Traveling Inward: How to Make a Pierogi

As temperatures rise here in the Verde Valley, Arizona my mid afternoon plant whispering had to cease. Confined to the indoors for now, I must find other things to do with myself which does not include pining over $300 one way tickets to the Czech. Good thing my unemployment is lost in the ether or I’d be smashing that buy button. What’s a good way to keep your mind off of things – carbs! Today I’ll be jamming out to Chopin and making home made Pierogi because, Poland.

PierĂłg, the singular name for delightful, dumpling of joy. The half moon shaped Pierogi are traditionally Polish but, could be traced way back to Asian roots – thanks Marco Polo? 17th century Eastern Europe traditionally stuffed the Pierogi with mince meat, fats and greens. Today the most common stuffing is potato and cheese however, I have had a bangin’ apple cinnamon Pierogi. There are no rules. You can prepare them a number of ways: fry ’em, bake ’em, saute ’em, deep fry ’em, boil ’em. The possibilities are endless. This recipe isn’t difficult but, it’s time consuming. Plan to make an afternoon of it.

The Dough:
2 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 Large Egg
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Cup of Warm Water (preferably from the boiled potatoes)


Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Add egg and water to the center, mix until dough ball forms. Add more water and flour if needed. Kneed until all ingredients are well combined. You want the dough to be firm but stretchy. Cut dough in half and let rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

The Filling:
2 Pounds of Potatoes (I like russets)
2 Cups of Sharp Cheddar
1/2 Cup of Cream Cheese
Black Pepper to Taste


Boil Potatoes with jackets on. Don’t forget to hold some of the potato water for the dough. I find the starch helps keep the dough together better. Use a potato masher or a fork to smash but, not mash the Russets. Combine cheeses and pepper. If the mix seems a little thick add water or milk to thin.

After the dough has rested, roll it out to approximately 1/4 of an inch with a rolling pin. A wine bottle works too if you are in a pinch. Next, use a drinking glass or a 2″ diameter circular cookie cutter to stamp out your pockets. Use a spoon to portion the potato mix into the pockets. Fold the pocket in half and pinch the open edges together (note that the image below has wayyyyy too much filling). Seal the edges by dipping your fingers into potato water and running it along the ends.

Sprinkle some flour over the pierogi as you work to keep them from sticking to each other. To finish cooking the dumplings boil, bake or saute. Caramelize some onions. Slice some chives. Chop up some crispy bacon. Maybe so sauerkraut? Add a dollop of sour cream and enjoy! For a full meal idea, grill up some brats and crack open an ice cold beer. I like a nice lager or pilsner to pair!

This recipe freezes fantastically so don’t be afraid to make a giant batch.

Did you make this recipe? Show me your ‘rogis 🙂

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Today I'll be jamming out to Chopin and making home made Pierogi because, Poland.

Travel Inward: How to Ground Down

Grounding is a technique that involves connecting electrically to the earth. Connecting with the natural vibrations in the ground is under research but, is said to aid depression, anxiety, boost immunity, restore sleep patterns, and even reduce blood pressure. The practice is simple. Take your shoes off and stand in soil, sand, or a body of water. Close your eyes, meditate, practice tree pose, poke around in the garden – no rules – but ten to twenty minutes of skin to natural ground contact is enough to start healing. Just remember to stay out of the cactus…

Ok, it does sound like some millennial mumbo jumbo witchcraft but, take a second and think. We have all participated in grounding, maybe you didn’t realize what was happening. Imagine yourself on the beach. Stand in the sand and allow the waves to sink your feet into the shoreline. Listen to the surf crashing and seabirds calling. Let the sunshine bless your eyelids. Do you remember how Zen you felt? Congratulations. Grounding. 

Might I also add, the importance of sunshine. Exposure to sunlight increases the body’s ability to release serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that mediates a number of functions including mood, sleep, and digestion among other things. Just 5-15 minutes of sunlight on your eyelids could make a huge difference. I have utilized the combination of grounding and some good ole’ Vitamin D to help me through some of the stresses associated with COVID 19. Since desert hiking or driving to the beach is out of the question for now, I transport myself to another realm by digging in my garden, sunbathing on my patio or pretending I’m on a nude beach somewhere in Croatia.

My favorite barefoot experience was in Paria Canyon in Utah. The mud was ankle deep. Rather than loosing my boots to the murky abyss. I took ’em off and carried them. My companions and I explored a few miles down the riverbed. We played like kids in the mud and puddles.

Check out the Paria Post >> HERE

As far as wellness trends go prancing around in the dirt seems harmless. Why not give it a go? Drop a comment if you have tried grounding!

How to travel without leaving home

Travel Scout Adventure Kate Swavely

World As We Know It

I’m going to dive right in: We are in the apocalypse friends. Not in the sense that the world is ending but rather evolving. The ancient Greeks used the word to describe the lifting of a vail. A revelation almost. Modern definitions imply hellfire, the universe swallowing itself, and Will Smith as the last man on Earth.

As per usual, I oppose and refuse to accept the modern definition of an apocalypse. Media stirs a madness which stirs and frenzies the public. Fear is a potent drug. A drug I subscribed to when shit went down. I had just moved from Scottsdale to the Verde Valley. My funds, my resources, and my support system teetered on unsteady ground. Everything that fell into place the past month seemed like a cosmic joke. I traded my NEW full-time dream job to an imminent furlough. The Viticulture and Enology practicums that I needed – cancelled. My doggo angel Mac crossed the rainbow bridge. To make a long story short he had a spinal degeneration that was unknown to any of us. One of his discs burst and was bruising his spinal cord. Paralysis was quickly spreading. When the vet said it was unlikely that he would recover, my Mom and I made the excruciating decision to put him to sleep.

His passing was out of the blue, the finality was inconceivable. Did you know sobbing for eight hours feels like your face was hit with a shovel. I would have gladly taken a shovel to the face. That’s when I lost my cool.

Fearful Kate is like a trapped cat. Impulsive. Paranoid. Bunker Ready.

What happened in between is truly unimportant. What is important is the realization that it was going to be hard but, fear is ok. Communities, states, nations, and the globe are all riding the same wave. A disaster like a pandemic is so far out of human control but, it’s our job to decide whether we keep moving forward or not. It’s our job to protect our livelihood and our families. What we can all do at this point is use the time we are given to work on ourselves. Sit tight, stay put, wash your hands. Change is necessary.

It’s going to suck. The government is going to make unpopular decisions. Assholes will hoard toilet paper. We will be confined to our homes. There will be losses. Be cautious but, don’t succumb to fear. Let’s choose to think of the apocalypse as ending life as we know it, rather than just a fiery end. Remember that humankind is resilient and adaptable. Get ready for change.

Which leads me to my project. I want to discuss constructive ways to deal with quarantine and how to make it bearable. As things change, lets re-evaluate travel. Does travel always include leaving your home? Travel is about discovering life and how other people live it. It’s not always about the destination right? Let us explore the journey!

What do you think?

Want to get lost right now? :

HOW TO WALK LIKE A DIOCLETIAN IN SPLIT, CROATIA

BADASS ARIZONA HISTORY: UNREAL DWELLINGS IN THE RED ROCK

HOW TO HAVE A HIGHLANDS ROADTRIP OF YOUR LIFE

Badass Arizona History: Shaman’s Cave

Crimson and rose sandstone rise from the north as the weary traveler exits 89 Alterative route into the Mogollon rim. Energies rise as you approach the gateway into the ancient, lore riddled Verde Valley. At noon the monsoon cycle presents storm clouds gathering, threatening and beautiful. Today’s focus is on the elusive Shaman’s Cave (alternatively Robber’s Roost).

It took me three tries to visit this place… first try I got lost… the second my car succumbed to the old nail in the tire trick. Try number three finally allowed a hike into the wind and rain eroded butte. Shaman’s Cave is elusive hidden away in the lesser traveled South Sedona. If you can find Honanki and Palatki Heritage Sites – you’re on the right track.

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

The hike into the cave is a relaxing stroll through the desert, but does boast striking views of Sedona Red Rock to the east. It’s approximately 2.5 miles from the lower parking lot and maybe .5 miles from the upper parking (high clearance vehicle necessary).

The cave is to the east side of the butte. As the trail drops off you will be required to perform light technical climbing. Shaman’s Cave is revered as a lesser known, but uber powerful vortex. In short, a vortex is an energy portal conducive to healing, meditation and overall good vibes. In ancient times, archaeologists suggest that the neighboring Hohokam shamans (healers, wise women/men) used the cave for rituals and contacting spirit guides. It’s also a wild theory that the cave is an ancient landing pad for aliens… but I wont get into that 😉 Allegedly there used to be pictographs and forms of cave art but due to deviance, none of it has survived.

When the cave echoes for you, sit and listen. You’ll know what I mean. Contemplate the universe. Soak up what nature has to offer you.

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure
View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

Check out more Badass Arizona History spots:

Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

Note Pad of the Ancients

Petrified Forest National Park

View from Shaman's Cave (Sedona, Arizona) Kate Swavely @ Travel Scout Adventure

Where Do I Go From Here?

Logging into Word Press today a notification of my four-year anniversary with Travel Scout Adventure fluttered across my screen. A whole year looms between this post and my last. I’m nervous to rebrand my myself and my blog yet, here I sit listening to pagan throat chanting (Heilung), nursing a fresh septum piercing, and cursing the virtues of romantic love. Maybe I’m a newly formed curmudgeon. The last few years have been just bizarre. Granted I’ve had incredible experiences, but I found myself miles and miles away from the person I had planned to be. The girl I used to be loved her horses. She spent hours poring over 19th century poetry and classic literature. She drank her coffee black just like the grungy, angry girl music in her earphones. She had goals and direction, peppered with a wild imagination. She was a professional badass who uttered insults in Russian. She lounged in trees while contemplating the universe. She had drifted away from the person she used to be – the me I loved. Chalk it up to becoming an adult but let me admit adolescent Kate had a better idea of what she wanted than final form Kate. Until now… my voice is healed and my fingers long to tell you a story.

Let’s talk about some shit…

Gen X, Millennials and beyond spend so much time planning who we are to become, forgetting to be who we already are. Like a kid with a block set you, can’t force a cube into a star hole. Majority of us weren’t meant to be surgeons, lawyers, or economist but maybe excel as welders, writers or mixologists. Procuring why countless Millennials are six feet under in student loan debt. What eighteen-year-old with limited adult experience knows what rabbit hole they were meant to wander down? High school pounded into our collective psyche that going to university was the only way to stay out of jail *wrong*. Community college was looked down upon as a lesser option, filthy delinquent *so, wrong*. Walking through the golden gates of university academia, Sallie May loans in tow, was the only way to grow into a valuable member of society *furthest from the truth*. Ok, stepping off the soapbox – for now.

If you’ve been following me – you know the story. If not, I’ve provided a recap: I attended community college (criminal) before university as part of my master plan to obtain a degree debt free. My college experience was quiet, mostly because on top of a full slate of courses, I worked forty hours in a restaurant as a server and a bartender. Six years and 56k (out of pocket) later, I’d obtained and AA in Business and a BA in Economics. After school, I left on a six-month excursion to traipse around Europe. I enjoyed a taste of true freedom and it put my priorities in perspective. My life was been irrevocably transformed.

I’m one of those souls who can’t be a cube in a star hole. I can’t visualize myself dying over a desk job with a fancy salary. I’d rather live modestly, even struggle, but live to watch the Aurora billow over the fjord and scramble out of the Grand Canyon whenever I please. That’s why it’s so fucking offensive when asked why I’m still a bartender. It’s a real job. I don’t receive monopoly money. I earn real money – fantastic money. I can transfer my skills of hospitality and martini crafting anywhere I choose. Drink shaking and wine pouring is sharing an experience. Molding a moment with strangers and familiars alike is a quality I never would have discovered without life experience.

Today, I signed up for my first class in two years Agriculture Studies 105 titled Soil. I’m back in the arms of agriculture and education – a place I was raised in – a place I will seemingly never leave. I’m on a journey to discover the world of wine making. Arizona has a baby wine region and the epicenter happens to be the Verde Valley, north of me by 70 miles. Come January I have plans to leave the Metropolitan Phoenix area and move to the high desert in the north. There will be more to come!

My grand advice is to take your time, decide what you are passionate about – hone it. Experience community college. Take classes that interest you or don’t but work like the devil. Evolve. Save money. Travel. I know that we live in a world where you can have it all. Remember that routes are not direct. As I approach my thirties, I know nothing is set in stone. I’m far from the veterinarian, archaeologist, cat mother of four I was destined to be.  But FUCK YES… I am exactly the person that I want to be.

Qweeeeeennnnnn 🙂

Fossil Creek: A No Joke Hike

At the end of October, I descend into the Grand Canyon in search of the turquoise, travertine paradise located on the remote Havasupai Indian Reservation. The backpacking trek is 26 miles round trip – give or take a few detours. In preparation for my first backpacking trip, my crew and I decided to test run our gear by hiking the 10-mile Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River located in Coconino National Park.

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout
Alexis and Thor!

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout
Me!

Fossil Creek is a rare riparian area with a spring that bubbles out of a rare rock formation called Redwall Limestone. Due to high mineral content travertine forms and encases anything that happens to fall into the streambed – essentially fossilizing everything. Hence the name Fossil Creek, all similar to places like Plitvice National Park in Croatia and Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. It’s estimated that the spring fed waterfall pushes out 20,000 gallons of water per minute. It’s crazy that so much water seems to appear out of nowhere as an oasis in an overall high desert biome.

The hike begins in Strawberry (adorable right?), Arizona which is a little town outside of Payson. The elevation of Strawberry is 5,800ft the bottom of the canyon is 4,300ft which means that in five miles, the hike loses or gains 1,500ft. Needless to say, the hike down is easy just beware of rolled ankles. However, the hike back up is a killer. Literally. The Parks Service warns that an average of two hundred people a year have to be helicoptered out of the canyon due to heat exhaustion, improper planning, and insufficient water. Fossil Creek is no joke.

Once the creek is reached, rejoice! Wade into the icy water and cool off. There is plenty of room to cliff jump and explore flooded caves. The pools are deep and the current is strong so keep an eye on children and less experienced swimmers. The Toilet Bowl is particularly dangerous. Yes, there is a feature called the Toilet Bowl. Runoff from the powerful waterfall eroded a travertine chamber that catches and swirls like a whirlpool. The bottom of the canyon is a good ten degrees cooler than the top mostly because of the shade, so enjoy, eat lunch, and rest up!

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

Take a listen to the waterfall:

Okay, real talk about the hike out…

If you don’t carry enough water, electrolytes, and food you will die. No matter what time of year you go. Don’t be one of the two hundred that have to be extracted by helicopter. The desert is dry, combined with the steep elevation gain is a recipe for disaster if you don’t plan accordingly.

I carried a gallon of water, Gatorade, and a full lunch. It would also be wise to have sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

Do: Pack in pack out. Respect everyone’s space. Bring a hammock. Beware of rattlesnakes and javelina. Bring a swimsuit and water shoes. Bring lunch. Take a nap.

Don’t: Light a campfire. Litter. Slip on the travertine (ouch). Hike in flipflops. Hike if it’s over 95 degrees in the morning. Get caught in a flash flood – keep an eye on weather a few days out from your hike.

Good to know:

 

Due to high volumes of visitors, April 1st through October 1st REQUIRES a permit. Permits are approximately $10 per car. A friendly park ranger will be stationed to check your permits upon arrival. They will accept printed copies only. No phone screenshots.

Also this guy, a green Mojave just laying across the trail, known for neuro and hemotoxins:

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GET YOUR PERMIT HERE!

Fossil Creek Kate Swavely Travel Scout

 

6 of the Best Places to Explore Nature in Arizona

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

My favorite trips are the ones stumbled upon. It’s a common occurrence in my household to pick up and leave on a day of leisure. I would rather sit in my car all day not knowing where I will end up than to sit in my house watching Nexflix. Direction never matters but, in the summer it feels liberating to get away from the heat. Higher elevation subdues the brutal sun – on my last trip it was upward of 105F at home but Flagstaff was a beautiful, balmy 75F. The road is unpredictable but, it makes each trip you take memorable. On such an occasion, a trip up the Beeline Highway landed my family unit in Winslow – in a windstorm- with thunderheads looming in the distance. On the plus side I got to stand on ‘a corner in Winslow, Arizona’ and I happened to be in a flatbed Ford. The destination is not the most important part of the trip – it’s how you get there. That’s all I will touch on with philosophy. The best part about central Arizona is you only need one or two hours to get anywhere if you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale. Below I have compiled my favorite escapes that you can make a day or a weekend out of.

  1. Cave Creek, Arizona

Steel-cowboy-wild-west-artist-paradise? Nailed it: Cave Creek is calling your name, located off of the Carefree Highway. Don’t get me wrong the town itself is a tourist trap – but a worthy one. There are art galleries to your hearts desire; Good food, eccentric locals and if you are into football Cave Creek hosts a Bear’s, Steeler’s, Packer’s, and Viking’s bar. Let me tell you this place is WILD.

I frequent Cave Creek because of the fantastic hiking at Spur Cross Conservation Area which is about five miles north of Cave Creek. There are hiking options for all levels of ambition.

Looking for an easy stroll? Follow the Dragonfly/Jewel of the Creek trail. On this trail you will see the creek oasis where there are tall seemingly out of place oak trees. The area is cool and mostly shaded. Keep your eyes out for prehistoric rock art – petroglyphs – the whereabouts are not noted so it is up to you to keep your eyes peeled.

Want to break a sweat? Take the Metate or Tortuga trail. The Metate trail has an AMAZING collection of saguaro cactus and examples of metate grindstones which were used to prepare grains by the Native people who occupied the area.

Feeling Ambitious? If you have an entire day to spend (roughly 4-5 hours) and it isn’t too hot consider taking the Elephant Mountain trekk. It is an extremely tough hike that touches the boarder into Tonto National Park but summits at the prehistoric Hohokam fortress. Be sure to bring adequate water. I’m not kidding – it is up hill both ways 🙂

Spur Cross Travel Scout Kate MarraSpur Cross Travel Scout Kate Marra

Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

2. Flagstaff, Arizona

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument is one of the coolest attractions in Flagstaff. The entrance to the park is right off of the state route 89A – blink and you will miss it. The fee is $20 per person and it is well worth the experience. The lava flow field and cinder mounds alone were awe-inspiring. Make sure you grab a map at the ranger station before you start into the twenty mile national monument it will show you where all of the pull offs are.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraFlagstaff Lava Field Travel Scout (2)Flagstaff Lava Field Travel ScoutFlagstaff Sunset Lava Field Travel Scout

The second half of the park is dedicated to the Native people who occupied the land. There are amazing sites which showcase the pueblo villages which have been standing for nine hundred years. We visited the Wukoki Pueblo, Lomaki and Box Canyon ruins. Exploring can be cut short due to a threatening thunderstorm. Be aware of storms that prowl over the open prairie –  be ready to take cover when the thunderheads move in.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Want More Ruins?

Badass Arizona History: The Note Pad of the Ancients

Badass Arizona History: Unreal Dwellings in the Red Rock

The trails in this national monument are very well maintained and are for everyone to enjoy. My only caution would be to bring adequate water and some lunch which you can enjoy at the numerous pull offs.

 

3. Sedona, Arizona

If you are into becoming one with nature – Sedona is the place for you! Nestled in red rock country and an hour south of Flagstaff is the eclectic city of Sedona. It has a little bit of everything for everyone – the main strip has art galleries, food, crystal shops, tee shirt shops, and so much more. Sedona is credited with having several large and rather powerful vortexes. A vortex is a location that is said to release earth’s energy. Whether you believe in it or not Sedona has always had a magnetic pull on me – it makes you feel raw and pure.  As you can probably tell I am mostly into hiking so I will go ahead and cut to the chase.

I have to admit – I can’t pick just one location as my favorite hiking spot – I have several. I will work on a separate post for the best hikes but for the sake of this article:

Bell Rock Hike – Red Rock Pass required, but accessible in parking area. Bell rock is an easy to moderate hike. Easy if you walk around the base but moderate if you climb the rim. This is a great hike if you are a climber and the elevation allows you to take in the views of the red rock surrounding.

Devil’s Bridge – moderate because of the elevation change and it is mostly open to the sun. This hike offers a walk through a small valley – at the end is a natural rock arch that you can safely walk across. I must warn you the height is dizzying but exhilarating.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Fay Canyon – easy to moderate. If you stay on the maintained trail it is a nice easy walk through the canyon. It is pretty well shaded but I suggest sunscreen all the same. If you follow the un-maintained trail it’s a pretty strenuous ascent. The view at the top is amazing! you can see it in my slide show.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

4. Jerome, Arizona

Jerome is an amazing find – not too many people know about it because it is essentially a ghost town that is on the up swing. In the 1800’s it was a copper mining town and fell into disrepair in the 1960’s until an artist commune moved in. The town itself is a work of art – it sits on a hill that has a view that takes your breath away.

Are you a Tool fan? Visit Maynard’s winery Caduceus Cellar in the upper corner of the small town. Jerome boasts two winery’s that are worthy of a visit, antique shops with curios from the 1950’s, boutiques, and a few great lunch choices.

I suggest the Haunted Hamburger which is always packed or the Mile High Grill which has great service and even better food.

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Arizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

 

5. Payson, Arizona (and surrounding areas)

Payson is a quaint cowboy town that is most popular for it’s rodeos. I haven’t had much time to explore the city of Payson but there are a few places that I have been able to fall in love with.

Tonto Natural Bridge – one word for this place is magical. As you descend into the canyon the first thing that hits you is the smell of water, the kind of musty, sweet smell. Then you see the arch – huge and carved out of the opposing side of the canyon. The greatest part is walking right through it! You can pick your way through the rocks and the river to the steps on the other side. Note: Pets are not allowed.

If you have additional time another great destination is family run Fossil Creek Ranch in Strawberry. Fossil Creek Ranch is a goat and llama farm as well as a creamery. The fudge is to die for and  so is the goat milk moisturizer. This is a perfect destination if you are traveling with kids (no goat pun intended). Fossil Creek Ranch offers felting classes, cheese making classes and ranch tours as well.

ALSO OFFERED: Llama hikes.For $30 a person you can lead llamas through the Mogollon Rim. Reservations are required.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

6. Holbrook, Arizona

Ok, so this last place isn’t in a cooler elevation but, worth taking a day trip. Once upon a time, Late Triassic to be approximate, Arizona was a tropical forest. As the climate changed trees fossilized and what was left behind became known as petrified wood. Petrified Wood National Park in Holbrook, Arizona boasts one of the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world. Along with 200 various plant fossils the desert area has also produced fossils belonging to phytosaurs (giant crocodiles) and Buettneria (giant salamanders).

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

As if it cant get any more magnificent, keep driving through Petrified Forest National Park and enter the Painted Desert. The Painted Desert extends through the four corners area – Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. The badlands are known for a signature rusty red but be sure to look out for shades of olive, lavender and ivory.

Arizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate MarraArizona Travel Scout Kate Marra

Which Arizona hot spot would you like to visit?

Cobweb Clearer – Kate

The best part about central Arizona is you only need one or two hours to get anywhere if you live in the Phoenix/Scottsdale. Below I have compiled my favorite escapes that you can make a day or a weekend out of.

Iceland Beauty & Rage

Iceland is the coldest, hot place to be. The people have spoken, the masses want a shot at the Aurora Borealis and the Blue Lagoon. I can name a handful of friends and acquaintance who are packed and ready to fly to the frigid nation. Who could blame them? It’s a boundless nation to get your travel boots wet. The Icelandic people are the kindest I have ever met. For example, a member of my party left her wallet and passport at a Dominoes. She could have been so screwed. An email awaited my inbox the following morning from the Akureyri police station stating that a good Samaritan had turned it in. It could have been pure luck, but, deep down I know that anywhere else a passport and wallet would have been long gone. It’s a safe destination, an amenity people want nowadays. I wonder if the tiny paradise can handle the rapid influx of eager tourist. The sustainability question hit yours truly as I boarded my flight to Oslo. Ten or so planes were lined up away from the other terminals since all the other terminals were full. My flight mates and I were herded via bus over to the boarding ladders. Keflavik International only has one main terminal with about thirty-five gates. Figures from the Icelandic Tourist Board shows a 29% growth in visitors from 2014 to 2015*. Tourism for a nation is both a blessing and a curse. Chew on this, the entire population of Iceland according to google is 330,000 and change. Conversely, the number of tourists that visited Iceland in 2015 was approximately 1,289,140. Friends, that is four times the population. I question the sustainability.

Before leaving, the curious would often ask, why Iceland? Why are people traveling in droves to this tiny island in the north Atlantic? I finally have an answer. I know that it’s complex to capture beauty from a lens. There are places to witness for yourself. Iceland is more than the sights. Moments you capture do no justice to the experience.
Personally, it’s why I travel. I can’t sit by and dream of life browsing Pintrest.

Iceland is the smell of damp moss and sulfuric egg salad.
​​

 

The ultra-violent Arctic wind that smacks one upside the head. The sun on the skin when it finally breaks out of its cloud prison. The warmth of the geothermal underground.

Iceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate Marra

 Iceland is the giddiness as the Aurora Borealis dances across the sky a silk scarf blowing out of a car window. It’s the taste of salt and minerals. It’s the collision of modern religion and legends from the past.

Iceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate MarraIceland Travel Scout Kate Marra

 Iceland is knowing that if a cataclysmic event were to cease life as we know it, nature would have already claimed its territory.  Iceland is cursed with both beauty and rage.

 

What is to be done? Practice conscious tourism. Stay on the beaten path or hire a guide to enter sites beyond your ability. Keep money in the pockets of the locals. Stay in guesthouses. Many are family run. Buy that wool scarf from the teenager trying to make a buck instead of mass produced retailers.
You Cobweb Clearer, Kate

How do you practice conscious tourism?

*https://www.ferdamalastofa.is/static/files/ferdamalastofa/Frettamyndir/2016/juni/tourism_-in_iceland_in_figures_may2016.pdf
Iceland is the coldest, hot place to be. The people have spoken, the masses want a shot at the Aurora Borealis and the Blue Lagoon. I can name a handful of friends and acquaintance who are packed and ready to fly to the frigid nation.

11 Practical Tips To Thrive In A Wilderness Emergency

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
– Theodore Roosevelt

The wilderness… It isn’t for everyone. It truly is for me. I get a real thrill exploring where few or limited people visit. The wilderness is primitive and untamed despite the world filling up with people. The first key is to stay safe. Every traveler knows that accidents happen and inevitably situations arise where you wont be safe. Preparedness is secondary.

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One day, hiking in the Utah wilderness I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation (The Day the Desert Tried to Kill Me – Stories From the Front Seat). Luckily, I had basic essentials like food, water, and sun protection. There were some items, looking back, that would have come in handy.  It can happen. A traveler can only have luck for so long until something goes wrong. A shipwrecked truck, a broken ankle, an allergic reaction, losing your way, and getting mugged are all situations wanderers have nightmares about. The severity of the event can be altered based on behavior and planning of the travelers involved. Here are my tips to staying safe when an emergency strikes in the wilderness:

  1. Travel With A Satellite Phone

A $400 investment will get you a phone and a plan that will work in the remotest of areas. Using a satellite phone in my situation in Utah would have solved all of my problems. I could have called AAA or a tow company without fear of losing connection. Another feature about satellite phones is its GPS. Along with connection a traveler can also send exact GPS coordinates to someone trying to help.

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  1. Stay Calm

Disasters can bring out the best and worst personality traits. Just remember the more time you spend panicking the, longer it will take to remove yourself from the situation.  Similarly with arguing, stress and fear tend to make even the best of friends argue. Again, work together to come up with a solution.

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  1. Don’t Underestimate Water Needs

A healthy person needs sixty four ounces of water per day to survive. When you exert yourself one hundred ounces is suggested. I plan on a gallon and a half of water per person, per day. I carry all of my water in the vehicle as well. Water in the refrigerator back at the hotel is all well and good but, account for an emergency and load up the vehicle as well.  Carry gallon jugs to keep in the vehicle and transfer water into smaller bottles that will fit in your back pack.  Water is the MOST important survival tool especially in a desert.

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  1. Carry First Aid

Injury happens as frequently as flat tires and broken equipment. A first aid kit with simple items like disinfectant, wound bandages, ankle/wrist wraps, and a sewing kit can fix an issue temporarily until medical help arrives. I also keep a snake bit kit in my back pack as the risk of getting bitten here in Arizona is great.

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  1. Mechanic Tools

Speaking of flat tires… Pack basics like jacks and tire changing kits. Stuck in mud or sand? To keep a stuck tire from spinning out and digging in deeper let air out of the tires to create a larger surface area. A tire with a greater surface area will have more grip and give you more mobility to maneuver out. A tire can be let out to almost 10% in emergencies. This would be an argument to carry an inflation pump as well.

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  1. Don’t Split Up

In an emergency it is best to just stay together. It may seem like a constructive idea to cover more ground but in the wilderness anything can happen.   Chances of getting lost alone, injury, or predator attack rises as the number in your party decreases. A pack of coyotes would attack a single person as well as bears, mountain lions, and even elk if they saw you as a threat.

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  1. Keep a Close Eye on Pets

Wild animals will be more apt to approach if you have an animal traveling with you. Even a large dog like a German Shepherd or a Pit Bull could be subject to becoming prey.  If you are forced to hike at night or at sundown keep your pets close and be aware of your surroundings.

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  1. Let There Be Light

Keep a headlamp or a flashlight in your pack. It is also important to keep a mirror or reflective material for signaling a plane, car or a rescue team

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  1. Trust Your Gut

Know when it is time to stop or move on. Choosing to wait out a thunder storm is logical if you are in a sheltered safe location. If you are off the trail and lost, staying put may not be an option. If night is approaching and rescue is not foreseeable consider setting up shelter before it gets too dark. There are a plethora of ‘ifs’ in an emergency situation. Go with your gut – usually it knows what it is doing.

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  1. Know the Weather Three Days in Three Days Out

This is vital. Storms can be devastating especially in desert wilderness. Risks include flash flooding, lightening, obstructed trails and continued bad weather. Hike knowing if and when a storm might be brewing. Also note storms in surrounding areas. For example a storm north of a river will cause fast moving water or unseasonably high water levels. Even a storm miles away can still effect you. This is especially important if you are hiking in a canyon.

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  1. Layer Clothes, Dress Accordingly

Dress sensibly for where you will be hiking. Layers allow protection from the sun and adjustments for temperature. Check this post out for some cold weather layering inspiration! 8 Outfits I Wore in the Arctic

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Stay safe out there! Your Cobweb Clearer, Kate

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How To Walk Like A Diocletian in Split, Croatia

The beating heart of Split, Croatia holds the UNESCO Palace of Diocletian. The ancient Roman behemoth was built in between the 3rd and 4th century by retired Emperor Diocletian. Fortunately for us, he didn’t use his full name – Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus. He likes names as much as Daenerys Targaryen. The Diocletian Palace is special as it reflects transitional architecture from Greek occupation to Byzantine rule. The seven-acre fortress looks over the sparkling Adriatic Sea and is sheltered by Mount Mosor. My best suggestion, lose yourself in the narrow, granite alley ways. The palace reminds me of walking in an Arizona slot canyon. Steep, claustrophobic walls that become maze. Enter for free through one of four gates – Golden, Silver, Iron, and Bronze.

I knew nothing about Split, let alone Croatia when I decided to visit. When my carefully planned, six-month itinerary went out the window and a cheap flight popped up on Skyscanner it all seemed chalked up to fate.

What can you do in this ancient beauty?

Firstly, embrace your inner Cersei Lannister and enjoy the greatest local reds. Wine is a trade that has been produced in Split for thousands of years. Coastal wine made in the Dalmatian region tends to be fruity yet, bold. Pick a light white to accompany a fresh fish dinner. Speaking of the Lannisters… there are several Game of Thrones filming sites in and around Split. The first site is the Fortress of Klis (about ten miles out of Split) and recently for GOT season 5, the Diocletian Palace itself. One of the best feelings is recognizing a place you have visited on screen.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

I entered through the buzzing Iron Gate from the equally as ancient, residential area of Varos. The Iron Gate is truly the place to be for food and is lively from 10AM to late in the evening. Split offers hundreds of local eateries and shops in and around the Diocletian Palace. Croatian food? They have it. Sparkly sandals? Check. Italian cuisine? Yup. Gelato? Please, don’t get between a tourist and a gelato stand or risk foot prints on your forehead.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

The Iron Gate leads directly to Peristyle Square. Want to see the square empty? You have to rise with the sun. I took this at 6AM as the sun was waking up. The morning is an incredible time to start exploring the city however, entry into the paid sites are normally not open. Another notable time to be in the center of the palace is noon. At noon actors present changing of the guards. It’s completely kitschy but, fun to watch! What girl doesn’t want to watch muscular, Roman guards march about?

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

My favorite find was through a tunnel leading to the subterranean palace. The arched hallways are untouched and seem completely original. How many years has this cavern seen? Oh right, thousands. Likeness to not being able to visualize millions of dollars, thousands of years doesn’t seem to make sense. The world was such a different place. Echoes produced by the tall ceilings are harrowing as you wander about. The buzz of the city above is haunting.  Here you can wander about in yet another maze. The rooms below used to be under water when the palace was first built. Afterwards, the rooms were used as a home for the Roman’s pet dragons. Um, kidding. But, it was used to produce wine – see a picture of the press below!

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

The Temple of Jupiter represents the old gods. Jupiter was the top Roman god. The vaulted ceilings create an acoustic sweet spot. There was a group of German tourists singing in the center of the temple. The result gave me goosebumps.

Right outside Jupiter’s temple is the narrowest alley in Split. Two adults are unable to squeeze through!

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

St. Duje Cathedral and the bell tower reigns supreme over the Split skyline. The bell tower, located next to the Peristyle is the tallest building in the city. The octagonal Christian Cathedral did’t exist until the 13th century as Emporer Diocletian was a persecutor of Christians. Climb the spiral staircase for a panoramic view of Split and surrounding areas.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

Facing the Riva is another quiet corner of the palace. Here you can also find the Ethnographic Museum of Split. I highly recommend stopping by this museum! Here you can learn about dress, weapons and wine making in Split throughout history.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

Be sure to wander, I cant stress this enough. You never know what you will come across.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses into the ancient past. Mosaics and stone carvings are hidden around the complex. They are incredibly preserved and protected.

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

In closing I’m completely in love with Split, and the bits of Croatia I have experienced. I cant wait to go back. A quick side note –  watch that sky. The weather changed in a matter of hours.

PSA granite is slippery.

Love, your Queen of Travel, Clearer of Cobwebs, Mother of Ferrets, Twister of Ankles – Kate

Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate MarraDiocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra

 

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Diocletians Palace Travel Scout Kate Marra
The beating heart of Split, Croatia holds the UNESCO Palace of Diocletian. The ancient Roman behemoth was built in between the 3rd and 4th century by retired Emperor Diocletian.

 

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