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

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

Sunrise > Sunset

One major perk of living on the east side of Chicago is seeing the sunrise over Lake Michigan!

There’s something really beautiful and special about a sunrise. Sunsets are pretty and all, but it symbolizes the end of something, whereas sunrises are the start of a new day—and being awake before the rest of the city is something to cherish.

To make things even better, I get to cherish these moments with Linley. What a perfect start to both our days!

Media taken Wednesday, August 24, 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

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

Sunrise at Montrose Dog Beach

There’s nothing like putting your toes in the cool sand and hearing the waves of Lake Michigan at sunrise.

My favorite time to take Linley to our favorite dog beach is early in the morning during the week—when it’s practically all for ourselves. He loves to play with other dogs but can get overwhelmed when it’s crowded, so watching him run and play before I begin my workday is equally rewarding for me.

And the view certainly doesn’t hurt, either! ☺️

Media taken Tuesday, August 2, 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

“Makin’ waves” in Indiana

Last weekend I needed a little break from the hustle and bustle of the city, so I ‘ventured over to Indiana Dunes National Park with Linley. We spent the late afternoon and early evening at a dog-friendly beach and did some light hiking before heading home. Sometimes spontaneous “get in the car, bud!” kind of trips are the best 🙂

Media taken on Saturday, July 16, 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!

It’s a walk in the (dog) park

Something that always brought Linley and me joy was hanging out at the dog park. We’re a 45-minute walk to the dog beach (which really takes over an hour with all the times Lin has to mark his territory) and about a 20-minute walk from our local dog park here in Chicago. It’s great to be close to a dog park, but boy do we miss our old one in Troy, Michigan!

The Daisy Knight Dog Park felt like such a sense of community for both Linley and me: long-lasting conversations with strangers-turned-friends and their dogs, Linley getting all the love from neighborhood kids and other dogs… but here feels so different. The past two times we’ve went to the dog park here, we haven’t really been welcomed. Granted, there are a few nice people who say hi and make small talk, but overall it doesn’t bring the same welcomeness that I’ve/we’ve felt in the past.

But Linley and I remain persistent and positive! We always make the most of it, arrive and leave with smiles on our faces, and enjoy the quality time we have on our long walks together.

“Sun’s out, tongue’s out!”

Once my car’s back from the shop (TBD), hopefully we can hit the beach instead 😉

Photos taken Thursday, May 26, 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