Tag Archives: Roadtrip

[LA Life] Journey to the Other Side of Angeles Crest Forest

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Adventure is out there, and whether you hear it or not it’s constantly calling to all of us to come, play and enjoy it in all of its splendor. Sure there are some things we’re indebted to – our health, our jobs, and family ties – but if every single person just spent five minutes a day immersed in the the world’s splendor, we’d be a hell of a lot happier of an international tribe. Admittedly, it took me a few years (okay, maybe over half my life) to have come to this realization, but better late than never, especially with nature.  Thanks to the industrial revolution, our society has been in this go-go-go-faster mode ever since the 1800’s and now that it’s been compounded by the technological revolution of the 21st century it’s as if we’re all the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, running as fast as we can in the city just to stay in place:  rents are going up while our paychecks aren’t, cities are becoming more impacted, skyscrapers are raised twice as fast as affordable housing and artist lofts are razed.

To be fair, it’s only been a recent course of history that humans have found themselves sitting in front of boxes, inside of larger boxes inside of office boxes that they’ve traveled to from their home boxes.  Ah, yes – it’s true evolution has been kind to us in some respects like sturdy homes, soap, the vastness of technology and the industrial revolution – but the end result is that us humans, who used to hunt and gather, and roam the open plains for plenty of exercise, sunshine and Vitamin D, have been relegated to a life that for the most part mirrors a well fed, indoor pet.  So the truth of the matter is that we need the tonic of the wilderness, the blustery winds and mountain peaks, the roaring rivers, smoldering saturated sunsets, and the glorious natural white noise of animals calling, trees rustling and the radiant sun shining down to ground our souls back into their natural habitat.

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The good news: nature isn’t going anywhere – and she’s always on time. Every now and again when I feel like my soul has strayed from it’s path, immersing myself in the wilderness is the surefire way to get back on track. A quick jaunt over the hill and through the woods in Los Angeles, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of the Angeles Crest Forest.  Sprawling over 700,000 acres, the Angeles Forest includes 10 lakes and reservoirs, several dozens mountains, a handful of rivers, five distinct wilderness areas – meaning you can visit time and time again, and never take the same path twice.

 

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With trails upon trails upon trails featuring amazing hikes, waterfalls and mountain peaks, small furry creatures and soaring birds with swooping wingspans – the Angeles Crest Forest tops my list for quick mountain getaways and stay-cation day-cations. Snow bunnies can rejoice in a selection of Ski and Snow Resorts in the Wintertime including Mt Waterman Ski Lifts and the Buckhorn Ski and Snowboard Club, and in the Summer those resorts turn into fantastic hiking trails. For those wanting something more, the are a host of great campsites scattered throughout the forest – some have unreal lookouts, and some are more shrouded with trees and natural shrubbery, most are first come first serve but it would behoove you to make a reservation ahead of time if you have a location picked out or a big enough group that you want to grab a lot more land than usual.  If glamping is more your speed, there are several hotels and Air B’n’B locations with stunning views of Southern California and the contiguous mountain ranges.

 

Where are your favorite places to go when you need a dose of nature?

For more on the Angeles Crest Highway and all of the amazing turnouts it has to offer, head to their website – or better yet just take the trip yourself!

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[Traveling Tales] Spring has Sprung in the Sequoias

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“You are yourself a Sequoia; stop and get acquainted with your big brethren.”
[John Muir to Ralph Waldo Emerson]

Once in a blue moon the stars  shift into alignment by night while the sun showers down on by day, sharing their ominously beautiful light and dancing around us to and fro; beautiful butterflies bounce by in bountiful numbers, eagerly awaiting the lush vegetation sprouting up and around each nook and cranny of the land as a reminder that Summer is just around the corner.   It might not be magic, but it certainly feels like it; it’s simply another Spring day in Sequoia, gleefully taking in all the wonder the grounds have to offer.

Just about three hours north of Los Angeles, the Sequoias provide both a literal and figurative breath of fresh air for this city kitty turned nature nymph. After a wonderful Winter adventure up to Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks, I’ve been itching to go back and Danny’s birthday this past weekend gave me the perfect excuse.  On Saturday morning, we packed our bags, added a friend to the mix and were off, off and away on another nature fueled adventure to the land where there might not be internet, but I promise you will find a better connection.

Even though we just visited this past February, the landscape had magically manifested from a pristine snow covered wonderland into an effervescently lush landscape of a menagerie of eager greens ebbing to and fro throughout forests while bold pops of wildflowers were perfectly scattered throughout the park and around the cabin where we frolicked for the weekend.  The icing on Danny’s birthday cake – his birthday (4/17) falls during National Park Week, which lasts from April 16-24, 2016; and now that we know, for every birthday going forward we’re going to add another National Park to our epic “To See” list – but more on that later!

We kicked off the trip on Saturday afternoon with another adventure into the North side of the park to visit King’s Canyon and Grant’s Grove.  With how frequently I’d been updating my weather app, I was absolutely astonished and beyond happy that the weather in the park for the weekend was a delightful 70, and it was definitely at least 80 back in Three Rivers.  An awe-inspiring tree, to be in the presence of the great Sequoia is incredibly humbling – not to mention, an incredible dose of perspective.   By the time we reached our cabin that night, the sun had begun to set and the creatures had begun to creep out and enjoy themselves in the dashing dusk. 

The next morning, the sun greeted us with an awe inspiring sunrise as the weather took a turn for the beautiful, butterflies and sunshowers greeted us around every corner while the Kaweah River calmly rolled through Three Rivers.  Each and every moment felt right out of a dream, or better yet a perfect moment of space preserved in time.  We spent the day frolicking around the river, dipping our feet in to cool down as we took in the wonderful wildlife around us.  I’ve never felt so humbled and awestruck by the world we live in as I do in Sequoia, and I’m already itching to go back.

What National Parks are on your Must See list??


  

[Oh, Snap] Strolling Through The Stanford Cactus Garden

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While roaming back from Oregon to California, the open road delivered a reinvigorating tonic like no other.  Between the diverse landscapes and lush landscapes paired with deep conversations and silly banter, wanderlust rushed haphazardly through my veins while the
fire in my heart was reignited.  But after almost ten hours on the road, the last thing I wanted to do was get behind the wheel of anything for an adventure to anywhere, so when we brought up the idea of going for an afternoon walk – I was stoked.

The weekend after Thanksgiving marked the first time in forever I’d had some downtime in the area and I wanted to take full advantage of every inch of sunlight. We kickstarted the day from Menlo Park, strolling into a downtown area that felt preserved in time.  Green, yellow, and red leaves glided effortless like Rasta confetti while the crisp, clean Autumn air provided refreshing shift from the frigid Winter-like Oregon mornings and perpetual Summer sun and Springtime temperatures of Los Angeles.  After going to one of my former favorite haunts for sandwiches, we were off, off and away into Palo Alto to visit some of my favorite hidden gems at the Stanford University Campus.

After 31 years, there’s a lot that’s changed in the Bay Area – but thankfully for me, this is one of the few areas that’s stayed the same – and it holds some of my favorite local landscapes like  – like Stanford‘s  Arboretum, Mausoleum and the Arizona Cactus Garden.  The cactus garden is one of the few remaining landscape artifacts from Leland Stanford’s estate.

Officially named Leland Stanford Junior University, the campus was established back in 1885  in memory of Leland Stanford’s son.  Not only was Leland Stanford a former Governor and U.S. Senator, but he was also the Co-Founder and President of the Central Pacific Railroad. Originally, there were plans to build a mansion on the plot of land but once his son passed away from typhoid fever, plans were amended to build a university instead.  A true testament to their sense of community, the Stanford’s took it upon themselves to ensure that the entire generation their son would be part of would build a successful world.

A beautiful and lasting testament to the transformative power of love, the cactus garden was restored in 1977 and currently holds over 500 species of cactus and succulents separated by geographic hemisphere and continent. And let me tell you, these specimens were out of this world!  I’ve never seen a Joshua Tree so grandiose or cactus so threateningly tall.  Plus, there’s nothing quite like seeing the neon blossoms in striking dichotomy against moody shades of green.


Photos from myself, with additional photography from Daniel Leist.

[Traveling Tales] The Best iOS Apps For Roadtrips

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From the second I got my first car at 17, I realized that curves are for hugging, being on the road is physically cathartic and that the shortest distance between two points is me in my car with the windows down and music up.  Though I’ve developed a map-titude over the ages, I’m constantly praising the cell phone gods that smart phones exist and that developers are willing to share their genius with us.  From directions to attractions, a place to lay your head and places to explore – I’ve found a good set of phone apps that have you covered. Just remember – whatever you’re trying to do, wherever you’re trying to go: there’s a better way, and there’s definitely an app for that.

Lodging. 

Make sure you’ve got a birds eye view into one if not more, of the following apps so you can get a comfortable roof over your head for pennies on the dollar.  My personal favorite is AirBnb, especially because you can snag an entire domicile for an incredibly low rate – or just a single room if you’re flying solo or traveling with your best friend or significant other.  HomeAway and VRBO are great resources if you’ve got a larger group in tow, while CheapTickets can find you a discounted hotel room in milliseconds.

So Much Room For Activities. 

One of my favorite things about road trips is that they can take you wherever your little heart desires – want to head to the beach and cruise the coast? Do it!  Or how about a detour through the desert or a romp near the river?  A road trip is the quintessential choose your own adventure experience and you’re the captain.  Sometimes, it just takes a wish and a will to find something novel – but if you’d like a little assistance, download Roadtrippers for a nifty guide around your location and it’s comprehensive for the entire United States.  After signing up, you can save and share travel routes, not to mention a look into a broad range of activities within a close proximity to your travel path plus the net value of gas for your trip.

Find Yourself

If you’re an iPhone user and you’re trying to get anywhere important, or just find a specific location in general –  do yourself a favor and stop using Apple Maps.  Seriously.  Download Google Maps and Waze immediately, sit back and enjoy the seamless integration and easier to use directions that don’t lead you into the ocean, or into a dead end.

Stay organized.

I don’t know about you, but I love lists – sometimes I even have lists of lists, others I’ll purposely put a few things on it that I’ve done that day so I can instantly feel the struckout satisfaction of what’s been accomplished. But for some reason, When it comes to buckling down and actually packing for a trip I always tend to forget the little things.  So a few years ago, I made a master list and saved it to my hard drive; when I got sick of referencing it – I tossed it up into a list on Evernote.  A great alternative to a bulky Google Doc, Evernote provides a simple forum for staying on task and on top of your life.

What are your tricks of the trade when it comes to traveling?

Let me know in the comments below!

[Traveling Tales] A Leisurely Road Trip Down the West Coast

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The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve been told that there’s only one constant in life, and all ironies aside – that constant is change.  As with the old adage ‘this too shall pass‘, I’ve developed a thicker skin and a willful resolve in the understanding that no matter what I’m doing or the trajectory of my life, the chances of a roller coaster moment is coming are high – so hold on and enjoy the ride.  The ups, downs and in-betweens are all wonderful side-effects of this passionate, purposeful and perpetual, journey around the sun.  This past year alone has been a crazy one, it started with a bang on a social high and it’s ending on a more personal, yet equally loud, roar – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The holidays have always provided me ample time for retrospect, possible due to the lack of a social circle in Oregon – but mostly because of the long flight up and almost two hour drive in from Portland to Corvallis once the plane lands.  Even though I’m not originally from Oregon, my dad is and I’ve felt like it’s been my second (well, technicality third home for my entire life).  Since I was a wee little one, I’ve been frequenting California’s stately neighbor to North.  Plus, now that my dad is inching towards retirement he’s left the busy, bustling and vibrant city life of San Francisco behind while trading it for the slower paced, quieter, country life of  Corvallis; where the claim to fame is green grass, football and Oregon State University.

Since they’d spent the last few months moving, my step-mom was over the moon excited to see us for two reasons – it’d been almost four months since the last time the family got together and she couldn’t wait to unload whatever household items they didn’t need into our possession.  Whether her excitement was from Column A or Column B simply didn’t faze us – we were over the moon about both! Originally when we discussed how we were bringing it all back to Los Angeles, we’d considered renting a van or renting a U-Haul, and had jokingly mentioned that we could just fill the old ’98 Ford Expedition  for a full fledged, super fun road trip – maybe we’d bring it back later in the year and use it as an excuse to come visit again; the options felt endless! Instead of laughing at us, they mused that we might as well just keep the truck since all it had been doing over the last give years was gathering rust and spiderwebs in the garage.  Without missing a beat, we jumped with joy and resolved we’d only have to book a one way flight to Oregon – and could spend the tail end of it road tripping down through Oregon to San Francisco and then on to Los Angeles.  Sure, we had the chance to travel down this path when heading to and from Shambhala but we’d always been in such a rush and never seemed to have the time to smell the proverbial roses or bask in the delightful Oregon sunshine.

If you’re not from Oregon, one of the first things to understand about traveling during Thanksgiving Break is that you’re going to find yourself in a bit of traffic from the Civil War Game.  Every year after Thanksgiving, the Eugene based University of Oregon Ducks take on the OSU Beavers for what’s contended to be the 5th largest college football rivalry in the United States.
If you’re a football fan, it’s a proper time to rejoice – but if you’re trying to make your way down the 5 to California, beware – because there’s really only one major freeway and depending on your timing you might just get stuck in it.  That’s literally the only weekend of the year I’ve ever seen traffic in Oregon. Instead of getting stuck in traffic, we decided to not only leave early but to take every detour we saw fit – we were in the mood to enjoy ourselves and for once we weren’t rushing back to LA on zero energy!

Our first stop was the little known Corvallis BMX Park on the edge of the city where the Marys River and the Williamette River collide.   Some parts were too waterlog to risk, others were too icy to entertain – but throughout it all it was an enjoyable adventure, even when we had to look up exactly what poision oak really looks like. Then we were off, off and away to a rest stop near Oakland, Oregon that looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale with vibrant greens, radiant yellows and blossoming reds.  Time had come to a standstill while we stood there, laughing like five year olds as we waltzed the empty paths around the field, enraptured by our momentary microcosm.

By the time we reached Mt.Ashland, it felt as though we’d experienced the brevity of all the seasons in just a few short hours.  First a cool breeze and sparse sunshine, blossoming into sunshowers and scattered clouds as we climbed our way into an indescribable winter wonderland.  Squealing like a schoolgirl that hadn’t seen snow more than a handful of times in her life, I pleaded with Danny to pull over at each and every turnout so we could embrace the snowfall, dance on the purity of the ground… and apparently have a snowball fight or two.

By sunset, we’d conquered Yreka and saw a beautiful orange and magenta shimmer off of snowcapped Mt.Shasta

We got to Menlo Park late that night, to wake up to the excitement of a stunning Saturday in the Bay Area.  It’d been forever since we’d had a day to just spend some time with my mother and I was beyond happy that she could host us for the weekend.  We spent the day gallivanting around the Bay Area to all my former stomping grounds – Strolling through Menlo Park, and into Atherton where my old High School was to grab lunch downtown at Le Boulanger, then into Palo Alto, Stanford Campus and my favorite hidden gem of a botanical garden. It was a whirlwind few days with a lot of driving and a ton of walking, but it felt great to stretch the limbs, expand the mind and really connect with my family and my fiance.

 

[Oh, Snap] Weekend Wanderlust Along California’s Coastline

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“We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”
Alan W. Watts

When life seems overwhelming and bubbling over, it’s important to take some personal time and marinate in the purity of the moment. Whether its work or social life, the cure for emotional chaos and calamity is the warmth of the wilderness and the nurture of nature. This past weekend, I took a wonderful little trip up and down the California coast on the historic Pacific Coast Highway with Danny and a few of our friends, leisurely exploring nooks and crannies and enjoying each other’s company.  Danny and I had done the drive before a few years ago, but we always found ourselves wishing we had more time to explore tide pools, coves, caves and the great outdoors – so this time, we made a point being leisurely and letting it all soak in.

Constructed over the course of several decades, California’s Highway 1 began segmented construction in 1911 to connect coastal communities.  Commonly just referred to as The 1 or the PCH, depending on which leg of the journey you’re on, the route was completed through the Big Sur region in 1939 after securing funding from Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression. After cruising along the 101 into Santa Barbara, we jumped on the 1 in San Luis Obisbo and took a necessary lunch break in Morro Bay where its almost obligatory to get the clam chowder.

Our pit stop took us to the Otter Rock Cafe and man, oh man – was it ever delicious!  I had to get some clam chowder in a bread bowl and a Bloody Mary after the table over dished some elated dirt on them, and then some oysters on the half shell to top it all off.   Leaving Morro Bay, we set our sights on San Simeon’s Elephant Seal Vista Point. I’ve never seen so many of them – they’re loud, a little bit ridiculous looking, in my opinion they’re one of the few living remnants of God’s sense of humor.  There were literally hundreds of them lazing around various coastal beaches, from young pups to more mature seals.

After leaving San Simeon, we were off and away to Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey, winding the roads with wanderlust in our eyes and adventure in our veins.  We finally reached Monterey around dinner time and took a nice Uber into the Warf area and searched for a worth dinner spot.  After some searching, we found ourselves at Lallapalooza, and let me tell you – their specialty drinks are phenomenal; I had a Skytini with cucumber, mint and Hypnotiq and it was refreshingly fantastic.  With some bar hopping under our belt, we resigned ourselves to our hotel in Seaside for the night so we could get a roaring start to our Sunday funday.

My #1 objective for the weekend: find us some tidepools.  I don’t know about you guys. but growing up I loved searching through the tide pools for brightly colored creatures and slippery souls.  Sea urchins, starfish, hermit crabs, sea anemones  – you name it, if it’s in a tide pool I will undoubtedly think it’s awesome.  Our first stop on Sunday was at Del Monte Beach just outside of Seaside, then we were on the road again – more concerned about the journey than our final destination. After scouting a few beaches we found ourselves at Garrapata State Park, just a few notches south of Monterey. The park is host to wonderful hiking trails up and down the coast and on clear days it’s wonderful for dolphin watching – we even saw a pod!  For the more daring it’s just a hop, skip and a jump down to beach level, and more importantly – you guessed it –  tide pools!

On closer inspection, the tide pools evolved into technicolor colonies – so gorgeous!

Visually, there’s something so simple yet stunning about peach flowers against a bright blue sky and I can’t help but try and capture it. I actually took a really similar picture last time Danny and I came through the area, but it was just so delightful that I had to snap another.

One of my personal favorite things about hiking along the cliffs was seeing bits and pieces of old abalone, muscle and clam shells glistening and sparkling in the dirt.

After a leisurely, lovely stroll through the park we were off, off and away – but not without first losing my phone in the car, then finding it, the trunk almost coming open on the drive, rushing out to close it and flinging my phone into the sand….so that five minutes later I’d actually lost it and we had to do a major search along the roadside for the next fifteen minutes. Good news is that we found it, glistening in all it’s rose pink glory in the bright Autumn sky; never a dull moment when you’re with me, I promise. 😉  On our way up the coast we strolled through the area around Pfeiffer Beach near sunset and made a mental note to come back the next day and I’m so thrilled we did, there was so much wilderness to explore – including rocks that had been pulverized so much that a cave had been created in the middle of it, and there was a completely hidden cove with so many stacks of rocks – it was beautiful!

Last, but certainly not least, we caught a stunning sunset near Lafler Canyon – the cotton candy, sorbet skies are permanently etched in my mind and not in my phone because I found myself enjoying the moonrise too much to care – retrospectively, maybe I should’ve asked to stop but the memories will live on.

From start to finish, this past weekend was one for the books and a completely necessary deviation from the normal, routine of everyday life – an escape from the fast paced, high anxiety world that’s part of some weird reinforcement cycle that I’m most certainly an integral part of.  As a self proclaimed city kitty, this time away from the sheeple and masses reaffirmed to me that I’ve been overwhelmed with life, over-inundated with work, tasks and relationships and haven’t taken the proper time to reset myself, to meet myself at my core and be unshakable, to find solace in a moment without flustering over the past or fumbling into the future.  A weekend without cell phone reception, wrapped up in conversations that ranged from trivial and hilarious to insightful, inspiring and compelling. Before our journey, I felt a dark cloud over my head and an unshakable awkward, anxious feeling but after a weekend swept up in nature and seduced by the open sea air, I found myself calm and collected upon my return to Los Angeles – a change that was hopefully deeply imprinted upon me. Though to be fair, I could always use a good excuse to escape again.

 I can’t wait for our next weekend getaway and am already looking up fun routes to and from Oregon for Thanksgiving! When’s the last time you got away for the weekend and where did your wanderlust inspire you to wander to?