Mirror Lake, Mount Hood, Oregon

Best Hikes Around Mount Hood: Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain Via Mirror Lake

On our second full day in Mount Hood, we chose to do a little bit longer of a hike which would afford us spectacular views of Mount Hood and four of the mightly neighboring peaks. The hike which is called “Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain via Mirror Lake” is a nine-mile out and back trail that starts off at the achingly stunning Mirror Lake and ends with a breathtaking vista of Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Oregon and Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens in Washington State. It is the perfect hike to do in fall when the light is ephemeral with the changing colors of the leaves reflecting upon perfectly named Mirror Lake.

We set off for the trailhead around ten o’clock so we could time the hike with a picnic lunch on top. The weather was not nearly as perfect as it was on our hike to Bald Mountain from Lolo Pass the day before with its serendipitous deep blue skies and golden sunshine, yet it was still lovely in its own right despite the overcast skies.

As we entered the forest, it felt like out of a fairytale it was so magical. The tall trees gracefully pillared high above our heads, occasionally letting rays of light caste a mystical haze over the dirt path below our feet. Since it was a Monday there were not many fellow hikers on the trail and it was rather serene.

Mirror Lake Trailhead, Mount Hoot, Oregon

Adventure Travel North America Oregon TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking United States
Bald Mountain Hike, Mount Hood, Oregon

Best Hikes Around Mount Hood: Hike To Bald Mountain from Lolo Pass

Earlier this month, my husband and I had the rare opportunity to go on a weeklong trip alone without the kids. It was the first time in 15 years that we had traveled without them and for our destination we picked Oregon, a place neither of us had ever been. We wanted to spend our week outside hiking and after researching Oregon, it seemed like the place to go.

I instantly noticed that Oregon was special as we landed in Portland in the heart of the Colombia Gorge. I was stunned by the vast size of the brilliant blue Columbia River and surprised by the conical peaks of so many snow-capped mountains. After a week in Oregon, I have to confess that I was utterly amazed by its incredibly greenery and raw untouched beauty. So many forests and so many places to camp and hike.

Portlanders are blessed to have the mountains and the ocean both only an hour’s drive away from the city. For our week in Oregon, we wanted to get a taste of the diversity of this glorious state so planned our route to first stop at the series of stunning waterfalls along the Colombia Gorge (only 30 minute drive from Portland), then spend two days in Mount Hood, followed by two days in Crater Lake and the remaining two days in Cannon Beach on the ocean.

The Mount Hood National Forest is located in northern Oregon’s Cascade range south of Portland. Home to approximately 1,000 miles of hiking trails, the Mount Hood National Forest extends south from the Columbia River Gorge across more than sixty miles of forested mountains, lakes and streams encompassing roughly 1,067,043 acres. The centerpiece of Mount Hood National Forest is the mighty dormant stratovolcano, Mount Hood which reaches 11,249 feet (3,429 m) and is capped with glaciers, alpine lakes and over 4,500 acres of skiable terrain. I was surprised to learn that Mount Hood has five ski areas and depending on snow conditions, you can ski almost year round at Timberline. Given its short distance from Portland (roughly 50 miles (80 km), Mount Hood is a popular playground for Portlanders and tourists alike.

At Mount Hood, we picked the tiny town of Rhododendron to base our stay and found a delightful truly magical  place on Airbnb called the “Little House on the Mountain”, a beautiful custom built, one-of-kind cabin. The cabin is nestled up on a forested hill above a main cabin, sitting on 4 acres of private wooded land, bordering Mount Hood National Forest Land. When you look out the large windows, all you see are trees! It was perfect for the two of us!

Adventure Travel North America Oregon TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking United States

A Stay in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

Nestled at the bottom of the rugged Fjarðarheiði mountain pass at the end of a long, narrow fjord in Eastern Iceland is the magical coastal town of Seyðisfjörður. Given its remote location (it is about a two and a half hour drive east from Mývatn and another 3 hours to the more popular town of Höfn), and its unique surroundings, we were in for a real treat. It was our sixth day in Iceland following our Ring Road family trip adventure, and we had just spent two fantastic days in Mývatn and Krafla exploring its volcanic wonders. Now it was time to enter into a fairytale world of endless waterfalls, lush green mountains and blue sea as far as the eye could see.

We arrived in the late afternoon, down a long, serpentine, gravel road, pulling out of the clouds and into lush green valley and fjord that surrounds the village. It wasn’t hard to find our hotel or the center of town given the compact size of Seyðisfjörður. Yet instantly we were charmed by the lovely, colorful wooden buildings for which Seyðisfjörður is known for. Since Seyðisfjörður is quite small, many travelers simply pass it by. However, if you love taking a hike and having literally the entire mountainside to yourself followed by world-class Icelandic dining, then a night in Seyðisfjörður is definitely something you should do and highly recommended.

Seyðisfjörður, Iceland

First glance of Seyðisfjörður

Seyðisfjörður Iceland

The tongue of the long fjord

Europe Family Travel Iceland TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

Iceland: Two days in Mývatn and Krafla, Iceland

Day Five of our Ring Road Trip around Iceland found our family of four arriving early afternoon at Mývatn Lake, probably one of the most geologically fascinating places I’ve ever been in my life. By this point in our trip, we were all a bit exhausted with all the driving and moving around. We had already slept in four different places, drove over 758 kilometers and had not been in one place for more than a night. (Here is our route and stops via google map since we left Reykjavík).

We had visited an active volcano, raced through the capital, and drove hours on the Ring Road barely having a moment to catch our breathe. Then finally we pulled into the tiny village of Reykjahlíð, located on the shores of Lake Mývatn in the north of Iceland, and we were at peace.

After a delightful lunch of fresh cod at the quaint Gamli Bærinn, we headed around the lake to our lovely apartment, the Stella Rosá, which was the best place we stayed at during our entire trip in Iceland. It was utterly a treasure of a find and the perfect place to base ourselves for the next two days in Mývatn.

Before booking our trip, I honestly had no idea that Mývatn Lake combined with neighboring Krafla, was such an absolutely surreal place. I had only known that it was a recommended stop along the Ring Road Tour and thankfully it was the only place we allowed ourselves two full days. There is so much to do, see and explore there that we could have almost used another day. It ended up being one of my favorite places in Iceland because of all the incredible sights together in one place. We often felt like it was the closest place to being on another planet all together.  It is that surreal.

Entering the lava fields feels like walking on the moon….

Europe Family Travel Iceland TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

A Hike up to Iceland’s Newest Volcano: Fagradalsfjall

On July 29, our family of four took our first trip out of the country since before the pandemic to the magical, surreal landscape of Iceland. I had first visited Iceland back in 2008 with my father and was spellbound by her unearthly beauty and astonishing mystique. While I had wanted to return to this phenomenal country and explore it more, the idea quite frankly did not pop back into my head until late in the Spring when our family had all been fully vaccinated and heard the news that Iceland with its small population of roughly 368,792 hearty souls was welcoming back vaccinated tourists. As someone who follows travel news closely, Iceland’s clever tourism pitch got my attention.

Icelandair has long had direct flights from Minneapolis to Keflavík, and to meet the increase in demand, Delta Airlines also launched a non-stop flight from my home town airport as well. The flight to Iceland from Minneapolis is roughly six hours. The only downfall is that the flight is too short to really get any sleep and the time change is a difficult five hours ahead meaning jet lag was going to be an issue that first day. The good news is we would have nine full days to adjust.

The route from Minneapolis to Iceland takes you directly over Greenland. The view was jaw-dropping!

CULTURE Family Travel Iceland TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

How the Vicente Ferrer Foundation is saving lives in rural India

It is almost unimaginable how vastly different life in the pandemic is here in the United States and thousands of miles away in India and other parts of the world. As Memorial Day Weekend comes to a close and life has bounded back to almost as it was before the pandemic across much of the United States, India is faced with a second wave of Covid-19 that is more aggressive and deadly than ever before. While the US still sightly leads the world in number of reported cases and deaths, a huge difference exists in the overall impact of the fierce second wave that is striking India and other parts of the developing world: The desperate lack of healthcare and infrastructure that was problematic well before the pandemic struck.

Due to the crowded living conditions of disadvantaged communities, lack of adequate sanitation, and proper health care services, India is very vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19 especially in its rural communities which represent a vast majority of India’s 1.3 billion people of population. Furthermore, with vaccination rates well below that of the United States (41.2% fully vaccinated) and only 3.2% of India’s 1.3 billion fully vaccinated, India has a long, difficult road ahead.

For over 20 years, the Rural Development Trust’s Bathalapalli Hospital has provided quality healthcare in rural India. Today it is on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic and thankfully organizations such as the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and its local partner, the Rural Development Trust (RDT) in India are taking charge and doing whatever they can to save lives. While the challenges ahead are huge, there is hope.

Learn more about what they are doing on the ground to change and save lives, and how you can help today in this thought-provoking interview with Moncho Ferrer, President of the Board of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.

For the cost of two cups of coffee, you could refill an oxygen cylinder and save a life in rural India through Vicente Ferrer USA’s COVID Relief Fund

Global Health Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD
LifeStraw Follow the Liters

Why every shot matters: My stint as a volunteer at a Covid vaccination site

For the past few months I’ve been volunteering at M Fairview Hospitals and Clinics at their Ambulatory Covid Vaccine clinics. I’ve done all different roles ranging from greeter, observer, labeler to patient registration, and I have truly enjoyed interacting and talking with people from all walks of life. It has been a profound experience participating in the massive effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. In the first few days of working my four-hour shift, our team vaccinated over 400 people just in the morning at the site.

Since January,  M Fairview, one of the many mass vaccination clinics in our state, has provided over 300,000 vaccines to over 150,000 individuals (including me!) in the state of Minnesota. As of today, over 60%  percent of Minnesotans who are eligible are totally vaccinated.

It has been an astounding feat and also for me, a very rewarding experience being a part of it especially in the beginning when people would literally be crying tears of joy because they were so happy to get the life-saving vaccine. After over a year of isolation at home and hardly any social face-to-face interaction with people, I was able to suddenly be around people again and make connections with strangers from all walks of life. As an extrovert, it has been a healing experience after so much isolation this past year.

Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD
George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

Minneapolis: As the world watches, we wait

It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year since that fateful late spring day in May on the corner of Cup Foods, roughly three miles away from my house. For the past eleven months, like most Minneapolitans we have struggled to understand the trauma that has happened in our beloved city. And now here we are once again, with our stores boarded up, police and National Guard patrolling our city, awaiting in anxiety over what the verdict will be. While we pray for justice and peace, we wonder what will become of our city. Minneapolis is not a bad place. Yes, it has many problems but so does so many other places around the world. Racism exists everywhere and always has. Dismantling such a powerful system will take generations and generations of hard, relentless work. While I have so many opinions about what is going on and wish I felt that I could share them,  I also have hope. Hope in our children who understand a lot more than I ever did at that age. So, as we await the verdict we will pray for a better future for all.

While many of these incredibly powerful murals have disappeared, their messages still remain strong.

George Floyd Mural at Cub Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Mural at Cup Foods (38th and Chicago in Minneapolis).

George Floyd Murals on Hennepin Ave South Minneapolis

CULTURE
My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide

For the past six years, I have curated an ever-growing list of amazing Gifts that Give Back. My guide has become so popular that I have devoted an entire page on my blog that is updated frequently and features these wonderful organizations and the causes they support. Whether it be fighting hunger, gender inequality or providing educational or income opportunities, there are a ton of ways you can use your buying power as a consumer to do good and make a difference in someone’s life.

This giving season is by far like none most of us have ever experienced. Despite all the hardship and challenges during this unprecedented time, this year consumers have a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on the world at a time when it’s most needed. Let’s come together to support one another in the fight against COVID-19, and make this holiday season, a giving season. Wishing you and your family health, strength, and hope during this challenging time. 

Happy Shopping! And if you like this post, please share. Together, our collective buying can help change the world and make a difference. Also, be sure to check out my earlier post on Gifts that Give Back to Support the Fight Against COVID-19. There are so many amazing companies out there doing good.

Like this post? Pin it for later! 

My 2020 Gifts that Give Back Guide for the holidays

 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Northernair Lodge, Ely MN

When COVID hits your home

It started as a cough. At first, we thought nothing of it except that it was our 15-year old son’s normal fall cold. He gets a bad cold every single year and it always starts with a cough and then a stuffy nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that this cold was about a month earlier.

Besides the cough, our son was fine and continued to get up to do his online school. Over the weekend, we hosted our usual small “bubble” of friends at our house, one of my daughter’s friends and our neighbor, the small group who we have been hanging out with since the pandemic began. We told them about Max’s cough but honestly thought nothing of it. We live in a city of a million people and out of everyone we knew, only one person in our circle of friends had tested positive for COVID. It still felt like something we only read about every day in the newspaper but that hadn’t truly reached us.

Like most of my family and friends, we have spent the past eight months following all the Covid rules and living a pretty boring, isolated life. We wear masks everywhere (thankfully it is a state mandate), my husband works from home, we don’t go out to eat indoors at a restaurant, have not flown anywhere, don’t go to the gym or do anything considered risky. We have hardly socialized with friends except for outside, socially distanced. Since March, we have basically lived a very sheltered, limited life and have only allowed our small bubble inside our home. The only risk we took was allowing both of our teenage kids to play outdoor sports. I had felt as a parent that so much has been taken away from them, and sports was the one thing they had left. The risk was small since they were outdoors but it was there.

Despite all the precautions we took, somehow Covid made it to our house, and when I got the call from our doctor that my son tested positive, I was completely shocked and terrified.

CULTURE
Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

The Top Four Fall Hikes along Minnesota’s North Shore to View the Fall Colors

Fall is a glorious time to be outside in Minnesota and there is no better way to explore the stunning fall foliage than during a hike along Minnesota’s North Shore. Less than four hours away from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is easy to make a weekend trip to the North Shore where you will find countless trails at your fingertips to explore the pristine beauty and nature along the 310-miles long Super hiking Trail or through one of the many state parks. 

Generally, the third week of September is the best time to go to the North Shore when the leaves are at their peak colors, however, the last weekend of September can also be just as spectacular. We just returned from a visit this past weekend and the colors were extraordinary with breathtaking vistas of reds, yellows, and orange coating the landscape. Further inland, towards the Boundary Water Canoe and Wilderness Area and the Eagle Mountain Trail, the leaves were just starting to turn so I can only imagine that over the upcoming week it will be at its peak.

Oberg Mountain Lookout onto Oberg Lake

One of the spectacular technicolor lookouts on top of Oberg Mountain, looking down on Oberg Lake

Minnesota TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION United States

#IStandForGirls: Why Getting Girls to School is More Important than Ever

Did you know that over 132 million girls around the world are out of school?  This number was before the COVID pandemic began and now millions of more girls are at risk of not receiving an education this school year. As my own thirteen-year-old daughter prepares to begin her hybrid version of 8th grade, I often realize how incredibly blessed we are to have the opportunity and the resources to continue her education. Millions of children, especially girls, will miss out this year and not have the opportunity to learn. However, there is something we can do to help out and make a difference.

I’m thrilled to be partnering for the fourth year in a row with Kurandza this month for the #IStandForGirls campaign. I learned about Kurandza’s work five years ago when I started researching my popular Gifts that Give Back page and international nonprofits that are changing the world. I shared Elisabetta and Percina’s powerful story about why they founded Kurandza on the blog and have been an avid supporter of their work in Mozambique ever since.

While the global pandemic has impacted us all, it has impacted some of the most vulnerable communities around the world even more. Thanks to organizations like Kurandza girls are able to continue to receive an education and continue learning and thriving despite these new challenges. Now it is more important than ever before to stand up and support girls’ education.

#IStandForGirls because I believe all girls around the world should have equal access to education and opportunities no matter where they’re from. I believe in the power of education, and that all girls have the ability to reach their dreams when given the chance at an education.

When a girl gets an education she…

  • Is less likely to become a child bride

  • Has improved nutrition and access to better health care

  • Is likely to do what she can to uplift other girls in her community

  • Can dream about a bright future!

Photo courtesy of Kurandza

Child Labor, Marriage, Education and Survival Global Issues Global Non-Profit Organizations and Social Good Enterprises SOCIAL GOOD