Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Hiking in DuPage County November 5, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:16 pm
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When we had a burst of warm weather a few weekends ago there was no way I was going to let it go to waste. Sunny and 65 degrees equals spending time outside if you’re with Matt or I. So we decided a hike would be a perfect way to enjoy the weather. I packed PB&J sandwiches, apples and water for us and Porter’s travel bag filled with snacks, water bowls and a few treats for him. With our gear set and dog ready to go at the front door we  hit the road to Blackwell Forest Preserve.

We drove into the preserve and entered on the northside off of Butterfield Road in Warrenville. The small lot immediately on the left thankfully revealed 2-3 open spots. I was surprised how few were available on a Sunday afternoon! Once Porter was leashed, we started on a hiking trail and headed north.

The trail wound us through the woods, over streams, and around ponds with beautiful fall colors. Even Porter took advantage of the water and went splashing around.


The quietness of the outdoors was perfect. You couldn’t hear any major highways or airplanes. Instead it was just the occasional hello to a few hikers or bicyclists also enjoying the fall scenery.


We walked up to Mack Road which ended up being a little over two miles. On our way back we found a bench and enjoyed our lunch.

In total we hiked almost four and a half miles and we had one tuckered out black lab by the end. We  are going back soon to explore the north end of the preserve and check out the off-leash dog area. Although the next time we go there will probably be a foot of snow on the ground….


The Mile High City June 18, 2014

The Mile High city of Denver was my home over the weekend. Matt and I flew in to visit fellow Uncharted author Sarah. We had a “loose” itinerary for our visit. Meaning, we had a few things we’d like to do but we didn’t have to do all of them.

Denver Capitol building

Denver Capitol building

Sarah picked us up from the airport and we headed straight for the Capitol building tour. The free tour explained the history about Denver as well as fun facts about the beautiful building. One fun fact is that the building is the only one in the world with beautiful rose onyx. Why? Because the quarry was wiped out to use all the onyx for the Capitol building!

Keeping with the tour theme, our next stop was Stranahan’s distillery tour. Once again we learned a lot of fun facts that none of us knew about whiskey. For example, did you know that to be considered an American whiskey, the distillery must use virgin American white oak barrels? And they can only be used once. Our tour guide was awesome and explained their process as well as how to properly taste whiskey. I learned with a little drop of water I can actually tolerate it!

Where whiskey is made

Where whiskey is made

Running ahead of schedule, we stopped in at Breckenridge Brewery for a few beers and to catch up. Before we knew it, dinner time arrived. We headed to the heart of downtown Denver, Larimer Square. My sister-in-law recommended Bistro Vendome from a previous trip. The French style restaurant was amazing! Our waitress was very knowledgeable and made recommendations for our meal. My favorite part of dinner was not only the incredible food but our adorable table location right on the patio under the Italian style lights.

Friday was hike day in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes, Colorado. Everyone had a blast exploring different paths, bouldering and climbing over snow paths. Pretty quickly I found out it’s time to invest in some hiking shoes and not just gym shoes, at least if I wanted to play in the snow and not get my feet wet. The views were breathtaking at every turn. From seeing the mountain peaks to roaring falls you were not disappointed. We completed two hikes and then Sarah drove us up 12,000 feet to one of the highest peaks in the park. We were able to walk around despite the crazy wind and even caught a glimpse of a marmont.

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view



Saturday we took it easy and hit up a few local breweries. On the brew stop list included Crooked Stave, a brewery known for its sour beer. The tap room is in The Source, a recently renovated building featuring restaurants, a florist, baker, cheese and sausage shop as well as a wine store and art gallery. We grabbed a few snacks from the bakery and cheese and sausage shop to enjoy with our beer while watching the World Cup. Our next brew stop was Prost. The German style brewery offered a great selection of beer as well as delicious warm pretzels with mustard horseradish. I almost forgot to mention their outdoor patio is dog friendly and has spectacular views of downtown Denver.

Beer anyone?

Beer anyone?

2nd brew stop

2nd brew stop

Pretty soon it was time to head over to the Red Rocks to enjoy the sounds of Phillip Phillips and O.A.R. The venue was AMAZING and so was the show. I kept looking around at scenery. From jagged stones leaping out of the ground to cute little valley towns off in the distance. The best was watching the sunset hit the rocks and turn them purple, amber, yellow and orange. Once darkness fell, it was beautiful to see an almost full-moon rising and the glow of the towns in the distance. If you head out to Denver, definitely try to catch a show!

The Red Rocks Venue

The Red Rocks Venue

Sunday was organize day. It was time to repack and of course go to brunch. Fellow Uncharted author Kelly visited Sarah and recommended going to Jelly. After a 50 minute wait we understood why so many people would put up with an hour wait. What helped was getting fresh donuts. We picked out maple bacon and lemon curd flavors. The donuts were warm and melted in your mouth. I had to hold back from ordering more! Once inside, I ordered an eggs benedict with spinach and turkey over artisan bread. It was scrumptious! My favorite part of the meal was the homefries served with a side of sour cream and chives. With a full belly it was time to say goodbye to Denver.



We accomplished a lot but we didn’t get to do everything on our itinerary which is a great reason to visit again!


Rocky Mountain High November 6, 2013

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 12:57 am
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At the end of October Dave and I took a little trip out to Denver to visit our dear friends Jon and {fellow blogger} Sarah.  We have wanted to go for awhile, it’s been two years since I’ve been there and Dave hadn’t been since they moved out there.  On top of that it was Dave’s birthday weekend and we wanted to celebrate the last year of his youth (Haha, sorry honey I’m not sorry).  Our relationship with Jon & Sarah is special because not only are we friends as couples, but me and Sarah have been friends since 1st grade and Dave and Jon have been friends since 8th grade.   We always have a good time when we’re with them and our long weekend in Denver was no exception!   They were sweetheart hosts and fulfilled all our Denver expectations!  I’m going to take you through our itinerary and show you some pictures and perhaps one day if you are ever going to Denver you’ll go some of the cool places we went!


Day 1:

Arrive in Denver pretty late.  I am prepared with Claritin, Flonase, and plenty of water to ward off any altitude sickness I may have in store (last trip I was dizzy most the time).  This time I had really no issue except for a few minutes on a hike.

Day 2:

Slept in and headed over to a lovely place called Jelly in the Capital Hill neighborhood.  All I have to say is I loved every little bit of that place and I want a lemon custard donut now!  The atmosphere, the service, the food, it was all incredible.


We had a brief terrifying moment where a wasp the length of my wrist landed on me, but after Jon valiantly swiped him away we were off to Golden, CO the home of Coor’s Brewery!  I can’t lie.  I didn’t have high expectations for this place.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge beer drinker.  However it was a really cool tour and I can’t argue with the 3 free beers offered at the end.


We made our way back to Sarah & Jon’s and soon it was time for dinner.  We were joined by our friend Stan and we all made our way over to Steuben’s.  They serve American classics and I really enjoyed the retro décor in there.  We hung out at a place called Ace afterwards that has ping pong tables you can rent (!) but the wait was super long and we were all a bit tired so we went home to rest up for the next day.

Day 3:

We ate a mini breakfast at the apartment and then headed out to Idaho Springs, CO to explore the little town and have a day at the Indian Hot Springs for Dave’s birthday.  The town was super cute and we explored some of the shops and then ate lunch at Tommy Knocker.  We hurried on over to the spa for our Jacuzzi reservation at 1 and got changed.  It was a nice setup, they had private hot tubs along the bottom of the mountain and we were assigned to the Zuni Bear tub.


We relaxed for about an hour and then made our way to the mud room where you basically apply mud to your body and then sit and wait for it to dry.  If it sounds boring you’d be wrong…it was highly entertaining watching everyone dry up and look like a weirdo.  We washed up, checked out the cave bath’s down under the building (creepy, but cool?) and then headed home to prepare for Dave’s birthday dinner at the Denver Chop House.  More friends joined us for dinner and we had a great time catching up and spending time together.

girls boys

It was the weekend to celebrate Halloween, and even though none of us dressed up we went out after dinner and enjoyed some dancing and people watching at Punchbowl.

Day 4:

We all slept in after out splendid night out and pulled ourselves out of bed for brunch at Syrup.  After we were all happily full (my pancakes had sausage patties inside them!) we decided to go on a hike to work off all the food and drinks!  Sarah researched a brand new State Park that opened earlier in the year called Staunton Park.  We headed over and proceeded to take in a lot of beautiful scenes.


  The only downer is the lake the trail goes by is currently under construction so you don’t get to see a beautiful lake, but the rest made up for it!  We made our way back to Denver.  Stopped for an awesome Chinese dinner (we were all pleasantly surprised how good the food was) and had a beer at the Copper Kettle nearby.  We capped off the night with a movie- Dave put in a birthday request for Bad Grandpa.  It was okay but I really only laughed once or twice. ..

Day 5:

The last day we snuck in another breakfast at Syrup, but this time in downtown Denver, ran over to Great Divide so Dave could sample a beer from their tap room and then it was off to the airport to go home.  It’s always sad to say goodbye to our friends, but luckily we already know the next time we’ll see them.  That makes it a little easier and we were delighted to get to spend a few days with them in their town.  Thanks for all the hospitality!


Sledding in the Back-Country February 6, 2013

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 8:21 pm
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The snow totals have been quite dismal in Chicago once again. Finally this weekend we got enough that Matt and I could go and play in it. The accumulations weren’t enough for snowshoeing but it was just enough for a hike and a bit of sledding.

I always forget how much “gear” is involved when going out into the snow. Or at least when going out into the snow with Matt. With Radioactive by Imagine Dragons blasting in the house, we got started by organizing our gear. First stop layering. Literally from our heads to toes we were layered. Which I am always thankful for, because it does keep me nice and warm (but not too warm that you’re sweating buckets.) Next stop gathering some snacks, packing a water bottle, sleds and camera.

We went to the same spot that Matt had taken me snowshoeing last year. The day was perfect. Sunny, clear and minimal wind. We trekked along the trail looking for good inclines/declines on the trail that we could sled down. Our first spot was pretty good. We got about one-two runs on it each where we quickly learned a few lessons. When sledding down trails, be ready to use your arms/legs as rudders. They will save you from spinning around, going backwards or from slamming into fallen trees. (Yes, I learned the later the hard way. I’m totally ok though!)

Sledding in the Back Country!

Sledding in the Back Country!

The next spot was better. Matt and I were able to go about 2-3 times. Then a very nice group of 6 people came by with four dogs and walked right through our sledding hill. So it was time to find a new one. The third was definitely the charm. It was probably about 100 yards long with two curves. You couldn’t see the ending point from the starting point and there were no fallen or free standing trees that you could slam into! Woohoo! Unfortunately, there were a few bumps that you had to run over at a fast rate. Needless to say, we probably could have used another 2-3 inches of snow to avoid our butts being sore the next day. But it was totally worth it! We probably went down about 3-4 times.

My poor broken sled

My poor broken sled

Hopefully we get some more snow because I would love to go back sledding. Plus I still need to break in my snowshoes. Fingers crossed we get some more snow!


A Winter Escape to Michigan February 15, 2012

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 10:06 pm
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Apparently I cannot get out of Illinois enough these days. A few weeks ago it was California, then Florida and last weekend was Michigan. My best friend Jill finally returned home from a three month vacation from Australia and New Zealand and last weekend was the first time I was able to see her.

Jill’s mom actually booked a “barn” near Arcadia, Michigan for the whole family to enjoy. Arcadia is about 45 minutes south east of Traverse City for those who have some familiarity with the state of Michigan. The drive up was very intense. Naturally, I had to go through a snowstorm extending my drive time from five and hours to seven. Awesome. I honestly think it was the first time I drove well below the speed limit for the whole trip slightly white knuckled.

Happy to say, everyone made it safely. Our first night at the house we played a few rousing games of Apples to Apples and caught up with one another over beer. In the morning Jill and I were assigned to breakfast. On the menu were apple cinnamon pancakes and chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon. We must have done a good job since there were hardly any leftovers.

With a full stomach, Jill, myself, Jill’s mom and step-dad and cousin set out for a hike. We drove about a half hour north west of the barn to a national park that runs along Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes. We enjoyed an almost three-mile hike looping through the trees. We kept our eyes out for different animal tracks but didn’t see any furry creatures. The coolest part of the hike was climbing on the dunes of Lake Michigan. I simply found it strange walking on sand with snow all around me. It was just weird.

After our hike we headed back to munch on leftover chili. The rest of the weekend we talked, played all sorts of board and card games. It was nice relaxing weekend with family and I even got to catch up with Jill! That was definitely a win. Another win, was driving home in less than five hours because there wasn’t a snowstorm! Oh, how the little things in life make a big difference.

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Digging Denver April 1, 2011

Spring break isn’t what it used to be.  Now, before you all start getting huffy with me, saying that I shouldn’t complain that I still get a spring break at all, just calm down.  I’m not complaining.  And yes, I do deserve it.  Unless you’re a teacher, you have no idea what I go through every day, how difficult my job can be and how hard I work to help ‘my 24 kids.’

On to what’s important.  I took an opportunity to visit Jonathan and the city I hope to soon call home over my spring break.  What I meant by spring break not being what it used to be is that it’s not all about getting hammered on a warm-weather cruise with my sorority sisters anymore.  This year it was more about adventuring in slightly chiller climates and doing some learning.  Sounds totally dorky, I know, but maybe that’s what happens as I grow up…the dorkiness level increases.

On one of the days I spent with Jonathan, we decided to take a trek up to Rocky Mountain National Park.  First of all, before we even got there, we spotted a Bald Eagle over a lake.  Initially, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but then when I realized as it swooped down above the car that I was incredibly lucky to have seen a Bald Eagle in real life.  It was incredible, they are so majestic and powerful!

Once we entered park boundaries, we ventured up to what was supposed to be a serene lake,  but came to find that at the end of March in the mountains, it can still be well below freezing with several feet of snow on the ground.  So, after seeing it, we went back to where it was warmer and sunny 🙂  It’s very romantic being in the mountains with someone you love.  I’m sure it sounds super corny, but something about the silence and beauty around you really makes you want to be close to your honey.  And the little things in nature can make really interesting views from certain angles!

I also was lucky enough to realize that the Real Life Pirates exhibit that I had never been able to visit at the Field Museum in Chicago had traveled its way to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. So I did some solo adventuring to see the exhibit amongst the masses of kids and their parents also on spring break.  I learned: buried treasure, walking the plank, and treasure maps are all pirate myths, that an 8 year old boy was the youngest pirate in documented history, and that most pirates were caught once they reached land because they didn’t make it more than a few miles without getting drunk at the local pub or gambling away all of their stolen ‘booty.’

I can’t wait to go back next weekend.  Especially because Jonathan and I already have a little trip planned with our friends Jeff and Krista to do some more exploring and learning at the Denver Zoo.

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