Go Snorkeling with Seals at the Subsea Retreat in British Columbia

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by marine life. There was even a period of time in my life where I considered studying marine biology, but that ambition quickly faded when I reached high school, due to my poor grades in science. That said, my passion for all-things water-related, has remained over the years.

So when I heard of the Subsea Retreat, out of Sidney, British Columbia, I immediately contacted them. This family-run eco-tour allows ocean enthusiasts like myself, to realize their lifelong dreams of snorkeling or even scuba diving with local seals and other marine creatures. The retreat is run by Jack Madro, who has over 35-years of scuba diving and tour organization experience, Pam and also his daughter Amanda Madro, who is a biochemist, a boat captain and an all-around inspiring woman who is passionate about ocean wildlife. Each bring their many years of diverse experience together to create not only a fun and safe retreat but also give you a ton of information on the area and the local marine life.

What’s great about the Subsea Retreat is that they offer different types of excursions for people of all-ages as well as skill levels. I had personally never gone scuba diving before, hence why I opted for snorkeling. Additionally, they have all the gear necessary for their excursions, so you don’t have to worry about bringing anything with you. You will be able to try on all the equipment with Jack by your side. The family will then bring you out on the water with their own private boat and make sure you are fully comfortable the entire duration of the excursion.

Sidney, is just a short ferry ride away from Vancouver (only 1h40 mins, and the retreat is a 5min drive from the ferry terminal!) or a quick 30min drive from Victoria. While you’re out in Sidney, you’ll be able to stay at their beautiful home that contains several private rooms, a large dining room and living room as well as outdoor deck, BBQ and pool, all located on a beautiful and quiet property. In between excursions, you can really kick-back and relax, you may also see hummingbirds, eagles or even deer while you’re lounging outside.

In addition to snorkeling or scuba diving, there are tons of other activities you can do while you’re staying at the Subsea Retreat such as hiking, SUPing, swimming, there are also lots of cafés, restaurants, farms and even wineries to check out in the area. The family gives great local tips on where to go, if you’re on the hunt for some additional activities.

I couldn’t believe that in just one afternoon, I got to cross two things off of my bucket list: I snorkeled with seals and also got to see a local pod of transient killer whales swim by the boat. I had such a wonderful time with the family that I’m already planning my return. Below is a little recap vlog of my adventures at the Subsea Retreat.

For more information on the Subsea Retreat, go here.

A major thank you to Toyota Canada, for allowing me to test out the 2018 Toyota C-HR during this trip!

5 things to do in Osoyoos

Osoyoos is one of the hottest places in Canada, literally! Located just 4 hours from Vancouver, this desert-like region is well worth the visit. Check out my 5 things to do in the area below!

1) Visit the Nk’ Mip cultural centre – If you’re headed to Osoyoos, you’ll want to reserve a few hours for the Nk’ Mip cultural centre, located right near downtown Osoyoos. Run by the Osoyoos Indian Band, the cultural centre offers lots of great learning experiences via interactive presentations of song, dance, wildlife exhibits, etc. They have exhibits both inside and outside, sharing the history of their people, the land, the language, etc. You can also hike through some of their trails that start off right at the centre.

2) Eat at Dolci Deli – This trendy looking café is where you’ll want to go for homemade lunch and dinner. The Dolci Deli serves up tasty dishes using local ingredients and offer a variety of vegan as well as gluten-free options. They have a beautiful outdoor patio and vintage-inspired bar and dining room. The staff is also incredibly friendly and the food is reasonably priced.

3) Swim in Osoyoos Lake – Known for its warm water, the Osoyoos Lake is one of the main attractions in the region. Its sandy bottom and long beach area, offers beachgoers plenty of area to set up for a long day of lakeside fun. If you’re also into SUPing, kayaking or even wake boarding, there are lots of places to rent equipment from and where you can organize water adventures!

4) Go for breakfast at JoJo’s Café – This local hotspot is where you’ll want to go to start off your day. JoJo’s Café is a great place for coffee, breakfast and also to work as they have some free wifi and lots of seating options inside and out. They even have some yummy homemade vegan muesli!

5) Watch the sunset from a winery – The area is filled with a handful of wineries. With the hot arid climate in the area, the Osoyoos region is able to produce a lot of the heavier reds that other areas of the province or even country cannot. One of the best spots to watch the sunset, while sipping on some delicious wine is from the Nk’ Mip Cellars‘ outdoor lounge area. You can order a flight of wine as well as one of their boards and watch as the sun sets over the lake and valley.

5 Things to do on Salt Spring Island

If you’re looking for a great weekend getaway idea for the summer or fall, try out Salt Spring Island. It’s just a quick 90 min ferry ride from Vancouver. Check my top 5 things to do in Salt Spring Island below.

1) Visit the Saturday market – The Saturday market is a great way to start off a weekend trip to Salt Spring Island. Whether you’re a fan of crafts, jewelry, handmade goodies or delicious fresh organic produce and homemade snacks, you’ll want to stop by the market during the day. It starts early in the morning and lasts until mid-afternoon. There’s also music and even some dancing in the grass, making it a fun outing for the entire family. If you make it out, make sure you grab some “Green Godess” tacos from the market taco stand, they make the best lunch! If you’re lucky you may also see Raffi there (word on the street is he sells his music there!).

2) Go swimming at St Mary Lake – This beautiful lake is located right in the middle of the island. You can pretty much park anywhere on the side of the road where you find space and walk down to the lake. There is also a small beach area with sand but that can get quite crowded on the weekend. The lake is warm in the summer, making it a great way to cool off after a day of outdoor activities!

3) Hike up Mt Maxwell – There are tons of trails that are available around the island but one of my favourites was the Mt Maxwell trails because of the incredibly views you can get at the top. The trails are uncrowded and allow you to explore a bunch of different viewpoints and landscapes on the island.

4) Cycle around the Island – Salt Spring Island is a popular destination for cycling enthusiasts. Lots of people cycle around the island, stopping at all the different farms, art studios, yoga studios, etc. around the island. You can find a map with the bike routes on the island here. There are also cycling excursions that you can join and bike shops, in case you need any tune ups while journeying across the island. If you’re a fan of hills, then you’ll be well served on the island!

5) Grab a snack at Morningside Organic Café – This cute little vegan café is located right beside the Fulford Harbour ferry stop. The Morningside Organic Café serves up a variety of bowls, wraps, vegan pizzas, gourmet sandwiches, nut mylks and more! You can also buy local produce and even books at the café. It’s also the coolest looking café around!

5 Things to do in Tofino

With Tofino being one of the summer travel hotspots in British Columbia, there’s no doubt that a lot of people will be coming to the area in the next couple of months. Having said that, there are lots of great things to do in and around Tofino, so I wanted to highlight a few of my discoveries from my first trip there last week!

1) Go surfing at Long Beach – Long Beach is definitely one of the most coveted surf spots in all of Canada. The long strip of sandy beach draws people from all around the world and with reason. It’s a great spot to learn how to surf or catch some smooth waves with your longboard. It does tend to get a little crowded this time of year, but the beach is so vast that there’s always a quieter spot somewhere in the water. It’s also an ideal spot to enjoy a post-surf picnic, BBQ and even watch the sunset.

2) Grab a beer from Tofino Brewing Co. – You can’t go to Tofino and not want to stop by their one and only brewery in the area, the Tofino Brewing Co. Their brewery is located on Industrial Way, on the way into downtown. You can get a tasting flight for just $10 and they also serve the local Tofino Kombucha, if you’re more in the mood for a non-alcoholic beverage. The spot is quaint, decorated with lots of surfing photos, and artwork. It’s a fun and casual place to go post-surf!

3) Visit Ucluelet – Ucluelet is located just a short drive away from Tofino. This small town is a lot quieter than Tofino but offers just as many things to do. I highly recommend doing the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse hike, visiting Small Beach, grabbing a homemade snack from Zoë’s Bakery and going shopping at Gypsy Drifter, the cutest bohemian-inspired shop! You can also hop on a sea plane for a tour of the area, go SUPing or visit their aquarium.

4) Tofitian Café – Looking for a place to grab your morning java or a homemade snack? You’ll want to go to Tofitian. It’s a super popular spot with both locals and visitors because they serve up delicious scones, muffins and croissants as well as tasty matcha lattés, coffees and drinks. The café is located in a cute shopping area, where you can sit on picnic tables and enjoy the proximity to the woods.

5) Rainforest Trail – There are tons of hikes to do in the area, but one that must be added to your list is the Rainforest Trail. Located in the Pacific Rim National Park, this lush green trail will make you feel like you’re in a magical wonderland. Though it tends to get crowded in the summer, there’s always room to feel alone in the vast forest. There are tons of different loops that you can choose from, which will please everyone from a newbie to a seasoned hiker!

Go Camping with MEC’s Gear Rental Program

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Looking to start camping this summer or in need of some extra camping gear to make your travels more epic? If so, check out MEC‘s camping gear rental program.

Before moving to British Columbia, I had never really gone camping as an adult. There are many reasons why I had never done so but the major reason being that I did not own or know anyone that owned good camping gear. The few memories I have camping as a kid are that it was always uncomfortable, that our old tent would always get wet, that we didn’t have the proper cooking gear, etc. So camping was definitely not one of my favorite activities growing up!

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Now with mountains and the ocean in my new backyard, I’m making it a point to rediscover camping and give it another shot. Since I don’t own any camping stuff and am not ready to buy a ton of gear without knowing if this is something I will like doing, I was thrilled to find out that MEC has an easy to use camping gear rental program. Their gear is available to rent out in most stores located across the country including those in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. Even as a long-time MEC member, I had no idea MEC rented some of their great gear out. They rent anything from camping gear to snowshoes and even SUPs!

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What’s awesome about this program is that not only is it incredibly inexpensive to rent gear, it’s also a great solution for those who like myself, don’t have a lot of storage space or aren’t ready to make that investment just yet.

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Thanks to the help of MEC, we put together a great pack for our first camping weekend in Tofino that included sleeping bags (they even have double sleeping bags for couples!), sleeping pads (that can be velcro’ed together to make a double pad) and a tent.

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The gear is of utmost quality and super easy to transport. The MEC tent is also fast to set up. Sadly, it did rain on one of the days we were camping but unlike my experiences as a kid, the tent did not flood and all of our gear stayed dry!

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Camping last weekend turned out to be so much more pleasant than I remembered. I know now that it’s all about the gear you bring (and also the company!). So whether you’re a seasoned camper or a total newbie like myself, camping is one of the coolest things you can do during the summer to spend time surrounded by nature. I highly recommend giving it a try, if you haven’t already!

For more info on MEC‘s camping gear rental program, go here.

This post was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.

5 Things to do in Seattle

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1) Grab lunch at Wayward Vegan Café. This little Seattle hotspot serves up veganized versions of American diner food. Around since 2004, the Wayward Vegan Café has become a community favourite for its bottomless coffee, generous portions and comfort plates. They offer an extensive menu of all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as many gluten-free options. Waffles, sandwiches, salads and scrambles are just some of the many delicious dishes to choose from.

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2) Walk around in Capitol Hill. Located just east of downtown, Capitoll Hill is one of the liveliest areas of Seattle. Renown for its eclectic array of shops, restaurants and attractions, the colorful area has also become the city’s LGBTQ hub. Whether you’re looking for the trendiest urban offerings or quiet tree-lined parks and streets, the area has it all.

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3) Grab a mid-afternoon snack at Mighty-O Donuts. Looking for a sweet stop during your explorations? Stop by Mighty-O Donuts in Capitol Hill to satisfy your sweet craving! This ultra-popular shop has been around since 2000 and prides themselves in creating donuts and glazes from scratch using only certified organic ingredients. Plus all of their donuts are egg and dairy free!

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4) Visit Olympic Sculpture Park. This free outdoor park is open to the public all-year-round. Part of the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park was opened back in 2007 and features both permanent and visiting installations and spans 9=acres across a park and beach. It’s a great place to admire and get inspired by art as well as a great place to enjoy ocean views or even have a picnic!

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5) Have dinner Harvest Beat. If you were to ask me my top 3 vegan meals I’ve ever had, the one I had at Harvest Beat in Seattle, would definitely be in that list. The restaurant uses seasonal ingredients from local farmers to produce their daily menus. The 100% vegan 5-course prix-fixe dinner menu can be paired with wine or non-alcoholic beverages. The dinner is set in a very intimate and warm setting that allows conversation with the chef and for a truly wonderful evening!

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Summer Travel Essentials

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Today I share some of my favorite summer accessories for the active traveler out there. If you’re hitting the beach or plan on going on a surf trip, you may want to add these items to your suitcase!

1) Wander Wet Bag – This is the perfect accessory for your bathing suit this summer! Wander Wet Bags is a local company based out of Encinitas, California. Each wet bag is made 100% in the United States and all the materials used from the bag are also local. The creator of Wander, Eileen, has come up with a beautiful variety of prints and colours. It’s the ideal bag to throw in your bathing suit after a day at the beach, swimming or even surfing!

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2) Colorescience Sunscreen – Want a quick and easy solution for makeup and UV protection while you travel? Try out Colorescience‘s Daily UV Protector. This lightweight, non-greasy and water-resistant cream blurs imperfections and also protects the skin from environmental stressors. It’s an easy foundation to use under makeup or even wear alone.

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3) Bikini Village Bathing SuitBikini Village is back with fun new bathing suits this summer. They have really stepped up the ante with the collections that are available in stores and online. Whether you’re looking for a bikini, a one-piece suit, a tankini, boy shorts and more, they’ve got you covered. Bikini Village offers 50 + brands to choose from for classic, trendy or more sophisticated beach and summer looks.

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4) Reef Escape Sandals – Flip flops are a must in your suitcase this summer! Reef has released a series of cute printed luxury sandals that are easy to pair with a bathing suit or a cute summer outfit. The sandals are water friendly, free of PVC (which is better for the environment!) and also provide arch support for added stability and comfort while you explore.

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5) Rip Curl Hooded Towel – This towel is an absolute must for surfers and swimmers who are looking for a great way to keep warm and dry after going in the water. The Rip Curl Wettie Gift Hooded Towel is also an easy way to change at the beach, without having to find a change room or toilet. It’s lightweight and easy to roll up in your suitcase.

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AC Hotel in Downtown Portland

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Looking for a place to stay in the heart of Portland? Look no further than the AC Hotel, located right in downtown.

This brand new modern hotel offers travellers state of the art lodging in a stylish and contemporary setting. When you check into the AC Hotel, you immediately feel at home. Everyone on staff is friendly and very helpful making the arrival process smooth and stress-free.

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The hotel lobby is equipped with a brand new office space, which allows hotel guests to stay in touch with loved ones, print out itineraries, work, etc. In the lobby, patrons will also have access to the sophisticated AC Lounge, a beautiful area that can be used to sit and read a book, catch up on work or sip on a cocktail and enjoy tapas-style snacks from local suppliers.

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Adjacent to the lobby is the AC Kitchen, the location for the hotel’s European-inspired breakfast buffet. Each morning, the hotel serves up delicious and wholesome breakfast options for guests, which also include’s coffee from Portland’s own Water Avenue Coffee.

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Each guest room at the AC Hotel in Portland has been carefully designed having in mind the guests’ comfort. All the rooms are smoke-free and offer either downtown, mountain or waterfront views. Each room features platform beds, topnotch linens, an ultramodern bathroom, complimentary high-speed internet as well as USB ports and plugs bedside. There’s also space in the room to create a satellite office for those away on business.

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The hotel carefully selected art from local Portland artists for decoration throughout the building. The sleek and European-influenced design features natural colour pallets and elements.

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Some of the city’s top attractions are just a few short minutes away. It’s easy to walk to the waterfront or to the very trendy Pearl District from the hotel. You also have access to local transit, which is just a stone’s throw away.

All in all, the AC Hotel in downtown Portland is an urban gem that allows visitors to enjoy the buzz of the city while also retreating to a quiet and luxurious room after a busy day of exploration.

For more information on the AC Hotel in downtown Portland, go here.

5 Things to do in Portland

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Thinking of visiting Portland, Oregon this spring? Whether you love the outdoors, craft beer, vegan food, running or art, Portland’s got something for you. Check out some of the things that make the city one the coolest and most diverse places to visit!

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1) Visit Powell’s Books. If you’re looking for inspiration to start reading again, then look no further. Powell’s Books is without a doubt the most beautiful and biggest bookstore I’ve ever been to in my entire life! It’s easy to get lost in all of the different rooms of books and end up spending several hours looking for the perfect read. They’ve also got a great coffee shop and tons of spots that you can just sit down at and get inspired.

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2) Go for a run. With Nike, originating in Portland and with there being so many great outdoor apparel brands coming out of the area, it’s no surprise that Portland is a great running town. There are a handful of beautiful trails located right downtown that cross the Willamette River and allow you to explore some of the city’s best neighborhoods. You know you’re in a running town when every runner that passes you by, throws you a peace sign or a wave. The running views in Portland are just dreamy.

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3) Hit the coast. It’s super easy to hit the coast from the city. With it only being a 90-minute drive, there are tons of really cute beach towns and beautiful scenery to explore. Little areas like Lincoln City offer not only super cute accommodations and coffee shops but also great scenic views, surf spots and more.

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4) Hike waterfalls. There are a handful of waterfalls that are located just a few minutes from downtown Portland. Some of them are located in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area, just east of the city, an area that protects more than 77 waterfalls. The most popular being Multnomah Falls, can be reached along with four others on Route 30, Historic Columbia River Highway. It’s a great place to go for a hike and get your nature fix.

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5) Visit Alberta Arts district. If you’re more of a city dweller, there are tons of cute and unique neighborhoods to visit while you’re in Portland ranging from the very popular Pearl District to also the Alberta Arts District, my personal favorite. The reason why this strip is so special is because of all the independent shops, coffee stores and restaurants that are located on Alberta St. The area is also adorned with beautiful murals and super colorful buildings, making it the perfect spot for a stroll!

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Don’t miss my fun Portland recap video coming later this week on my YouTube channel!

World Ski & Snowboard Festival with CLIF Bar

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The World Ski & Snowboard Festival is now in full swing at Whistler Blackcomb. For the next ten days, some of the best skiers and snowboarders from around the world will be in town for some epic shredding, concerts and special events.

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CLIF Bar invited a small group of media up to their Basecamp this past weekend for an adventure packed VIP weekend at the mountain.

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The basecamp was located just a few minutes from the slopes. It had everything a rider could need including a hot tub, sauna, steam room, fire place, movie screening room and deluxe rooms. The basecamp’s bright red kitchen was also very on-brand, a total coincidence they assured us.

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In addition to the small group of media, CLIF Bar had also invited some of their ambassadors to come join us. Our host for the weekend was CLIF Bar ambassador, pro-snowboarder, environmentalist and founder of the organization Beyond BoardingTamo Campos. Spending the weekend with him was so incredibly inspiring!

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We kicked off the weekend with a private dinner at Stonesedge Whistler, a local favourite that serves delicious dishes made from local and organic ingredients.  We spent the first night at the launch of the State of the ART, a beautiful exhibit of local artistic talent at the Whistler Conference Centre.

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The next morning started off with a fun build-a-bar workshop with CLIF’s registered dietician Tara Dellolacono Thies, who is also an ultra runner and amazing athlete. We got to create our own custom bars, which I can’t wait to receive! We also got to try out some of CLIF Bar‘s latest products, including my new favorite bar, the organic Nut Butter Filled organic peanut butter bar, yum!

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We then hit the slopes with local mountain guides. We got to spend the entire day riding outdoors before enjoying a VIP après-ski at GLC, on their heated outdoor patio while listening to Walk Off The Earth sing one hit song after another on WSSF’s main stage. Like if that wasn’t enough, we also got to enjoy a professional massage at the Basecamp before chowing down on some delicious healthy eats and watching some of Tamo’s films, which included a very powerful doc he recently released that I highly recommend checking out called A Last Stand for Lelu.

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On Sunday, we got up at the crack of dawn to enjoy an energizing yoga session led by one of the media guests, who also happens to be a yoga teacher. Then it was back to the Whistler Village to go up the mountain to then take the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola all the way to Christine’s restaurant on the top of Blackcomb. The panoramic views from the restaurant were absolutely mind-blowing, it cleared up just in time for our 3-course lunch. The food served at Christine’s is topnotch, the perfect setting for a five-star snack.

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One of the best parts of the entire weekend was attending MULTIPLICITY, a TEDTalk-like event, which featured some of the most inspiring personalities in the mountain world. The sold-out event left me so incredibly inspired by everyone’s stories. Some of the speakers included professional Freeride MTB Hall of Famer Brett Tippie, National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey and his son Haweye Huey and our Basecamp host Tamo Campos, just to name a few.

The weekend spent at the WSSF with CLIF Bar was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. The entire CLIF Bar team was so incredibly kind and really made this adventure-packed weekend, one to remember.

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For more information on how to #FeedYourAdventure with CLIF Bar, go here.