Disclosure: As part of my partnership with Shopbop, I am required to occasionally post about sales. And guess what?! There’s a sale happening right now! Use code EVENT19 to get 20% off your order.
Three years ago I bought a jacket. This jacket, to be precise.
And I’m still wearing it every spring and fall. I remember when I bought it. I’d searched all over for the perfect olive colored military/utility jacket. When I ordered this one I was immediately in love.
In fact, I’ve worn it on this here blog many, many times. And now you, too, can own this jacket for 20% off if you order it between now and April 12th.
I mean, this jacket comes back in stock every spring for three years running. That means it HAS to be a winner. Also, the fact that I’ve had mine for over three years and it’s still in perfect condition even though I wear it at least once a week in the spring, summer, and fall months (in fact, I’m wearing it as I type this) means that the cost-per-wear is minuscule.
So, yes, go forth and shop. And save money while you’re at it.
This past weekend I helped out at one of my favorite events: the Style & Edit Swap and Sip! It’s a clothing swap (with wine) and some great finds. There’s a small fee to participate, but that helps ensure a great space and quality items.
Personally, I came home with a new faux fur vest, a pair of jeans, a beautiful pink wool J. Crew coat, and a top. I also grabbed another pair of jeans but they turned out to be too big. Guess someone else will score them at the next swap!
All evening, though, I kept getting compliments on my outfit. I had on a pair of faux leather leggings from Shopbop, a top from Moonfish, ballet flats from a previous clothing swap, and a bralette, also from Shopbop. In fact, it’s mostly the bralette I wanted to tell you about.
See, Shopbop is having a sale right now and you can stock up on these amazing Free People bralettes that I’m sure you’ve seen all over Instagram.
I now own this in five colors, plus a dupe I found at Francesca’s in two colors. I’ve basically given up on regular bras and now wear one of these almost every day. The top I was wearing at the clothing swap was oversized and off-the-shoulder so it showed off a little bit of the top of the bra. Perfect!
Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment and share this recent find. Also, make sure you follow Style & Edit and Moonfish and shop the Shopbop sale so you, too, can get compliments on your outfit!
This post contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission when you click on them.
I still can’t quite express to you how amazing it is to be able to be able to hike anywhere you want. It sounds terrifying and, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about doing it on my own. Originally Stephanie and I decided that on our last day in Denali we would do some backcountry hiking but we’d stay within sight of the road. Well, John had other plans.
We amassed a group of 11 intrepid adventurers and, with instructions on where to get off the bus, we grabbed a seat on whichever bus had empty space and all met up at the start of a “social trail”.
Social trails aren’t official park trails, but frequent visitors to the park have favorite spots to start hikes and, over time, these become a little bit more worn in. The park doesn’t particularly want these to get traveled frequently, so they actually have instructions to not walk in a single file line.
It took awhile for all of us to get to the starting spot, but once we were there we hiked down to a creek and had our first water crossing adventure. I took my shoes off but, honestly, I don’t recommend it. Bring dry socks in your bag and you’ll be better off.
Our goal for this hike was to circle Cathedral Mountain. John, our guide, had done this particular hike before but we also had at least one map and one GPS device to keep us from getting too lost. But, really, as long as we kept the mountain on our left we’d be fine.
And that’s it! We hiked for 9 hours and over 10 miles, climbed up and down ridges, bushwhacked through waist-high brush, had some wildlife sightings, encountered only two other people, sang songs, got super grumpy, and cheered when we got back to the road.
Here’s a short photo journey of some of what we saw.
The plan? Hike down to the river bed and then hike along the river. But first we had to go around that lake down there.
And, since Stephanie and I are apparently caribou magnets, we had to navigate a herd of them.
We had to cross a creek and some spots in the river once we got there.
Walking down the riverbed seemed like walking on the face of some other planet.
We stopped for lunch. I saw a bear.
Our original plan was to walk along the river bed until we got back to the road. However, our plan was thwarted by signage telling us that we shouldn’t go any further because of wolf dens. Alrighty then!
We backtracked a bit looking for a way to climb up out of the river bed and get back onto the mountain side. That’s when we ran into a couple that said they’d seen a bear further up the mountain. This, of course, freaked out some of the people we were with. But, did you know that there has never been a bear attach on a group of four or more people? Pretty sure this group of 11 wasn’t going to have any problems.
In fact, our biggest problem was hiking through waist high brush. Let me tell you, after an hour or more of that I was getting pretty tired. I was more focused on trying to find the most expedient route than I was on taking pictures, to be honest.
In fact, I fully admit at this stage I just wanted to put my head down and forge on as fast as I could. But, we didn’t want to leave the back of the pack too far behind. So, we’d hike to small ridges and then wait for everyone to catch up. Rinse and repeat. Finally, we got back to a more wooded area and we started to see signs that other people had gone that same way.
And then, lo and behold, we found another river and just across it was a campsite! And then we found the road. Hooray!
Thankfully we had perfect weather, enough food and water (barely), and some great stories to tell.
I’d love to do a hike like this again, but maybe with fewer people. We didn’t see as much wildlife as I was expecting and we probably could have tried a few more strenuous routes with a slightly different group of people. Still, it was an experience I won’t soon forget and one that is really difficult to put into words or even photos.
Seriously, if you want to truly see Denali, I recommend doing a hiking trip with Sierra Club. I’m proof that there’s no previous experience required!
Didn’t mean to leave everyone hanging after my last two posts! But, really, a good story takes a while to tell, right? And this next chapter includes my first real “backcountry” hike, bears, caribou, and pretending to be a park ranger in Denali. Yes, you read that right.
When you last left the two of the heroes of this story (aka my friend Stephanie and myself) decided to leave Wonder Lake and take the bus back to Eielson Visitor’s Center.
Panorama of the view from Eielson
We’d decided we wanted to hike the Old Gorge Creek Trail since it was the one our friend John had worked on. However, when we arrived at Eielson this sign greeted us at the trailhead.
Oooookay. I guess we won’t go that way! Instead, we decided to try the Alpine Trail. Which had something like over 1000 feet of elevation gain in under a mile. Whew!
But, the views were spectacular.
Over three quarters of the way to the “top” this sign greeted us:
Eh, you know what? You only live once! Stephanie and I decided to ignore the sign and go ahead. Thank goodness we did because the views only got better. Also, we got our first real taste of hiking without a trail.
Yep, THIS sign means we were now free to roam wherever we wanted. And roam we did. We climbed a ridge and played in the snow.
That may look like a bank of clouds next to my left elbow, but it’s actually Mt. Denali!
Then, as we were exploring, we looked up as this guy came over the ridge and seemed to head straight for us!
Um, hello little guy. We’re caribou-friendly, I promise! Stephanie and I froze and reviewed the wildlife safety tips we’d read and what John had shared. Bear? Freeze, spread your arms, and be loud. Moose? Run and get behind a tree. Caribou? NO IDEA! So, we froze and just chatted with each other figuring if we ignored him then he would ignore us. He stopped, looked at us, and then continued on his way along the ridge.
Stephanie and I marveled at how close he’d come and then continued marveling at the fact that we were on a mountain, in Alaska, and we could walk wherever we wanted!
We didn’t stay up there forever, though. While we were hiking up Alpine we turned around to take in the view and saw mama bear and her little cub almost a mile away, down the mountain, wandering away from the trail we’d wanted to hike originally. The little tan specks were barely discernible as bears, but it’s definitely what they were. So, we headed back down to see if it was safe to hike Gorge Trail.
Turns out it was, but we didn’t really have time to hike all of it before we needed to catch the last bus that would get us back to our campsite in time for dinner and the evening’s ranger talk.
And, let me tell you, it’s a good thing we got back in time. Because this evening ended up being one of my favorite stories of the trip.
See, a few evenings a week, a ranger comes to the campground and does an educational talk on something to do with Denali. I’d see on the schedule on the bulletin board at Eielson that this evening’s was on “Dinosaurs in Denali”. Sounds like an interesting way to spend an hour.
After dinner and a little before 7PM, Stephanie and I started walking to the “amphitheater” (aka the clearing with log benches) to hear the ranger talk scheduled to start at 7. As we got close, a man came running up to us.
“Have you seen the Smith family? Their son is injured! He was bit by a dog!!”
Whoa. Okay. I knew the ranger would be at the amphitheater and I knew the campground also had a host station where someone should be with a radio. I looked at Stephanie and told her to go get the ranger and I would go get the host. Off we ran in separate directions.
On my way to the host, I ran into a guy I’d talked to the day before. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I got the host and they’re radioing for an ambulance.” Don’t forget – cell phones don’t work in backcountry!
I ran back to Stephanie and saw that the ranger was with the boy and his family. Okay, great. “Someone needs to tell people that the ranger talk might not happen,” I said.
“Go for it,” Stephanie said.
Well. It’s a good thing I’ve been in Toastmasters for years and don’t have a fear of public speaking!
So, I went up in front of a group of 20 or so people to explain the situation. “You can wait and see if the ranger comes back, though.”
At that point, my friend John came up to stand next to me. “While we’re waiting,” he said, “what animals have you seen in the park so far?”
And that’s when I noticed the ranger had left all of her notes and visual aids on the bench behind me.
Yes, together John and I gave the presentation on Dinosaurs in Denali to a packed house! And then John explained more about trail building and maintenance in the park and we attempted to answer questions.
Let me remind you: I’d been in Alaska less than a week and in Denali for less than 3 days. Still, we did a good enough job that we got compliments from people who attended when we saw them the next day. And no one left while we were speaking! The ranger didn’t come back while we were talking and when we left after over an hour she was still with the kid and his family. We heard later that the ambulance was delayed because there was a moose on the road. Only in Alaska, right?
Thinking about taking a trip of your own next summer? No one says you have to end up giving a ranger talk! But you will need to pack the right stuff. My last post gave my recommendations and many of them are on sale again at Shopbop.