September 4, 2019
Rocky Mountain National Park: Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Colorado
To hear about a day consisting of: my usual hiking buddy (aka one of my best friends, Lauren), our special guest - her dad a.k.a. Mr. Dooley!, waterfalls, lakes, mountain views, elk sightings, and hiking close to 10,000 ft. above sea level - keep on reading!
I received an incredible opportunity to job shadow Lauren’s dad during one of his business trips to Denver, Colorado in early September. The experience was such a meaningful trip for me and quite the learning experience. I’m at a season of life where I want to expose myself to different work environments and opportunities, so I couldn’t be more appreciative that Mr. Dooley allowed me to tag along with him and Lauren.
While in Denver for business, we were also able to balance work with play. We spent two days visiting work sites, and one day was spent hiking at the Rocky Mountain National Park! This was all of our first times exploring this popular park and we were lucky that the weather stayed clear while we trekked on the trail!
Lauren did some research prior to the trip and found that the hike to Jewel Lake (from the Glacier Gorge trailhead) included various scenic spots along the way. Since we only had time for one hike, we decided to do one that wasn’t too long but had a ton jam-packed into it. The hike we selected definitely delivered!
We drove about 2 hours to the Rocky Mountain National Park from Denver, CO on Wednesday morning. Deciding to hit the road early ended up being a good call considering the Denver traffic held us up for about 20 minutes. Traffic didn’t deter us and we kept driving forward until we reached the park in full sunshine glory!
The smaller parking lot at the Glacier Gorge trailhead ended up being full (even on a Wednesday morning around 8:30am!), so we parked at the lower lot and took the free shuttle to the trailhead. We appreciated the easy access to plenty of restroom options!
It was fun to comprehend that we were already above 9,000 ft. in elevation just at the trailhead starting point. We noticed the change in the air once we got out of the car, but after a few minutes didn’t feel much of a difference. We made sure to come prepared for the altitude difference and packed plenty of water and snacks.
We started on the trail with the intention to hike to Jewel Lake which was almost 6 miles roundtrip and rated moderate with a 872 ft. elevation gain. We weren’t sure how the elevation change was going to affect us so we decided to hike to Alberta Falls and then to Mills Lake, and from Mills Lake decide if we wanted to trek forward or turn back before the thunderstorms rolled in.
The first part of the hike went by quickly and although moderately crowded, there were plenty of moments where we found ourselves the only ones on the trail. We arrived at the first scenic spot, Alberta Falls, in no time!
After taking a quick water break and taking our obligatory photos of the falls, we trekked on. I loved that the hike allowed for many changes of scenery. There were points where the trees would clear and you could see far out into the mountains, and there were also areas where birch trees would immediately surround you along with giant boulders. Many chipmunks seemed to frequent the trail as well so we were entertained by a few of them that would follow us as we hiked along. It was about 2.8 miles later when we arrived to the majestic Mills Lake and the photos online could not do it justice!
I’m struggling with finding the words to describe how peaceful and quiet Mills Lake was. Although we passed many hikers along the trail, once we arrived to Mills Lake, I felt like everyone was mesmerized by the tranquility the lake provided. There was a slight breeze blowing the surface of the water, but other than that all you could hear were the sounds of very distant birds. We decided to take a moment to soak it all in and have a snack break while doing so.
After about 20 minutes of rest, we decided that the hike wasn’t as difficult as we were anticipating and that we all felt up for trekking further to Jewel Lake. It was only about 0.4 miles to Jewel Lake from Mills Lake. There was a section of the trail where it was like a rocky staircase (and it was a bit more strenuous compared to the rest of the trail), but we found that it was easier than it was explained online.
Jewel Lake was much smaller than Mills Lake, but there was something about how the wind wasn’t blowing as hard at Jewel Lake (and the sun came out more as well!) that made the experience especially peaceful. I’ll admit that it was one of my goals to encounter a wild moose (obviously difficult considering how big the park was and how shy moose can be with humans lol), so we kept our eyes peeled at the meadows surrounding the lake for grazing moose or elk. Sadly, no luck :(
We discovered that we hiked the 0.4 miles quicker than we planned, so Mr. Dooley was curious to continue on the trail further. We ended up finding some newly built bridges to allow easier access through the once-muddy trail below. We hiked about a mile from Jewel Lake to find a small waterfall then decided to turn back before the stormy clouds reached us.
On the way back we encountered our friendly chipmunks and even a rabbit! As excited as we were about the rabbit and unbothered chipmunks, our excitement exceeded once we shuttled back to the car. On our way out of the park, cars started slowing down in front of us and we were able to spot a huge male elk! He was crossing the street and we were able to get pretty close to it. We were able to see a herd of elk earlier in the day on the way to the park but from a distance, so it was really exciting that we were able to spot one closer!
As we made our way to the Visitor Center, the weather predictions were true in that it started pouring down rain! There were moments that we had to slow down to an extremely slow crawl because the raindrops were hitting the windshield so hard that we couldn’t see! (And we’re from Washington!!) Lauren and I ran into the visitor center as it was really coming down to snag our souvenirs per usual, but once we made our way back to the car the rain had lightened.
Luckily it lightened enough for us to enjoy a small walk around Estes Park, CO. We found a taffy shop, some ice cream, and a light lunch to replenish our energy after the 8 miles that we hiked that day.
I would recommend this hike for those wanting to experience multiple viewpoints of the beautiful Rockies in one day: water falls, rivers, lakes, rock landscapes, and mountain views in the distance. We all agreed that it was the perfect first impression to what the Rocky Mountains has to offer, but definitely left us wanting to explore some more. Maybe one day we’ll be able to adventure further!
I would advise to be prepared when you hike in the Rocky Mountains, especially due to the elevation change. Altitude sickness is a real thing that may happen, so always hike with caution and know your limits before deciding to hike at such a high elevation!
Annnd that's a wrap!
To explain how meaningful this trip was to me would take way too long to explain. Not only was the hike in the Rocky Mountains absolutely breathtaking, but the learning opportunities I was able to experience from a career stand-point was priceless! This opportunity was exactly what I needed in this season of my life, and I left the trip feeling refreshed, motivated, and inspired!
Cheers to a refreshing day spent outdoors!
#GenJPtravels to the North Cascades National Park, Washington | PNW Photographer: Couples Photoshoot in the Mountains
August 31, 2019
Mountain Photoshoot at Diablo Lake: North Cascades National Park, WA
To hear about a (shorter) day consisting of: the most adorable couple, my camera, mountain views, a super turquoise lake, and suggestions on what you can do at the North Cascades - keep on reading!
I had a couples photoshoot scheduled with Lauren's sister and brother-in-law set for Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park. After the shoot, Lauren and I were planning to hike Diablo Lake, but we ended up taking our time with the shoot instead. Although a short day, our first impression of the North Cascades was too beautiful not to share! I decided to write up a blog post about things you CAN do at the North Cascades.
Even though the North Cascades National Park is only about 2 hours from Seattle, this was both Lauren’s and my first time visiting the North Cascades. We’ve only seen photos of Diablo Lake and have had it on our summer bucketlist for awhile. So when Lauren’s sister, Kaitlin and Kaitlin’s husband, Andrew wanted to do a couples photoshoot in the mountains, it worked out too perfectly! Kaitlin and Andrew just got married this past May 2019 (CONGRATS TO THEM!) and I had the awesome opportunity to capture Andrew's surprise proposal back in December 2017 at a Christmas Tree Farm. These two are SO adorable and I couldn't be more thankful for their willingness to drive to such a stunning mountain location!
We learned that Diablo Lake is a reservoir created by the Diablo Dam. Its turquoise color is caused by glacial flour (a powder that is created by the rocks that are grounded-up by nearby glaciers). At the base of Diablo Lake is one the North Cascades’ popular hikes, Diablo Lake Trail (7.5 miles out and back, with a 1,538 ft. elevation gain).
However, in addition to Diablo Lake there are also easier options such as, Blue Lake Trail (5.3 miles out and back, with a 958 elevation gain). In contrast to Diablo Lake, the water of Blue Lake is known to be one of the clearest. Many hikers claim that even though Diablo Lake is more well-known, Blue Lake is the hike you want to do if you only have time for one hike during your trip.
Lauren and I packed up the car that morning with the full intent to go hiking that day, but instead we decided to spend more time with the shoot because we were having so much fun. We also wanted to get back home before dark.
Annnd that's a wrap!
Crossed off the last Washington National Park off of my list! 3 National Parks have been conquered out of the 3 National Parks in Washington!
Although we didn’t do much exploring this trip, it was an INCREDIBLE first impression to these beautiful mountains not too far from home for us! Lauren and I both agree that we’ll be back one day soon to explore these beautiful and peaceful mountains. Out of the three National Parks in Washington, it would be almost impossible to pick a favorite since all three have unique things to offer. However, I did truly appreciate the lack of traffic and the quiet of the North Cascades.
Cheers to living life OUTDOORS!
August 22-24, 2019
A Week of Aloha - Part 2: Big Island, Hawaii
To hear about an adventure consisting of: island time, black sand beaches, unpredictable weather patterns, volcanic trails, malasadas, kona coffee and brews, and a big green sea turtle -- keep on reading!
After spending the last four days on Oahu (to read Part 1 click here!), my family jetted off to the Big Island, HI for three more days. It was our first time on the Big Island!
The Big Island welcomed us with sunshine and VERY hot/humid weather. It wasn’t as breezy during our trip, but we enjoyed the sunny weather regardless. We flew in around noon as the clouds were rolling in but the sun was still peeking through.
After picking up our rental car, we made our way towards Kona Town in search for lunch. We wanted to grab a bite to eat before Joe and Clarice went to their parasailing excursion that afternoon. We decided to eat at a restaurant called, Splashers Grill that was ocean-front and right next to UFO Parasail.
I went with the Ahi Tuna, while the rest of my family went with burgers. We happily ate our food while watching the boats take out the other parasailers. When Clarice asked me prior to our trip if I wanted to go parasailing with her, I debated on whether or not I wanted to go. However, since I’ve gone before and Joe hadn’t yet, I encouraged them to do the two-person reservation together instead.
When it became close to 3pm, we dropped off Joe and Clarice to enjoy their adventure while my parents and I went to go check-in to the hotel (Kona Coast Resort). We discovered quickly that the weather patterns on the Big Island were very unpredictable. It could be sunny and warm in one location, then after driving 10 minutes, it could be pounding down with heavy rain.
We ran into our hotel with all of our bags clutched to escape the rain until Joe and Clarice finished their ride. Luckily, it only sprinkled for them while on the boat and despite being a tad bit sea sick, they enjoyed themselves immensely!
On our way back to the hotel, we made a stop at Kahalu’u Beach Park (the closest black sand beach to our hotel) in search for turtles! This beach is typically known for green sea turtle sightings (we were told that they preferred black sand beaches over white to sunbathe in!); however, we unfortunately weren’t able to find any that evening.
We returned to the hotel to rest and relax. Other than our TV not working at first, we were quite impressed with our living space. I retired early that evening after a take-out dinner of fish tacos and macadamia nut chocolate boxes for dessert.
The second day on the Big Island had the most activities planned. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was pretty much the main event of our Big Island trip. Because Kona was about two hours away from the park, we woke up bright and early to begin our drive to the other side of the island.
We witnessed what we discovered yesterday -- that the weather can really change every 10 miles. We experienced sun, rain, and fog as we ventured over to the National Park, but before we knew it - we arrived in some sunshine. After stopping at the Visitor Center to collect my usual stamp, stickers, and postcards, my family decided to take a short hike through the Sulphur Banks Trail (1.3 miles, 82 ft. elevation gain) to the Kilauea Caldera Overlook. Because it was a shorter, paved, and relatively flat hike, my mom even decided to tag along with us. I was really proud of her because she’s not quite the hiker.
Walking through the sulphur banks and steam vents was such a unique and educational experience. Visiting the volcanoes really puts it into perspective how amazing and resilient our world is! We made it to the Kilauea Caldera Overlook just in time to catch part of the ranger’s presentation. He spoke about the recent volcanic eruption that occurred in 2018 and its effects on the land and the Hawaiian people.
We learned that many areas of the park were closed due to the recent eruption so a lot of the trails we wanted to go on were closed due to damage or restoration. We were recommended to try the Devastation Trail (1.0 miles) right along Crater Rim Drive. The elevation gain was minimal and the entire trail was paved; however, my mom decided to sit this one out.
It was definitely a unique site and a nice, quick hike. Again, walking around this land really forces you to realize how resilient our land/earth can be.
We worked up an appetite walking around, so we decided to head back to Punalu’u for some lunch. We stopped by Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (another common beach to spot turtles) and were able to successfully see a big green sea turtle resting on the beach. Clarice had never seen a wild sea turtle before so we were very excited that we finally found one during our trip!
It started to sprinkle so although we wanted to spend more time at the beach, we seeked shelter from the rain at Punalu’u Bake Shop for their very popular and well-known malasadas. They didn’t disappoint! We ended up buying sandwiches for lunch and malasadas for dessert, with extra malasadas for breakfast the next day.
With stomachs full and the rain picking up more, we made the road trip back to our hotel in Kona where we freshened up and relaxed a bit. We wanted to try to find the Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach), but decided to save that sight for next time. For dinner, we decided to try Kona Brewing Company! My dad and I were the only two out of the five of us that drink beer so we shared a tasting flight - Hanalei IPA, Kanaha Blonde, Mac Nut Vanilla Imperial Lager, and Wailua Wheat. Out of the four, I couldn’t pick a favorite! The rest of my family ordered pizza and we concluded our day with warm vibes and good conversations.
The Kona Coast Resort provided complimentary Kona Coffee during our stay, so it went so perfectly with our malasadas for breakfast. We didn’t have too much planned for our last day on the Big Island so we took our time waking up, having breakfast and getting our bags packed for the airport.
We made a stop at the ABC store for more souvenirs and macadamia nut chocolates, and by the time we checked out, we were hungry so we picked a Filipino-Hawaiian restaurant to try for lunch. A cousin who recently vacationed in Hawaii recommended Broke Da Mouth Grindz to us, so we thought we’d try it too!
I ordered the Hawaiian “Animal Style” Cheeseburger (it had spam, bacon, eggs, teriyaki and aioli sauces!) served with Sweet Potato Salad, and my family all ordered their famous Garlic Furikake Chicken. It was the dish that was featured on Food Network’s “Triple D” with Guy Fiery! All of it was SO good and we were all happily satisfied with lunch.
With a couple of hours to kill before our flight that late afternoon, we made our way to Hapuna Beach Park. We were told it was one of the nicest white sand beaches on the Big Island (at least closest to Kona!). We didn’t have the time to swim and stay awhile, but we chose to drive out there regardless since we had time to kill. It was definitely a beautiful and wide white sand beach!
As our Hawaiian adventure came to a close, we spent our last hour on the Big Island eating shave ice at the Kona International Airport.
Annnd that's a wrap!
That concludes Part 2 of our Hawaiian adventure on the Big Island! I especially appreciated our time at the Big Island because it definitely felt more like a true vacation than Oahu. Although Oahu was filled with fun adventures, we planned for the Big Island to have more down time. So blessed to have had the opportunity to vacation with my family for a week of Aloha!
Cheers to island time!
August 17-21, 2019
A Week of Aloha - Part 1: Oahu, Hawaii
To hear about an adventure consisting of: island time, family bonding, a luau, surfing lessons, beach days, “onolicious” food, a sunset photoshoot, and THREE (very humid.. lol) hikes -- keep on reading!
After visiting the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii last year for my best friend’s wedding, I convinced my family to return with me this summer. In addition to my mom, my dad, and my older brother (Joe), my cousin Clarice and her parents (Uncle Glenn and Aunt Mel) were able to join us too. It was exciting to have the opportunity to travel with so many family members to such an incredible destination!
We spent four full days in Oahu before flying over to the Big Island for three days. This blog post will be Part 1 of our Hawaiian adventure!
Our Hawaiian adventure officially started on Sunday, August 18th, which was our first full-day on island. We technically flew into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) the evening of August 17th, but we didn’t do much that evening besides check-in to our hotel (Alohilani Resort Waikiki Beach) and caught up with family.
We woke up bright and early on Day 1 with the time zone change in our favor to start the day off with a hike on the Diamond Head Trail. With water bottles refilled, we also made a stop at Bogart’s Cafe along the way. Although the wait was a bit longer than we anticipated for a quick bite, the Strawberry Guava bagel and pineapple mango smoothie that I ordered was 1000% satisfying.
The commute from our hotel to the trailhead parking lot was only a 10-minute drive so we were able to make it to the trailhead before the bigger crowds showed up. However, we would highly recommend arriving at the parking lot before 8am if you hope to find a parking spot right at the trailhead. We showed up at 8:20am and the parking lot was already full (but we should’ve expected this given that it was a Sunday).
We came prepared to hike so we didn’t mind parking a little further and hiking up the hill to the trailhead, where we met our cousin, Lalaine, who lives on Oahu and wanted to join us. We were all moderate hikers and compared to our mountains in Washington, the elevation gain for the Diamond Head Trail (1.8 miles roundtrip with 452 ft. in elevation gain) wasn’t too intimidating. However, despite our experience hiking in tall mountains, we were definitely not used to the humidity!
After about 30 minutes or so, we weaved our way along the side of Diamond Head (which has been dormant for at least 150,000 years now), climbed the first set of steep stairs, then walked through a tunnel before climbing the second set of steep stairs. The third and final staircase was a winding one, but once we finished climbing those, we were able to see the panoramic views we were promised.
We were told that this hike was heavily-trafficked and that is 100% true. Even when hiking before 10am, we had to stop hiking due to congestion of crowds (made for some good breaks though!). It took us about 30 minutes to hike to the top.
For those of you thinking about hiking Diamond Head, it is still absolutely worth the trek. I would just recommend to head out as early as you can to beat the crowds and for cooler weather, pack lots of water (especially for those not used to hiking in humidity), and make sure to wear sunscreen (the top is completely exposed).
We returned to our hotel ready for some food, so we regrouped with our parents to walk over to Duke’s Waikiki (a beachfront restaurant) for lunch. Lucas and I enjoyed eating the Mahi Mahi Fish when we were in Oahu last year, so I recommended the restaurant to my family too. I ordered the Mahi Mahi Fish Sandwich, while my family ordered the lunch buffet special and Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos.
We were so full from lunch that we decided to go back to the hotel to take naps and charge our phones before going to Ala Moana Beach Park for sunset. I had a photoshoot scheduled with Aubry and Harrison (check out their YouTube channel here). On our way back to the hotel, we got sidetracked and bought the entire stock of a Honolulu Cookie Company store (being dramatic, but we did buy QUITE a bit!).
Once sunset arrived and my photoshoot was finished, my family and I concluded our evening by snacking on some ice cream along the beach. We had plans to swim in the infinity pool that evening but found to our dismay that the pool was closed for a private event. We would have to wait a day or so more before we got our pool time at the hotel.
Luckily for us Kai Coffee was located right below our hotel, so we were happily caffeinated during our stay in Waikiki. The iced Kai Latte with coconut milk was my go-to! We had a long drive ahead of us for Day 2, so after purchasing our coffees, we started our adventure over to the North Shore.
Our first stop was Laniakea Beach, also known as Turtle Beach, in search of… you guessed it - turtles! Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any that morning, but we did find plenty of crab. When we dipped our toes into the water, it made Clarice and I excited to jump in so we made our way to our second stop, Waimea Bay Beach Park to go for a swim.
The waves were much bigger at Waimea Beach so we decided to enjoy the waves for about an hour or so before leaving for lunch. Last year, Lucas and I LOVED Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck over at the North Shore. I led my family towards it but found that the line had 50+ people waiting and the parking lot was crazy full. Given that swimming worked up an appetite, we decided to pass on Giovanni’s and found a nearby shrimp truck called, Big Wave Shrimp instead of waiting in such a huge line.
After feasting on their delicious shrimp and rice (lemon peppered and garlic butter shrimp for me!), we later found out that their shrimp truck was featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” with Guy Fieri!
We had about a little over an hour drive back to the hotel once we finished lunch, so we decided to pick up a treat for the road. The Dole Plantation was on the way back to Waikiki, so we stopped by the shop outside to try some of their famous Dole Whip, and the hype didn’t disappoint!
Once we arrived back to the hotel, we changed into our luau attire. There was traffic on the way to the west side of the island where the luau was, so we left early enough to arrive right when the doors opened. If you’re thinking about enjoying the Paradise Cove Luau and you’re staying in Waikiki make sure to leave at least 1.5 hours before the doors open!
We didn't want to miss the fun events they had planned before dinner, such as spear-throwing, shower of flowers, and the imu ceremony. They also had Hawaiian arts and crafts, photo stations (including one with birds!), live Hawaiian music, and various shops.
My dad, Joe and I decided to give spear-throwing a shot! I’ve gone axe-throwing before so I assumed it couldn’t be that much different, right? Lol! Although both Joe and my dad used too much force and missed, I ended up getting my spear to stick into the target! It was definitely off to the left quite a bit, but hey - it stuck and I was stoked! My dad found it hilarious that I was able to make it when he couldn’t, so he insisted that I give him tips so he can try again. Round 2 - and he was able to get his spear to strike the target both times! We had some good laughs.
We ended up spending most of our time waiting in line for spear-throwing, but we were still able to watch the shower of flowers (in which I found one to put behind my left ear - the left ear means you're taken by a significant other, and the right ear means you're available!) and the imu ceremony. On our way back to the table, we helped ourselves to more Mai Tais and shortly made our way to the buffet line to have dinner.
Dinner consisted of macaroni salad, poi, lomi lomi salmon, baked chicken, kalua pig, island fish, taro rolls, and MORE! It was a great feast over warm company and incredible dance performances!
TIP: If you plan to attend Paradise Cove Luau, make sure to pick up your photos in between performances or right after you finish your dinner. You don’t want to be caught in the lonnnng line at the photo stand after the performances conclude for the evening!
Although we arrived back to our hotel late the night before, Joe, Clarice, and I dragged ourselves out of bed to make it in time for our surfing lesson with Albert! Albert is a local who’s been surfing since he was about 6 years old. He met us at Queens Surf Beach Park with all of our gear at 7am.
We were a little groggy from waking up so early but thankfully the meet-up spot was only about a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Albert started our surf lesson by showing us the technique we needed to follow on land. Once he felt like we had the pattern down, we made our way into the ocean.
Learning how to surf was HANDS DOWN my favorite part of our entire trip to Hawaii! Knowing how to wakeboard and snowboard most likely worked in my favor because I was able to catch my first wave pretty smoothly! Once I caught that first one, I understood why people claimed surfing was addicting because it definitely was! I was able to catch the next 10 waves afterwards and I felt like my adrenaline could’ve kept me going all day.
Surfing can definitely tire you out though. Joe and Clarice ended up tapping out after an hour or so, so after a few just one more wave’s later, I decided to call it day too. We ended up going back to the hotel with our muscles gassed so we all decided to take a nap before walking along Waikiki Beach.
We found pineapple drinks and spent a couple hours swimming at the beach right in front of our hotel. Our parents brought us back Zippy’s for a late lunch, but by then I started to feel sick from being out in the sun for too long (and let’s be honest, I was most likely dehydrated too so learn from from mistakes and stay hydrated!). I took another nap to let the ill-feeling pass and by the evening I was feeling much better. We spent the last hours of the day at the infinity pool, sipping on pina coladas and crunching on some coconut shrimp.
Day 4 was our last full-day on Oahu and since Day 3 was spent relaxing and taking it easy, we wanted to jam pack as much as we could into Day 4! We woke up early with Kai Lattes in hand to make our way towards Kailua (the east side of the island).
TIP: Try not to drive on Pali Highway. Legend claims that it’s haunted by ghosts and/or that you cannot take pork over the Pali Highway. We were told that Pele and the demigod Kamapua’a (half man, half pig) refuse to see each other again so bringing pork in your car is like bringing Kamapua’a from one side of the island to the other. Legend claims that your car will stop at some point along the journey and a woman and a dog will appear.
Fortunately, the other route to the east side of the island holds SPECTACULAR coastal views despite the added time! I highly recommend traveling to Kailua from Waikiki by taking Highway 1/Highway 72 (Kalaniana’ole Highway) going south east. You’ll have picturesque views from your car and will have scenic stops like - Hanauma Bay (great place to spot some turtles, or honu!), Halona Blowhole Lookout, Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail (we visit this later!), or Waimanalo Beach.
Our first stop in Kailua was the Kailua Beach Park for a quick picture and rest stop, but the main event was Lanikai Beach (which is just a few minutes down the road!). Parking was tricky (this is typical) for Lanikai Beach since it’s mostly residential parking and a short walk to the public entrances. Make sure to follow the signs closely to avoid getting parking tickets and parking incorrectly!
Trust me when I say that the inconvenient parking situation is well worth the white sand views of Lanikai Beach! Seeing my family’s reactions to the beautiful white sand was so much fun, and reminded me of when I first saw the same beach last year. It’s incredible!
We decided to have lunch at the well-known restaurant, Boots & Kimo’s Homestyle Kitchen found in Kailua. Lucas and I didn’t have the chance to eat here last year and I was really bummed we didn’t have enough time, so I made sure we made time for it on this trip! And MAN am I glad we did!
Boots and Kimo’s easily became my new favorite restaurant, like ever. Although busy and popular, we only had to wait 25 minutes for a table during lunch time, which wasn’t too bad. Our server was hilarious and friendly and our food came out quickly too! I ordered the banana pancakes with Kimo’s famous Macademia Nut Sauce, and a side of the Hawaiian Smoked Sausage. I almost made the mistake of ordering a side of bacon (I like bacon, okay? lol), but thankfully the server politely asked if I’d like to try the Hawaiian Smoked Sausage or Maui Original Portuguese Sausage which are specialties to Boots and Kimo’s.
The only thing I can say about their food is that my mouth is watering just writing about how good the food was, and my family loved the food enough to order take-out for dinner later (because they close at 3pm or else we would’ve eaten there again lol)! It was THAT good!
With stomachs fully satisfied, Joe, Clarice, and I separated from the parents to go on a couple hikes. The first hike was in Kailua and right by Lanikai Beach - Lanikai Pillbox Hike/Trail, also known as Kaiwa Ridge (1.8 miles round trip, with 565 feet elevation gain). It actually sprinkled on and off during this hike for us but we surprisingly found it refreshing from the heat and humidity.
The first part of the hike was steep and dusty, so you definitely had to watch your step and use the ropes to assist you at certain areas of the trail. Once you clear the first part, the rest of the trail was pretty straightforward. Although not as maintained as Diamond Head or Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail, the trail up to the Lanikai Pillbox was a steady one. There were areas that were gravel, rock, or dust but for the most part it wasn’t too difficult to navigate up the trail. It also helped that it was pretty popular so for the most part we were just following the crowd up the path.
We were rewarded with a fantastic view of Lanikai Beach from the top of the first pillbox! I wouldn’t recommend climbing on top of the pillbox if you’re afraid of heights or are hiking with children, but the views are just as rewarding even if you don’t climb on top. We didn’t have time to hike to the second pillbox, but it’s supposedly another 10-minutes up the trail for a slightly taller and less crowded viewpoint.
Climbing down the steep part of the hike definitely required intense focus to avoid falling, but we hiked our way down safely. Our next hike that we wanted to conquer was about a 30-minute drive over to the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail (2.5 miles round trip with about a 500 ft elevation gain). This hike was a much more developed and maintained trail. It’s actually wheelchair accessible for the most part and paved the entire way. This hike was definitely unique compared to Washington hikes because you’re right on the coastline the majority of the hike. There’s just something about endless blue ocean!
If it were the right season (which it wasn’t for us in August), we could’ve seen Humpback Whales breaching as they migrated north. We settled for the awesome white foam from the crashing waves that were just mesmerizing instead. The view of the waves kept us company as we trekked up to the top of the trail where we could spot the lighthouse.
We caught the sunset as we made the coastal drive down Highway 1/Highway 72 back to Waikiki. Our amazing parents had Boots and Kimo’s in take-out boxes waiting for us at the hotel for dinner and we spent the evening catching up with our cousin Lalaine and her boyfriend, Eric in the hotel room. We wanted to have a restful night to prepare for our flight to the Big Island the next morning!
Annnd that's a wrap!
That concludes Part 1 of our Hawaiian adventure on Oahu! This trip was so refreshing and I had a lot of fun touring my family around this beautiful island. I loved that I got to show them things that I enjoyed experiencing when I visited last year, but was also able to see and experience new places as well. Next up: The Big Island of Hawaii for three days! I’ll be writing up that blog post and creating that travel vlog next!
Cheers to island time!
August 13-14, 2019
PNW Hiking: Olympic National Park
To hear about an adventure consisting of: my usual hiking buddy (aka one of my best friends, Lauren), 2 hikes in one day (9 miles, 3700 ft elevation gain), the Olympic Mountains, Twilight fandom, pacific northwest beaches, and the tree of life -- keep on reading!
Lauren and I decided to spend two days exploring the Olympic National Park. This would be National Park #2 that we visited out of the 3 NPs located in Washington, and my 10th National Park visited this year.
Lauren and I both have made it over to the Olympic Peninsula a time or two throughout our lives (given that we both grew up in Washington), but neither of us have hiked within the National Park. In addition, I had a couple book a photoshoot with me at Ruby Beach, so we decided to make the most out of the road trip to the coast and hike 2 trails on Day 1, and explore the sandy beaches on Day 2!
With coffee in hand and breakfast consumed, Lauren and I made the short road trip over to the Olympic Peninsula. From our homes, it was about a 3-hour drive -- and a beautiful drive too. We drove over the Narrows Bridge and took in the views of all the evergreen trees that lined the highways. After many songs and conversations later, we started to catch glimpses of the Pacific Ocean throughout our journey and before we knew it, we had arrived at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center.
We obtained our souvenirs, maps/guides, and refilled our water bottles before driving through the tunnels that led us to our first hiking location. Originally, Lauren and I both wanted to hike the very popular, Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge Trail. This 3.1 mile out and back hike is typically heavily trafficked due to its popularity, with an elevation of only 797 ft. On a clear day, this paved trail reveals a panoramic view of the Olympic Range, Puget Sound, and even Vancouver Island.
Unfortunately, we were unable to make the trek to Hurricane Hill this time around due to a trail maintenance project that was occuring at the time we were there. We did some research to find a hike in its replacement and decided on hiking the Klahhane Ridge Trail.
With our backpacks packed and ready to go, Lauren and I parked off the side of the road by the Switchback Trail trailhead to begin our climb up to Klahhane Ridge. There are other routes that hikers can take to get up to the ridge, but the route we decided on was known to be the most direct (although steeper). The 5.0 mile out and back hike had an elevation gain of 1700 ft. Additionally, the highest point was 6050 ft, so you can imagine how much our lungs needed to adjust to the elevation gain of 1,500 ft. in 1.5 miles.
Nevertheless, we persevered onward. We climbed up the side of the mountain with wildflowers (e.g. Indian paintbrush, lupine, glacier lilies) and marmot burrows sprinkled around us. Although we saw plenty of chipmunks and even a soaring bald eagle, we were sadly unable to spot an Olympic marmot (maybe next time!).
Something I enjoyed about this hike in particular was the periodic shade that the trees were able to provide in certain parts of the switchbacks. They acted as great breaks from the exposed sun throughout most of the trail. You couldn’t find Lauren nor I complaining about the sunshine, however. The Olympics is known for its foggy, wet weather, so we were extremely grateful for the dry/clear day!
When we reached about 700 ft, we made a right at the sign leading us to Klahhane Ridge (a left would’ve led us to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center). We exchanged stories with fellow hikers also making the trek up the mountain, which made the time pass even quicker.
Once we arrived at Klahhane Ridge, we snapped our photos of the mountains surrounding us as well as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, ate the turkey and cheese sandwiches that we had brought for lunch, and decided to pass on the very tempting Lake Angeles Trail that we considered hiking too (a trail that is accessible from Klahhane Ridge but proceeded a little further). We thought it would be better to save our energy for the sunset hike we had planned later that day - Mount Storm King.
After hiking down to the parking lot, we made a quick stop at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center before heading back to Port Angeles for dinner at Gordy’s Pizza. With energies replenished, we hurried over to the Storm King Ranger Station found along Lake Crescent to start our second hike of the day.
Mount Storm King is also known to be a popular hike, but is a bit steeper than the Klahhane Ridge Trail that we hiked earlier in the day. As a 4.0 mile out and back trail, with an elevation gain of 2065 ft. (highest point: 2600 ft), you can only imagine how exhausted our bodies were as we trekked up the mountain. The trail started off flat along the Marymere Falls trail for about 0.5 miles, and once we reached the massive bolder on our left, we arrived at the trailhead for Mount Storm King.
With the sunset quickly approaching, we were motivated to keep moving despite the mosquitoes and humidity trying to tell us to turn around. Our minds were eased once we found another couple hiking up for sunset, and a family that passed us on their way down ensured us that the hike was worth the effort despite the unusual humidity that evening. Humidity was better than rain since the summit was known to be dangerous in bad weather, so we kept climbing.
At around 1.3 miles, we stumbled to the end of the maintained trail. Our mental states were seriously battling our fatigued muscles and we debated about whether we should continue with the sun setting so soon. Thankfully, we decided to put mind over matter, and used the ropes placed by hikers to guide us to the very top of Mount Storm King.
In all honesty, the ropes were a bit terrifying when it seemed like you were the only ones on the mountain so we took extra caution as we climbed our way up. Our courage was extremely rewarded with a STUNNING sunset waiting for us once we climbed to the very top. We enjoyed the sunset as it started to hide behind the mountains. At this point, I forgot how tired I was and the view made it 1000% worth the sore muscles the next day.
We didn’t want to hike in the dark for too long, so after taking a moment, we started the trek down the ropes and down the trail back to the parking lot. On the way to our hotel in Port Angeles, we decided to reward ourselves with smoothies from McDonald’s and called it a night.
Lauren and I love a good complimentary breakfast, so we woke up in time to grab some food before we hit the road once again. The agenda for Day 2 consisted of a photoshoot at Ruby Beach and a couple detours along the way. After filling up the gas tank and grabbing some snacks (the typical gummy worms… lol), we made our way to Ruby Beach.
About an hour away from Port Angeles, we emerged into Forks, WA. If you didn’t know, Forks, WA is known for their vampire population… The Twilight Saga was written to take place in Forks, WA and the Twilight Fandom has spiked the town’s tourism since the books and movies became popular. Lauren and I aren’t the biggest Twilight fans but know of the books and movies. I read them back in middle school, and Lauren has seen parts of the first movie, so we tried our best to be fans.
We only had time for one stop at Forks, WA. We decided to check out the Forks Visitor Center where Bella Swan’s truck could be found. I’m assuming it was the truck they used in the Twilight movies. While at the Visitor Center, we briefly spoke with the staff member at the information desk who informed us on cool facts about the Hoh Rain Forest. Since we were crunched on time, we decided to save the Hoh Rain Forest for another day, but she did recommend a short detour to Kalaloch to see the Tree of Life, which peaked our curiosity. We decided to make it our last stop before heading back home for the day.
We made it to Ruby Beach a little early to scope out some photoshoot spots away from the crowded entrance. Just in time too -- because we were able to soak up some sunshine while we walked along the beach. The sunshine didn’t stay long though and about 15 minutes later, the fog rolled in to coat the sandy coast. It made for some epic photo opportunities though!
By the time it was an hour or two past noon, we decided to maneuver our way through the fog to Kalaloch. A short 10-minute drive led us to the white gazebo that the woman from the visitor center spoke of. We made our way down the stairs to the sandy beach, where we had to cross a fallen tree to pass through the streams of ocean trickling into the sand to keep our toes dry. About a 15-20 minute walk later, we arrived at what was called the Tree of Life.
We found it fascinating that although its roots have become exposed due to years of erosion, the Sitka spruce tree continues to stand tall and alive. The soil that was once its life supply has been eroded to the point where people find it difficult to explain how the tree stays alive, and how it remains standing tall even when storms arise near the coast.
We intended to arrive at the Olympic National Park to wander, and left wondering too.
Annnd that's a wrap!
Another one checked off the list! We weren’t sure if we were going to fit all 3 of the National Parks in Washington this summer, but it’s likely now that we will! Next up are the North Cascades!
Olympic National Park stood out to me in particular because it’s known to pretty much be three “parks”/climates in one -- the pacific coast beaches, the rain forest, and the mountains. After spending two days in all its beauty, our experience was really only a taste of what it has to offer its visitors. Feeling extremely blessed to have been able to experience such a beautiful place within my own state! Can’t wait to visit again soon!
Cheers to mountain time!
You can find the Travel Vlog of my Hiking Day Trip on YouTube!
July 23, 2019
PNW Hiking: Mount Rainier National Park: Skyline Trail, WA
To hear about a day consisting of: my usual hiking buddy (aka one of my best friends, Lauren), avalanche lilies, meeting fitness goals, an active volcano standing at 14,411 feet tall, and FRESH air - keep on reading!
Lauren and I decided that it was time for our second hike of the summer. Trust me when I tell you we have plenty of PNW hikes on our Bucketlist this year, but we decided to explore Mount Rainier National Park next. I’ve been to Mount Rainier National Park countless times, but I’ve always stayed near the Longmire area of the park. The Skyline Trail was a hike that intrigued me after hearing how beautiful the view was along the trail. We checked the weather for a clear day, and decided to give it a shot.
This trip wasn’t my first time visiting Mount Rainier National Park, but it was my first time going with my new National Park book. So after stopping by the Visitor Center at Paradise to obtain my stamp, sticker, and postcard, Lauren and I began the trek to the trailhead.
Skyline Trail begins near Paradise Inn within Mount Rainier National Park. The trail itself is a loop adding up to 5.3 miles total and is typically rated as moderate to difficult depending on which hiking website you look at (lol). The elevation gain is recorded to be 1,758 feet and the highest point in elevation is at 6800 feet above sea level.
I’ll be completely honest -- the first few minutes of the Skyline Trail hike were no joke. The hike starts off as steep, and Lauren and I found ourselves a bit out of breath as we started the hike (lol!). However, eventually the trail does level out about 0.5 miles in and by then, you can start catching the first glimpses of the beauty Mount Rainier has to offer! You could stop every 10 minutes and still be able to catch a beautiful view!
In addition to the majestic mountain, there was also beauty found along the trail as well. Avalanche lilies were sprinkled all along the hike as well as other types of summer wildflowers gently swaying in the breeze. We also found a couple of chipmunks that trailed along behind us as we continued to trek up closer to the mountain.
We came across the turn for Glacier Vista, a popular photo spot for many hikers. Given our limited time to hike, we decided to save Glacier Vista for another time and trekked forward. After crossing an ice-cold stream (in which we dipped our hands into to cool off) and climbing stairs made of rock, we made it about 2.6 miles later at around 6400 feet in elevation to the clearest view point of Mount Rainier. We decided to take the opportunity to snap a quick picture and debated on whether or not we should continue the rest of the hike to Panorama Point and eventually close out the loop, or turn back.
Panorama Point is known to display an incredible view at 7000 feet in elevation. On a clear day, you are able to see Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and Mount Adams. Given the clouds rolling in, we decided to take a raincheck on Panorama Point and the second half of the loop. If we had more time, we would’ve loved to finish it out, but decided that since this National Park was practically in our backyards, we would return another day to explore further.
Despite living so close to Mount Rainier National Park, this was both of our first experiences seeing Mount Rainier that close! The only way I can figure out how to describe it, is that it felt like I was staring at a painting the entire hike. Truly an amazing view! Although we didn’t have the time to hike the entire loop through Panorama Point, we’re definitely excited to check it out next time!
I would highly recommend this hike for those wanting to catch an uninterrupted view of Mount Rainier from the Paradise side. We were told that in the spring, the wildflowers that sprinkle the trail are unreal, and I would recommend biting the bullet and trekking up to Panorama Point on a clear day. Lauren and I aren’t novice hikers, but we aren’t expert hikers either. The trail was bearable for us, but we would recommend to bring extra water and snacks to maintain your energy levels, as well as bug repellent to scare off the mosquitoes! All in all, the view was 1000% worth it, so if you ever have the opportunity, go for it! :)
Annnd that's a wrap!
The views from this hike had me thirsty for more! Now that I’ve stamped 1 out of the 3 National Parks in Washington into my book, I’m eager to obtain the stamps for the other 2 this summer as well. Next up - Lauren and I have Olympic National Park for mid-August planned, as well as the North Cascades National Park by the end of August! Make sure to tune in to my future blog posts and YouTube channel to see how THOSE adventures go! :)
Cheers to living life OUTDOORS!
July 11, 2019
Father/Daughter Mini Road Trip & Styled Photoshoot!
To hear about a day consisting of: father/daughter bonding, a brand new truck, burgers, waterfalls, and a styled photoshoot - keep on reading!
I wanted to attend a styled photoshoot hosted by https://www.donnallin.com/ over at Kennewick, Washington. Because it was about a 4-hour drive from my home, I decided that it might be too far for me to trek over alone (especially given the fact that I’ve never driven over to the Tri-Cities before). Upon hearing my dilemma, my dad encouraged me to attend the styled shoot and offered to keep me company for the trek over. In addition, he even let us take his brand new Diesel truck for its first road trip!
We woke up bright and early for the mini road trip to Kennewick. To say I was excited to drive my dad’s new Dodge Ram was an understatement. I was STOKED to drive his new truck, and even more excited for the day we had planned. Fueled up by a McDonald’s breakfast (I’m aware that this wasn’t the healthiest choice… I promise I’ll try harder to eat healthier… lol!), we drove through the Snoqualmie Pass to our first stop in Yakima, WA -- Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant for their famous burgers.
When I was still in high school, my dance team would stop at Miner’s for dinner when we would drive over to Yakima for our annual State Dance Competition. It was only fitting that my dad and I made a stop to enjoy the burgers that we haven’t had in over 5 years! They tasted as good as we remembered and once we were full, we made our way to another detour -- Palouse Falls State Park.
Palouse Falls was about an hour or so away from Kennewick, but since we had time to spare before the styled shoot scheduled for the evening, we figured we’d check it out. Palouse Falls has been a location I’ve heard about countless times, but never had the chance to make it to the part of Washington in which it was located in. The Palouse Falls stands at 200 feet tall, and we read that it was one of the last active waterfalls on the Ice Age floods path. We were blessed with sunny weather that day, so we were even able to witness a rainbow displayed beautifully in front of the falls!
Around dinner time, we made our way down to Kennewick (again, where the styled shoot took place). We discovered a small farmer’s market a couple blocks from the photoshoot location, so we decided to pick up some barbeque, mango shakes, and yellow cherries to snack on for dinner. When 7pm arrived, I made my way to Donna’s #TCxStyled Shoot-Out where I was able to meet about 10 or so creatives capturing art together. It was tons of fun and so worth the drive!
List of Vendors from the Styled Shoot:
Florals - @luxurybloomsfloraldesign
MUA - @mubymika
Hair - @connie.delamora
Calligraphy - @calligraphybyalena
Organizer - @donnailinphoto
Annnd that's a wrap!
ABSOLUTELY grateful to have a dad who supports my photography enough to accompany me on an 8-hour total road trip to Kennewick for a styled shoot. ALSO thankful that he trusts me enough to drive his brand new truck ;) lol!
Cheers to Papa Aguilar!
July 3-July 8, 2019
4 Days + 3 National Parks + 3 States + 1 ENGAGEMENT PHOTOSHOOT = The Last Few Days with My Fiance Before He Deployed Overseas
To hear about an adventure consisting of: an engaged military couple, collecting stamps at 3 national parks, a last-minute engagement photoshoot on the 4th of July, driving across state lines, and orangutans -- keep on reading!
My fiance Lucas received a 4-day pass while he was down in El Paso, Texas before his deployment overseas. Because his deployment was sudden (feel free to read more about this story in my previous blog post here!), we decided that time was more valuable than money at this point so I booked my ticket to fly down to El Paso, Texas to spend his days off with him.
This was both of our first times near the El Paso, Texas area so we decided to maximize the experience by visiting all the nearby national parks. Who knows when we’ll be in the area next, right? We also wanted to use the extra days given back to us by organizing the engagement photoshoot we weren’t able to have before he left Washington. Due to an AMAZING photography community, I was able to find a photographer and a hair stylist available for our engagement shoot on the 4th of July!
All in all, we were excited to be able to go on another adventure, but more excited that we were able to get time back to spend with one another.
Lucas’ first day off was on July 3rd, so I flew that morning from Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to arrive in El Paso International Airport (ELP) by noon. Luck was on my side that morning! My baggage ticket wouldn’t print in the kiosk, but instead of waiting the long line to check-in my bag, the attendant directed me to wait in the first class line. Security was a breeze and when I arrived to my seat on the plane -- not only did I have my preferred window seat, but also had the whole row to myself!
About 3 hours of editing pictures later, I left the Seattle morning sprinkle and arrived in the afternoon dry heat of Texas. It was 90 degrees!
Lucas met me at baggage claim and we happily made our way over to pick up our rental car. We had a long drive ahead of us to Tucson, Arizona (the location of our photoshoot), so after a lunch stop at Chic-Fil-A, we made the trek through New Mexico to Arizona!
We arrived at our hotel in Tucson, Arizona after 4.5 hours filled with road trip singing and wedding planning. We were both exhausted from traveling, so instead of exploring Tucson that evening, we decided to grab dinner at the Red Lobster down the road. Lucas was craving seafood so we bought a crab dinner for him and some shrimp for myself. We also toasted over a sangria and rum/coke - you can guess who had which ;)
Day 2 consisted of our first full day in Tucson, Arizona. We decided to travel over to Tucson because the Saguaro National Park was nearby, and Mount Lemmon was the scenic location that our photographer, Kim, recommended to us for our engagement photoshoot. Our shoot wasn’t scheduled until sunset, so we decided to brace the Arizona heat and explore.
Saguaro National Park was located about 30 minutes from our hotel. So after grabbing a quick breakfast, we decided to make our way to Saguaro National Park to cross another national park off my list (If you didn’t know - I made it my goal earlier this year to visit every National Park in the United States!). The drive over was a very windy, up and down drive through a FOREST of cacti. Being from Washington, we're used to evergreen trees so it was definitely a different sight to see for us! Hills would go on for MILES and there would be so many saguaro cacti sprinkled all over the area.
It was a little over 100 degrees that day, so we didn’t have it in us to go on any hikes. We really just wanted to go to the visitor center and see the forests of cacti. But really, the cacti were present almost the entire drive to the visitor center so we got our cacti fix that day for sure. While we were in the gift shop hunting down a postcard for my collection, Lucas found a National Park book that was big enough to hold postcards. He reasoned with me that we might not find ourselves in Saguaro National Park again and thought we might as well invest in a book to keep my collection of postcards as well as start collecting the National Park stamps in the book too.
With my new National Park book in hand, freshly stamped and with postcard purchased, we ended our visit to Saguaro National Park and decided to make a detour over to Old Tucson. The heat had us both feeling tired, so we didn’t end up staying at Old Tucson for very long. We were thirsty so we purchased drinks for the road, and we saw a shawl on sale - couldn’t pass that up (lol!). On our way back to the hotel, we found an In N Out Burger and couldn’t pass that up either (we don’t have In N Out Burger in Washington!). We went through the drive-thru to enjoy our lunch back at the hotel, while we both got ready for our photoshoot that evening.
Truly thankful for the creatives who made themselves available (ON A HOLIDAY!) to accommodate Lucas’ and my engagement shoot before he deployed overseas. Makayla (@get_it_twisted_withmakayla) drove 1.5 hours from Phoenix, AZ to our hotel in order to curl/braid my hair, and Kim (@kimhartnettphoto) also drove with her husband about 1.5 hours to Mount Lemmon to take our pictures! The drive to Mount Lemmon had a beautiful view and I’m obsessed over our engagement pictures! We’ll happily use some of them for our Save the Date cards, so thank you to both creatives for making this day so special for us!
Walking around Saguaro National Park, Old Tucson, and Mount Lemmon wiped us out, so instead of watching the fireworks by the Convention Center, we decided to avoid all the crowds and traffic and spend our evening at BJ’s having some snacks and drinks. We didn’t regret that decision one bit!
We woke up bright and early for the drive back to Texas on Day 3. With Starbucks in hand, we made the 6-hour drive to National Park #2 of this adventure - Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Salt Flat, TX. We were thankful that our rental car had cruise control because we had loooooong stretches of flat highways ahead of us. As we drove through New Mexico to get to Texas, we stopped for gas and Subway, but wanted to limit our stops so we could make it to two National Parks that day.
The long stretch of driving paid off because not only were we able to collect the postcards, stickers, and stamps from Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but we also made it before the Visitor Center of Carlsbad Caverns National Park (in Carlsbad, New Mexico) closed for the day. If we had more time, we would’ve walked the trails of Guadalupe Mountains. However, we were limited on time before Carlsbad closed for the evening.
We were SO glad we made it too, because Carlsbad Caverns was SOMETHING ELSE entirely. It was INCREDIBLE seeing all the stalagmites, soda straws, and columns throughout the Big Room (all made of limestone!). We didn’t make it in time to do the hike to the Big Room, but luckily they were still allowing visitors to enter through the elevators. Lucas and I didn’t know what to expect when we got there, but once we went 75 stories underground, our jaws literally dropped!
If you ever get the chance to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park, I highly recommend! Pictures and reading about it just doesn't cut it.
Day 3 was filled with the most adventures, so by the time we left Carlsbad Caverns we were ready for some food and sleep. We looked for restaurants that were highly recommended near our hotel and found, Mariscos El Buchón. We had seafood, ceviche, and oysters that evening, followed by watching movies and falling asleep by 8pm.
Day 4 was the last day Lucas had before he left to fly overseas for his deployment. He had to report back to base by 6pm that evening. We slept in a little more that morning and made the 3-hour drive back to El Paso, Texas. I wasn’t able to check-in to my hotel in El Paso until the afternoon, so we weren’t sure where to wander until then. Lucas discovered that there were orangutans at the El Paso Zoo, especially a baby one! So he knew that I’d be ALL about going to see the orangutans (They’re my FAVORITE animal!).
I think we stopped by the orangutan exhibit 5 different times while we were at the zoo (lol!). They were just so much fun to watch! We also saw elephants, a galapagos tortoise, lions (which was Lucas’ favorite exhibit), and much more.
Once we saw all the animals we wanted to see, we stopped by Dairy Queen for a quick bite and some ice cream before Lucas dropped me off at my hotel. Lucas wasn’t sure how many days he would get free, and it turned out that he only had 4 days before he had to fly overseas. My flight didn’t leave until two days after his, so I spent my Sunday and Monday morning at the hotel (which consisted of a LOT of wedding planning, editing pictures/videos, and binge-watching Harry Potter).
Annnd that's a wrap!
Super excited over the opportunity to cross off THREE more National Parks on my list AND that we were able to get our engagement pictures taken before Lucas left for his deployment! :)
It’s never easy saying “See you later,” especially since this time it will be for 9-10 months and he’ll be in hostile territory… but we were extremely grateful to have spent those 4 days together even if it was just for 4 days. It was better than none at all, and we know he’ll be home sooner than we think. I am SO proud of him, and can’t wait to marry him when he comes home! :)
Cheers to another adventure, and prayers for a safe deployment!
You can find the Travel Vlog of my Hiking Day Trip on YouTube!
June 24, 2019
PNW Hiking: Franklin Falls, WA
To hear about a day consisting of: PNW hiking, coniferous trees, easy conversations, a 70-foot waterfall, and FRESH air - keep on reading!
To celebrate my first Monday out of the office (indefinitely! If you haven’t read my previous blog post, I left my full-time day job in downtown Seattle!), I wanted to get some fresh air and be outdoors. Therefore, my best friend, Lauren (you’ll remember her from our road trip hiking adventure from AZ to UT!) and I decided to kick off the summer with a short and easy hike to Franklin Falls.
Franklin Falls is located in the Snoqualmie Region of Washington, so just about 1.5 hours from our homes. The hike totals at 2.0 miles round-trip with a 400 ft elevation gain. You’ll find the falls after a mile of hiking, nestled between the two viaducts of I-90. I would highly recommend this hike if you’re just starting out with hiking, want an easy/short hike with a spectacular view, or are hiking with kids!
The weather was fair when we decided to go on our hiking adventure to Franklin Falls. It had just recently rained a day or two before the day we hiked, so the forest floor was left a little damp. It made some of the trail and rocks a little slick here and there, but overall, it made for a cool and even-temperature hike. However, even if it was hot and sunny, the trees would’ve covered the trail for a large majority of the hike.
This was my first time hiking the trail in the summer. The last time I had hiked to the falls was in February 2017 with Lucas. Snow covered the entire trail, and the anticipated 2-mile hike turned into an 8-mile hike for us because the road to the parking lot was so covered in snow that they blocked off the roads. Hikers were parking along the street to access Franklin Falls, but we didn’t realize that until we were about 2-3 miles in (lol!) and were left wondering where the falls were. We decided to make the long trek to the falls anyways! We thought that since we made it that far already, we might as well keep on going!
If you ever get the opportunity to hike Franklin Falls in the summer OR the winter, I highly recommend this hike either way! The view is rewardingly STUNNING and because hikers frequent the trail regularly it’s pretty easy to navigate your way to the falls. You'll weave your way amongst the trees and before you know it, you'll find the rushing river and will feel the mist coming off of the beautiful Franklin Falls!
Annnd that's a wrap!
After our first hike of the season, Lauren and I went back to her place to create a list of hikes we wanted to try to do before the summer ends! Next up is Mt. Rainier National Park - so make sure to tune in to my future blog posts or YouTube channel to hear how the next adventures will go!
Cheers to living life OUTDOORS!
You can find the Lifestyle VLOG on YouTube!
Conversations Over Coffee: Military Deployment, Moving, Quitting my Job, and GETTING ENGAGED!
This blog entry is going to differ from my previous travel posts. I wanted to use this platform to not only share my travel adventures, but to also journal about important milestones in my life. My intention is to not only share some of my personal stories with my readers, but to also be able to reflect on these moments years later.
Therefore, I will be posting “Conversations Over Coffee” entries from time to time. They will be filled with life updates and lifestyle content to share with you all. You know – the type of conversations you have when you meet up with a friend for coffee to catch up on life. :)
You’ll find that the month of June for me was filled with making choices that were heavily impacted once we received Lucas’ deployment orders, and from there - it was an exciting whirlwind of events.
We had known about Lucas’ possible deployment overseas for a little over a year, but that’s the thing – “possible” was emphasized for a while. Lucas has served in the Army Reserves for six years and counting, and his unit had not needed to deploy until 2019. Even during the months of military preparation leading to their deployment date this year, there was still a possibility that they didn’t need to deploy.
Regardless, we needed to plan for the anticipation. In May, we decided that I would move back home in June to stay with my parents during the duration of his deployment. Although Sherbert is an excellent companion, I just thought that I’d need a little more support than he could give me in our Seattle home all by ourselves.
Moving Out of Seattle.
Deciding to move out of Seattle wasn’t the easiest choice to make, however. (Not even in the slightest.) Lucas and I had lived together in our apartment in West Seattle since last year, but I had also lived in Seattle for the past five years while I was going to school at the University of Washington.
Seattle was my home. With familiar spots like Pike Place Market, our local diner with the best eggs benedict, Alki Beach, and our favorite Sunday Farmer’s Market all within reach, I had enjoyed every minute of our Seattle chapter. We had many firsts in our first apartment together – including our first time building Ikea furniture (which was a story in itself! lol), our first time baking pizzas in our own kitchen, and it was also the first home of my very first kitten and our first fur child, Sherbert!
Additionally, our West Seattle home made for only a half-hour commute for both of us to get to our jobs. The bus system was so convenient for me to use everyday to get to work in downtown Seattle, and the free parking nearby made it easy for Lucas to get to and from work. If we were to commute from our previous homes in Puyallup, it would’ve made for an hour commute for Lucas, and a 2-2.5 hour commute for myself.
Because moving out of Seattle increased my commute significantly, it caused me to have to make some more life decisions…
I Left My Job.
Work is work. There’s always going to be aspects of a job that you utterly dread, but there are also aspects of a job that you’re graciously good at or thoroughly enjoy. I worked for the same company in downtown Seattle for 1 year before I decided that it was time to move on.
If the only thing I needed to take into account was the job itself or the account team I worked with directly, I would’ve made the commute work. But given all the changes to adjust to – Lucas’ deployment and moving back home in Puyallup, the longer commute just didn’t seem feasible for what the job was able to offer me.
I was and still am so grateful for the growth and learning opportunities that my previous company was able to provide. However, at this point in my life, I needed time. Time to adjust, time to pack and unpack, time to prepare for the deployment, time to ease my mental health, and time to create new goals. Money will always return, but time won’t.
Running Out of Time…
I decided to put in my two week’s notice while Lucas was away for military training in North Carolina. I had planned it so that once he returns from North Carolina, we would both have one entire month to spend together before he deployed in mid-July. We had made plans to go on a trip together, hiking, and spending time with family.
However, a week before Lucas were to return from North Carolina, we discovered that his deployment orders were switched. Instead of having one month back in Washington to prepare, he would only have four days before leaving for his deployment.
I don’t even know how to describe in words the utter dread and defeat I felt when we heard that news. Not only was 9-10 months going to be taken away from us, but it was going to be taken away even sooner than planned, and 1 month to prepare turned into 4 days.
You can imagine that fitting in a month-long of goodbyes in 4 days was nearly impossible, and to top it all off – it happened to be the weekend of Father’s Day and Graduations. Nevertheless, Lucas and I wanted to make the most out of his last weekend home.
After a delayed and rescheduled flight, I picked up Lucas from the airport on a Friday morning. I had to spend the day working remotely from home, but for dinner Lucas and I spent the late afternoon with his family at Olive Garden. Because we were stripped away from our planned trip in early July, Lucas booked us a hotel in downtown Seattle for Friday night. We wanted one more night together in our city that we had called home for the past year before he left for his deployment. Lucas surprised me and booked us a room at the Loews Hotel 1000 on 1st Ave with the original intention to walk to Pike Place Market for breakfast the next day.
Although we were still full from Olive Garden earlier, we had just enough of an appetite to munch on some fresh oysters, a cheese platter, a glass of Riesling for me, and a rum and coke for Lucas at the restaurant attached to the hotel, All Water Seafood & Oyster Bar.
We were walking back up to the hotel room when Lucas started talking a little more sentimental than usual. We were talking about the deployment and how we were going to make it through – that the time away from each other was going to suck, but that we’ll always know how to make it work. And before I could even blink, Lucas surprised me with the question, “Will you marry me?” and pulled out the most beautiful rose gold ring I had ever seen.
You know how some brides sort of see it coming? That wasn’t me lol. I’ve always felt sure with Lucas, and even since the beginning of our relationship we made it clear to one another that we didn’t date around just to date – that we were looking for long-term. But if you knew Lucas, he is not quite the “planner” type, so I was very happily surprised that he pulled it all off without me finding out.
Lucas later explained to me that our families already knew, and that he was planning on proposing during our trip in July. But because the sudden change in plans, he decided to buy my ring in North Carolina that way he could propose the day he returned. While I was working from home earlier that day, he snuck away outside to receive my father’s blessing and even had the ring approved by my best friend, Chelsey, a week prior.
I am still in awe, and I am still trying to process how blessed I am to have found such a wonderful person to spend the rest of my life with.
Annnd that's a wrap!
To say that last month was exciting would be SUCH an understatement. Although some may say that all the life changes (especially the deployment) can be stressful or overwhelming, the most important thing to remember is that regardless of all that life may throw at me, the one thing I know for sure is that I have the BEST partner to go through it all with me!
Now that I have time off from work, I’m excited to have the time to unpack and settle in back home, the time to dream new goals for myself (like going back to school, traveling, finding a new job, and investing in my photography), and now… time to PLAN A WEDDING too! :)
You can either “go through” or “GROW through” a deployment, and Lucas and I have decided to choose the latter. Although the sudden change of plans threw us off for a moment, it only means he’ll return sooner than planned. It also eases my heart knowing that the platoon he was switched to is one that I know will look out for him while he’s overseas.
Just have to remember to count the blessings, and not the problems!
Cheers to getting ENGAGED!