I am going to be frank with you, while these are very popular things I will be listing, I am definitely listing my favorites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While these are things that are popular all around, these are my Top3 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore based on my hiking experiences.
Au Sable Lighthouse
I LOVE lighthouses and this one is gorgeous! You can reach this beauty from the Hurricane River campground along a short 1.5 mile hike. Just make sure to park in a day-use spot and not in a campsite!
This is an amazing landmark, but what makes it so special for me is that I have not seen it on my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trips yet. I have hiked from Hurricane River campground to see it, but since last year we had to start our hike at Chapel Beach parking we missed this beauty (see my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking experience in Part 1 and Part 2). I am so excited that this year we will be starting our trip at Au Sable Visitor center and will be marveling at this light station on day 2!
I had never seen true beauty until I had seen the beautiful Chapel beach waters and cliff views. The water is so blue and clear.
We celebrated our first break at Chapel beach and it quickly became our favorite spot after a sweaty hike. If you can only hike one area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make sure it is the Chapel Loop!…just make sure to get to the parking area before 8am to get a good spot! This is a popular loop since the sights and beach are so worth it!
Miner’s Castle is just cool! The Miner’s Castle Rock is awesome and one of the only things on the lakeshore that are accessible from the parking lot. Not to mention there are bathrooms and educational materials for curious families and sea kayakers!
While you will appreciate the majesty of this rock formation, you know I have a selfish and personal reason for liking Miner’s Castle best. It’s the end for me. Minor’s Castle is where we park the car and celebrate completing the trail. While I look forward to being on trail, ending the trail is a great feeling of accomplishment and I love that feeling just as much as the journey to get there!
I hope you enjoyed my Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Let me know which one location you want to visit the most and please check out the links below as I prepare for my second Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trip!
Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!
Last time I spoke to you on the blog I talked about starting to prepare your backpacking trip (see post here) and I talked about the gear I am taking with me for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip. I even talked about some items I may switch around, and if you follow the Sustaining Sara socials (see above), then you already know an item I have been pondering over.
Charlie and I have decided to move away from our hammock shelters and move toward a tent shelter. I have heard from many sources that your tent should be under 3.5 lbs and there are so many tents available in that range. However, I will be the first to say that I do not want to spend that much money and I’d prefer to work with what we have, and what we have is a Coleman 2 Person Dome Tent. In the 2 person model this entire tent system is 7 lbs. and I dare say no one wants to add a 7 lb. shelter to their pack. HOWEVER, Charlie and I can split the weight together AND save money.
Now I went to some Facebook hiking and backpacking groups to see what they thought about this plan and the perspectives were mixed to say the least. One person told me that taking this tent into the back country was “a terrible idea” with no other context. Others said it is a great idea to work with what we have and some agreed but also offered better options. I am happy I got perspectives for people but I have figured that this comes down to three main points in our case:
Availability – we already have this tent. I already set it up once this season to make sure all pieces are accounted for and in good working order!
Cost – there is no extra cost to us to use a tent we already have. We may even use some money we would have used on a new tent on getting better sleeping pads (yes, now I need to add “sleeping pad” to my updated gear list).
Splitting Weight – yes, this tent would be way too heavy for one person to carry. However, since Charlie and I can split the weight together we should be at a reasonable ~3.5 lbs.! There is nothing wrong with that!
So Charlie and I are pretty set on using our heavy tent, no matter what others say. I am very happy that we have this opportunity and can see how our shelter system evolves as we continue our backcountry journeys! Make sure to check out my socials below to see our Pictured Rocks Trip as it rolls out!
Please be aware that clicking any links or purchasing from links may result in Sara receiving compensation. This is at no cost to you and helps Sara continue to share on Sustaining Sara. Thank you!
Hi all! Now that is it May, I need to start preparing for my second trip backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Last year we were able to reserve a few backcountry sites to backpack the lakeshore, but this time around we prepared ahead of time (see Top 5 Things to Know Before Hiking Pictured Rocks) to reserve backcountry permits to make sure we hike from Grand Sable Visitor Center to Minors Castle (almost the whole lakeshore)! There are a few things I am doing to make sure I am ready for this trip and I had better start now rather than later. Here are my tips to prepare for your backpacking trip!
Get in shape
I was in a lot better shape last year and I was still tired after each day of hiking. This year…I need to start taking on more mileage before I hike 7.3 miles a day for fun. On top of just in general needing to get in shape, taking on so many miles consecutively and so soon can lead to injury if not properly prepared. Everyone is different, do your research and prepare your own body accordingly. I know that for myself, I need to do something to get in shape and prepare my body for my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore trip.
If you are planning a longer hiking trip make sure your body can handle the work-load involved in your scenic hike!
Get your gear together
If you are just starting out on your first backpacking trip you have A LOT to prepare for. Even if you are a seasoned backpacker you know how much planning it takes to make sure you are ready for comfort in the backcountry. You should do plenty of research on what others take into the backcountry and even think about additional things that would make yourself comfortable and happy! Here are things I take backpacking with me:
Luxury items (not necessary, but things I like to bring with me)
Journal and pen
If you have your gear organized year round then this is not too much of a problem. Personally I use totes to put all my things in except my sleeping bag which I don’t want to squish. I keep my sleeping bag outside of storage because my dogs love cuddling it. People may use more, less, or liter gear but the above is what I take with me into the backcountry.
Upgrade gear as needed
While I am loving my gear, there are a few things that we are upgrading/ changing based on different desires or needs:
Charlie is looking at getting a tent instead of bringing out his hammock setup again. He just decided that the hammock surrounded by the bug net and tarp was too constricting and did not provide enough privacy.
I am looking at changing or nixing my pillow. With my hammock I just don’t need it and I just wake up cuddling it like a teddy bear anyway.
Changing up your gear list is up to you and your preferences, don’t let anyone tell you different!
Now you have your gear together. You’re packed up and eager. Now it is time for a practice run.
Hike with your bag. Overnight with your supplies. Is your bag too heavy for you? Did you pack some unnecessary items? Forget something you really need? Figure this out now and get rid of anything you don’t need. This is also a great way to practice wearing your backpack and make sure it is the right one for you! See Rachel’s How Not to Pack for A Pictured Rock Hiking Trip to really understand the importance of packing.
Prepare a main point of contact
I have said this before and I will say it again; make sure someone knows where you are and your itinerary! When Charlie and I leave for any type of trip we need to get a dog sitter and that is normally a family member. When we leave for a trip we know we may have limited cell service we make sure that this family member is prepared with our itinerary with notes on when we will be able to contact them and what to do if we do not contact them. A satellite phone would also help in these situation and hopefully by the time we do this trip we will have a Garmin InReach or InReach Mini. STILL, these phones are not always 100 percent reliable and your point of contact should be told that!
These tips for preparing for your backpacking trip are only the things primarily on my mind right now. Make sure to always do your own research and to make sure you are comfortable with your plans and your gear before isolating yourself in the backcountry. I wish you the best of luck and I hope you have so much fun!
Once on trail I will make sure to share as many photos and tips as possible! I will let you know how the trip went right here on the blog and don’t forget to read my first experience hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; Part 1 and Part 2. And follow my adventures on Instagram!
Hey, all! A huge part of my personal reset was a desert getaway/girls trip that I was blessed to take with some of my best girlfriends. While just being with this group of high-achieving women is enough to recharge my soul, the activities and adventures we went on put me in the moment and taught me to appreciate that. In this post I want to share with you some of the things we did to accomplish a sense of adventure and piece-of-mind.
Treat yourself to a Desert Oasis Airbnb
For our trip to Joshua Tree we chose to rent an Airbnb in Twenty Nine Palms which came out to a reasonable price for three nights when split between four people. We made sure to choose a rental home that allowed privacy, beauty, and of course a hot tub. The landscaping was beautiful at this home and in the evenings we enjoyed watching the sunset, gossiping around a campfire, and drinking wine in the hot tub.
The property was fenced in to deter animals and protect the fragile plants. The home was surrounded by rock gardens and the most beautiful golden barrel cacti. While the outside of the home was scattered with beautiful rocks, chimes, and scavenged pieces of metal and glass, the inside was a time capsule of Joshua Tree/Palm Springs turn-of-the-century memorabilia. Given this beauty and detail we had just as much interest staying at our “home” as we did exploring the National Park.
Such solitude with a group of best friends is a gift and allowed me to rest and reflect on my life.
Go Bouldering and Hiking at Joshua Tree National Park
While there are a million designated hiking trails at Joshua Tree National Park, finding a good boulder to climb is just as important as finding a trail to trek. That is why we stopped at Jumbo Rock Campground! We were able to find a non-intrusive parking spot and walked to some HUGE boulders to climb and take pictures at. What was great was some of the girls were very adventurous while I was able to take some easier climbs and sit back. It was lovely and a great spot to meditate alone and also get together to chat about our next moves for the day.
On this trip and a past trip to Joshua Tree NP I also did some hiking trails! Each trail was fun and I can recommend both:
Also great for bouldering but a must for history buffs
Native Plants and Medicinal Teas guided hike
Airbnb offers a platform not just for vacation stays, but also a whole world of experiences offered by amazing people wanting to share their knowledge and recreational properties. In this case we found a woman that guides you on a hike to learn about plants native to Joshua Tree NP. She also shared teas made from the plants around her nearby home and showed us how to be conscious of plant life while on trail.
Bonus: we also bought matching teas cups from a craftsman at a Joshua Tree flee market. They are beautiful!
One thing I love about my best friends is getting coffee together. Whether it is Starbucks or a cute Inland Empire roaster, we love to sit down and enjoy coffee together. One of my girlfriends on the trip actually first told me about Joshua Tree Coffee Company because she has a subscription for their coffee bags. I got an iced coffee and a bag of the breakfast blend.
All I am saying is that when you got out, find a local coffee place you like. I am just so happy to know of a coffee roaster I adore in Joshua Tree. Charlie and I have really been enjoying our Joshua Tree Coffee Company breakfast blend at home, get yourself some!
I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite and best things to do while visiting Joshua Tree NP, but I also home that in the future you can enjoy these things as well! Let me know which sounds the best or if you have done any of these things in the comments down below!
I have been away, but thank you to everyone that reached out and for continuing to check out my blog and socials (see above for more Sustaining Sara)! Now that I have time to write and create again, I have really been inspired to share some of my favorite recipes that I have been enjoying lately. I have been so happy to see my friends and family respond well to the things I cook, so I hope you can enjoy them to!
To share recipes I have started a series called “Homemade is Better.” I have a few recipes I am SURE I need you all to know about, but I have a very personal reason for starting with my Garlicky Ranch Dressing, and that is because I have been meaning to give this recipe to my mother-in-law. We made this dip to enjoy while watching the Super Bowl and can attest that is it great with veggies, wings, or anything else you might want to dip. So this creamy and flavorful recipe is for Mary and anyone else that wants to make their own ranch dressing!
For this recipe you only need four ingredients:
1/2 cup Buttermilk
4 sprigs fresh dill
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup mayo
On top of these ingredients, you will need a container to make and store your ranch in. I suggest making the dressing in the container you will store it in because then it will be super easy to throw it into the fridge! I reused a a mason jar that I previously bought honey in.
Now lets get started!
Cut and mince herbs
Start by mincing your garlic and putting it in your container, I personally achieved this by using a garlic press.
Next cut the dill of the stem. I used kitchen sheers to quickly snip the herb from the stem.
Add your buttermilk and mayo
Idk what to tell you other than you just made ranch!
It’s that easy!
I LOVE this ranch, however feel free to adjust this recipe to your preferences too! Three cloves of garlic makes for a very strongly flavored dressing, feel free to use more or less cloves! This ranch is also very drippy, use less buttermilk for a thicker dip.
I hope you enjoy this Ranch as much as I do and make sure to tag @sustaining_sara on Instagram and let me know in the comments below if you are excited for more “Homemade is Better!”
Every month I write in my bullet journal three things I want to do that month. Some of these things are stuff that has to be done, but more often than not some of these things are left incomplete. However, there are a few things that I will definitely make sure to do this summer! Here we go, my top 5 Summer 2021 Plans!
Last Summer Charlie and I were set on getting kayaks. However, I did not want to do much research OR buy a roof rack, so we did what any lazy person would do. We bought inflatable kayaks. We got a Intex Challenger K1 and a Intex Challenger K2. We got a single person and a two person so that we could take one out together or both kayaks and a friend or Jupiter in his little life jacket (at the time there was no Bingo in the picture).
Charlie has been looking at where we can kayak this year and it seems like there will be plenty of opportunities between the many lakes and rivers in Michigan’s Thumb. Last summer we only used the kayaks on a calm lake (Crego Park), but we will see if the inflatable kayaks will work on other bodies of water. So we will definitely be kayaking this summer!
Our previous living situation was mine and Charlie’s first house we ever rented together, meaning this was our first yard we could start a vegetable garden in! We attempted to grow several vegetables, but the two that lasted (and THRIVED) were beef steak tomatoes and butternut squash. With these two vegetables we were able to prepare and store enough to have them through winter and it was awesome! We had the last of the tomato soup last week even!
Needless to say with only two types of plants fruiting last year out of a whole garden, we have done a little research and will be improving our garden this year. PLUS we have more room this year! I cannot wait to share our new garden with you!
Up North Michigan/Upper Peninsula Vacation
After spending so much time Up North last year between hiking and sight-seeing, I cannot wait to cross Mackinac Bridge again (is a Mac Pass in my future!?). I just want to have a beer at Ore Dock Brewery in Marquette, cliff jump at Black Rock, and finally explore Sault Ste Marie! We have plenty planned for this summer, as you will see on numbers 4 and 5!
North Country Trail 100 Challenge
Have you heard about the North Country Trail Challenge? The North Country Trail actually goes across Picture Rocks National Lakshore and once finished will be the longest scenic trail from Vermont to Oregon (the current west terminus is North Dakota)! The North Country Trail 100 Challenge has been going since 2016 and challenges hikers to do 100 miles of the North Country Trail Challenge. After completion you get a cool patch! Check out the North Country Trail website for more information!
You can do multiple sections of the trail to reach your 100 miles or the same sections over and over! I will definitely be getting 35 miles done at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore this summer!
Backpack Picture Rocks National Lakeshore (AGAIN!)
That’s right, 35 miles in 4-5 days on Picture Rocks National Lakeshore! Charlie and I will be doing this hike again and actually we plan to do it every year for as long as we can. This year we are making sure we do the whole lakeshore, but in the future we will be trying to do it faster and faster! It is just a beautiful and rewarding hike, I cannot wait to do it again.
And I cannot wait to tell y’all about our experiences again!
Thank you for checking in on my plans for Summer 2021. Please let me know of any cool plans you have for this summer in the comments! Thank you!
Well last week we were talking about snow days and how cold it is, this week I wanna talk about the Spring Thaw. If you are experiencing snow melt, fog, or anything else that resembles spring then you are also getting the ugly glimpses of earth that the snow was hiding all this time. I hate this part. When the snow melts there is mud and puddles everywhere. While I just in general like to stay off the weak ground at this time, it is actually important too.
When possible it is important to stay off trails during the spring thaw. The ground is weak and loose, walking on it can damage the trail and cause intense trail maintenance (something a lot of trails have little funding or volunteers for). That being said; here are some paved Michigan trails to frequent while things warm up!
Lansing River Walk
The Lansing River Trail now stretches all the way from Waverly Road to Old Town! You can also catch it from Potter Park into MSU. Altogether, over 16 miles of paved trail pass through numerous parks and natural areas, as well as Downtown Lansing.
I talked about in Wrapping Up February how I used to live in Lansing and I loved frequenting this trails for a good hike with my sisters or walking the Fellas. It is also a very popular bike route that my fiancé endorses himself! My recommendation is to start at Crego Park (also a great hammock and kayak location!) and take the Lansing River Walk to Potters Park Zoo! Just realize that some areas do get flooded over as spring is birthed!
Blue Water River Walk
The paved pedestrian path rolls along 4,300 feet of shoreline and connects to the Bridge to Bay Trail. An elevated structure that was once used as an ferry dock provides a fun and different perspective on the river and land.
I have not been able to walk a significant amount of this trail but the views are gorgeous! The Lansing River has nothing on the size of the St. Clair river and while these are both “river walks” they are both so different in their own ways. The Blue Water River Walk is a great example of showing that we can enjoy nature while also returning it back to a more natural state.
All I am saying is that Spring is a beautiful and wonderful time and whenever possible we should be avoiding trails during the spring thaw. Great benefits of the paved trails I talked about today is that many are also bike paths, may have other amenities like picnic or hammock spots, and/or are communities efforts at the rehabilitation and preservation of natural areas. So enjoy and once snowmelt and precipitation take a break we can enjoy the joys and beauty of our favorite hiking trails again!
This month has been a roller coaster to say the least. Between moving, snow storms, and a high-desert getaway this has been one of my more busy and peaceful months since I left my job in September. While I think a lot of us may not associate “busy” and “peaceful” in the same breath, resetting my lifestyle in the past 6 months has helped me find great inner peace. It just took until February to unpack a lot of personal issues and concerns. This month I was able to face anxieties, find zen in the desert, and officially move to the Thumb Coast.
I have had a lot to think about as a temporary stay-at-home wife. While it was a huge privilege to call myself that, I was worrying myself with who I was in the world and what to do. Fortunately, I can say that I have restarted. This blog has allowed me to focus on a lifestyle I love and to dedicate myself to sustainability and backpacking. YOU reading this is keeping me accountable for living a more sustainable lifestyle and gives me a platform for sharing my hiking adventures. Thank you. On top of having this platform, I can say that I have found a part-time job. It is completely different from what I was doing before, but it is just the beginning of my restart.
Finding peace in these times is difficult, but a high desert get away also helped me gain faith in my restart. If you are able to, a desert retreat is refreshing. I hope to share this experience in the future and explain the precautions taken in these times. For now, please just trust that it is what I needed and I will be sharing this experience.
This month I was able to face anxieties, find zen in the desert, and officially move to the Thumb Coast.
Finally wrapping up this month, I officially live on the Thumb Coast and am really embracing #LakeLife! It took us longer than I’d like to admit to move from Lansing to the Lake Huron Coast but we are here and happy! While we still have to unpack, there is another stressor crossed off the books and I cannot wait to share my adventures now that we are here! Plus, now that we are out of Lansing I will share the trails I traversed and originally avoided sharing since they were so close to home.
February is about to pass and I am so thankful for everything that happened in this month. I am so happy with who I am as a person and our new home. Thank you for sharing this month with Sustaining Sara and for supporting me. Now please let me know how your February was in the comments below!
Y’all. In 2020 I moved back to Michigan from California. While in California we chose to go on adventures and see snow, but this week in Michigan (and many other areas) the snow globe was shaken! Please read on to see a day in my life; Snow Day Edition.
Everything begins the night before. My fiancé, Charlie, texted me while he was at work that he was planning to take the truck fro work the next day with the expectation of 6-8 inches of snow to accumulate through the night. We also agreed to go grocery shopping after Charlie got out of work since we were low on food.
After grocery shopping we sat in the living room, playing DnD with our virtual group and watched snow begin to fall. At first it fell softly in big flakes, creating the most beautiful atmosphere. Then the wind picked up and visibility became foggy. The winter storm was here. By the time we went to bed the winter storm was holding steady with no end in sight.
In the morning before Charlie goes to work he always tells me good bye and that he let the dogs out and fed them, but this time this brief routine was interrupted with a funny story. Charlie went to take the dogs to the back door, but the snow was over the dogs little heads! Charlie had to take the fellas out a different door that was easier to shovel. My poor small Bingo had barely gone outside and Jupiter retreated to do his business under the porch. Really this all made me laugh and I was excited to see this winter wonderland after a little more sleep.
Now, finally awaking from my slumber, it was my turn to witness the work of the winter storm. I quickly put on my leggings and socks, raced to get my boots on, and lead the fellas to the back door. Charlie’s description did not disappoint. While overall I think we got 10-12 inches, the wind must have blown a lot of snow to settle in heaps on our back deck. The snow was over my knees! After marveling at being snowed in from the deck, I took my fellas to the other door and just as Charlie had said they were so skeptical of the cold snow. My mom’s dog and Jupiter showed off their bravery and found little paths to take into the thick of the yard, but Bingo just sat in the garage doorway looking at me in terror.
Oh, did I mention it was still snowing? Much less menacing than when I went to sleep and boardering on those big, romantic flakes. I spent the rest of my morning drinking coffee by our big front window and calming down the dogs all barking at our neighbors snow blowers and tractors. All the neighbors were removing snow from their driveways up until early afternoon which got me to thinking if it would make any difference for me to take out the measly snow shovel…which I decided was too much work for too little payoff Wrong.
By early evening my sister and I decided that we needed to play in the snow a little before the sun went down. We bundled up in hats and mittens and took the dogs outside. The paths I made with my slumpy steps became the start of the trails for our dogs to comfortably traverse the snow. While I was walking further into the yard my sister was testing a heart-shaped snowball maker and creating a lovely snow Arsenal. Once I finally turned back toward the house my sister was throwing snow hearts everywhere! It was both beautiful and terrifying; she almost pummeled me a few times!
We did not spend much time outside (partially due to Bingo’s protest), and once we went inside we both chose our specific places to rest. After watching a few YouTube videos I decided to cleanup in the kitchen. I got some dishes done before I realized that our snowy driveway was plowed in. I was devastated. I had already not shoveled the driveway, making it hard enough for Charlie to come home, but at this point Charlie wouldn’t even be able to get past the giant snow bank to park the truck. This is what I get for saving my energy and not shoveling earlier…more shoveling.
I woke up my sister from her catnap and asked her to watch me at the window to make sure I stayed safe near the busy road, put on my old work coat with reflectors, and laced up my boots tight. I walked through the driveway to the snow bank and began to shovel it away. At the first scoop I already saw progress and with hard work I could free my driveway! I was shoveling in small scoops because this snow was packed and heavy. I was using muscles I had not used in such a long time. My wrists were on fire, my back muscles were pulsing. I was taking frequent breaks to catch a breath or backup to let a car pass. It was exhausting. Right after I had finished and gone inside Charlie safely pulled into the driveway.
I finished the night watching Netflix with people I love, beer in hand, body sore. Snow days are great! While I evaded a lot of work that comes with snow days, remember that they are not just fun and no school. If you are not doing the work to clear snow then someone else is. All I am trying to say is have fun, but have a plan to remove snow from your driveway!
Maybe it was a rush of adrenaline to launch Sustaining Sara. Maybe it was simply looked over. Maybe I was scared? Whatever it was, I just feel like my about me intro post was a cookie-cutter “what I think should be on a blog” regurgitation.
I explain what this blog will be; hiking, sustainability, and a millennial’s house plant obsession, but not the why. To be honest I had wanted to start a platform many times where I could talk about the things I like. To be honest I feel weird about making statuses on facebook because they are short and I never get all the words out. Now that I have so much time after leaving a job I worked to many hours at and had no time for myself and my relationships, gosh darn it I finally launched a site that is 100% what Sara wants to talk about.
AND IT’S AWESOME.
I feel so much support from my extended family who always comments and likes my posts, to friends I have not talked to since high school that are telling me they that they like hearing about my adventures. I wanted to created this space to talk about Sara things and it has been so well received. After leaving a huge part of my life in 2020, I am so happy and grateful that this new platform is creating positive experiences for me and that you all are supportive and enjoying Sustaining Sara with me.