Michigan Renaissance Festival

Last weekend, my dad and I were looking for something fun to do nearby. We were originally thinking a golf trip up north, but we were both exhausted from the previous week and wanted to spend more time doing something fun instead of driving far away. When I saw signs for the annual Renaissance Festival, I knew that’s where we belonged!

Although it was such a hot day and the humidity was making us unbearably sweat, we had the best time strolling around, grabbing a couple drinks, watching some incredible performances and of course—people watching. Oh man is the people watching great at the Ren Fest! We enjoyed a “wenches” show, where two women pulled men on stage to do embarrassing things, bought some attire (a corset and kilt to be exact!), mingled with vendors and even saw some jousting. My dad and I felt like little kids again, and it was awesome spending the day with him!

The following day, I wore my full attire and visited my friend Terry in the mermaid tank. Between visiting him and hanging out after his shift, I watched another wenches show, saw a little more jousting and witnessed some cute birds disobey a falconer—all while sipping on some peach lemonade. Even though I was having some health issues over the weekend, feeling like a kid again at the Ren Fest was the perfect distraction! ☺️

Media taken Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11, 2022

Empire Bluff Trail and Beach

Knowing that Labor Day weekend was probably the last glimpse of summer we would see in the Midwest, I dedicated a day toward hiking and soaking of the sun with Linley. We traveled north to the Traverse City area and did our fourth-annual Empire Bluff Trail hike together.

Having had Linley for five years now, I’m constantly researching the best dog-friendly areas for us to explore. Empire Bluff Trail was a gem I found four years ago, and we’ve made it an annual tradition to do a hike and lounge at the beach afterward. This year, it was just the two of us and we slept on the the dunes AND on the beach this time!

Feeling the sun on our skin, the sand in our toes (and paws!) and soaking up the last bit of summer was the perfect way to spend Labor Day weekend. The hike and sun beating down on us tired both of us out, but we enjoyed the sunset and quality time curled up on the beach together. I can’t put into words how much I love this little fella—and all of these moments we share!

Media taken Sunday, September 4, 2022

Camping with my ladies… and Lin!

Last Friday was one of the most challenging days I have had. It was personally and professionally a really difficult day, and I certainly needed some relief. I was excited to hit the road and head east toward Grand Rapids, Michigan to spend some much-needed quality time with my friend Crystal. She has been a constant during my year in Chicago, and I had actually never hung out with her in Michigan even though she lives there. It was nice to go her way and do some camping before the summer’s over.

Being me, I had let Crystal know that I was emotional. It was a long drive, and a long day in general, and I was mentally exhausted. Little did I know that Crystal had the best surprise waiting for me at the campsite!

With Linley in tow, I parked by her and saw someone else get out of the car. Of course I was polite, but I thought it was strange that she would invite someone else along when we had talked about quality time with just the two of us (three of us including the pup!). Who greets me at my driver side door but Donna! Donna has been one of my best friends since high school, and that’s how I actually met Crystal, and I started crying. Donna’s gesture and Crystal’s surprise were two of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. The entire weekend solidified that there are great people in my life, and there is always light in the darkness.

We spent the entire weekend reading tarot cards, floating down the river, cooking delicious meals and drinking by the campfire. I got great sleep both nights, and had such a great weekend away with two of my best girlfriends. I can’t wait to do it again!

Media taken Friday, August 26 through Sunday, August 28, 2022

Fun on the Farm

Last weekend, one of my closest friends in Chicago and I took a Linley to Cashton, Wisconsin for some fun on the farm!

KP is not as outdoorsy as I am, but we both have a deep appreciation for being immersed in nature and unplugging. About a month and a half ago, we found this cute little Airbnb in Wisconsin and knew we had to check it out and stay there before the summer ended. This quaint little family farm had donkeys, chickens, and even a turkey that tried to peck at my feet! He succeeded, and I made the mistake of wearing open toed sandals the whole weekend!

The ironic thing about the trip is that I am a project manager, which means that I literally get paid to be organized and plan assignments. Here I am being the most unprepared traveler from the get, haha! What I thought would be a one and a half or two hour drive instantly turned in to four one-way, and I didn’t bring all the cooking supplies and equipment that we needed. However, we had the best time, laughed our way through the ill-preparation and made makeshift utensils—and actually prepared some solid food over the fire.

We laughed the evening away with some board games, gin and tonic, and more exploration of the farm. My only regret is that I wish we would’ve had more time there together, but the time we had was more than well-spent. We even braved the cold river where fisherman were catching trout! It was the kind of peacefulness and quality time that we both really needed. And of course, Linley had the time of his life too!

Media taken August 20 and 21, 2022

Skydiving!

On Monday, August 15 at approximately 5:15pm Eastern, I figuratively AND literally took a leap of faith!

Skydiving has been on my bucket list for over a decade now, and is definitely something I’m interested in doing again (…and again!). Maybe it’ll become my second addiction — second to travel of course!

When I got to the site, I didn’t feel nervous. I didn’t feel nervous when I put my things in the locker, or when I met Josue, or when my harness was on, or when I got on the plane, or even when all the others jumped out before me (of course I had to choose the highest altitude!). I wasn’t nervous at all. The only thing that took my breath away – again, both literally and figuratively – was the fact that we were so high up. There were times where I forgot to breathe because I was deeply in awe.

My adrenaline was pumping after I landed – which led me to talking with the kindest woman at reception for about an hour before I drove home. Let’s just say I was on cloud nine after jumping through them ☺️

I hope you enjoy these stills, but the full video is even better ☺️

I am grateful for…

Learning that consistency is one of the best qualities anyone can possess. My friends who have been supportive, encouraging and consistent — not just now, but always. My support system who have helped me pivot from self-deprecating thoughts and into better boundary-setting. Going on adventures in Chicago with friends, new and old. Having friends who even want to go on those adventures with me.

Walking away from people who aren’t serving me — who aren’t showing up for me physically or emotionally. Not having a relationship with certain family members who would certainly bully me and verbally abuse me because of my personal life right now. Having the courage to even stand up to/walk away from those individuals and groups of people anyway. Finding my chosen family; feeling like I belong with my friends and some of their families (e.g.: Donna’s siblings and parents).

Having the courage to move out here despite the circumstances. Finding my way back to the healthiest work environment I’ve ever experienced — albeit in a rather roundabout way. My health and my body, even though I may not love her and appreciate her everyday. My mobility and the freedom I have to explore and keep going on these fun adventures.

Linley. The fact that he is such a great travel, hiking and adventure buddy. The fact that I have him right now, when all else seems fleeting. Lin getting me out of bed and out of the house everyday; teaching me that there’s insurmountable beauty in the simplest of moments and things.

The fact that I even have things to be grateful for as my heart breaks.

South Haven with Mom and Linley

“First my mother, forever my friend.” – Unknown

…this may not have always been the case for my mom and me, but all in all we have overcome some difficult times together. And despite whatever we have endured together and apart, we have always had deep love for one another. Boy did I need her last weekend!

A few weeks ago, my mom called me and left a nearly two minute-long voicemail (if you were born in or before the 90s, you probably have a parent or parent-figure who does this as well, haha!) about this dog dog-friendly “resort” in South Haven, Michigan. We love spending time together with my dog Linley, and we had the best weekend at the Sun and Sand Resort.

Friday was our busiest day with the nicest weather. We met at the resort, where my mom’s huge pieces of luggage exploded all over the room, then headed to Pilgrim Haven Natural Area for some swimming and relaxing on the beach.

Pilgrim Haven was quite rocky compared to other dog beaches we’ve visited together, but the three of us enjoyed it nonetheless. We strolled the beach which led to a cute “pool” and scenic river, found some cool rocks and camped out in a sandy, shaded spot for Linley. He spent the majority of the time in the water, but surprisingly splooted (what dogs do when they lay on their belly with their arms and legs stretched out) in the warm sand for a while. As simple and easygoing as our time was, we had so much fun and I really needed it – almost as much as Linley needed the stick from Lake Michigan!

The rest of our evening was spent in downtown South Haven and at the lighthouse. We ate at a cute local restaurant – where my mom even brought some cooked chicken for Linley. After some great cheesy bread, caprese salad, good conversation and the waitress giving Linley some love and attention, we quickly drove to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. This is where things got interesting…!

Without further ado, my mom face planted on a hill full of sand! She wasn’t hurt and is totally okay, but it was hilarious and had both of us laughing so hard we almost peed! Linley laid in the sand as though we were burdening him by making him wait for us to gather ourselves, which made the “incident” even funnier! Once we wiped sand off of my mom’s face and ears, we laughed our way to the ice cream stand for a much-needed treat. I continued laughing about my mom’s fall the entire evening, and my mom did too! I’m just glad she was okay and a good sport about all of it. A couple summers ago, we were walking Linley near her house and I completely wiped out – making us even now.

After the sunset and some scoops, we went to the front desk of our resort for some fire starters. We were craving smores and some time in front of a warm campfire. Of course we’re amateurs and didn’t use the fire starters correctly, so my mom grabbed a lighter from home. After smore laughs (see what I did there?) we called it a night.

The next day, we headed north about 20 miles to Saugatuck Dunes State Park – a place where I’ve taken Linley once before. It has a beautiful hiking trail to one of the prettiest dog beaches in Michigan, full of sand dunes and warm water. Although the weather wasn’t as sunny or warm as the first day, we enjoyed some our time lounging, hiking and people watching on the beach. After a few hours of that, we made grilled cheese over the fire for a later lunch, then repeated our first day by revisiting Pilgrim Haven and the lighthouse before the rain came in.

Instead of my mom wiping out again, we walked the pier and met some really friendly people along the way. Once we were near the car, it started to rain and we headed back to our resort for the evening. Even though it would’ve been great to see another sunset, we were content with calling it a day and playing cards in the room. The funniest part is when my mom wanted us to look at all the rocks we found from Pilgrim Haven. She pulled out this huge stone and said, “And here’s yours!” I, dumbfounded, said, “That’s not mine, it’s yours…” She used the rock to hold our sheet down in the sand, and had been carrying it around in her beach bag for two days! What a goof…

Sunday, our last day together, we pretty lowkey. It was another overcast day, but still nice enough to have a lazy morning and do some hiking. We found a nice trail nearby, where Linley made a new friend and peed on everything his heart desired. It was bittersweet because as nice as our walk was, I knew our weekend together was coming to an end. We wrapped up our two-mile hike with Linley not wanting to ride in his bike basket, and jumping out of it in the parking lot!

In 2020, we had taken two trips up north: Empire and Petoskey. In 2021, we had a falling out due to tension between my brother and me – with whom I still don’t have a relationship. Being able to spend time with my mom again this summer really meant a lot to me, and I hope we continue to navigate our relationship and a better path forward!

I want to live like Linley

…try saying that five times fast! 😂

Lin and his new friend/doppelgänger, Bowie!

Linley makes friends wherever he goes, is content being lazy inside or exploring outside, and loves life in all its simplicity.

He’s always up for an adventure!
Another Lake Michigan sunset 🧡
Mocking Lin’s poses
A new illustrative tattoo of my little guy ❤️

I thoroughly enjoyed my Memorial Day weekend with this little guy—and am looking forward to more summer adventures together!

Media taken May 27-June 1, 2022

Warm Weather, Warm Heart

Spending so much time outdoors last week made me exponentially happier 💛

Linley and I spent five days at the dog beach, including one morning at sunset. We also met some new neighbors on our block – both human and dog! – and enjoyed some lemonade stands along our afternoon walks. These kids are gets salespeople around here! Chasing Lin at the beach and watching him play with other dogs and kids was incredibly heartwarming—and exactly what I needed 🙂

Here are several photos and videos from our week:

Missing Montana

During Linley’s and my road trip to Washington state last month, we passed through Montana. I’ve heard from a few friends who have been there how beautiful Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park and Whitefish are, but never expected to feel like I was back in Norway—or even in a place like Alaska. Montana blew me away in natural beauty.

Linley being too salty to appreciate the view!
Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

What blew me away even more was the kindness of its residents. I stayed at three Airbnb’s (two heading west, and one on the way home to Chicago) and everyone was incredibly gracious. And yes, I know that Airbnb hosts “need” to be kind, but these Montanans weren’t just hospitable—they were true, “salt of the earth” people who treated you like family from the start.

My favorite Airbnb was our first one in Billings. Our hosts, Jennifer and her dog Izzy, were two of the greatest hosts I’ve ever stayed with (and I’ve been using Airbnb in Europe since 2014!). I enjoyed my time with them more than anything. It was especially nice after a LONG multiple-day drive without many people to talk with, excluding Linley who wanted nothing to do with my bad singing 😂

The only downside of my trip is that I woke up with a nasty head cold the next day (not covid, thank goodness!). Jennifer was so kind and took Linley and Izzy on a walk down by the river because my head felt like a bowling ball. Again, reiterating how amazing and warmly I was treated there. ❤️

This week has been a struggle: learning a new role in a new industry AND at a new company, my marriage falling apart, my happiness in Chicago fleeting, a major fight with my mom and resurfaced PTSD, a general sense of not being able to find my footing… it’s been draining to say the least. But I’m grateful for my road trip memories and want to think about positive moments that have occurred recently. I hope to make and find more of these memories soon…

If you’re ever considering visiting Montana – or are simply passing through – please reach out and I can send you my Airbnb info and travel highlights from Billings, Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake and Helena.

Linley enjoying our Airbnb in Billings!

Photos taken Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Welcomed by Washington

Linley’s and my final destination was Washington state—to spend quality time with our friend Bethany for a long weekend. We were graciously welcomed by her, the wilderness surrounding us, light breeze and warm sunshine every day of our visit.

Our weekend together was worth all the money for gas and Airbnbs, time on the road across numerous states and nasty head cold I caught along the way. Having Linley and Bethany finally meet in person was beyond touching—and of course I’d missed her immensely, too!

Until next time, Washington 🙂

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram:

@westiepoo.linley and @adventureinspades

Media taken Wednesday, April 20 through Sunday, April 24, 2022

Asheville Waterfalls

In 2014, I saw some of the largest, most beautiful waterfalls in Asheville, North Carolina. During my most recent visit (I returned to Chicago with Linley late last night), I knew I had to revisit DuPont State Forest—and finally see Looking Glass Falls.

DuPont State Forest is a free, extremely large park with multiple trails and options for everyone to enjoy. Linley and I wanted to spend the majority of our time at High Falls—arguably the most magnificent of the bunch. I distinctly remember this from my first time in Asheville nearly eight years ago, and haven’t been able to forget it ever since. We hiked down to the river beneath the falls, found a great rock to sit on and enjoyed some quality time together.

Once Linley started getting antsy, we started to head east to get a better, closer view of the falls. The trek wasn’t necessarily the safest, but Lin and I were able to practice some fancy footwork and find a good spot to enjoy the mist from the falls.

Once we were pretty covered in sprinkles, we headed north and hiked another hour or so to Grassy Lake Falls—another waterfall in the park. This fall is significantly smaller, but much more peaceful and tranquil, making it the perfect spot for a quick picnic. There was a big rock that seemed like it was made specifically for Lin and me. We munched on some cheese sandwiches and dog food, and relaxed before the next hike.

On our way back to the visitor’s center, we met a lovely couple and chatted with them for a bit—which is one of the many reasons why I love the Asheville area so much. Linley even started to fall asleep as we visited with them! We finally made it to the car, and headed north to Looking Glass Falls.

Looking Glass Falls sits halfway between Asheville and DuPont State Forest, and is one waterfall I’ve always wanted to see. It’s not necessarily a “hike,” but it is a beautiful place to park your car, walk down toward and hang out for a little while. Linley and I sat in a “sandbank” type area with the best view of the falls, people watched and enjoyed hearing the sounds of the waterfall and the creek flowing near us.

I’m beyond grateful to have visited some of my favorite places with one of my best friends 😀

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram westiepoo.linley and adventureinspades

Media taken Wednesday, April 13