Monday, September 26, 2016

my hiking gear // (for day-hikers, vegans, thrifters, & photographers)

I never really thought about the things I carried on my hikes being "gear." To me, "gear" is the high priced stuff in those outdoor retail stores with price tags too high for me to even consider. It was only recently, after I posted a few pictures from my trip to Colorado on Instagram, that I got a few queries as to what gear I used that I started considering my stuff in this new way. Now, I am not a serious hiker (yet...?), and at this point I don't undertake hikes that are more than a day, so the list of my must-haves includes only the things I need for one day outdoors. My items, with the exception of my boots, my camera, and a few other odd pieces, are second hand, and all are vegan. Gear junkies or more seasoned active outdoorsy folk may scoff at my list, but let's remember that in 1960, Grandma Gatewood, age 67, thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in Keds sneakers, carrying only a blanket, a rain coat, and a shower curtain (for shelter) in a homemade duffel bag.
>> BLANKET // thrift store - I like to bring a blanket in case I decide to rest along my way, picnic style.
>> BANDANNA // thrift store - Keeps your neck warm or cool (when saturated with water). Us it to tie your hair back or out of your face.
>> BRIMMED HAT // thrift store - Mine's not waterproof, but it does keep the sun out of my eyes.
>> BASEBALL CAP // thrift store - I like to carry a second hat in case one blows away (it's happened). I like baseball caps because they are easy to clip onto the outside of my bag with a carabiner.
>> FLANNEL SHIRT // thrift store - These are easy to throw on for extra warmth, and then tie around your waist if you get too warm.
>> SWEATER // thrift store - In case I get too cold (duh, I know). I don't like long hikes when it's below freezing, and I'm usually working up too much of a sweat to need a sweater, but I like having it. Lots of early morning walks start out a lot chillier than they end up!
>> FANNY PACK // thrift store - I never thought I would ever seek out a fanny pack, but after my first day of long hiking without one, I made it my mission to find one at the next thrift store I went to. I don't want to have to take off my backpack in order to find little things (phone, lip balm, knife, lens caps, ect.), so I keep them easily accessible in my lil pouch.
>> HIKING BOOTS // Keen via REI - I ended up spending some money (around $160) on a quality pair of hiking boots. I wanted a pair that were vegan and made in the USA, which was actually a pretty hard combination to find. I initially really wanted a more stylish pair (like the ones on the cover of Wild by Cheryl Strayed), but cruelty-free was obviously the way to go, for me. I highly recommend these boots. I haven't had a blister in them (*knocks on wood*), and they have nice thick soles, and quality support.
>> INSOLES // Dr. Scholls - I work long hours on my feet, and I spend a lot of my free time on them, too, so it's super important for me to have a little extra cushioning and support.
>> SOCKS // REI - EcoMade liner socks. I swear by these. They wick moisture away from your feet (which helps keep them more comfortable and blister free), and they're not very thick, which I like. I double up if it's a chilly day.
>> CANON 18-135MM LENS // new - My all around favorite lens.
>> CANON 55-250MM LENS // new - My must-have for wildlife close-ups.
>> CAMERA BAG // eBay - (See it in the top photo.) It was really hard for me to find a vegan camera backpack that I liked the aesthetic of. This canvas one I finally found on eBay for $30, and it's perfect for my camera gear and everything else I take with me.
>> WATERPROOF COVER // This one came with my camera bag.
>> TRIPOD // thrift - I love this one for hikes because it's super light. I like experimenting with time lapse, low light, and night sky photography, so a tripod is essential for me.
>> CAMERA REMOTE & EXTENSION CORD // new - I use this kind of remote because it's great for time lapse images.
>> LENS FILTERS // eBay - UV, polarizing, gradient, and macro filters, just to name a few favorites.
>> EXTRA 32GB CARD // new 
>> LENS HOOD // eBay
>> CAMERA RAIN COVER // eBay - I hope I'll never have to use this, but just in case, it's nice to have. It's also extra protection for my camera if I get caught in the rain.
>> CELL PHONE // new - For emergency calls, gps, and selfies (haha). (Call and data coverage might be spotty, especially if exploring in the mountains or other rural areas, so always have a backup map handy.)
>> HEADLAMP // eBay - I've never had to use mine, but I like having it in case I get stuck out longer than I intended.
>>KNIFE // eBay
>>WATER BOTTLE // found in my car (thanks ex-bf!), and decorated by me - I especially like this bottle becuase I'm able to clip it to my bag (my bag doesn't have designated water bottle pockets).
>> CARABINERS (non load bearing) // eBay - I love having a bunch of extra carabiners with me. I bought mine, used, for super cheap online.
>> BOOK // I always have a book with me. Always.
>> LIP BALM // My lips get extra dry when I'm hiking, so I always have a tube or two handy in my fanny pack.
>> SMALL TIN BOXES // old mint tins - I use these old Altoids tins for EVERYTHING. In my backpack they hold band-aids,a small tube of antiseptic cream, extra lip balm, bobby pins, hair ties, and floss. I also like to bring an empty one in case I find small feathers or leaves I want to take home with me.
>> NOTEBOOK AND PENS // Always like to have a notebook handy for sketches, lists, and random thoughts.
>> DUCT TAPE // Many uses, but I mostly carry it in case I develop blisters on my feet. If I don't have room in my pack I wrap a few layers around my water bottle.
>> WHISTLE // eBay - In case of emergency.
>> LARGE PLASTIC GARBAGE BAGS // In case of heavy rain, one for my pack, and one for me (cut a head hole, voila).

Well, there you have it. This list stays pretty much the same for every hike, but there's always a few differences depending on weather and photo plans. If you're looking for a good guide for more vegan hiking gear, I love love love Vegan Outdoor Adventures as a reference. What are your favorite go-to items for a day spent outdoors? Is my list missing anything? Any questions? Let me know!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

rain in the garden

This morning I was on my way back from delivering some banana peels to the compost pile when I was I was literally stopped in my tracks by how darn beautiful the raindrops looked on the cabbage in our garden. The cabbage, in itself, has completely won me over this summer by how big and beautiful it is, but the addition of the raindrops was enough to make me run inside to grab my camera. So, here are some pictures from my garden, just for no reason other than I was awed by nature and wanted to share. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

skull photography

The other day I was struggling to come up with some ideas for new projects. I was frustrated and felt a sort of writers block...but for photography. I pet my cat and looked around my living room and then it hit me - skulls!

If you've been around this blog any amount of time you probably know that I have an affinity for the macabre, and I love bones. I took an Anthropology class back in college where we learned all the bones of the human body, and I remember feeling really excited like, how useful is this!? I have all these bones...and so does everybody else! (Feeling like I learned something I could apply to everyday life is something I wish I had more of from my education as a whole. Learning the bones has stuck with me to this day.) Anyway, ever since I have been fascinated with osteology, and basically all human and animal anatomy in general.

I collect skulls and other curiosities that I find in nature, though some in my collection have been given to me by others. As a sort of disclaimer, I feel I should state that the specimens that I own are always treated with the utmost care and respect. I never forget that these bones once belonged to living, breathing beings. With this latest project I have tried to further honor the spirit of the animals by turning their beautiful bones into art.
More of my photography and designs are available for viewing in my new online gallery here

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DIY road trip air freshener & disinfectant

When my van broke down in Florida last May we rented a car to drive down to the Keys. We grabbed what we thought we'd need for a few days and left. That night we slept in the car, and when I woke up the next morning the first thing I did was reach for my air freshener...which I had forgotten in the van. It was hot, humid, and there were two people inside that hadn't showered in a while. That little car was pretty ripe. I've never missed my van (and its permanent bottle of homemade citrus spray) more than in that moment.

This all natural aromatherapeutic "air freshener" doubles as a mild disinfecting spray and can also be used in the home. It's easy to make, and quite economical as well! I always make sure I have a full bottle with me any time I'm about to hit the road.

For a 16 oz. bottle (like mine) you need:
- 12 oz. distilled water
- 4 oz. vodka (I use the cheapest stuff I can find)
(If using a smaller spritzer, use a 3:1 water to vodka ratio.)
- 25-50 drops essential oil (my favorite is lemon - it's so fresh and energizing!)

Shake to mix, and be sure to give it a little shake again prior to spraying it. Leave it on the "mist" setting as you freshen up your ride.

Here's to some fresh and fun future road trips!

Monday, August 22, 2016

bees in my backyard

This past summer is the first time I've ever had space to plant my own garden. It's my pride and joy, and I am just so delighted every morning when I walk into it and see it filled with bees and butterflies. Recently I have become fascinated with bees (if we're friends on Instagram, you might have seen my bee postings!), and have been reading all about them in addition to studying their antics in my own backyard.

Learning about the massive amounts of bees that are dying is quite troubling, as bees are an integral part of our ecosystem. (Watch the documentary More Than Honey on Netflix and observe humans in parts of Asia pollinating blossoms by hand because there are no more bees - it's horrifying.) Though I don't eat honey anymore because I'm vegan, I am seriously considering adopting some natural backyard hives in the next year or two (check out this book if you're interested, too!). I am just so mesmerized watching bees go about their daily business, and I'd love to help their cause in any way I can.
Psst...this photo is available as a print (and more) for purchase in my shop! It's one of my favorite photos I've ever taken.

Monday, July 11, 2016

black bears in Upper Michgan

Last month Jasper and I took an extra day off of work to take a short trip to Upper Michigan with the sole intention to visit Oswald's Bear Ranch, a bear rescue in Newberry. I was excited to snap some photos, and I'm happy to finally be sharing my favorites with you. Last year when we visited the UP on our road trip around Lake Michigan I fell head over heels in love with these beautiful animals. Over the winter, much of my time was spent at the library, scouring for as many books about bears as could be found. Now, as a more knowledgeable individual, in addition to the photos, I'd also like to share a little bit more about bears and Oswald's Bear Ranch. (See my Bear Ranch post from last year here!)

I don't believe in zoos, and I choose not to support them by buying tickets because I don't think animals should be kept in captivity and exploited. Oswald's Bear Ranch is not a zoo, however, it is a bear rescue. All of the bears living on the ranch (29 all together) have been rescued as lost or abandoned cubs, or as neglected "pets." It is against the law in Michigan to breed bears, so once they reach sexual maturity the males and the females are kept in separate "habitats." These habitats are a third to a half mile in perimeter, each, and there are two other enclosures of a quarter mile perimeter for the yearlings and adolescent bears. All of the bear cubs are raised by humans and grow quite familiar with human interaction, and for this reason, they can never be released back into the wild. They live out the rest of their lives in the beautiful woods surrounded by two layers of tall chain link fence where tourists can come, and, for twenty dollars a carload, see them.
American Black bears (Ursus americanus) are the most common bears in the world. They are omnivores with a diet that fluctuates dramatically based on what is available to them at any given time, mostly based on season and location. Black bears vary in color, as is evident in these photos. Their coats are known to be brown, blond, cinnamon, and even white. These bears mostly occupy heavily forested areas, though do leave the woods occasionally in search of food. Black bears (including those at Oswald's Bear Ranch) hibernate during the winter months.

The black bear population is likely more than double that of all other bear species combined. Along with brown bears, these bears are the only ones considered not threatened with extinction. While this seems like good news for the black bears, this is a terrible statistic for bears globally. Especially in Asia and South America, bear species are severely threatened (only about 1.600 Panda Bears exist today).
At the bear ranch humans are separated from the bears by a very tall double layer of fence. Some of the bears hang out next to the fences and raised viewing  areas because they have been conditioned to understand they might get treats (apples) from the onlookers. There were times when I was only three feet away from these animals. It surprised (and delighted) me to observe all the different personalities between the bears, along with all of their distinct and unique appearances. We'd regard each other from our opposite sides of the fence until one or the other decided it was time to move on. As our eyes would meet, I didn't find myself staring into blank and empty voids. The beautiful brown eyes gazing back at me were surprising soulful. There was an intelligent and thoughtful air between us.

I was sad to observe a few of the bears suffering from mild zoochosis (a psychological condition that can affect captive animals). I observed some pacing and neck twisting in the adult bears, while the cubs in the smallest enclosure with no grass or green, were quite quickly and compulsively pacing until someone would come along with the staff to have their photo taken with them. It brought me to tears to observe these behaviors, but my sadness was slightly mollified to know that these bears are living a better life than they would have in the wild where most of them, as cubs, would have died from starvation. Nuisance bears would have probably been euthanized. Being reminded first hand about the sadness of captive animals just drove home for me my belief that, whenever possible, wild animals should stay wild. I support rescue, rehab, and release programs, and I do understand that in some circumstances, such as with these rescued bears, animals can't be released into the wild. I am thankful for the kind people who care for them and use their time with them to better society's understanding and appreciation of their species.

Want to learn more about what is affecting and threatening bears worldwide? Here is a helpful article.
Check out this short documentary about zoochosis, I can't recommend it enough.
To become involved and advocate for the protection of these wonderful animals, take a look at these sites:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

the wind longs to play in your (pit) hair

A few months back I took up an "experiment" and I stopped shaving. The biggest reason was because I was starting to become downright curious to see what my body looked like in its natural state. It bothered me a little that I didn't know.  As someone who has shaved multiple times a week since I was about fourteen, it was a little hard for me to not reach for my razor every time I was in the shower, but now that I'm months in, I'm not sure if I'll ever go back!

It really doesn't make sense to me that society's reaction to women with armpit hair (or pubic hair!) is "gross," or "unhygienic," and yet men with pit hair is completely the norm. Having armpit hair didn't suddenly make me a dirty person. We shouldn't make sudden judgments on someone's appearance simply because we are startled and shocked by it.
Shaving is a habit that women are conditioned to uphold from an early age. There is nowhere on tv, in magazines, or advertisements that shows a woman with hairy pits or legs (even the porn industry has us all about going bare "down there"), so it's easy to see how young teen girls feel like they need to remove that hair if they want to be "normal." (Even though "normal" would seem to me to be the state your body is normally...) Women with hairy legs and armpits are seen as controversial - as if a woman in her natural state is something almost taboo in our culture. It is about time that this changed, so my words and photos are here to help spread the message that IT IS OK NOT TO SHAVE. You don't need to be hairless to be feminine, beautiful, sexy, or powerful.

I'm not writing the post to say that I think all women should stop shaving and embrace their hairiness. I think that if you want to shave you should! I completely understand some people would never want to have have hair on their legs, arms, lady bits, ect., and that is a personal choice, just like choosing not to remove your hair is a personal choice. I want to live in a world where my daughter (if I ever have one) can feel comfortable in her own skin, and not feel forced to look a certain way by the media, advertising companies, and the people around her.

Please, let us all make an effort to embrace individuality, to accept bodies in all degrees of size, color, and hairiness, and to let people do, and not do, to their bodies what they will without judgement. We are all different and unique.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

preparing to say goodbye

I'm currently home in Door County for the summer. I'm working my days (and nights) away to be able to save enough for a longer trip this winter. In my free time I've been enjoying soaking up the sun outdoors, either hiking or getting my hands dirty in my garden.

I sold my car to help out a friend who needed it more than I did, so I've been driving Trixy daily. I don't like driving the van for every day use because it's huge, and the gas mileage I get driving around town is terrible. However, I have developed a different kind of appreciation for the old girl having spent so much time driving her lately.

After the fiasco in Florida, Jasper is very adamant about the fact that Trixy can no longer be used for van life. She's too rusted underneath for repairs to be made simply, and undertaking any excursion too far away from home would be foolish. Of course, he is right, but my heart breaks to admit it. I've slowly been coming to terms with the fact that this summer might be our last together.

It might be hard for some people to understand, but Trixy means quite a lot to me. I decided to buy her on my own, and though friends and family thought I was crazy, I bought her anyways. She immediately became a symbol of adventure, freedom, and rebellion. I have had such wonderful experiences traveling across the country in her, and thinking of selling her in some ways makes me feel like my days of independence and adventure are somewhat behind me.

We've been searching for a new van, and I am certain we'll find a good one (one that was stored in the winters this time - no rust damage!). It still feels different. I'm no longer the single girl making crazy and brave decisions on her own. I'm a part of a couple now. Perhaps that will make for a more sound purchase, and I'm sure I'll appreciate that in the end.

For now we're taking as many little overnight trips as we can. We love to park by the lake and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shore. We remember fun times we've had, and plan adventures yet to come. Here's to summer, working hard, and planning well.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

harbor fog

The sight of the harbor floods me with memories of warm humid nights, rocking slowly along with the lapping of the waves. We gazed over the harbor at the lights of the town from the deck of the small boat, and then up at the stars. We were naked. We were young. We were wild. We were free.
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