Category Archives: Outdoor Adventure

Biking in Denali

Hi Readers. I apologize for not posting much since Sam has gotten here. As you can imagine, our days and weekends have been packed with settling in to work, meeting new people, and finding exciting places to run, ski, bike, mountain bike, hike, etc, etc. It’s a little overwhelming that, for example, the nearest convenient after-work ride, entails climbing up a 4-mile 2,000 foot road only to enjoy a spectacular view of the valley, city of Anchorage, a few nearby mountain ranges, and the inlet at the top. Everything here is big, beautiful and generally awesome.

So anyway, I haven’t been not blogging due to a lack of fun things to share, I’ve just been too busy enjoying them to get on my computer (e.g. I literally haven’t opened my computer in weeks). I will try to be better! Anyway, here is my recap of last weekend. And, I miss you all! Book your tickets to visit! Bring some Greenbush doughnuts for me in your suitcase!

In continuing with our theme of the overwhelming amount of fun things to do in Alaska, some friends invited us on their annual Denali biking weekend. Sam and I had to think for oh, about half a second before we eagerly agreed to tag along.


Turns out that early May (I know, I’m late posting this) is the sweet spot for Denali biking: it’s after the roads are cleared and the temps have risen a bit, but before the tourist buses begin. Apparently, the buses make the dirt road not very fun to bike during the summer due to the frequency with which they drive by kicking up dust.

Anyway, we loaded Sam’s trusty baja to the brim and drove up to Denali on Friday night, making a pit stop for some delightfully unhealthy food at the Cadillac Cafe just outside of Wasilla, where we met the rest of the crew. We pulled into the Riley Creek campground around 11 pm, picked a campsite, and guess what? It was still light enough outside to set up our tents without turning on a single headlamp. How convenient! Meanwhile, someone struck up a campfire, and then we hung out until well after 2 in the morning, where it stayed relatively “dusky” the entire night. It was pretty great.

I woke up the next morning with a headache due to a few too many pulls off the ol’ Bulleit bottle, but we pulled on some bike clothes, packed lunches, and headed into the park nonetheless.


[This is the part where I do a poor job describing just how beautiful the park is and how fun of a day we had.] I’m not certain, but I think this may have been my first time at a national park, and now I wholeheartedly agree with that famous quote by Wallace Stegner, “The national parks are the best idea we ever had.” Well done, Roosevelt.

Anyway, the views of the Alaska Range were so great, the pictures do it no justice. It was sunny, the roads were dry (e.g. good biking), there were great people to get to know along the way, and we even got to see some wildlife: 4 grizzlies, 2 lynx (!!) and a bunch of caribou. It was a really great day. About 32 miles by the end of it – 16 hard ones going up, and then donning every item of clothing and a rain jacket to block the wind before flying back down.

The next most noteworthy thing about the trip was the magnificent preparedness our biking-mates came camping with. When we returned back to the campsite, they broke out delicious tacos (we’re talking spicy pulled chicken, seasoned black beans, guacamole, cilantro, chips, etc. and even lactose-free sour cream… capital A-mazing!) This was pretty awesome in itself. But it didn’t stop there. Next came out the fixin’s for these cilantro-lime vodka cocktails and/or another cocktail option (none of which I touched due to last night’s Bulleit misadventures…still).

The next day we packed up camp and drove to the quaint town of Talketna for some biscuits and gravy…mmm….. before heading back to Anchorage to unpack and scrub the layer of dirt off of every item that came with us.

Anyway, thanks a million to the wonderful, friendly group of adventurers who brought us with you!


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Three Exciting Things

This week was mostly overtaken by work. However, three great things happened:

1. Sam and Debi left Wisconsin to make their way up here. They are currently in Manitoba – so it’s safe to say they still have a little ways to go….

Hopefully I’ll get them to post some updates from their roadtrip 🙂

They're sleeping in A, headed to B tomorrow, and here I am in C.

They’re sleeping in A, headed to B tomorrow, and here I am in C.

2. I saw a moose! Finally! It was really awesome. I was running, so I didn’t have my phone at the time, meaning I don’t have a picture to share. Either way, they are HUGE and look like a combination of a horse and a camel. Kind of scary, but mostly just awesome. This also happened on a particularly fantastic run with a great sunset over the inlet and fantastic view of the city on the way back.

photo (2)

3. Today, some friends took me on a hike to Flattop trail. Here’s a little summary:

Flattop is Alaska’s most frequently climbed mountain.  Located 13 miles from downtown Anchorage, the Glen Alps Parking lot in Chugach State Park is the jumping off point for many outstanding hikes but Flattop is by far the most popular.  This 3-mile round-trip hike begins at 2,200 feet.  The 1,350′ elevation gain to the 3,550 foot summit is easy at the begining, moderate with railroad tie steps in the middle, and steep with firm footing on the headwall just below the top.”

Anyway, the trail was REALLY slippery. No one else seemed to have as much of a problem with it as I did, but it was an incredibly narrow trail on the side of a really steep mountain. It was worth it for the views in every direction. I will definitely do it again, but maybe in the summer next time!

As you can imagine, it’s always harder on the way down. After slowly struggling, everyone decided it was best to simply jump off the edge of the trail and slide down on our butts. I took a little convincing, but after a while I went for it.

That was actually pretty fun.

Alright. I’ll update more soon.



Welcome to Alaska

Sam still won’t be here for two more weeks 😦 so I am in full-on, “Operation Distraction” mode. Luckily, Ryan and Shaina’s friend Jake invited them to crash a cabin trip he was planning to go on, and they invited me. And it was just what I needed.

The weather couldn’t have been better. The views – literally every direction you looked, as far as the eye could see – were breathtaking.


We took a scenic drive (above) from Anchorage, through Girdwood to a trailhead near Hope, AK. (Pictured below.)


We began our trip at the trailhead of the Resurrection Pass Trail. Aptly named, because it brings you back to life.


We had a 7 mile ski into the cutest little cabin.


I keep telling everyone I meet that it was easy for me to make the decision to move up here because of Sam’s excitement after he visited – I have never seen him so animated about anything. Now I understand why. This much beauty and ‘adventure potential’ is usually reserved for our annual, summertime 10-day vacation. We usually take a week off of work, pack up the car, drive far away, and cram as much adventure into those precious days as possible.

However, this kind of adventure came on a weekend trip where I slept at home on Friday night, packed on Saturday after brunch, and was back home at a decent hour on Sunday. I guess it’s the Alaska way. AND IT’S AWESOME.

IMG_0755Anyway, irregardless of the beauty all around me, the perfect skiing conditions, and the cutest little wooden cabin ever, the thing that really stood out to me about this trip was the people.

They were so welcoming, encouraging, funny, friendly… just good, good people.

As someone new here, that is so much appreciated and so comforting!

So, thank you to Ryan, Shaina, Jake, Aurora, Joel, Steven and Chelsie for giving me a proper introduction to Alaska. And well done!


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Madison’s Top Tens

This has been a big week and it’s only Tuesday. Last weekend, I packed up as much of my house as possible, loaded it up in as few suitcases as possible, packed it into my sister’s car and headed to Minneapolis. I’m spending the week here before flying up to Anchorage on Friday. Then Sam will wrap up work and come with the car in about a month 😦

I am truly excited about moving up there, but I have been pretty sad about leaving Madison, all our wonderful friends, and our new house. My sister recently asked me to tell her things I’ll miss about Madison, so I thought I would take the time to make a nice little top 10 list. This is way more than she bargained for. But it’s handy… for posterity. And for whenever I come back. And for you.

(Of course, as I wrote this, I decided I needed a whole separate category for food.)



Sunset at the terraace

1. Biking on a warm summer evening to the terrace to drink beer and eat popcorn

2. Having friends over to eat dinner on our deck


Climbing one of the 10,000,000 hills of the Hilly

3. The Horribly Hilly and the Dairyland Dare: one day “challenge rides.” You’ll hate your life until you reach the finish line and can hardly wait to sign up for next year

4. “Working” meetings at the Echo Tap

5. “Kayaking” (also what some would call floating aimlessly) on Lake Monona with Abby

6. Mountain biking, skiing, road biking, or hiking at Blue Mounds State Park and stopping to eat at the Grumpy Troll on the way home

IMG_06237. Devil’s Lake State Park: huffing it up the bluff and then sitting on a rock and taking in the view

8. Paoli bike rides and stopping at the top of observatory hill to enjoy the view and catch your breath

9. Thrift shopping at ReThreads on State Street (tons of cuteness under $10)

10. Walking over to Kate’s house in my jammies on Saturday mornings for coffee


1. Cheese curds and old fashionds at the Old Fashioned


Willaby’s Cafe, Willy Street, Madison

2. The Fair Oaks Skillet at Willaby’s Cafe

3. Vanilla swirls at Batches Bakehouse

4. Anything and everything at Greenbush Bakery. Pick one and then ask the doughnut dealer for his or her favorite.

5. Playing flip cup with cheap pitchers of beer at State Street Brats

6. Panang curry, chicken eggrolls, and mango and sticky rice at Ha Long Bay

7. Walnut burger at The Harmony

8. Crusier-bike riding to Mickey’s Dairy Bar for scramblers and cinnamon rolls

9. Commuter bike riding to Mickey’s bar to get drinks on their back patio on warm summer nights

10. Buying an entire loaf of warm, spicy cheesy bread at the Farmer’s Market and eating most of it while walking around the square

Rest of Wisconsin/UP


ABR Ski Cabin

1. Renting ski-in cabins at ABR Ski Trails (Ironwood, MI)

2. 4th of July fireworks on Boom Lake (Rhinelander)

3. Biking up to Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains and then trying to hit 40 MPH on the way back down. I’ve never done it. Yet! (Ontonagon, MI)

4. Canoeing the Kickapoo. Just as good: driving through the driftless to explore its various parks and fishing the streams on the way there (Ontario)

5. Pewitt’s Nest -bring your swimsuit! (Baraboo)


Levi’s Trow

6. This is for Sam: Wisconsin/UP’s own IMBA “epic” mountain bike trails: Levi’s Trow (Near Black River Falls) and Copper Harbor, MI

7. The Trails at Nine Mile and Rib Mountain  can hold an honorary spot too (Wausau)

8. A summer day on any lake in Northern Wisconsin, on a boat, with beer, and country music. Heavenly.

Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks

9. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore  – easily the best vacation of my life (Grand Marais, MI)

10. …I’m leaving this open to represent the large amounts of awesomeness yet to be explored in Wisconsin

What else would you add to the list??

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Weekend Warriors Go To Alaska

This blog got a facelift! I updated the former, environmentally focused “Welcome to the Good Life” blog in order to open up the content options to share more about my life now. Check out more behind this change in the updated “About” page. I hope you like it. Thanks for reading! –Jenny


I knew we’d end up going the moment Sam told me that he may apply for a job in Anchorage.

Nevermind the house we just bought, the puppy we were about to buy, and the already happy and fairly adventurous life we currently live. I thrive on newness, live in fear of regret, and recognize that our relationship is always at its best when we’re experiencing new things together.

So, as I have done many times with other big propositions in the past, I immediately jumped on it… and then soon started freaking out about it.  (Why do I always do this backwards of the sensible way? e.g. 1. Think, 2. React.)

I am certain I will look back on this time and laugh because I’ve gotten it all wrong. Once I get through the next three weeks of packing, selling, storing, and planning maybe everything will be totally fine. But right now – after accepting a job, telling my Momma, giving notice at work ,and realizing how much needs to get done at home all in one day – I feel overwhelmed, nervous and pretty sad. I want to go to Alaska, but I don’t want to leave our good friends, beautiful new home, and the comfort of family close by.

Familiarity is nice. But perhaps (and cross your fingers with me here) adventure is better.



It has been almost a year since I’ve blogged. A YEAR. Luckily, I have good things to say about the end of 2011 and most of 2012. In fact, I have so many good things to say I hardly know where to start.

Actually I do. It’s with this guy —-> 

I have always liked to do stuff. Just in general. But this guy takes “doing stuff” to a whole ‘nother level. He has that good initiative to bundle up and strap on some skis when it’s 10 degrees out. Or that motivation to start training for biking season…in March. I have never had that “get up and go.” But, he inevitably brings me with him and although I grumble and whine (a lot) getting out of the warm car to put on my bike shoes or ski boots on days the sun is NOT shining, I get going and always end up thanking him for forcing us up and out.


His “doing stuff” also occasionally results in me sitting in a diner in Copper Harbor, Michigan surrounded completely by mountain bikers (read: really, really smelly dudes) after a night of sleeping in a tent in a storm yelling, “Ifeellikeicantkeepupwithyou!”

But that’s getting ahead of myself. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the awesome stuff we (I) have been doing since I last posted:

Rock-tober 2011: This was the month I ran my first half marathon. I attempted to write a blog post about that milestone, but decided I was better off relishing in my personal victory all by myself. My journal from that day starts, “I do not want today to end. Today I finally proved that I am capable of setting a lofty goal, dedicating myself to work toward it, and reaching it – all by myself.” This taught me the value in goals – especially when it comes to athletics.

Thinking of doing one for the first time? If you’re anything like me, you’ll need a schedule. Print it and put it somewhere you see everyday. I liked this one.

November: This is the month I discovered Pinterest. I know this sounds lame to list as a milestone, but this means that I found a lot of really good new tips, tricks and recipes that have now become staples. I could do a whole post on this, but here are three of my faves:

December: I can’t remember a damn thing about last December except that it was really busy at work and then I got to spend Christmas in MN followed by a week on the beach in Florida. Not too shabby.

January: Someone wonderful sent me this quote that I have come to love:

Bessie Stanley, in the Lincoln Sentinel on Nov. 30, 1905 wrote:

(s)”he has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.”

February: Got to see so many of my favorite people all in one place. I am so proud of my friends from high school (many of whom live in Chicago where this picture was taken). They’ve all gone on to do such wonderful things!

March: Sam finished chemo this month. He’s been on the up and up for a long time now, but every time I watch him cross any finish line on his bike, I still have the urge to yell, “HE SURVIVED CANCER… RECENTLY!” What an inspiration.

April: Oh you know, just BOUGHT A HOUSE. We love it, but for most of the summer it has merely served as ‘homebase’ in between activities. Cook a meal, clean, sleep, store the bikes for the night, load them, go to work. Repeat. (Or some variation of that.)


June: Tackled Horribly Hilly Hundreds (“the toughest one day challenge ride in the midwest”) number two.

July: Did July even happen? It was a blur. Aside from attending some bike event, family occasion or work trip constantly, I also started indoor climbing as a result of purchasing a groupon to the local climbing gym and LOVED it. It’s a workout, a puzzle to be solved, not terribly time-consuming and just plain fun. I highly recommend it. And, I got to visit Hannah in my first trip to the Big Apple!

August: Biking, biking, biking. Then, started training for my second half marathon. And, for the first time in my life I feel like an athlete.

I am sure I forgot a lot. But, I have had a great year. I feel tired so often, but I also feel really, really happy.

…which is something to remind myself next time I am rushing to load the car up with a canoe, paddles, PFDs, two mountain bikes, gear, clothing, toilitries, a tent, sleeping bags, pads, (etc) to get on the road to make it up north before 2 am. Or something like that.

Thanks for reading this long blog post. Let’s do it again sometime- soon!



What am I so happy about, you may ask?

No, it’s not the Twins’ performance in their 3 game series against the Brewers, or the fact that it’s at least 10 degrees hotter in my apartment than the outside world (and it was 86 on Wednesday…), but what I AM happy about is that I GOT A JOB TODAY!!

What. a. relief.

Seriously, there’s a limited number of days a girl can eat “legume marinara” (i.e. frozen peas, canned garbanzos, with $0.99 store-brand marinara on top. Microwaved.). I’ll be working at Clean Wisconsin, where I was fortunate to intern this semester, which is super awesome. I am so thrilled about it.

Anyway, my environmental musings of late have been more focused on enjoying what we’ve got, instead of  being upset about what we don’t or afraid of we’re about to lose, per my usual. I like the ability to shift focus between these three things and I also really like appreciating all that Wisconsin has as far as untamed, green, beautiful wilderness goes.

I’ve got another trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula planned this weekend, hopefully with some hiking and fishing and plenty of beach-walking penned in. Then, off to the office on Monday!

More educational and stimulating posts (and pictures) to come!

Happy summertime,


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Lessons from Grammy

There are so many things I love about my Mom.

She’s been my emotional rock since I can remember, she’s a wonderful cook, a knowledgeable gardener, she’s the inspiration for my sense of adventure, and she’s my friend.

As I’ve grown up and been away from her though, I’ve noticed more similarities in myself to her, and coincidentally, similarities of both of us to her Mom, my Grammy.

She had to get it from someone, right?

Grammy died in March 2007, but I have SO many fond memories of her, and ones that have only improved since she’s been gone. Since then, I’ve realized how much more she and I would have to talk about now, aside from my silly gymnastics meets and school projects like we used to.

Anyway, the first time I read much Thoreau was when I took Bill Cronon’s American Environmental History class last year. I’d read it and think of my Grammy the whole time. Finally I told my Mom how much it reminded me of her and she informed me that Grammy loved Thoreau.

Of course she did, what was I thinking?

Grammy lived up in the woods in northern Wisconsin and my favorite memories with her are trips to the lake and long walks in the woods. Thoreau, I’m sure, was speaking of her when he wrote:

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks–who had a genius, so to speak, for SAUNTERING. […] No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God.”

Well, or genetics? My Mom and I have spent good amounts of time honing our sauntering abilities, I must say.

Next, when I learned in ecology last year that humans are not separate from nature, but just one part of it – I couldn’t help but think of Grammy’s respect and admiration for this idea. Thoreau thought the same.

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil–to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.”

Finally, aside from Grammy in a nature sense, I also remember her in a very social sense. She was always donning her quirky silver charm jewelry, pink lipstick, and shoving colorful barrettes in a mess of red hair. (Katie and I would ditch our dress up stash in search of this jewelry box). She’d be off to cocktails and bridge parties… God, I wish I could hear her talk about life and politics now. I bet it was awesome. Anyway, Grammy would agree with Thoreau on this one:

“Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”

I have an email from her freshman year of college – I’d been telling her about my classes, to which she responded:

“Yes, you are taking quite a variety of courses!  Talk about an education!  Your math course sounds like a problem solving course. Problem solving is something this world very much needs.”

Amen to that.

Anyway, this is such a short and inadequate description of her. The point is, she was such a fun, spirited, and wise woman, and remembering her makes me think of my Mom and it brings so many good memories to mind. I have so much to thank them both for, and I hope I am able to shed a similar sense of adventure, reverence for nature, and wisdom in my own life, and for my children someday.

(sigh) Back to studying.

I love you Mom!


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When I fell in love with the rainforest

This spring break I took a trip to Singapore and Malaysia.

While there, we went on a brief trip to the rain forest and I found it to be absolutely magical.

In light of all the sad environmental news lately, I think my boss, Sam, is right – it’s important to remember what we’re fighting for.

This world is a beautiful place!

Here’s some proof:

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Free Market Environmentalism: Effective solution or policy charade?

This semester I have been a part of a capstone course for the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies about Free Market Environmentalism (FME).

What’s that, you may ask?

FME says that market mechanisms may be more effective at solving environmental problems than the government.

Hmmm, what do you think about that?

Let’s think of a few cases:

1. Land: maybe instead of regulating or restricting development, we could just purchase the land (As frequently done by the Nature Conservancy).

2. Animals: maybe we can create a market for Asian Carp (meat, fish oil, bow hunting?) to reduce their populations and decrease their potential damage, instead of relying on Congress to close the Chicago canal to the Great Lakes?

3. Waste: maybe we can use an anaerobic digester to turn polluting cow manure on unregulated farms into clean energy and reusable farm resources.

These are some examples that show that it is possible, in many cases, that free market tools can solve some environmental problems in potentially less time, and while making money and benefiting the community (instead of just stopping the problem) in the process.

My group has explored another waste example: could we provide incentive for households to waste less by paying for our garbage by the pound instead of by bin price (and with our property taxes)? Would that system work for a city like Madison? Would we even end up reducing our waste?

WELL, if you want to know the answers to these questions, you’re in LUCK!

This Thursday, May 6 at 7 pm, my class (composed of 4 separate FME case studies) will present our research on whether FME is more effective than government, or what we believe the place for government may be when it comes to environmental issues. The one hour presentation will be in the Red Gym on Langdon Street, next to Memorial Union. Complete info here.

Please Come!

If you read this blog, you already know that I’m a proponent of individual action. While I support government initiatives (and often solicit your support as well), I also advocate for finding our own ways of solving environmental problems … it’s innovation at it’s best. And it’s fun!

So, come find out what the research, interviews, and survey we conducted has to say about waste reduction and if Free Market Environmentalism is the answer we’ve all been looking for.

Can’t make it?

I’ll put our conclusions up on Friday 🙂


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