Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Badlands National Park // prairie dogs

One of the highlights of Badlands National Park (basically everything was a highlight, though) was the abundance of quirky little prairie dogs. They are soooooo cuuuuuuute. Their little faces, their cute paws, and the sounds that they make just kill me!

Prairie dogs are not really dogs, as their name would suggest, they are rodents in the same category as squirrels and chipmunks. There are several different types of prairie dogs, but these in particular are black tailed prairie dogs. Prairie dogs, in general, are highly social animals that live in groups, like families. There is "kissing" activity and grooming that takes place among prairie dogs from the same family. They live in burrows that can extend as far as a meter underground, and they hide in those deepest spaces to avoid predators. They communicate with each other through sophisticated calls in which scientists believe they can describe exactly which predator is threatening them.

It was so wonderful being able to observe prairie dog behavior in the wild. Watching them made me happy, and so interested to learn more about them. I think that's part of why it's so important for people to travel and see new things. Sometimes it's hard to feel a connection to things that we haven't actually observed in person. This is part of the reason why I'm such a big advocate for travel. When people travel, they learn. When people learn, they fall in love. When people love, they protect. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

road trip 2016 // Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is the first national park I've ever been to (we have hardly any in the Midwest?!)! We went on my 27th birthday, and, honestly, I can't think of a way I'd rather have spent that day. Before we even entered the park, I made Jasper swing the car around because I saw some sort of animal near the road. It was an elk! I had never seen an elk before. He was so beautiful!

We entered the park and climbed a bit of Green Mountain. We stopped at Big Meadow in hopes of seeing some moose, but sadly the moose were not out and about. After the climb back down, we hopped in the car and drove up, up, and up! We drove Trail Ridge Road - one of the highest highways on the continent! We stopped along the way for mini hikes and lots of photos.

I absolutely fell in love with Colorado when I was there, and I think about how much I'd love to go back. I want to visit the National Park again! It seems like there was so much to explore that we missed before heading on. I want to see it all! I want to climb all the mountains!

Friday, October 28, 2016

cackles the clown

These photos were fun to create, but the finished product is something I procrastinated posting because I wasn't very satisfied with the results. I was going for a really creepy clown, but I think what I ended up with was just a weird one...? Something is lacking, in my eyes, from my original vision. I found this clown suit when I was thrifting back in September. It is handmade, quite vintage, and fits me perfectly, so I was highly excited about its potential. I tea-dyed it, added the pom-pom "buttons" onto the front, and custom created, distressed, and dyed the collar out of an old tee shirt. And then America went *crazy* with creepy clowns.

Perhaps that is some of what is disappointing about these photos - the idea is no longer original (at least in 2016 it's not). I considered putting the costume away and saving it for another year, but I thought, what the hell, I was super excited about it, so here are my annual Halloween-esque photos.

Friday, October 14, 2016

road trip 2016 // Colorado

I took a week off of work for my birthday where my fiance and I were planning on a short trip up to the bear rescue in Upper Michigan. Somehow we got it into our heads the week before we were supposed to leave that we should, instead, drive to the Grand Canyon (hey, why not?). We threw together a haphazard plan to rent a car and drive to the desert to look for the new van of our #vanlife dreams. We left early in the morning and set out to pick up our rental vehicle, which we had booked and paid for online. We arrived at the airport (where we were renting a car), and were told that, even though we had already paid for our car, we couldn't actually take it because neither of us had a credit card (we both only use debit). We tried every car rental place there, even driving to another airport a half hour away, and it was the same story at each one. (This must be a Wisconsin thing, because we rented a car in Florida with a debit card, no problem, just a few months ago.) Our parents even offered to have us use their credit card info, but the rental places said that they could only use the card of the person actually driving the car. There was lots of ugly crying and frustrated time spent trying to get our money back and figure things out before we just decided to fuck the rental and just drive Jasper's car.

Through Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska we drove. Around hour fifteen on the road we crossed into Colorado, and a few hours later we saw *mountains.* We didn't just see mountains, we were in the mountains. It didn't take us long to realize that we should just stop driving and stay where we were because, hello. Our plans for Utah and Arizona and a new van were quickly scrapped in favor of exploring more of the Rockies. We ended up staying in Dillon for two nights before driving to the Rocky Mountain National Park for my actual birthday, which I'll talk about in a later post.

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. 
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