15 Death-Defying Hiking Trails And Cliff Diving Spots For Adventure Junkies

By SJ Baxter

When we think of vacations, we often consider the beach, amusement parks, or even just staying at home and lounging on the bed or sofa.

For others, however, especially for people who love going out on an adventure, going extreme is just the thing to make their vacation fun and memorable.

The goal? Find the next destination that can give them a shot of adrenaline that is legal, painless, and preferably drug-free.

Whether you are the lounge-around-type of person or the extreme-sports junkie, you can end up having fun while appreciating life by visiting these death-defying hiking trails and cliff diving spots!


Nausea-Inducing Hiking Trails

Time to dust off your signature sneakers and your age-old sleeping bag from the basement. Heaven knows you need both to keep yourself safe and warm while hiking through these famous trails. And while you are at it, be sure that you have high-quality tents just in case you’d love to stay overnight in these places. Won’t that be a great idea?


#1. Mount Hua Shan, China

Fancy an authentic Chinese tea at the top of a mountain after a wonderful hike? With this trail, you can do both. With only planks suspended at the side of Mount Huashan plus chain links serving as a handrail, pilgrims and extreme sports enthusiasts alike love to take a visit every year.

It’s not all futile, though. At the end of the trail, a Daoist temple that has been around since 2nd century BCE and also served as a home for monks and nuns can be found. Worth the trip, most tourists say.


#2. Bright Angel Trail, Arizona

This trail is one of the many hiking trails established for hikers who want to experience traversing the Grand Canyon. It is around 9.9 miles long and elevations can go from 2,480 feet (Colorado River) to 6,860 feet (South Rim, the starting point).

The strenuous trail has been open for camping and hiking to the general public which can be an opportunity to enjoy the flora and fauna. One important rule though?do NOT feed the squirrels.


#3. Mt. Washington, New Hampshire

This mountain is NOT for the faint of heart. Although relatively short (6,288 feet) according to experienced hikers, the wind speed and the weather all throughout the year are the primary reasons why deaths are common in the area. These obstacles are proven to be a good practice area for climbers who plan to go mountaineering at Mt. Everest.


#4. Longs Peak, Colorado

This mountain summit is located at the northern Front range of the Rocky Mountains. It boasts of 14,259 feet elevation and four trails; each with varying difficulties and weather conditions.

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Longs Peak, Colorado

If you want a straightforward, easy hike, pick the Clark’s Arrow and the Shelf Trail and the East Longs Peak Trail. But if you prefer a bit of difficulty (with the guidance of a professional hiker in the area, of course), go for the Longs Peak Trail.


#5. West Coast Trail, Vancouver

Also known as the Dominion Lifesaving Trail, this 47-mile traverse is only open during May to September. Hiking at off-seasons cannot guarantee that you are safe and people would come running if they realized that you are nowhere to be found.


#6. Abram Falls, Tennessee

Witness the fusion of the elements of water and earth as you traverse this 5.2-mile trail that runs near Abram Creek and passes by the 20-foot Abram Falls and is found at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

And before you ask; no, hikers are discouraged to take a plunge to the magnificent waterfall because of the strong currents and undertows. You are free to breathe in the fresh air and admire the view, though.


#7. Kokoda Trail, Papua New Guinea

This seemingly underrated trail is not just an ordinary pathway within thickets of trees and rivers?it also is a silent witness to numerous World War II battles between Australians (back then, the colonizers of Papua New Guinea) and Japanese forces.

Even as you hike along the 60-mile trail, you can see remnants of weapons, helmets, and other debris along the way. Because of its rich history, hikers of all ages come not just for an adventure but to see the aftermath of a war that happened more than 50 years ago.

If you plan to put this in your itinerary list, we ask you to employ the services of KoTrek, a company that supports the tour guides who are natives of the place. Aside from the relatively low cost it offers, it aids the locals in the vicinity by giving them a source of livelihood. Besides, who else is better at guiding you across the whole trail than the people who live there all their lives?


#8. North Cape, Norway

Knivskjelloden (or North Cape if you can’t pronounce the local name) is actually a peninsula found at the municipality of Nordkapp in Norway.

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North Cape, Norway

The top, which is considered to be the “northernmost point of Europe” can only be reached by walking through an 11-mile trail filled with moss, vegetation, and sharp rocks. The spectacular view at the end of it all, though, is worth the exercise.


Cliff-Diving for the Brave

Wanna take your swimming adventures to a whole new level? Then try these death-defying cliff diving destinations found in different parts of the world. Water slides, who?


#9. Ponte Brolla, Switzerland

This famous cliff diving spot is found in a small quaint village in Ticino, Switzerland. The cliff boasts of 80-foot long dive from the top of the valley down to the cool, clear waters. Because of the staggering distance, only professional divers are allowed to showcase their somersaults and diving techniques.

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Ponte Brolla, Switzerland

This does not mean you cannot go here even though you are a first-timer. The annual European Cliff Diving Championship sponsored by the World High Diving Federation is usually held here, and people, young and old, are invited to watch and learn from the experts!


#10. Hell’s Gate, Possum Kingdom Lake, USA

Think that Ponte Brolla is too high already? Then you have not seen this one yet. Cliff diving in Hell’s Gate means jumping down at 92 feet at a whopping 85 kilometers per hour!

The name originated from the way the rock forms were positioned; both cliffs face each other like an open sliding door. One of the rock formations has a downward diagonal edge that is made up of sharp, shaggy rocks. Because of the danger and the height, only professional divers who are participants in the annual Red Bull Cliff Diving Championships are allowed to jump off the cliffs.


#11. Azores, Portugal

Another Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship location, this cliff was a product of nature; it is a portion of a crater of a submerged volcano that has long been dormant.

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Azores, Portugal

The 88-foot rock formation is safe for cliff diving professionals and enthusiasts. And while it is not yet your turn to take a jump, you can do a bit of whale watching on top.


#12. Tar Creek Falls, California

To enjoy this one, you might have to take the hike up the 70-foot waterfall before jumping down the water. Calculate the leap carefully, though; most outcroppings of the rocks beneath may be enough to end your life.

But don’t worry, the lake below will catch you. Also, try visiting during the spring. You may find the lake all dried up otherwise.


#13. Angora Lakes, Nevada

Another 70-feet cliff diving location, the Angora Lakes in Nevada is the home of two freshwater lakes?the Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe. During the summer season, the cliff is flocked with tourists who want to experience leaping all the way down to the two famous lakes.


#14. Poco de Diablo, Brazil

Most tourists travel to Brazil because of their sandy beaches and amazing nightlife. But what most people do not know is its hidden cliff diving gem?the mystical black (Yes, black!) lake surrounded by cliffs at every turn.

Not many details are provided because it is grossly underrated but some cliff divers who experienced the place can attest that it is safe for first-timer cliff divers to try.


#15. Kimberley, Australia

Another perfect but underrated cliff diving location is from Kimberley, Australia. Although dubbed as one of the best cliff diving spots in the entire world, only professional divers are allowed to jump down its treacherous rock formation made of limestone.

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Kimberley, Australia

Whether you prefer to pack hiking boots, sleeping bags, and a tent or to go all out in wearing your newly-bought swimwear, make your summer season extra special by trying something you have not done yet.


You only live once, after all. So cross out the hiking adventure and cliff diving experience off your bucket list by paying a visit on one (or all!) of these wonderful sites!


Different International Driving Styles & How to Prepare

Different International Driving Styles 1

By Laura Arroyave

While many travellers utilize tour services or public transportation while abroad, some choose a slightly different route. Several companies offer travellers the option to rent private vehicles to navigate the region instead. Renting a car can be a great way to explore the area like a local. This transportation method also provides the added benefit of a little privacy and freedom to set the pace.

When it comes to driving in foreign countries, it’s important to be mindful of unique driving styles and attitudes. In some areas of the world, even the steering wheel sits on a different side of the vehicle. Each country has its own approach to enforcement of traffic laws as well, and understanding this will help you navigate the streets with ease. Knowing what to expect before you get behind the wheel (whichever side of the car it’s on), is the key to having a safe and positive driving experience during your trip.


Driving on the Other Side of the Road

Driving on the opposite side of the road is often the first different style that comes to mind. In most countries, drivers must operate their vehicles on the right side of the road while on two-way streets. This is known as right-hand traffic. However certain places like Great Britain and Australia stick to the left side of the road while driving. Referred to as left-hand traffic, this style of driving is even utilized in specific cities. For example, in Hong Kong drivers use the left side of the road, while drivers in the mainland of China use the right.

The thought of driving on the opposite side of the road in a foreign country can be intimidating, and may cause you to reconsider your transportation plans. The hardest part of learning this driving style is simply remembering to stay on the correct side of the street. Luckily, there are usually plenty of other cars on the road to follow. If you pay attention to the cars around you and practice safe driving skills, you can learn to drive anywhere with relative ease.


Driving on the Other Side of the Car

The side of the road that drivers use often affects the cars they drive as well. Countries that rely on left-hand traffic generally have vehicles that correspond with this driving style. Rather than sitting on the left, drivers in left-hand traffic countries sit on the right side to operate a vehicle. As a result, the gear shift is located to the left of the steering wheel. This can be confusing if you are used to driving on the other side of the car.

Luckily, you don’t have to pay much attention to the gear shift if you rent a car with an automatic transmission. The most important aspect of this driving style is learning the dimensions of the car from a different perspective. You can easily practice this at home in your driveway by sitting in the passenger seat and familiarizing yourself with the new position. On the other hand, learning to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission this way may require more effort.


Manual Transmissions

Automatic transmissions have become the norm in places like the United States, but this is not the case everywhere. Some countries still rely heavily on vehicles with manual transmissions, otherwise known as “stick shifts.” This is important to keep in mind if you plan to drive on your trip for several reasons.

First, driving a manual transmission takes more effort than an automatic. If you have never driven a stick shift before, it’s not a good idea to start while you’re on vacation. You will need to practice thoroughly beforehand to ensure your safety while driving abroad. Second, you may face difficulties if you have to drive on the opposite side of the car even if you have prior experience with stick shifts. This will also take getting used to with some practice.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to prepare for these driving conditions. Many private companies offer classes where you learn how to drive a stick shift with the help of an instructor. Sign up for a course and give yourself plenty of time to practice before you hit the road.


Strict Enforcement

Traffic laws are different in every country, as are the levels of enforcement. In general, it’s important to follow driving laws no matter where you are, to stay safe and avoid tickets. However, some countries are stricter about driving laws than others. While you might be able to get away with going a few miles over the speed limit at home, that is not always the case when you are driving abroad.

This seems to be especially true in countries that rely more heavily on other forms of transportation, as there are fewer vehicles on the road. To avoid facing penalties while on your trip, make sure to familiarize yourself with the traffic laws in the countries you are travelling to. Research the local policies on topics like:

  • Road signs.
  • Basic road rules.
  • Speed limits.
  • Use of headlights.
  • Cellphone use.

You can contact the DMV or the embassy to find out about more about international driving practices. That way, you can gain the knowledge you need before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country.


Aggressive Driving

The driving culture among motorists tends to vary based on the country, and this can massively affect your driving experiences. In some places, enforcement of traffic laws is much more lax than others. You may find that the driving laws you researched are sometimes ignored by the drivers around you. At the same time, attitudes towards other drivers may be more aggressive than you are used to. This is usually true in areas with a large population and frequent traffic congestion.

With all this in mind, it’s important to research the driving culture as well as the traffic laws for wherever you plan to drive. That way, you know what to expect from other drivers and can react accordingly. Knowing what to watch out for is an important part of becoming a safe driver, no matter where you travel.


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Baby is ready for Camping, are you?

Baby is ready for camping 1

By Allison Barfield

Now that baby is finally here and you’re enjoying your maternity/paternity leave, you might be hearing the call of the wild with twinges to return to the woods. As an avid hiker or camper, you probably want to bring your baby out the trails with you to benefit from all the wonder that nature has to provide.

However, sometimes the call of the wild can be silenced with the incredibly common concern of age. Many parents worry that their infant is too young to go camping while wondering when they’ll finally be old enough.


When Can Baby Go Camping?

The answer to that question doesn’t actually involve your baby’s age. Your baby is ready to go camping whenever you are. Just make sure you have physically recovered from giving birth, which takes an average of six to eight weeks.

Once you feel ready to return to your favorite campsite, there’s no reason not to bring baby along. In fact, it can actually be easier to take an infant camping than a toddler because it involves less work. Although, keep in mind camping with your children at any age is an extremely rewarding, bonding experience.

Infants are less mobile than toddlers, therefore easier to keep an eye on. You will most likely not turn around to find them rolling in or eating dirt. With a toddler, it’s good to bring a playpen for them to hang out in, but you don’t need to pack one for an infant.

Depending on how your baby sleeps, you may not have to bring a bed or sleeping pad either. Some babies are happy campers in their own car seats and have no problem taking naps or sleeping through the night. Just remember to bring your baby’s favorite item associated with sleep such as their favorite blanket or plush to comfort them.

If your baby is still breastfeeding then you have fewer snacks and meals to worry about. Simply feed your baby according to his/her regular schedule. Be sure to have distilled water to clean your breast pump and bottles if you use these items during your trip.

Babies are also very easy to entertain on camping trips. While you may get to interact more with your toddler and play games, infants are happy simply soaking in the environment. They like to look up at swaying branches and enjoy the scenery during hikes and canoe trips.

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Tips For Baby’s First Trip

Once you’re ready to take baby with you on camping adventures remember these important tips for their  first trip:

  • Start off small. You don’t want to overdo it during your baby’s first camping trip. Don’t fill your days up with too many activities. Let your baby peacefully adjust to their new environment and try to stick to their regular nap routine.
  • Bring layers to prevent your baby from getting too hot or cold during the trip as the temperatures rise during the day and suddenly drop during the night. Give your baby a bath during to day to prevent it from getting too cold at night and stay shaded and hydrated during extremely hot afternoons.
  • It’s okay to call it quits. If you need to pack up and leave in the middle of the night, don’t worry about it. Go home and do what’s best for your baby. You can learn from what went wrong to better prepare for next time.
  • Be prepared for extra work. You have more stuff to carry than usual, plus a baby to take care of. Carrying extra supplies and caring for an infant can be exhausting. Give yourself extra time to for each activity and invite a relative or friend along on the trip to help.
  • Remember to take care of yourself. If you become dehydrated, hangry, or sick then your trip could become a disaster. Drink enough water, bring enough snacks, and take advantage of breaks.

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Happy Trails

As long as you feel ready to get back to your tent, then your baby is ready to go to. Babies and toddlers love camping, so the sooner they can start, the better. It’s a relaxing yet exciting adventure for the whole family and you’ll enjoy seeing your children appreciate nature for same reasons you do.

The Gear Can Wait

The Gear Can Wait 1

By Kristi Westberg

The Gear Can Wait 2Who doesn’t love a trip to REI? When I walk in the store I get this invincible, adventurous, go out and get’em feelin that makes me want to do crazy things like hike the PCT or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  First they seduce you with a pitched tent right at the door then the rest of the store bamboozles you into purchasing a new water filtration system, special breathable underwear or an artisanal bag of dehydrated camp food.

Don’t get me wrong I LOVE going there…but my bank account lets out a tiny scream when I enter the store. The thing that keeps bringing me back again and again is the knowledgeable staff. During my most recent visit I eavesdropped on an associate teaching a family about camp stoves. Then I tried on some hiking pants. And I rounded things out with a solid lesson on the various types of water filters and purification systems they currently sell. Everytime I walk out of the store I feel a tiny bit smarter.

As I made my way to the register I had the pleasure of being helped by a gentleman who we’ll call Mark. As Mark was scanning my purchases he asked me if I had a trip coming up. I said I was working up to backpacking, but wasn’t quite sure where my first trip would take me yet.

In response he leaned in and whispered, “don’t tell anyone, but I’ve actually never been camping or backpacking”.

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Neighborhood walks

We laughed about it and then he let me know my total. My face must have given away my shock because he followed his comment up by saying that he hasn’t gone camping because getting the gear is so expensive.

This comment struck me as true and really sad.

If I could say one thing to the people who aren’t getting outside because of cost I would say, start small and just go. You don’t need special shoes, high-tech clothing or a fancy pair of trekking poles to hike. All of that gear can wait.

The first step to getting outside is to GO OUTSIDE. The outdoors are all around us. There’s no need to drive for hours to a national or state park to be outdoors. Take a walk around your neighborhood or in a city park. Even when you live in a densely populated urban area you can get outside.

The key is to open your mind to what “outside” means. If you want to be technical about it, outside is simply a space beyond an enclosure. The moment you step out of your house, your car, work or school you are in the outdoors. Once you start paying greater attention to the world around you and you will start to notice new pathways, plants, bugs and animals.

The Gear Can Wait 4This is pretty much how I started getting outside. Before moving to California I lived in Massachusetts. Back then I was mostly a gym rat, but occasionally on a crisp fall day I would take a walk. These walks were mostly around the streets near my apartment….I wouldn’t want to stray too far, I was indoorsy, what if I got lost?! So I walked. I slowly increased my distance. I enjoyed looking at all of the New England houses (as someone who grew up in Texas the colonials and Cape Cods were new and exciting). I listened to the leaves blow in the wind and the birds singing. Yes, there were car noises, lawn mowers and the occasional leaf blower, but I enjoyed my time outside.

The Gear Can Wait 5Once I’d exhausted all of my nearby streets I asked a coworker about local trails and she mentioned one just steps from my house. It was a pretty tame loop that amounted to roughly 3 miles from door to door. I started walking that loop in my sneakers and gym wear. No new equipment necessary. I jumped when twigs cracked, moved away from rustling bushes, and occasionally cursed at the bugs who refused to fly anywhere but in front of my face. I bought bug repellent. And I sprayed it on my hat.

Over the next several years I started hiking more. I got a little braver and a lot stronger. I bought a backpack and went on longer hikes. I made travel plans and visited state and national parks. Now I end up hiking several times a month, but until a few weeks ago I didn’t even own a proper pair of hiking shoes. And so I’ll say it again, all of the gear can wait. I’m a testament to this fact. I hiked for many years in my runners, jeans and a t-shirt. I hiked with my phone in my pocket and my water bottle in hand. And it was great!

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I got to go outside, appreciate nature, figure out how much I loved it and start saving for the gear I needed and the trips I was dreaming about. You don’t need to go broke to go outside, you just need to open your eyes to the beauty and be brave enough to start a new adventure.


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At the Grand Canyon!


The Very Real Benefits of Camping That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

Benefits of Camping That Shouldn't Be Overlooked 1

By Scarlet Gratton

Although you probably love your convenient coffeemaker, blow dryer, and Netflix, ridding yourself of all modern comforts and technology will provide you with an escape from the daily grind of life – something that we all truly need once in a while.

Besides going on an adventure and having fun, losing yourself in nature has very real health benefits. Below are only a few reasons why you should skip a fancy holiday this season and go camping instead.


Your stress, depression, and anxiety levels significantly decrease

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Research has shown that green spaces can decrease depression by up to 71%. This is due to several factors such as absorbing essential nutrients, spending time under the sun, eating healthier food, and simply allowing your mind and body to relax. Your days are simplified in terms of not having to impress anyone, worry about how you look or think about deadlines. Camping allows us to break free from the chaos of life, everyday stresses, and the constant worries that prevent a good night’s sleep, and instead enjoy the simplicity of nature. Additionally, camping trips strengthen social bonds, serving as a perfect opportunity to repair strained relationships, rebuild some bridges, and grow closer to the people who matter to you. Also, in this busy age where people are dependent on their phones for any and all forms of communication, camping is a rare and valuable opportunity to connect on a unique, deep level with new people as well.


You are finally unplugged

Although nowadays many campsites offer Wi-Fi services, most campers refuse to use it. In order to absorb all the benefits camping can offer, it is crucial to allow yourself to totally unplug and disconnect from your addictive habits of checking your social media accounts, reading the news, or replying to emails. Research shows that the decreases in constant exposure to over-stimulating technologies can encourage greater psychological and emotional health. You’re able to think and engage meaningfully away from screens full of distractions in order to come to terms with reality with a clear mind — and this benefit alone is priceless.


Your diet becomes healthier

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Camping limits your meal options, explicitly leaving out fast food and impulsive snacking. You will also have the chance to look for some fresh fruit or herbs in the surrounding environment or even go fishing for dinner. You can roast some potatoes or tomatoes, have some corn on the cob, or treat yourself to some toasted marshmallows while chatting with your camping fellow(s) at the campfire at the end of an eventful day.


You can get a good night’s sleep

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Thanks to the natural light sources around you, a day full of outdoor activities, and good-quality camping equipment, you’ll be able to sleep like a baby over the course of your camping trip. We’re almost continuously exposed to incandescent light and other artificial sources, which cause insomnia and low-quality sleep. Since nature’s yellow light triggers the production of melatonin at night, you will be able to sleep more soundly and fully.


You get much-needed exercise

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Even when seemingly not doing anything, your body is continuously active during outdoor exploring. There is exercise involved in getting everything prepared, setting up your tent, collecting wood for the fire, swimming, fishing, and more. You also find yourself taking part in various activities, from canoeing, hiking, and swimming to playing sports, bushwalking, or simply getting the fire started. Effectively whatever you do on your camping trip, you’re liable to be burning more calories than you would burn by sitting in an office.


You are challenged to try new things

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Each camping experience is unique and stimulating. It allows you to challenge yourself in new ways and explore alternatives sources of inspiration and exploration, helping develop your mind and body. Whether you are camping in the wilderness or in a designated campground, you will certainly find yourself crossing out some assorted items from your bucket list that you never imagined you would – or maybe even adding some new ones.


You reconnect with nature

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Being outside allows you to develop a greater appreciation for the world around you and a more intimate relationship with nature. You can finally free yourself from screens, flashing city lights, and tiring routines. Enjoy some genuinely quiet time listening to the gurgling of the river, chirping crickets, and the breeze rushing through the trees. And the best part comes when the sun goes down – good old stargazing.


You inhale fresh air

Getting some fresh, healthy air is a luxury today. This alone should be a good enough reason for you to get up, pack your backpack, and head to the nearest campsite.

Camping is an inexpensive but exciting way to travel and unquestionably one of the best ways to unwind while developing your brain and body all at once. It’s neither a glamorous kind of holiday nor is it about the comforts and ease that luxurious hotels can offer you, but that’s the beauty of it. So, dive into the healing powers of the wilderness and come back home refreshed, healthier, and happier.









Scarlet is a passionate writer and a regular contributor at ripped.me interested in fashion, lifestyle, and health. She loves travelling, you could say that she is a real travel addict, especially when she has a chance to visit some exotic destinations. She would tell you that inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places.


Dear Natalie: Oregon Lessons, Part 1

Ask Natalie Banner Dear Natalie: Who else does this? 

Dear Natalie,

Do you think we can learn from places?


Those who wander



Dear Wanderers,

I do.

In fact, I have Facebook evidence (we all know that if it’s on Facebook, it’s true). A little over a year ago, I had spiraled quite high into the Siskiyou Mountain Range along a rustic mountain road, and I noticed an arc above me. From either side of my car, the fir trees curved toward each other, as though their tops were kissing. The sunlight flittered downward like tinsel, and I had to brake and blink against the twinkling. Only a meter to my left, the road crumbled into tree trunks and steep, downward-careening mountainside; on the right, trees grew from rock, bowed and bent against the mountain.


Oregon Lessons Part 1 - 1


“Legit, I could open my car door and fall off this mountain,” I said to myself. I became aware of the stab of fear in my chest. I thought, To be this high off the ground is unnatural. A moment later, I gave it a second thought: Except people have been here before. Someone plowed this road. Thousands of people, probably, have pushed themselves up this mountain. Discovery – discovering new things – is arguably the most natural, most human thing one can do.

This experience, and the amazing hike I eventually took that day, made me consider some of the lessons I had learned from my relocation to Oregon. As I made my way home, I composed a mental list that later went on Facebook; a year after that, I reposted it.  Here, I share it again, with a little added commentary. I offer you…


Ten lessons I have learned in the 2+ 3+ years I’ve lived in Oregon:


  1. Driving on one-lane mountain “roads” that more closely resemble city park bike paths becomes less terrifying and strange over time.

 The road I described above was not the first, the last, or even the scariest Oregon road I’d driven. My ex-husband and I decided to take a drive to the coast. We took the GPS-recommended route there, which required driving south and west to go north, and that made no sense to my still-urban brain. “Modern engineering is a miracle!” I exclaimed on our way back home. “Certainly there’s a more direct route!” Sure enough, the GPS offered an alternate route, traversing the mountains along forest service roads. I noticed an open gate, used to block the road in winter, and an ominous sign about the road being unmaintained and unnavigable from November 1 – April 31. It was April 30. We’d be fine; I mean, the gate was open.


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I will spare you the details. The route we took is known as the “Bear Camp Coastal Route,” a moniker that sounds harmless, like it’s a beachy-fun path full of dancing, surfing Care Bears.  That’s not what we saw. However, it’s worth noting: We survived. We later learned others did not. (Seriously – Google it! The Wikipedia page mentions two deaths and “numerous motorists…stranded” on the route. Creepy.)

Anyway, my point is that nowadays, I am a lot better prepared for wilderness travel; I play it safe; and yet, I don’t abide by that fear. Traveling those roads has allowed me to see things I otherwise never would have seen. Which brings me to…


  1. With enough patience and enough travel along the aforementioned roads/bike paths, one might see the enormous, retreating butt of a black bear as she hightails it back into the woods.

People always get bear-a-noid. I do too. I don’t understand why. In Oregon, we do not have grizzlies, the more ferocious of the North American species. We have black bears, and unlike our friends in the eastern portion of the country, we have introverted, timid, scaredy-cat black bears. Almost all of my native Oregonian friends have remarked that while they’ve seen evidence of bears – scat, scratches, that kind of thing – they’ve never actually seen one. I, however, have.


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As I navigated a one-lane mountain road, slowly so as not to hit an oncoming car (which is hilarious, because the likelihood of another car being there was slim to none), I saw movement about fifty feet in the distance. I slowed the car to a crawl as a giant black bear sprinted along the roadside, jumped up a hill, and got swallowed up by the forest.

“Holy crap!” I exclaimed. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, that is so dang cool!” I am still bragging about this.


  1. 8 times out of 10, fear is a liar. Of the remaining two times, one is fear asking us to more closely examine something, and the other is fear acting as a legitimate warning of potential death and/or destruction. Preparation is prudent but bravery is mandatory.

According to the United States National Park Service, the likelihood of being attacked by a bear is 1 in 2.1 million (and that’s including statistics for grizzlies).

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, you have a 0.0064% risk of death while mountain hiking – and that risk can be made even smaller by avoiding foul weather, preparing appropriately for climate and terrain, staying hydrated, and knowing your way around a map and compass.

Who doesn’t feel afraid when they’re trying something new? How many new things have I done over the past four years? I hit a point a while back where I realized: I could either be a perpetual ball of fear and anxiety, or I could step bravely into life. I choose the latter most of the time, though sometimes I also cry while I eat potato chips with salsa (I know it sounds gross, but it’s actually delicious).


  1. Always close the lid of the latrine before exiting, and never try to shove a pizza box down it.

 I just think this is a valuable life lesson. Always, always, always close the lid of the latrine. Do you know what happens if you don’t? Flies attack the bare bottom of the exhausted explorer who uses that toilet after you. If avoiding a plague of bum-flies isn’t enough, you might also consider the odiferous contribution an open latrine makes to its surrounding environment. By “odiferous,” I mean everyone for three square miles will gag.


Oregon Lessons Part 1 - 4


Also, just don’t shove pizza boxes in the latrine. Don’t put any trash in the latrine. It can’t be pumped out, it will take forever to decompose, flies will think it’s their penthouse apartment, and people like me will have to – you know – on top of it.


  1. Untouched natural beauty of an unimaginable magnitude exists if you are willing to leave your car behind and walk in search for it.

5 and a half. Even the fanciest camera in the hands of the most talented photographer cannot capture that beauty the way a human eye can in real time.

 We live on a large and beautiful planet, and I want to see as many quiet, barely touched places as I can before I bite it.

Oregon Lessons Part 1 - 5
Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Photo © me, 2017


It is difficult. I have had some injuries, and sometimes my body hurts and my motivation is non-existent. Sometimes napping all day seems appealing. Sometimes I start to get fearful, especially when I’m alone, and I create intricate, imaginary scenarios that ultimately result in my early demise. In the end, I am perhaps a little addicted to those vistas, and I covet them the way some people long for fine jewelry or haute cuisine. They remind me that I am a tiny part of a much larger whole, and in this way, they remind me that I am connected to everything. I am never alone.

Until next time, when I will share the remaining five lessons,






P.S. – What life lessons have you learned from being in a new place? Share via email at AskNatalieColumn @ gmail.com – Contributors are identified by their first name, but you can request anonymity if you’d prefer.

Sober Vacation Planning Advice for People in Addiction Recovery

Sober Vacation Planning Advice 1

By Michelle Peterson

Vacation can be a great way to promote recovery, but it can also add undue stress and temptation to your fight against addiction. This is why it’s important to plan your vacation carefully. In order to benefit from your holiday, you must take steps to reduce stress and avoid places where you’ll be tempted by substances. Here’s how to plan the perfect sober vacation so you can come home feeling rejuvenated and ready to face your new and improved life.


Consider Joining a Specialized Retreat

According to Positive Health, retreats offer a physical, psychological, and emotional withdrawal from the regular stresses of daily life. You’ll be able to find numerous retreats focused on addiction recovery and the promotion of sobriety, a great option if you’re travelling solo and looking for some company during your vacation. Also, retreats take the stress out of travel, as they focus on relaxation and stillness. You don’t have to move from place to place, deal with public transportation, or navigate a busy city. Many retreats focus on wellness, including practices in yoga, acupuncture, organic living, or weight loss. Although many retreats are situated in tranquil, remote locations, you can also find them on paradise-like beaches.


Get Together with Others in Recovery

Going on vacation alone can be tricky because you’ll encounter moments when you don’t have a lot to do. As Talkspace points out, idle time is a common enemy of the newly recovered addict. Try to get your family to join you on your vacation so you can keep busy. Importantly, talk to your travel companions and make sure they understand the importance of your sobriety by letting them know how they can support you.

If you can’t find people to come along, get together with others in your area who are also facing recovery and plan a getaway together. Think of others who could use a break as well, such as friends from your recovery program or addiction meetings.


Seek Out Budget-Friendly Options

Unfortunately, vacations can be expensive. This adds stress to an experience that is meant to relax you. Try to find cheaper travel options so you can enjoy your time away without worrying about your funds. If you’re going to a new city, use public transport and seek accommodation through Airbnb instead of staying in a hotel. Better yet, travel to a city where you have friends or family you can stay with. If you’re looking for an affordable beach getaway, seek out the less popular beaches of the world, such as Galveston Island in Texas. For something simpler and ultra-cheap, grab some friends and head into the woods for a weekend of camping.


Eliminate Extra Stress Before Leaving

Another reason why vacations put stress on our finances is that we’re left paying for things back at home even though we aren’t using them. So, prepare your home before leaving to cut your costs a bit. Walk around your house and unplug all appliances, including your microwaves, computers, gaming consoles, and floor lamps. Don’t forget about your internet modem and wireless router. Even disconnecting the receiver on your garage door opener can help you save on power. Adjust your thermostats to an appropriate temperature so they use less power but still maintain an adequate environment for your plants, electronics, and plumbing systems.


Know How to Avoid Temptation

Importantly, be prepared for triggers and temptations while you’re on holiday. When you’re booking your sober vacation, avoid all-inclusive resorts where alcohol is free. If you’re heading for a city vacation, try not to book your accommodation near a bar. Set up activities for your evenings to keep you occupied, such as musicals or shows. Finally, be prepared for triggers, such as the stress of a delayed flight or family drama, with healthy coping mechanisms.


Despite what many people think, your travel life doesn’t have to end when you give up substances. In fact, travelling can be even more enjoyable when sober. Besides having more time on your hands, sober vacations force you to find alternative forms of entertainment, which pushes you to try new things and experience your vacation to its fullest!


8 Health Benefits Hiking

8 Health Benefits Hiking 1

By Elizabeth Wambui Mathu

The next time you hear a friend invite you for a hike, acknowledge them for bearing in mind your health!

Hiking is a precious activity with great gratification that we do for fun, but do you know that it has numerous health benefits? We do hiking for several reasons, including checking out blogs but at the end of it all, it contributes to a healthy lifestyle. It adds to tremendous mental and physical well-being.

Here are some of the health benefits of hiking:


Weight Loss

8 Health Benefits Hiking 2If you are struggling with excess weight, good hiking can help you reduce extra calories in the body. The physical activity involved blasts out the calories and burns excess body fat. Even without creating a calorie deficit diet, exercising through hiking is an effective method to burn fat.

The steeper and the more challenging the trails the more the more calories you burn. During a hike, a normal adult burns 300-500 calories. While doing away with fats, you also strengthen body muscles creating a balance and flexibility.


Increases Body Stamina

You are hiking and building more endurance, but do you how good is your body stamina is getting? While on the trails, walking long distances day in, day out, your body gains more stamina. When trekking up and down, your legs and back get stronger and stronger.

Every day you want to achieve new heights. Hiking exercises key muscles around your bones, more than the regular activities you undertake on daily basis.


Hiking Boosts Creativity

Ever felt dull, uncreative and non-artistic? That might be due to a lot of monotony at home and less outdoor adventure, and you have to try hiking to overcome this. Spending moments in the outdoor increases your attention to details and opens up your mind to a significant higher level. A research by Stanford University found out that while trailing, the body creative juices flow better than while sitting.

Another study by the University of Kansas suggests that hikers performed better in a skill test after a 2-day hike than those who undertook the test before the hike. Hiking gives people greater ability to focus and build up new ideas.


Hiking Boosts Vitamin D factor in the body

Vitamin D deficiency in the body leads to skeletal deformity and soft bones. The gazing early morning sun is vital for boosting a person’s Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is acquired when the body is exposed to sunlight. It enables your body absorb calcium strengthening your immune system. A stroll in the woods and the hills gets you the essential amounts of vitamin D that your body requires. Apart from hardening bones, Vitamin D also improves sleep patterns, and staves off depression.


Controls Diabetes

Are you struggling with diabetes? Hiking is one of the best-known practices that helps diabetic patients recover from their predicaments. Walking for fairly long distances lowers blood sugar levels in the body. Instead of seeking expensive medical care, trekking several miles a day is the ultimate natural solution for you. Although walking seems like a basic form of exercise, it is a highly sought method of reducing blood glucose.


Strengthens Body Muscles

8 Health Benefits Hiking 3When you are feeling a little bit weak after performing simple tasks, it might be a sign of weak muscles. Maybe it’s because of sitting all day in an office without any significant exercise. If this is the case, then you to pull out your backpack and set off for a hike. By doing this, you will be doing your cardio some good. The longer and the further the hike, the better. Hiking helps strengthen your leg and back muscles thus boosting your fitness.


Reduces ADHD in children

Are you looking for a natural therapy for a child with ADHD symptoms? Relieve the kids from stress by giving them a hike and help improve their attention. No cost and no side effects. Just a wander along the trails and you will notice some improvements after some time.


Gives You a Better Perception of the World

You are going for a new experience in a new place to meet new people; that sounds cool. A breakaway from your monotonous workplace with a hike gives you a better picture and feeling for the world. You are going to have a thrilling adventure that will change your perception of the boring world, the one you left behind. Hiking gives you the feeling of throwing away what feels dull and picking up the bright stars around you.


8 Health Benefits Hiking 4


Hiking is a natural remedy to many health problems that we face day in day out. The above are just some of the health benefits of hiking. If you are out there and yet to give it a try, it’s your chance to take up the challenge and you will experience the numerous benefits.


Dear Natalie Try the Brooks England Strand Bag

Ask Natalie Banner Dear Natalie: Who else does this?

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Let’s say I’m trying to ride a bike and carry stuff at the same time. What do I do?


Trying to Grow Additional Arms




Dear TGAA,

Certainly, you realize that you aren’t a Chia Pet. You cannot, simply by will, sprout new appendages. However, I do have compassion for your plight. This is a question as old as mankind: “How can I load as much stuff onto my person at one time without becoming a moving garbage pile and/or compromising my stability and injuring myself?” Of course, back in olden times, our ancestors were carrying, like, jaguar skulls and misshapen root vegetables. You, nowadays, carry several tiny computers and a wad of high-tech water repellent gym clothes. Same-same.

Anyway, I found a genius solution to this dilemma: The Brooks England line of bicycle bags. First off, even their company name sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? I imagined a bag that smelled of rich leather, displayed in a mahogany-panelled library of a shop, peddled by a man wearing a tuxedo and a monocle – wait! Or maybe this fellow!

Brooks England Strand Bag 1
John Boultbee Brooks, founder of the company. © Brooks England


Brooks also offers high-quality bicycle saddles (which come with a decade-long warranty!), apparel, replacement parts, helmets, and other bicycle accessories. They even put out an annual magazine called “The Bugle.”

Let me back up a minute. I used the phrase “genius solution” above to compensate for a mighty large oversight on my part. You see, when the kind folks at Brooks contacted us, I studied their line of well-made, fashionable bags for bicycle commuters. I focused in on the prettiness. My eyes filled with covetousness. Tiny, shiny messenger bag emojis began dancing in my irises.

I overlooked a key detail, that Brooks has created “the best [bags] for riding [bicycles] since 1866.” Yeah, right, and uh, I live in the middle of rural bumble-dump mountain country. And, uh, like, I don’t ride bicycles. But whatever! When the bag arrived, I was determined to offer a proper review despite my lack of bicycle savvy. “Where there is a will, there is a way!” I exclaimed aloud, and I might have peppered that with a few motivational curse words, you know, to get hyped up and stuff.

First, I approached a colleague who commutes several dozen miles (er, 40-ish kilometres), by bike, to work each day. “Listen, bike guy,” I said. “I have to review this messenger bag, and it’s geared toward other bike guys.”

He looked at me wryly. “You’re not a bike guy.”

“I’m not even a guy, guy,” I replied. “I need you to give me your thoughts on this baby.”

He gingerly picked up the bag. “It’s sharp looking,” he said, turning it around in his hands, unzipping it and peeking inside. “Nice amount of room.” He tugged on the straps, saying, “It’s nice they have this waist attachment belt; sometimes just a shoulder strap makes things feel unbalanced.” Bike Guy then opened the front compartment and rammed his fist in it. “This part stretches out. You could shove a lot of stuff in there.” I nodded, thinking of the jaguar skulls and yams.

Brooks England Strand Bag 2
© Brooks England


“Wanna test drive it for me?” I asked. He immediately shook his head no and apologetically shrugged his shoulders. He explained, “I prefer backpacks.”

“Yeah, well I prefer Truck Guys,” I spat out angrily. Okay, that literally did not happen. I actually patted his shoulder and meekly said, “Thanks anyway for your thoughts,” and then walked down the hallway, silently sobbing (that didn’t happen either – I mean the crying part. I didn’t cry about it. I’m not some kind of Cry Guy).

“Well, it’s on to Plan B,” I decided, and one weekend, I escorted myself to the local bike rental rack. You might not have these where you live, so let me explain. At several key spots throughout my small city, there are stands full of brightly colored bicycles available for rental. Each bike has a credit card reader attached, and upon swiping your card, the bike breaks free of its rack-prison. You are then able to ride around town on a neon kaleidoscope-mobile, attracting gawkers, curious children, and a few hippies who might have taken too much LSD.

Brooks England Strand Bag 3
© Håkan Dahlström, 2009


Anyway, that phrase “it’s like riding a bike!” is true. You do not forget how to ride a bike. I rode a bike with the Brooks Strand Bag for you all, and here’s what I learned.



  • This bag is big. Or I am small. Either way, I ran into the size issue again – a challenge I had with other products I reviewed. In the cute graphic illustrating how to wear the bag, the bicyclist has the bag resting squarely on his lower back. In my experience, the bag hung below my lower back, even after shortening the straps as much as possible. Standing, the bag covered my bum. Riding, I needed to hang the bag to the side. It was perfectly comfortable, but I can see how it could become problematic if I had really filled up the bag.
  • I wish there were little compartments or holders on the inside, for pens (or lipstick – what?).
  • Price! Disclaimer: I purchase on a weak American dollar. Everything European seems expensive to me. This bag runs €170.00 / £145.00. That said, for a regular bicycle commuter, who can experience real physical problems from a poorly designed bag, this would be money well-spent. Plus, it qualifies for free shipping!



  • It is very stylish and professional looking, and more importantly, it is well made. The material is weatherproof, and there are reflective strips – super important while you’re commuting.
  • It is roomy! The interior offers plenty of storage space. Even though I lived on the wild side and rode helmet-less, I estimate a standard helmet could easily slip in the front compartment. The laptop sleeve is well-padded.
  • The straps are comfortable. The back of the bag offers padding without looking like rugby protective equipment.
Brooks England Strand Bag 4
© Brooks England


  • There is a little teensy pocket, perfect for credit cards or keys. For some reason, I found this little detail very cute.


Overall: Quite worthy of purchase! If I were to travel back in time, I would pay more attention to the dimensions of the bag, and I’d likely pick one that was more multi-purpose. Although Brooks specializes in biking, they offer a wide array of bags that could also serve well as airplane carry-ons, work cases, travel bags, and general carry-alls. And for what it’s worth, I’m recommending their backpacks to the Bike Guy.

See you next time,






Best Campsites in Scotland

Best Campsites in Scotland 1

By Jade Hadden

As the summer holidays draw closer, it’s the ideal time for you to grab your camping gear and set off into the outdoors!

VisitScotland has analysed Instagram and TripAdvisor data to discover which of Scotland’s campsites are getting the most commendation for their Instagram views.

Here are VisitScotland’s recommendations for a fun, family summer:


Spectacular Stargazing

Horgabost Campsite, Isle Of Harris

The remote campsite of Horgabost boasts views over the water of Taransay Island, which is believed to be the largest island in Scotland without a permanent population. Visitors may even be lucky enough to glimpse the flickering Northern Lights, due to being so far North, so unsurprisingly, TripAdvisor reviews are 92% positive.


Invercaimbe Caravan And Camping, Arisaig

Surrounded by a rocky shore and a beach not so far away, this is the perfect west coastal spot to grab your telescopes and gaze into the night’s sky. With a 5star TripAdvisor rating, this is a must visit spot.


Best Campsites in Scotland 2


Beautiful Beaches


Fidden Farm Campsite, Isle Of Mull

 Escape to somewhere more tropical when visiting Fidden Farm, as their white sandy shores and crystal clear waters would make you question if you were still in Scotland. As the campsite is only meters away from the water, doze off to the sound of the natural waves crashing on the rocky shores. Visitor’s gave Fidden Farm 94% positive ratings.


Sands Caravan And Camping Park, Gairloch

Perched between a valley, moorland hills and golden sands, the north-west Sands Caravan Park prides itself with panoramic views. With a high rating of 91%, relax at this idyllic park.


Wild Woodlands


The Lazy Duck, Nethy Bridge

Take yourself back to nature as amongst the acres of pines are cosy rustic lodges for you and all the family to enjoy. TripAdvisor 90% rating surely recommends visiting during the winter months, when the snow dusts the surrounding thicket, encouraging you to grab the hot chocolate and snuggle under the blankets.


Ruberslaw Wild Woods, Scottish Borders

As the spring begins to blossom, this 98% positive rated woods is a must see as beautiful bluebells begin to sprout and lighten up the ground. It truly provides a magical feel.


Magnificent Mountains

Best Campsites in Scotland 3

Lomond Woods Holiday Park, Balloch

Be in awe of the largest freshwater loch in Scotland and dare to hike the marvellous mountains which surround Loch Lomond. This wooden park has been awarded Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence award and boasts a mixture of luxury hot tub accommodation or glamping pods to suit every budget.


Kilvrecht Campsite, Pitlochry

The steep mountains on the southern shore of Lock Rannoch have been voted 100% positive by TripAdvisor due to their challenging hikes but beautiful botanical views.


Stunning Sunrises


Port Mor Campsite, Isle Of Islay

This peaceful isle encourages the sun to sneak across the rocky ridges and surrounding water. Just a short walk to the local village, it’s not surprising that 84% of TripAdvisor reviews recommend this campsite.


Ardnamurchan Campsite, Lochaber

Stunning views down the sound of Mull, the westerly campsite reassures the early morning light to slither in and brighten any lingering clouds. With a 92% rating, escape to this Scottish Highlands retreat.


Soothing Sunsets


Wheems Organic Farm, Orkney

This family friend farm is perfect for the summer holidays, with a mixture of animals and horticulture facing the sea on the Island of South Ronaldsay. Due to the horizontal land, this is ideal location for a sunset, as 85% of TripAdvisor reviews agree.


Tantallon Caravan & Camping Park, East Lothian

Enjoy nature as this camping site as it has unparalleled views of the Bass Rock and the world’s largest colony of gannets. With the nearby Tantallon Castle, 75% of reviewers recommend this spot for its natural beauty.


If you are interested in finding out more about camping in Scotland, go to  https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/accommodation-ideas/campsites-scenic-views/ 


Best Campsites in Scotland 4


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