Sara’s Top 5 Summer 2021 Plans

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!

  1. Kayaking

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!

  1. Gardening
Tomato and Squash Garden at the Lansing House.
Our old, crowded tomato and squash garden.

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!

  1. Up North Michigan/Upper Peninsula Vacation
Lake Superior at Au Sable Lighthouse
The rolling waves of Lake Superior (my favorite Great Lake) at Au Sable Light House

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!

  1. 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!

  1. Backpack Picture Rocks National Lakeshore (AGAIN!)
Picture Rocks Nation Lakeshore Chapel Beach
The turquoise water we say backpacking Picture RocKs National Lakeshore near Chapel Beach.

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!

Love,

Sara

Spring Thaw and My Fave Paved Trails

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!

  1. 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.

https://lansingrivertrail.org
Lansing Park Crego Park Lansing River Walk
Resting with our hammocks out after taking the Fellas on a walk on the Lansing River Walk!

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!

  1. 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.

https://www.bluewater.org/member-detail/blue-water-river-walk/

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!

Love,

Sara

Wrapping up February

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!

Love, 

Sara

What I do in a day – Snow Day Edition

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.

Dog’s first snow day in Big Bear, CA with dog parents
Jupiter’s first snow day in Big Bear, CA

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!

Snow day tracks in snow
My first trek into the snowy backyard!

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!

Love,

Sara

Why I am here – a better “about me”

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.

Thank you. I love you. Keep being awesome.

Love,

Sara

Sustainable Living – Products and Services

Well y’all, this is the post that finally starts to cover how I practice a more sustainable lifestyle. I want to share with you a few products and services I use that help me decrease waste and things I look forward to utilizing in the future. I hope that these are helpful and feel free to click on some of these links for offers to start utilizing the same services!

Things I currently use:

Imperfect Produce Impact
Imperfect Produce show customer impact by showing how the customer offsets wood waste, water use, and CO2 emissions.

Imperfect Produce

First off, let’s start on something I am passionate about considering my own bad habits. Did you know that rts.com is projecting 80 billion pounds of food waste this year? Yikes. I feel bad about throwing away part of my lunch or letting potatoes go bad (who even has time to let potatoes go bad!?), but there is a substantial amount of good food that cannot even make it to market because it looks funky or is of inadequate size. This is where Imperfect Produce comes in for me. Imperfect Produce gets their hands on the produce grocers won’t buy and not only sells it to you to deter food waste, but will deliver it to your doorstep.

Y’all. I don’t drive. But I love grocery shopping and ugly produce/overstock food items. This service is so convenient for me and I love opening up my box on delivery day. And to be perfectly honest, I have not gotten any of the funny looking produce that they advertise. Most of the items are overstock or abnormal size; for example my favorite item which was a giant 3 lb. carrot! I just love this service and am so happy to always have fruits and veggies to incorporate in my meals.

If you are enticed by Imperfect Produce, check out this link for $10 off your first order!

Who Gives A Crap Toilet Paper and add ons!

Who Gives A Crap

I purposely did not make this the first topic because some people do not like to talk about toilet paper, but here we are. Who Gives A Crap is a 100% recycled toilet paper subscription service. Yes, a subscription service for toilet paper. They also have add-on products like facial tissue and paper towels made from recycled materials if that is your thing.

On top of being eco-conscious, Who Gives a Crap is also dedicated to making a social impact. Who Gives a Crap uses 50% of proceeds to create sanitary toilet options for areas in need of them. Plus, they are certified Carbon Neutral and a B Certified Corporation meaning they meet the highest level of social and environmental impact.

I just love never running out of toilet paper while also supporting a socially-conscious business. I really think this is the best way to buy toilet paper as a capable and responsible consumer. Plus, when the shelves were cleared of TP in March 2020 I was un-phased! Who Gives A Crap did not take on anymore customers during the TP shortage, but I was able to keep my subscription and give away this “currency” to family and friends in need. I love it!

For a piece of mind when it comes to this bathroom staple, here is a link for $10 off your first order!

Fillaree
Fillaree is a filling subscription for household soaps!

Fillaree

By now you may have noticed that I LOVE subscription services and am in a blessed position to be able to afford the upfront investment of bulk supplies (aka large produce box, 3 month supply of toilet paper). Fillaree is also just like that but is a refill subscription service for soaps. REFILL SUBSCRIPTION. You are sent a container of whatever soap you choose from – dish, hand, body, hair, all purpose spray, and other eco friendly accessories – and you can create a refill subscription where they send you a new bottle and you ship back your empty. Easy-peasy!

Products and Services looking forward:

Dropps

I would like to get a Dropps subscription for dishwasher and laundry pods…but I do not have a dishwasher yet and want to bundle the two. Dropps packaging and pods are biodegradable which I think is awesome. As you can imagine though, once we switch to drops we will look to dropping Fillaree dish soap. For now we are a Fillaree and Charlie’s Soap household.

Girlfriend Micro Plastics Filter

Y’all have not heard about my absolute LOVE for this brand! I bought their leggings at launch (anyone remember that annoying “$20 luxury leggings” ad from 2016?) and am now a devotee to their recycled bottle leggings. As you read this my next order is on the way with my new micro plastic filter for my washing machine! Since we are slowly moving from one house to another I decided this was a perfect time to get a micro plastic filter to do my part in making sure little pieces of plastic crud do not enter our water ways.

If this pumps you up as much as it does me, check out Girlfriend and use this link for $10 off your order over $95.

Compost

No secret, I currently don’t compost. I am learning about household composting and a sustainable practice for my household.

No Buy/Eco Minimalism

I am trying to stop shopping for things I don’t need. These things are filling up my life and are destined for a landfill or the back corners of my closet. When I think of this fate I am pretty confused as to why I spend my money on frivolous things. I DON’T LIKE IT. This will be an ongoing adventure but one that I am sure will give me the piece of mind that I need.

Thank you for checking out things I use to be more eco-conscious and please let me know what products I use that you are interested in or alternatives you utilize! Comment below!

Love,

Sara

My First Thru-Hike Part 2/Day 2

Thank you all for sticking around for Part Two/Day 2 of my first backpacking trip! If you have not read it, check it out here! When we left off my fiancé had woken up from rain on a night that we did not set up our rain tarps over our hammocks. I was untouched by the rain and overall too tired and sore to wake up…so I didn’t!

The next day we slept in and left camp late (11am). I was still very sore and alarmed at our dwindling supply of toilet paper. Fortunately the day ahead was shorter than the day previous at 6.9 miles to the Cliffs campground…or just 5 miles to Miner’s Castle where Rachel’s car was parked…? We had pep in our steps as we left camp after an oatmeal breakfast. We quickly came upon Mosquito Falls and even pondered a water crossing. However, Charlie and I decided to find a bridge we were sure was around the well manicured trail while Rachel continued down to the water. 

Once across the bridge we waited for Rachel. Worried, we eventually started to walk down river to find her, and to my dismay she was walking away from the trail. Annoyed I yelled to here and she told us about how she fell on her butt in the water. Poor luck, but I did not feel remorse with her accidental fall off of trail. I was reacting too harshly in the moment and should have had more consideration for her sense of adventure. After all she was quickly corrected and we were back off on trail!

This section of the trail was mostly under the forest canopy with small outlets to overlooks. The leaves in the trees where lush and light peaked through like little  beams from heaven. I looked eagerly to see critters in the forest, maybe even a bear in the distance, but had to settle for the less dangerous forest chipmunks. The views were different from seeing the spectacular cliffs, but the beauty was still aw inspiring.

We started to go down a steep hill, telling each other that we were happy we were not going up it. After descending the monstrous hill we passed the Potato Patch campsite and made it a parking lot where kayak tours were being dropped off and  the van driver told us that the ladies he’s seen on the trail ran the 42 miles in one day.  We even got to talking to another backpacker that gave us the last of their bug repellent and told us to make sure we hit up Picture Rocks Pizza after our hike.

At the terminus of the steep hill!

It was great to talk to new people that had interest in our hike, however the best part was what was in the parking lot…a port-a-potty. I was sooo excited to not have to dig a hole to relieve myself. Besides, since I smelled so bad already there was nothing in that small building that could bother me. This was a bit of trail magic in my mind.

Then we headed for the 1 mile walk to Miner’s beach ahead of the kayakers. It felt like a short mile but I was relieved to take my backpack off again and sit on the sand. Mind you, this break was only a mile after my “port-a-potty break,” but there is nothing like a beach break. After we watched the kayak instructor show the kayakers how to paddle we got back onto the trail. 

This part of the trail was different from the cliffs and canopy we had previously trekked. On our right there was the beach and to the left a million blueberry bushes. We reached a busier part of the beach and the sign that got us together to decide the future of our hike. “1.0 [mile] Miners Castle.” At this point we were out of TP, Rachel’s monster backpack and sandals were taking their toll, and I was just tired. Note; while Rachel and I were reaching our limits, I think Charlie was in the zone and experiencing his own hiker’s high! This is where we brought up just getting to the car and ending our hike. We were not thru hikers yet but just getting our toes soaked in backpacking, but we all agreed. We had one mile to go. Just. One. More. Mile.

The beloved 1 mile sign!

THE HARDEST MILE. Remember when we were so vocal about how nice it was to be going downhill? After twisting and turning around water sources we made it to the final boss of our hike. There rest of the hike was plagued by hills and roots so exposed that they created abstract stairways. To me Charlie appeared to ascend these obstacles with ease. I was pushing myself to a physical limit, stopping for a few breathes after I felt myself deserving. Poor Rachel was being held-back by her huge pack. 

The pain of each heavy step felt never ending until we finally saw the Miner’s Castle visitors center. I almost lost it when I saw Rachel’s car and was excited to get to it but was stopped a little early when Rachel stopped at the first bench she came to. I begged her to give me her keys from the depths of her pack. I wanted to ditch my backpack into her car and find a T-shirt that was not saturated in the day’s determination.  This was the hardest thing I have done to date. The best thing I have done to date.

This hike was a turning point in my life. The accomplishment I felt was intoxicating. The peace I was granted in giving myself permission to feel so many different emotions on this hike was something I had never done before and now I was hooked. As cliché as it may be, my first backpacking trip has made such an impression on how I live my life now and was a turning point in my life. I hope I can convey that to everyone as this blog goes on. That you can see how happy I am since I fell in love with hiking. Thank you.

Love,

Sara

My First Thru-Hike Part 1/Day 1

I have really appreciated seeing that people are interested in hearing about my experience at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore and after reading Rachel’s story, I have been inspired to share my own. This will be in two parts since I have plenty to talk about and it helps me since we are still moving from our old house. Just like Rachel’s story, I learned a lot through error, saw the most amazing cliffs and beaches, and bonded with my fiancé and sister. From learning about the opportunity to thru-hike Picture Rocks to ending with pizza and a long drive home, my first thru-hike awaked a new awakened exciting interest for me (hence this lifestyle blog!?).

It was summer 2020 (the same summer we first hiked Picture Rocks) that I found out you could backcountry camp at Picture Rocks National Lakeshore. With trails connecting each campsite you can complete the entire 42 mile trail in less than a week! After taking this idea to Charlie and then to Rachel, we agreed to enjoy our summer vacation with our first backpacking trip. We spent the next two months acquiring our gear from the big three (backpack, sleep system, and shelter) to planning little things like which vegetarian jerky tastes the best. After confirming our vacation dates with our jobs we finally went to recreation.gov to make our backcountry campsite reservations, which if you read “Top 5 Things to Know before Hiking Picture Rocks” you know we made a big mistake in waiting until late summer to make reservations. We were only able to reserve two consecutive nights for nearby campsites.

This caused the first issue in my planning. The campsites we were able to select were Mosquito River and Cliffs. Now these sites are 6.9 miles from each other, not so bad. For our first day we decided to start out at Chapel parking so that we could see Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, and Chapel Beach – all worth it.  However, this made our trip to Mosquito River campsite 8-9 miles on day one! This was a lot for us novice backpackers.

With the small itinerary set, we knew we needed to get to Chapel parking early because it is a highly trafficked trail with a big payoff at the end. We did NOT wake up as early as we had wanted to and even treated ourselves to Biggby coffee on the way to Munising. After getting a little lost to drop Rachel’s car off at Miner’s Castle parking (a blessing and the only sight accessible by car), she threw her backpack in Charlie’s car and we headed to Chapel parking where we gawked at Ride and Seek’s van as it parked and unloaded our packs. Once we trekked to the trailhead from a street parking spot I had realized I left our camping permits in the car and went back to get them while Rachel took pictures of the trail maps.

The first mile all I could think about was getting to the beach and eating lunch…my first clue at how much of a food-motivated hiker I am. Our first stop was Chapel Falls which was beautiful at every angle. Our first pictures were here and the only evidence that I hiked the first two miles in shorts. After passing the falls we got a little lost after passing a sign for “North Country Trail.” Fun fact, the Picture Rocks National Shoreline trails are part of the longest scenic trail; the North Country Trail. However, here we got the chance to chat with a family that really cheered us on and joked that carrying their baby was probably lighter than our packs!

Resting at Chapel Falls with Rachel

Once back on track I was grossly aware of hikers behind us, dreading the moment they caught up and we would preemptively mask-up and move to the side for the lighter day hikers. This was an unnecessary stressor that really should not have bothered me and I even started to remember the family that was cheering us on and enjoy the canopy and look for the horizon beyond the trees. Once I started to let go of the small anxieties, I immediately started to enjoy my hike better.

Then we reached Chapel Beach and Rock. Wow. Chapel Rock is awesome, you have to see its lone tree yourself. But the beach. Y’all, Chapel Beach is the most beautiful beach I have ever been to – my Laguna Thousand Step Beach friends’ group is shook reading this. The beach had socially-distanced groups scattered across its entirety (I mean who wants to be near each other on the beach anyway?) and a few rented pontoons anchored near the shore. The water was beautiful turquoise and a river that fed into Lake Superior created a safe space for small children to frolic in.

We ate lunch and I changed into my leggings behind a log to save my thighs from the undeniable chaffing I was experiencing. The climb back up to the trail was worse than getting onto the sandy beach, but of course gravity was never a friend to backpackers. From this point on it felt like we stopped every 10 minutes at a lookout to see every angle of the cliffs and the waves of Lake Superior’s blue-green water. Mine and Rachel’s packs became exhausting but seeing each mushroom and muddy step kept us occupied in between lookout points.  

Posing at a lookout!

After a little bit under dense tree cover I cannot explain to you the joy and relief I found in myself after seeing a sign for Mosquito River Campground. Then while we thought we had one mile to go, we realized the campsite was 20 feet behind the sign! We chose the nearest site to Lake Superior and immediately began to set up our hammocks sans rain tarps and trek to the shore to collect and filter water.

We made dinner at camp – wrong, you are supposed to keep food stuff at the center of the campground to avoid critters and bears at individual campsites. Ever since resting at Chapel Beach I had began cold-soaking some dried mushrooms for our dinner and began to boil water for risotto. Which I made too much of. I felt sick trying to eat it all to avoid waist/bear bait. After dinner we took all food items and trash to the campsite’s bear box and I took my sore body to bed. I recall Charlie waking up in the middle of the night to rain and alerting us, but I was under good tree cover and too sore and tired to be bothered with putting up my rain tarp. Fortunately Charlie but my pack under his tarp and I never got wet! I slept like a big baby that first night.

Wow, this is the longest post I have personally created for Sustaining Sara! Please make sure to see how my backpacking adventure concludes on Monday’s post; Part 2/Day 2! Thank you to everyone that has expressed interest in hearing about my hiking team’s experience (aka Rachel and Charlie) at Picture Rocks. Please make sure to join our community and discussion by following the Sustaining Sara Facebook group and Instagram linked below, thank you!

Love,

Sara

Top 5 things you need to know before hiking Picture Rocks

I am humbled to share with you that by clicking any links in this post I may receive a kickback. Thank you for your support!

I have had great opportunity to travel, especially in the US, but I can without a doubt say that the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore is the most beautiful place I have been. That being said, there are multiple ways to experience this beauty; boat tour, kayak tour, or by foot. While each of these ways are great in their own right, without a doubt the most immersive is by hiking the shores and cliffs. Here are 5 tips for planning your Picture Rocks hiking trip.

1. Reserve camping spaces far in advance.

The Picture Rocks National Lakeshore and surrounding Upper Peninsula nature areas are very popular vacation spots for the surrounding Great Lakes’ states. Last year we started planning our trip a month ahead and by the time we were ready to reserve backcountry campsites…most were not available. Even the drive-in, “front country” campsites were booked up. We severely had to cutback on the days we could backpack the lakeshore based on finding backcountry campsite reservation within reasonable distance for us novice backpackers. 

Now for 2021 we are determined to hike from Au Sable Visitor Center to Miner’s Castle and reserving our campsites mid-January shows this determination. Keep in mind that reserving campsites for state parks starts January 1st of the reservation year and you will see the taunting “Reservations Full Through October” in June. I recommend planning your summer trip in January (I am serious) and any fall or winter camping in the summer and making your recreation.gov ASAP. 

2. Do not plan on having cell service.

As soon as we left downtown Munising we did not have cell service. Ariana Grande herself was cutoff on Spotify. From what I understand Verizon users tend to have better luck finding spots of service, but otherwise cellphones are unreliable for outside communication. 

That being said, there are ways to try to prepare for this on trail. While satellite phones still do not work 100% of the time, I have been meaning to invest in a Garmin inReach or inReach Mini to send checkin texts to my family.

3. Do your research and have it physically on hand.

On our first trip I forgot to download or print maps, write down daily mileage, or even research landmarks or notable viewpoints in between. While the latter was more of a pleasant surprise, the two former aspects were just annoying. Fortunately my twin sister took some glare-y and fuzzy pictures of maps at the trailhead.

Whether you are doing a short day hike or backpacking multiple nights, make sure to research the trails you are taking and the sights in between. Download this Backcountry Camping Planner with specific Picture Rocks information.

4. Document your emergency contact and itinerary. 

Heaven forbid even the littlest thing goes wrong on your trip, but still plan ahead. The National Parks Service recommends that you store a copy of your itinerary under your driver’s seat including your contact information and your emergency contact. On top of this we also made itineraries for our parents so that they were in the loop and even knew when our phones would be out of service.

5. Have a treat for yourself at the end of the trail.

It was my twin sister, Rachel, that made sure this one went on the list. When I am hiking I am always thinking about the food I will eat after a long hike and this really keeps me going! If you are doing a day hike make sure to have something nice waiting for you back at your camp like s’mores or your favorite beer. Make sure it is something relaxing and not a lot of work to obtain after your long day. As for backpacking the shore, we suggest that after you get off your long hike you take yourself to Picture Rocks Pizza in Munising and have a whole pizza all to yourself! We were recommended this restaurant by another thru-hiker and now we gotta pass along this information to you! No matter what you do, just make sure to reward yourself for the hard work your put your body through! 

Overall planning ahead can make your trip easygoing and fun, and that is definitely what a Picture Rocks National Lakeshore trip should be about.

2020 Faves…and 2019!?

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I think we would all be surprised how much weight our recommendations have to those closest to us. Sometimes our interests overlap with the people we know more than we realize and that is what I found out in 2019 when I decided I needed to tell people about items that I truly loved and made my life easier. With those posts buried in the Facebook archives, here is a list of things that I loved in 2020 AND 2019!

2020

Marmot Trestles Elite 20 Sleeping Bag

With 2020 not meeting anyone’s expectations, I started to finally feed my desire to start backpacking. That being said, one of the first things I bought was my sleeping bag. For this I researched bags used for backpacking and a handful of qualities that were important to me; warmth and comfort, compact-ability, and affordability. The Women’s Marmot Trestles Elite 20 Sleeping bag caught my eye for its price compared to other backpacking sleeping bags and the partner compatibility – meaning I convinced my fiancé to also get this bag so we could zip the bags together!

This bag is so warm that it is chihuahua approved!

IPad Pro

I have not had a personal laptop since college and on top of that I tend to over-flood my IPhone 7, so I remedied this by buying and IPad Pro. I have been able to separate work and fun (a big struggle for me) by moving game and social apps to my IPad, leaving my phone to its bare necessities. With the addition of the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil my IPad has become my laptop and has even enabled me to start this blog! While it is definitely a luxury item, it has really made my life easier.

Hammock Accessories

Once you decide to start backpacking you realize there are many choices in gear, but I dare say picking a shelter provokes the most research. There are so many varieties of tents or even just a simple tarp for the brave, but I chose to evolve my hammock kit as my backpacking shelter. I have had an Eno Eagle DoubleNest Hammock for 2 years and coveted my sister’s Eno Hammock for years before that. Since I already had the hammock and the straps it was easy to start building this shelter. All I needed was the bug net and rain tarp. This is by far the most comfortable sleeping setup outdoors, has room for cutting costs to fit a tighter budget, and all the components can even be purchased at once with the Eno OneLink system.

Later on I even bought and under quilt for Midwest fall camping!

2019

Yeti Can Koozie

My fiancé had gotten me one of these can koozies and I can hardly drink a beer without using it. This koozie keeps your drink cold for hours (if it lasts that long). It is a little heavy, but you get used to it. They even have a slim can koozies that I think I may need to invest in!

Carhart Leggings

First clothing item! When I got these leggings I was working in warehouse management and my high-visibility vest would burst from holding so many pens, radios, and notebooks. But when I wore these leggings I felt like I had myself put together. There are no shortage of pockets, fit true-to-size, and are reinforced in the knees. A lot of my girlfriends that work outdoors, on farms, and other labor positions swear by these leggings!

National Geographic Road Atlas

In 2019 I had the pleasure of being on two road trips. One was from Michigan to California and the other was California to Michigan. On the first road trip my sister had me help navigate some of the no-service areas with the National Geographic Road Atlas. Then when my fiancé and I drove back to Michigan I just had to have my own Road Atlas! We even used this on a Northern Michigan trip. The maps are easy to follow and the states are even in alphabetical order. I just cannot recommend this enough for your car or recreation vehicle.

Bonus points that my uncle said he was so proud of me for acquiring map reading as a skill!

These were the things that were most useful for me, but what were your favorite items in 2020? Comment below or in the Sustaining Sara Facebook Group!

Love,

Sara