Hiking Maine: Climbing up the Beehive and Champlain Mountain, Acadia National Park

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Halfway up the Beehive looking down at Sand Beach.
When friends and I started talking about a trip to Acadia National Park to escape the madness associated with a special event at home at the end of September, I already knew there were a handful of hikes on beautiful Mount Desert Island I wanted to do. 

After visiting Acadia four years ago with my family, instead of driving to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, I wanted to get up there on my own two feet. We accomplished that goal on the first day of the trip. Next on my list? Climbing the Beehive again.

One of my favorite parts about my first trip to Acadia was the opportunity explore the park's trails with my mother and brother; experiencing the outdoors in Maine as a family was incredibly special. But my trip up the Beehive with my brother stands out in my memory not only because it was a gorgeous hike, but also because it was one of the most terrifying trails I've done. And I couldn't wait to share the same experience with friends.

Hiking Maine: Climbing Dorr Mountain and Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

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Starting up the Cadillac South Ridge Trail.
September 27, 2015 marked a historic day for Philadelphia - Pope Francis held a mass to close the World Meeting of Families in town. The city undertook serious security measures including car-free perimeters, closing major highways, requiring event-specific public transit passes, and more. As special as the event was for the city, dealing with the restrictions and expected influx of visitors wasn't appealing, so a group of friends and I opted to escape to Acadia National Park for a long weekend of camping and hiking.

Acadia National Park, located on beautiful Mount Desert Island off the coast of Maine, is home to 125 miles of hiking trails - perfect for a long weekend escape. On my first trip to Acadia in 2011, it was clear how "island of barren mountains" (Isles des Monts Desert) got its name. Though deciduous trees, coniferous trees, and numerous other vascular plants grow on the island, exposed rock is visible just about everywhere you look. It's some of the most unique terrain I've ever seen and makes for incredible, challenging hiking.

The Little Things: Five Must-Have Additions to Your Gear Stash

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The Hydroflask True Pint. LOVE.
Sleeping bag. Tent. Solid boots. The right backpack. These are a few essentials you'll find on any outdoor lover's gear list. But what about the little things, the things that aren't essentials, but can help you enjoy your backpacking and camping adventures more fully?

This summer, I added a bunch of new "little things" to my backpacking and camping gear list that are both creature comforts for me, and things I saw other folks using on trips that I realized would significantly improve my experience. Some of these things are things I didn't know existed and inventions I didn't know could make such a difference on trips. Others are things I didn't think I needed, but man am I glad I have them now.

Hydroflask True Pint

When it comes to enjoying a cold one after a long day or on a summer evening, I generally like to take my time. But the thing about cold beer in hot weather is how it gets warm and weird if you take too long to drink it from a standard pint glass.  

Backpacking Colorado: Exploring Around Snowmass Lake and Snowmass Mountain

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Heading around the east side of Snowmass Lake
with Snowmass Peak in the background.
After backpacking all the way up to Snowmass Lake with some ambitious goals for the next few days of the trip, I discovered my beloved ten year old backpacking boots were falling apart piece by piece. On the first day, my partner in crime and I made some serious headway, but we had some decisions to make about what to do next. Fortunately, all was not lost. (Catch up on the first half of the trip here!)

Day 2: Exploring Snowmass Lake and the Base of Snowmass Mountain

As I drifted off to sleep on the first night, I wondered if I'd made a rookie mistake bringing old boots on a hike. Before we turned in, we made some decisions. Instead of attempting Snowmass Mountain, we'd see how my boot did on hikes around the lake and see if the other boot stayed in one piece. We'd chat with a folks camped near us who planned to climb the mountain about conditions and double check the weather forecast. Then, we'd either hike out the third morning, or give the summit a go and stay an extra night. Turns out, it wasn't such a bad alternative.

Backpacking Colorado: Trekking to Snowmass Lake in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness (and Broken Boots)

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Our first look at Snowmass Lake.
It started with this photo and a series of emails to the photographer, Ann Driggers. One look at the sparkling blue waters of Snowmass Lake and I knew I had to get there.

With three days and nights to play with on a trip to Colorado, my partner in crime and I researched itineraries that involved the lake, including the Four Pass Loop. We decided against the loop; backpacking 29 miles over four high altitude mountain passes in three days after coming from sea level was possible, but potentially not as much fun as taking our time to explore.

Instead, we planned to hike in and camp at Snowmass Lake on the first day and use that as base camp. We'd climb Snowmass Mountain (14,005') on the second day, explore the area on the third day, then hike out on the fourth morning and drive three hours to Cedaredge for good friend Heather's wedding. Despite our best efforts to plan, we had to adjust due to unexpected events, as is often the case outdoors.