Local Adventurer >> Las Vegas Travel Blog » Local Adventures in Las Vegas + Worldwide

Getting to photograph the Northern Lights has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. There’s something truly magical about it and seeing photos of them always puts me in a dreamy mood. It’s definitely been on our bucket list, and I’m sure is on a lot of yours, too. Am I right?

Take Northern Lights Photos with Hurtigruten Cruise.

I just learned that NASA predicts that 2014/2015 will be the peak of the 11 year cycle, and the Northern Lights are going to put on an amazing show this winter. The closer you are to the magnetic poles the better the show. Tromsø, Norway is situated in the middle of the Magnetic North Pole, and if you travel along the Hurtigruten route, you can get the full Northern Lights and Arctic experience.

Where to See Northern Lights via a Hurtigruten Cruise.Anyone else feel a sense of urgency to start planning and booking a trip now?

They have special winter offers and a flexible pricing system where the price depends on how many people are booking. If you start early, you can get really great fares. Some friends of ours were able to travel to Norway on a great price a couple months ago, and after seeing their photos, I was struck with wanderlust. They also have dog sled adventures through a beautiful, frozen landscape, which also happens to be on our bucket list. Not to mention we want to see the Fjords!

Dog Sledding Norway // Hurtigruten Cruise.
Where to See Northern Lights via a Hurtigruten Cruise.
I’m thinking this year might be the year to check it off! As we go through our bucket list, we realize that there are so many things that we could lose the chance to see within our lifetime. As nature shifts, we lose opportunities to see some of the most beautiful sites and events around the world. This really gets us thinking, and hopefully we’ll be able to rearrange our budget make this happen soon. Maybe Jacob will take me for my birthday in February! ;) Does anyone want to come with us?

Hurtigruten voyages are for those who appreciate unique travel experiences and are some of the best coastal voyages to see the Northern lights. You can learn more about the Northern Lights and your Hurtigruten adventure here.

This post is partnered with Hurtigruten Cruises. Woot! And it’s also our first linqia campaign, so I’m a little nervous about it, but I hope we did a good job! :)

Is seeing the Northern Lights on your bucket list?
What’s something you plan on checking off your list next?

xoxo estherJacob

When we usually road trip to Napa we make a stop in both LA and SF, but this time on our way back we decided to go the long, scenic route and stop in South Tufa in Mono Lake California.

California Road Trip to Mono Lake Tufa Towers.

California Road Trip Destinations: Mono Lake Ca.

Road Trip Destinations USA - Mono Lake California.

Mono Lake South Tufa Trail.

Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve.
Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.

California Road Trip to Mono Lake Tufa Towers.

West Coast Road Trip Destinations - Mono Lake California.

Sea Foam at Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve.

Mono Lake California Road Trip.

Mono Lake California [Road Trip Destinations USA].

Mono Lake South Tufa Towers.

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve.

Tufa Towers Mono Lake California.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Mono Lake.

Mono Lake Tufa Towers // California Road Trip Ideas.

South Tufa Mono Lake California.

Road Trip California - Mono Lake Tufa Towers.

Mono Lake Tufa Towers // California Road Trip Destinations.

California Road Trips - Mono Lake Tufa Towers.

Road Trip Destinations USA - Mono Lake California.

Northern California Road Trip - Mono Lake South Tufa.

Mono Lake Ca - Road Trip Across America.

All photos taken with a 5D Mark III and 35/1.4L.

Mono Lake is a saline soda lake that is almost 3 million years in the making and is twice as salty as the sea. It lies at the western edge of the Great Basin and has an otherworldly feel especially with their cream-colored tufa towers. These tufa towers were formed when calcium rich spring water bubbled up from the bottom of the lake. They were all once underwater, but are now revealed as the water level has declined. Back in the day, Los Angeles redirected a lot of the water to support its growing city and almost caused an ecological collapse, but now they are working on conserving Mono Lake.

Tips for your visit to Mono Lake California:

  • We made 3 stops, but if you only have time to stop in one spot, go to South Tufa.
  • Bring water and maybe a sunhat as there is no shade on the trail.
  • Be sure to check the webcam to see the weather beforehand.
  • There is a large parking lot available and is a short and easy hike to the lakeshore.
  • When visiting Mono Lake, the best time is sunrise or sunset.
  • Our annual National Parks passes work here but not Yosemite passes.
  • It’s right next to Yosemite, so you can see both on the same trip.

When’s the last time you took a road trip?
What was your favorite destination?

xoxo estherJacob

We’re always looking for delicious dehydrated food to take camping / backpacking when we just need a quick and easy meal. When we heard about Good To-Go, we were eager to try it out! Fun Fact: We later learned that the founder beat Mario Batali on Food Network’s Iron Chef.

We brought the Thai Curry and Smoked Three Bean Chili with us on our hike to The Narrows. We dug into them that first day and could see that they put a lot of love and care into their recipes.

Good to Go Food Review - Food to Take Camping.

Good to Go Food Review >> Food to Take Camping.

Good to Go Food Review >> Food to Take Camping / Good Backpacking Food.

Also, on one of our busy work days, Esther and I were too lazy to make lunch so we decided to dig into our last Good To-Go: Herbed Mushroom Risotto. This one was my favorite of the three that we had, but I think I’m partial to mushroom and any form of pasta! They also have a Classic Marinara with Penne that we need to try. After trying the food on the trail and at home, here are our pros and cons:

Pros:

  • healthier and made with fresh ingredients and no preservatives
  • unique flavors that you won’t find in other dehydrated food
  • great balance of energy and
  • great design and packaging

Cons:

  • longer cook time (20 min)
  • limited to only 4 different flavors at this time
  • although it packs flat, there aren’t vacuum sealed options like some of the other brands that pack even smaller

Verdict:

In the future, we’ll bring Good To-Go food with us when we’re car camping or when we know that we’ll have plenty of time during our hikes. We are slow hikers especially with Esther stopping to take so many photos, so it doesn’t leave us too much time for meals. For backpacking trips where we want to keep moving, we’ll probably stick with our Mountain House which cooks in 8-10 minutes versus 20. But if it’s more important to you that you have healthier ingredients and no preservatives, Good To-Go might be a better option for you.

We’d love for you to let us know your thoughts, so we’re giving away all three flavors for you to try!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What’s your fave food to take camping / backpacking?
What’s a home meal you wish you could take with you?
What’s important to you when it comes to backpacking / camping foods?

xoxo estherJacob

Oooh these are dangerous! They taste so lemony and light that you almost think you should eat the whole batch in one sitting. I made it for the first time earlier this month, and I couldn’t resist making another batch this week. Luckily, I have group on Thursdays and they help me out – meaning we’re all gonna gain some holiday weight together! But oh so worth it!

I have a love hate relationship when it comes to finding recipes on pinterest. I love to pin, but it can also be information overload with all the recipes on there. I periodically go through my pins every month and clean out the ones I’m no longer interested in, and lately I came across a recipe I pinned almost a year ago and couldn’t ignore the caption “Award winning meyer lemon crinkle cookies recipe. You’re going to be sorry if you lose this recipe.” I’ve already tried a handful of other baking recipes for my 14 in 2014, but this is the first one I wanted to blog about in a while.

I’m so glad I finally dug this one out of the boards. It’s our fave recipe we’ve tried from pinterest so far.

Award Winning Lemon Crinkle Cookies Recipe >> How to Make Homemade Cookies From Scratch.

AWARD WINNING MEYER LEMON CRINKLE COOKIES RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • ½ cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover cookie sheets with baking sheets or foil and lightly grease.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy like mashed potatoes.
  4. Mix in the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  5. Stir in the salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour slowly until all mixed in.
  6. Roll your ball of cookie dough in powdered sugar (in a plate or bowl).
  7. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to turn slightly brown.
  8. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Baker’s notes:

  1. This was adapted from Lauren’s Latest. I made mine more lemony.
  2. I usually just use the wrapper of the butter to grease my cookie sheets.
  3. I made my cookie dough balls about the size of 2 Tablespoons, and the recipe made 16 cookies.
  4. Our oven is on the hotter side, but we took them out at 10 minutes while they were really soft and slightly gooey on the inside, and let it sit on the pan outside the oven until it cooked some more. I didn’t wait for it to brown on the bottom, and it was the perfect consistency for me. You can leave it in longer if you like them slightly crunchy on the outside.
  5. I know I already have it pretty easy using a kitchen aid mixer, but have you seen the side swipe spatula mixer blade? Never have to scrape down the sides of the bowls again. It’s a recent discovery, and I think I need this in my kitchen. :)

Award Winning Meyer Lemon Crinkle Cookies Recipe.

Award Winning Cookie Recipes >> Meyer Lemon Crinkle Cookies Recipe.

Award Winning Cookies >> Meyer Lemon Crinkle Cookies Recipe.
Award Winning Lemon Cookie Recipe >> How to Make Homemade Cookies from Scratch.

What’s your all time favorite cookie recipe?
Have you found any on pinterest you’ve liked lately?

xoxo estherJacob

Last week we got a taste of what it feels like to skydive without having to get on a plane and jump out! We went to Vegas Indoor Skydiving where indoor skydiving all began. It was the first wind tunnel in the US that was open to the public and has been around since 1982.

Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Fun Things to Do in Vegas.

Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Fun Things in Vegas.

Indoor Skydiving Vegas // Las Vegas Family Activities.

Indoor Skydiving Locations >> Las Vegas.
Indoor Skydiving Las Vegas.

 Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Las Vegas Activities for Kids.

Indoor Skydiving in Las Vegas.

Indoor Skydive Las Vegas // Best Things to do in Vegas.

Indoor Skydiving Las Vegas.
Indoor Skydive Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Activities for Kids.

Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Fun Things to Do in Vegas.

Indoor Skydiving Locations >> Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Fun Things to Do in Vegas.

Indoor Skydiving Las Vegas Bucket List.

Las Vegas Indoor Skydiving // Things for Kids to Do in Las Vegas.

This was such a fun and unique experience. I ended up being the best of our group! I’m gloating because I’m usually the uncoordinated one that takes the longest to get the hang of anything, but on my second flight, the instructor even flew up with me! We both got some decent flights, and Jacob was tossed like a pizza a couple times. It was also cool to see that they’ve had all sorts of celebrities come in to fly with them like Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonas Brothers, Celine Dion, and more.

Book your flight here!
Get $25 off a single flight with a valid local ID.

Vegas Indoor Skydiving
200 Convention Center Dr.
Las Vegas, Nevada 89109
702.731.4768

ABOUT VEGAS INDOOR SKYDIVING AND TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT:

  • The wind tunnel itself is about 22 feet high from the trampoline floor to the top net and 12 feet across. The fan is a DC3 propeller that is powered by a 1200 hp electric motor.
  • They accommodate up to 170 participants in regular business day.
  • A repeat flight is only $40 with your original receipt and within 3 days of a Single Flight.
  • Must meet the weight requirements, but participants from age 4 to over 104 have indoor skydived.
  • It gets pretty hot in there. I thought the air would be cooler, but the wind tunnel was warm.
  • They will provide you with a flight suit, goggles, earbuds, and helmet.
  • Dress in comfortable clothes and wear secure shoes.
  • Leave your jewelry at home. They recommend even taking out your stud earrings. Otherwise, they provide ziplock bags and lockers with keys.
  • There are gift certificates available to purchase over the phone. If you remember Jacob’s birthday post, we’re all about experiential gifts! :)
  • If you want to try this during the holiday season, make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance, because it gets really busy.

If you blog local adventures link up here and feel free to use the button below:

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Have you gone or would you guys go indoor skydiving?
What about outdoor skydiving?
How was your experience?

xoxo estherJacob

Since I’ve had a handful of people ask me for tips for preparing for the Narrows hike, this post is for you! There are two hikes you can do for the Narrows at Zion National Park:

  1. The top-down thru-hike starts at Chamberlain’s Ranch and ends at the Temple of Sinawava, the two entry points into the river. It’s a two day 16 mile hike with 1,189 ft (361 m) elevation change.
  2. The bottom-up hike is a day hike starting at the Temple of Sinawava to as far as Big Springs. It’s essentially the bottom half of the Narrows.

We did the top-down during the fall, and the packing list covers everything you need, but I will also leave some tips near the end of the post for what you need on the bottom-up day-hike.

Backpacking Gear List for the Zion Narrows Hike Top Down.

BACKPACKING GEAR LIST FOR THE ZION NARROWS HIKE TOP DOWN:

  1. Backpack: We used our Osprey packs. Mine is the youth one and Jacob’s current bag is discontinued but was succeeded by this one. We ordered a couple full on waterproof bags, but we’ve found they don’t have very good support to carry a lot of weight (review coming soon).
  2. Dry Sacks / Bags: We each used one large and one small (4 total). This one is on sale right now.
  3. Backpacking Tent: We use the Big Agnes tent. It’s one of the best for backpacking and packs down to 5.5 x 17.5 inches (14 x 44.5 cm) and weighs 3 lbs 2 oz. Whichever tent you decide on, it’s really important that it’s light and compact as possible. Some people forego having a tent altogether and sleep outside since you can’t backpack the Narrows if it rains anyways. I might be a little more high maintenance. I prefer not being covered in dew when I wake up. ;)
  4. Sleeping Bag: We both have REI Sub Kilo +15 sleeping bags (2 lbs / 0.9 kg and  7.5 x 15 inches / 10 L) . This is no longer available, but what you are looking for is a warm bag that packs as small and weighs as little as possible. See what REI bags are available here.
  5. Sleeping Pad: We have both the men’s and the women’s version of the REI Lite-Core 1.5 self-inflating sleeping pad, which packs small and is light (5.5 x 10.75  inches / 13.9 x 27.3 cm and 18 oz / 0.51 kg). REI discontinued the lite-cores, but they always tweak the newer versions to be better. These are also optional, and our friends with us toughed it out, but we did get better sleep. :)
  6. Walking poles: I have the junior sized ones since I’m petite, and Jacob got a rental walking stick. They recommend that you rent walking sticks because yours might get dented up in the water, but mine did just fine. I think it also helped having two for balance when navigating through the rapids.
  7. Water Bladder: We both have platypus bladders and filled it 2 liters to last us both days. We didn’t sweat much since it was fall. You can bring less and also bring a filter (see water filter tips below).
  8. Collapsible Soft Bottle: I brought the 0.5L soft bottle to mix in Emergen-C just in case I got sick.
  9. Quick Dry Tees: I brought two of these, one for each day. I personally like to use the second clean shirt to sleep and then hike the next day in it, but if you don’t mind wearing the same shirt twice, go for it! Jacob brought a regular cotton tee the first day, but we don’t recommend cotton, because it doesn’t dry and doesn’t keep you warm. Luckily, his shirt only got wet near the end of day 1’s hike, so he didn’t have to stay wet long. The second day he just wore the quick dry long sleeves.
  10. Quick Dry Long Sleeves: I brought one and Jacob brought two. We always bring our Patagonia base layers in 2 or 3. Ideally, wear two quick dry layers: one tee and a long sleeve over.
  11. Warm Jacket: It gets really cold early mornings and after dark. We both brought our nano-puff jackets, because they are really warm and also very compact. We also like to use these as pillows because they fold up into the pocket.
  12. Quick Dry Shorts: Jacob wore these convertible pants both days, and I wore these convertible pants both days. Dry your shorts on a tree overnight, and they’re good to go. We both left the zip offs at home. Our friends brought swim shorts.
  13. Long Underwear: We both have the patagonia long underwears (men’s and women’s) to keep us warm at night. Jacob just happened to forget his on this trip and got really cold.
  14. Water shoes: Jacob has these tevas, and I ended up renting shoes that had great ankle support but much heavier and slowed me down. I also own keen water sandals (kid’s of course), but our guy friends with the water sandals kept getting rocks in theirs during the hike. Jacob’s shoes win.
  15. Waterproof Socks: Jacob used these, and I used the rental socks. We were both disappointed that they held in so much water. We were sloshing around even when we were on dry land. Our friends used thinner ones, which aren’t as warm but held in less water.
  16. Portable Cooking System: We use a jetboil to cook so that we can have some warm food while hiking. You can also forego this and take a bunch of bars, but since the water is cold, we decided it’d be nice to have warm food.
  17. Dry Food and Snack Bars: We brought Mountain House Lasagna and Good to Go Smoked Chili (reviews coming soon!) We brought Cliff bars and Kind bars for me (6-8 each) and didn’t stop for lunches. We also brought 2 stingers per person and 1 powerbar gel blasts each.
  18. Headlamp: We both have these petzls and they always help if you are stuck setting up your tent after dark or if you need to use the bathroom.
  19. Earplugs: If you’re a light sleeper and you have snorers in your group, you’re going to need these. The river can be loud.
  20. Sunblock: There really isn’t much sun, but it’s good to stay protected. I just brought my face sunblock to use on both face and body.
  21. Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, wet wipes, emergen-C just in case I get sick.
  22. Trash Bags: To double bag your dry sacks. No dry sack is 100% waterproof. And more bags to carry your poop bag and trash. 3 total since Jacob is such a great husband and carried out both our trash and poop bags, but bring 2 for yourself if you’re on your own. ;)
  23. Flip Flops: We both forgot these and it was a HUUUUGE mistake. After settling into our campsite and changing into dry clothes for the night, we still had to put on our wet shoes. It was miserable. Bring really cheap ones, I don’t care, but do NOT forget them!
  24. Poop kit / bag (not pictured): They give you one per person when you arrive at the Zion Welcome Center to pick up your permit.
  25. Camera gear (not pictured): We brought a tripod, a Mark III with a 35/1.4L lens, and our Fujifilm x100. It’s really heavy and probably not the safest since I don’t have any waterproof gear for it. We were just extra careful to make sure we didn’t fall into the water, and if we did, we saved the camera instead of ourselves. Half the time it was tucked away in my smaller dry sack.
  26. Sunhat (not pictured): I have this Columbia hat, but it was more of a nuisance because it kept hitting the top of my backpack and falling off my head. For functionality sake, these hats will probably work much better. Also, the first day we barely got any sun. The second day was a little more exposed, but you’re going in and out of shade constantly.

The first night we decided to bring all our car camping gear so that we can get a good night’s sleep before our hike. It was nice because we could leave all of i in the car during our hike days.

For Car Camping the night before and / or after:

  1. Car Camping Tent: We have a this Coleman 4 person tent, a cheap tent that fits our mattress.
  2. Inflatable Mattress: We used this queen sized mattress and blew it up using our car.

Additional Tips:

  • Hiking in Summer: Only thing I would change for the packing list for the summer is more water (about 4 L a person) and you can leave behind a warm jacket. The water is still cold.
  • Day hike only: We recommend bringing water shoes, waterproof socks, 1L of water, snacks, and some comfortable clothes. We saw that most people stopped at Wall Street and turned back.
  • Lodging: We drove straight home after we got back from day 2 of our hike, so that we could have a warm shower and rest in our beds. The day before the hike, however, we went in and stayed at Watchman Campgrounds. It is a great campground with exceptionally clean bathroom facilities. They don’t have many campgrounds available at Zion, so you should try to book reservations early. We showed up and they happened to fit us into the overflow group camping area.
  • Shuttle: There is a shuttle service provided by Zion Adventure Company that takes you to the trail head at Chamberlain’s Ranch. It is $37 a person.  We took the shuttle to the trailhead of the hike. It’s a pretty rough road, so our friend’s forester would have been fine, but our Altima might have struggled a bit. Also, it would have added an extra hour and half or so of driving on the last day.
  • Renting Dry Pants and Suits: I rented a whole set with a dry suit, waterproof socks, water boots, and a hiking stick, because the company who provided the shuttle service recommended everyone to wear at least the dry pants when the water temperature drops below 55 degrees F (12.7 deg C). It was at the end of peak season where the temperature was 55 degrees F. They also told me I was too short and needed a dry suit, because the water levels would go above my waist and my dry pants. In hindsight, I would go without any of the rental gear. All the guys did fine and the cold water wasn’t unbearable. Meanwhile, I was burning up in my suit, so had the top part off and the sleeves tied around my waist most of the time.
  • Filtering Water: If you want to carry less water on your back, you can bring a water filter for after Deep Creek Junction / the campsites. It’s not recommended to filter and drink the water north of it, because there are cattle farms.
  • Number of people: The top-down hike had a total of 10 people on the day we went. The first day, you feel like you have the Narrows all to yourself. The second day is the part where most people hike the bottom half on a day hike bottom up. While there will breaks in between groups of people, you definitely have to wait for photos.
  • Water Levels: When we arrived, they told us the water level will go up to waist deep (for average height people) and chest deep for me. The first day of the hike (top half) was roughly 80% ankle deep. The second day (bottom half) was roughly 75% ankle to knee deep. I expected there to be longer portions of deeper water where I’m possibly swimming, but there were only 2 or 3 deep portions that were unavoidable and at most two steps in length. If you use your walking sticks to measure the depth of the water, you can easily navigate around a lot of the deeper waters. Also, clear to light green water is shallow, while darker blues / greens mean deeper water.
  • Time it took: The map and the landmarks given to us didn’t seem very accurate. Day 1 was supposed to be a shorter day. They told us _ hours, which felt demoralizing near the end. It’s all about setting expectations, right? The second day, we breezed through it.
  • Riverside Walk: After you reach the Temple of Sinawava, there is still one more mile of hiking on the paved trail to the shuttle.
  • Don’t forget to cut your toenails down! I ended up slicing the sides of my toes.
  • Makeshift Toilet: Squatting and pooping in a bag can be a challenge especially after your legs are jello from the hike. The last thing you want to do is fall into your own poop. :) The second day, the guys created a makeshift bathroom with two rocks on both sides of the bag for you to rest your butt on. Will post a photo of this later.
What’s in your backpacking gear list?
What’s the toughest hike you’ve been on?
xoxo estherJacob