Mayfield WI

A Weekend Getaway to Bayfield and the Apostle Islands

“Bayfield and the Apostle Islands – Where the Water Meets the Soul”

Growing up in Minnesota, I have spent many years enjoying the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior which is filled with excellent hikes along the Superior National Hiking Trail, gorgeous views, and tons of nature for the outdoor enthusiast. This summer we even took a family trip to the North Shore and headed further to explore Ely, Minnesota the heart of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area. As much as I love this part of Lake Superior, after all these years I wanted to try someplace new. I had always heard about the incredible beauty of the Apostle Islands outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin on the other side of Lake Superior yet had never visited there. With my parents in town for the week and free babysitting for the kids, this was my chance for an adventurous, romantic weekend away with my husband on Lake Superior’s South Shore.

Bayfield, Wisconsin is about a four hours drive northeast of Minneapolis at the end of the Bayfield Peninsula. It is the launching off point to the stunning, pristine Apostle Islands – an archipelago of 22 islands and a National Park – and is known for its sailing, sea kayaking, hiking, biking and pristine beauty. It is also home to the incredible sea caves that line the mainland as well as Devil and Sand Islands that can be reached only by sea kayak, boat or foot when the lake freezes over.  Madeline Island – the most well-known of the Apostle Islands and also the only inhabited island – is a short 20 minute ferry ride from Bayfield and is a popular destination in its own right.

 Apostle Islands WI

A view of Lake Superior from Cornucopia on a cloudy day.

We set off Thursday morning after saying goodbye to the kids, our puppy and my parents, and enjoyed the beautiful drive through Wisconsin dairy land and verdant forests to Bayfield. Since it was a big tourist weekend in Duluth, we decided to take the more scenic back roads to Bayfield passing through the cabin and lake country of Hayward, Spooner and Cable, Wisconsin. After we hit Ashland and left the small farm towns along the way, the scenery became even more stunning that I imagined. Unlike the rocky rugged look of the North Shore of Lake Superior, the South Shore of Lake Superior and the Bayfield Peninsula is dramatically different. It is equally as lush and green yet softer and gentler. Instead of lupines lining the highway, sprays of yellow and pink wildflowers fill the landscape alongside Deciduous trees and the famous Bayfield blueberries.

Adventure Travel TRAVEL Wisconsin
Lago Cocibolca Granada Nicaragua

A hike into the Cloud Forest of Mombacho Volcano

One thing that never escapes your eyesight in the beautiful colonial town of Granada is Mombacho Volcano. Every cobblestone, colorful street you walk on, Mombacho appears in the distance, jetting majestically into the skies above Granada. The first time I saw Mombacho, I knew I had to climb it. Yet figuring out how to include a climb into an already short time span of only 24 hours in Granada seemed impossible. I would have to instead settle for an organized tour of the volcano with a short hike around the crater.

Lago Cocibolca Granada Nicaragua

A distant view of Mombacho Volcano

I booked the tour with my hotel concierge and rose bright and early the next day for my visit to Mombaoho. I was really looking forward to exploring this magical place and also escaping the scorching heat of Granada. Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt I was ready to go by 8 am. I met my Spanish-speaking driver and road the short twenty minute drive to the entrance of the park where I’d pick up my tour.

I rambled away in broken Spanish asking Carlos about the tour. I realized that I understood roughly half of what he told me and the rest was lost in translation. That should have forewarned me that I was utterly, ill-prepared for the hike. But I just went on and on, talking and thinking excitedly about the fantastic blog post I’d be writing when I finished and all the gorgeous pictures I’d take.

Silly me, it was a lesson in humility. From the moment I arrived at the park, the first thing I noticed is that I was the only one dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. I also made the rookie mistake of not bringing a backpack and carrying layers. As I awaited my transport to the top of Mombaoho the first dreaded rain drop fell on my sun-screaned face. Rain? How on earth could that be possible? It is dry season in Nicaragua and burning hot. Little did I know, I was in for a long, freezing cold and rainy hike on top the volcano with no rain gear or warm clothing to get me through.

Adventure Travel Nicaragua TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Chicabrava: Empowering women one wave at a time

A few months ago, I got an email that set in motion an experience that would teach me a powerful lesson about overcoming my fears. It was an invitation to attend a press trip to experience and review Chicabrava, an all-women’s learn-to-surf camp in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. I read the email with both the usual excitement I feel when learning about a new opportunity to travel as well as slight apprehension about what I would actually be doing on the trip: Learning to surf.

I consider myself an adventurous person who has traveled to over 40 countries, many of these trips solo, and has pushed my body and soul to the limit by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking the Himalayas, tandem hang-gliding in New Zealand, and diving in the Great Barrier Reef. But surfing? Now that is something I had never tried and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to.

What I would come to learn about this entire experience was that traveling alone to Nicaragua and actually getting up on my surfboard to catch a wave was no problem at all. The real challenge I had to overcome was my immense fear and anxiety over the ocean. It terrified me.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Adventure Travel TRAVEL

Cotopaxi: An Adventure Gear Company that is changing the world

“Cotopaxi strongly believes in the power of business to drive social change and the power of adventure to connect the world”. 

As an avid hiker and adventurer who is passionate about giving back, I’m always on the lookout for innovative, unique companies that create amazing products while also giving back. Cotopaxi is a company that creates outdoor adventure products while also funding sustainable poverty alleviation around the world and inspiring people to be adventurous and do good.

Founded in 2013 by Davis Smith and Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was inspired by Davis’ childhood growing up at the foot of Cotopaxi in Ecuador where he spent his youth hiking and exploring his magnificent environment. He also saw the devastating impact poverty had on communities and people. After years of running several successful eCommerce websites in South America, Davis wanted to start something different that would incorporate his passion for adventure along with his desire to give back and make meaningful strides towards reducing global poverty. Together with fellow Wharton business-school graduate Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was born.

Cotopaxi is unique because it is the first company to incorporate as a “Benefit Corporation” and then receive venture funding. Benefit Corporations are a new type of business that allows for-profit entities to pursue social and environmental goals while also focusing on maximizing profits. Receiving venture capital from investors demonstrates the strong belief that this is a company that can make both a profit and a difference.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Poverty SOCIAL GOOD

Great Hikes: Bariloche’s Cerro Catedral

Stretching across the southern part of Chile and Argentina lies Patagonia, one of the most beautiful places in the world to hike. I have been fortunate to have visited both Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, two remote treasures offering endless opportunities for discovering adventure and solitude. However, getting to the end of the world can take a lot of time and if you are like most Americans, your vacation time doesn’t allow for more than ten days at a shot.

Another closer option is to visit the Patagonian Lakes District which is only a short flight from either Santiago or Buenos Aires. Although you will not find the kind of rugged, remote beauty of true Patagonia you will be equally impressed with the sheer beauty of the lakes and parks in this region and it won’t take you an additional day to reach it.

Lago Nahuel Huapi, San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina

Lago Nahuel Huapi is a beautiful aquamarine lake the surrounds Bariloche and a few other neighboring towns.

San Carlos de Bariloche is a beautiful town located in the heart of Argentina’s Lakes District and only a couple hours flight south of Buenos Aires. You can easily spend several days in Bariloche exploring the lakes, enjoying the delicious food and taking in the gorgeous scenery by doing one of several day hikes or walks in the area. The only downside is that most of the hiking is relatively flat and easy. For the serious hiker, you have to get creative.

Adventure Travel Argentina TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Condoriri trailhead Bolivia

The ABC’s of Hiking South America

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” – Anatoli Boukreev

While North America has the Rockies, South America is blessed with the spectacular Andes Mountain Range. The Andes are an incredible mountain range passing from north to south through seven countries making it the longest continental mountain range in the world. There is something about the Andes that is simply magical. The grandeur, scale and scope of the Andes is mind-boggling. Over 4,300 miles long (7,000 km) and at points up to 430 miles wide (700 km), the Andes are immense and are blessed with some of the highest volcanoes in the world and largest ice fields.

I have been lucky to have set foot on the Andes in Peru, Chile, Argentina and most recently, Bolivia. There is no way I can pick favorites as each place has been unique and special in its own way. Here are the A,B, C’s of the best hikes in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, some of my most favorite places on earth to hike.


Located at the end of the world, in the tiny Patagonian outpost El Chatlen lies Los Glaciares National Park, one of the finest in Argentina. The landscape is serene and the raw beauty of remote Patagonia is sure to inspire. There are several day hikes in the park and instead of camping, you can spend the nights at a local inn indulging in delicious local food and wine. You are also a bus ride away from the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, definitely worth a visit.

Adventure Travel Argentina Bolivia Chile TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

Weightless: Learning to Fly in New Zealand

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live!” – Hans Christian Andersen

One of the most adventure-filled places on earth lies in the South Island of New Zealand, in a magical place called Queenstown. I had always dreamed of going to New Zealand and in the fall of 2002 my husband and I went on an epic two-week vacation of the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We were still newly married and kid-free thus craving adventure and excitement. Despite being the bungy-jumping capital of the world, I had no interest whatsoever in trying this form of thrill-seeking. Instead, my husband and I decided on trying tandem hang-gliding. It would be our chance to fly like a bird, soaring off the tops of the Remarkables and experiencing the sensation of weightlessness, exhilaration and joy.

I should have been concerned when we were about to book our day of pure kiwi-style adventure in Queenstown and the tour agent informed us that the day before there was “a wee bit of drama“.  But I was young, childless and full of that intense wild and crazy adventure that lead me to brush aside the fact that a woman and her “pilot” were in the hospital, barely alive, after crashing and free-falling thirty feet just after take-off on their tandem hang-gliding adventure.  Apparently the bolts weren’t correctly tightened.

After careful consideration of all of Queenstown’s fabulous, adrenaline-pumping activities, we settled on hang-gliding and I had my heart set on it, even though the story about the accident was still promptly displayed in the papers.  No it couldn’t happen to me?  What would be the odds?  We felt slightly reassured by our choice of a different company that according to our overtly friendly hotel concierge had a “no failure” safety record.  I didn’t want to chicken out at this point but the thought of being that first failure was still lodged inside the back of my mind, eating away a bit at my nerves.

It was with this mindset and apprehension that Paul and I set out one early afternoon to Coronet Peak a world-class ski resort in the winter and the launching off point for our hang-gliding adventure in the spring and summer.  Our van picked us up and drove us out of lovely, peaceful Queenstown and wove slowly up the mountainous terrain until we reached our destination:  Our launching point at 3,800 feet elevation!

Adventure Travel New Zealand TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Mkuru Maasai Training Camp

My Day with the Maasai

“Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit”. – Jawaharlal Nehru

When I arrived at the Mkuru Training Center, I was introduced to the lovely staff and lead into a beautiful open-air dining and living room for a cup of hot tea and lunch. I needed it after the long, rainy drive.  I was thankful that the weather had cleared up for my afternoon adventure. Jacobo, the Camp Manager, would be taking me on a four-hour walking tour to see the Maasai community that live around the camp. It was going to certainly be a fascinating, eye-opening experience.

Mkuru Maasai Training Camp, Tanzania

Open-air dining hall and living room at the Mkuru Training Center

The Mkuru Training Camp was built in 2003 around 50 acres of property by the Isituto Oikos, an Italian NGO that works to promote environmental conservation as a tool of socio-economic development. For the past 12 years, they have been working with the Maasai people at the Mkuru Training Camp to assist in conserving their culture and their land, providing education, resources and economic empowerment. The camp is used as both a research center and a tourist facility where people can come and integrate with the Maasai in a unique way without imposing on their lives. It is really a fantastic concept.

Adventure Travel Africa Tanzania TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

My drive to the Bush: Meeting the Maasai at the Mkuru Training Center

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. – Walt Disney

Two days after climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I had one of the most stunning travel experiences of my life. I visited a Maasai village and stayed overnight. It was not the typical tourist trap where you pay a ton of money to see the Maasai but instead a true Maasai village where the Maasai continue to practice their traditional culture that has remained relatively unchanged for centuries.

I had done a fair amount of research to find the right Maasai village to visit because I didn’t want to go to a place that was culturally insensitive and filled with tourists. Instead, I wanted a real, authentic experience and cultural immersion. Thankfully I found the perfect place for my visit, The Mkuru Training Camp in Uwiro Village, about a three-hour drive away from Moshi. The Mkuru Training Camp is located at the foothills of Mount Meru, just outside Arusha National Park, within one of the most important biodiversity areas of Tanzania: the Maasai Steppe.

The camp is run by Isituto Oikos, an Italian NGO (non-governmental organization) founded in 1996 that works in Europe and in developing countries to promote environmental conservation as a tool of socio-economic development. They have been working with the Maasai people at the Mkuru Training Camp to assist in conserving their culture and way of life. For a small fee, they offer select tourists and journalists the ability to spend a night or two at the camp and immerse themselves in the local Maasai culture. I would be the only guest for the night.

I was picked up early Sunday morning at my hotel in Moshi by Camilla, an Italian volunteer staying at the camp and Jacobo, the camp manager who is Maasai and was born and raised in the community. I limped over to get in the car, happy that I was finished hiking and could finally just sit for a few hours. Both Camilla and Jacobo were exceptionally warm and friendly, and we had a wonderful time chatting during our three-hour bumpy ride to the camp.

Jacobo gives me a beaming smile as he greets me at the hotel.

Jacobo gives me a beaming smile as he greets me at the hotel.


Kilimanjaro: The End of the Road

“A great accomplishment shouldn’t be the end of the road, just the starting point for the next leap forward”. – Harvey Mackay

I woke up on the last day on Mount Kilimanjaro feeling tired, sore and irritable. My left knee had finally just given out and I still blame it all on my fall in the rice fields the day before the climb which injured my left leg. I never mentioned it before but I also have been battling a two-year annoying injury somewhere within the confines of my right hip. Right in the midst of the pain and physical therapy last April I decided on a whim that I wasn’t going to let anything including pain deter me from fulfilling my dreams. I was going to climb Kilimanjaro one way or another.

View descending Kilimanjaro

Adventure Travel Africa Tanzania TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking
Descending Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: The Long Walk Down Continues

“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day”. – Clotilde Hesme

After a three-hour sleep, it was time to get up, eat and continue down to the final base camp of the trip. The last thing I felt like doing was walking more yet I wanted to get down to a warmer place and closer to the end. My left leg were quite swollen which would eventually make my left knee throb the entire four hours down and for days after the hike.  But I was determined to go. The thought of getting back to our hotel with a hot shower, a normal bed and alas a glass or two of wine kept me moving.

Descending Kilimanjaro

We had been incredibly fortunate to have had amazing weather the entire seven days on the hike. We never faced rain, the sky was clear affording us spectacular views of the peak and the valley below, and most important of all, it wasn’t too cold on our ascent to the summit. The only cloudy weather we had occurred during our descent down. It was gray and overcast but really it wasn’t bad at all compared to what it could be.

Descending Kilimanjaro

Descending Kilimanjaro

Descending Kilimanjaro

Adventure Travel Africa Tanzania TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION
Descending Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro: The Long Walk Down

There is one fact that is sometimes forgotten when climbing a mountain: What goes up, must come down. After the euphoric elation of reaching the summit at a little past seven o’clock, the reminder of the long, difficult hike back down hit me like truck. I was exhausted, famished and at an emotional high that would soon dwindle as I began my descent down to our base camp for some much-needed rest.

Our group of nine had split up into different pace groups, and I was alone with another climber from our group named David. Despite being as fit as can be (David just completed a marathon in Africa a few days before setting out on our climb), being in shape does not always guarantee your body will acclimatize properly. There are a number of reasons why you can get altitude sickness but it is never certain what exactly sets it off. Poor David reached the top of Kilimanjaro and promptly vomited behind the trail. He needed to get back down and fast.

Descending Kilimanjaro

Once the sun fully rose and I was able to take a quick breather, I took this shot of the rugged, steep trail back down.

Adventure Travel Africa Tanzania TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking