EMERALD BAY CAMPING

Our last night on Lake Tahoe.
Our last night on Lake Tahoe.

Initially, when Stetson was telling me about the Tahoe trip, he had planned I was a tiny bit apprehensive. Maybe even, a lot to panicattack level apprehensive. He was keeping me pretty much in the dark about everything we were doing. Every single detail; right down to where/what we were going to eat for each meal. For someone who loves a solid plan as much as I do, to say it was overwhelming would be a serious understatement. However, I have to hand it to him, he did such an amazing job. I’ve talked about different bits and pieces about the trip in several posts, but it has been broken up into smaller chunks. Now, with this post I want to focus on the tail end of our trip and tie it all together.

Here’s how the trip ended up breaking down:

  • Day 1- arrive in Tahoe, grab some phenomenal dinner at Mountain View BBQ, set up camp at a nearby campsite and settle in
  • Day 3- get backpacking map and insight from the lovely people at Alpenglow Sports, paddle board, quick little hike to an awesome lookout point, cook burgers at camp
  • Day 4- pack up camp, ridiculously-slow-but-incredibly-delicious breakfast at Rosie’s Cafe, take off on our backpacking adventure (see Backpacking Day 1 post)
  • Day 5- hike, hike, jam toes into end of shoe, hike, get sort of lost, find incredibly disappointing lake, sleep (see Backpacking Day 2 post)
  • Day 7- paddle board and kayak, jump off rocks, paddle board and kayak
  • Day 8- load up camp, paddleboard and kayak back to our parking area, load up and hit the road for Wyo!

Just remembering all of that and putting it on paper (or into a computer screen) is pretty exhausting. But, unbelievably cool. Basically, I have covered everything that Stetson and I did all the way through backpacking (and I went super link happy, so you can read any of the posts you missed). Afterwards, we just set up a campsite and explored the lake until it was time to come home, real relaxing way to wrap up the week.

Stets relaxing once we finally made it.
Stets relaxing once we finally made it.

Oh yeah, I should probably tell you where we camped. No biggie, really, it was just… EMERALD BAY! The Emerald Bay.  The most beautiful place I have ever seen. The world-renowned, scenic camping area. The place people cram the side of the road just to get a picture of. Yeah, we were camping there. (And as I have mentioned, my geography or knowledge of important places in general is not top notch. So, I didn’t realize just how famous Emerald Bay was until after I got home and started noticing pictures of it everywhere.) It was absolutely stunning. And we were at a ‘boat in’– or kayak/paddle board in if you can’t afford a boat like us– campsite, so it was extra secluded.

While our location was absolutely picture perfect, getting there was not. Like I said, Stetson had done all of the planning and was incredibly meticulous.   He knew every single detail: from where we were renting our gear to what restaurants we would eat at to what meals we would make each day at camp (they were even pre-portioned and labeled), he had thought of absolutely everything. Except as we were pulling into the parking area for the campsite he had booked (which was across the bay from the actual site) we noticed something a little strange—it was closed. A bit of a curveball for us because Stetson had booked the site in advance and had even looked at the map to see where we would park and how far we would have to kayak/paddle board with out gear to get to our spot. What either the website failed to mention or we failed to notice, was yes, the campsite is open, but no the parking lot is not available until the next month.

Thankfully, this wasn’t a huge deal, as Stetson knew of another area where we could park overnight and depart from that beach. Everything was good to go! The only minor change was that now instead of a 15-minute trip across the bay, loaded down with everything we needed to camp and Stetson’s dog, we had a 2-hour trip (still, loaded down with everything we needed to camp and Stetson’s dog). Just a small change. But, clearly no big deal for Stetson—who had paddle boarded once before in his entire life—and myself—who had never kayaked–  ever.

Attempting to kayak without losing all of our gear.
Attempting to kayak without losing all of our gear.

Because Stetson was on the paddle board and was already in charge of balancing a Golden Retriever on there with him, I was kayaking. Oh, and carrying all the gear. On my first trip. Ever. Luckily, we could fit most everything that we needed into our 2 backpacking packs, with just a few added luxuries (like new craft beers and a classy bag o’ wine). We tossed Stetson’s pack behind my seat and placed mine in between/on my legs in front of me. I’m sure onlookers at the beach were taking bets on our success/failure rate, but eventually we made our way out into the water and away from the shore. Which is promptly when my over thinking/nervousness kicked in—“Stets, I think I’m going too far from the shoreline!…Stets, my paddle is pushing me a lot more right than left!… Stets, I accidentally turned around!… Stets, can this kayak even support this much weight?!” All within our first 10 minutes. So, Stetson promptly and very gently told me he ‘needed me to grow up for just a second.’ And I stopped pestering him.

*A bit later, while we were still on the 2 hour trek, but both markedly less stressed because we were getting the hang of it, he apologized and I explained that as the younger sister I just needed him to answer my questions in whatever way would make me feel better, even if he didn’t really know the answer for sure. I had done this as a little kid too—“Stets, can this little seatbelt really hold me in on this rollercoaster?” I just liked the blind reassurance.*

Finally, we made it to our campsite. And it was completely worth it! First of all, I looked at all of the people bringing in their gear off of their insanely fancy/fast boats as total posers. And second of all, our campsite was AMAZING. We were, in fact, pretty happy campers. We again set up camp; we were getting pretty skilled in that area by this point in the trip. Then, it was time to crash. I mean, we had started the morning backpacking out of the hell, that is more commonly known as ‘Frog Lake.’ It had been a long day.

DCIM100GOPROThe next morning we had a lazy breakfast with some camp coffee—which is just regular coffee that you drink when you’re camping. It was incredibly nice to have a morning where we didn’t feel rushed or like we needed to hustle to keep on schedule. But, we did want to take full advantage of our day with the paddle board and kayak, so after clean up we set off for the water. We spent the entire day out on the lake (I talk about this day in detail in my previous post, Paddle Boarding and Kayaking). Then made it back, just in time thanks to a little windstorm, for our last camp dinner. We stayed up that night finishing off the last of our provisions (camp wine mostly). It was a really strange feeling to be so utterly exhausted, but completely relaxed at the same time. Our week had been very go, go, go, so we were pretty worn out by this point. But, we were also in that full-on vacation mode, where you aren’t really worrying about anything that’s going on back at home or at work. It was definitely a different mix of feelings, but not in a bad way at all.

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All packed up!

The next morning we packed up and hit the water. We weren’t necessarily in a hurry, but we did have a 14-hour drive ahead of us, so we wanted to get to the car in decent time. By this point I was an expert, so I looked pretty much like Carl Lewis gliding on top of the water out there. We made it back to the car in good time and got all packed up to head home.

 ***

Early on in the week, I made the comment to Stetson that I was glad we were doing this trip, because it would probably be the last solely brother/sister trip we got to do. Of course, he gave me hard time the entire week about that comment, pretending I was being all pessimistic and such. But really what I meant was how jacked I was that we actually were doing this. I’ve tried to explain it before, and it’s a little difficult: but I just don’t feel like people are used to a brother/sister pair that are such good friends. Yes, for sister and sister or brother and brother it’s almost expected, but brother and sister is different. People are usually pretty surprised.

Friends for the longest time.
Friends for the longest time.

But, we have been this way my entire life. Honestly. Not, in the cheesy “Oh, we are best friends—but really we only hang out when forced to at family holidays way” or the #bestfriends post on Instagram for #NationalSiblingsDay (which, let’s be honest, comes about 7 times a year). We are honest-to-goodness friends. We hang out and watch baseball games. We go to happy hour. We fish. We get into fights. We eat 3 entire pizzas, as a team. It’s a real friendship. So, yeah I thought it was pretty darn neat that he planned this whole weeklong trip for us to take together. Plus, we are getting older and both of us are starting to get busier with work and our relationships. And that’s a great thing! And I’m definitely happy for both of us. But, it does mean less time with just us. So, no matter how much he made fun of me, I still mean what I said. I’m incredibly glad we took that trip.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

PADDLE BOARDING AND KAYAKING

DCIM100GOPROThis summer has been absolutely incredible. I have had outdoor adventures in Wyoming, and Montana, and California. Lots and lots of them. Well, it seems like lots to me as they are sprinkled in with the days I spend not eating breakfast until noon and binge watching Friends or True Detective. Still, I need to fill you in on yet another first I had this summer: Paddle boarding and kayaking at Lake Tahoe!

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I mean if you’re going to try something new, may as well go all out. And what better place could there possibly be for water sports than Lake Tahoe? It totally lived up to/passed all of my expectations.  The part that completely shocked me was how easy it was to pick up these activities. Given that I am totally void of natural athleticism, I grew up in landlocked Montana, and I have a serious lack of coordination, it was pretty surprising that I managed on both the kayak and paddle board without a major spill. Yes, I was slow and yes, I do realize both of these items, that I am so proud for balancing on, are about 3 feet wide and over 8 feet long; not exactly a balancing beam. But still, I had some wind to battle, and I must say I did a stellar, albeit slow, job!

Going into the outing, I was almost certain paddle boarding would be my favorite. I had seen tons of Instagram pictures of these effortlessly beautiful surfer looking girls casually floating around on their boards and looking like they belonged in a magazine. So naturally, with it being my first time, I assumed that’s exactly how I would look. Little did I know it would seriously put my core to work and I would sweat enough to look like I had jumped in for a little swim (minor exaggeration, but I want to dispel any model-esque ideas you may have had that were similar to mine). I did love the feeling of standing out on the water, literally like I was walking on it. Given the opportunity, I would hop right back on one of those boards every single time. The reason I think I like kayaking more, is that I could see it translating more into my Wyoming adventures. Every time I go out and fish one of our major rivers, I see kayakers making their way down and looking wicked cool. Now, I can be one of those wicked cool people! Well, not exactly, but it would be a new, fun way to enjoy the river. And being closer to the water, I didn’t feel quite a precarious, which made me basically convinced I am an expert kayaker.

Posed PaddleWe had the best time. We packed a little lunch with a few beers, plus we got to bring Camden along. It’s not often that you get a chance to eat lunch, have a beer with your brother and his dog, while sitting in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Looking back, it’s crazy to see how lucky I am. Stetson and Cam only had 2 quick dips into the lake, which I think is pretty darn impressive. Camden is very, very go with the flow, which is why Stets could toss him on this floating board he had never seen before and he took it in stride. Granted, I do think Camden would classify himself as more of a ski/fishing/hiking pup than a lake dog, but there’s no doubt he loved getting to spend the day with us. We found some rocks to suntan on (with lots of sunscreen on my part!!) and do some rock jumping from. Camden was even able to swim a bit. The only downside may have been the mach 4 winds that blasted us right in the face as we tried to make our way back to shore at the end of the day… but we were willing to overlook that.

Stets and Cam diving in.
Stets and Cam diving in.
Original dive attempt for me.  Fun fact: I did used to teach swimming lessons
Original dive attempt for me. Fun fact: I did used to teach swimming lessons
Improved attempt
Slightly improved attempt…

Now, just to top it all off, I have to mention how phenomenal the West Shore Sports was to rent from. The more I get into outdoors activities, the clearer it has become that people who love the outdoors are just plain, good people. All around friendly and helpful human beings. And that was proven once again in Tahoe. These guys were all so easy to talk to and helpful as we were getting all of our gear. They got everything strapped to the top of my already loaded Honda. They chatted with us about Wyoming. They weren’t looking to make a quick buck off of us and gave us a bit of a break with the rentals. And they laughed at all of our ‘We are NOT dating’ lines. Sometimes all of set up, and gear, and tear down that comes with outdoor activities (especially if you are renting equipment) can be too much for me. There aren’t many things that I can think of that are more annoying than getting all pumped for a new adventure only to be slowed down by pain-in-the-butt, time consuming hoops to jump through. But, there was none of that here! It may seem like a small detail, but it really mattered to me. I’m telling you, the outdoors community is just outstanding no matter where you go.

Look at that water!

After the Tough Mudder and backpacking, it was awesome to have some time to just putz around the lake and take it all in. It was a super-relaxing day, without feeling like a total bum. To be honest, I am all for lay-around-and-do-absolutely-nothing vacation days. But, if I have too many of those I start to feel pretty gross. In fact, I hate that feeling after a vacation where I am just sluggish, and trying to ‘get back into the swing of things.’ Vacations should be relaxing and a time to let your hair down, but they shouldn’t include that “vacation hangover.” So, I decided I hands-down prefer Active Vacations, where activities like paddle boarding and kayaking are included. Even if the inner lazy bum inside of me may have protested, when I heard the plan. Thankfully, now I am totally over-confident in my kayaking and paddle boarding abilities, so I will be taking any opportunity I get to get back out on the water and show-off (or just beam as I manage to not fall down, while 8 year olds do laps around me).

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

FOUR-WHEELING TO BLUE LAKE

ATV SElfie
A little ATV Selfie action.

It’s time for me to share a bit more Montana fun I had this summer. The biggest, main, and most important reason we were up visiting Big Sky country for such a long time was for MY MOM’S WEDDING! And I will be doing a post on that in the future. But, there is a lot of excitement and happiness and general overall goodness to cram into that post, so it’s taking a bit more time. However, we were able to fit in almost an entire week of pre-wedding activities while we were up there. One of my favorites, and a new adventure for me was our 4-wheeling trip.

It may be a bit surprising that I have spent little to no time on ATV’s seeing that I grew up in Montana. But, they haven’t ever really been something I am super interested in. I’m a bit high-strung, so I don’t particularly enjoy riding behind someone where I can’t control the vehicle. Additionally, I am a terrible driver, so I don’t exactly enjoy driving (whether it be my car, or my bike, or any sort of moving thing that I can be attached to). Those two things together made it pretty easy for me to pass up most ATV adventures my friends went out on while I was younger.

But, it was Wedding Week! And it was beautiful. And I wanted to spend time with my family. So, I decided to go along for the ride. Literally (yay, puns!). We took four vehicles: 2 single 4-wheelers, a double 4-wheeler, and another larger ATV (very specific I know, but I’m not sure what it’s called. It was like a mini-mini pick-up type thing *NOTE- According to Brady this is a Polaris Ranger). I got to ride with Brady on the double. As I have already mentioned, the whole ‘no-control’ bit of this I was not a big fan of. Of course, I also didn’t want to cause both of us to roll down the side of an entire mountain before we even got to the rehearsal dinner, so I went along with it. Actually, that ended up being one of the best things for me. We were able to chat the entire way up. Not annoying boyfriend/girlfriend-let’s-talk-about-our-feelings talks, I sometimes like to corner Brady into when we are stuck together for an extended period of time. More like me asking how the old cabins we passed got up there, and what they were for, and how long ago did people stay there type stuff. Brady loves explaining historical bits like that, so rather than fight it, I just embrace and encourage it now. Then, he has to listen any time I want to gush about whatever came in my BoxyCharm or what I got at the Patagonia sale.

Part of our ride up.
Part of our ride up.

To my surprise, I absolutely loved the ride. I had never done anything like it before and it was a really cool way to get to experience the landscape. I know “experience the landscape,” sounds pretty cheesy and philosophical, but that’s the best way I can describe it. It was different from hiking because we were able to cover so much ground. Obviously. I mean we were on vehicles rather than our “Chevro-legs” as Brady like to refer to walking. But, as we were driving to our unloading spot, way, way, way up into the mountain we spotted a lake, which looked unbelievably beautiful and unbelievably high in the mountains. And then Jerry, my mom’s husband!!, told us that’s exactly where we were headed. Blue Lake.

The entire trip up was incredible. Initially, I thought to myself ‘this would make a decently difficult, but doable hike.’ Uh, no. It kept getting higher and steeper and more treacherous. Even, an absolute expert hiker, like myself (see my Backpacking posts…) would have a seriously difficult time.

And here is what we finally saw when we arrived. I have been lucky enough to grow up and live in an area that is so naturally beautiful. But, I am still amazed each time I get far enough into nature to forget about the rest of the world. Having a lake that blue (hence the name), and clear tucked way up into those mountains was pretty hard to beat.

Mom and I trying to brave the bugs on our "lunch rock."
Mom and I trying to brave the bugs on our “lunch rock.”

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We had planned on eating a picnic at the lake before making the trek back down and returning to the cabin. The bugs, however, had other plans. They were honestly the worst bugs I had ever, ever seen. And even Stetson, who always claims bugs are part of the whole outdoor experience, couldn’t stand to eat his sandwich as 3 mosquitoes swarmed his face, 6 landed on his legs, and 1 made his way right in between the meat and cheese. So, we took in Blue Lake for a bit shorter time than we had planned, before heading back.

This was just the start to Wedding Week. Now, Brady is pretty sure he only wants to attend weddings that have built in ATV trips, and fishing time each night. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I am definitely on board.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney 

JULY BOXYCHARM

July BoxAnother month, another BoxyCharm! My excitement is starting to get a bit out of control. I stare out the window on the day it’s supposed to arrive and I may or may not have called the post office when it was just a few hours late…

But, I think it’s justified! I paid $21 for $128 worth of beauty products. It is absolutely incredible.

GORGE I’LL MAKE YOU LOOK AMAZING DAILY SPRAY

GorgeThis is a leave-in conditioning spray for your hair. Honestly, I was not overly excited to see this in the box. I mean, I wash my hair 1-2 times a week already, so it has the tendency to look greasy already, I didn’t want some conditioning spray to speed up that process. But, the promise of making me gorgeous was just too much to pass up. And I love it! It just left my hair feeling silky smooth. And it has this very summery/beachy smell—it reminds me of the tanning lotion one of my friends and I used in high school, but in the best way possible. It smells kind of coconutty, without being overpowering.  I only use this in my wet hair, but the results last until the next wash, which is very impressive.

In fact, this quickly became my favorite item from this month’s box. And I am already planning to pay the $26.95 to repurchase it when mine runs out.

*This also came with a coupon code! Use “BC20” to get $20 off your purchase.  Seriously, if you can get this spray for $7 it is a steal you can’t pass on.

OFRA COSMETICS UNIVERSAL EYEBROW PENCIL

Ofra eyebrowI get it. Eyebrows are big right now—literally. So, it makes sense that we received another eyebrow product (in previous boxes I have received eyebrow powder and an eyebrow brush). I have naturally full and dark brows already. I don’t use anything other than brow gel in my “brow routine,” but for the sake of this review I tried this pencil out. I will say it looked surprisingly natural and lasted all day. The eyebrow pencil is $13 dollars, and if you have finer brows and would like to add some definition, this does seem to be a good one. It’s even waterproof, which is perfect for these summer months. I would be a bit leery though if you have very fair hair: the shade of this pencil claims to be universal, but I could see it being too dark on some people.

MDMFLOW GREATER THAN MASCARA

MDM flowI am such a mascara junkie. Usually I go overboard with mascara, but I don’t even care.  I’d rather have clumpy spider lashes than bare ones.  My favorite look right now is to just wear BB cream, bronzer, highlighter (if I’m feeling fancy) and then pile on loads and loads and loads of mascara. When, I saw that this was going to be one of the items in this month’s box, my anticipation was just about too much to take. Plus, this mascara retails for $35! I have never spent over $10 for mascara before… my expectations were ridiculously high.

And this product fell a little flat for me. Yes, I have been using it on a daily basis since I got it, but I still layer it with my drugstore mascara. Don’t misunderstand me: it’s a good mascara. There’s no flaking, it doesn’t make your lashes feel brittle and gross, it has a deep black color, it helps your lashes hold a curl. Blah, blah, blah. So, if you like a more natural lash look, you would probably like this more than I do. I want so much volume and length.  I want people to think my lashes are fake. I’m talking in-your-face, Kim Kardashian eyelashes. And the Greater Than Mascara doesn’t give me that on it’s own. Personally, I don’t think you should go out and spend $35 on this (just to put it in perspective: Chanel mascaras are $32…).

*BoxyCharm did put a video on their Instagram on how to properly ‘prime’ this mascara for use. You are supposed to take the wand out, reinsert it, shake the tube for ten seconds, and then pump the wand at least times before you apply it. I have been doing this, because it does seem to give a bit more volume if I this little pre-mascara dance. But, seriously? That’s a whole lot of work for the world’s most expensive mascara.

YOURMINERALS TRANSPARENT VEIL SETTING POWDER

Mineral VielIn the summer I do need a good setting powder. And we got an incredible face brush in our last box, making this product just about perfect. There’s not a ton to say about a setting powder. This one is lightweight. It feels really good on the skin. And it helps my makeup stay in place, so it covers all the bases I’m looking for. I did use way, way too much this first time and looked quite a bit like Casper, but once I was a little more light-handed I really liked it. The retail price for the size of powder that we received is $26. Um, expensive? Yes. So, I try to use this on bigger event days like weddings or Farmers Market (I love Farmer’s Market, so yes that is a ‘big day’ for me), but I definitely skip it if I’m just running errands or heading out fishing. I like it, but there are drug store powders that I will purchase instead, once it runs out.

VASANTI PROFESSIONAL BLUSH BRUSH

VasantiThis product was a necessity for me! I have not bought a new brush since high school. It’s just one of those things that I never think about when I am out browsing the makeup aisle. Then, I get home and figure I can just make do with the old shabby ones that I have. Seriously, the brushes from BoxyCharm are my only new brushes and I cherish them like they are my children. This brush is super, super soft and doesn’t seem to have an issue with shedding. Which are my two main criteria. I also really like the size; it’s a bit smaller than other blush brushes I have seen which makes it more versatile. I think it could easily be used to highlight or create a subtle contour. It’s $29, so I am definitely taking good care of this puppy!

I’ll be completely honest, I was debating on whether I should keep this subscription service or take a little break. I love makeup, but I have always been more on the minimal makeup side of things. Thanks to BoxyCharm and impulse buys, my collection of beauty products is really starting to grow. I mean I actually have multiple highlighters now! I didn’t even use highlighters until a few months ago and now I have options each morning. And with each box I have about 2 or 3 products that I love and use on a regular basis. However, that still leaves products left over each month that I hardly ever touch.

It’s just too good to give up, though! It’s a surprise each month, and I get to try out new brands. I’ve even gathered up a few items that are no good for me, but would be great for some of my friends, so I can give them as cheap-surprise-gifts. Of course, BoxyCharm may be something that I take a break from later on, or I may try a different subscription box (there are a few that I’ve had my eye on). Each time I get close though, I am convinced the next box will be the best yet.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

FIRST FISH ON A DRY FLY

I caught my first fish on a dry fly! And boy, it was a real monster! Quite a battle to get him wrangled in, but I finally managed. Well, actually no. The little brook trout I caught was maybe 3 inches long. Which didn’t make it any less exciting for me at all though.

While we were in Montana, we were able to squeeze in a bit of fishing here and there. Some outings, not successful at all, and others very successful. This trip in Big Sky up to some little lakes/ponds was my most successful trip yet! I caught 5 fish in just a few hours! Yes, Brady and Stetson both caught double digit numbers of fish. However, I was still super jacked about my 5.

I have always known that there are different kinds of flies you can catch a fish on. Mostly, different variations of nymphs, streamers, and dry flies. Up to this point, my first fish was on a streamer, and then everything after that had been on a nymph. My dad, brother, and Brady had all told me about how cool it is to catch a fish on a dry fly: watching the fish as it swims up to check out your fly, then seeing it take your fly right as you set the hook. Yeah, it sounded cool, but I still get giddy-little-kid excited any time I catch a fish, so I wasn’t very sure how much more exciting it could be.

I was too excited to get a proper picture where you can see more than this little guy's tiny head.
I was too excited to get a proper picture where you can see more than this little guy’s tiny head.

But, judging by my cheek-to-cheek grin and massive ‘woo’-ing as I reeled this guy in, it’s pretty safe to say I get it now.

It’s hard to say that I have a ‘favorite’ kind of fly-fishing. Really, it would have to be whatever I am doing at the time. I’ve fished from a drift boat, I’ve lake fished from the shore, and I’ve waded through rivers and streams. But, thinking back on this trip, it has to be one of my favorite times ever. Standing in this mucky-marsh-business as I watch teeny-tiny trout darting back and forth, looking over to see Brady reeling in fish nearly every cast at one point, and hearing Stetson’s girlfriend yell every time he reeled in another fish… it was pretty hard to beat.

Brady showing off the size of the fish we were bringing in.
Brady showing off the size of the fish we were bringing in.

I also loved how different this fishing was. Usually, I find some sort of hole off a boulder or “nervous water” (where the slower moving current meets up with the swifter current) and cast, and cast, and get tangled, and cast again until I either catch a fish or move down the river. With this though, I was able to see the actual fish right from where I was standing. So, I could strategically place my fly—or more often than not, attempt to place my fly—near enough in front of their nose that they would see it, but far enough that it wouldn’t scare them off. That part I loved. It felt like I had a little bit more control than I do with other fishing. And with my high-strung personality that was a definite plus.

Here I am stripping in one of those trout, as Brady attempts to catch the moment from the other side of the pond.
Here I am stripping in one of those trout, as Brady attempts to catch the moment from the other side of the pond.

Now, the most surprising part of the trip: I almost forgot about lunch! Stetson and Brady do this all the time. They will be fishing and then just get so into it they forget to even eat until they are home hours later. I have watched them do this quite a few times, and it always blew my mind. No matter what I have going on or how busy I am, I never, never forget to eat. But, as we were out there, hours past when we had all agreed would be a good leaving time, I finally understood it! I would much rather stay out there just to get “one more fish” than call it a day and grab a sandwich.  Of course, I didn’t totally forget about eating as the first thing I did when we got home (rather than take my first shower in about 3 days or change out of my mucky-fish-smelling outfit) was head to the store and grab some deli goods for a late lunch. But, it was still impressive for me to go those extra few hours without being completely consumed by thoughts of food.

It’s official: I’m hooked (pun 100% intended). I love fishing, and I can’t wait for my next dry fly—or nymph, or streamer—catch.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA

Finished pizzaI am sure if you are familiar at all with Pinterest (or know any 20-something year old girl who is likely obsessed), you have probably seen some sort of recipe or another for Cauliflower Pizza Crust. Admittedly, I am always looking for a sneaky way to eat junk food and still be able to trick myself into thinking it’s a little healthy, so this has always intrigued me. But, I have had my fair share of “Pinterest Fails”—hello DIY Citronella Candle and 3 Ingredient Pancakes—which made me a bit leery about grinding up a vegetable to make pizza crust.

Thankfully, my step-mom tried it out for me first! When I was up visiting family in Montana, she made this for dinner one night and it was delicious. She had even done a bit of troubleshooting with another recipe that she didn’t like as much on a previous attempt.

So, after watching her make it, and Brady gently reminding me a few times after we got home just how much he liked it, I decided to make it myself.

The recipe that Stacey, my step-mom, used comes from The Lucky Penny Blog. (The printer friendly version at the bottom of the page is much easier to follow than the written account you will see first.)

Now, it seems that in every other food post I put up I rave about how easy the recipe is. I love easy, quick recipes… but this is not one of them. I wouldn’t say it takes a ton of skill or weird ingredients or anything. It just takes some definite planning and I highly suggest following the directions carefully, until you really get the hang of it.

*This is not a recipe that I made up on my own, or even adapted very much at all. The few changes I made mostly came from forgetting to pick up the right ingredients at the store, so I improvised with what I had at home. Again, the original recipe can be found here. I will include some of my own tips in the directions below.

This was not the actual egg that I used, because right after this picture it rolled off the counter and splattered all over Teton's paws.
This was not the actual egg that I used, because right after this picture it rolled off the counter and splattered all over Teton’s paws.

Ingredients:

1 small to medium sized head of cauliflower

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

1 egg

Parchment paper

Directions:

  1. Place your pizza stone or baking sheet (if you’re like me and aren’t quite to the pizza-stone-owner level in life yet) in the oven and preheat it to 450° F.
  1. Wash and dry a small head of cauliflower. Cut off the florets, you don’t need much stem. Pulse in your food processor until it looks a bit like a powder. (I had to do this part in sections because my food processor was too small to accommodate the entire head of cauliflower.)
Here's what the cauliflower looks like after the food processor step.
Here’s what the cauliflower looks like after the food processor step.
  1. Place the cauliflower in the microwave for 4 minutes. Dump cooked cauliflower onto a clean tea towel and allow it to sit long enough that it is cool to the touch.

*Heads up: cooking cauliflower gives your entire house a very unpleasant odor! I was sure to light a candle and open up windows. It’s one of those smells that you get used to in your house, but as soon as you leave and come back it knocks you in the face.*

  1. Once cauliflower has cooled, wrap it up in the cheese cloth (I am not sure that what I used was technically a cheese cloth, but it’s this really thin tea towel I have) and wring out as much water as possible.

*I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed, but I still felt like I left in more water than I wanted. That’s something I will work on next time.*

  1. Dump cauliflower into a bowl. Now add mozzarella cheese, salt, dried oregano (first dump the oregano into your palm and rub your hands together before adding—this will make the leaves smaller so you don’t get a big chunk of oregano in your crust), garlic powder, red pepper (if you don’t like spicy food feel free to cut this measurement down or leave it out entirely), and egg. Mix everything together. It was suggested to use your hands for this and I did. First, it’s one less item to wash. And second, I was able to pick out larger pieces of cauliflower that the processor had missed.
  1. Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Oil it so the crust won’t stick. Then use your hands to form the dough into a crust. Be sure to pack it tightly together, so it won’t crumble when you cook it. Transfer the parchment paper onto the heated pizza stone or baking sheet.
  1. Bake until the crust begins to turn golden brown—anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes.

*I know this is quite a range for cooking time, but after reading the original recipe and the comments on that post, it’s clear each oven is different. Mine in particular has a fun little quirk, where I can’t actually tell what temperature it’s at, so I am always sure to check.*

  1. Remove crust. Add any desired sauce, cheese, and toppings. Then, bake for an additional 5-10 minutes; just until everything is melted and crisped to your desire.
Here's the completed crust before toppings.  I did burn the corner a bit, so I cut that bit off.
Here’s the completed crust before toppings. I did burn the corner a bit, so I cut that bit off.

This recipe is primarily for the crust. Add absolutely whatever toppings you want. We went with our standard: green peppers, jalapeños, and sausage. I have to say we cut down, just a tiny bit, on the bulk of toppings we put on, because the crust isn’t extremely strong. But, we used to absolutely mound our homemade pizzas, so we probably needed to cut it down anyways.

Doing my part to help put on toppings.
Doing my part to help put on toppings.
And Brady doing his part.
And Brady doing his part.

This is a perfect recipe if you want to try something just a bit healthier, but still aren’t crazy enough to totally cut pizza out of your diet. Honestly, I prefer this to any of the store-bought crusts Brady and I have used other times when we make pizza at home. I prefer thin crust. Well, really I prefer sauce and copious amounts of cheese and toppings. The crust is just something to hold it all together and shovel it into my mouth.

Here's our dinner set up.  The dogs are trying to creep in the edge of the picture.  They were pretty sure we should have been sharing with them.
Here’s our dinner set up. The dogs are trying to creep in the edge of the picture. They were pretty sure we should have been sharing with them.

This recipe made for a super easy date night for Brady and me. Actually, it was just a typical night: we made dinner, watched Netflix, and attempted to keep the dogs at bay while we ate. But, I slapped the title of ‘Date Night’ on it and lit a candle so it counts.

Cheers! Big thanks to my mom for the new-- and much classier-- wine mugs (also, I didn't have chalk at my house, so baby powder and a Q-tip worked pretty well).
Cheers! Big thanks to my mom for the new– and much classier– wine mugs (also, I didn’t have chalk at my house, so baby powder and a Q-tip worked pretty well).

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

TAHOE BACKPACKING- DAY 3

We made it to the final day! And after day 2 and the night of no water at Frog Lake, we were ridiculously ready to see our car.

So, with this being such a short hiking day, we took very few pictures.  But, we did get a shot of us at the end of our loop.
So, with this being such a short hiking day, we took very few pictures. But, we did get a shot of us at the end of our loop.

Day 3

Miles covered: 4

Our goal this day was just to get out as quickly as possible and get some water. And we were pretty darn successful. Seeing as we just ate power bars for breakfast, and didn’t have to make any coffee or food, we packed up camp and hit the trail very quickly. According to the map, we were going to head back to the highway and walk for just a little bit right on the road, then turn off onto a steep downhill trail. Follow that for a while (grab some water at one of the streams we would cross), then follow the little road right up to where we had parked.

Without a doubt, the biggest victory of the day would have to be Stets spotting our trail sign. We didn’t have to hike on the highway at all, as our map had indicated. The trail started just before we reached the road. By that point in the trip, and after our previous day, if we had missed that it would have taken a feat of God to keep our morale at a decent level.

The trip down was a pleasant surprise. It was downhill, but not Ram-Your-Toes-Into-The-End-of-Your-Shoes tough. We found the best little watering hole to fill up our waters (we even drove back to rinse off after we made it to our car). And the last uphill bit to the car went by quickly.

I wish I could give a fitting description of the feeling that I got when I saw my car. It’s completely indescribable. We had only been gone for 3 days, but it felt like it had been years since we parked at the trailhead. Ok that may be a tinge dramatic, but still.  In the book that we read (Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail by Suzanne Roberts: I will talk more about this in an upcoming post about surprising backpacking necessities, because let’s face it, this post is already getting pretty lengthy), Roberts explained that seeing cars and people in street clothes was overwhelming, she said that everything seemed too bright. Now, I fully understand what she meant. Looking at the parking lot, it blew my mind that Stetson and I had been wandering out in, what felt like the middle of nowhere, while SUVs, and motor homes, and bathrooms were all just nestled in here a few miles from us. I had survived my first trip!

In the past, when I would think of backpackers the image of some super, go-with-the-flow, hippie, flower-child would come to mind. And I would like to assume I’m not the only one who thought that. But, after my first trip, I realize just how much preparation and planning goes into even a very small trip. Let alone, the longer treks—like the Pacific Crest Trail or the Tahoe Ridge Trail– that tons of people venture out on each year. Luckily for me, Stets did all of the planning, so I just got to reap the benefits.

On our 15-hour drive back to Wyoming, Stets and I had lots, and lots of time to talk. He had definitely “got the bug.” He was already talking about the longer trips he would like to complete and smaller trips for this summer. He asked me my thoughts on doing something like the TRT and honestly I wasn’t sure at the time. I mean it’s not like the actual process of backpacking was a real blast for me. But, that sense of accomplishment I had at the end of each day made it unbelievably worthwhile. I can’t imagine how much that feeling would multiply at the end of a month-long trek. I’ve heard people talk about different kind of “highs” that come from physical activity. You know, like runner’s high or a high after lifting weights. And that has never clicked with me. I have nodded along and agreed that I too had that runner’s high, while in reality I was still attempting to slow my heart so it didn’t explode and dreaming of laying on my couch for the next few hours. Finally I get it! There was definitely a high that accompanied the end of each hiking day. Granted, it was pretty low key as I lay in the tent trying to keep my bug-spray and sweat coated legs from sticking together in my sleepingbag. But, it was still a high nonetheless.

I made it! And yes, I am wearing the same clothes each day.  I wasn't about to pack around wardrobe changes.
I made it! And yes, I am wearing the same clothes each day. I wasn’t about to pack around wardrobe changes.

I guess, that feeling is what keeps people coming back and pushing themselves even further.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

TAHOE BACKPACKING- DAY 2

Despite a minor siblings scuffle, day one of our backpacking trip was pretty darn easy.  Well, I can say that now I guess, at the time I didn’t necessarily think so.  But, I realize that it is especially true as I look back on our second day.

Starting Day 2 with a little breakfast scramble.  As Stetson reminded me many times this trip: I will not be doing a post about having great hair while backpacking, because mine was a hot mess the entire time.
Starting Day 2 with a little breakfast scramble. As Stetson reminded me many times this trip: I will not be doing a post about having great hair while backpacking, because mine was a hot mess the entire time.

Day 2

Miles covered: 17

Just thinking back on this day exhausts me. To start our day we did a little off-road climb. Unintentionally. We figured that the trail curved around the lake, but as we started to follow it, the trail was completely overtaken by marsh and some pretty dense brush-type-plants to work through. And it got to be so hard to stick with the trail that we assumed we couldn’t possibly be on it. So, we backtracked and took a different fork in the trail that we had seen the day before. That started leading us right up to a peak in the opposite direction we were headed. It was a serious vertical climb. We realized that this couldn’t possibly be right either before we got to the actual peak. But, we decided to use our elevation advantage to try and spot the trail we needed to be on. We took of in the general direction we needed to be going and kept our eyes peeled for other hikers who were on the trail we should be on. Again, with my direction-ability I was little to no help. I mean I was pretty sure I could see Lake Tahoe from that ridge despite Stetson’s not-so-gentle reminders that it was impossible. Mostly I was just attempting to keep my eyes looking the same direction that Stetson’s were. It took us about a good hour from the start of our little detour, but eventually Stetson spotted some hikers that were on the trail. We, very slowly and carefully, made our way back down these ridges we were on and met up with the trail. Turns out the original trail we were on was most likely the correct one. It was just overgrown. That’s something Stetson explained would probably be in a guidebook, which we did not have.

The detour was exhausting and time consuming, but it did lead to this view.  Stets spotted the hikers from here not long after this picture.  Clearly, I was incredibly helpful in spotting them.
The detour was exhausting and time consuming, but it did lead to this view. Stets spotted the hikers from here not long after this picture. Clearly, I was incredibly helpful in spotting them.

And that was just to start our day. We had also decided that we were going to add a little extra loop to our route. We had talked with an incredibly helpful guy when we bought our map—he was awesome because he spent a lot of time helping us decide on a route that would be perfect for us (even though he was only making a $12 sale) and he didn’t talk down to us, which can happen fairly often if you’re a tourist in a resort town and clearly new to backpacking. He had shown us a nice little loop that could easily be done in 3 days. But, we were covering more ground than expected and he had told us about a pretty loop we could add if we wanted. Good ol’ Bryan’s Meadow. It was about 3 added miles: half of it downhill and the other half uphill. The way in was absolutely beautiful and definitely not overly challenging. But, the further we got in and lower in elevation, Stetson kept saying it was going to be a climb out. And honestly that didn’t really register with me. I mean the first half had been so pleasant, I assumed the second half would be as well. Definitely not. We had to seriously work our way uphill to get out of that meadow. Now, the uphill is not exactly where I was an all-star. I would think I was really killing it, then look up to see Stets and Camden 2 switchbacks in front of me. Finally, when we made it out and sat down for a snack, all I could say was “F- you Bryan” and Stetson agreed.

After completing Bryan's Meadow.
After completing Bryan’s Meadow.
Camden needed a snack after that loop, too.
Camden needed a snack after that loop, too.

At this point, we were close to a respectable number of miles for a full hiking day (for newbies, not those hardcore PCTers). A loose goal that we had in mind was 13 miles. 13 is a lucky number for our family, so we thought that would be pretty cool. Our plans didn’t quite pan out, however.

The next stretch of trail I like to refer to as “Jam-Your-Toes-Into-The-End-Of-Your-Shoes Ridge.” It was switchback after switchback of rocky mess.  For this day I had switched to my Patagonia hiking shoes, just to try them out mostly (always a great idea on a day where you are hiking double digit miles), and I was actually surprised at how great my feet felt.  I hadn’t broken them in as much as I needed to before the trip.  But, as I was ramming my foot into some jagged rock every 3 steps, I really appreciated them.

One of the much easier portion of trail on Ram-Your-Toe-Into-The-End-Of-Your-Shoe Ridge.  The tougher spots I did not stop to take the time to get a picture.
One of the much easier portion of trail on Ram-Your-Toe-Into-The-End-Of-Your-Shoe Ridge. The tougher spots I did not stop to take the time to get a picture.

During this stretch we were both, very casually looking for camping spots.  We both had our hearts set on getting to the next lake for camping, but we were still looking just in case a great spot popped up.  Really, I think the spot would have had to come equipped with an ice cream stand and two king sized beds for us to take it though.  We did pass a nice, flat spot really right on the edge of stream, that we thought about for a few seconds, but decided to press on.

And we kept pressing.  And pressing.  And pressing.  We were looking for the sign to turn off for the next lake, but we knew that it seemed to be taking us a much longer time than it should have.  Finally, we came along a man who had just set up his camp.  We asked if we were headed towards the highway (we knew that the turn-off was in that direction and just wanted to make sure we were on the right trail).  He said ‘yes’ and that we were actually just about to run right into the highway.  Which means we were way, way passed our turn off…

Once, we hit the highway we knew that there was another lake- Frog Lake.  We did have to trek up a bit on the highway, a bit up a little road with cabins, and FINALLY we caught a glimpse of Frog Lake. And it looked so unbelievably gorgeous.  Not that it was actually that pretty; it was pretty mucky, buggy, and full of marsh.  But, we had had such a ridiculous time getting there, it was breathtaking.

Until we tried to get water.  Stets headed into the marsh and our filter was broken (we had discovered this a bit earlier, but waited until we hit the lake to spend the time to fix it).  As he was washing it out, he realized that leeches were starting to swarm at his feet.  So, he hightailed it out of there.  We had no water to drink for the night.  No water to boil and make dinner.  And our campsite next to the lake was insanely buggy.  We decided to move our camp up and away from the bugs.  We ate whatever snacks we had that didn’t require cooking and hit the hay.  It was still decently early–maybe 8ish– but, we were exhausted and wanted to get out of there as early as possible the next morning.

*******************************************************************************

We chatted quite a bit, this day, about not absolutely loving every step we take while out backpacking.  Yes, we were in beautiful areas.  The sights were unbelievable.  We were getting to spend time together as just brother and sister, which hadn’t happened in a pretty long time.  The weather was perfect.  But, honestly, for me, sometimes the actual act of carrying a pack full of all the essentials up the sides of mountains and down rocky switchbacks was kind of miserable.  But, I loved the feeling of accomplishment I had as I lay there in the tent.  Even on this day, which turned out to be much tougher than we had planned.  I felt so proud of myself, and happy that my body (whatever superficial issues I may have with it) was able to do this.  It was worth it.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney

TAHOE BACKPAKCING- DAY 1

A little Trailhead selfie to get us started.
A little Trailhead selfie to get us started.

While Stetson and I were out visiting Lake Tahoe, we wanted to take full advantage of the beautiful area. So, we decided the best way for us to recover from the Tough Mudder would be to go on a 3-day backpacking trip! In the past years we had just sat in a hot tub, drank beer, ate obscene amounts of food, and watched a Rockies game… but not this time.

Disclaimer: Thus far with my writing, I have been trying to downplay just how terrible I am with directions. It used to be kind of funny bad and most people just assumed I would eventually learn/grow out of it. Now as a grown(ish) woman, it is just ridiculous when I have to say to Stetson, “Don’t—insert expletive here—make fun of me: Is that the Salt Lake?” as we drive right by the most massive body of water that could possibly be in Utah. But, there will be no hiding it with this post. There were a decent amount of lakes in the area that we hiked, and I asked Stetson a few times if the lake that I saw in the distance was Lake Tahoe. According to Stetson we were miles and miles away from seeing it, making my question laughable. So, rather than focusing of the location of our trip and the direction we hiked and the names of every place that we saw, I am going to focus on the experience I had while backpacking. Save myself some embarrassment and save you some frustration.

YayDay 1

Miles covered: 7

We started with a pretty “easy” first day, as we had to pack up from our campsite that morning and had breakfast at a delicious, yet unbelievably slow diner in town.

We loaded up with all of our gear and hit the trail. Now, as I had only ever done day hikes before I had never carried a pack. I had gone hiking with one of my friends and her two kiddos—I carried my little hiking buddy (who calls me Miss Syndy) in his pack for just about a mile and it was surprisingly exhausting, but I was sure my pack would be lighter and less wiggly for this trip. I tried my pack on at Stetson’s house before we left. It was 20 pounds, without water, and standing in his house, wearing the pack for about 90 seconds, I was incredibly confident that there would be no problem lugging this thing around. And I was completely wrong. As far as backpacking packs go, my load was pretty light, but even that little extra weight grates on you.

DCIM100GOPRO

Jump
Look at that height! And that face.

That first day we hiked into a breath-taking meadow right off the bat. And looking back on the trip, I think that first meadow was my favorite. It looked like that hillside from The Sound of Music where she dances around and sings, “the hills are alive with the sound of music” (I sincerely hope you read that in a singing voice). I did not dance around or sing. I did attempt to jump with my pack on. But, I still appreciated the view. Meadows were my favorite on this hike; they had beautiful wildflowers, were shockingly green, and generally they were flat. I LOVED the flat part. Maybe my next trip will just be miles and miles of endless, flat meadows. Let me know if there are any trails fitting that description out there.

We were debating where to camp for the night. Either next to a little stream about 5 miles in or Shower Lake, which was 7 miles in. As we stopped next to the stream to check out campsite potential, we got into our only brother-sister spat of the trip. Of course, I decided that was the perfect time to make the argument about “more than just the campsite” and extend it into any possible issue we had over the past decade. Classic backpacking chit-chat. But, we did bounce back from that decently fast. Of course, we both agreed later we should have taken our packs off for that little discussion. Eventually we decided to head on to Shower Lake. It was only 2 more miles, and it was still early enough in the day

Stets PCT
Stets with the first PCT sign we saw.

In that last stretch we saw more hikers than we had all day. There were a few serious pairs that appeared to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. We also passed an older couple, and they instantly became my favorite. They weren’t what you would consider a typical ‘outdoors couple.’ They were clearly older and, well… soft. But, they were still out there doing the same trail as Stetson and I, two decently in shape people in their twenties. And they were doing it with a smile.

Eventually, we made it to our spot. Stetson and I whole-heartedly agreed that the extra 2 miles were totally worth it. Shower Lake is one of our favorite campsites ever. The lake was breathtaking with clear water and fish jumping all over. It seemed to be a pretty popular camping spot. There were some PCTers (people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail) set up just a bit away from us. A solo backpacker sleeping in his one person tent a little further down. And my favorite couple setting up camp a ways up. It was an interesting mix, but one that I was proud to be a part of.

Walking Day 1

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For the sake of saving you from reading a ridiculously lengthy post, I have decided to break up my backpacking trip by days. And believe me, day 2 absolutely deserves to have its’ own post.

Thanks for reading,

Sydney