What's In My Baby's Hospital Bag!

After my 'What's In My Hospital Bag' post, I received a lot of requests for a post about what I have in my baby's hospital bag! So here you have it: this is what I'm bringing along for my baby when I go into labor!

The stylish bag that I'm using for my baby's hospital bag! ;)

1. Hat, Mittens, and Socks. I packed a little hat (that my mom knit!!), some socks, and some little mittens. I heard that mittens are good for newborns so that they don't scratch themselves with their sharp little nails. Plus, they are so cute! And look at those TINY little socks!! *squee!*

2. Diapers and Wipes.  Most hospitals provide these, but I packed a few newborn diapers and some baby wipes just in case we need them on the car ride home! I love these Seventh Generation diapers so much!

3. Burp Cloth and Swaddle Blankets. I'm bringing one little cotton swaddle blanket and then a big muslin swaddle blanket. I want a couple of options for pictures. I am SO in love with this organic muslin swaddle blanket from Modern Burlap and I can't wait to wrap my little boy in it. I'm also bringing along a burp cloth.

4. Clothes. I'm packing a few outfit options. I'm bringing one pair of long sleeved pajamas, and two short sleeved onesies. I'm also bringing a little pair of leggings to go with the onesies if needed. And I'm packing this cute bib from Copper Pearl!

I'm also bringing along a camera! I'm not bringing binkis because I've read that for breastfeeding it's not recommended that you introduce pacifiers for a bit until the baby has mastered latching, etc... I'm also not bringing my breast pump because the hospital will provide one if I need it.

I was debating using my diaper bag as my baby's hospital bag, but this little bag that I ended up using is a lot smaller and squishes down so I decided to use it instead. But, for those of you who have asked, this is the diaper bag that I will be using! I love it so far! I love that it doesn't look like a diaper bag and it's a neutral color so it will go with any outfit.

What did you pack/are you packing in YOUR baby's hospital bag? I'd love any suggestions or ideas seeing as I am a first time mom! :) Share in the comments below!

xo, Anna

The Adventure of a Big Move

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2015 is off to one heck of a start. It has already brought about some huge changes. My husband and I made the move from Washington to Northern California, and the prepping and planning of the move has kept us crazy busy for the past few months. Big moves, or any big life change for that matter, can be stressful, exciting, and a bit sad too. California is very different from Washington, and while my husband and I had spent some time living in the southern part of the state several years ago, we were fairly unfamiliar with the northern half.

We tackled this move with good attitudes, ready for whatever it might bring. The name of the game is adventure: the adventure of moving to a new place, of leaving things and people behind and of forging ahead to create a new life; the adventure of not knowing what lies ahead; the adventure of discovering new areas to play and roam in; and seeking out adventure wherever it can be found. Our free time has been spent exploring and getting to know our new surroundings. For us, being outdoors and spending time climbing in the mountains and fly fishing on creeks and rivers is of the utmost importance. So the first thing we did on our first weekend off in our new home was to hop in our car and scope out our surroundings. Together, with our little dog in the back seat, we sought out new places to get out in the wild.

Lucky for us, we didn't have to search very long or far. The Sierras are just a quick drive away. Yosemite is right there too, and we plan on spending most of our free days getting lost in those mountains. (Read, a high volume of blog posts documenting our adventures in these places coming your way!)

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it's hard. Here are a few things that I have learned about how to make a big move a little 10996995_10205199781505917_3536395246963317470_neasier:

1. Keep a good attitude and embrace the experience for the adventure that it is. (Having an amazing partner who is right there with you every step of the way doesn't hurt either.) *wink* 

2. Seek out places and things that you love. Get acquainted with the new areas in which you will spend your time and can live out your passions in.

3. Establish a new routine.

4. Find the beauty around you. Find the adventure around you. Explore.

Autumn Transitions

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Sometimes it seems like the end of summer comes so abruptly. One day you are wearing your cutoffs, summer dresses, and tank tops, and the very next day you are bundling up in wool sweaters and scarves. The arrival of Autumn can be sudden and extreme, and it can be hard to cope with the fact that it is now officially time to rotate out your wardrobe in preparation for the colder months ahead. Especially for the outdoor adventurer, the end of summer can be a somewhat gloomy prospect. It marks the end of carefree, dry, summer explorations, and promises less predictable and sometimes less pleasant weather that can tend to feel like it will inhibit all outside activities. But never fear! The arrival of Autumn does not need to mean the end of your adventures!

Here are some ways to help with your transition out of summer and into the colder weather that awaits us:

  • Beef Up Your Cold Weather Inventory! Just because the weather is turning, it doesn't mean that you can't get outside and have the time of your life. But it does mean that you need to make some changes to the gear you bring along. Take inventory of your cold weather gear. Make sure you have adequate rain accommodations, like waterproof clothing, gaiters, and shelter. Switch your light weight quilt out for your 0 degree sleeping bag. Stock up on a Merino Wool hat, base layers, and socks. And be sure to throw in hand warmers, instant coffee, and some Mountain House meals - because nothing beats a hot meal on a cold night in the backcountry. If done right, a cool Autumn night spent under the stars can be an unbeatable experience. The key is preparedness.
  • Commit To Your Adventures. The thing is, in the summer time it is easy to go camping on a whim, or throw your fly rod in the back seat and head out to the river for the day. The sun is shining, the weather is great, and the cold isn't a factor. As the seasons turn though, it can be harder to find the motivation to step into the river or head up into the mountains when it's chilly out. So, the solution is to make solid plans for your adventures, pack up all of your cold weather gear (that you have already taken inventory of and ensured that you have), and -this is the important part- DO IT! Just do it. No excuses. A little cold is certainly worth the memories you will make. Mark your adventures on your calendar so that it is harder for you to back out. Commit to getting outside, even in the colder months. As long as you have the right gear, you will be comfortable and have a great time.
  • Find Motivation In the Season. Autumn can be one of the most beautiful times of the year to get out into nature. With the changing colors and crisp, clear air, you will find scenery that you wont get in the Summer. Autumn is an excellent time to hit the river for fly fishing. Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking that with the end of Summer, it is time to store your fly rod. The view from the middle of a river surrounded by yellow Aspens is something that you just have to see to believe. And you wont see it if you don't get out there. So find motivation in those seasonal sights and go explore!

Don't let the cooler days get you down. Prepare, plan, and then go have some bright, fall-colored, brisk, cool-weather adventures!

Grab Your Fears By The Horns

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Face your fears and be rewarded. I must confess: I am a worrier. As much as I love the wild, I fear it. As much as I long to push my limits, I worry that I will push too far. When I am out getting my adventure on, I am constantly considering every possible way that I might die or be brutally maimed. It's a constant battle for me. I am far from fearless.

But, that is one thing that I appreciate most about the wild - that it makes you embrace your fears, and sometimes even conquer them. Being afraid is a part of adventure. It's a part of discovering yourself and what you are capable of, and learning to push through fear is a valuable lesson that can be applied in every aspect of life.

When I'm in the backcountry, miles from civilization, I am afraid of many things. I'm afraid of bears, falling off a cliff, and getting struck by lightning. But I've learned that you just have to push through, grab your fears by the horns, and hang on tight. You'll be in for one hell of a ride if you do! And when you look your fears right in their glowing red eyes, you might just see that you are bigger than them and that they aren't so scary after all.

Hike: Beehive Basin, Big Sky, MT

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When I heard that Beehive Basin in Big Sky, Montana is considered, by some, to be one the world's best hikes, I knew I had to check it out while I was in town. The reviews for the hike all said it was easy and suitable for all levels of hikers. At about 4.5 miles round trip I figured it would be an easy jaunt up a path to a nice view where I could enjoy a PB & J by the lake at the top. I hit the trail in running shoes and my day pack and was pretty much immediately blown away by the scenery.

Big Sky is breathtaking from the road, and even more so from the little cabin I'm staying in on one of the many ski slopes that have been abandoned for the summer. However, on foot, it is unreal.

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Due to a late melt off and an unusual amount of snow still on the ground, the wildflowers that I had read so much about were not out in full force as they should have been. As I got up higher, it quickly became apparent that running shoes were a bad choice (see the post 'Rookie Mistakes'). There were some pretty big snow fields to be crossed, and the closer to the basin I got, the deeper the snow got. My running shoes kept getting sucked off my feet as I sunk into the snow up to my calves. Before long, my socks were soaked and my feet were freezing. About a half a mile from the top I had to call it quits - my pride hurts to admit it, but my feet thanked me. I snapped a few pictures before booking it back down the mountain. I will definitely be doing this hike again in better footwear, and hopefully when the wildflowers are all out. (I'm a sucker for flowers!)

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Recommendation: DO IT! Beehive Basin is a beautiful hike with incredible views. It's fairly easy (I'm sure even more so when there isn't so much snow) and it makes for a fun day in Big Sky. Just try to hit it when the majority of the snow is melted...and opt for hiking boots!

Going Off the Grid: Why It's Good For You

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10313527_10203066963346796_6451357325797666116_n One thing [of many] that I love about being at our family cabin in Montana, is the fact that it is completely off the grid. When I first went out there years ago, it was a bit of a shock for me. I was very much accustomed to the creature comforts of modern life, and the fact that I had to use a compost toilet in an outhouse, initially seemed like a sick joke.

But, as the years have gone by, I have grown to appreciate the beauty of the simultaneous simplicity and complexity that being off the grid provides. The only power is solar power [when you choose to hook it up] and the water all comes from a well. When my husband and I go out there, just the two of us and our dog, Gunner, we often choose to not to have electricity in order to fully immerse ourselves in the "Off the Grid Experience".

After our most recent trip to the cabin, I have come up with some reasons why going completely off the grid is good to do every once in a while - for your body and your soul.

1. Fewer distractions.

Going off the grid means no TV, no cell phone service, and no internet. It means you have to find ways to entertain yourself - ways that are, in my opinion, seemingly more in tune with a primal part of humans. Read a book [or two, or three...], go for a hike, go fishing, go for a walk, play a board game, simply sit and talk with a loved one, or just enjoy the silence and watch nature going about its business around you.

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2. Quality time.

I love being at the cabin with my husband because there are no distractions. We are able to really be together and have long conversations and play games together and enjoy little things, like a herd of 23 deer grazing right outside the cabin. We get to share the work that comes with being off the grid, like hand washing dishes and making a fire in the wood burning stove. It's magical, in a way, to spend a weekend entirely cut off from the rest of the world. Especially with the one you love.

3. Candlelight.

One of my favorite parts of being off the grid is having to use candlelight at night. My husband and I ate our dinners by candlelight. We lit a dozen candles and spread them out all around the cabin, filling the place with a warm, flickering glow. The wood burning stove crackled and heated the cabin, making it cozy. Candlelight is so calming and beautiful.

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4. Work for it!

Being off the grid is a lot of work. A LOT. You have to chop wood for the fire, especially in the cold months. Without a fire, the cabin is freezing, so always having a bunch of wood on hand is a must. You have to empty the compost toilet. Enough said about that. You have to hand wash dishes with well water, which is a task that I avoid feverishly at home, thanks to my dishwasher. Cooking takes longer, so you have to plan meals ahead accordingly. But the good thing about all of the work that goes into being off the grid, is that it makes you appreciate that fire, and the ingenious nature of that compost toilet, and that food that you slaved away over, and those sparkling clean dishes, in ways that you never would if you hadn't had to work so hard for them.

5. Appreciate nature.10306182_10203066990667479_5290437805133571472_n

Over a four-day weekend at the cabin a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I saw countless deer, a herd of 37 elk, four moose, and a bunch of bighorn sheep. It is incredible to be able to be so close to wildlife and to observe it in its natural state. It's a rush!

If given the opportunity, my recommendation would be to take advantage of a chance to get off the grid for a few days. It makes you appreciate the little things, and it allows you to quiet your mind and focus on the present. Going off the grid is hard work, but the reward is more than worth it.

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How To Plan An Adventure

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When it comes to planning an adventure, fantasizing and daydreaming are the easy parts. It is the details that become the challenge. Some people are able to just drop everything, jump in their car, and hit the road, seeking out adventure wherever their journey takes them. No preparation, no plans... Something about that is appealing. The unknown. The spontaneity. The risk. But, if you are like me and my husband, Ben, you enjoy mapping out the route you are going to take and pinpointing places in your road atlas that you want to be sure to hit. The planning process is part of the rush that we get from going on an adventure. It is the phase in which we get to look into different areas and learn about their history and their geographical wonders. It adds to the anticipation.

To begin with, Ben and I work on compiling a list of all of the places that we want to be sure to visit on our trip. We search the web for cool, little known areas. Google maps is great for getting links to pictures that users have uploaded from each area. This allows us to scout the area and get to know the terrain a little bit better. In the case of an area not having any user pictures uploaded, one can assume that not many people have been there. This can be a good thing if your goal is to get away from people and really experience

Be familiar with the terrain.

the wild without the risk of a crowd. The terrain feature in Google maps is a great tool for determining how steep an area might be. This is important when planning backpacking trips.

Once we've pinpointed all of the places that we want to hit, Ben and I work on putting together a route. We'll figure out the most direct [or the most scenic] way to get from point A to point B. After the general route has been mapped out, we start to figure out roughly how much time we are going to need in each place. For instance, a backpacking trip in The Crazies will require four days, and we need to set aside a good couple of days for fly fishing at each river that we will pass.

One of our favorite parts of planning our adventures is learning a bit about the places that we will be visiting. Ben and I research each place that we will be visiting online and sometimes, if there seems to be a lot of history and information available, we even buy a few books. To prepare for an upcoming adventure, Ben bought us a book about Lewis and Clark's journey through the Missouri Breaks. We plan on floating down a good stretch of the Missouri river and camping in some of the spots that Lewis and Clark made their camps. It makes the experience all the more special if you know a little history about where you are going and who has been there before you.

Most importantly, when planning an adventure, be flexible. Because even with all of the careful research and mapping of routes in the world, it is always wise to expect the unexpected. Unpredictability is the very essence of adventure.

Now, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

A good adventure buddy is a must!

Backcountry Initiation

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301071_2158820181857_2917232_n My first taste of the backcountry involved a lot of sweat, a lot of apprehension, and a pack that weighed over a quarter of my body weight. I had done a bit of hiking, but nothing involving a backpack or more than a few miles, and certainly nothing that involved sleeping out in the middle of nowhere. My husband and I had researched a wilderness area called Horseshoe Basin. 12 miles round trip and promising excellent scenery, we figured this would be a great way to initiate me into the world of backpacking. We packed up only the necessities, working hard to eliminate excess weight. We analyzed maps and read up on forums and decided that limiting the amount of water we carried was the best way to cut weight. The area we were going to be hiking in had plenty of streams, and water sources would be abundant. After all was said and done, my pack weighed 30 lbs, and on my barely 100 lb, inexperienced frame, it felt at least five times heavier than it actually was.

My husband and I headed East of the Cascades to Okanogan County. The trail head was at the end of a very long, very windy, very unmaintained “road” near the top of a small mountain. We set out as the sun was just making it’s first appearance over the mountain tops. The air was still chilly and with our packs strapped on tight, we plunged into a thick forested area through which the path wound for what seemed like hours. It was about a mile in that the heat started to scorch us. The sun inched higher and higher into the clear blue sky above the tree tops. The trail broke out of the trees and opened up onto alpine meadows, blooming with colorful wild flowers and tall grasses. It was breathtaking. It was hot.

The straps of my pack began to feel like they were cutting into my shoulders and my hips. My husband plowed on ahead, his stride sure and strong. He didn’t seem to be suffering like I was, although this wasn’t his first rodeo. He was an avid outdoors-man and he was no stranger to the backcountry, or to hauling a heavy load on his back. I felt myself growing weaker by the moment. The alpine meadows gave way to a burned down forest. A wild fire had torn through the mountains not many months before and dead, blackened trees lay scattered for miles in every direction. At least in the alpine meadows I had had the beauty of the flowers and the sweeping view to motivate me. Now, in this barren graveyard of skeleton trees I felt defeated.

I threw down my pack and booked it to a large boulder just off the trail - the only thing remotely close to a shady place to rest. I crouched beside the boulder, rubbing my shoulders, panting, and on the verge of tears. I realized with sinking certainty, that I had been defeated. I did not have what it took to be an adventurer. I had daydreamed that I would embark on my first backcountry quest with undiscovered, unharnessed, unshakeable strength. Now, as I huddled pathetically by a large rock in the middle of an unbelievably hot, desolate wasteland, the acknowledgment of my inexperience and weakness was nausea inducing.

My husband, upon realizing that I was no longer behind him, circled back and found me in my sorry state. With a gentle smile, he asked what was wrong. I told him that I was not cut out for the wild. My pack was too heavy, it was too hot, and my legs felt like jello. I told him that I could not go on and that we should turn back. My husband would have none of it. He gave me the bottle of water that we brought with us, and I drank deeply, sucking down the warm liquid that offered little to no relief from my suffering. I handed the bottle back to him, wiping my mouth with the back of my sweaty hand. My husband stowed the bottle and held out his hand to me. “Let’s go,” he said, confidently. He hauled me to my feet and helped me ease back into the straps of my pack.

And we carried on. With every step, my body ached more, and the sun beat down harder. But then, gradually, something amazing happened. I realized that despite my discomfort, I was pushing on, keeping up with my husband, and feeling more and more capable by the minute. The landscape changed again and we began winding in between tall cliffs and more alpine meadows. Patches of snow appeared sporadically in the shadowy  places. The heat became more bearable and I didn’t mind the burning in my shoulders and hips so much. I realized that my body was very capable of doing this. I had only to push through my mental barriers to release the adventurer strength within me. I was backpacking! I breathed in the fresh, mountain air and looked around me as I walked, drinking in the beauty of the backcountry - so remote and so unlike any place I had ever been.

Finally, we wound down the side of a cliff, came around a corner, and there it was: our destination. A beautiful valley lay before us, and on the opposite side, a grassy mountainside rose up into a bright blue sky. My husband and I smiled at each other. We trekked across the valley and up the other mountainside, where we found a relatively flat bank with a killer view. We set up camp, built our own water filtration system out of t-shirts, gravel, grass, and some charcoal that my husband had grabbed from the burned out forest we passed through earlier. The water that we filtered was the cleanest tasting water I had ever had the pleasure of guzzling.

That night we sat on the mountainside and watched the sunset together. The last blazing light of the day lit the wildflowers around us on fire so that they glowed in a supernatural way. It was so quiet. So still. The air was so crisp. The sun finally slipped behind a distant peak. It was a brand new world that I was in. In that moment, the backcountry welcomed me with open arms as one of it’s own. I fell in love on that mountainside, both with my husband all over again for believing in the strength that I had inside of me, even when I didn’t, and with the backcountry and all it stood for and all it had to offer. The wild places wove their way into my soul and I’ve never looked back.

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Little Slice of Heaven

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Everyone needs a quiet place to escape to. A place that makes you relax just thinking about it. That is what is so great about cabins. They are your own little slice of heaven that you can run off to in order to get away from it all. They are a safe haven that you can go to for a peaceful weekend away from the grind; a springboard for adventure.

Whether you like to hole up inside with a good book and shut the whole world out, or use it as a base camp for exploration, cabins are what it's all about.

Ode to Freeze-dried Suppers

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If you've been in the backcountry over night, you know what I'm talking about when I say that there are few things that taste as good as a re-hydrated meal eaten right out of the bag in the middle of nowhere after a long day of hiking. Dehydrated meals are a must for any true backpacker. And boy, do we love them. Here are the top reasons why freeze-dried meals are the shizz:

1. There is no better way to pack in the calories needed for long days of trekking it through the wild.

2. They provide you with a hot meal at the end of a long day. Think how nice a warm pouch of Chili Mac would be after a 12 mile hike, eaten as the sun starts setting over the mountains and that cool night air starts to creep in. You can't beat it. Hot meal. A must.

3. Some of them actually taste really good. Try these meals from Mountain House: Chicken a la King, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Beef Stroganoff, Chili Mac with Beef, or Mac and Cheese. Steer clear of the 'Breakfast' options...just my advice.

4. Easy clean up when you eat right out of the bag! No bowls required. Just rinse the bag out when you're done, roll it up small, and stuff it in your pack. No muss no fuss.

5. They fill you up. No really. You wont be hungry after downing a Mountain House Entree pouch.

Freeze-dried suppers are a life saver on a cool, wilderness night. That's why we, the adventurers, the explorers, the backcountry men [and women], love them so.

Exciting Announcement and Giveaway!

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Exciting Announcement and GIVEAWAY!

***UPDATE 01/29/14: The winner has been notified! Thank you all for participating! Stay tuned for more giveaways!***

Exciting announcement today at Wild Writes! You may have noticed a few new things around the blog...new colors, new header, new menu options to make finding posts a bit easier, and A BRAND SPANKIN' NEW LOGO! That's right, Wild Writes has a logo and I couldn't be more excited about it.

Here it is...the official Wild Writes logo!

ImageTo celebrate, I'm doing a giveaway!

One of my must-have accessories for any cold-weather adventure I go on is my Turtle Fur headband. I wear it everywhere and I love how it gives me just the right amount of warmth, while still leaving the top of my head open for that fresh air. Plus, it keeps my hair out of my face, a MUST when I'm out in the back country. And, I just may throw in a few other goodies with that headband as well!

So, here is how it works:

-Follow the blog.

-Follow @mrsannac3 on Instagram.

-Share the picture below on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #WWGiveaway.

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And that's it! The winner will be announced on the blog next Wednesday, January 29th. Good luck!

Keep your eye out for some more exciting announcements coming to Wild Writes in the near future! Big things are happening and I can't wait to share them with you all.

Rocks, Ice, and Fog: First Hike of 2014

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photo 2 My husband, Ben, and I spent our New Year's Eve a little differently than most 25 year olds probably did. We had an early dinner at my parents' house and then headed back home where we proceeded to spend the evening packing feverishly for our first adventure photo 1of the new year. We meticulously laid out our gear, inspecting it with great care. Ben's new Kuiu [www.kuiu.com] pack was filled with water, Cliff bars, and extra layers for us to throw on if needed. Our hiking boots were set out side by side. We had the New York New Year's Eve coverage playing on my laptop in the background and at 12am Eastern time (9pm for us), we watched the ball drop, shared a New Year's kiss and then called it a night.

We awoke early before the sun. While other people were in bed, recovering from the night's festivities, we filled our thermoses with hot coffee, grabbed some protein bars, loaded up the truck and hit the road with our little dog, Gunner, heading East. There wasn't much snow on the pass as we made our way through the mountains. But towards the top we noticed a thin sheen of black ice shimmering ever so slightly in the emerging sunlight. A sneaky, deadly thing, black ice.

We pulled off at the top of the pass into a deserted parking lot. No black ice there - instead, it was covered in a thick, obvious layer of ice, coated in a fine blanket of frost. The truck skidded over it's surface as we came to a stop. We wanted to let Gunner out for a break from the car ride. Ben, Gunner, and I each took our turn wiping out on the ice as we tried to walk around a bit to stretch our legs. Laughing, we all piled back into the truck and proceeded on...

East for Adventure!

We stopped for a quick breakfast before heading into the Swakane valley near Chelan. Winding our way back into the valley, we passed through mountains that rose up majestically on either side of the windy dirt road. The tops of the mountains disappeared into the dense fog that blanketed the valley high over head, allowing only a pale, filtered light through from the sun.

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Finally, we saw a place on the south side of the valley where the mountain split and a type of ravine offered access deep into the mountains. We parked the truck, checked our gear, and let Gunner loose, letting him lead the way. The ravine was rocky, icy, and foggy. We picked our way carefully over the ground, climbing up higher and higher. Our hiking boots skidded on the loose rocks that would have been hazardous on their own, even had they not been covered in slick ice and snow.

There was no view from the top other than the sides of the mountains that rose up around us, but those were awe inspiring enough. As we paused for a breather somewhere near the top, surrounded by quiet and stillness and crisp air, we couldn't think of a better way to start a new year, together, just the two of us in this peaceful place. We breathed in the mountain air, took in the uninterrupted silence, and basked in the ice cold breeze. We watched Gunner sniffing around, exploring his surroundings, equally as entranced with the place as we were.

We made our way back down the ravine, through the frost coated grasses of the valley, and back to the truck. We drove back over the mountains in bliss, laughing and recounting the beautiful day that we had had and the amazing new adventure that had kicked off 2014. A successful exploration that set the tone for the rest of the year to come - one full of adventure, pushing our limits, and grabbing life by the horns; and most importantly we started the year off together, doing what we love with the one we love...and with our little dog too.

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Morning Rituals

1385809_10201658465775237_1778717570_n How you start your day is important. What you do, see, feel, hear, smell, or taste first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to get out of that warm bed in the morning, especially during the winter time when those blankets feel extra cozy and the house feels extra chilly.

It's important to make a conscious decision about how you are going to start each day. You can choose to fill your morning with happy, positive thoughts and rituals. There are little things that you can do in the early hours, when you are fresh out of dream-land and your mind is a clean slate. Here are a few ways to make waking up a little easier:

1. Try making one of your favorite songs your alarm. Waking up to something that makes you happy will get your morning off to a great start.

2. Instead of jumping on facebook first thing in the morning, try meditating on everything that you have to be thankful for. Focusing on the positive things in your life is a great habit to get into.  Look for the good in the day ahead.

3. Prepare for your day the night before. Pack your lunch, get your clothes all laid out, and make sure you have all the ingredients ready for a good breakfast. Prepping the night before will save you from unnecessary stress in the morning.

4. Coffee. Just knowing there is hot coffee waiting for you is good motivation to slip out of that warm bed.

And my last bit of advice...

5. Try very hard, whenever possible, to wake up in the mountains...preferably in time to watch the sunrise. With coffee.

A New Christmas Tradition: A Handsaw, The Mountains, And A Box Of Raisins

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IMG_1743 Finding the perfect Christmas tree in the wild is surprisingly difficult. I assumed my husband and I would hike into the mountains, find a picture perfect tree, cut it down, and be on our way. We decided that, being avid outdoors people like we are, we would start a new tradition of cutting down our own Christmas tree each year in the wild. We headed to the mountains, parked our truck, and took off up into the wild, our little dog leading the way.

The air was crisp, the sun was bright, the mountains were idyllic. We enjoyed the scenery as we trekked farther into the wilderness. We didn't worry too much about avidly looking for a tree. We figured we would focus on that on the way back down. We snapped pictures, had a brief *almost* run in with a wild animal, and sat in silence listening to the sound of the wind blowing through the mountains [my favorite sound in the whole world].IMG_1705

"We'll grab one on our way back to the truck," we said. Well, let me tell you...it was not that simple!

We ended up making it all the way back down to the truck without seeing anything even close to being Christmas tree material. By this time we were starving and tired from our long hike. I grabbed a box of raisins from the truck and we set out again, back up into the woods. As we munched on raisins, our search became desperate. We scoured the mountainsides. When we did find a tree that looked as though it may good from a distance, as we got up closer to it, we would see that it was dying or had a weird growth coming out of it, or was too tall.

Finally, as the sun began to sink low on the horizon and as our box of raisins got emptier and emptier, we spotted it... the perfect Christmas tree. A bit Charlie-Brownish, a bit tall...but perfect nonetheless. We were elated. We sawed it down by the light of the setting sun and high-tailed it to the truck.

We topped our adventure off with a nice dinner in town, glowing at the already fond memory of our first tree-cutting experience. This is definitely our new Cohen Family tradition.

...And we'll always make sure to have a box of raisins on hand for all of our future Christmas tree hunts!

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The Tonic of Wildness

“We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

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That's it...that is what it is. That is the thing about nature; about the great outdoors. You can never fully comprehend or understand it all. There is always something new and wondrous about it. There is always a new discovery to be made and a brand new experience to be had in the wild.

As we grow older, time goes by faster and faster. I am twenty-five years old and I can honestly say that 2013 has been the fastest year of my life. Research shows that as we grow older, we are less likely to experience new things...things that scare us and amaze us and push us outside of our comfort zone. THAT is why time goes by faster the older we get.

The key to slowing down time is to do something new. So...do something that scares you, or that amazes you.  Do something that pushes you outside of YOUR comfort zone. I turn to nature for my remedy. It is mysterious and unfamiliar. You will always have new experiences in nature. Often times you will be forced to step outside of your comfort zone, even if it is just going without makeup for a few days or sleeping in a tent or climbing to the top of a steep hill to experience an incredible view.

Get your daily dose of the unknown...of the unfathomable. Don't let life pass you by!

Drink up the "tonic of wildness"!

Wild Eats: Mountain Man Chili Recipe

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The weather is turning. The days are getting shorter and the air is getting colder. Fall is in full swing and that means less time out camping in the wilderness and more time holed up at home with a fire blazing in the fire place and cuddling in lots of cozy, warm blankets.

I love fall. The world is transformed with bright colors and crisp air. With the changing of the weather, I have been craving something hearty and hot and Mountain Man Chili is just the thing to hit the spot!

My mom and I perfected this recipe and it is hubby approved! Here's how to make a big batch of this hot, savory goodness:

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs of ground beef (or ground bison for you extra wild folks)

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Two 15oz cans of tomato sauce

1/3 green bell pepper, chopped

3/4 yellow onion, chopped

4 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

One 15 oz can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

One 15 oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Top with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and fresh lime juice.

Directions:

Brown the ground beef (or bison) in a large pan with the chopped garlic cloves. Once the meat is brown, dump it into a large, deep pot and add in the tomato sauce, green pepper, onion, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and oregano. Mix well, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 cup of water as needed if the mixture gets too dry. After one hour, add in the kidney beans and the pinto beans. Stir well to mix the beans in. Then cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve hot. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and chopped onions, and squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top. Enjoy!

East for Adventure

553849_10201658433294425_1674086271_n I associate heading East with adventure. I grew up in Western Washington, and aside from a brief stint on the southern Californian coast, that is where I have lived my whole life. Western Washington has beauty and plenty of places to explore, but for me East of the mountains is where true adventure awaits.

My parents and I used to take drives over the mountains to get hamburgers at the little mountain burger stand together. The first time my dad and I fly fished together was on the Yakima river in Eastern Washington. Some of the best backpacking trips and hikes that my husband, Ben, and I have been on have been East of the Cascades. Our family cabin lies to the East, in Montana. I associate "East" with so many good memories.

There is something about cresting the Cascade mountains. The clouds clear up, the trees become more spread out allowing for some great, uninhibited hiking, and the sun is usually shining. Descending on the East side, hills covered in sage brush and pines beckon to me, daring me to take off into them for a day or a week. The rivers flow by the highway, begging for me to cast a fly into their rapids.

To the East is adventure; the unknown; rugged terrain that one can wander through for days. Wild animals roam freely, uninhibited by large crowds or overpopulation encroaching on their country. The East holds an enchantment over me. Whenever I think about going over the mountains I feel an excitement building up inside. Anything is possible.  Anything might happen.

Mountain Peaks and Salty Seas

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Balance is an important thing in life. Sometimes people can take the concept of balance to an unhealthy extreme, but that's a topic for another day. The balance that I want to talk about is the kind that involves terrain. When it comes to getting out there and exploring the great outdoors and all that it has to offer, don't limit yourself!

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I think that we all need a healthy serving of mountains, and a side of tropical beach. These two types of terrain are polar opposites in most ways. But both are good for you, both physically and mentally.

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        The mountains are jagged, mysterious, challenging...they allow you solitude and the chance to prove your abilities to yourself. You can conquer new heights, scale new cliff sides, and lose yourself (voluntarily, of course) in the cool forests. Mountain air is clear, crisp, and enlightening. You can listen to the cry of an eagle echoing through canyons, and watch an elk making it's way through a wide open field. You can wander for hours or days, uncovering new sights that will take your breath away.

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Tropical beaches give you something else. They allow you to feel the sand between your toes. You can submerge yourself in the turquoise waters of the ocean and explore underwater caverns. You can swim with colorful schools of exotic fish, test your nerves in a shark cage, and watch the sun set into the ocean while sipping fresh coconut milk. Salt water does the body and mind good, and nothing beats floating, spread eagle in the sea with the sun beaming down on your smiling face.

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Balance is important when it comes to being an adventurer. To take advantage of nature and appreciate it in its' full capacity, I suggest making time for both mountain peaks AND salty seas. Trek up that treacherous terrain, stare up at that wide expanse of starry sky as wolves sing you a lullaby, bask in the quiet and the coolness and the unknown of the mountainous wilderness. And lay in the sand, soak up the Vitamin D (with a healthy coating of sunblock, of course), eat fresh, tropical fruit, dive in the sea...

Balance, brah! It's a beautiful world with so much to offer! Be sure to experience it all!

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