Parque Andino Juncal, Chile

A Magical Hike in Chile’s Parque Andino Juncal

“Frigid winds blow as we turn into the glacier’s gorge. Without foreseeing we begin to step on ice that shines in between the fallen rocks of surrounding towering mountains” – Nicolás Echenique, our guide and the founder of Coigüe Expeditions. 

One of my absolute favorite things to do is to hike and there is no one I’d rather hike with than my dad. Growing up, my dad instilled a deep love of hiking and being outdoors. Over the years, we have continued to hike together as much as possible when I visit my parents in Arizona or on one of our annual trips. Together, we have hiked the Andes of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia, and there was no way we were going to Chile without doing some hiking on our trip.

I was thrilled to discover that many amazing day hikes are reachable right outside of Santiago. On our first full day in Chile, we did an incredible “warm-up” hike to El Morado Hanging Glacier with our own private guide, Nicolás Echenique (Nico) of Coigüe Expeditions and it was a wonderful adventure. We knew we were in for a special treat when we signed up to hike with Nico again in the pristine Parque Andino Juncal, home of the largest glacier in Central Chile.

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Morado Hanging Glacier, Chile

At the Doorstep of the Andes: A Hike to El Morado Hanging Glacier

When most people plan a trip to go hiking in Chile, they immediately head south to the Chilean Lakes District and Patagonia, a landscape lover’s paradise awash with too many stunning national parks to count. While some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Chile are found south of Santiago, I was surprised to discover that equally as divine landscapes exist right outside of the bustling cultural mecca of Santiago, where over half of Chile’s population live.

When my dad planned a week’s getaway to Chile basing ourselves in Santiago, I confess that I was a bit skeptical that we would find any good hiking in Central Chile. As an avid hiker who has trekked in some of the best parks in Patagonian Chile and Argentina, I naively thought that the best hiking would be down south. However, I was proven wrong and was wonderfully surprised with the intense, dynamic beauty of the day hikes we found right outside our base in Santiago.

While the Andes stretch all the way from the southern tip of Chile to their terminus in Tierra del Fuego, it is in Central Chile where the Andes rise to some of their highest elevations. Just east of Santiago near the Chilean border with Argentina lies the mighty Aconcagua which at 22,841 feet (6,962m) is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere.

Perhaps what makes Chile such an exciting destination for hikers is the amazing diversity of its landscape. In the north is the Atacama, the driest desert in the world with its salt flats and open barren stretches of land. In the Center, the Andes rise dramatically high with vast glacial valleys and snow-capped peaks whereas in the South, their appearance is startling different: Craggy, jagged mountains rimmed with glacial lakes and temperate rainforest. Finally, at the southernmost tip in Patagonia it is filled with ice and glaciers and is home to the second largest contiguous ice field in the world, the The Southern Patagonian Ice Field. No wonder Chile is such an amazing place to explore! 

Andes, Chile

Flying over the incredible Andes as the morning sun rises

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Morado Glacier, Chile

A Father/Daughter Trip to Chile

On the morning of my departure to Chile, I woke up feeling the normal jittery rush of anticipation and excitement that travel brings me. You would think that after all these years, I’d somehow get used to it but that same restless nervousness about going on an adventure far from home never seems to leave me. After a restless night’s sleep of tossing and turning, it was finally time to start the long haul to Santiago. The babysitter had arrived to help out with the kids and our family dog, the dinners were made and frozen in the freezer, and my bags were packed with everything I’d need for the next nine days. All I needed to do was get into the cab and I was off.

This trip marked the 13th trip I’d taken with my dad since I graduated college. Over the years, we have been to many special places together ranging from the Himalayas of Nepal, to the vast stretches of rugged earth of Iceland, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the bush of South Africa, the urban jungle of China, and the mountains of Argentina, Bolivia, France and Peru. Together we have experienced a lot of adventures, and in all of my travels, I have never ever met another father-daughter traveling duo before.

It took me some time to realize that it was unusual and not something you see every day. Mother and daughters traveling together is much more common and I too have been fortunate to have traveled with my mom. But a father and a daughter traveling together was something unique. Despite the occasional awkward stares of those who thought I was his much younger wife, traveling as a pair has started many conversations of curiosity among strangers and opened many unexpected doors. It is something I would never trade for anything and an experience I hope to continue with my own children down the road.

Sunrise over the Andes

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Mount Kilimanjaro

Atop a Mountain is Where I Long to Be

“The mountains are calling and I must go” – . John Muir

I have always loved mountains. Perhaps it is their breathtaking beauty or their earthy mystique or even the challenge of getting from the ground on up atop a mountain that lures me to love them so much. I’m not sure what it is about mountains but I long to be near them, in them and a part of them. I love to hike them, climb them, ski them and just see them. If I could pick one place to be, I’d be in the mountains.

Unfortunately we don’t really have mountains in Minnesota. The highest peak, Eagle Mountain, in Northern Minnesota is only a meager 2,301 feet (701 m) tall. So when the mountains are calling, I must board a plane and fly to them. I am beginning to get those itchy feet again, longing for lacing up my hiking boots, throwing on my pack and heading to the mountains. I’m not sure which ones are calling me now. There are the Himalayas in Bhutan and India that I long to see but don’t have the two-three weeks available to climb them. There are the unknown peaks of the Peruvian Andes. And there are even those beautiful Canadian Rockies that call my name thanks to all those Alberta bloggers and Instagrammers I follow.

There are no immediate plans to go to the mountains so instead I will reflect on some of my most favorite mountains I’ve had the luxury of being atop of.

July 2015 – Mount Kilimanjaro

Me in front of the mighty beast, Mount Kilimanjaro

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

Base Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro TanzaniaBase Camp 2, Machete Route, Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro Tanzania

On top of Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro July 2015


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Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Sabino Canyon: A Hike Along the Phone line Trail 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tucked within the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona lies Sabino Canyon, one of Tucson’s most popular parks for exploring the spectacular desert landscape and wildlife of Southern Arizona. Ever since my parents moved to Tucson in the mid-90s, it has been like a second home to me and Sabino Canyon has been my playground. Less than a five minute drive from my parents’ home, Sabino Canyon affords an endless supply of hikes and walks within some of Arizona’s finest scenery.

Over the past twenty years, I have done almost every hike within the canyon countless times with my favorite being the hike to Seven Falls and the Phone Line Trail. However, one thing I have never ever done is a hike in the rain. Rain in the desert? This may sound a bit confusing and surreal for a place that receives on average less than 12 inches of rain a year.  However, I just happened to be in Tucson when a storm rolled in from California bringing heavy wet snow to the mountains and pouring cold rain to the desert below.

Deeply dismayed by the unusual poor weather I decided to turn lemons into lemonade. I put on my rain coat, packed a sandwich and took off on one of my most favorite hikes in Sabino Canyon, The Phone Line Trail. My kids didn’t want to come and I didn’t blame them. They had no rain gear. However, my favorite all time hiking partner, my dad, of course was up for the challenge. So together we set off into the unknown.

Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

The Phone Line trail climbs up high above the canyon giving you a unique perspective and panoramic view of this amazing place. There are several ways to do the Phone Line hike. You can do the entire 7.6 mile roundtrip hike on the trail or you can take the tram all the way to the end at Stop #9 get off and hike the trail back cutting the hike in half. What I prefer is to hike the Phone Line trail to Tram Stop 9 (which is where the pavement ends) and walk back on the pavement below. This way I get the bird’s eye view walking into the canyon and the lower level cactus and creek view from down below. It all depends on what you want to see and if you prefer to have solitude or company.

To reach the Historic Sabino Trail and the Phone Line Trailhead, we followed the trail towards Bear Canyon and picked it up about ten minutes later. (If you continue on into Bear Canyon, you can take another fantastic four hour roundtrip hike to 7 Falls).

Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

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Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Hiking Saguaro National Park

“The desert, to those who do listen, is more likely to provoke awe than to invite conquest”. – Joseph Wood Krutch, Author, Naturalist, Conservationist

Desperately seeking a break from a cold, dreary Minnesota winter my kids and I decided to come out to visit my parents in Tucson, Arizona for the long holiday weekend. The first few days have been absolutely spectacular however against the odds the past two days have been rainy and cold. Even stranger is the fact that we are having record warmth back in Minnesota with highs in the low 60s and sunny which is unheard of for February. Nevertheless, I’m one to look on the positive aspects of life. There is nothing we can do about the weather.

Friday was spectacular and we decided to take a three generational hike in a new part of Tucson. I have been visiting Tucson for over 23 years and have done many hikes in this gorgeous mountainous place however I had never been to the Saguaro National Park. I had passed by it several times en route to the famous Desert Museum in the western reaches of Tucson but had never stopped. Little did I know there are actually two parts of the Saguaro National Park: The Tucson Mountain District in the west of Tucson and the Rincon Mountain District in the east. We decided to check out the Saguaro National Park East as my dad had read a recent article about a beautiful hike to a waterfall.

We packed a lunch and headed out to the park a little after eleven. We were shocked to see the parking lot was full as we were really in the middle of nowhere. I am assuming the other hikers had read about the falls too.

There are several hikes inside Saguaro National Park however we chose to follow the Douglas Spring Trailhead to the waterfall, a six-mile hike roundtrip.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir

There was a steady wind sweeping over the desert most likely from the oncoming storm that would bring us two days of rain. Other than the wind, it was perfect hiking weather. Not too hot and not too cold.

I had happily convinced my ten-year-old daughter Sophia to join us on the hike. She had already completed two longer hikes in the past, one to the top of Eagle Mountain in northern Minnesota and another to Harney Peak, the highest peak in South Dakota. I knew she could handle a six-mile hike, I just needed to get her confidence up that she could do it. My twelve-year old son Max has already done a ton of hiking in Arizona, and then of course my dad is an avid hiker. My dad and I have hiked all around the world together. It would be the first time that Sophia got to join us so I was pretty thrilled.

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The trail begins very flat until you reach the base of the Rincon Mountains and climb upwards for over an hour. The views throughout the hike are breathtaking and the topography changes quite drastically from rough rocky canyon to desert scrub and grassland. What is the most astounding of all, however, are the multitude of enormous saguaro cactus dotting the landscape, many which are hundreds of years old. Saguaros are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert and can live upwards of 150-200 years. They are amazing plants.

I found out this fun fact from the Desert Museum:Most of the saguaros roots are only 4-6 inches deep and radiate out as far from the plant as it is tall. There is one deep root, or tap root that extends down into the ground more than 2 feet”.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

There were even some desert flowers starting to bloom

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

This guy is amazing. Probably a couple of hundred years old.

The Saguaro National Park was created in 1994 and encompasses two distinct areas – east and west- of over 91,445 acres.  The Eastern district reaches up to 8,000 feet in elevation covering over 128 miles of trails for your pleasure. The hotter, drier Western district is much lower in elevation and the saguaros are much more densely populated across its landscape.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

“The Sonoran Desert’s extreme temperatures, perennial drought, frequent lightning, banshee winds, and voracious predators keep the saguaro forever at the limit of its endurance. Odds against survival rival a lottery: Though the cactus annually produces tens of thousands of pinhead-size seeds—some 40 million over a life that may last two centuries—few ever even sprout. Even fewer seedlings achieve the grandeur of towering 50 feet and weighing up to 16,000 pounds”.National Geographic

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

We followed the trail and continued to the turnoff to Bridal Wreath Falls. We had heard a week ago that the falls were pouring down after the recent snow in the mountains. We were curious to see if it was true.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

I was amazed how much the landscape had changed. Now we were in the high desert grassland. There were barren trees yet still the greenery of the cactus. There were also some pretty desert flowers that I couldn’t resist photographing.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Finally, we reached a split in the trail and headed a short distance to the right where we would reach the falls. It was just a trickle now but still quite spectacular to find an oasis in the desert.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Bridal Wreath Falls

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

We enjoyed our lunch and the trickling falls all to ourselves. No one else was there however we had seen a lot of people hiking on the trail. What amazed me is that the water didn’t pool at the end of the falls. Instead, it ventured into the rocks and sunk somewhere down below. A mystery as to where it ended up.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

Heading back down the trail.

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

I laughed at the fact that despite the longevity and steepness of the hike, Sophia remained strong and steady at the lead. I beamed with pride thinking that I have a future fellow hiker on my hands. How wonderful is that?

Saguaro National Park East, Tucson, Arizona

It looks like I not only found a hiking mate but a new hike in Tucson. I can hardly wait to do it again on my next visit.

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Bass Lake Trail, Ely, MN

Superior National Forest: Hike to Bass and Dry Lake

“Hiking is a bit like life: The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other….again, and again, and again. And if you allow yourself the opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.” – unknown 

There is something truly magical about taking a hike in the heart of fall. The light is so intense, the colors are so brilliant and the air is so pure and fresh, that your lungs are filled with an amazing feeling of abundance and joy. In my opinion, fall is the best time of year to hike and unfortunately the season does not last very long in northern Minnesota. Only a mere two months if lucky.

There are several magnificent places to hike near the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe area in Ely, Minnesota, and one of my favorites by far is along the Superior National Forest trail to Bass and Dry Lake. We discovered this little treasure last summer when we went to Ely for vacation and instantly fell in love with its magical pristine blue lakes, dramatic views, waterfalls and forests.

We rose to a glorious fall day at our cabin on Mitchell Lake outside of Ely. There was not a cloud in the sky and the lake was so smooth it looked like glass. We knew it would be a fabulous day for our hike to Bass and Dry Lake.

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

Morning on the stunning Mitchell Lake at the Northernair Lodge

Mitchell Lake, Ely MN

The leaves were magnificent

We spent the morning taking a kayak ride over to the beaver dam at the edge of the lake. What I love so much about staying at the Northernair Lodge is that it is the only resort on the entire lake and the cabins are small, secluded and tucked away inside the woods. The shoreline of Lake Mitchell is pristine and much of the forest around the lake is protected and undeveloped. It is also only a five minute drive into nearby Ely where there are shops, restaurants and canoe outfitters.

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Seven Ladders Canyon Brasov Romania

Brasov, Romania: Hike to the Seven Ladders Canyon

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Romania was to hike. When my dad and I originally picked the location for our next trip, it was simply because we had never been to Romania before and it had mountains. Romania is dominated by the gorgeous tree-covered Carpathian mountains that cover over 600 miles of terrain in the shape of an arch through the heart of Romania. In fact, over 30% of Romania is mountainous affording tons of opportunities to hike, bike, ski, climb, cave, horseback ride or simply just enjoy the beauty and peace of one’s surroundings.

Oddly enough, I had first learned about Romania’s impressive landscape as well as it rich culture and history from the Romanian summer staff at a resort I used to go to in Northern Minnesota. I remember asking them where they were from and when they said Romania, I instantly asked if there were mountains. When they told me, “Yes, of course there are mountains! The Carpathians!” I was instantly intrigued and Romania was moved up on my travel wish list.

Several years later the opportunity to go to Romania became a reality. We would go for a week in July. Unfortunately our time in country would be too short to do a week-long hike journeying hut to hut over the high peaks of the Carpathian Mountains. Instead, we would have to settle on a one-day hike because sadly that was all that we would have time for. I was disappointed but in my opinion it was better than nothing.

The Carpathian Mountains cover the orangish-brown boomerang shape throughout the heart of Romania as seen in this map. Photo Credit: www.ezilon.com

The Carpathian Mountains cover the orangish-brown boomerang shape throughout the heart of Romania as seen in this map. Photo Credit: www.ezilon.com

We had only five full days on the ground in Romania and a lot of things to see. We had spent a day in Bucharest and then headed south to the charming town of Brasov for the remainder of our trip. It was an excellent choice because it is beautiful and centrally located to numerous hiking trails as well as castles and towns to visit.

Figuring out what hike to do was extremely challenging. I read the Lonely Planet and searched online before we left for the trip but soon became completely overwhelmed. There were way too many amazing hikes and most of the good ones were multi-day treks. We decided to wing it and just ask at the local tourist office in town when we reached Brasov.

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Vanoise National Park, France

Dinner in the Alps

A few years ago, my father and I did a seven day hike in the French Alps of Savoie at Vanoise National Park. Each day, we rose to the fresh, pure air of the mountains and hiked through breathtaking alpine scenery. As much as I love hiking, the best part of the day was when we arrived at our refuge for the night and sipped glass after glass of earthy Vin de Savoie as the sun set over the Alps and indulged in a delicious meal of local french cheese, meats, baguette and homemade root vegetable soup. Chicken or fish with savory rice or potatoes and pasta was next, followed by homemade dessert every night. There is nothing better than being rewarded with an enormous meal after a day hiking.

Vanoise National Park, France

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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.

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Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon: Hike to Hutch’s Pools

Tucked within the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona lies Sabino Canyon, one of Tucson’s most popular parks for exploring the spectacular desert landscape and wildlife of Southern Arizona. Ever since my parents moved to Tucson in the mid-90s, it has been like a second home to me and Sabino Canyon has been my playground. Less than a five minute drive from my parents’ home, Sabino Canyon affords an endless supply of hikes and walks within some of Arizona’s finest scenery.

Over the past twenty years, I have done almost every hike within the canyon countless times with my favorite being the hike to Seven Falls and the Phone Line Trail. This time, I wanted to try something new. My dad remembered that there was a special hike beyond Sabino Canyon into the pristine nature leading out of the park. It is known as the hike to Hutch’s Pools.

There are two ways to get to the trailhead. You can either walk the 3.8 miles one way on the paved road into the canyon or you can take the Sabino Canyon shuttle bus. The hike to Hutch’s Pools is an additional 4 miles behind the end of Sabino Canyon thus 8 miles round trip. Therefore, unless you want a 16 mile,eight hour hike, it is best to purchase a roundtrip ticket on the shuttle and ride it to the start of the trailhead and back to the entrance at the end.

We took the shuttle to the end and got off at stop nine where we started our hike. It was a beautiful day as common in Arizona (it is sunny on average 300 days a year), and we had a picnic lunch packed and plenty of water for our hike.

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

It was the perfect day for hiking to Hutch’s Pools as the temperatures were in the low 70s. If it was any hotter, this would not be a good hike since there is very little shade (unlike the Phone Line Trail). A nice gentle spring breeze kissed our skin and cooled us down. Spring flowers were bringing color into the desert landscape and yellow-brown high desert plains. It was serenely beautiful.

We were on a three-generational hike: My father, my eleven-year-old son Max and me. I had grown up hiking with my dad and am blessed to be passing my love of hiking on to my children. Even a broken arm didn’t stop Max from hiking every day while we were in Arizona.

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

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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.

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