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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!
Hi there! My name is Genelyn (Gen), the creative behind Genelyn Jaye Photography.
In 2012, I picked up my first DSLR and took what I learned from online photography courses and high school video production classes (lol) to create the foundation of a passion of mine that continues to grow today. I decided to take my love for photography to the next level in 2017 by creating the Genelyn Jaye Photography brand and website. Through making its presence known in the social media realm, I was able to open doors to new and familiar faces. After hearing my clients' stories while simultaneously working to help document their memories, I've decided to finally start practicing what I preach and document the stories of my own life.
I have wanted to create a blog for years now. I mean, in this day and age, who hasn't entertained the idea of starting a blog at least once? Ideas would come to me, but I always struggled with when and how to start. I'd tell myself, "Oh, maybe next year when I have more time," or "I'll wait a bit longer when I have a stronger idea to kick it off." However, I've realized today that I needed to confront my insecurities and uncertainties and just go.for.it. Although one of my goals is to provide readers with quality content, I've decided that it's just as important to embrace the LEARNING experience of it all. That includes all the misspellings, awkward sentences, and mediocre blogging that is inevitable at this stage of my writing. It's undeniable to me that I am SO excited to start capturing my memories and stories in a creative way that "future Gen" will enjoy reflecting on one day.
With all this said, WELCOME to Storytelling by Gen. My writing focus will be about my travels and adventure photoshoots, but I hope for this to become a platform where we can inspire each other, laugh together, and share all of the wins and losses that life can surprise us with.
Thanks for reading!
& Cheers to new beginnings,