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

Montrose Dog Beach in videos and photos

Linley and I have enjoyed many mornings at the Montrose Dog Beach in Chicago, and we wanted to go every morning last week. The 5:30am wake ups were totally worth it because we arguably had the best views of the sunrise to date—especially last Wednesday and Thursday.

Here are some videos and photos to better tell the story of these magnificent views!

Tuesday, August 30

Wednesday, August 31

Thursday, September 1

Friday, September 2

Warren Dunes State Park

A few years ago while I was unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic, I took a Linley on a spontaneous trip to new dog beach and some beautiful hiking trails along Lake Michigan. Since then, this has been one of our favorite places to visit. While heading to my parents house over the weekend, we decided to take another last-minute trip there — which was much needed for both of us.

I was worried when we first got there because it looked a little overcast and started to rain slightly, but during the nearly four hours we were there it was sunny and warm the entire time. Linley loved being in the water no matter how cold it was, and we both really enjoyed hiking the dunes nearby. We spent most of the afternoon laying on the towel or in the sand watching the waves in the other dogs and people go by. It’s no wonder he’s my favorite little adventure buddy!

Linley and I both enjoyed the sand in our toes and the sun on our faces. I look forward to more August camping and beach day adventures with my little guy!

Media taken Saturday, August 13, 2022

Kayaking in Chicago

Crystal and I were finally able to get on the river and kayak downtown last weekend. When I say we had the best time and shared tons of laughs, I’m not kidding! We walked around downtown with our Vitamin Waters and Kettle One peach vodka mixes and headed to Urban Kayak. We were definitely the rule-breakers and tipsiest ones out there – and we may or may not have been reprimanded a couple times – but had the best time and really needed it.

After kayaking, we took ourselves to Caffe Oliva, a beach restaurant right on Lake Michigan with the best view of the city. We instantly felt like we were transported to Miami or something, and of course grabbed another peach vodka cran.

Crystal and I have both been struggling with relationships – and our dynamic with Chicago lately, due to said relationships – and really needed a girls day and quality time together. We’re going through heartache now, but we’ll both be okay in the end. ❤

Photos taken Sunday, July 31, 2022

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!

Feels like summer in Chicago

There’s something really magical about June in Chicago. It’s sunny, warm with a nice breeze from Lake Michigan, not too humid… it’s magical. Some of my favorite, childhood summer memories took place here and it’s been great to relive some of these experiences in adulthood.

Montrose Beach

This should come as no surprise to those of you who have read my recent posts, but I’ve been loving the sunrise and sunsets on Lake Michigan with Linley.

Comedy!

My all-time favorite thing to do in big cities is see a comedy show. Improv, stand up… it doesn’t matter as long as I’m laughing and having a good time. I’ve been to Second City, Laugh Factory and Zanie’s lately and have no plans to slow down.

Kayaking

Being out on the water has always been one of my favorite summertime activities, and doing this with such an amazing view can’t be beat. My friend Jes visited from North Carolina over the weekend, and we had to kayak in Lincoln Park!

Festivals

Chicago is home to some of the best summertime festivals, including a super fun Midsommar Swedish festival that took place in Andersonville a couple weeks ago!

Riverwalk

Chicago’s Riverwalk is so much fun, especially when I take Linley and we grab some gelato on the way home!

Baseball

I’m not the most athletic or sports-orientated person, but there’s something about going to a baseball game and sitting under the sunshine that’s so much fun! Jes and I enjoyed some Wrigleyville brunch and a fun Cubs game at Wrigley Field against the Braves.

Millennium Park

A quintessential part of Chicago! Tourist or resident, you can’t say that you’ve seen the city without taking an obligatory stroll through Millennium Park.

Media taken June, 2022

Light in the Darkness: Chicago Riverwalk and Dog Beach Day

First and foremost: thank you to those who read my latest post and left beautiful, compassionate comments. Opening up about my mental health was scary and messy and awkward—but incredibly necessary.

It’s increasingly difficult to remain positive during personal and circumstantial times like these: yesterday’s horrific school shooting in Texas, my closest friends suffering from burnout and depression—while I’m trying to be there, suffering the same sorts of feelings, my car had to be towed a couple nights ago, leaving Juan, Linley and I stranded and taking a Lyft back home, family-related anxiety, work ramping up… But I do want to focus on the positives while acknowledging the heartaches.

Last Thursday, my friend Andrea and I took Linley on a four-mile stroll along Chicago’s infamous Riverwalk. He absolutely loves it, as do we. We spent a few hours walking, talking, laughing and ended our time together with some much-needed gelato and ice cold water.

Last Friday, I took Linley to our local dog beach (clearly our favorite spot!) and we had a great time. Lin was playing in the sand bar, pulling on his leash, whining and “talking” with the other pups… it was such a great afternoon! But the rain suddenly approached the beach—creating swirls in the water and the temperature to suddenly drop by 20° at least. Between Lin grabbing leaves from the lake and the rain on our way to the car, he was soaked!

In no way is this intended to minimize what’s going on in the United States, my friends’ lives, my life… but rather a reminder that there is hope and that I always need to find light in the darkness. 🤍

Media taken Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, 2022

A very “Chicago weekend”

Week one of work is in the books—and so far so good! But admittedly, working after going seven weeks without it took extra focus and determination, leading to feeling extremely tired after a long week of onboarding. This, as well as some personal things, made me excited for a nice, “Chicago weekend.”

And by that, I mean good food downtown, a comedy show and a fun afternoon at the Montrose Dog Beach.

We stayed in and watched some comedy while munching on McDonalds fries and Chicago Diner vegan shakes on Friday evening. Saturday morning started off with a nice, warm morning walk followed by driving downtown and grabbing Mediterranean food at Ema (10/10 would recommend). After stuffing our faces, we walked around West Loop a little before heading back home. Linley was so cute on our late afternoon/early evening walk because he wanted to head into every restaurant and bar in Wrigleyville! 😂

While we were at lunch, Juan and I decided to book comedy club tickets for that evening, so after Lin’s and my walk, we got ready to laugh some more. Listening to three hilarious comedians, including fellow Michigan native Steve Iott, while drinking some cucumber lime martinis couldn’t have made for a better night!

Channeling my inner Midge Maisel

Sunday morning was a little more lazy; we ordered breakfast in and hung out before heading to the beach in the afternoon. Linley enjoyed himself at the dog beach, and seeing him have so much fun made our day, too! He’s the best… 🙂

My evening ended with a great phone call with one of my closest friends, and some Survivor before heading to bed.

Don’t forget to follow Linley on Instagram! westiepoo.linley 🐶

Photos taken Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, 2022

Life’s a (dog) beach!

My beloved dog-turned-best friend, Linley, and I are blessed to live so close to the most popular dog beach in Chicago.

Note: “Close” in Chicago terms means either ~an hour walk, or a ten minute walk plus two train stops followed by another twenty minute walk (Or an 11-minute drive…).

Regardless, it’s nice being so close to what we love: Lake Michigan, the sand and the sun!

I’m taking a little sabbatical from work—giving Linley and I more opportunity for fun in the sun. Over the past five days, we’ve gone to the dog beach twice. Watching Linley smile and make new friends, prance around the shore, get the zoomies in the sand and let the sun hit his face instantly warms my heart. I forget about all my problems when I’m around him 💛

On Monday, my friend Andrea met us at the beach—followed by a lovely stroll around Uptown, her soon-to-be new condo and an outdoor dinner. We ordered burgers (mine was vegan of course!) and I asked for a plate of grilled chicken for the little guy. Linley was such a good boy—per usual. I’m also lucky that he’s great on long walks and the CTA trains.

Photos and videos taken Wednesday, March 16 and Monday, March 21

Craving Cascais

Cascais, one of Portugal’s most beautiful beach towns, was a must-visit on our week-long adventure. Although Lisbon was my favorite of the three cities, Dani and I were craving the sun, sand and sea that Portugal had to offer.

After an exhausting morning of travel mishaps, we were ready to do absolutely nothing on the beach. We walked down beautiful winding roads toward the shore, where there were tons of authentic restaurants and tourist traps ready to be explored. Past that was a smaller, somewhat crowded beach, but we found a secluded spot to lay our towels and our heads for a little while.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to hear the sounds of the water crashing on the cliffs around us, people speaking different languages again and feeling the sun on my cheeks (cheeks on my face that is — it wasn’t “that” kind of beach!) 😂

Dani wanted time to herself, but I wanted to eventually get in the water. It was cold, refreshing and was exactly what I needed. Ever since I was a little kid, I loved the cold water because it gave me an instant rush and felt like comforting bath water after a little while. I’m not sure if it gives me a “nostalgic” feeling per se, but being in the water is my happy place. Dani woke up and took some candid photos — which is normally a cringeworthy idea for me — but I felt good about myself and figured I should embrace the feelings I had that day.

Although I was soaking wet, we had a lovely dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. It was nice to sit and talk about absolutely nothing as we enjoyed some spicy food. Soon afterward we wandered around and explored some cute shops, including a gelato place we were aiming to check out on our way back. The sunset was too good to miss, and we even met some Swedish women with the most adorable dog — instantly bringing me back to my study abroad days. All in all this was the most relaxing, peaceful evening of the trip, which was much needed for both of us. We shared some laughs, grabbed some gelato and moseyed our way back to the apartment.

Little did I know my entire trip home was about to change. I had a COVID test-related scare based on my airline and it honestly put me in a spiral. I had to call Juan and everything… foreshadowing to what was probably my worst travel experience to date. But in the spirit of positivity, everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and I was able to calm myself down to enjoy my last evening with Dani.

I was deeply saddened that Dani wouldn’t be spending the last night back in Lisbon with me, but I did enjoy the time we had together. It was a great vacation full of culture, exploration, getting lost together and meeting the coolest strangers-turned-friends along the way ☺️

Photos taken Monday, September 20, 2021

Sunset on Grand Traverse Bay

After some much-needed beach time in Empire, Michigan, our little fam visited Traverse City and explored downtown. We enjoyed some food truck eats – which obviously included some ice cream for the pup!

My favorite part about walking around downtown was that Linley and I had been there the evening before, yet he was so excited and acted like everything was brand new. Linley was smiling, pulling and panting the whole time! It’s the little things he does that bring me so much joy ☺️

The three of us enjoyed one last sunset on Grand Traverse Bay, for now at least. This was our last up north trip in Michigan for the summer, and I appreciated our time snuggling on the beach more than ever. We listened to the waves crash against the shore, watched an air balloon travel past us and saw the sky change from blue to orange before heading home.

Photos taken on Saturday, June 19, 2021

Our Favorite Dog Beach

Dogs beaches are a pain in the butt to find in southeast Michigan – mainly because there aren’t any. I’ve ‘broken the rules’ by taking Linley to a few beaches in the Detroit area before, but I would rather hit up the west side of the state for the best views (and to avoid the risk of getting in trouble!).

For three years in the row, either with my husband or with my mom, we’ve taken Linley hiking on the Empire Bluff Trail followed by lounging at Empire Beach. The beach is smaller and the water is choppier, but it never impacts the amount of fun that we have here. And yes, the water was freezing – which never stops me from swimming underwater (so exhilarating!) It also doesn’t stop Linley from trying to eat the waves 😂

Photos taken on Saturday, June 19, 2021