Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

10 things to love about Alaska August 16, 2016

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 4:00 pm
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Alaska is beautiful!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered several friends and acquaintances who mentioned they are planning to visit Alaska. It brings back memories of my amazing trip several years ago to this great state. I was fortunate to have two friends move to Alaska and extend an invitation to visit. Never one to turn down the chance to travel and create new adventures, I took them up on the invitation (along with my friend, Marie) to visit our biggest state!

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My friends lived in Anchorage so we decided to spend our seven-day trip exploring that area, as well as traveling south to Kenai National Forest and Seward. We weren’t disappointed as this area is breathtaking, full of great places to explore and wonderful people to meet. The natural beauty of Alaska stunned me every time I turned my head.

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As the 49th state of the United States, Alaska has the largest coastline (over 6,600 miles) with more than 3,000 rivers and 3 million lakes! Of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S., 17 are in Alaska (Denali is the tallest in the U.S. at 20,320 feet above sea level). Alaska was always the state that I’d love to visit because I love the outdoors but admittedly it wasn’t high on my list (and I can’t remember why!). Until the opportunity to visit arose and I realized what a great experience this would be! Everything kind of fell into place for our trip and soon we were heading to Anchorage. We traveled to Alaska in mid-August when the weather is fairly mild and daylight extends until close to midnight (which was a bit weird to my body that couldn’t figure when it was time to sleep).

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There were so many moments that I loved. It’s hard to describe the beauty and respect you feel about the land unless you’re standing in front of the water watching a bald eagle catch a fish or a moose eating alongside the road or looking down into a valley from atop a glacier field. Alaska reminds you that the world is so much grander than what we truly know. It reminds you that nature is awesome and should be respected, and man can appreciate it and live in it.

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There is so much to remember about that trip so I thought I’d share some of my favorite things about Alaska:

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Close but not too close!

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1. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Portage): This center offers a permanent home to orphaned and injured animals that can’t be released into the wild. You can see animals, such as bears, moose and eagles in up-close, natural environments. Special programs let you watch certain animals be fed (we watched the black bears eat…..definitely don’t want to encounter a hungry bear!). This center provides a great opportunity to learn about a variety of animals.

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2. Camping in Kenai Fjords National Park (Seward): Alaska hosts more than half of our national park lands with 17 national parks. Kenai is one of the beauties. We started the day with a boat tour. While we didn’t see the whales we were hoping to, we did see a lot of wildlife and a few glaciers. More than 50 percent of this park is covered in glaciers! We pitched our tent along a river with views of glaciers – certainly don’t get those views in Michigan!

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Hiking the glacier field (with my bear bell!).

3. Exit Glacier hike (in Kenai Fjords National Park): It was still light at 8pm when we set up camp in Kenai so we started a hike to Exit Glacier, which is part of the Harding Icefield. A series of trails start at the Exit Glacier Nature Center that allow you to check out different views of the glacier. We were able to get close enough to the glacier to hear it shifting. At one point, we saw cracks forming as the ice shifted (we were safely away; it was so cool!). This was an eye-opening hike as there are signs along the trail that mark the glacier’s recession over the past 120 years. It is glaringly obvious that the ice is quickly melting away.

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4. Flattop Mountain Trail: It’s no surprise that this is Alaska’s most visited peak – the location near Anchorage makes it easy to access and the beautiful views are addicting. We hiked to the top and it was worth the views. The trails are busy though, with some steep drops down the side, so don’t be in a rush (although in a beautiful place like Alaska, you shouldn’t be in a rush!). Some of the trails had an abundance of blueberries but, while we sampled a few fresh fruits, we left the bulk for the bears to eat. Better to let them eat the food way up high rather than wander into the populated towns.

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5. Alaska Native Heritage Center (Anchorage): I love learning about the history of places that I visit so was happy that we found this cultural center and museum focused on Alaska’s indigenous people. There were some great exhibits featuring five different local cultures. We were able to watch some live programs and see hands-on demonstrations.

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6. Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward): This is another great opportunity to see Alaska’s animals up close and personal. We saw lots of marine mammals, fish, birds and invertebrates. You also get to learn about the research and conservation being undertaken in the state. When we visited, there was a fascinating, albeit sad, exhibit on the long-term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. We really need to appreciate and protect our natural habitats more than we do.

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Hiking part of the Iditarod trail!

7. Winner Creek Trail: One of the best parts of this trail in the Chugach Mountains is that you hike through the northernmost rainforest in North America…while in Alaska! The trail begins behind the Hotel Alyeska and is a fun hike because of the cool vegetation and experiences. First, you cross a wooden bridge over the Winner Creek Gorge. Then you get to a hand tram where you get inside a metal cage and pull yourself over Glacier Creek, more than a hundred feet below! I’m not going to lie – this took guts for me to do (I dislike heights, especially in a rickety-feeling metal cage!), but it was awesome (once over!)! This trail is also part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Alaska’s only National Historic Trail. At the end of this hike, we stumbled upon a great little coffee and book shop.

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8. Seward Highway: This 125-mile highway goes from Anchorage to Seward and is worth noting because the drive is So.Darn.Beautiful. The highway runs through the Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, Turnagain Arm and the Kenai Mountains, which caused me to turn my head in pretty much every direction, exclaiming, “oh how beautiful” every 90-seconds. Or hang my mouth open in awe over the views!

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9. Seafood: I wasn’t a big seafood fan until I visited Alaska. I guess it just wasn’t fresh enough. Our friends welcomed us with a delicious scallops dinner, then we were introduced to several friendly Alaskans at a neighbor’s dinner complete with fresh grilled salmon (and Alaskan craft beer!). I indulged a few more times on fresh seafood during my visit. And I haven’t tasted it that good since the trip.

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Portage Glacier field

10. Portage: When the Great Alaska Earthquake occurred in 1964, the ground sank below sea level causing a ‘ghost forest’ of trees. These ghostly looking trees are very eery and amazing. Some of the original buildings can still be seen. Definitely worth a stop to explore the past. The wildlife conservation center and Portage Glacier are popular spots to visit here.

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This trip was also a great reminder that the people you travel with can truly make or break a trip. I had an amazing trip, mostly due to the wonderful friends who shared the experience with me. Even when we hit our exhausted phase due to the time change and busy schedule, we spent most of the day laughing and being silly rather than cranky (who likes to be cranky on vacation?!). We giggled while swapping stories every night before falling asleep. When I got frustrated because my titanium rod forced me to turn around on a slippery glacier trail, my friend soon had me laughing and focused on all that I was accomplishing while I reciprocated in her moments of needed humor.

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Alaska is one of our country’s treasures and I highly recommend you visit!

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How often do you see moose on the side of the road?

 

10 fun facts about Mackinac Island, Michigan July 26, 2016

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Approaching Mackinac Island from the ferry.

During my family’s recent getaway to Mackinaw City, we took a day trip to Mackinac Island. The island is located in Lake Huron between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. This is one of my favorite spots to visit in my home state.

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The 3.8-square mile island once served as home to a Native American tribe, a center for fur trading, then a military post when the British built Fort Mackinac (still available to tour on the island). It became a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century. The primary way to get to the island is via boat so there are several ferry companies that depart from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. In the winter when the lake freezes, some residents will drive snowmobiles across the ice. There is a small airport that private planes use.

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I love visiting Mackinac Island. It’s relaxing, even during the busy summer season, and beautiful. I love the uniqueness of horses, bikes and walking as the only modes of transportation. I love that it’s like a secluded getaway in the midst of busy civilization.

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Here are 10 things I find fun and interesting about Mackinac Island:

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1. No vehicles: Motor vehicles were banned from the island at the end of the 19th century and the restriction continues today (except for emergency and some construction vehicles). M-185, the country’s only state highway without motored vehicles, goes around the 8-mile circumference. The only modes of transportation are horses, bikes and your own feet. I love this about Mackinac Island. It makes the island unique, and also provides a sense of peace and break from our crazy, honking society.

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2. Mackinac Island State Park: Mackinac Island was the second national park, then the land was given to Michigan in 1895 and became our first state park. The state park comprises 82 percent of the island. There are more than 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. I’ve hiked the majority of these trails and there is always something interesting and informational to see and learn.

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3. Family time: I love any place that enables my family to relax and spend time together. Mackinac Island is the perfect place to do just that. From the ferry ride over to the horse-drawn wagon tour to fudge sampling to simply wandering the streets of the island, we felt worlds away from ‘regular life.’ We even all agreed to suspend technology use (except for pictures) while on the island (so awesome to me!). It was so fun being on the island with my family, especially for the first time with the younger nieces and nephew. We discussed quite a bit of history, horses and nature.

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Horses are everywhere!

4. Horses: I love visiting Mackinac Island where my favorite animal is pretty much everywhere I look. More than 500 horses are brought to the island every spring, and taken off the island for the winter. Many of the horses are used to pull wagons for guest taxis, maintenance supplies, island tours and business needs. You can also rent saddle horses for tours around the island. I unfortunately never got to ride a horse on the island before my cancer surgery so I’m disappointed that I can’t experience this. However, I was happy that my two older nieces and my niece’s husband took advantage of this fun outing.

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5. Grand Hotel: This 390 room hotel opened in 1887 to summer tourists. It has the world’s largest porch (660 feet) overlooking Lake Huron and the hotel’s beautiful gardens. No two guest rooms are the same, which makes me want to walk through every room to see the decor! There is an evening dress code and non-guests are charged $10 to visit the porch. It’s definitely a pricey hotel, but a pretty one.

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6. Biking: Riding bikes is one of the most popular ways to get around on the island. You can bring your own across the lake on the ferry or rent one of the more the 14,000 available from vendors on the island.

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Beautiful lake waters below Arch Rock

7. Arch Rock: This is one of my favorite spots on the island. The natural limestone rock is 146 feet above sea level. It’s unique in the size and shape. Many legends surround the arch. It’s predicted that it will erode completely in the next few decades so check it out.

 

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8. Population: Approximately 7,000 people live on the island during the summer months as tourist season brings many temporary workers to help at the restaurants, shops, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and elsewhere. During the winter, only 400-500 islanders remain.

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9. Education: I find it fascinating that there is a K-12 school on the island. Of course, the year-round island youth need to be educated but I guess the island size and sort of remote location made me think there wouldn’t be a school. The largest graduating class in recent years had eight students. The 2016 class graduated five students.

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10. Fudge: There are 14 fudge shops on the island! So much fudge is made that more than 10 tons of butter is brought to the island every year. I’m not a huge fudge fan but I admit to some sampling when on the island.

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There is so much more I could share about the island! It truly is a fun, unique, relaxing experience. Have you been to Mackinac Island? If so, what was your favorite experience?

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I love this phone booth next to the Grand Hotel! Phone doesn’t work but I still think you can call a superhero if needed.

 

10 fun things about Mackinaw City, Michigan July 25, 2016

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The “Mighty Mac” bridge connects Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas

Every summer, my family and I plan a getaway to a location in our great state of Michigan. Family vacation is something that we all look forward to very much as we love family time and vacations! We’ve been north, south, east and west throughout our state. We chose to head north for this summer’s adventure – to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.

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Located approximately four hours north of metro Detroit, Mackinaw City is at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula on the Straits of Mackinac. During the summer, the town is packed with tourists staying or stopping through on the way to the Upper Peninsula or Mackinac Island (it’s often listed by AAA as the most popular tourist city in Michigan!).

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Some years we have relaxing vacations where we simply hang out, unwind and make no plans. We were more on the go this year as we explored the area and enjoyed various activities. It was a fun time filled with laughs and, like every year, we wished for ‘one more day.’ We had a great time exploring the city and the island (more on the island in my next blog post). Here are some items that stuck out in my mind:

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  1. Mackinac Old Time Trolley tour: After a snafu with our suite, the manager offered to comp our entire group on the evening trolley tour so we said yes! The 1.5 hours trip took us along the water to learn about Colonial Michilimackinac, the city, bridge and more. Then we crossed the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula during sunset (gorgeous!). The tour driver was very informational and the views were beautiful.
  2. Last stop before the Mackinac Bridge: Known as the “Mighty Mac,” this five-mile suspension bridge is the only connection between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. It’s the longest bridge in the western hemisphere, and was built to withstand 400 mph winds!
  3. Pier at Straits State Harbor: At 1,200 feet long, this pier is one of the longest
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    Pier in the morning.

    barrier-free piers in the state. It has a 500-foot long fishing pier with benches, railings and lights. I took some walks in the morning and evening to the end of the pier, which offers beautiful views of Mackinac Bridge and Island.

  4. Mackinac Island Brewhouse: Tucked inside of the Mackinac Bay Trading Co. building on Huron Street is this beverage house. There are at least 10 micro beers on tap or you can purchase bottles from more than 350 craft breweries. Beer tastings are available.
  5. Mackinac Island Winery tasting room: If you’re checking out the beer options inside the Mackinac Bay Trading Co., you might as well taste some wine too. You get a souvenir wine glass with five samples. Lots of wine bottles from Michigan and beyond are also available for purchase. My choices were the Mackinac Red and Sweet White wines.
  6. Fudge options: There are so many fudge shops within walking distance of the hotels. It’s easy to eat your dessert simply from the free samples offered. I highly recommend Joann’s chocolate cherry fudge (made with cherries from Traverse City). Yum!
  7. Fort Michilimackinac: This historic fort was built by the French in 1714, where it became a colonial community until the British took it over. The fort was located to Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island in 1780 and the remaining structures burnt to the ground. When Mackinaw City was formed in the 1860s, the area became a park until a replica was built in the 1930s. Reconstruction continues every summer, making this the longest running archeological dig in North America. Live demonstrations, programs and tours are available.
  8. U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw: This ship was once known as the largest icebreaker on the Great Lakes. Decommissioned in 2006, she now is docked as a museum that the public can tour. You can see this impressive ship as you walk along Huron on the water. Very cool.
  9. Lodging options: Multiple hotels and motels line the main strip along the water. Most are easy walking distance to the shops, restaurants and activities. Parking gets crazy busy during peak summer season so it was great to be able to walk everywhere.
  10. Shopping options: From tourist t-shirt shops to Michigan-made products to collectibles, the shops offer something for most people. Mackinaw Crossings is a cute, well-maintained shopping area complete with evening entertainment, fountains and kids’ play activities.
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While I love exploring new cities, states and even countries around the world, I do love my home state. We’re lucky to have such beauty, history and natural wonders within hours of home. And, of course, sharing these adventures with family makes it that much more fun and memorable!

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Do you have a favorite destination in Michigan? Share with us!

 

5 Michigan craft beers for summer tasting July 18, 2016

Ah, summer in Michigan. It’s a good time to relax and unwind with a refreshing, cold beer (er, every season is possibly a good time to do this!). My home state is home to many great craft breweries, with many of these receiving national recognition for their beers. I know several people who share beers across the country and Michigan beers are often in demand.

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I like many of the summer seasonal beers that Michigan’s craft breweries offer since I like to drink a lighter beer. Wheat beer still reigns as my favorite craft beer choice, and in the summer I usually expand to fruit-forward beers (similar to my summer choices for wine).

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If you consider yourself a ‘craft beer snob’ and really into craft beer, you may not agree or like my choices (a lot of craft beer drinkers prefer stouts, etc – too heavy for me!). If you like a lighter choice of drink, you may enjoy trying some of my favorites.

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Founders brews some delicious fruit beers.

Archangel, North Peak Brewing Company, Traverse City – This limited edition beer is only brewed during summer, which makes me a little crazy searching for it down state as it seems to disappear off of shelves much too quickly. It’s a great light wheat made with Traverse City cherries, giving it just a hint of fruity tartness. (Available in bottles)

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Rubaeus, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids – Brewed year round, the raspberry-laced Rubaeus now comes in cans, making it even more perfect for summer outings! (Available in bottles and cans)

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White Devil, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., Warren – I have enjoyed this beer for many years and it continues to be one of my local ‘go-to’ beers for a refreshing, light yet tasty liquid indulgence. This Imperial White Ale has a hint of coriander and hop (but it’s not ‘hoppy’ tasting). It’s available year-round in their taproom (on draft) and I heard rumors that bottles are coming soon. (Available on draft; maybe in bottles)

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Power of Love, Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire – This newly released beer combines a raspberry and rosemary-brewed wheat with lemonade to create a sweet, yet tart taste. (Available in bottles)

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Sun-Ra American Wheat, Black Lotus Brewery, Clawson – This fun, refreshing wheat beer tastes awesome on the outdoor patio at Black Lotus while indulging in BBQ chicken nachos. Bonus: If you like fruit beers, as obviously I do, Black Lotus also offers a Cherry Poppin’ Wheat that goes down nicely. (Available only on draft)

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BONUS: Blushing Monk, Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids – Another shout out to Founders for a delicious, refreshing fruit beer. This raspberry-filled beer is part of Founders “Backstage Series” and was last brewed in 2015. (Available in bottles, where you can find it).

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What beers do you enjoy drinking during warm months?

 

Geocaching with my niece July 10, 2016

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So excited for geocaching!

My 9-year-old niece heard me talking about geocaching a few months ago and continued to ask when I would take her to see what it entailed. We were overdue for some one-on-one time so I recently planned an outing with her to (hopefully) find some caches.

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If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, I liken it to a scavenger hunt, only with GPS technology. You can use a smartphone (download the geocaching app) or GPS device. Create a free geocaching account, decide what type of caches you want to find (types are explained on the app and website), then navigate to the location. The cache may be micro, the size of a film canister, big or even virtual. Some are easy to find, others are frustratingly difficult. Once you find the cache, you sign your geocaching username in the logbook, return the cache to the exact location you found it (so someone else can find it!), and log your find on the app. They’re hidden low, high, in a tree, under water, in a pine cone, crevice, lamp post and somewhere in between. There are more than 2 million geocaches hidden throughout the world! Geocaching allows you to explore new places, or even visit again a place in your hometown.They’re hidden in urban locations, parks, rest stops, maybe on your street.

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‘A’ was super-excited to spot several caches on the app map near us. So we chose one to start with, drove to the location, gathered a pen and my phone to guide to us to the location. I explained the need to be stealthy so ‘muggles’ (those who have never found a geocache) wouldn’t notice what we were up to. I let her hold the phone so she could see our location on the app and the direction we needed to go. With very little guidance from me, she led us toward the hidden cache. When we were within a feet of the location, I pointed out different spots it may be hidden and what to look for. Since it was her first time, she didn’t quite know what to look for….but I stayed a little behind her while she moved around a tree…..and spotted her first cache! Once I signed the small scroll and we hid the cache exactly where we found it, I showed her how to mark the cache as “found” on the app so it would be saved on my profile. And she was hooked!

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We went on to find several more caches. We both laughed at how many times we’ve driven by a certain lamp post in a parking lot, never knowing a cache was waiting in there. She loved that we had to be stealthy so no one would pay attention to us. More than once, she stopped me so she could look around to ensure no curious onlookers watched us.

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Cache on the geocaching app

Some things that kept her interested:

  • I demonstrated how to use the geocaching app so she could see the many caches hidden around us. I set the difficulty and terrain search criteria as fairly easy to ensure we’d have luck finding the cache, thus keeping her motivated and spirits up (who doesn’t like to register a win?!).
  • Once we got to the location close to where the geocache was hidden, I gave her the phone so she could lead us to the location on foot. She loved ‘managing’ the search efforts!
  • The app will show your location to the cache in feet so once we got within a few feet, I encouraged her to use her eyes to search. There were a few muddy hiding places, which she didn’t love at first but her smile was huge when she spotted the cache!
  • We took selfies with some of the caches to send to her parents – she was so proud of our finds!
  • Once I signed the logbook, she returned the cache to the hidden location. I appreciated how exact she was with ensuring it was in the same location.
  • She took great satisfaction in clicking the “Found it!” button to register our find!
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The drive back to her house had her wondering if another cache was in that tree, or under that sign or near her neighbor’s house, or……? Now her younger brother, my mom and some girlfriends want to try geocaching. I love geocaching with others!

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The best part of the day for me? As we walked back to the car after logging A’s first cache, she took my hand and thanked me for taking just her (no younger siblings!) on this adventure  and making it special. My heart melted right there – not only am I grateful my nieces and nephew enjoy spending time with me, I’m so proud she loves to be outdoors in nature as much as I do!

 

Why I’m a cancer advocate (and how you can be too) July 7, 2016

Two weeks ago, I went to the doctor’s for my annual ‘girl check up.’ All was going well until my doctor started the breast exam. He paused, made an odd face, then felt the breast again. Then he commented that he didn’t remember that lump being in my right breast.

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This is when the world suddenly screeches to a halt, your heart skips a beat and you have a moment to think, “what the $%@! is he talking about?” If you’re a cancer survivor, you might have a flash of deja vu, regardless of your past cancer type. But then the world begins revolving, your heart resumes beating (maybe a tad bit accelerated) and the rational voice in your head whispers, “Take a chill pill.”

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Good support can make all the difference to someone.

We both knew I had small scar tissue from a biopsy done more than a decade ago in that area, but he was convinced something was different. In the days following, I felt like I stepped outside of my body. I scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound, and marveled at the irony that my 18-year anniversary from bone cancer treatment was less than a week away. I reminded the universe that I would be thoroughly pissed off if anything messed with that milestone (then followed with gratitude that I had been healthy for so long, just to be safe). While the anxiety and nerves tried to push to the surface, my determination to be optimistic and courageous remained steadfast. I thankfully am surrounded by a circle of amazingly supportive people. My family is loyal and positive, my medical team competent and kind. I talked to two cancer survivor friends who assured me that I was not being negative or crazy to feel a curling of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, but we would pray for the best. So I went for tests, then plowed forward through life for the few days it took to get the results.

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And it wasn’t cancer. Tests showed that it was a new cluster of tiny benign cysts wrapped in the scar tissue, thus changing the feel and size. The relief was palpable and I admit I cried a few tears of gratitude. I think once you have heard the words, ‘it’s cancer,’ that becomes the most dreaded phase in your mind.

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I know I am fortunate. I have a kick-ass health care team that works together as a team to ensure every aspect of my health is taken care of, even when they work at competing health systems. I have health insurance that allows me to go to almost any medical facility to ensure I can get whatever tests I may need. I have family and friends who support me and are willing to be beside me whenever I need someone (and they know I won’t ask for help so do it without being asked). And I have a mom who is the best advocate anyone could ask for (seriously, if someone tells you that something can’t be done, call my mom!).

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The unsettling reality is that many Americans do not have the benefits that I, and many others, have. Insurance is a financial luxury that many don’t have (there were still 28.6 million Americans without health insurance in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Access to good healthcare, whether good doctors, facilities, testing or treatment, is often unavailable. And even when you can access these things, you still need to sometimes jump through hoops, make too many phone calls, endure long wait times for tests and then results. Many people don’t have family and friends to help during treatment, travel or recovery.

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My gratitude is part of the reason that I advocate for cancer survivors (I also think it’s good karma to give back and I truly enjoy helping others). I have lobbied on Capitol Hill, presented at conferences, raised funds for nonprofits, held someone’s hand during chemo, sat on the end of a hospital bed while a friend faced tough decisions, talked late into the night with a cancer survivor friend and shared many hugs, smiles, tears and laughs. I share these things not to get a pat on the back but to show that if I can do it, others can too. Yes, you can.

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Here are easy ways you can be an advocate for others:

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If you are a cancer survivor or caregiver, consider being a mentor to those going through similar situations. I have met with many newly diagnosed cancer patients at my local cancer center to provide insight into treatment, tests, side effect prevention and survival tips, and much more. I also a mentor through Imerman Angels, which matches people going through treatment with those who completed similar treatments for the same cancer. They also match up caregivers. These can be one-time meetings or long-time relationships. The options are endless, especially with technology.

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Offer to go to a doctor’s appointment with a friend in need.

Volunteer to be an advocacy volunteer for organizations that support cancer survivors, such as LIVESTRONG, American Cancer Society, Cancer Support Community or another similar type of nonprofit. If you’re uncomfortable meeting with your legislative officials in person, there is much you can do from the comfort of your computer. Many of these organizations will send emails to volunteers when action is needed, such as sending pre-written emails to your elected officials, sharing information on social media, and emailing letters to the editors of local medial outlets.

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Support organizations that provide education, counseling, financial support and more to cancer survivors. There are more than 15 million cancer survivors in the United States, and that’s expected to grow to more than 20 million by 2026 (great news!). Access to follow up care, mental support, financial support, fertility treatment and education is vital to the health and well-being of these people. One of the greatest things that could have happened to me was being given a scholarship to attend a young adult cancer survivors’ conference in Montana shortly after treatment. I felt lost and alone during and after treatment, and meeting 60+ other young adult survivors, attending fantastic education sessions (relating to long-term side effects, fertility, job searching and relationships) and simply laughing with new friends helped me embrace my new ‘normal’ life. It was life-changing for me.

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Offer to be someone’s sidekick. This can be serving as a notetaker during a doctor’s appointment, sitting in the waiting room, sending positive phone calls, cards and text messages, showing up with a bottle of good wine. Just knowing there is someone in your corner can make the world of difference.

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Share resources. There are hundreds of organizations in the U.S. that support cancer survivors, many focused on specific cancers, genders, life issues and more. I recently shared a few of my favorite cancer-related resources with all of you. I’m pretty open about my cancer journey and post-treatment life. I realized early during treatment that sharing my experiences might help others going through similar experiences. Frankly, it’s the only way I know to be….having cancer wasn’t a choice I had, but using that experience to help others is a choice I gladly make.

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If you have other resources to share, please feel to comment.

 

5 Michigan white wines for summer tasting July 2, 2016

The warm, summer weather in Michigan makes it the perfect time to enjoy crisp, flavorful, refreshing wine. Thankfully, the mitten state is home to numerous wineries that produce delicious varieties of wine.

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White wines are my favorite types of wine, even more so during the summer (so relaxing to sit on the deck in the evening with a cool glass of wine!), and I’m grateful that my home state wineries create many tasty bottles. Here are a few of  my favorites:

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wineArcturos Late Harvest Riesling, Black Star Farms (Suttons Bay) – This long-time favorite is a light, sweet fruit-forward wine full of apple, peach and other fruit flavors.

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Rustic White, Longview Winery (Cedar)  – Another long-time favorite, this semi-sweet wine is loaded with tropical fruit flavor, including pineapple and passion fruit. It’s a refreshing, easy wine that is always popular when served!

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Naked Chardonnay, Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson) – This chardonnay captures ripe fruit flavors such as apple, orange, peach and more to produce a light, crisp flavor and easy finish.

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2014 Chardonnay, Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City) – A lightly sweet wine packed with hints of pineapple, tropical fruit and green apples.

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Missing Spire Riesling, Left Foot Charley (Traverse City) – I usually indulge in this winery’s Cinnamon Girl hard cider so it was a nice surprise to taste this deliciously, crisp, sweet wine, which brings together a blend of the winery’s late harvest Riesling vineyards.

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What wine(s) do you like to drink during the warm summer months?

 

 
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