Category

<span>Lifestyle</span>

  • Camping is for the Girls

    One of the most common questions I get is about how to feel comfortable camping as a single female so I want to break down some of the barriers here and help you find ways to feel both secure in your surroundings and confident in your campsite selection.

    Before I got married, solo adventuring or trips with my girlfriends was really all I did. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I absolutely love solo adventures and have done some crazy hikes all by myself. But it is critical that whether you are alone, with just gals, or even with your entire family that you do take some safety precautions when camping. Also, knowing some basic info and easing into your outdoor experiences should leave you feeling stress free… just like you should when you are in nature!

    My dreamy campsite in Havasupai

    I do want to let you know that I did not ever camp until I was 28 years old and I started with a serious backpacking trip into Havasupai to see the gorgeous waterfalls. I carried a 40 pound pack (oops), hiked 10 miles in, hiked about 20 miles to various spots within the destination, then hiked 10 miles back out. Every camping trip that does NOT include backpacking, has felt easy ever since. But if I can start at 28 with no prior experience and fall in love with sleeping outside, you can too! If you’re new to outdoor adventures, especially camping and backpacking, it can be really overwhelming and even scary to start. I feel pretty dang vulnerable when sleeping outside, but that’s what part of what makes it so special. I’m hoping by the time you read through this post, you feel empowered and ready to try something new! So, here are my recommendations. Enjoy!

    • A little research on the campsite will put you at ease:
      • I recommend doing some research and picking places that are well regulated early on. When I book a campsite, it is usually via Recreation.gov. This is where I book forest and national park spots but the state parks I’ve stayed at have their own system directly from their own site. When I say “well regulated” I mean this site will have a host who keeps an eye on the property and guests, keeps the campground clean and sleeps on site. This brings me a sense of comfort knowing someone is paying attention to what’s going on around camp and can typically radio for help if needed. I’ve never been to a state or national park that lacked this but when camping in the forest, it’s something I check for. When booking on Recreation.gov you can see if there is a host and check out the other amenities you can expect.
        When booking on Recreation.gov scroll down to “amenities”
      • While you’re looking for a host, look for other amenities you aren’t ready to forgo yet. If a shower is an absolute must for you, pick a campsite that you know has one. If you don’t have a campstove, make sure your site has a grill, if you don’t have a portable table, make sure there’s a picnic table at your site.
      • With the above info in mind, you won’t want to try dispersed camping early on. It’s going to be remote and lack the amenities you will need before you build up a stash of proper camping gear. I also don’t feel safe dispersed camping without a whole crew of people because I just feel too vulnerable. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is some info on developed vs. dispersed camping.
      • I recommend picking a camping spot to start that is close to home.  I live in the Phoenix area so whenever someone who is new to camping wants to try it out, I recommend Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s well regulated, and it’s only about 45 minutes from the heart of Phoenix. If you are having a bad time or feel uncomfortable it’s easy to go home. You can try again another time!
      • If you feel uneasy without being to call 911 or friends/family, pick a spot with cell service. You can always check your carrier’s coverage map. Personally, I just Google the phone number for the campsite, park, forest, etc., tell them who my carrier is and ask if there’s service. The folks who answer the phone are generally very helpful. Use this info before heading out on a hike too!
      • It’s also very important do some research on the types of animals you may encounter in the region you’re heading to. Google and park rangers are great for this! Remember, pack up your food safely and never bring it in the tent. It’s a great idea to see if your campsite has a bear box. I also recommend buying these food storage bags, especially when backpacking. Keep in mind, animals don’t want to have an encounter with you just as much as you don’t want to have one with them!

    • Don’t go if nobody knows
      • When camping, or even hiking or road tripping, you need to tell a friend or family member where you will be.
      • If going out on a hike as part of your camping adventure, send a selfie at the trailhead or before you lose service (if you have it at any point) so they know exactly what you were wearing that day, your hairstyle, etc. If something goes very wrong this information will help rescuers find you.
      • Share your location with someone from your phone. This will help them know where you are and if it loses tracking capabilities while off the grid, at least it gives a good idea of where you last were. Again, think in terms of helpful hints for rescuers in the worst case scenario. 
      • If you are going on a long drive to your camping destination, share your driving instructions so your friends and family can be aware of your route.
      • This is very important- if the plan changes at any point and you pick a different site or take a detour, make sure you keep your contact updated!

    • Invest in a GPS satellite messenger if you won’t have service
      • Search and Rescue crews have told me success survival stories that started with the SPOT GPS device Basically this little device about the size of a pager tracks your location and if you need help you can push a button and alert the proper authorities that you need help. Here’s the manufacturer’s description of the products:
        • “SPOT determines your GPS location and sends your location and pre-programmed message to communication satellites. Communication satellites relay your message to specific satellite antennas around the world. Satellite antennas and a global network route your location and message to the appropriate network.”
      • There are models starting at about $50 at the basic end and up to about $200 for a device that even has messaging capabilities.
      • Additional payment is required to turn on the tracking abilities.

    • Pack Protection
      • When camping, I carry a knife my dad gave and I won’t go on a trip without it.
      • At night, I actually keep my keys close by so that if I hear something outside my tent and I fear it may try to make its way inside the tent, I sound the alarm and scare it off. If something did make it inside, I have a headlamp within reach to disorient (whether a person or animal) and my knife as a last resort. (Oh and bring a headlamp for camping, always!)
        Our van was named “Stevie” and I took her to Lake Elsinore, CA for the 2019 Superbloom

    • Don’t camp in a tent if you aren’t feelin’ it
      • If you don’t feel safe in a tent, try something with a hard shell and locking doors… a vehicle.
      • There are numerous van rental and RV rental companies you can check out. I have used Boho Vans based in Tempe, AZ and had a great experience camping with a girlfriend and our dogs!
      • Here are some rental companies, you can try:
      • Glamping is an option too and it’s a great way to ease in to camping without sacrificing so many comforts. Here are a couple of sites to check out:

    • Trust Your Intuition
      • This is my #1 rule! If anything EVER feels “off” about your campsite whether it’s the animal tracks you saw, the guy staring at you while setting up your tent, or anything else… if you get that feeling that you got to go, get out of there. I have left campsites before and booked a hotel because my intuition was screaming at me to leave. It’s ok to depart and try again another time. Your safety is more important than anything! Just make sure you let someone know your plan has changed if/when you have service.

    Now that you know some steps you can take to feel safe, it’s time to relax and enjoy all your new hobby has to offer.

    Camping in Sequoia National Park with a Huss Brewing Koffee Kolsch and my Eno Hammock

    If you have any questions at all, shoot me an email to kgkeogh@gmail.com or send me a DM on Instagram @KristenKeogh.

     

     

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  • 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

    Enjoy!

  • The Dole Pineapple Plantation!

    I think one of the best parts of a Hawaiian getaway is the delicious fruit. I seriously look forward to eating ridiculous amounts of pineapple whenever I head to the islands.

    There is one thing that’s even better than pineapple fruit and that is pineapple ice cream. If you’ve never had Dole Whip, you’re missing out. You can get the treat in many forms at the Dole Plantation on the island of Oahu. I highly recommend adding caramel sauce. The combo of pineapple and caramel does not disappoint.

    Beyond the dreamy desserts, there are a handful of fun, family-friendly activities you can enjoy at the plantation. There is the world’s largest maze, a train tour, and my personal favorite, a garden tour.

    The maze is a great family activity. I personally am not too into mazes but I saw families having a great time during this activity. It’s also great for getting some cute pictures. There is a giant pineapple formed by the landscaping at the start of the maze… it’s so impressive to see up close!

    Maze Prices:

    • Adults – $8.00
    • Children (4-12) – $6.00
    • Kama’aina/Military – $7.00
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $7.00
    • Children under 4 are free

    Plantation Garden Tour:

    This was hands down my favorite activity. The foliage in Hawaii is so stunning and this self-guided tour gives you the chance to see amazing plants up close, take pictures and even sit on the benches and take in all the beauty surrounding you. We spent 30-40 minutes looking at the plants and I felt like I could stay all day! There is even a waterfall that adds to the serenity of this experience.

    Check out my video of the tour!

    Garden Tour Prices:

    • Adults – $7.00
    • Children (4-12) – $6.25
    • Kama’aina/Military – $6.50
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $6.50
    • Children under 4 are free

    Plantation Train Tour:

    The train is sure to be fun for everyone. It’s only two miles long and lasts twenty minutes so if the little ones get restless, it’s not too lengthy of a ride. You’ll see amazing scenery and learn about the history of the Dole Plantation.

    Train Prices:

    • Adults – $10.50
    • Children (4-12) – $8.50
    • Kama’aina/Military – $9.75
    • Group Tours (25 or more) – $9.00
    • Children under 4 are free

    You can save by bundling your activities and make sure you check Groupon because Dole Plantation often posts discounts. Have a great time!

    To check out the best places to stay in Oahu head here!

    For my favorite Oahu hike head here!

  • Let it Glow!

    I always look forward to going to the zoo and seeing millions of glowing lights during the holidays. Zoo Lights is one of my favorite traditions. Phoenix Zoo’s Let it Glow is at it’s very best this year!

    As an adult, it’s tough to have a holiday experience that truly makes you feel like a kid again. At the zoo, I found myself dancing along with the music-themed light show. I took silly photos and did not care what strangers thought.  I found myself truly in the moment staring at the details of the lighted displays.

    That’s exactly why I like this event for the whole family. Everyone in your crew is going to feel entertained. The little ones will be mesmerized by the three-story lighted tree and the chance to meet Santa! Teens will love taking selfies and Snapchatting the whole experience. The whole family will genuinely enjoy the musical light show. Plus, you get to experience a nightly snowfall at 7:30pm. Let’s be honest, every Arizonan at any age is ecstatic of snow!

    Fun fact: Phoenix Zoo created and were the first to use net lighting on plants! 

    Zoo lights is a great spot for date night and since you’re leaving the kids at home go ahead and grab a beer or glass of wine. YES, the zoo serves beer and wine! The most convenient spot I found to grab a drink it the concession stand just west of the carousel at the base of The Neely Center. If this appeals to you, you’ll be eager to learn more about Roars & Pours happening in March. I’ll keep you posted on that.

    I highly recommend paying a few bucks more and upgrading your tickets to include the Dinosaurs in the Desert experience. This is a self-guided adventure through incredibly lifelike animatronic dinos! I’m not really a huge dinosaur person, but I love science and this exhibit taught me facts about our planet/ animals I did not know. Seriously, I’m still thinking about the fact dinosaurs had feathers and that their was a dino with a 30+ foot wingspan flying over the Southwest once! Little kids were squealing in amazement all around me and I chatted with a grandpa who couldn’t believe how real the dinos looked… so there ya go, entertainment for anyone of any age.

    I think this experience is worth every penny because there are so many forms of entertainment packed into the experience. However, you know I found you some ways to save! There are value nights or you can even find tickets on Groupon!

    ZooLights Ticket Options

    Value Night
    ZooLights Value Tickets are valid on the following dates: Dec 12, 13, Jan 2, 3, 4, 8 – 14, 2018

    • ZooLights Value Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $16.95
    • ZooLights Value Ticket | $12.95
    • Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights

    Any Night
    Any night tickets are valid for single admission Nov 22, 2017thru Jan 14, 2018

    • ZooLights Any Night Ticket with Dinos in the Desert | $21.95
    • ZooLights Any Night Ticket  | $17.95
    • Children 2 and under are free for ZooLights

    Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Zoo’s website about how important raising money through events like this is: “It’s also the Zoo’s largest special event fundraiser which is vital to our success as a private non-profit zoological park. We receive no outside funding and rely on revenue from events, admission, donations, private events, educational programs, camps and memberships, food and gift shop sales.”

    Parking is FREE and you can experience zoo lights until January 14th! Have fun!

  • DIY Christmas Cactus

    Happy holidays! Given my love for the outdoors, I am bringing the outdoors in this Christmas! Laurel Stavros, also known as the blogger behind A Bubbly Life, taught me some quick and super cute ways to decorate our state’s signature plant: cactus!

    Check out this video to see how to turn desert plants into a perfect centerpiece or gift.

    For all of the details on this project and for more inspiration, check out the A Bubbly Life Blog.

    Make sure to follow Laurel for more amazing ideas!

    Instagram: @abubblylife & Facebook: Facebook.com/abubblylifeblog

    All photos by: @abubblylife

  • Here we go

    The inspiration for this blog is simple. I enjoy getting outside, seeing new places and trying new things. I do a lot of fun stuff and I want to take you with me so that you can go do them too!

    Those of you who already follow me know we’re going to be doing a lot of hiking! Hiking is my passion. It’s a way for me to connect with nature, unplug and calm my mind. It makes me feel healthy and happy.

    You can also expect to find a lot of beer sampling (by sampling I mean drinking). One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new spot on the map is check out the local breweries. So, if you have any suggestions, do tell!

    The topics of my posts will not be limited at all. Basically if it’s on my mind, it’s on the blog. So whether it’s a trail to try, a new restaurant opening, an art exhibit, a DIY project or just some thoughts about life, we’re going to talk about it!

    I grew up in Surprise and I love all things Arizona so most of what you find here will revolve around this stunning state, however, I do love to travel and I’m going to share those trips with you too!

    If there is ever anything particular you want me to discuss, let me know and send me an email herewithher@gmail.com.

    Thank you for being here with her!