Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trail Snacks (DIY or otherwise)

One of the best thing about getting out on the trails (whether hiking, running, biking or...) are trail snacks. Yup, everything tastes better after spending quality time in nature.

Trail Snacks (DIY or otherwise)

This weekend, I decided to try a project I've always wanted to do but somehow never have: DIY beef jerky. I'm a big fan of jerky, but the store bought always have a few too many ingredients, often the ones you can't pronounce (and you know that's not good). From the grocery store I bought two pounds of flank steak, cut across the grain about 1/8" thick. I dropped it into a storage bag with garlic powder, dried onion, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and coconut amino (like soy sauce without the soy). This went into the fridge overnight, then into our dehydrator at 160 degrees for 3 hours (you can accomplish the same in a conventional oven at a a similar temp, though timing may be different). Pure heaven - the two pounds were gone pretty quickly and not immediately only because I put some away. A successful project!

Trail Snacks (DIY or otherwise)

Another snack we've enjoyed recently (on the trails, on the ski lift, while camping) are the new Organic Trail Mix Bars from Clif! The bars are gluten-free, feature fruits and nuts like crunchy almonds, whole wild blueberries, and chunks of delicious dark chocolate, and available in seven delicious flavors. So happy Clif made the jump to 100% organic bars - these are tasty and a really good choice to bring along pretty much anywhere (can't imagine where they wouldn't taste great). We very much appreciated tasting the samples I was sent.

Trail Snacks (DIY or otherwise)

Other, more unusual samples, came from Navitas Naturals, who sent us their three new organic coconut chips. If you're a fan of dried coconut, you'll probably like these. The family was split about which flavors they like the best, Caramel, Cacao, and Chile-Lime, but all agreed it was something different and good. I myself preferred the three flavors mixed, but you'll have to try them yourself to decide which ones do it for you. Another gluten-free option if that is important to you, and, while tasty on their own, probably more often used in a trial mix or as a topping.

Samples were provided for review purposes - all opinions were my own.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hell Hike And Raft: Cairn

Hell Hike And Raft: Cairn

Hell Hike And Raft Partner Cairn is a subscription service helping outdoor and recreational enthusiasts discover new brands and new products through a monthly box delivered to their doorstep. Their products are curated from four general categories: gear, apparel, energy/food, and skin care. They sent us a box of goodies to check out what they do and help spread the word about their company as well as the companies they work with. Our box contained:

  • A set of plastic cards depicting various useful outdoor knots from Pro-Knot;
  • a Zesty Pepper High Protein Beef Bar from Kratos Foods;
  • the Pulse 1500 power booster from Brunton;
  • Pro SPF30 Ultra Sport Sunscreen Lotion from Aloe Up; and 
  • a Berry Pomegranate Chia bar from old fave Clif.

Really a well-curated selection for products we'd be likely to bring along on Hell Hike And Raft. If you're not interested in the subscription service, you can also take advantage of their services with a one-time gift purchase as well. Thanks Cairn!

These items were provided free of charge because of my participation in Hell Hike and Raft 2015 - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Running, will you be my friend?

So there is this - after months of consternation and frustration, then taking much time off, I ran yesterday for the first time in a while. I purposefully kept it planned to be short, with a midway break to play on the jungle gym with the Little Worker. He rode his bike, I ran and you know what, it didn't suck too badly.

Running, will you be my friend?

Since I've become large but not in charge, I decided that I also needed to incorporate some cross training and the jungle gym is the perfect place. I did some box jumps, dips, pull ups, chin ups, and some other things I can't recall. This was interspersed with play time, which was a great twofer.

I wore my TomTom cardio watch (absolutely loving the lack of a heart rate strap!), but did not focus on zones - no MAF training for me Monday. I will eventually go back to that, but for now, I'm just content that I ran, my legs didn't hurt, and I got to spend time with my son on a perfect Spring day - you can't ask for much more than that.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hiking Beverly Lake

Hiking Beverly Lake

This weekend, I had the chance to visit a new to me trail, called Beverly Lake. Located in Hoffman Estates about a mile and a half or so off the Interstate, this is an easy location to visit, though traffic back towards the city can be a bear depending on the time of day (it took me about a half hour to drive there Sunday morning, but more than an hour to get home midday). Not a lot of information on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County website, unfortunately, and no trail maps at the parking lot, so I relied primarily on the well-marked trails on my phone's Google Maps.

The trail starts at a small parking lot and along the shores of Beverly Lake. At the end of the lake, one can take a side loop with more views of the lake, or head straight in to the trails, which are also marked for cross country skiing (though the signs are pretty old and very confusing). I took the first loop and came across a couple of cement "pillboxes" - no information and with minimal graffiti, wonder what they were used for. Onward I walked, referring to my phone when I got to a fork in the trail and planning my route as I went.

Trailhead by Lisa Jhung

One of the things I thought quite a bit about was a book I recently received for review, Trailhead, by Lisa Jhung (VeloPress). Marketed as a beginner's guide to trail running, this is actually a great resource for anyone interested in hitting the trails, runners and hikers alike. From the basics like finding a good trail to etiquette (right of way, pee and poo stops), to basic first aid, this little book has good information for pretty much any user. Well-written and researched, with subtle humor, this was entertaining to read as well as informative. Makes a great gift too.

Hiking Beverly Lake

The trails are mostly mown grass, with some doubletrack and singletrack thrown in depending on which route was chosen. There was also plenty of mud with all the recent rains we've had. One of the negatives of falling a trail on Google Maps is that it is, in fact, just an approximation and not an exact trail route. I was so focused on a specific turn that I walked right by it somehow, necessitating some serious bushwhacking before I stumbled back onto the trail (luckily it's early Spring and the areas off trail aren't fully grown in yet). I was really impressed with how little litter there was - I think I saw two beer cans in the four and half miles I hiked, pretty impressive. That, along with the variety of trails, small ponds and lakes, and undulating terrain made for great hiking - I'll definitely go back.

Cabela's Hoffman Estates

I finished up my morning with a stop at Cabela's, which bills itself as the World's Foremost Outfitter. Not sure about that, but this is one enormous store, with pretty much anything you need to get outdoors. I was really impressed with their Gun Library, as well as their two enormous aquariums (always love watching fish). It's kind of overwhelming, though, if you're not shopping for something special, because there's just too much to take in.

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Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports - Patagonia.com

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