[LA Life] Kick Start 2016 Off Right With a First Day Hike!

 

525, 600 minutes ago, yet I can still taste the moment that I was marinating in: blustery, salted ocean air coating my hair as we adventured down into Crissy Field and over the Golden Gate Bridge where I did my best to forgo my fear of heights.  Somewhere, in between two nights of Pretty Lights, my audiophilic tendencies were reinvigorated and my love for the world blossomed exponentially.  I’m a sucker for the bright lights, bold vibes and vibrant personalities of city life.  There’s an energy that resides in the city, a resilient energy that grows stronger as the night grows darker while glowing technicolor.

It’s not that I don’t find an equal but opposite view of the stars and nature, it’s just for almost 31 years that my dancing feet have led me directly into the heart of the city. Yet, after 31 years I’m finally searching for that something new, something natural, something free  – an oasis in the midst of a barren desert, a secret garden in a concrete jungle. Time and time again, I’ve found myself enthralled by the melody as the bass becomes me, but more and more I’ve simply pulled out of my city kitty tendencies and found myself into the great tonic of wilderness, clean air and a clear conscience.

The New Years offers up a wonderful, albeit temporal, period of solid resolution and personal resolve.  Whether it lasts the whole year or not sounds like more of a personal problem but those who have a will, always always tend to have a way.  But, I’ve found that writing down my personal wants, needs and goals for the year helps me not just keep track of them but I also hold myself increasingly more accountable of them.

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Last year, when I made my 31 Before 31 Resolutions –  I made it a point to visit a new local Botanical Garden or State Park every month and I’ll tell you right now that beyond going to the multitudes of festivals and events – it’s one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever had.  Betwixt the travel and writing, work and kitties, music festival after music festival across the West Coast – I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit so many wonderful places steeped in grandiose history and utter beauty.

 

With exercise as one of the most common New Years Resolutions, it might just behoove you to get up, get out, get over that hangover and get healthy – or at least just get some fresh 2016 air.  Around the nation, thousands of people will be hitting the trails, mountains and rivers as part of the National ‘First Day Hike‘ movement – and there’s plenty of fun to go around on each and every corner of the United States.  Just in California, there’s over 50 different hikes to join in over 40 different parks across the state, not to mention paddle boat rides, geology walks, seal tours and some vehicle rides off the beaten path.

Locations include:

Where will you be spending the first day of 2016?

 

For more details on First Day Hikes around California, head over to the State’s Parks Website. For a birds eye view of all the natural, National goodness  – use the hashtag #FirstDayHikes to dive into pictures and locations on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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For a trip down memory lane, try out these adventures from the past year!

December: The Los Angeles Arboretum | Big Bear | Crissy Park

January: UC Botanical Garden

February: Glenoaks Canyon

August: Multnomah Falls, Oregon

October: Big Sur, California

November: Stanford Arboretum + Arizona Cactus Garden

December: LA Zoo Nights

[Oh, Snap] Celebrating the Elements of Winter Solstice in Big Bear

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Perpetually enraptured by the bright lights, booming sounds and the effervescent buzz of humanity within the heart of a giant metropolis like Los Angeles, or San Francisco where I was raised, I’m constantly dazzled, delighted by and devouring each and every detail of my surroundings like a fine wine.  With a step-mother from the North East and a father from Oregon, every now and again they’d toss in a dash of Corvallis countryside, assorted camping trips with my pre-school, some hikes here and there and some family vacations in locations I now wish I could’ve appreciated in their entirety. Almost two decades ago when I was a wee 5th Grader (…at 5’10″…), I accompanied by my Grandmother to an ‘Elderhostel’ in Mount Denali, Alaska over the Summer Solstice.  Sure, I knew that it was the day of the year with the least amount of darkness – but had I understood then what I know now about the solstice, changing of the seasons, position of the stars and angles of the planets, I would’ve had a much deeper, greater appreciation for mother nature and all of it’s offerings.IMG_5202

Yesterday at 3:03 PM Pacific Time, Winter Solstice hit the West Coast – wondrous, wild and incredibly elemental.  Contrary to (my…) popular belief, Solstice doesn’t imply that the sun is setting at it’s earliest for the year – in fact, due to discrepancies between our modern Gregorian calendar and the actual cycle of planets, the majority of the Northern Hemisphere delights in the earliest sunset a few days before and the latest sunrise a few days after Winter Solstice occurs. But, what it does mean is that we’re getting the least amount of sunlight (conversely, the lengthiest amount of darkness) of the whole year as the Sun reaches it’s lowest vertex – around -23.5°.  Often referred to as Yule, December Solstice and the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice ushers in the new moon in Capricorn.

Be it my love of a man befit for the mountains, a rapidly growing disdain for the ‘fast life’ or my commitment to adventuring through a healthy proportion of our countries National Park system – but I’ve been on a mission to conquer at least one new park a month, if not more.  Our friend’s adorable puppy was having his 3rd (or, 21st) birthday depending on how you look at those types of things and he invited us to tag along up to Big Bear.  As someone who can count the number of times they’ve seen snow fall on one hand – I couldn’t help but squee with glee. We were heading up Sunday and after a few quick calculations, I realized that I’d be truly in the elements for Winter Solstice.  I’ve never skied, gone snowboarding and definitely don’t own many snow appropriate pieces of clothing – but how could I pass up a chance to really welcome Winter and celebrate the Winter Solstice? Of course we were in!

If you’re heading up to Big Bear for the weekend, I vote you check out Air BnB for some gorgeous one night rentals; but if you’re going up for the day, like we did, meet up with your friends in the Stater Brothers parking lot before you head into Redlands.  It’s right between the 38 and the 330, so you can mash the whole mountain – plus, you should probably stock up on some power bars, water, whiskey (don’t forget the whiskey, and a flask…), fruit roll-ups and any other crucial snackables you might want as you gallivant throughout the mountains.   We started at at the Thurman Flats Picnic Area, but seeing as the snow is incredibly frozen – there wasn’t much runoff at the moment.  So, we slowly wound around the mountain – first hitting the Forest Falls Waterfalls which was a beautiful hike off the beaten trail.

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After reviewing the tread on the bottoms of our shoes (aka there wasn’t any), we decided to rent some snow shoes (knock that one off my life bucket list!) and head up to Green Valley Lake. It was definitely a hike, but so worth it. Nature fueled, wonder filled – as I looked into the vast, white beyond I felt humbled and happy, elated and insignificant.

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I absolutely loved spending Winter Solstice fully immersed by Winter: ice, snow, snowmen, children scream laughing while their parents threw snow balls. Not only that, but the drive was gorgeous and the sunset – doubly so.

How to you celebrate the changing of the seasons?

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[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!

[Traveling Tales] To Zion and Beyond

Last Thursday, my boyfriend and I started on one of the most epic adventures I’ve ever been on – road tripping from Los Angeles, through Las Vegas, dashing through Arizona and then into St. George, Utah – a quiet little town near the border where we took refuge for the night. In the morning, we rose with the sun and galavanted our way through Zion National Park. To be honest, I was almost okay missing the first day of Global Dance Fest so we could relax and explore – but, hey – always another time, right?

After Zion, we passed through Bryce and then zipped and zoomed through Utah as fast as we possibly could. Don’t get me wrong now – its a lovely state…to pass through. By late afternoon we’d made it to the continental divide and Grand Junction, and by early evening we arrived at our AirBnB then it was off to the races for Global Dance Fest at Red Rocks! This marks my first time here and I’m in absolute awe of all the natural beauty I’ve witnessed in the last 96 hours. Today’s our final full day in town so we took full advantage of the morning – going into town, picking up brunch, enjoying some refreshments by the Creek. And now, we wait patiently for the third and final day of GDE; I can’t wait to dish about the festival but that can wait til it’s over. Until then, here are some of my favorite snaps from the trip so far!

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Now that Ive had a taste for the open road, historic parks and epic views of nature I’m already planning another trip – the only question is: where to??! What’s the last roadtrip you went on? Or, what’s next on your bucket list?

Ps. I couldn’t leave you hanging, here’s a quick sneak peak of the magic

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[Doing It Right] Birthdays, Beaches and Bonobo


For birthdays I’m a huge fan of presence over presents, so yesterday – instead of buying a present for Danny, I took the whole day off work so we could simply be together in whatever capacity we felt. So, as we let the day drift away – our plans slowly but surely fell into perfect place. We started off by cruising the California coast line through Malibu into the Zuma and Leo Carrillo State Beach areas. It was a little overcast but since when were we going to let a little weather get the best of us? We spent a good hour or two climbing eroded rock formations in search of tide pools and signs of life.

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After the beach, we cruised up the coast to Neptue’s Net – an amazing spot right on the PCH with clam chowder bread bowls that’ll blow your mind, not to mention a healthy selection of adult beverages. Then it was off to Ventura’s Majestic Theater to see Bonobo’s Northern Borders Tour – fully equipped with a live band featuring killer saxophone, string and drums sections. The show ended so much earlier than I was prepared for but it was a beautiful moment to be trapped in, however long it might’ve been.

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[Trekking Tales] Griffith Park Observatory


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As the month progresses, I’ve begun to realize that there’s a deeper motive hidden under my menagerie of miniature resolutions.  I fully believe that to evolve, to become a better version of yourself, there are baby steps that need to be taken and in a way each an every one the thirty items on that list are an investment in my future and the person I want to be.  Lingering somewhere between lofty goals and simple practicalities are life hacks that double as cost saving methods, building blocks for future endeavors and last, but certainly not least, there’s the mental and physical gymnastics of it all.  Admittedly, I miss school – not the tests or homework mind you, but the sense of community and the push for personal growth in all endeavors.  Travel, reading, hikes, meditation, crocheting; all of these endeavors are inspiring me to expand who I am at my core and what I’m capable of. By crafting unique infused olive oils, pickling vegetables and manufacturing my own basic salad dressings – I’m not only saving loads by reducing the amount of pre-processed foods I purchase, plus it’s an immensely fun, delicious alternative.  The books on my nightstand have been gleefully riffled through more than once, my yoga poses are getting stronger by the week and through hiking I’ve had the chance to explore the urban jungles that my city has to offer.

With my affinity for activity, a penchant for photography and a need to be in the great outdoors, it’s absolutely no wonder that hiking has also etched its way into my heart. Back when I moved to Los Angeles, I viewed the city as concrete jungle that desperately needed repaving, but after five years of exploring the city I can attest to the contrary.  Between Will Rogers Memorial Park, Runyon Canyon, the Pasadena Hills, the Old LA Zoo and Griffith Park – the city is literally teaming with all sorts of fun urban safaris that don’t shy away from importing a little bit of nature into the city.   Plus, what better way to get intimate knowledge on your city than diving into it headfirst?  I’ve never considered myself much of a hiker, but we all have to start somewhere I suppose.  Two years ago, I didn’t consider myself a runner, either.  But life tends to throw me curve balls, and I’m proud to say that I’ve adapted quite nicely.

When my GTI gave out in ’12, I “lost my ride to the gym“.  For the first three days, I was frustrated but on the fourth, I had a mental breakthrough: why am I driving to the gym just to run on a treadmill?  Immediately, my iPod playlist was updated and I whisked myself out the door before I had the opportunity to give it a second thought. I came back exhausted, dripping in sweat (which, by the by, is rare), out of breath, slightly dehydrated – and the happiest I’d been in months.  As a former competitive athlete, my body literally craves that sweet rush of fresh air (not to mention, endorphins) that the great outdoors can provide – about ten minutes in, this grin starts creeping up through the corners of my mouth, working its way towards dropping my chin and brightening my eyes. And then I remembered what it’s all about – working out makes me a passionate creature without worries or anxieties; not only does physical activity help me be the best version of myself, but it completely plays into loving myself, too. 

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Part of my new years resolution was to find a new hike every month and I love that it’s pushing me to explore more of Los Angeles.  The first hike of the new year was Griffith and personally, I’m sort of having a love affair with it.  One of the best things about hiking at Griffith Park is the ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ aspect of the exercise. I’ve gone about four or five times over the last month an each time, I explored a new and completely different part of the park – terrain and view wise.  Plus, there’s the Observatory – which means I also get to flex my nerd muscles a bit.  

As you walk around the outside of the observatory, you’ll notice some curved lines: these lines represent planetary orbits and equinoxes.  The park is open from sunrise through sunset, and I highly recommend making it for one, if not both of them.  Though you don’t have the same view of the Pacific that you get from Runyon, if you’re there during the magic hour you’ll get to watch downtown slowly light up the city skyline; you can also clearly see the Hollywood sign, Runyon and Santa Monica.  

There are multiple levels and types of terrain for hiking on, the Berlin Forrest is one of the more wooded areas where the hikes by the Observatory tend to be on gravel.  This area is rich with picnic benches and perfect for some lowkey stretches, or even some lowkey laziness 😉

The view of downtown is absolutely unreal; especially when the city is shrouded in haze.

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