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!
May 25-27, 2019
Memorial Day Weekend: Exploring In and Around San Francisco, California
To hear about a weekend consisting of: golden gate bridge views, things not quite going to plan (lol!), quality time with family, oysters and wine, a rainy day in Yosemite National Park, home-cooked meals, and painted ladies - keep on reading!
For Memorial Day Weekend, Lucas and I decided to fly over to San Francisco, California to visit his cousin and my very good friend, Meghan! She lives a few hours away from San Francisco so we decided to make the trip an adventure for not only us but for her as well. Lucas has quite a bit of family in that part of California, so we decided to visit as many family members as we could, especially because this would be Lucas’ last opportunity to see them before he gets deployed overseas this year.
Lucas and I started our adventure off with the usual iced caramel macchiatos at the SeaTac Airport for our early morning flight to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). I tried my best to take a nap during the short flight over to SFO, but found myself looking out the window watching the aerial view of the west coast instead.
Once we arrived at SFO, we refueled our energy levels with another Starbucks drink while we waited for Meghan and her mom/Lucas’ aunt, Claudia to pick us up. Lucas then drove us to the Golden Gate Bridge for a sneak peek before heading over to Lucas’ uncle and aunt’s house (Uncle David and Aunt Jen) located near Napa, CA. The many construction cones mislead us, so we were unable to stop for pictures; however, we were able to drive onto the bridge, which I’ve never been able to do before!
While en route to Napa, we decided to grab some lunch. Because Lucas was craving Chinese food, we stopped at a Mandarin/Japanese restaurant for some fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, and sushi.
Once our stomachs were satisfied, we fought through California traffic to get to Napa. The endless vineyards along the sides of the road were so epic! Vineyards just kept covering the massive hills - definitely how I pictured Napa in my head prior.
We caught up with Lucas’ Uncle David, Aunt Jen, and their three kids at their house. When we were all ready to go, we made our way over to the Napa wineries for some wine tasting. Because of the traffic, we were a bit crunched for time so we agreed to only visit one winery and just enjoy our time there rather than hopping around. Unfortunately, it was to our disappointment that once we arrived to Castello di Amorosa, cars were being turned away because there was a sign indicating “Reservations Only for Today.” Being that it was Memorial Day weekend, we knew it was going to be a bit busier, but didn’t anticipate being turned away entirely.
At this point, it was about 5pm and most wineries have either already closed or were going to close at 6pm. We hurried over to the nearest winery that was still open, but were met with a menu a tad over our budget (by a lot... lol). Although things weren’t quite going as planned, we didn’t let the obstacles stop us from getting wine in Napa. ;) So after regrouping over at Uncle David’s, we decided to snack on some oysters and sip on some wine at Hog Island Oyster Co. Uncle David knew his wines, so we had him select a red and white for us to try over some oysters. Growing up, I avoided oysters at all costs (probably because as a kid they can be intimidatingly slimy), but I was feeling adventurous during this trip and discovered that I actually LOVE oysters now!
An evening that didn’t go according to plan ended up being a fun evening filled with wine and laughter regardless of the location! We were able to catch up, share jokes, and most importantly - create memories.
Can you guess how we started our morning off on Day 2? Yep, you guessed it! Starbucks ;) Once we were all happily caffeinated at around 5am, we made the 3.5 hour drive to Yosemite National Park. In addition to wanting to check off Yosemite off my National Park Bucketlist, it was also along the way to Lucas’ grandparents’ house where we were going to have dinner. We originally planned to meet up with a childhood friend of mine and her boyfriend, but due to the rainy weather we had to postpone our photo meet-up for another time.
Despite the rainy clouds interfering with the view of the beautiful mountains and rock formations, we made the trek over to Yosemite anyways to at least drive around since we had the time to spare. We were barely able to see El Capitan, some roads were closed, and it even snowed in certain areas of the park, but we were still able to admire some of the mountains and waterfalls that the park was known to showcase to its visitors. A little rain never hurt any Washingtonians, and I hope to travel back to Yosemite later this year anyways, so fingers crossed I’ll be able to see more soon!
After spending the morning exploring a rainy Yosemite, we made a quick stop for hot chocolate/coffee and drove over to the house of Lucas’ Oma and Opa (grandma and grandpa in German) for dinner. Lucas’ Uncle Gary also planned to join us, and rumor had it that German meatballs and mashed potatoes were on the menu!
The last time Lucas visited his grandparents’ house was 2 years ago when Lucas and I had our first trip (as a couple) to San Francisco back in 2017. So, it was really special that we were able to catch up and see his family while we were in the area again.
As promised, we had German meatballs, cucumber salad, mashed potatoes, and asparagus for dinner and we happily soaked up every bite. There’s just something about home-cooked meals! Lucas’ Oma also never lets us forget about dessert, so she made sure we each had a bag of lemon chocolate almonds to take home too!
After dinner we had another three-hour drive back to San Francisco where we had a hotel reserved for Lucas, Meghan, Aunt Claudia, and myself to stay in for the night. Meghan dropped us off at the hotel so we could reorganize our luggage, shower, and rest, while she went to go pick up her mom. We were so worn out from the day that we decided on ordering dumplings via UberEats while watching Harry Potter on TV, instead of going out and exploring the area. And I would say, we made the right decision haha!
Day 3 was sadly our last day in California so we wanted to start early to get the most out of our day. Once we were energized by our complimentary hotel breakfast, we made our way to Japan Town - San Francisco, CA so I could meet up with a friend for a photoshoot. Lucas, Meghan, and Aunt Claudia explored nearby coffee shops and food stands while I spent an hour or so taking some photos with my client. I will happily take any opportunity to capture some photos while traveling! (So if I’m ever going to be near your neck of the woods - let me know!!)
Since we weren’t able to stop and take photos at the Golden Gate Bridge on Day 1, we chose to drive back over and snap a few pictures. I remember hearing about the Painted Ladies, which are Victorian/Edwardian-style homes that were known to appear during the opening credits of the TV Show, Full House. Couldn’t miss another photo op, so we spent a few minutes at the park across the street as well.
We spent our last hours in San Francisco wandering around taking pictures, and finding a Yelp-approved Boba place (lol!) before making our way to the SFO airport. Lucas and I snacked on some burrito bowls until our afternoon flight back home to Seattle - where our fur child was waiting for us to return.
Annnd that's a wrap!
Although things may not go according to plan, it is so important to learn how to roll with the punches! As cliche as it is, life is truly what you make of it so I’m proud of our rigor in seeing the silver lining to every obstacle that tried to prevent us from having a good time. All in all, it was a fulfilling trip, and I cannot wait to come back later this year!
Cheers to resilience!
May 11-12, 2019
& At Last I See the Light…
To hear about a weekend consisting of: Mother’s Day, my cat’s first road trip, quality time with family, a rest stop birthday party, camping chairs, food trucks, and thousands of floating lanterns - keep on reading!
In May 2018, my brother, Joe went to the Night Lights floating lantern event in Post Falls, Idaho with his girlfriend, Stacy. He had a feeling that the rest of my family (my mom, dad, and myself) would enjoy it as well, so this year we made the 5-hour trek to see it for ourselves! Because the event happened to land on Mother’s Day weekend – we decided that at the event we would celebrate my mom! Additionally, it was also my dad’s birthday on May 7th, so we also celebrated my dad that weekend too. We had a lot to celebrate!
After seeing the pictures and videos Joe showed me last year, I found myself getting excited to experience the event first-hand. Night Lights took place at Stateline Speedway Stadium in Post Falls, ID. The name can help you assume that the venue was barely outside of Washington - right on the state line between WA and ID.
Initially, I thought it was going to be my parents, Lucas, Joe, Stacy, and Stacy’s family attending together. And then I later discovered that my aunt, uncle, two cousins, as well as a bunch of Joe’s and Stacy’s family and friends decided to attend too! It was a weekend filled with many family and friends all caravanning to Idaho and staying at the same hotel haha!
Because everyone was going, that left no one to take care of Sherbert (my cat, but aka my child). All his cat sitters were going to be there! So my dad and I decided, “Why not take him with us?” and made jokes about how it was my first Mother’s Day anyways ;). With a dad savvy at finding the best deals online, he found a TSA-approved and well-reviewed cat carrier for the trip. It even had expandable sides and a zipper at the top so he can peak his head out. Talk about cat-moming SO hard. It’s okay, I accept it.
With Sherbert safely secured in his carrier in the backseat with me, my parents, Joe, Lucas and I led the way to Post Falls with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins following in another car behind us. Believe it or not, Sherbert was only fussy for the first 30 minutes or so of the drive. It probably helped that we brought treats for when he behaved and that he was pretty used to riding in a car after going to and from Seattle a few times. He wanted to peak his head out the top of the carrier for some of the trip, but spent most of it napping. Our road trip songs consisted of Disney, country, and some 2000s Hip Hop and R&B, as Joe and Lucas took turns driving and I, of course, was the DJ.
About a little over an hour away from Post Falls, we decided to stop at a rest stop for lunch. Although comical, this next part will give you an accurate description of my mom’s personality… lol! She wanted to celebrate my dad’s birthday that day since we were all together and his birthday was a few days ago, so she bought a HUGE chocolate cake. My family happily had our lunch on one of the picnic tables at the rest stop. Spaghetti, lumpia, and chocolate cake was on the menu that afternoon. Sherbert wasn’t excluded either. We brought his carrier out to the picnic table, and he munched on his lunch in the shade.
After lunch, we were back on the road again. Lucas drove this time to give Joe a break, and we made our way through Spokane, WA to Post Falls, ID. We dropped off our things, as well as Sherbert, at the hotel, and then we left for the Night Lights event to get a good spot. We met up with the whole group – and trust me, there was a ton of us – and laid out our picnic blankets and camping chairs. Once settled, we made our way to the food trucks to grab some dinner. There was a taco truck, a shave ice truck, a turkey leg stand, an ice cream truck, and a bbq stand! We chose some tater tot/nachos, some turkey legs, and a few beers.
While we were waiting for the sun to go down, we decorated our lanterns and Joe bought us all an instant campfire to share. It was a lot of fun to roast marshmallows over some wholesome conversations.
At around 9pm, we were instructed to “fluff” our paper lanterns to get them ready for take-off. Lucas was helping everyone light their lanterns and it was so exciting to see the early lanterns trickle into the sky. Once the lanterns’ fires were burning enough, we were all instructed to start letting them go at the same time. Words CANNOT express how incredible it was to see the paper lanterns float into the night sky altogether!
Not only was it a beautiful moment, but it was also meaningful. It was amazing that my entire family and extended family got to experience this moment together – a lot of us had dedicated our paper lanterns in the loving memory of my grandmother who passed away 3 years ago. We wanted to wish her a very Happy Mother’s Day in heaven! Rest in Peace, Nanay.
The Night Lights Sky Lantern Festival ended up exceeding my expectations. As much as I was able to record videos and take pictures – it was truly a moment that one needs to experience first-hand. I highly recommend this event to those in the nearby area.
Day 2 consisted of iced caramel macchiatos for the drive back home. We wished my mom a very happy mother’s day, and Sherbert did so great on the car ride home – he slept the whole way! I wonder what road trip he’ll be tagging along on next! ;)
Annnd that's a wrap!
I feel extremely blessed to be able to experience this event with my family and friends.
Cheers to creating new family traditions!
May 3-6, 2019
One of my Best Friends Moved to Texas!
To hear about a weekend consisting of: high school best friends reuniting, thunderstorms, country line dancing, cat roommates, questionable bike riding, Galveston views, and Texas-living persuasion - keep on reading!
I received the honor of being a part of one of my best friend’s weddings last year! Rachel and Landon were married in early September 2018, and moved to Houston shortly after. I haven’t seen them since they made their big move last fall, so I decided to book a flight over to Houston to see them!
The week leading up to my flight out of Seattle consisted of beautiful sunny skies, which contrasted with the consistent Pacific North West rain stereotype. Most would think you’d like to escape the Seattle rain for the warm weather of Texas, but that weekend’s weather predictions were thunderstorms, and even a tornado warning. Washington can have its moments with thunder and lightning but flying in a storm was a whole new experience for me. Luckily, a combination of editing photos on my laptop supplemented by in-flight movies, made the bumpier ride a little more bearable.
It wasn’t enough to save my patience when we arrived at the airport, however. We landed 20 minutes earlier than scheduled but had to wait 1 hour on the air strip before we could arrive at our gate to deplane. I can only imagine the schedule delays and conflicts that were occurring that evening due to the scattered thunderstorms. Despite the trouble, Rachel was able to swoop me from the airport and we made our way to Sonic for a quick bite to eat. We then decided to “rest” that evening with Bo and Blaze (their cats) but ended up staying awake until 3am catching up as the lightning flashed outside the windows.
Truthfully, we had no real agenda for Day 1 in Houston. Since we stayed up so late talking, we decided to sleep in and catch up some more over a lunch which Rachel cooked for us. It wasn’t until later that afternoon when we decided to explore and drive around the area. For some reason, she was showing me some of the nearby neighborhoods and homes… not sending any kind of message at all about trying to persuade me to move next door haha! ;) It ended up being really fun just driving around the area and seeing how the architecture differed from common Washington neighborhoods. We made a quick Chic-Fil-A stop to get milkshakes and fries for the drive over to Market Square.
We didn’t do much actual shopping there, but we walked around and did some window-shopping.
Once we were tired out from walking, we decided to head back to the apartment early to get ready for dinner (which ended up being pancakes at IHop) and to go out country line dancing in the evening once Landon got off work. We have a handful of country bars sprinkled throughout Washington, but none had a dance floor as big as the one we went to in Houston. It. Was. So. Much. Fun!! Highly recommended.
Being a former competitive dancer, who also grew up listening to country music, it was a dream. The dancers on the dance floor ranged from 21 year olds to the late 60s, and after a drink or two, Rachel and I went out there and participated in pretty much all of the line dances. Everyone was so nice, and they were more than happy to teach the steps to us when we had no idea what to do. In addition to dancing, there was also a mechanical bull, pool tables, dart boards, and corn hole outside. If I have the chance to return to Houston, I plan to for sure spend an evening there again.
Day 2 started off earlier than Day 1. We decided on Smoothie King to get smoothies for the road, because the agenda for Day 2 was to spend most of the day in Galveston, TX. With mango and pineapple smoothies in hand, Landon drove us to Galveston, which made for a 1-1.5 hour drive. We drove through downtown Houston with country music blasting through the speakers complemented by lots of laughter.
It didn’t feel like long until I was able to see the coastline again! I realized during this trip that I’m definitely a West Coast girl, because being unable to see the ocean or lakes nearby stressed me out a little! It was nice spending the day amongst the crashing waves and palm trees. By the time we arrived, we were all hungry, so Landon recommended that we try Joe’s Crab Shack. And if you know me, I’m ALL about seafood. I chose the Mahi fish with rice as my entrée, but Landon’s claims were accurate when he told us that they had REALLY good popcorn shrimp. We devoured that basket within seconds.
With stomachs full, we decided to walk along the beachfront. We took a lot of pictures and enjoyed each others’ company. While we were driving to Galveston, we saw tandem bikes that you could rent from different rental shops. None of us have ever tried tandem biking before, so we decided to all give it a shot. And what an experience that was!
The teamwork required was comical, and although there were questionable moments with pedestrians (and dogs!!) testing our brakes at the last minute, it ended up being a great way to explore Galveston. We rode our bike over to Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier and then looped around to get Italian ice from Rita’s. Once we returned our bike rental, we made our way back to Houston. Landon and Trey introduced me to Buc-ee’s along the way in Texas City, and we ended my last evening in Texas playing Jenga with questions/prompts, a midnight run to Whataburger, and my favorite - Pillsbury sugar cookies!
We were EXHAUSTED after our long day biking around Galveston and staying up playing games, so we had a slow start the morning of Day 3. Because I was flying out that day, we didn’t have time for much. We ate lunch at Gringo’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant – I ordered the chicken enchiladas, and there was magical “green sauce” with chips for an appetizer... Life-changing. After lunch, we walked outside of the Woodlands Mall to find some turtles and stopped for a Starbucks run at the nearby Barnes & Noble (Is anyone surprised that I found my way to a bookstore while traveling? Nope, didn’t think so.).
Once the afternoon was upon us, Rachel, Landon, and Trey dropped me off at the IAH airport for not a farewell, but a “see you later!”
Annnd that's a wrap!
It was such a pleasure to catch up with Rachel and Landon and tour their new home! Although Seattle is my home, I will admit that they did a pretty darn good job trying to persuade me to move to Texas one day. Who knows if I’ll find my way over to Texas for a longer term, but I do know for sure that I’ll be coming back to visit again soon!
Cheers to familiar faces in new places!
You can find the Travel Montage of my Road Trip on YouTube!
April 11-April 16, 2019
6 Days + 4 National Parks + 2 States = 1 Rejuvenating Road Trip
To hear about an adventure consisting of: girl power, national parks, climbing mountains, eating meals out of the trunk of a rental car, turquoise rings, and driving on backroads blasting Rascal Flatts - keep on reading! But buckle up: it's a long trip!
My best friend, Lauren, and I share a passion for traveling, so we decided to go on a girls trip. We entertained the idea of visiting San Francisco or Banff (both are places I still see myself visiting in the near future!), but when Lauren pitched the idea of a road trip hitting 4 National Parks in 2 different states on a reasonable budget - we had a winner!
I haven't had the opportunity to adventure over to Arizona or Utah before, so as a photographer, I was ECSTATIC for the beautiful views. I wanted to explore and see as much as we possibly could, and luckily for me, Lauren created an itinerary jam-packed with adventure in the limited 6 days that our PTO policies allotted for. (Trust me, we could have spent WEEKS adventuring!)
After getting very little sleep (we talk a lot lol), we checked out of our hotel room to secure our rental car. We picked up our snazzy Toyota Corolla, loaded it up with road trip essentials and snacks, and we began our 2-hour drive to Sedona, Arizona.
A few granola bars, a million cacti, and various road trip songs later - we arrived in Sedona. The photos I've seen of how red the rock formations were - were no joke! I've never seen anything like it, and this was when I first started asking Lauren, "Where are we?!" and saying, "We out here!!" (which I continued to do during the entirety of the trip).
We only had enough time to do one hike in Sedona before we had to continue on with our road trip, so the hike we chose was Doe Mountain Trail (1.6 miles with a 538 feet elevation gain). It was a starter hike to ease us into our ambitious hiking plans. While we weren't able to find cacti as tall as the ones we saw along the highway, the hike was filled with beautiful red rock formations and desert vegetation that I was not used to seeing. With multiple photo and water breaks, we climbed to the top and the view was breathtaking. The hike was moderately crowded so we shared the sights at the top with other hikers, including a kind elderly couple who enjoyed having their photos taken by us. I was already satisfied from our trip then and there! But with our limited time and a brewing storm on the horizon, we hiked down, made a victory sandwich in the car, and began our drive to the Grand Canyon.
3 hours later with a tank full of gas, and matching turquoise rings (newly purchased at a Native American stand in Oak Creek Canyon, AZ), we arrived at a National Park that I was finally able to witness first-hand! And let me tell you, it lived up to the hype with its colorful peaks and geological history. Given that we arrived in the early afternoon, we weren't able to do any of the longer hikes, but we walked along an easy trail along the rim to soak in all the scenery. After a half hour filled with coffee, obligatory postcard souvenirs, and a wildlife viewing of an elk family, we drove for another 3 hours to Page, Arizona for Hotel #2. On our way to Page, we saw Mountain Lion warning signs, stopped at a sandwich shop for dinner, and encountered much darkness. However, the drive made for some good conversations!
I thought I was already satisfied with the trip on Day 2, but Day 3 was ready to prove me entirely wrong. After another night of getting minimal sleep (we didn't learn our lesson the first time and spent hours talking despite our plans of sleeping early... who's surprised?), we woke up before the sun had time to make its morning coffee to attend a tour at Antelope Canyon.
Am I a morning person? Occasionally, but the views at Lower Antelope Canyon made my sleep-deprived self very content that Saturday morning. We rode on a bus of about 10 or so people to find the stunning canyon located on Navajo land. Witnessing the sand formations creating different pictures and light beams was an unreal experience. With the direction of our awesome tour guide, our morning was spent taking beautiful photos and learning about the land. At this point of the trip, I remember declaring to Lauren that that was my highlight. This statement would soon be countered within the next few hours of that Saturday. Literally EVERYWHERE was beautiful.
We had originally planned to stop by Horseshoe Bend near Page, AZ on Day 2 but ran out of time that day. So instead, we decided to make a quick stop before heading to Utah. The Horseshoe Bend trail was a short one, only about 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot. Once we took our pictures, we drove for 2 hours to discover that the East Entrance to Zion National Park was closed. With spirits lowered, our 30 minute commute from the East Entrance to the Visitor Center became another 2 hours. Our spirits didn't stay low when a tumbleweed comically attached itself to our front bumper and when candy kept our sugar levels high.
We finally arrived at Zion National Park in the early evening, and it was BEAUTIFUL. The mountains were layered with color that towered over us and everything in me was screaming to never go back home. It was THAT beautiful. We met up with two of my "clients turned good friends," Melissa and her husband, Ed. They flew down to Utah the same weekend as Lauren and I so we could all cross off an item on our bucket lists together. We took pictures at the very beginning of Pa'rus Trail, and after an hour, we parted ways while Lauren and I completed the rest of the hike along the Virgin River (3.3 miles with 147 feet elevation gain). As the sun started to set, we made our way to Hurricane, UT, where Hotel #3 was located. We stopped at Zion Pizza & Noodle Co. for AMAZING pizza and at Dairy Queen for some well-earned dessert.
We attempted to be on the first shuttle bus out on Sunday morning at Zion National Park. However, some early-morning hiccups occurred (e.g. lost the car keys behind the tv stand, couldn't find the ice machine that the employee incorrectly directed us to, and we were just tired okay? lol). Despite the bumpy start to the day, we made our way back to Zion to conquer the hike we were most hyped about - Angels Landing (4.1 miles with 1,617 feet elevation gain). Hands down, my FAVORITE hike to date! Despite the 80 degree weather and noticeable elevation gain (you really feel it in your lungs when you're used to being closer to sea level!), there was a slight breeze to make the trek practically perfect.
With MANY stops along the way to capture some photos and video footage, Lauren and I spent a majority of Day 4 enjoying every step of the Angels Landing trail. The trail was paved for the most part, and very loved (a.k.a. crowded) since it was a Sunday morning. The hike began at the Grotto shuttle stop along the West Rim Trail. After some time, it reached the canyon where we were able to catch a bit of shade before approaching Walter's Wiggles - a series of switchbacks that definitely got your blood going after a few minutes. The last half mile or so consisted of chain links to help guide you around the steep drop-offs to the very top. I highly recommend this hike for adventurous souls, but wouldn't suggest the last half mile to those with a fear of heights. Being an adventurous soul myself, I was smiling ear to ear at this point of the hike and undoubtedly understood why it was on so many hikers' bucket lists. If given the opportunity, I would ABSOLUTELY hike it again... and again... and again.
Many hours later, we decided to make more turkey and cheese sandwiches for a quick lunch while we hit the road again. We brought trail mix and granola bars for the hike, but we definitely worked up an appetite by the time we arrived back to the parking lot. Our next destination for the afternoon was about 2.5 hours away - Bryce Canyon National Park. This drive consisted of Antelope sightings, more backroads, and snow!
We arrived in Bryce Canyon in the very early evening, with just enough time for one last hike for the day. We decided on Queen's Garden Trail and Navajo Loop (2.6 miles with 623 feet elevation gain), which started at Sunrise Point and weaved amongst the hoodoos (tall and thin spires of rock). At the end of the hike, there is a hoodoo known to resemble Queen Victoria. We discovered while we were walking this trail that Navajo Loop was closed, so instead of walking the loop we had to turn around half-way and hike back up to Sunrise Point. This hike was where I learned to NEVER hike on a empty stomach (or around dinner time), but luckily for me, Lauren stocked up on granola bars to keep me going.
The sun was setting by the time we reached the car that evening, so we decided on something quick for a late dinner. We stopped by the General Store, connected to Hotel #4 to purchase chapstick (so necessary), snacks, and the dinner of red barons - frozen, microwavable pizzas. Cheese for Lauren, and pepperoni for me. Trust me, after Day 4, that pizza tasted as good as wood-fired gourmet pizza.
Day 5 was our last full-day before heading home. It also included our longest drive - 4.25 hours to Arches National Park. To prepare for the long drive, we took advantage of our complimentary breakfast buffet and filled up our energy levels through unlimited pancakes, eggs, bacon and coffee.
With our stomachs full and content, we drove past free-range cattle, farmhouses, and land as far as the eye could see. We drove through towns so small that it took us maybe 5 minutes to drive through the entire town. Fortunately, Lauren had service for most of this drive so we took advantage of her Apple Music by playing Bruno Mars, classic Jonas Brothers, and Maroon 5.
As we approached Arches National Park, the rock formations started to turn into a deep reddish brown, rather than layers of lighter colors like we were used to from Zion or bright orange like from Bryce Canyon. This park was definitely another beautiful sight to cross off of the bucket list! With limited time, we chose the Delicate Arch trail (3.1 miles with 613 feet elevation gain) because of its popularity. Delicate Arch is the most recognizable arch due to its presence on Utah license plates.
Even on a Monday, this hike was still well-loved by hikers. Completely exposed with no shade, this hike started out on a defined and somewhat paved trail; however, it then turned into a wide rock face and the trail became a bit more tricky to follow. Once the rock flattened out at the top, we completed the most difficult portion of the hike, and the rest was a breathtaking and steady walk to the Delicate Arch. We were prepared for the beautiful view that we've seen pictures of previously, but we were not prepared for the intense wind at the top. With kids crying about sand getting in their eyes, and hikers trying to secure their hats, we were only able to briefly take in the view of Delicate Arch before we decided to take cover from the gusts of wind.
After completing that hike quicker than we anticipated, we decided to hike the short trails to the Double Arch (0.5 miles with 32 feet elevation gain) and the North and South Window Arch and Turret Arch Loop (1 mile with 150 feet elevation gain). At this point in our trip, we were ready for a sit-down dinner versus our usual turkey and cheese sandwiches. Therefore, instead of completing an additional hike at Arches, we agreed to drive into Moab to find Pasta Jay's. I chose Jay's Famous Jumbo Shells and Lauren chose Spaghetti, and we finished off our Moab stop with a quick dessert at Crystal's Cakes and Cones.
Once we fueled ourselves as well as the rental car, we made way towards our last 3.5-hour stretch before heading home on Day 6. The drive from Moab, UT to Salt Lake City, UT consisted of heart-to-heart conversations over Rascal Flatts' Top Hits as we made our way to "Hotel #5", a.k.a. an Air BnB that was a short drive to the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).
Alas, our trip came to a very sad end. The last few hours of our trip was spent in Salt Lake City, Utah. We ate cinnamon roll pancakes at Eggs in the City, explored the City Creek Center, and even picked up some Dunkin' Donuts for my mom (she's a big fan lol) before returning our rental car and making our way to SLC. The sky was crying with us as our adventure was ending.
Annnd that's a wrap!
If you made it this far into my blog post, THANK YOU! :) Before this trip, I had spent 7 consecutive months in the office without using any PTO. To say this trip was much-needed for some soul-searching, would be a VAST understatement. I am extremely blessed for the opportunity to have gone on a refreshing adventure with such incredible views with my high school best friend! 6 days was just enough time to get a taste of all these beautiful places, but I cannot wait to return and explore some more!
Cheers to road trip adventures!