Though I’m writing about my adventures in Utah, in actuality, I’m home in Minnesota. I got home last week after 2 months of traveling around the western USA. It feels good to be home. Well, let me refresh your memory real fast. In my last post, I wrote about my experiences hiking in Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. After spending time there, I camped at White House Campground (If you search for it, you’ll see that I wrote a google review for the campground. It’s my first review ever! I decided to write one because it didn’t have a review and I think travelers should know there’s a well-maintained, cheap campground near so many national parks).
If you have never been to Zion, then you must go. Make it the next on your list of places to see. There is something so stunning and so magical about Zion. Maybe it’s the sheer size of the cliffs that you’re hiking beside or maybe it’s the pristine mountains that flank you on both sides or maybe it’s because every view looks like a priceless painting. My brother and I couldn’t keep our mouths shut because we were gawking everywhere we looked; from the shuttle bus to the Narrows, our jaws were ajar, awed by the surrounding scenery.
When we got past the eastern entry point, we stopped at a few lookout points. Each one had their own unique history to share and horizon to see. This is where I learned that many of the mountains I saw were gigantic petrified sand dunes. Woah.
The landscapes were so massive. Our cameras couldn’t do them justice.
We learned that there is parking available in the park, but it is very limited. We ended up driving out of the park from the southern entrance and finding a parking spot about a quarter mile away. There’s a free shuttle that goes from Springdale to Zion, which is a great alternative if you happen to be coming from the south. Once you’ve parked and have entered Zion, then follow signs for the park shuttle. It’s the best way to get around while in the park.
My brother and I found a map and decided to start from the last stop of the shuttle and then to check out the other stops as we returned back to the entrance. The last stop was The Narrows. My brother and I got off the bus, refilled our water bottles and started our 2-mile hike at the Riverside Trail (Gateway to the Narrows). Though it was a really hot day, the path was shaded by the nearby cottonwoods trees and a nice breeze whistled through the canyon. The farther we went, the narrower the canyon got. Though it was still quite large, it was evident why this trail is called the Narrows.
The trailhead to the Narrows hike
We reached the end of the Riverside Trail and found the Narrows trailhead. My brother and I didn’t come prepared, so we didn’t hike in, but I’m glad I got to see it. I know I’ll be back in Zion sometime soon (hopefully with my adventurous sister) and I plan on hiking the Narrows then! My brother and I hiked back and jumped in the shuttle bus to our next destination: Weeping Rock. We saw that it was a .4-mile loop with 100 feet of elevation gain and decided we should check it out. This hike is famous for the small streams that trickle down the side of the canyon, resulting in a weeping rock face. Also, since there is so much water, ferns and mosses grow all around, creating a green paradise hidden away in the sandstone cliffs. This was the perfect place to cool down after hiking a couple hours in the sun. The gentle drops of water cooled our burnt skin and the views of the park were spectacular. (A few images above is from Weeping Rock).
Hiking on Kayenta Trail
For our final hike, Jamie and I decided to check out Emerald Pools. We took Kayenta Trail from the Grotto area towards the Emerald Pools – Lower Trailhead. This hike was the most visually stunning of all the hikes we did that day. The trail was pretty easy too. It’s one of the most used trails in the park, since it connects to the East Rim Trail and to the infamous Angel’s Landing. I’d say if you have only a day to see Zion (like us), than this trail is a must-do (especially from north to south). Emerald Pools were really pretty too, but goodness, that view from the Kayenta trail was unforgettable.
That evening we stayed in St. George, UT using Airbnb. After a few days hiking and camping, we were both very dusty and very smelly and we both needed showers. The next day, we had planned to drive to Sedona to spend a couple days with our aunt and uncle. But, before our long drive, Jamie had noticed a sign about dinosaur tracks while entering the city the night before. So, we did a quick google search and found the Warner Valley Dinosaur Track Site. We didn’t even hesitate, within seconds I found the address and we were on our way to discover some dinosaur footprints!
Checking out the signage.
We found ourselves on a dirt/gravel/sandy road for over 6 miles while on our way to Warner Valley Dinosaur Track Site. We were worried we were lost until we saw signs for it. When we parked, the trail lead us down deeper into the valley. We found a sign with the history of the area and just across from it was a designated area strewn with footprints.
A pretty big footprint
I’m glad Jamie and I spent the time to explore this area. It was very beautiful and walking where dinosaurs once roamed was definitely the coolest part. We plan to visit larger dinosaur sites in the future, maybe even Dinosaur National Monument? Alas, all things must come to an end, so we left Warner Valley and began our 8 hour drive to Sedona. I’d like to say it was uneventful, but it was one of the scariest drives of my life! We hit a nasty storm while north of the Grand Canyon and even witnessed the beginning of a flash flood. We learned later that the flooding was very severe. I’m glad we left when we did because we easily could’ve been stranded.
Here’s a video of the storm before we reached it.
Thanks for reading. In my next post, I’ll write about camping in Sequoia National Forest.
In my last post, I wrote about my experiences visiting and hiking in Jackson, WY and Salt Lake City. Well, after spending time in Northern Utah, my brother and I decided to drive south towards Moab. I had heard good things about the town, as well as heard that there’s really good hiking and sightseeing.
The drive to Moab was very scenic and had landscapes that I’d never seen before with my own eyes. The horizon turned red and soon steep cliffs with layered plateaus filled our car windows. The most beautiful part of our drive that day was entering Moab. The city itself is flanked by two world renowned national parks. Since there was so much to do around the city, we decided to stay for two nights. And if you were curious where we slept, we stayed at the Lazy Lizard Hostel and I’d say it was a very characteristic hostel. Simple rooms, quirky people, cozy public spaces, and a communal kitchen. There’s a nomad gentlemen who has been staying at the hostel for awhile and through donations he cooks breakfast and dinner for the guests. What a nice service!
We woke up early the next morning to beat the afternoon heat. After breakfast, our first stop for the day was Arches National Park. (As a side note, I purchased a National Parks Pass, which is a VERY good investment if you plan on visiting a bunch of national parks in a year).
I had heard of the famous Delicate Arch and decided to have that as our first hike for the day. In total, it is a 3 mile hike and can be very strenuous if you hike it midday, since most of the trail is sun exposed. Jamie and I packed a bunch of water and started our hike up the red rock. Even 15 minutes in, I was impressed by the views all around me. You could see arches in the distance and red cliffs domineering the landscape. Most of the hike was uphill and the signs weren’t kidding, most of it was exposed to the sun. Luckily, we hiked early in the morning, but it was still a wee bit hot.
Eventually the trail leveled out and it became evident that we were getting closer to the arch. After another 20-30 minutes of maneuvering simple rock scrambles and walking across slick rock, we reached a trail that had sheer cliffs to our left. The trail was pretty wide, but it was a little unnerving, especially since some of the other hikers clogged against the inner wall. But, it was all worth it when you curved around the bend to find Delicate Arch in the horizon.
Delicate Arch – that little dot is me
Jamie and I spent a moment appreciating it from afar, but soon enough I was hiking down the rock to get a closer look (and an epic picture…). After getting our tourist shot of us under the rock, we then sat along the edge of the amphitheater, embracing our surroundings. Overall, the hike was a little hot, but the views of Delicate Arch and the surrounding red cliffs were absolutely worth the 3 mile hike.
In Devil’s Garden
We decided to drive the rest of the Arches loop so we could hike around Devil’s Garden. We stopped at random vista points and hiking trails along the way, even finding ourselves squishing between a narrow trail between two rocks just outside of Devil’s Furnace. This park was so much fun to explore and is a must-see if you’re nearby!
Internal framing of Canyonlands through Mesa Arch
After Arches, Jamie and I drove north to the entrance of Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky. We were pretty pooped from our hiking earlier in the day, so we decided to take it easy and to only check out the vistas. And we weren’t disappointed. The views from Grand View were absolutely stunning. The name says it all, the park is pretty much a canyon within a canyon within a canyon, which results in a dramatic view. We were also there during sunset and you couldn’t of asked for a better time of day. We drove around the whole park, getting all the different viewpoints and perspectives we could get. Each spot had its own special kodak moment and we made sure to document each one.
A canyon, within a canyon, within a canyon
The next day, Jamie and I said goodbye to Moab and set off towards White House State Park. We planned to camp there that evening, since it was one of the closest campgrounds to Zion National Park. But, before reaching our destination, I wanted to stop by the mysterious Newspaper Rock.
Newspaper Rock is a rock panel that has one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs. I had read about it months ago and when I found out I was really close to it while in Moab, I decided that my brother and I had to check it out. It is believed that some of the carving are traced back to the Pueblo people, dating as far back at 100 B.C. There are etchings that are more recent from the Ute people, who still live in the region. Also, there are a handful of cursive signatures carved into the rock from European settlers from the late 1800s. It was really cool looking close at the petroglyphs. There were lots of horses, bighorns, people with weapons, and even demons etched into the slab. Newspaper Rock is off a main road towards the Needles region of Canyonlands National Park, so if you’re in the area, you’d better not miss it!
Camping at White House State Park Campground
After a long drive, passing by notable places such as Lake Powell and the famous 4 Corners, we made it to White House Campground. The signs said it was named “White House” because back when the pioneers first settled in the area, they believed the water from the lake was so good that it was comparable to what the president drank. I really liked this campground. It was clean, isolated, and had beautiful views. Jamie and I made a fire and played ukulele till the stars came out. What a perfect place to crash after a long day of driving.
Thanks for reading! My next post will be about Zion National Park and finding dinosaur tracks.
4 Corners. To be honest, it wasn’t that great, but glad I still saw it.
As I type, I am in St. George, UT. We decided to use Airbnb to find a place to shower and sleep after our epic day at Zion National Park. I will most definitely write about how awesome this national park is, but for now I will catch you up with my trip!
Well, in my last post, I told you about my couchsurfing experience in Nevada and my day trip to Yellowstone. After watching Old Faithful erupt, my brother and I headed south through the Grand Teton National Forest. When we exited Yellowstone, we wove through serpentine roads until reaching a valley that offered breathtaking views of the Grand Tetons. We did our best to keep our eyes on the road, but it very difficult to look away from the mountains.
We followed signs towards Jackson, WY and arrived by early evening. We exited the car and explored the little resort town. Near the town center, there was a public theater show catered for tourists. It was full of guns, old west style shoot outs, and ladies in pretty dresses. I’d never witnessed something like that before. It was obvious to me then that I was in cowboy country. After that, we ate dinner at Snake River Brewery and decided to get sunset shots of the Tetons. After that, we dropped off our bags at the Antler Motel and passed out after our fun-filled day.
Jamie and I split for the morning. Jamie went to the park and sketched, while I relaxed in Cowboy Coffee Cafe and had my first good cup of coffee in a long while. It was nice to have some Molly time. Also, during this time, my father called and told me he was in Yellowstone and on his was to Jackson. It was a complete surprise to me! We made plans to have drinks and dinner that evening.
After, I used my RootsRated app to figure out what hiking trails were nearby and saw that Bridger-Teton National Forest/Cache Creek was our closest trail. Also, since I work at RootsRated as a quasi photo editor, I thought I could take some action shots of hikers, bikers, and trail runners! It was a nice and easy hike. It had a boardwalk along the creek, a wide multi-use trail, and beautiful views of the treelined ridge line. The best part is that it’s at the border of town, so it’s super quick walk, ride, or drive to the trailhead.
The rest of our stay in Jackson went very well. We had beers with our father at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which is famous for having saddle style bar seats, and then ate an amazing meal at Local Restaurant & Bar. It was nice to be spoiled for a night.
The following morning, Jamie and I fueled up with diner-style food, hugged our dad goodbye, and then started our drive to Salt Lake City (SLC). So, why did I decide to come to SLC? Well, for the last 6-8 months, I’ve been photo chasing for RootsRated and one of the cities I worked on extensively was Salt Lake City. From scouring the internet for Creative Commons images via Flickr and google, I learned that SLC is surrounded by mountains, which host dozens of hiking trails just outside (and even inside) the city. This was why I wanted to stop by (and I wanted to see the Mormon temple).
We rolled into town by late afternoon. While staying in cities, I normally use couchsurfing or crash with a friend, but I didn’t know anyone and I tried contacting CSers to no avail. So, that morning, I made an Airbnb account and contacted a host named Dennis. Within minutes of contacting him, he replied and accepted our request. It was relieving to know we had a place to crash, especially a house! We arrived and met Dennis, he gave us a quick rundown of the house, told us some good places to eat nearby, and then gave us the keys. It was easy and painless, not bad for my first Airbnb experience.
It was when Jamie and I were eating dinner that I heard back from a CSer named Austin. He asked if we still needed a place to stay. I said no, but told him that I wanted to go hiking. He said he’d be down, so we made plans to hike the following evening.
The Great Salt Lake
The next day, after catching up on emails and work, Jamie and I hit the town. First we drove to the Great Salt Lake. As we got closer to the lake, I was surprised that it reminded me of the ocean. The air was saturated with the smell of salt and there were gulls and sandpipers grazing the beaches. If I didn’t know better, I could’ve been at the Atlantic Ocean, but I guess it shouldn’t of come as a surprise, it is a very salt lake after all. I enjoyed walking along its shores, breathing in the air, and crunching the salty, crystalline sand beneath my feet.
After the lake, we drove to the city center, parked the car, and walked around. First we visited the Mormon temple. It was pure white and very extravagant. I’d never seen anything like it. While exploring the grounds, I soon recognized that Mormons take their buildings, gardens, and pedestrian pathways very seriously. There were at least a dozen workers cutting tree branches, plucking weeds, and watering flowers. No wonder the temple is so white, I’m sure they keep it very clean, just like the temple grounds.
The rest of the city was like any other city, there were Starbucks, bank buildings, and skyscrapers. Though, there were two major difference that stuck out to me. One was how clean the city center was, the second thing was how wide the roads were. Most of the city streets had at least 3 lanes and sometimes 4 lanes for one-way of traffic. This resulted in long city blocks and little traffic (comparative to other cities I’ve visited). I was told by my CS friend that the roads were built for the Mormon wagon riders who founded this city, since wagons had large turn radii, but that’s just something from word of mouth. Who knows!
After an afternoon in the city, I was done being flanked by buildings. I wanted to go up into the mountains and see those buildings from high up above. This is when Austin and I met up. I learned Austin had just moved to SLC from Colorado, which meant that he hadn’t explored much of the area too. So, I opened my RootsRated app and found the nearest hike, which was called Neff’s Canyon. Austin, his puppy, and I jumped into his car. This is what I like about couchsurfing, I like how you get the opportunity to meet awesome people that you’d never have the chance to meet otherwise. Also, generally, these people are kind, open-minded, and up for a spontaneous adventure, such as an impromptu hiking trip.
Austin on the Neff Canyon Trail, about 15-20 minutes in.
We arrived to Neff’s Canyon pretty late in the evening, I’d say 30 minutes before sunset. I knew we wouldn’t make it to the top of the canyon, but I at least wanted to get a nice view of SLC. I knew my Minnesotan lungs wouldn’t allow me to climb as fast as Austin (Mr. Colorado mountain man), but I didn’t let that deter me. We kept a steady pace as we maneuvered through forested dirt paths and scrambled up rock faces. The start of Neff’s Canyon wasn’t anything special, but after the first bit, the trail get’s rather rugged. I’d even say climbing it while it is wet is probably not the best idea. I was pretty winded when we were nearing the top, but with a few words of encouragement, I pushed myself to finish the last 50-foot incline. I was happy for it too because we got a wonderful view of the SLC skyline at twilight.
Leatherby’s Family Creamery menu
After our hike, we decided ice cream was a necessity, so we found Leatherby’s Family Creamery. The ice cream was good, but the best part was that I finally experienced some Mormon culture. The creamery is run by a mormon family and was packed with nicely dressed couples and large families. The serving staff was really friendly, definitely some of the best costumer service I’d ever had in my entire life. If you have a car while visiting SLC, I’d recommend stopping by.
Thanks for reading! My next post will be about Moab, UT and our experiences exploring Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
I’m going to miss Jackson Hole’s beautiful scenery…
It has been a week since I last wrote and at the moment I am in Moab, UT, staying at the Lazy Lizard Hostel. My stomach is full of homemade potato salad, which was made by the nice gentlemen who cooks dinner and breakfast for the hostel. From where I am sitting, I can see the cliffs of Canyonlands National Park and the mountains are such a deep red. I’ve never experienced such a red landscape; the cliffs in Moab are nothing like the cliffs on the Oregon coast or even Mongolia’s rugged White Mountain. We – my brother and I – only arrived today and we plan on visiting Arches National Park tomorrow, to witness the famous Delicate Arch. We also hope to hike other trails found in the park, as well as look for some dinosaur tracks.
Well, that’s what is happening now, what about what happened this last week?
After a night of pulled pork tacos and wine; my brother, sister, and I woke up early the next morning to retrieve our rental car. (My first plan was to buy a junker, but my family and friends encouraged me otherwise). Our sister dropped us off, hugged us goodbye, and then Jamie and I were soon on our way north. We took I-80 through the flat California valley, which then turned into the breathtaking Sierra-Nevada mountain range. When we drove through Tahoe National Forest (my second time in the last month), my brother couldn’t keep his eyes away from the window.
We had planned to drive all the way to Idaho Falls, ID, which was 11 hours away by car. The reasoning behind that was because I wanted to get us as close to Yellowstone as realistically possible. I also had contacted someone via couchsurfing in Idaho Falls and they had invited us to stay with them. Well, in the end, we didn’t make it; mostly due to car troubles (nothing serious though). We were in the middle of nowhere Nevada, driving in the high desert with no idea where we were going to stay that evening. I saw a sign for Elko, NV and thought, “what the hell, let’s see if there’s a couchsurfer there.” There was and her name was Julia and I contacted her when we were over 200 miles away and it was when we were 15 miles away from Elko that I heard a response. She had accepted our request! Well, the rest is history: we chatted, she let us use her air mattress (I slept on the floor), and bless her heart, she gifted my brother handmade wool mittens the next morning. We said goodbye over coffee, insisted that we should meet again in our respective cities, and soon enough Jamie and I were on the road again, our hearts set on Yellowstone National Park!
After over 6 hours of driving, it felt so good to get past the Yellowstone gates and to finally see what people have been raving about for all these years. And they weren’t kidding. This place is absolutely beautiful. Yeah, sure, there are sometimes lines of cars wanting to get the perfect elk shot or maybe there is a standstill because a buffalo is in the middle of the road, but it’s all worth it in the end. The wildlife viewing is so phenomenal. Also, at least from the west entrance, the views from the road are stellar. There are drastic cliffs surrounding the whole park, all formed by the massive volcanic eruption that happened thousands of years ago, thus resulting in the enormous caldera we now call Yellowstone National Park.
There was a whole field of buffalo.
We veered left at the first major crossroads, and soon the landscape changed from ridgeline to meadow to prairie to then the beautiful Yellowstone Lake. We spent that evening at Bridge Bay campground. I was looking forward to sleeping in my hammock again, but I was disheartened when a ranger told us that someone had been killed by a grizzly bear only a couple weeks before, very near to the Bridge Bay area. We were double disheartened when the park ranger told us there had been a lot of bear activity in the last week, even mentioning that he had seen a bear wondering the edges of the campground the night before. Jamie and I didn’t have bear spray, so we were kinda freaking out. In the end, instead of using my hammock, I decided to share the tent with my bro.
We woke up early the next morning, ate some oatmeal, and packed up our gear. We only had one day in Yellowstone, so we decided to be hardcore tourists and to try and fit in the famous sites. We first took a moment to enjoy Yellowstone Lake and then we drove to West Thumb. We took the boardwalk all around the area, looking at all the steaming geysers and chromatic pools. We soon recognized a sign that we would see often throughout the park, which was a small boy stepping off the boardwalk and then falling/melting into the boiling, uneven earth below. I thought it was silly to have to tell visitors something so obvious not to do, but soon enough I saw people stepping off the boardwalk and taking selfies near the boiling hot pools.
At the Old Faithful area, we decided to take extra time to explore the area. We patiently waited for Old Faithful to erupt, and when she did, we got up and continued our way along the boardwalks. We walked beside even bigger geysers than Old Faithful, and we were even lucky enough to witness Grand Geyser erupt, which is one of the largest geysers in the park. Though geysers are cool, my main goal was to find Morning Glory Pool. I had seen images of it on the internet and thought that seeing it in real life would be really cool. It was on the complete opposite side of the Old Faithful area, but a two mile hike, to me, was well worth it to see Morning Glory Pool.
Morning Glory Pool and all of its glory
Well, after hiking a couple hours in the geyser area, Jamie and I hopped in our car and drove towards the south entrance, preparing for our swift departure out of Yellowstone. I know one day is not enough time to see all of Yellowstone. Someday in the future, I plan to return to witness the backcountry perspective of the park, as well as the other famous parts I missed this first time around. But, till then, Jamie and I must continue south to see what else the USA has to offer.
In my next post, I’ll share stories about Jackson, WY and Salt Lake City, UT.
Today is August 19th and by tomorrow I’m planning on being on the road. Where to? Well, my brother – who flew in last week – and I are renting a car and we’re going to wing it (mostly). We have four major places we want to see: Yellowstone National Forest/Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, and Sequoia National Forest. How about everything in between? I have no idea, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
My bro posing in front of China Town. He’s happy because we had just eaten shrimp dumplings… yum.
It’s been over a week since my camping trip in Tahoe National Forest, and I’ve filled my last week in SF with some memorable moments. Such as, catching up with old friends, sightseeing with my brother, spending a day hiking Mt. Tamalpais, and finishing it all off with some theater. If you’re in town and want to see some pub comedy/plays, then check out SF Theater Pub’s annual Pint Sized Play Festival V. Within two hours, you can enjoy 11 short plays, some of which include topics such as beer, Star Wars, and llamas.
I’m lucky enough to have a brother-in-law who spoils his in-laws. On Sunday morning, my bro-in-law picked us up in a convertible and then we were whisked away towards Mt. Tamalpais. While driving through the city, I enjoyed cranking my head upwards and seeing the famous SF architecture from a whole new perspective. With no roof to block my view, I could see every bay window my heart desires, I could follow the aerial bus wires as we maneuvered the city streets, and I could enjoy the fresh SF bay wind blowing through my hair. We also drove on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was a treat.
It took us an hour of winding through mountain roads to reach our destination. While on the drive, we could tell it was a hot day, but it wasn’t until were were unpacking the car that I realized how hot it actually was. It was a dangerous, dry kind of heat; the kind that’ll dehydrate you pretty quickly. I didn’t pack enough water for both my brother and I, so I was grateful that Kevin brought extra water. We set off towards the Cataract trail, which eventually connects with the Bernstein trail. In this portion of the hike, there are grassland meadows and Douglas fir/tanoak trees. If it weren’t so dry, I’m sure the air would be moist, similar to a Pacific Northwest forest, but alas, California is in a serious drought.
Walking through the meadow
The views to the North
We followed the Petrero Meadows trail until Rifle Camp. We crossed through the picnic area and started our upward climb on the Northside trail. Except for the smokey haze due to the nearby forest fires, we saw some fantastic views to the north. The terrain got more rocky as we wove our way through serpentine ridge line. The trail itself was overgrown with a shrub called manzanita, sometimes even forming a natural tunnel. Near the top of the ridge line, we veered right onto International trail and followed it till we intersected with Ridgecrest Blvd. I believe we were at our highest elevation at this point and we got our first hazy view of San Francisco and the ocean. We started our descent down the Miller Trail and then took a right onto Old Railroad Grade trail. From here, it was a little less than a mile to our rest stop: West Point Inn.
West Point Inn – Looking towards SF 1905 (photo credit: westpointinn.com)
West Point Inn is a really cool spot. It was built in 1904, and was used as a rest stop on the Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway. Sadly, in 1915, the railroad closed and stage couch service stopped coming to West Point Inn all together. The years were rough during that time, wars and the Great Depression came and went, but thanks to the innkeeper and local volunteers, the buildings were maintained. Now, the cabins and main building are the only surviving buildings from the railroad era and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
West Point Inn is only reachable by foot and is perfect for travelers who don’t want to camp outside, but want a night in the mountains. For non-overnights, the inn is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. There is water from a faucet, lemonade (for a $1), and snacks. There are also tables in the shade which offer respite from the elements, while also offering amazing views. If you’re around over the summer, there are pancake breakfasts every Sunday (I believe). All the pancake money goes into maintaining the historic nature of the inn.
Mountain Theater (Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheater)
We rested and rehydrated for a while at West Point Inn, allowing our bodies to heal after the gruesomely hot hike we had just endured. When we felt recuperated, we said goodbye to West Point and followed signs to Rock Springs trail. For 1.5 miles, we traversed through exposed ridge line and shaded conifer forest until reaching our second destination for the day: Mountain Theater. Something you might’ve not known is that there is a theater venue nestled in Mt. Tamalpais. Mountain Theater (or Sidney B. Cushing Memorial Amphitheater) hosts one musical a year and can hold up to 4000 people. It has a great view of the SF Bay too. Overall, it’s a really neat venue and I’d recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood.
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge
It was a quick hike back to the parking lot from Mountain Theater. After 5 miles of hiking in dry heat, we were all exhausted, so we were pretty excited to take the scenic route back, enjoying the ocean breeze on our way back home. On our way back to the city, we drove on the Golden Gate Bridge again. The bridge had an orange glow, due to the setting sun, thus resulting in an epic view and return to San Francisco.
Thanks for reading. My next post will be about my experiences on the road. :)
I am in San Francisco and I have been here for over a week. I’d like to say I filled last week with a bunch of fun SF stuff, but in actuality, I caught a cold. Though I was under the weather, I did fit in some fun stuff with my sis and brother-in-law. We cooked tasty food with friends (I made Japanese cabbage rolls… mmmm), we went to Sunday’s Finest – San Francisco’s wacky non-religious church service, and we went to a Chinese Ballroom Improv show! Okay, maybe I did fit in a lot of fun SF stuff… Well, another highlight of this last week was my weekend camping trip in Tahoe National Forest.
Camping at Tahoe National Forest’s Carr Lake
I was happy when my brother-in-law (Kevin) invited me to join him and his friends to Tahoe National Forest. On Friday afternoon, Kevin retrieved our rented Relay Ride car, we picked up our carpool buddies, and then we were off towards the Sierra mountain range. With some expected SF traffic, it took us about four hours, but it was well worth the drive. When we hiked the quarter mile to campsite 11, we were delighted to hear “hello” and “you made it!” from Kevin’s friends who got there earlier in the day. We were also welcomed with a warm fire and a few bites of delicious steak…mmmm. While sitting around the fire, I couldn’t stop peering up to the sky. The stars were spectacular; it had been far too long since I’d seen the Milky Way so crystal clear.
The next morning, I woke up quasi-early to the sounds of bees buzzing, water running, and friends snoring nearby. I felt cozy and warm in my sleeping bag and decided to embrace the moment. I laid in my tent listening to those sounds, while watching the pine trees sway from the wind.
My tent and campsite. It’s a Hubba Hubba NX by MSR.
I was the first awake, so I decided to read my book and eat my breakfast on the cliff-lined shore of Carr Lake. (If you’re curious, I was reading Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card.) I probably spent a good hour reading and enjoying my quiet morning. When everyone was awake and had their breakfast, there was a group decision to go hiking. Kevin had been here before and said there were a string of lakes nearby, each of which got prettier and prettier the farther you went. So, most of us packed our lunches, got our hiking shoes on, and walked east towards Island Lake.
In total we hiked 5 miles and the trails we took led us through wooded glens, rocky lakeshore, and dusty peaks. I’m not often in the mountains, so it was a treat to hike in higher elevation (I believe we reached almost 7000ft) and to see some spectacular views of the Sierra mountain range. It was also pretty dusty on our hike, since California is in a drought. We ate lunch at Round Lake and we all decided to turn around to finish the day with swimming and relaxing by the fire. Instead of swimming, I went back to the campsite to rest my feet and to read my book.
When people got back, some people took naps, while others joined me in reading around the fire. There was also a small group of people who went fishing. I stopped by the fishers for a short time, but then decided to climb/scramble the cliffs bordering the lake. When I got to the top, I could see for a long ways. I could see that we were bordering a wooded canyon to the West; It was beautiful. That night, we all made a huge pot of chile and ate under moonlight. We then sat around the fire and spent the rest of the evening talking, singing, and enjoying each others company – What a great night.
That night, I slept like a babe and woke up to a crisp, cool mountain morning. It was our last day at Carr lake and whenever I camp, I always pack my bag before doing anything else in the morning. It’s something I’ve learned from my camping experience. To me, there’s nothing better than packing up everything first thing in the morning and then not having to stress about packing up later in the day. When I was all packed up, I sat by the lake and finished my book. By that time, more people were up and coffee was being brewed. While drinking coffee, I recognized it was much hotter today and so did everyone else. It was decided that before leaving we should have one more swimming session, and soon enough, I was in my swim suit, inching slowly-but-surely into the Carr’s cold waters. Everyone else was already in, either swimming or floating in inner tubes. With some courage (and peer pressure), I jumped in and MAN was it cold!
After that, lunches were made and people slowly but surely started to pack up their stuff. Since I was packed up, I took extra time to relax by Carr Lake and get those last views saved into my memory. When all was packed and brought back to the cars, we all hugged goodbye and wished each other safe travels home. On our ride home, we decided to take the scenic route in the Sacramento Delta region. It was such a pretty drive, so much better than I-80.
Well, that’s that. Thanks for reading. Hopefully, in my next post I’ll have a game plan for my road trip. My brother flys in tonight and he’s going to join me. :)
Today is my last day in Portland, OR. It’s bittersweet to leave such a beautiful city. Where else can you find towering Douglas-firs adjacent to exceptional food carts? I also don’t know of any other place that offers so many urban trails all within the city limits. I’ve been exploring them these last couple days and they’re awesome.
Starting last week, I was graced with the presence of a gentlemen named Mike. He’s my friend Ben’s roommate and he was kind enough to hang out with me on his days off from work. On those days, we went rock climbing at Portland’s Rock Gym, we ate lunch at Fire on the Mountain, and we made delicious homemade pizza together. But you know what has been my favorite part? It’s been the early morning coffee runs and long conversations we’ve shared. He’s good people and I’m very grateful to have had the chance to get to know him better. Good luck on your marathon, Mike! I have a good feeling that you’ll qualify for Boston. :)
So, after a week of coffee runs and conversations, I found my way to Lincoln City’s Oregon Coast. My friend was having a birthday extravaganza and on the drive there, I watched as the flat Oregon countryside turned into hilly wine country to then the coastal mountain range. Oh, and I can’t forget that Queen was our inspirational road trip music.
We played frisbee on the beach!
We got there early and decided to take advantage of the beautiful day (a rarity on the Oregon Coast). We went to the beach and enjoyed ourselves. One friend did some taichi, another got their feet wet in the ocean, and I spent a few special moments walking along the beach by myself. It had been a long time since I’d been on the Oregon Coast. It felt good to have the Pacific’s frigid waters grace my feet once more.
We returned to the house to find more people inside. Many of them I had met in college and it was so great to see them again, especially my friend Neil. I hadn’t seen him in over 3 years. That first night was full of eating delicious food, sharing stories, relaxing in the hot tub, and then watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. In all honesty, watching the sun set over the horizon never gets old for me. <3
Finding a staircase to take us back to our beach house
Photo cred Ariston
Before I go on much further about this beach party, I just want to give you a better idea of what Neil’s beach parties entail. There are traditions that Neil and his buddies have followed since high school. One of which is digging a giant pit into the sand and then finding a log to lay across it, thus creating (in Neil’s eyes) a Death Pit. For years, friends have fought, skin has been torn, and pride has been bruised, all for the chance to be the champion of the Death Pit battles. So, early on Saturday morning, a small crew and I started the long task on digging this Death Pit. It took most of the day, but when we finished, it looked pretty epic. We even hit the beach’s water table, which resulted in the bottom pooling with water. At first we were saddened, but soon realized the water only made the pit even more deadly!
The rest of the day, I relaxed and rested my sore shoulders and back. I took a nap on the beach and then decided to do what I’d never done before; jump into the Pacific Ocean. It was freezing! I don’t know if it was completely worth it…but I’m glad I did it.
There were moments when I sat on the beach, watching the tide come in, and thought how lucky I was to be there at that very moment. How I was lucky to have such great friends, to be blessed with perfect weather, and to have been given the chance to work and travel simultaneously. For that, I am grateful.
Honestly, the rest of the day was a blur. I believe some board games were played, dinner was prepared, and the sun had set. Once the moon had come up, I decided to do something that I’ve been wanting to do since May, which was scream as loud as I could at the ocean. When night fell, a group of us walked to the beach and then I separated from them. I walked to the shore, let the cold saltwater numb my toes, and I stood contemplating for awhile. Thinking of what? Well, I was thinking of my old roommate Paul. He’s the one who inspired me to scream at the ocean. While thinking and remembering him, some of my friends came up and said hello and asked what I was doing. I told them I was going to scream as loud as I could at the ocean. I thought they would be weirded out by this declaration, but they were not and highly encouraged it. In the end, we all screamed together and I belted as loud as I could.
Well, after that, all that was left to do was the fight over the Death Pit and man was it intense.
It was dark, there was a storm brewing in the distance, and somehow, almost all the participants returned back to their ancestral state. For some of the participants, it was mostly fun and fear that fueled them to fight, but there were a select few who were fueled by adrenaline. As I sat by the fire, watching as men tangled and wrestled on the log, I felt like I was reliving Lord of the Flies. There was even a battle drum, which was continually played throughout the whole thing. There were some heroic leaps, a dazzling kung-fu style evasion, and a little bit of blood spilled; and let’s not forget about the crowd who was yelling and urging the participants on. In the end, there was a winner, and damn was it a close call, but I was glad when it was over. That was enough intensity for one night.
For the rest of the evening, the whole group sat around the fire, laughing, drinking beer, and playing games. I also learned of a new tradition, which was reading a raunchy romance novel around the campfire. The book was called Lobster and it was about a human woman who falls in love/lusts for a Lobster. Yeah, it was weird, but I believe that’s the point for that tradition. To find the weirdest book possible, read it aloud, and see how uncomfortable people can get. Man, what an unforgettable night.
Hiking Cascade Head
The next morning was clean up time. We packed up our stuff, swept the floors, and got ourselves outta the house. As a group, we decided to do one more fun thing before the weekend was done and that was to go hiking at Cascade Head. I was super excited to hike in coastal old growth forest again!
It was a short hike, but it was jam packed with stunning views of the Oregon Coast and humbling moments among the Sitka Spruce-Western Hemlock coastal rainforest. When we reached the top, I sat among friends looking out to the ocean and I felt very happy.
Thanks for reading. My next stop is San Francisco to visit my sister and brother-in-law. <3
Such an amazing trail!
I made it to Portland and I’ve been here for almost a week. It’s been great catching up with old friends and exploring new parts of the city. Let’s not forget about the amazing donuts this city has to offer too. I’m partial to Blue Star myself.
As for what I have been up to, well my friend Ben has kept me busy. One morning, we woke up early to go blueberry picking. It’s the season and man are they delicious. Ben’s friend, Chris, joined us and we ended up making breakfast/blueberry muffins afterwards. Yum. It was decided by Ben and Chris that we should go hiking somewhere. Chris knew of a place called Indian Point, but had never been there himself. We all decided to go hike there the following day!
Hiking to the Infamous Indian Point
(All photos were taken by Chris Knight)
We woke up bright and early to start our way to the Columbia River Gorge. It had been at least 6 years since I’d driven through the gorge (I had gone to Multnomah Falls once upon a time). While on the road, I’d forgotten how beautiful the gorge was. I spent those 1.5 hours glued to the window, watching each cliff pass by.
Chris, Ben, and I eventually made it to the trailhead and within minutes (and one cute picture of Ben and I!), we were on trail. This was my first time hiking in old growth Douglas-fir forest in a long while and man have I missed those big fir trees. The San Juans (from last week) had huge fir trees, but hiking beside Douglas-firs brought back good memories of my time living and studying in Eugene, OR.
Pretty near to the start of the trail, we saw signs for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We didn’t go, but it made me happy to know that I was nearby. Instead of the PCT, we took the Herman Creek Trail up towards the Herman camp, and then we took a left at Gorton Creek Trail. This trail was a little overgrown and was narrow at times, but that just made the trail even better. I enjoy hiking in a more rugged environment anyway! There was also some elevation changes by this point too. Though the elevation wasn’t too dramatic, I could tell my Minnesotan lungs were not prepared for some of those switchbacks.
As we hiked, the trail weaved along ridge line and took us higher and higher above the tree tops. There were times where downed logs blocked our path, but a simple hop-and-a-skip over did the trick. After a few miles, we finally reached the Ridge Cutoff crossroads. Chris’ hiking guide said to look for an unmarked trail just passed the fork. At the bottom of this trail was the infamous Indian Point. And lo-and-behold, we found it!
It was a helluva steep decline though, which most definitely meant a helluva steep climb back out, but I tried not to think about that as I climbed into the abyss. Halfway down, there was a clearing in the brush and we could see a cliff side and a beautiful view of the Columbia River Gorge. It was only a taste of what was to come.
At the bottom, we reached a narrow clearing. On our right was a steep cliff and to our left were prickly shrubs. From here, we got a great view of the Washington mountain range. We didn’t know what mountain we saw, but it sure was majestic. After that, it was only a handful of steps more till we found our halfway mark: Indian Point.
The views were phenomenal. From one side, you could see shear cliffs with the Columbia River Gorge as the backdrop. The other, Indian Point with the Washington mountains as your backdrop. It was a win-win. Ben and I took our shoes off and snacked, while Chris went out onto Indian Point to take some awesome photos. Though, it isn’t encouraged to hike/climb out onto Indian Point, we did see a nice fellow climb it and it seemed pretty epic.
We spent a long while embracing our surrounding (as well as resting our aching feet). Eventually, we did say goodbye to Indian Point and climbed out of the unmarked trail. The rest of the hike went well. We did a loop, so instead of retracing our steps down the Gorton Creek Trail, we took the Ridge Cutoff Trail, which then connected to the Nick Eaton Trail.
The Nick Eaton Trail was fantastic. It had good understory growth, which meant it had younger Douglas-fir and cedar trees bordering its trail. This resulted in some pretty flowers and more bird sightings. This trail was pretty steep though and I couldn’t decide if it was better or worse to climb down the steeper trail (the world may never know).
Though I was reaching my Molly Hulk stage (which means I was a little h-angry, since I didn’t pack enough food), the rest of the hike went swimmingly. The trail lowered us to the Herman Creek Trail, where we then returned back to the parking lot.
For anyone looking for a trail that’s off the beaten track, I’d recommend Indian Point. The views were amazing and the narrow trails were just dangerous enough to be thrilling.
Thanks for reading. For my next adventure, I’ll be traveling to the Oregon Coast for a friend’s birthday extravaganza. I’m looking very much forward to it.
It is official. As of last Wednesday, I am on the road. It feels good to have everything I need in a backpack again. For me, there is nothing better than entering a new city/place with an open-mind and a packed backpack.
I caught a one-way ticket to Seattle and decided to spend a few days there. It had been over 10 years since I’d been to Seattle, so I was looking forward to seeing the city again. After dropping off my bags and getting my bearings, I caught a bus to the city center. I decided to be a hardcore tourist for my first day, so I went to Seattle’s most famous sites: Pikes Place Market and the Space Needle.
I enjoyed my time walking through the market, especially the outdoor part. I also can’t forget to mention about the fish throwing. I totally forgot how much of a spectacle it is, watching fish fly across a crowd of people. I then continued walking through the city, letting the Space Needle be my guide.
After seeing the Needle and eating delicious clam chowder, I met a very friendly lady named Youjin. She bought me a peach and invited me to walk along the pier with her. Soon after, we met a nice man named Fearas (my spelling is probably off). We all had one thing in common: we were all traveling alone. Soon enough, we were all friends and I brought up the idea to explore a new part of Seattle called Lincoln Park. They were delighted and we all jumped into Fearas’ car.
The park itself has dirt trails meandering through tall firs and pines. We walked through this area until we reached a cliff edge. We followed this trail till it started to veer down towards the sound (the water). Now this is the trail to write home about. This paved path offers pedestrians and cyclists a fantastic view of Seattle’s sound. It was so beautiful down there and a must-see if you have a car in Seattle. I was happy to share this experience with my new friends.
I thought the day couldn’t get better, but after being dropped off at my friend’s house by Fearas, I received a text message from a stranger from couchsurfing.com. The message said that a group of people was going up to the San Juan Islands for a day hike and that there was one spot open. Without hesitation, I said yes and asked when and where they were meeting. They said they were meeting at 7am in downtown Seattle the following morning. I told them I’d be there.
San Juan Islands: Orcas Island and Mt. Constitution
I caught the 6am bus to get to downtown Seattle in time for our rendezvous. We met on a street corner, 2nd and Pike, and I was the first to arrive. It’s always a funny experience to find people who you’ve never met before. I end up giving everyone a “are you a couchsurfer look,” and then if there is no response, I look sheepishly away. Luckily, my big hiking boots were a dead giveaway and Corinna was to first to find me, then Brad, and then Randy. Soon enough there was a gaggle of couchsurfers, ready and excited to explore the San Juan Islands.
The drive up to the ferry building was nice and easy. We even made it with time to spare. We drove the car onto the ferry and then once we were unanchored, we all went up above deck to enjoy the hour long ride. When we got to the outer railing, I stood and watched my surroundings. The scenery was so picturesque, I couldn’t believe that someplace so beautiful was only a short drive from Seattle. As we went along, I noticed that each island had their own shape and personality. They all seemed to be covered in firs and hemlocks and some had houses/cabins on the shore, while others seemed uninhabited.
When we reached Orcas Island, we were all very much ready to get up into the mountains. But, we weren’t there quite yet, we had to drive for another 20-30 minutes to get to the island’s largest park: Moran State Park. This park is famous for its’ tallest peak, Mt. Constitution, which (supposedly) has the best view of the San Juan Islands. Our goal that day was to reach the top.
Once we parked our car, we all jumped out, got our hiking shoes on, and hit the trails. It was evident that these trails were going to be exceptional. It smelled of fresh detritus, the fir trees were thick, its crevasses deep, and the trail followed ridge line to ridge line through open valleys and narrow gorges.
There were moments on trail that I felt so small. Once, we entered a mossy valley, which seem to have been untouched for centuries (except for the path we were on). The firs and hemlocks were so tall and completely covered in moss and lichen. While walking past them, though they were so tall, they seemed small in comparison to the cliffs that flanked us on both sides. There were also the moments when we were hiking along a ridge line and you could see the sound through the thick stand of trees.
I’d say it took us almost 2 hours to reach the top (we didn’t start at the bottom, we started at Cold Springs trailhead). We were getting pretty winded by the time we reached the top, but goodness was it worth it. There was even an observatory tower that made the view on top of Mt. Constitution much grander. From the tower, you could see Vancouver B.C., Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and the northern Cascades. I sat upon the edge and looked out into the distance for a long time. It is hard to believe that within 48 hours, I had found myself in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. I am very thankful for my new friends who invited me to join them on their trip.
The best part of the whole trip was watching the sunset on the ferry ride back to Anacortes, WA. It had been far too long since I’d seen a sun set over the ocean.
One of my goals for this trip is to see as many beautiful places as possible. I want to fill my life with happiness, beauty, and new experiences. It has definitely started out with a bang and I look forward to what more is to come.
It has been awhile. As you can see in my title, a lot has happened since my hammock camping trip on the Superior Hiking Trail. I’d love to say that it was all good things, such as…
But, sadly there was a terrible and traumatic thing that happened. On May 19th, my roommate Paul made the choice to take his own life and it was his father and I who discovered him the following morning.
As the days went by, I learned a lot about Paul through his family and friends. I learned that he had been battling with depression and anxiety for most of his life. He left a note, which explained how he saw himself as an individual, as well as describing his inner torment and self loathing. His note brought a little clarity to the situation, but it still left me (and everyone else) with so many questions.
One tear-jerker for me was (and still is) that Paul didn’t realize how wonderful he was. Paul was beautiful inside and out. He read weekly for the blind, he was a huge advocate for bicyclist rights, and he has helped countless friends through their own troubles. He was a selfless man, and very humble. Due to his depression, instead of understanding his worth as a friend and human being, his mind told him constantly that he was ugly, dumb, incapable, and worthless.
I’ve been reading a lot about depression and anxiety lately, hoping it will help me better understand Paul and my other friends who I know have depression. I’ve been reading The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons, which is a self-help book for people with depression. I’ve also read a few articles about the science behind anxiety. But, what has been most helpful to me is hearing personal stories from my friends. Since Paul’s death, people have reached out and have shared with me their personal struggles with depression and even attempts of suicide. They shared with me their perspective of life, the side effects of medication, and how depression and anxiety are a daily struggle for many people. It’s their stories that have brought me better understanding.
It’s hard to see a bright side to something so tragic, but I have learned to be grateful for a few things.
Photo cred: Pizza Luce Trivia Mafia
1. Paul had wonderful friends who have been so helpful to me and Paul’s family. I’m lucky to know them and I now consider a handful of them as new friends. I look forward to sharing new experiences with them. <3
2. Through this experience, I believe I gained a whole new level of empathy, especially for people with mental illness. I know I will be much more patient and gentle with people who are prone to anxiety and depression.
3. I have realized that even during a very traumatic situation, I am capable of being a responsible first responder. I called 911, I took care of Paul’s father, and a slew of other things. Though it was mostly adrenaline that kept me on my two feet, I’m still astounded at how I dealt with the situation.
I’m grateful for all the training I had as a Resident Assistant, as well as for the First Responder course I took in college, and let’s not forget the countless CPR/First Aid trainings I’ve been through. I remember sitting through my first responder class and my RA trainings, thinking that everything I learned was interesting, but also thinking that it’ll never happen to me. But, when it does, it’s crazy how all the training floods back to your brain.
4. I’m also grateful to have met Paul. Though I didn’t know him for too long, I’m glad to have had the chance to get to know him the little that I did. Some good memories include: spending an afternoon looking for skeleton keys and eating cupcakes, cooking and eating Japanese food together, going to trivia, and sharing travel stories over tea.
A friend joked with me that I am supernatural. That I have an inhuman amount of inner resilience. And maybe I am. Maybe I’m actually an alien. But from reading The Chemistry of Joy, I’ve come to learn that some people are born with a higher capacity to deal with hard situations, while others don’t have that natural “container full of magical resilience potion.” The people that don’t have inner resilience are often the people prone to depression and anxiety. I’m lucky and very grateful to have the capability to deal with stress and sadness (though, I promise you, it still isn’t easy.) Also, I think practicing zen meditation has been a key factor to my self healing. Not to mention that being able to calm your mind is huge for trauma therapy. So, I’m also grateful to my sensei, Lin-san, who gave me the opportunity to study zen meditation at Tokurinji Temple.
Lin-san and I
So yeah, it sounds weird to be grateful for things, but as a grieving person, I think it’s good to find a silver lining, even in the worst situations.
Well, now you guys are up to speed with my life (for better or for worse). As of now, I’m still in Minneapolis, but I plan on traveling to Oregon in July. I believe I’ll be going on a road trip across the USA with my co-workers at RootsRated starting July 28th.
I’ll tell you details in my next post.