Whirlwind Hoody Review (#ORInsightLab)

Disclosure: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. This softshell hoody was provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own. You can find my other Insight Lab reviews here: Airbrake Climbing GlovesVoodoo Pants, Clairvoyant Jacket.

Last but not least! It’s been far too hot here in Colorado to really put this hoody to legit test until recently. Sure, I’d taken it out a handful of times and it was always stuffed into my pack just in case but the weather was just not cooperating with me earlier this summer!

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

Of course, I failed at taking any sort of action shot, any time I’ve been out in this hoody except for awkward self-timer photos that no one needs to see. Blog fail.

I do really like this hoody – it’s lightweight and durable and a perfect top to throw in my pack for the in-between season adventures. I’ve been wearing it most mornings when I run around the nearby park, to/from workout classes and while camping in the evenings. I’ll definitely be getting more use out of this piece as summer fades to fall (but not today with 90* temps!) and I find the air cooler, crisper and windier.

What I Love About This Hoody

I love how lightweight it is, for sure. It adds virtually no weight to my pack – I mean, the thing weighs only 8.5 ounces! Another really nice feature is how the sleeves fold over your hands to cover exposed fingers. This is actually kind of genius because it allows you to protect and shelter your hands when you might only need a short reprieve from the wind rather than rooting through your pack for gloves.

As you can see in the photo above, the hood is legit. It looks and I feel like a conehead when I have the hood on but that thing does not move, something really rare to find in the lightweight/soft-shell pieces. Any time I threw my hood up, I knew that sucker wasn’t flying off like other hoods do. Much appreciated, OR!

And vainly, it’s also a really nice length for my long torso – I never felt like it was too short or that I had to yank it down. The fit it wonderful – long enough in my arms and torso. (For those considering this hoody – I’m 5’11″ and am wearing a medium).

What Would I Change

The biggest hangup for me was the little chest pocket. It can double as a stuff sack for the jacket – which is really nice – but in real life use, I wasn’t able to really utilize this except to hold an ID and credit card on a run. It is big enough for my phone – but the weight of the phone pulls the jacket down and bounces around. Same for keys. I like that there IS a pocket – I just wish I found it more useful!

Overall Thoughts

This is a versatile softshell hoody to easily bring along for windy 14er summits or cool evenings by a campfire. I rarely leave home for a workout or adventure without it! Again, fit is awesome and the high-quality fabric really seems to perform in cooler conditions for the in-between seasons. Will report back later this fall as the weather cools with any changes in opinion but I feel pretty confident that this will continue to be a staple piece of gear in my pack.

Two Years

Today marks our second wedding anniversary. I can hardly believe it! Last year on our anniversary, we were driving across Nebraska en route to the Boundary Waters for a 6 day canoe trip.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Trip // lgsmash.com

This year, we stayed local and drove a few hours north to Steamboat Springs. Until Thursday, I thought we were coming to spend the weekend backpacking but Alex surprised me and booked a nice condo for us instead. It’s been rainy and chilly in Steamboat but our spirits are not dampered. We spent yesterday afternoon walking around Steamboat, drinking beer in a hot tub and just being goofy together. The best night are not always the fancy, expensive dinner celebrations – they’re the low key, making nachos and dancing to Spotify in the kitchen nights.

Today, we’re going to try our hand at mountain biking…which should be an interesting adventure. Especially in drizzly rain and on damp, muddy trails!

It feel like just yesterday we were exchanging vows in front of our family and friends. Time flies when you’re having fun right? And the past two years have been so fun – and the next few are sure to give these years a run for their money. As long as I’ve known Alex, I’ve known he was the person I was meant to be with – I’m so excited about the life we’re creating and the future we’re planning. As long as I’m with my person, there’s not much more I need in life.


Road Trippin’ Through The Southwest

When I knew I might be facing a job change, I also knew two other things: I was going to make sure I took a week off in between and I was going to do something BIG. I considered buying a plane ticket to visit my sister who moved to Las Vegas last year…but then realized it was definitely driveable. And driving would be so much more interesting!

I recruited my brother to join me on my adventure; I Google Mapped out a route that would take us through Moab/Arches National Park, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park and Mesa Verde National Park, so many places I’ve been dreaming about visiting! We planned to car camp when we weren’t in Vegas, see as much as we could and soak it all in.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com


We left on a Friday evening, just barely escaping the evening rush hour traffic, and found ourselves at Colorado National Monument late Friday night. Crossing our fingers, we tried the campground on the monument, Saddlehorn Campground, and to our delight, found many open campsites. We parked, pulled out our sleeping bags and slept under the stars.

And then we woke up to find ourselves surrounded by this.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

It was incredible! We spent as much time as we could exploring our immediate vicinity before it was time to hit the road. We wanted to stop at Arches National Park before parking in Vegas that evening.


A few hours west, we rolled into Arches National Park and hiked the Devil’s Garden / Primitive Trail. A short, relatively easy trek, we climbed up some rocks to take in the view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After about an hour and a half though, in the midday heat, we climbed back in the car and drove south a few miles to Moab for gas and lunch before hitting the highway again.

Throughout this whole trip, we spent a lot of time driving in the car but DAMN was it beautiful! We hardly minded the long hours because there was so much to look at.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We finally pulled into my sister’s apartment late Saturday night. We filled our bellies, caught up with my sister and her boyfriend and new pets and hit the sack. We had exploring to do in the morning!


We had all Sunday with Trisha in Vegas – we’d planned to leave for our next leg on Monday morning – so we packed in as many Vegas things as possible into one day. Upon waking up, we slathered on sunscreen and headed out to Trisha’s favorite trail just outside Vegas city limits.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

We hit the Eagle’s Nest Trail in Kyle Canyon for a toasty 3ish mile hike. It was really awesome to see a different side of Las Vegas – the glitz and glamour are all well and fine but hiking and an active lifestyle? Not something that jumps to your mind when you think about Vegas.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After hike, it was time for a cool down…what else do you do on ‘Sunday Funday’ in Las Vegas than drink margaritas in a pool? So we did exactly that.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

That night, we ate dinner on the strip and celebrated the eve of my sister’s first day teaching at a new school. If you’re gonna do Vegas in 24 hours, call my sister. She’ll show you the spots!

On Monday morning, we stopped by my sister’s new school on the way outta town. It’s hard to believe my younger sister is old enough to be teaching high schoolers but she is!

Mid-Monday morning, we began our trek to Grand Canyon National Park!!! We back-tracked a bit (drove north from Vegas back up to St. George, UT before heading east) but made great time. As we drove east across Northern Arizona, we watched a spectacular thunderstorm drench the valley around us. The lightning was incredible.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Chris insisted on pausing to watch the storm (I wanted to ‘out run’ it and keep driving – look at that radar!!). He was behind the wheel so we stopped to watch for a while.


It remained rainy and gray the rest of the drive and we feared we wouldn’t be able to see much at the Grand Canyon. Fortunately, we were able to wait out the rain and as the clouds blew over, we were treated to very cool, moody Grand Canyon view.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

(quite possibly my most favorite photo – Chris matches the Grand Canyon.)Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

As the sun lowered in the sky, we set out to find a campsite for the evening. Grand Canyon campsites fill up the minute online reservations are open (6 months ahead of the date) so we drove 12 miles back out to a forest service road just before reaching De Motte Campground. Alarms set for 5 a.m., we planned to hit Bright Angel trail again for sunrise.

Unfortunately, the time change screwed us up and when we pulled into the park in utter darkness, we realized Arizona (and the Grand Canyon) were on Arizona time, not Mountain Time. Whoops. We were an hour early. Instead, we posted up in a parking lot and napped for an hour, waking just before a cloudy sunrise. Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Sunrise was tranquil and beautiful, even with the heavy cloud cover. Knowing we had a big day of driving ahead of us, we sought out (way overpriced) coffee, mailed our postcards and hit the road. This time, bound for Colorado/Utah/Arizona/New Mexico!

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

After a quick stop at the Four Corners (which charges $5 a person to get in, by the way), it was on to Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park!


Chris and I arrived at Mesa Verde early enough to pick a campsite and drive out to the two site we wanted to see, Spruce Tree House and Cliff Palace. Spruce Tree House is the best preserved site at Mesa Verde and offers self guided tours so we did that first. We then drove over to Cliff Palace, expecting to just look from afar as we hadn’t bought guided tour tickets. Amazingly, Chris was able to talk us into a smaller-than-normal tour (don’t worry, we bought tickets after the fact) and we spent more than an hour listening to the best tour guide in all of Mesa Verde tell us about the history of the Ancient Pueblo people.
Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Seriously, Ranger Arragon (not sure of the spelling) at Mesa Verde is phenomenal – if you find yourself at Mesa Verde  and can request him, do it.

We camped out at Mesa Verde that night and warmed up next to a campfire. As we were turning in for the night, we listened to a pack of coyotes howl and yip in a nearby canyon; in that moment, I felt like, YES. THIS is where I need to be. In this moment. In this place. In this experience.

The campground had posted signs for a pancake breakfast and Chris and I had no intention of missing it on Wednesday morning.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

Absolutely the bomb. Three giant, fluffy pancakes and turkey sausage for the WIN.

Back in the car after breakfast, we pointed our wheels east and north to return to Denver by Wednesday night.

Southwest Road Trip // lgsmash.com

About halfway to Denver, we were stopped on 285 for the USA Pro Challenge bike race. Every possible route through the town of Salida was closed for an hour so Chris and I parked on a side street to watch the bikers fly through town. Just minutes after parking, the leader group sprinted past us.

Definitely not an expected experience on our trip but it was really neat to cheer on these badass bikers as they raced toward the end of their 96 mile day.

Soon after, the town and roads opened back up and we were on our way back home.

A few hours later, I was back in my apartment, exhausted but so content. The trip was a whirlwind of activity but is definitely a favorite memory already. I can’t wait to get back out to each of the national parks we visited again to truly experience it – we could have easily spent 5 days at each park! There was so much more to see that we just didn’t have time to see or do. Next time!

Ironically, I spent my final days of ‘funemployment’ recovering from my trip – I was so wiped out! Lots of sleeping, lots of alone time, lots of puppy snuggles put me in the right spot to start fresh at work on Monday.

tl;dr had a blast road tripping; saw 4 national parks, 4 states and covered 1800+ miles in 5 days.

Urban Trail Running: The Bluffs Regional Park

This little surprise trail in urban Highlands Ranch, Colorado, became an immediate favorite for me. Unfortunately for me, I found it far too late! As I start a new job in Downtown Denver today, this trail is too far of a drive for me to utilize regularly. Sad panda.

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The Bluffs Regional Park is a hidden trail, tucked behind a shopping center and smack-dab in the middle of neighborhood homes. It’s hilly and surprisingly tranquil, given its location. I learned about The Bluffs one winter night when I ran with the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost run club – they’d mentioned that because it was icy, we would run on the nearby sidewalks instead of the trails at The Bluffs. I made a mental note to check out the trail in the spring time. Fast forward to Kristen inviting me the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost for run club where we ran – you guessed it! – The Bluffs.

From the Lone Tree Runner’s Roost, it’s a 4 mile run to and around the park. From the parking lot, it’s a 2.5 mile loop.

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The 2.5 mile loop is hilly with a few sections of flat on a packed dirt trail. There are no trees and no shade so plan accordingly – lots of sunscreen, a hat and extra water!

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

The Bluffs Regional Park // lgsmash.com

This is a popular trail but it’s never felt overcrowded to me. I’ve run in the mornings before work and in the evenings after work. You’ll encounter runners, walkers with pups, mountain bikers…and snakes on occasion. I’ve only (literally) run into a snake once – it wasn’t a rattler and it wasn’t very big but it was an immediate reminder to keep my eyes on the ground ahead of me.

My favorite part of The Bluffs is how close it was to my work (5 minutes!) and how stepping on to the trail leaves the city noise behind. The view of the front range isn’t too shabby either.

Solo or with friends, give this trail a shot if you’re looking for an easy loop in south Denver without wanting to drive too far.

Trail Running with New Balance Elite Runners (Foam Fresh 980 Shoe Launch)

On a random Thursday in July, I called in a PTO day and drove myself up to Boulder for a full day of trail running with New Balance. Truthfully, I’m not sure how the New Balance PR team found me online but I was super jazzed and humbled to be invited to attend the launch of their new Foam Fresh 980 trail running shoes.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

But let’s back up a bit first.

In college, I had and loved a pari burnt orange New Balance classic style sneaks. I wore them everywhere to the point of wearing multiple holes into the toebox fabric and my then-boyfriend-now-husband was on the verge of refusing to be seen with me in my tattered shoes. I hadn’t thought much about New Balance after that until I attended a marketing conference in Boston last year and the Director of Global Marketing and Brand Management for New Balance, Hillary Keats, spoke about their Runnovation initiative, telling inspiring runner stories and, ultimately, redefining running as a social activity. The presentation was super interesting and I liked what I heard from Hillary Keats; New Balance was back on my radar.

Fast forward to this July. When the PR contact emailed me, inviting me to participate in this trail running event to celebrate the Foam Fresh 980 shoe launch, I excitedly wrote back, I’m in! I had no idea what I was signing up for but knew I wanted to be part of the ‘runnovation’ I’d heard about last October in Boston.

On that Thursday, after meeting the full group of ‘media’ – which included some friendly faces I already know! Heidi, Marissa, Heather and Kia were also invited – and elite runners – like Anton Krupicka, a dude who WINS 100 mile races – we all hopped on a bus bound for Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder to take a pair of brand spankin’ new Foam Fresh 980 trail shoes out for a spin.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

We set out on a (hot!) 3 mile trail run. And when you set out a bunch of blogger friends out on a trail run, you can absolutely expect we will stop to take photos on pretty trails.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com

What I failed to mention is that while we bloggers were beginning our 3 mile loop, the elite runners were (probably) finishing their 3 mile loop. They’ve got speedy, speedy legs! New Balance team runners included Anton Krupicka, Dominic Grossman, Gina Lucrezi and Brandy Erholtz.

After the trail run, we headed back to Boulder for some lunch and a Q&A with the New Balance elite runners. It was incredibly interesting to hear about their race perspective, training schedules and daily lives. I (foolishly) assumed that because each person was a New Balance sponsored athlete, they didn’t work ‘normal’ jobs but that is so far from the truth! Brandy is a new mom and balances training (and winning races) with parenting, being a wife, a full time job as a teacher and coaching track. Dominic is an engineer and manages employees at an office. Until recently, Gina also held a full time job but is now able to dedicate herself to her running full time. Anton was the only one of the group who runs full time.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Press Event // lgsmash.com


It felt like an ‘ah ha!’ moment, realizing these elite runners, while definitely kickass at running, are normal people like the rest of us. They work to find time to train AND have lives, they face race disappointment and injury, they are realistic and down to earth. And while their bucket list races are VERY different than mine, they have races they aspire to run and crush.

One of their closing remarks was about being approachable and it really struck me. They’d been asked about how to foster community in the ultrarunning world and they all echoed the same thing. Be approachable. You (read: they) might have just won a race but that race kicked your ass just as much as the person who finishes last. You’re all in the same mental and physical fatigue pain cave at the end of a race – just because you’re faster doesn’t mean the slower runners didn’t work as hard or don’t feel as tired. So if you see these folks at a race, go say hi! They’re super nice, very personable and really interesting.

I left the event feeling super inspired – almost convinced I should sign up for a trail ultramarathon! But then I came to my senses and remembered super long distances aren’t my thing. At all. I’ll leave the ultra running to Heidi and Paula.

But what about the shoes, right?

Well, I’ll get a full review up soon but I really, really, really like them for trail running (and walking). The shoe is super cushioned – as you’d expect with Foam in the name – but also super stable and grippy on rocky trails.

New Balance Foam Fresh 980 Trail Shoes // lgsmash.com

I’ve been running in only these shoes on trails since New Balance gave them to me; they make my feet and knees feel really great on uphills and downhills alike. I also brought these guys on my road trip for hikes at Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park – super comfortable for long walks and hours standing/walking. More to come but I am definitely a big fan of these shoes.

tl;dr New Balance Foam Fresh 980s are a super cushion-y trail running shoe and the New Balance elite team runners are badasses. Say hi when you see them.

Currently… (August)

Currently August

…thoroughly enjoying my ‘gap week’ between jobs.

…poring through hundreds of photos taken on a 5 day road trip with my brother.

…disbelieving that we covered more than 1,800 miles, 31 hours in a car, 4 national parks and 4 states in 5 days.

…spending my last two ‘free days’ catching up on life things like laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping.

…snuggling my little Philly pup lots.

…watching The Killing on Netflix.

…reading The Leftovers to understand The Leftovers on HBO better.

…feeling excited butterflies start to creep in for my first day at work on Monday.

…smiling, knowing I’m in the exact right place at the exact right time in my life.

Road Trip Audio – Your Suggestions

And this, my friends, is why I love the internet. Last week, I asked for your suggestions for what to listen to on a road trip and HOLY COW! Y’all sent me a treasure trove of interesting audio options.

Road Trip Audio Suggestions





I’ve downloaded a handful of podcasts to get us through the first leg of the trip at least and we’ll decide to download more of the same or try something new at our pit stop visiting our sister in Vegas.

Have a podcast, audiobook or musician you think we should check out? Leave it in the comments! We’ll check ‘em out in Sin City.

Thank you to ChrisLaura, Marisa, Mel, Jon, Heather, Heidi, Kevin, Calee and Annie for suggestions!

On Endings and New Beginnings

After high school, I could not WAIT to get out of the house and start college. I was so excited to be out on my own, spreading my wings and discovering who I really wanted to be, even if it was just a handful of miles away from where my parents lived.

As I packed up my prized possessions that would come with me to my dorm room, I still hadn’t grasped what was about to happen. My parents loaded up the car that evening and we navigated to Calhoun Hall at the University of Cincinnati. I was the second girl (of four) to arrive and I had my choice of beds. A couple of trips later, the car was empty and reality was setting in; my life was about to change forever. I had offiically moved out of my comfortable and safe comfort zone into a room with three strangers. The ensuing panic and questioning if I was ready to do this brought hot tears to my eyes as I hugged my parents goodbye.

Of course, within the first week, I’d settled into my new role as ‘college student living in a dorm’ and had forgotten that I’d once been nervous about leaving home. THIS was where I was meant to be!

Looking back, I smile at 18-year-old me, feeling insecure and nervous about the change ahead of her.

Today, I find myself in a very similar emotional state.

work life // lgsmash.com

After 5.5 really excellent years, today markes my last day at my current company. I started at this company fresh out of college and as a Colorado resident for mere days. I’d packed up my car after finishing classes, drove west and parked in Denver on a Sunday night. I showed up for a Marketing Coordinator interview on Tuesday and was offered the position on Thursday. Since that day, I’ve worked for people I respect and admire. Coworkers have felt like family. I’ve navigated significant life changes here. I’ve grown up as a professional and a person here.

But today I permanently set my out of office notice and turn in my badge. I hug my favorite coworkers goodbye, fighting back those familiar tears of temporary panic. I question if I’m truly ready to embark on my next adventure – there is still so much I can do here! But I pull myself together, gather the last of my things and walk out of the giant copper building for the last time.

Today, I think back to 18-year-old me and smile. She stepped out of her comfort zone and thrived.  Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, right? So today, 10 years later, I take a deep breath, smile for the experiences I’ve had and for the experiences I’m about to have, and step right out of that comfort zone again.

The next stop on my career timeline is so exciting and such a perfect fit for my personal and professional strengths and interests. My life is about to change forever and I could not be more excited about what lies ahead.

But first? A road trip.

Catch y’all on the flip side!

Car Camping under a (Nearly) Super Moon

Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com
Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.comGordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com Gordon Gulch Camping, Nederland, CO // lgsmash.com

My brother and his girlfriend are living in Boulder for the next few months and, even before they parked their van in Colorado, they’d told us they wanted to go camping. With a free weekend and promise of a giant full moon, we scouted a nearby area to go car camping for their first mountain camping experience.

After a failed attempt at finding a spot off the Hessie and Fourth of July trailheads, we lucked out with a spot at Gordon Gulch Dispersed Camping Area. We set up our tents and spent the night goofing off, sharing snacks and swapping stories.

While we had a really fun night playing cards, tossing a football and watching the pup chase squirrels, I would not come back to Gordon Gulch for car camping. You can’t judge books by their covers but neighboring campsites did not seem to be car camping for the same reason we were; they seemed more…transient. I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach as we turned in for the night and spent most of my night awake.

Our trip concluded without an incident but as I was looking up the exact name of our campground, I came across this news story from last May where 2 campers were stabbed by a homeless man in Gordon Gulch; the police chief acknowledges ‘Gordon Gulch [...] has been the scene of many assaults, a couple of murders and a couple of suicides.‘ Uneasy feeling validated and next time, we’ll do a bit more ‘backup plan’ research before settling in for the night.

But to end this blog post on a happy note, Philly’s second ever camping experience went swimmingly! I’ve never seen her so excited, so in her element. She ran around like a young puppy and wagged her tail more than I’ve ever seen. A huge triumph over her last camping experience when she spent a solo night in the woods…maybe we do have a real mountain dog on our hands after all!

Help! Road Trip Tunes and Podcasts!

To say the last few weeks have been a whirlwind is an understatement. Big changes in my life happened swiftly and suddenly and I’ve seized the moment, set the wheels in motion and am riding a beautiful wave of change.

road trip // lgsmash.com

But guys! I need your help!

I’m in the midsts of planning a (very exciting) solo road trip to take in the very near future (like…next week) and need your help! My plan is to be driving 4-6+ hours on my driving days and I *know* I don’t have enough music saved to keep me interested.

So tell me! What are your favorite road trip songs? What podcasts do you love? (I listen to This American Life and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me already) Any audio books I should try? (I’ve never listened to an audio book!)