reapply during the workday to freshen up my protection.
- What are the most common mistakes you see people making when attempting to protect their skin? People forget to reapply sunscreen! They can often make the mistake of thinking that if they apply it once in the morning, that they are good for the rest of the day in the sun. I often try to remind them that chemical sunscreens will absorb the UV light and then they degrade, so there is no longer any protective benefit from the lotion or cream.
- Is there anything else you want to add about sun protection? The best protection for all day activities, for children, and for those who dislike sunscreens or are unable to reapply, is sun protective clothing! Coolibar, Solumbra, REI and even Walmart and Target now all sell protective shirts, hats, and I always recommend gloves if people want to avoid skin cancers and those unattractive freckles on the backs of the hands!
For my protocol Dr. Fisler recommended IDSIN sun care products. I started using the SUNISDIN, a once-a-day antioxidant supplement designed to defend against photoaging and their Eryfotona Actinica SPF 50+ sunscreen. I also have the sunscreen in powder form for touch ups on the go. Life changing stuff!!
To make a skin exam appointment with Dr. Fisler or to learn more about all Epiphany Dermatology offers, head here or call (623) 487-3003.
National Parks Nursery
In case you haven’t heard, on August 22nd I gave birth to my little baby boy Theodore. Prior to his arrival, I decorated his nursery to match a passion I hope we will share someday: visiting national parks.
The national parks are where I feel most like myself, most free and most in touch with nature. I hope that as my baby boy grows into a man he finds the same peace in the parks and grows a desire to protect the outdoors. And yes, Teddy is named after Theodore Roosevelt for his role in protecting wildlife and public lands.
I started designing the space with this piece of art from Woodensense. I’ve actually had it since 2017 and it’s brought me so much happiness that I wanted to hand it down to my baby boy. It’s what faces you head on when you walk into the room and hangs above Teddy’s changing table. Here‘s something adorable- Teddy loves being on his changing table. I call it his “happy place”. As we change him he stares at this piece of art and smiles as I tell him about all of the amazing, beautiful places we will go together.
I found an adorable mountain print called “Rocky Mountain” that was available in different forms of decor on multiple sites. I got the crib sheet and changing table cover from Milk Snob. I also have a matching car seat cover I ordered from them too. The blue/green/grey tones matched perfectly with the art that inspired the entire room.
Our main furnishings are a 6-drawer dress, a crib and a changing table in dark grey from Storkcraft.
I am not a fan of traditional nursery chairs and I knew I was going to spend most of my time snuggling Teddy on my comfy sectional in my living room anyway so I wanted a rocking chair that was aesthetically pleasing and would really make the nursery look cute. I fell in love with this green velvet rocking chair from Wayfair. It is so comfy and easy to clean spit up off of.
A lantern lamp was the perfect light to go with this room’s theme. I found it on Etsy!
The ottoman was a Home Goods find my mom picked up and I also found the side table (that I am obsessed with!) at Home Goods. The side table had the perfect “this wood just got delivered right from the forest” look I was going for. The book on top of the table is the very first book I got for Teddy and I purchased it at Haleakalā National Park on Maui.
Oh, and the baskets under the changing table are from Home Goods too. Baskets are pricey so I only get them discounted.
More Etsy finds that complete the whole room are the camping prints that hang above Teddy’s crib, the forest themed garland on his crib and the amazing bear rug on the floor!
Also on the floor, you’ll find the cutest plush campfire from Crate & Barrel.
Last but not least, we hung a mirror above the dresser. It’s from Amazon and I absolutely love it.
For a couple of cozy touches we added a blanket that matched the cribs sheets and the sweetest teddy bear from Cuddle+Kind.
In the future I plan to help Teddy keep track of all of his national parks visits with a special collection in his room. I love this idea of collecting magnets and putting them all up on the wall!
I hope you enjoy. As always, if you have any questions, send me a DM on Instagram!
Camping Santa Parked His Trailer in Scottsdale
Camping lovers, you’ll be thrilled to know Santa has a vintage trailer and he set up camp at Scottsdale Fashion Square for the holiday season. You can visit camping Santa all the way through Christmas Eve.
My 3-month-old Teddy and I got the opportunity to pay him a visit and we now have a photo to cherish forever! You can get a closer look at our visit if you watch this Instagram reel.
Santa will sit in front of his trailer solo but surrounded by all his camping gear from a lantern and cooler to his fishing gear and, of course, a campfire.
COVID safe protocol is in effect, so you will be distanced from Santa and anyone above age two will need to wear a mask. There is hand sanitizer available upon entry and Santa will be wearing a mask while guests sit six feet away from him.
Reservations are recommended. You can make them and learn more about COVID protocol here.
6 (More) Things to Try in Pine-Strawberry
Ya’ll know I love Pine-Strawberry and I have six new things for you to put on your bucket list next time you visit. In case you missed my first post, here are the first six recommendations I gave you from a previous trip!
Now, this was the first road trip I’ve taken with my baby boy Teddy. Yes, we hit the road with a four-week-old baby and it wasn’t as chaotic as you would think. You guys know me more for strenuous activities on my trips, but this is a very chill itinerary. It had to be considering I had a newborn in tow. For more on hiking in the area head back to that blog post linked above.
#1 Stay in a Tiny Cottage
My friends at The Strawberry Inn now have tiny cottages! These are fantastic for anyone who wants a little extra space on their trip. We stayed in gorgeous cottage # 1 and it was perfect for our little family. The cottage has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen/living area (that includes a full-sized fridge, cooktop, big sink, microwave and dining table!), streaming TV, wifi, a Keurig coffee maker and a couch. My favorite part of the cottage was all of the patio area. The whole point of our trip was to escape the Phoenix heat and enjoy the outdoors so we loved the extra outdoor space as there is a front patio and basically a giant backyard. The backyard area has grass and a picnic table. It was perfect for having a glass of wine and enjoying the cool temps. I do want to mention for my dog people that the cottage is dog-friendly and The Strawberry Inn always has many options for traveling with your pet.
For a full tour of the tiny cottage, head to my Instagram page and click on the Strawberry highlight.
You can book a tiny cottage or any other accommodations from The Strawberry Inn here.
#2 Check out Windmill Coffee
One of my favorite parts about going out of town is trying new coffee spots so I was thrilled to learn that The Strawberry Inn took the adorable Windmill out front of their main hotel and turned it into a coffee shop! My go-to drink is a vanilla latte with oat milk and Daniel at Windmill absolutely nailed it. This yummy coffee was the perfect way to start our day in Strawberry.
#3 Grab an empanada at Pie Bar
There’s another new spot in town and it’s perfect for a grabbing a quick bite to eat. Pie bar offers empanadas, mini pies and yummy salads. Oh and they sell booze 🙂
The menu changes daily but take a look at the September menu for an idea of what you can expect.
I had the Scorpion Whisperer salad and an apple empanada (along with a little cabernet sauvignon). The salad was fresh and the perfect midday delight before stuffing my face with pizza later… which leads us to number four.
#4 Eat at Old County Inn
If you’ve never been to Old County Inn, it’s worth a trip to Pine alone. This restaurant has been featured in national publications for its deliciousness and once you try the food, you’ll understand why.
I’m normally a pepperoni pizza kinda gal (boring eater alert!) but Old County Inn has the most wonderful combinations on their woodfired pizza menu. My personal favorite is the spinach, artichoke, chicken pizza. There is a balsamic glaze on top that makes this pizza to die for. You absolutely have to try it.
I also got the Green Chili Beer Cheese with breadsticks that were absolutely divine and the Arizona Greens salad.
If you’re a cocktail drinker, you’ll love OCI’s craft cocktails. A mountain town isn’t probably where you would expect to find a killer margarita, but trust me, OCI has one heck of a marg! I look forward to getting one every trip!
#6 Watch the Wildlife
If you love animals but don’t want to put in a whole lot of efforting into spotting wildlife, well this is the place for you. Elk and deer are everywhere! Around dawn and dusk you can spot furry friends all over the place (watch out while driving!). Remember that huge yard I mentioned at our cottage? Well we were enjoying a glass of wine in the evening when we spotted two huge elk and a baby. The next morning I spotted a deer through the window while I was in the kitchen.
#5 Try an off-roading trail
I have been dying to do some more exploring of the Pine-Strawberry area via off-roading trails but with a newborn on board that wasn’t going to happen. We did get a little dirt on the tires on some regular dirt roads, but once things got rocky, we had to bail. Because this area offers so much for off-roaders, I did want to share more on the topic with you so I reached out to my friend Jody Isaac of Dirt Therapy to get you a trail recommendation.Kristen: Which trail would you recommend in the Pine-Strawberry area?Jody: As far as trails go around the Pine and Strawberry area you are not at a shortage of options when off-roading in that area. That being said, it is always best to travel with someone who has done a trail you wish to go on and you can map it for yourself and pass it along to others. I like to go off the beaten path and not take the most popular route and experience the true backroads of Arizona. One of my favorite off road rides we did as a group was from Rye to Pine using back forest roads to get there. I use Ride Command which is an app that tracks your ride and you can mark points of interest. We started at on Forest Road 414 just off the 87 Highway and traversed are way through the open desert. The great thing about the this ride is it began in the open desert and climbed up into forest vegetation and much cooler temperatures. We ended up in Pine for lunch at THAT Brewery and enjoyed an Elk burger. After Lunch we made are way up the mountains overlooking the city of strawberry giving us a great lookout over the valley and returned the same way we came. It was over 100 mile ride and about 11 hours on the trail.Kristen: What do you like about the scenery/trails in that area? Any particular landmarks/features that you find cool?Jody: There is nothing better than the open Sonoran desert. The cactus and rock formations are second to none. There are many small water crossings along the way to Pine which make for a nice break from the dust. The views once you get to pine and strawberry overlooking the valley are incredible and you can sit and watch a sunset with your favorite beverage. I like the slow pace of mountain towns and the farmers market type vendors on the side of the road with raw honey and fresh fruits and vegetables.Kristen: Is there anything in the region you have on your off-roading bucket list?Jody: The Cabin Loop Trail is off trail 300 so a little north east of Strawberry it is a 24 mile loop that links between the earliest fire guard cabin network in this area of the Mogollon Rim and has its roots in the beginning of the Forest Service era here. The Cabin Loop Trail links together the General Springs Cabin, Pinchot Cabin, and Buck Springs Fire Guard Station. The trails within the Cabin Loop were used and maintained by early Forest Rangers, ranchers and settlers. Livestock was driven up the Rim from the Tonto Basin and grazed during the summer up on the Rim. The Cabin Loop Trail passes through some of the most spectacular backcountry and meadows in Arizona.
Make sure you check out Jody’s videos and follow him on Instagram.
If you have any questions about planning a trip to Pine-Strawberry send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram.
How to Dominate Half Dome
As I write this, I am 38 weeks pregnant. I solo hiked Half Dome in Yosemite National Park a little more than a year ago. When I found out I won the Half Dome lottery, I cried tears of joy and said to my sister “I think this is how normal women feel when they find out they’re having a baby”. Now having experienced both sources of excitement I can confirm, the emotions are pretty similar in both scenarios. I have the same thoughts: I am thrilled! I am terrified! Wait, do I have what it takes to do this?
If this picture freaks you out, you might be thinking “nope, I definitely can’t handle it!” but before you abandon the idea, read a little bit more, because this is the adventure of a lifetime and it’s something I am so very proud of accomplishing. I would love for you to cross it off your bucket list.
Getting the permit
There are multiple ways to secure a permit through the Half Dome Lottery. There is a preseason lottery that takes place every March and there is a daily lottery throughout the hiking season. There is an option for backpackers that utilizes a separate system via the wilderness permit process.
225 permits are granted per day via the preseason lottery and only about 50 are granted per day via the daily lottery. What is really interesting is those daily permits are granted based on cancellations from people who won the lottery earlier. So if you do chicken out, notify the park so another hiker can get your permit!!
The term “daily lottery” can be a bit confusing because you don’t get the permit and hike that day, you actually get notified if you got a permit two days in advance. For example, if you get notified on Wednesday, your hike will be on Friday.
Half Dome is one of the most coveted hikes in the world and the crew at Yosemite National Park knows it. They even put together this breakdown of statistics to help you understand your odds.
It costs $10 to get apply for the permit and another $10 when your permit is granted. Best $20 you will ever spend!!
So let me tell you how I got a daily permit! I actually drove to Northern California with my sister, without a permit but a whole lot of hope! I applied for the preseason lottery in March and in April, I learned I did not win. My sister being the awesome person she is, was still down to drive up to Nor Cal for a little adventure in Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. (A huge shout out to sister Jackie for being spontaneous with me and helping me prepare for Half Dome. She’s THE BEST!)
*If you don’t want to hear about our trip and want to focus on HD, scroll down to “preparing for the hike”*
We road tripped for about 9 hours from Phoenix. If you don’t know this about me yet, I love being on the road and always prefer to drive!
We stayed in a hotel our first night and that is when I submitted my application. The next day we went into Sequoia and stayed at the best campsite ever! We stayed at the Lodgepole campground and it was stunning. A river runs alongside it and the views are just majestic!!
We also took some time to explore the amazing trees and climb Moro Rock. Then we hit the road for Yosemite and starting planning for my big hike.
Campgrounds in Yosemite were all reserved and we did not get any first come, first served openings so I ended up splurging on a hotel outside of Yosemite. You do what you must when hiking Half Dome is on the line!
Preparing for the Hike
Here are my essentials for hiking Half Dome:
-Gloves- they are required for the cables. I actually lost my gloves somehow on the hike up and it was horrifying to think I may not be able to finish the climb due to my loss! Some hikers coming down gave me their gloves (I was so grateful!). The gloves I wore were similar to those pictured above and they’re work gloves you can get for a great price at a home improvement store.
-Dry Bag- Learn from my mistake… if going up the Mist Trail (we’ll talk more about this in a moment) bring a dry bag. I got my ass kicked by the waterfall and was SOAKED from head to toe about 1-2 miles into the hike. Everything I owned was soaked too. I have a medium sized Sea to Summit dry bag that I use for kayaking and I majorly regret not bringing it because my M&Ms got soaked in my backpack and I wa freaking out over my cell phone getting wet.
-True Hiking Shoes- My biggest pet peeve is hikers not wearing proper shoes. Half Dome is not the place to wear Converse, ok? In my opinion, the Salomon Speedcross 4 is the greatest trail shoe ever made. I do not like shoes that come up over my ankle so I prefer more of a trail runner to a hiking boot. This shoe is comfortable and grips the ground so well it gives me tons of confidence on every trail (especially while I’ve been hiking pregnant). Salomon has come out with the Speedcross 5, but I am so loyal to my 4s, I have yet to try them out. I’ve been wearing the 4s for two years now and I am just in love with them. These shoes are made for both men and women. My husband hikes in them too!
-Food- lots of food! I get SO hungry on hikes and I know this about myself so I packed protein bars, fruit, M&Ms and Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets + barbecue sauce. Thank goodness my sister packed my nugs in a baggie so they didn’t get destroyed by the waterfall. It took me about 7-8 hours to complete this hike so I drank a lot of fluids and ate all my snacks in that time. (For liquid I had my Camelback, an extra bottle of water and a gatorade.
-Camera- This is the time to bring the good camera or splurge on new gear. If there was ever a time you want to make sure you have great pics… this is it! I brought my GoPro Hero6 and got a clip so I could secure it to my backpack when I recorded my way up and down the cables. I didn’t have someone to hike with me so I don’t have the greatest pics but I am so glad I brought my GoPro.
The day of the hike I got up at about 2:30 am. At the time I was working on a morning newscast as a weather anchor, so the alarm clock felt normally for me. I needed to get ready and eat then drive about an hour to the trailhead from my hotel. I started the hike in the dark at about 5am. I highly recommend starting very early. Plus, watching the sun peak through and define Yosemite’s rock formations while you drive into the park is a stunning sight. I also loved seeing the climber’s light on El Cap. That drive in was so surreal… my jaw just kept dropping as bits of sunlight revealed more beauty.
You have some options when you hike Half Dome. You can take the Mist Trail up or you can take John Muir Trail up. Eventually they both meet. An experienced hiker I met earlier in my trip recommended I take the Mist Trail up when it was still a little dark so I could fully enjoy the gorgeous views of John Muir Trail on my way down. It was great advice, except as I mentioned earlier, I got absolutely soaked on the Mist Trail. Friends I know who’ve taken the same route had no problem going up and staying mostly dry. I, however, got slapped in the face repeatedly by waves of water and walked through a few inches of water. The Mist Trail is filled with steps so this part is actually a bit strenuous. I was definitely flustered.
Hiking up Half Dome consists of 15 miles trekked out and back with a 5200 foot elevation gain. With stopping for a long time at the top to enjoy my accomplishment, it took me about 7-8 hours to complete.
There are parts of the hike, mostly right after the waterfall, that are not well marked. I always recommend downloading a map on the All Trails app so you can tell if you got off the path at any point.
Once the trails merge and the hikers from Mist and John Muir meet, you’ll start seeing a lot of fellow adventurers. I made a lot of friends on the trail and as a solo hiker, that’s part of the fun! Most of the terrain is pretty gentle and the elevation gain feels slow and steady until about the last mile to the cables. That’s when you are climbing bigger rocks and handling tougher terrain.
As you approach the cables, park rangers will ask for proof of your permit. My phone actually had a bit of a meltdown and at the last second I almost couldn’t pull up my permit digitally. I would highly recommend bringing a printed version to avoid any tech issues. Also, bring your ID! They will also check to make sure you have gloves.
Shortly after you check in with the rangers, you’ll get your first view of the cables. Stop to take this sight in because it’s truly amazing to watch hikers climb vertically up this incredible formation.
Now it’s your turn! Don’t overthink it and freak yourself out. JUST GO!
The cables are 400 feet long. That’s how long you will be climbing vertically. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to handle the cables if I hadn’t been doing strength training and indoor rock climbing regularly. I would recommend 3-6 months of upper body strength work before attempting the cables. There are some wooden planks placed on the rocks every now and then so you can stop and be supported. A few times I needed to give my arms a rest so I would wrap one arm around the cable and let the other one relax, then switch until I regained my strength.
Most of the time you will be able to hold onto both cables but when you pass someone going down you will need to move off to the side and cling to just one so they can have the cable on the other side. There will probably also be some pushy people who decide they need to rush and go around you. Be prepared to pause and hold onto one cable exactly where you are to let them get around.
You will run into people who aren’t being careful enough. I think people get freaked out coming down, just want off, and rush (and ok, some of them are just rude). It is so important in these moments for you to focus on your foot and hand placement and avoid getting distracted by the behavior of other hikers. I remember when I was in Driver’s Ed in high school, my teacher preached “defensive driving”. I’m a big believer in “defensive hiking” in these situations. Be aware of people who are making poor choices, do what you can to avoid them and when you can’t- be prepared to minimize any risk they pose to your safety.
Here are a couple videos from my journey going both up and down the cables.
Making it to the Top
Once you arrive at the top of HD, it’s an emotional experience. You just accomplished something super challenging (and dangerous)! Take a moment to congratulate yourself and realize you just had one of the most coveted experiences on Earth!
I was amazed by how large the area you can roam around really is up top. I found a quiet spot away from everyone where I could eat my Chick-Fil-A.
Knowing I not only physically accomplished the climb, but that I did it alone and showed up to Northern California without a permit made me really proud. I was so determined to make this happen in June 2019 and I did it!
Heading Down the Cables
Going down the cables is very mentally taxing for a lot of people because looking down at those heights is not for the faint of heart. I found it to be the most exhilarating part of the entire experience. The views are unforgettable so no matter how scared you feel, hold on tight to those cables and stop to soak in the view for a moment.
I very often sat down and sort of scooted my way through the descent. Do what works for you and makes you feel safe. Remember, other people will be going up!
Make sure you watch the video I linked above of going down!
John Muir Trail
Just take a look at that picture for a moment because it will do a better job of capturing the beauty of this section of trail than my words ever could. In this photo you are seeing Liberty Cap (the rock formation) and Nevada Fall.
Throughout the hike you cross a river, run into waterfalls and beautiful rock formations and see gorgeous foliage everywhere. It is unbelievably breathtaking.
Even if you don’t hike Half Dome, do this trail. You will love it.
After the Hike
At this point you deserve a beer and it HAS TO BE this one: Half Dome California Wheat from Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company. I met my sister at Curry Village Pizza Deck in the park and had the beer on draft and scarfed down some pizza. It was the perfect post hike delight! I also took home a bunch of cans of Half Dome Cali Wheat. If you like Hefe’s you will absolutely love this beer.
Make sure you have some comfy shoes or sandals to slip on after the hike because your feet will be sore. Going down the cables at that funky angle is not kind to the feet.
A year later
Now in summer 2020, I am scheduled for induction to welcome my baby boy within a week of writing this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about labor. To be honest, I have a lot of fears about childbirth. I’m afraid of the pain and the things that could go wrong. In the past few days I have found great comfort in thinking about what my body has accomplished while hiking and what my mind has overcome on the cables of Half Dome, the ropes of the Moanalua Valley Trail and the chains of Angels Landing. Just like when I hiked those trails, I’m not sure exactly what to expect, but I do know I was made for it.
Thank you for reading about the greatest adventure of my life. Please join me on Instagram to continue the conversation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Make the Most of Moab
I am absolutely crazy about Utah. Every time I pay the state a visit I find a new reason to fall in love. My most recent trip to UT included a week in Moab and I had the time of my life. It’s also where my husband and I got engaged!
We had 5 main activities on our Moab bucket list: off-road, hike, visit Canyonlands National Park, visit Arches National Park and drink local beer. Okay, actually Matt had 6 items on his bucket list since he did pack a diamond ring! We took the most beautiful engagement photos in Arches National Park, so if you’re interested in taking a peek I’ll put them at the end of this post. Here’s a preview:
When to Go
My recommendation is to hit up Moab in the offseason from November through February. I love avoiding a crowd and this is the perfect time to do that! Just keep in mind it can get a bit chilly and not all restaurants/shops are open due to the slowdown. We went the first week in December and it was perfect for us.
Where to Stay
Let’s start with the BEST place to stay in Moab. You know I’m big on camping, but I’m also a sucker for a charming hotel setup. We stayed at Moab Springs Ranch and I could rave all day about how perfect this place is. There are bungalow and townhome options. We stayed in a bungalow that was both functional and adorable. It was also perfectly located close to Arches NP and just a few minutes from restaurants and shopping.
Where to off-road
I have two options for you based on your level of skill and how intense you want your ride to be.
*Disclaimer- Attempt at your own risk*
Hell’s Revenge is straight up terrifying from beginning to end of the 9-mile loop. That being said, I still highly recommend this thrilling trail if you have adequate off-roading equipment, experience and a whole lot of guts! Just be careful and take it easy. Along the path you get amazing views of both the La Sal Mountains and the Colorado River. Make sure you give yourself enough time to take in the sights! The whole trail takes most drivers about 3-4 hours. What I like about this trail is that it is pretty clearly marked and you have options for some challenges around the trail. We challenged ourselves to “Hell’s Gate” and I’ll be honest… our little adventure ended with a tow truck. I did not want to do this challenge but my husband decided to go for it. You can imagine my reaction when we got stuck. I am happy to tell you there is cell phone service on this trail. I do not want to downplay the gravity of the situation because this can be VERY dangerous. If you want to see Hell’s Gate (and the rest of this trail), I found this awesome YouTube video. Skip to about 12 mins to see where we got stuck. If you find yourself in the same situation, here’s the number for Tic Tac Tow (yeah that’s seriously the name!) (435) 260-0619
Shafer Trail is a more mild ride and offers stunning views as it winds you through about 20 miles of Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park. We started at Canyonlands and ended by exiting through Dead Horse Point SP. When starting in Canyonlands, you will have about a 3,000 mile descent. So the top of this journey does have steep drop offs that are not a good fit for anyone with a fear of heights. As you get to the bottom, you drive through mildly rocky terrain and often you cruise right along the Colorado River. It’s just magical!
Where to Hike
Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park is the perfect place to enjoy Utah’s unique geography. There aren’t just arches; you’ll also find spires and other gravity defying rock formations. There is a wide range of hiking options through the garden from an easy walk to Landscape Arch to a full on scramble on the Primitive Trail. Primitive Trail is an alternative route you can take to or from Double O Arch and it is intense. In fact, it is considered the most difficult hike in the park. If you do choose to take this somewhat sketchy path, be prepared to scramble and scale some very slippery rocks accompanied by steep drop offs. DO NOT do this without proper hiking shoes and prior hiking experience. Should you choose the Primitive Trail option, I also recommend following the signs to Private Arch. It is offers extreme solitude and access to a really cool hidden arch. Primitive Trail is 7.2 miles out and back and you will want to take a lot of pictures so give yourself a lot of time for this one!
I’ve been told next time I got to arches I should get a permit and hike fiery furnace. While I did not do this on my own trip, it may be something you want to try! Do take note that a reservation is required in advance.
Where to Drink and Eat
Moab Brewery was our favorite spot to grab a drink. As beer connoisseurs, Matt and I always make finding a local brewery a part of our plan. They also have yummy food and a huge menu! My favorite beer on the menu was the Moab Dead Horse Amber Ale but they have a huge variety and you’ll want to try them all
Address: 686 S Main St, Moab, UT 84532
The Broken Oar is the most high end dining experience we found in Moab, but in a city like this it’s still chill and you can show up in your hiking clothes. We feasted on the ribs and it was one of the best meals of my life!
Address: 53 W 400 N, Moab, UT 84532
Love Muffin offers great coffee and quick breakfast options so you can get on with your day!
Address: 139 N Main St, Moab, UT 84532
*We also heard Moab Garage Company was amazing for breakfast and sandwiches but it was closed during the slow season. Address: 78 N Main Moab, UT 84532*
Where to Simply Take in the Sights
Dead Horse Point State Park is a great reason to go to Moab all on its own. I recommend packing a meal and sitting on the edge of the canyon as you gaze down 2,000 feet at the Colorado River.
While we did not camp, I hear this is an awesome place to pitch a tent… or choose from a variety of other options. This park has cabins, yurts and even teepees available!
Arches National Park offers more than just the hiking adventures I mentioned previously. It’s actually the perfect park for driving around and sightseeing. You can drive from arch to arch, check out the spires and see balancing rocks that will blow your mind! If anyone in your crew has limited mobility, this is really a great park for you because there is so much beauty to behold from the comfort of your car or with just a brief walk.
Angela Hays took our engagement pics and we can’t give her enough praise! We were able to incorporate so many meaningful parts of our trip into the photos from the Jeep to the beer and, of course, our national parks passports. Take a look!