#SixPackofPeaks - Mount Baldy

As much as this is a post dedicated to climbing Mt. Baldy, it’s also about how sometimes life gets crazy - because we all know it can, right?

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As many of you know, since the time of my last post (I know, a long freaking time), I have accepted a new job, in a new town, and am living somewhere new as well. In short, my last job was not for me. I am a graphic designer and was working at a women’s swimwear retailer/manufacturer. Not only was I not under the management I wanted, I wasn't working in a healthy atmosphere.

There are so many campaigns out there these days, glorifying all body shapes and sizes and telling everyone, “you’re beautiful the way you are.” In women’s swimwear, there seems to be very few companies that actually walk the walk, in appreciating all body types. There was also a glorification of models, which I have never really agreed with. The same way I see actors & celebrities, I see models - they’re just people. I tend to think fairly highly of myself, so I was actually surprised the toll that it was taking on my pysche. In meetings, there would be talk about what models to use - sometimes for brand right purposes, but then there would always be opinions about how they looked or how big their thighs were. I needed out.

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I was very lucky to end up at an amazing retailer up in Santa Barbara where all my concerns were zapped away. Content, management, direction, literally everything was a turnaround towards a positive direction.

I will tell you that it took some time. I have nobody but my parents to thank to the moon for supporting my job search and kept nagging at me to be patient. I think that’s what made my jump so worth it - I took the time and found something I knew I would love.

So here we are! As of last week, I have completed the #SixPackofPeaks Challenge for 2017. I still want to share my individual climbs and photos with you all, so bear with me.

Mt. Baldy, or San Antonio, is such a popular hike. I have always heard about it, but had never actually climbed it or planned on climbing it until this challenge. My friend who hikes with me, Kevin, did the climb back in college. 

We started our climb at Manker Flats - up past the ski lift and to the lodge. It seems like a pretty cool place to take the lift up some day and grab a drink at the bar. If I wasn’t concerned about getting to the top, I probably would’ve had a beer. Another time (I hear there’s usually a Groupon too)!

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I think we learned by this hike to stop saying “Oh, I think we’ve got to be close,” because it never really seemed like we were close.

After hitting the lodge, the path up was incredibly steep. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an incline. Maybe it looked worse as well, since it was very open and just, UP!

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A few of my favorite areas of this hike were the backbone and the openness just after where the trees made a nice frame.

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Closer to the top, the wind was gnarly! I ended up having to wrap my long sleeve t-shirt around my head just to save my ears from the wind. I was a sight!

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Luckily once you get to the top, they have built rock formations for you to sit in and get out of the wind to relax and eat your snacks. Kevin and I actually both took a little snooze in one of these formations before heading down through the Baldy Bowl.

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On our way down, we had a few people pass us, most noticeably a two men with two (beautiful) dogs. When we reached the hut (I think it’s just an emergency hut) we noticed one of the dogs pacing back and forth. Nobody around us seemed to think it was weird, but we didn’t like the looks and so we asked around and found out that the dog had been there, alone, for about 20 minutes.

Being animal lovers, we couldn't leave the pup so we tried to coax her down but she didn’t know if it was okay to trust us. After her howling and waiting down the trail, a group came up and a nice lady had cooked chicken. We used it to have her follow us until we finally ran into her owner. How sad! It was annoying to see someone just leave their dog behind on the trail for so long. I understood that she had been on the mountain before, but she was clearly distressed and nobody else around us seemed to care.

Lesson: take care of your animals!

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The rest of the hike down was a breeze. It was nice to have a loop trail for different scenery. We headed home to relax and plan Peak #4.

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After the hike, I always post my hikes on social media, to join the community and talk with others and because it is an accomplishment I love to share! When I posted a photo of myself at the top of Baldy, I was surprised to get a comment from someone who saw me about how I didn’t look too happy on the way up.

This bothered me probably more than it should. Yes, climbing a mountain isn’t easy. No, I don’t show photos of me distressed or in the middle of a climb. I struggle too, but why comment about that? We’re all happy to make it to the top of anything - a hill, a mountain, whatever it is - and we should be applauding others, knowing that it may have been a struggle or not!

Back to the judgement of others from work to the outdoors. We’re all out here, doing us, and doing our best to achieve what we wish to achieve. Our bodies are just that, our bodies. Social media is usually the best of our worlds, and I think that is a known fact. There is no room for judgement on what people decide to post or share - achievement or struggle. We’re all human.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on San Bernardino - yikes! Thank you for staying with me through life and change.

#SixPackofPeaks - Cucamonga Peak

Sometimes I ask myself - why do I even like to hike? That question popped into my head at the beginning of this hike, thinking about the incline and mileage up to the top of Cucamonga. 

So why do I? If you think about it, it really is just walking, following a trail someone set before you to get to another place and then back down again. It doesn't seem like it would be rewarding - just walking? 

When I asked the question to my friend, he said, "Wait until we get to the top, then you'll remember why." That is SO incredibly accurate. It's pretty funny how we go about our lives just doing things we think we should be doing, or planning activities (like hiking) and never really stopping to think, why?

Despite my initial skepticism about climbing to Cucamonga Peak, I went on, and was SO glad I did.

We started a little later than we normally do - around 7:30 - at the trailhead for Icehouse Saddle. This was the trail we took - here. I have hiked to Icehouse Saddle before, but never continued up to Cucamonga. It is a fairly covered trail, beginning in the forest, but as you get up past the saddle, it's a lot more open - so bring sunscreen!

On our last #SixPackofPeaks hike - Mount Wilson - my left hip was giving me a really hard time. It had hurt a while ago, climbing Santiago Peak, but not since then, so I was surprised when it started bothering me again. I went to the doctor, had an X-Ray, and they came up with nothing! Based on some sage advice from my parents, I went to The Walking Company and bought inserts for my hiking boots. They DEFINITELY made a difference! I didn't feel a thing in my hip on this hike.

While talking to my doctor about the pain, she made a comment to me about how some people just can't do everything. She eluded to me possibly giving up hiking. EXCUSE ME, WHAT!? I wasn't going to have that, so I made sure I found a way to continue, without pain. So, hopefully this is a permanent solution! :)

After reaching the saddle and having a snack, we set up for the Peak (sign above is from the saddle).

We had planned on doing this hike back in early May, but heard there was still ice and snow in some areas. As we hiked up, there were some areas that would have been very scary with ice - accompanied with a long fall down.

Besides the rewarding views and feeling of accomplishment, another one of my favorite things about hiking is the people you meet along the way. Going up a hefty incline, you're bound to pass others a few times, and let them pass you! Maybe it will spark a conversation when you both stop for water at that perfect, shady spot. 

We had a few people we were able to connect with - talking about other hikes we'd done or sharing the #SixPackofPeaks Challenge we were hoping to complete in the year. At the top too, you talk so much with others, taking photos, taking other people's photos. It's always so much fun to be around others who are experiencing and enjoying the same thing you are!

and WE MADE IT! In life and in hiking, even if you want to turn back, or you don't think you can do it, KEEP GOING. Don't ever doubt your ability to accomplish the things you want to accomplish. All it takes is one step at a time. 

Peak #2 DONE. Stay tuned for #3 - Mt. San Antonio (Baldy)!

#NationalParkGeek - Yellowstone & Grand Tetons

For my birthday, I have started taking on the tradition of going places - 'cause that's one of my all time favorite things to do. So, why not treat myself at the ultimate time of the year TO treat myself - my birthday! Last year, I went to Portland and got to hang out around the Oneonta Gorge with my best friend. This year, I met some friends up in Wyoming at Yellowstone National Park! Heck yeah!

Yellowstone has been on my list for quite some time, so when they told me when they were going to be in the park, I knew I had to find a way to get there. I left on Saturday morning, and returned Monday night, from Burbank to Bozeman, with a layover in Salt Lake City. I rented a car from ACE so I knew I could have freedom if I needed it - and also not to burden my friends getting me to and from places (like the airport, haha).

Side note: Has anyone ever flown over or into Salt Lake City? The Great Salt Lake is such a view from above! I had to ask the nice woman next to me to make sure I knew what I was seeing!

After getting my car, I started the drive from Bozeman to the north entrance of Yellowstone. I absolutely love driving in different places - being able to really take in the backroads is important to me. Again, back to the journey, not everything is about the destination! The wide open spaces (cue Dixie Chicks), animals, small in-between towns - all of it is so beautiful to me. I would say drives like this are definitely taken for granted.

We were going to first meet up at Boiling River. However, upon entering the park, I saw a huge sign saying that Boiling River was closed! I guess the amount of snow melt made the river too high and therefore dangerous to play around in. We back tracked a little to the front entrance, took a photo at the Roosevelt Arch, and headed South towards Madison Campground, stopping at several places along the way!

I was really looking forward to swimming in the rivers and lakes - I had no idea how cold it was actually going to be until I got there. The 3 bathing suits I packed could’ve been traded out for a thicker jacket and gloves! I guess it means I’ll have to come back another summer.

Our first stop heading toward the campground, Mammoth Hot Springs! Man, did this place smell. Of course, hot springs are teeming with sulphur and algae - which is what gives them their color - but I could've used a personal, portable air freshener at this stop ;)

The little village surrounding Mammoth Hot Springs was very cute - it seems like a great area to spend time in at the shops and terrace. The views as you make the climb up are also worth taking a look at. 

There are also some small, right off the road waterfalls that are easy to miss. At Golden Gate, I believe there’s Rustic Falls - there are pull-offs to see the falls, but they aren’t visibly labeled from the road. 

We pulled off to the Nymph Lake overlook, Norris Geyser Basin, Artists Paintpots (bubbling mud) & Gibbon Falls before heading to the campsite to cook dinner & s’mores.

One of my absolute favorite things about the Geysers and Hot Springs, is how much they remind me of resin paintings and marbling. It is so cool and beautiful the colors and textures that nature creates, all on its own. Guess that’s where we get a lot of our inspiration from, right? I know being outdoors and in these environments is a huge inspiration for me - creatively and mindfully. It clears my head and reminds me that the little things aren’t as important as I think they are - and that the way the back of my head looks when I miss some spots with my curling iron ISN’T the end of the world. But, I do look like a goof - and that’s okay!

As you’re driving, keep your eyes peeled for the MANY animals (and their babies!) roaming the park. Of course, you’ll see Buffalo - but we were so fortunate to see a Moose, a Bull Elk, a Wolf, two Fox, many Deer, Coyotes, an Osprey, Pronghorns & BEARS! Most of our luck was at Lamar Valley - early, early the next morning. We woke up when it was still dark outside to drive a couple hours (yes, Yellowstone is a lot of driving) East to Lamar Valley. This spot, and Hidden Valley, are THE spots to catch the animals. We saw a ton! Most of the animals mentioned above, we saw that morning in Lamar Valley. 

While we were East, we made sure to stop at Tower Falls, the Petrified Tree and the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Unfortunately, a main road was closed due to a sinkhole, so we didn’t have time to drive the whole loop around the catch Lower Falls from the other side, conquer Uncle Tom’s Trail or see Upper Falls. Summer time trip, I’ve already started planning!
 

We were exhausted from the early morning, so we headed back toward camp to nap in our hammocks and have an earlier dinner (& s’mores, duh)! On the way in to Madison, every time we passed a particular section, there were always a ton of people with their telephoto lenses trying to catch a glimpse of a mama bear and her cubs. We had stopped once or twice and only caught small sights, so we ventured out after dinner to see if they were still there. Unfortunately, mama had gone up into the woods and the crowds had cleared, so we went back to our fire and to catch some z’s.

The next morning was our last few hours together and we saved the closest sites for this time. I wanted to make it down to Grand Teton before my flight out of Bozeman at 6 and they were headed to Reno & San Francisco (and then to the Dominican Republic - yea we’re all jealous). 

We were able to hit Lower Geyser Basin Fountain Paint Pots, Midway Geyser Basin with Grand Prismatic, Biscuit Basin and of course, Old Faithful.

Real quick rant: What even are Geysers?! I mean, I know what they are, now. But walking around all these basins I felt like I was on Mars, or some other planet, or maybe in the middle of a Jurassic Park Scene. Every which way you looked, there was steam coming up from the ground. Steam! Earth, what’s wrong?! It’s all natural and crazy and absolutely awesome. Science!

In other nature news: it isn’t always what we see in photos and at first it totally sucks! I think we were all initially disappointed in Grand Prismatic. Due to the chilly weather, there was so much steam, we barely got a glimpse of the edge and the prism of colors we’ve all seen in photos. But, even we talked about that this is nature - not a movie or just a site to see - and that’s the beauty of it! It is always different and always changing.

If we had had time, there was a trail that took you to get a look above, so that’s also on the list for next time. 

As for Old Faithful, I wasn’t able to see it blow, but I did see other Geysers spew water so I kind of knew what I would be seeing. The spouts were about 1.5 hours apart, but could change at any moment, and I had a tight timeline to make my flight.

We hit the general store, said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways. 

My drive down to the Grand Tetons was ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. It was like one of those winter wonderland drives you see in movies, but in the month of May. There was still a good amount of snow coating the trees and the mountains around me. I loved it. 

I didn’t make any stops down because I had only a slight idea of how long the drive down and back all the way up would take - being without service wasn’t in my favor here.

I stopped at the few pull-offs in front of the Tetons at Jackson Lake. Have you ever been so mesmerized by beauty that your heart has literally dropped? Well, that’s how this felt. If you have never felt that, head to Grand Tetons. I didn’t want to leave. I drove to the same spot back and forth three times to get out and take photos and touch the lake and ask some nice tourist to take a photo of me to prove that this was real life. 

After pushing my time only a little bit, I headed back North to stop at West Thumb for quick views of Yellowstone Lake and the West Thumb Geysers. I was literally running - good thing I was alone - probably would have embarrassed anyone who was with me. 

I made it to Bozeman Airport with a little time to spare and as I was cleaning out my rental, I realized I forgot to gas it up - hahaha I would! So, I left the lot and came back, full tank but still not ready to leave.

I think this is probably the longest post I have written so far - and my apologies for taking some time to write it! Creativity ebbs and flows just like everything else in life. After my trip to Yellowstone, I was so ready to dive in and tell you all about my trip. Then, life happens and you get back to a job, that maybe isn't inspiring, and you lose that spark. But, here I am, on a plane, traveling again, and inspired.

#NationalParkGeek - Anacapa Island

Channel Islands National Park. Honestly, for the day I felt like I was in Ireland.

A friend and I decided a few months ago we wanted to see the Channel Islands (off the coast of Ventura/Santa Barbara), starting with the smallest first - Anacapa Island. We took the boat, operated by Island Packers out of Oxnard/Channel Islands Harbor. 

When we arrived, the parking was a little confusing - 3 hour parking limit signs, but apparently it's not enforced (my car was still there, no ticket, when we got back). Upon checking in, they told us there was a possibility we wouldn't be able to get off the boat. This was a little disheartening, having driven from Orange County - we wanted to get on the island! 

Our reservation was scheduled for 9:30AM - and left right on time. The boat was actually smaller than I thought, smaller than the Catalina Flyer, if you've ever seen that one! Once everyone was on, luggage, gear and all, we took off!

I absolutely LOVE being on a boat. I feel so free and alive - sometimes more so than when I am outside hiking or dancing on the beach. I feel so CREATIVE when I am on water. Maybe, I should just make and create on a sailboat - that seems like a happy medium? Right?

So, like I mentioned, we didn't know if we were actually going to make it off the boat. About halfway (the trip is an hour) we saw a WHALE! A Fin Whale to be exact - apparently the 2nd largest species of mammals. He swam around and underneath the boat. Thank goodness for the clarity of the water, because we were able to see him so clearly. I was right on the edge, not even pulling out my phone for pictures, afraid I might miss something and staring in complete awe. Well, I think he blessed our boat and the weather. 30 minutes and 157 stairs later, we were off the boat and on top of Anacapa.

When you book the tickets, you can either come back the same day or camp! We were only going for the day, so we had to be back at the dock at 3PM. Now, 1030AM - 3PM seemed so short to me! However, Anacapa is the smallest and with just hiking the island, that is plenty of time.

I saw that there was a possibility of kayaking around Anacapa and seeing the sea caves. I called Santa Barbara Adventure Company (so incredibly helpful and kind) to check on it and ended up deciding against it. If you're very comfortable with sea kayaking - this might be for you! But without a guide, I wasn't sure I wanted my kayak hitting the sides of a cliff island.

So, we just opted to hike and picnic for the day.

The first photo above was Cathedral Point. The edges were roped off due to some deteriorating cliffs, but we were able to get close enough to see some beauty. 

Our guide for the island informed us also that it was 'Gull Season.' We had a welcoming committee of SEAGULLS - I am not a bird person. Luckily, they were pretty sweet birds and only got crazy if you came close to their nests. Some of the birds laid their eggs close to the trail, so when you passed, if they started squawking, all you had to do was put your hand in a fist over your head and they would stop. See the white dots in the photos above and below? Those are alllllll seagulls. Only slightly terrifying.

The main star of Anacapa - what you probably see photos of the most, is Inspiration Point. The tip of the island that looks out over the other islands of Anacapa and Santa Cruz. We hit this spot twice because it was just too beautiful and one look was not enough.

I MEAN LOOK AT THAT?! Isn't it incredible? 

We stopped about halfway through our trip along the west part of the trail, where you can see the sea lions below lazing, to have our picnic. A very fancy picnic I might add.

It was awesome to sit down and admire being completely surrounded by the ocean. The island is so small so wherever you are, you have a clear view.

After walking the whole island - the best parts twice - we were ready and prepared to get back on the boat and head home. We couldn't have asked for perfect weather on our day trip - although poor sunscreen application gave me a lovely shaped sunburn on my left arm. Don't forget your sunscreen! Oh, and water - since there are no facilities on the island.

Make the time to visit Anacapa. If you live in California, it is so incredibly easy! Just book a trip with IslandPackers and GET EXCITED. I promise it feels like you're in a whole new world for the day - and that's refreshing and amazing for anyone. Enjoy the Earth!

Desert Daze

Without living in California, I don't know if I'd ever appreciate the beauty of the desert as much as I do now. Growing up when I thought of the desert, I pictured the Sahara - photos I'd seen in my textbooks from Elementary school. A vast canvas of pinks, oranges & creams; camels creating shadows on the untouched sand. I am sure you've seen a lot of these photos as well. 

The desert in California has it's fair share of sand dunes - some of which in Death Valley & down south in Glamis - I hope to venture to soon. But, there's something magical about actually experiencing the desert - the still sound, the way the sun hits the surrounding hills - it's beautiful.

There are a million ways to get lost of course, but luckily service can be found. Taking the dirt roads instead of the paved - appreciating the journey, right?

A friend and I journeyed down to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park a few weekends ago to check out what was left of the #Superbloom. If you're unsure of what I mean by the Superbloom, here's some background. California has been in a severe drought for a few years now. Since I have lived here, I only remember short spurts of rain. Without rain, flowers have a hard time blooming. Thankfully, we got buckets this year - allowing beauty to sprout and thrive in places it hasn't recently. Thus, the Superbloom. I saw some California Poppy's in Lake Elsinore back in March - but desert flowers are a bit different.

Sadly, we missed a lot of the blooms - but there was still a lot to see!

We got there and knew what we were looking for, but didn't exactly know where to look. Behold the Visitor's Center - filled with great people and lots of information. They were such a blessing - detailed directions and maps to help us explore.

Located in Borrego Springs, the Visitor's Center wasn't the only shining light. We had lunch at a great Mexican joint - Jalisco's - which I think might be a chain? Mexican food in California is always bomb - so we knew we could trust this joint. 

As I love the harmony of art and landscape, one of the biggest attractions in this area were the metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda. There are all sorts of different animals/creatures scattered around - mammoths, a sea serpent, a scorpion & grasshopper, camels, etc. My favorites were the scorpion/grasshopper & the sea serpent. Here's some more information and other photos as well if you're interested in some history!

I definitely want to make it back out to Anza-Borrego to hit some trails and capture views of the badlands. Maybe stop at Julian on the way home for their infamous apple pies!

If you're anywhere near a desert - check it out. Honestly, there is something magical out in the vast open space. 

#SixPackofPeaks - Mount Wilson

Hello all my hikers! or even those who aren't hikers but enjoy the views :) For 2017, I signed up to complete the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge! For those of you who have never heard of this, it's a challenge to climb six peaks of Southern California. It was originally created by SoCalHiker to conquer the John Muir Trail - but others have also used it to prepare for Mount Whitney. I plan on hiking Whitney someday, but for right now, I am just going to hit these 6 peaks.

Up first - Mount Wilson!

The start of this trail was very familiar - as I hiked Sturtevant Falls a couple months ago! At the beginning of the trail has a fairly steep downhill grade and knowing I was about to have a long hike ahead of me, I already was not looking forward to the uphill on the way back.

The difference for us on this hike, besides the mileage, was that we took the trail to the left to the Top of the Falls that lead up to Mount Wilson. There isn't too much to say about this trail, besides to make sure you're prepared. We started at 6 AM and finished around 3:15 PM - so start early!

Along this trail we hit Sturtevant Camp. Apparently, it was a pretty bustling place back in the day - people were brought in to stay in the cabins and enjoy the outdoors. Today, from what I could tell, you do have to hike a ways to it, but it looks well worth it! Even a 'Honeymoon Cottage' for those hiking sweethearts.

Stopping here was a nice break - stop and swing, relax a bit - before continuing on to the peak.

We were sooo ready to hit the peak at this point. You know when you just want to get to your final destination? That impatience is so real! When your body is getting heavy and your legs are starting to get tight, it's definitely hard to enjoy the journey. I think we can all agree that that exists in all aspects of our lives - not just in hiking. We all want the end result - may it be peaks, valleys or whatnot. 

When we made it to the top, there were absolutely beautiful views. Sometimes these are hard to capture in a photo - but that's why you should definitely aim to summit Wilson on your own someday. It was very cold off and on - luckily the Cosmic Cafe was open and we snacked on some of their hot items as well as our own trail mixes.

What I didn't know was that Mount Wilson has an observatory - that you can drive up to! I looovveee space and the earth and all that jazz, so I definitely want to come back to look through these massive telescopes. If I remember correctly, some of our closest photos of Mars come from this observatory!

Also a 'DON'T MISS' spot: Echo Rock! We walked right past it! I was looking and asking around for this fence (above) to grab a photo - we walked the top of the mountain I think twice, back and forth, until we found it and the name is real! Stand at the edge of the fence and yell out - you'll definitely hear back your echo - so fun! The clouds were coming in, so our view was slightly obstructed, but still beautiful. 

There are several ways to get back down to Chantry Flats - we took the route that was a mile longer but avoided that steep incline to the parking lot (thank goodness!). I believe it was the Upper Winter Creek Trail - very much recommended. 

Next on the list is Cucamonga Peak - hopefully without snow. Stay tuned for an update on Peak #2 :)

Traveling through the Exumas

I'm pretty sure with every new place I get to travel to, I come home and I am like "WOAH - that was definitely the most beautiful place I've ever been." Each time. What does that say about the world we live in? Isn't it insane to think of the smallest, uninhabited nooks and crannies of the world - can you imagine how beautiful those places must be?

A few weeks ago, I was so fortunate to be able to take some time off with my family and head to the Greater Exuma Islands of the Bahamas. We're a pretty adventurous bunch, so we pick a place - alternating between hot and cold - each year to visit and explore. I don't remember exactly how we landed on the Exumas - but I am so glad we did. Many people know of these islands from the famous Swimming Pigs - the Bachelor? Oh, and Nassau being a huge cruise ship destination out of Florida - but these islands are much further North, so thankfully not much cruise traffic.

Just a heads up - there will be lots of photos - and I do not apologize.

To start off the trip, I flew home to Orlando and the next day we boarded a small (yes, small, see below) plane with Watermakers Air out of Fort Lauderdale Executive.

We made a stop at Fresh Creek (where all the fresh water comes from in the Bahamas - how cool!) to go through customs, got back in the plane and touched back down at Staniel Cay - Yacht Club, yes please! We had a beautiful Bahamian (Ba-Hey-Me-An) breakfast and then completed our day of travel with a half hour boat ride to Black Point, a few islands South. 

Through VRBO, my mom found wonderful cottages owned by a lovely local woman, Ida. Her and her husband own and operate a multitude of things on the island - a laundromat, the church, etc. We took our first two days to rest, figure out the food situation and lay out on our beaches. 

If you're planning on visiting, which I HIGHLY recommend, you should understand the food situation. If you're on any kind of special diet, you can forget it. There are 2-3 small grocery stores that are fairly expensive with limited food items and very limited produce. Then, there are about 5 restaurants - with mostly American type foods - think Hamburgers, Fries, Pizza, Chicken Tenders - and the Bahamian delicacy - the Conch, served in many ways. Would this deter me from going?! NO WAY. But, it is something that should be known. Life is too short to worry about what you're eating, especially on vacation (except allergies and things like that, I understand those fully).

Our third day we had a boat for the morning. Everything I read before coming said to make sure you have boat access for your trip. One of the beauties of the Bahamas is the water and the watercolor like qualities in how it changes colors - due to depth of course. I tried to capture it in photos, but honestly, it doesn't do it justice.

On our first boat tour, we hit Pig Beach, the Iguana Islands, the Mile-Long Sandbar & Thunderball Grotto (pictured above). To feed the pigs and iguanas we took bread & cabbage from the grocery. Some of the pigs at this time were sick (and a few had passed away) due to some unknown reasons. We heard from the locals that they were doing testing, but I never heard what the cause was. I can not stress enough that these animals still should be treated with respect and love. It's not funny, in any way, to give them beer or bad food, so please don't.

Staniel Cay had run out of gas, so we were limited to the half day. After making all the animals happy, we headed back to our cottages to plan dinner and relax.

During the span of the week, we saw: 1 dolphin, 1 sea turtle, sting rays, nurse sharks, piggies, iguanas, fish, goats, chickens, dogs, annnnd I think that's it! If you're an animal lover like me, you'll love it!

Due to the No-See-Ums and the Mosquitos, you're basically stuck in your living quarters past 7PM (if you even want to be outside that late). Bug spray helps, but not if you're a bug magnet like I am. We spent our evenings talking and flipping through the channels that were able to come across our TV - even played some Go Fish. Going to bed by 10PM each night made for early mornings - which were great to start tanning and wandering about. We had a baby girl (2 months old) with us, my niece, so the early mornings also meant time to spend with her and family.

These next few photos are of Great Guana Cay, the Black Point area. We rented a golf cart for a few days, which allowed us to see the island (although not very large) from end to end.

There were a few new things we decided to try in the Bahamas - some juices, Conch, way of life, etc. One of their juices was called the 'Goombay Punch.' At a local bar, I asked about the name and we learned that Goombay is actually a huge NYE party that happens in the Bahamas. They start celebrating around 1 AM on NY Day and continue to about 10 AM the next day! The dock above was just off their top party place - Regatta Point. The Friday night we were there, they had a huge party and you could feel the bass and see the light across the bay. Definitely will have to experience that someday!

One of my favorite parts of this trip, and this island, were the people. I absolutely love seeing how others live and then bringing that back into my own life. Their kindness and openness to talk to us was so awesome. I think it's something we forget, wrapped up in our day to day lives, thinking about the things we have to get done and just getting through the day. Everything should be appreciated and seen differently, in my opinion. This life and everything in it is a gift and travel and exploration can help you see how others see that in their own communities.

In one of the cottages next to us, we met a lovely lady from Vermont, who comes to Black Point every year for a month. She leaves her husband to tend at home and lives on the island for that time. They first discovered this particular island on their boat trip down the Intracoastal Waterway - all the way from Vermont! Crazy, right?!

If you live where there are storms, you know what they can do - easily. Growing up some time in Florida, I have been through countless hurricanes and tropical storms. In the middle of our trip, a bad storm - wild wind and heavy rain - hit in the middle of the night. I actually woke up to the wind - sounded like the A/C unit in my room was going to rip out of the house. We ended up losing water and power for about half a day. Knowing they have tourists on the island, the locals were quick to fix everything. It delayed our other boat trip, but luckily the Saturday before we left we were able to go out for another half day!

On this boat trip, we stopped back at the swimming pigs again - because how could we not - and headed even further North to the Exuma Cays Water & Sea Park. This was about an hour boat ride - a little far - but we got to snorkel some more in a protected area. The fish came so close!

On the way back from the Sea Park, we stopped at the sandbar - this time we were the only ones on it. Because of the tides varying so much, sometimes there's more water than at other times. We took another swim break at the sandbar and headed home.

Our last night, we took the golf cart around to make sure we captured photos of everything we wanted to. The goats on the side of the road, the docks, sunsets, everything. One of my favorite shots was on the dreamiest dock, watching the sun set, with my feet over the ocean. 

This trip was magnificent. I wish I could elaborate so much more on some of the things I experienced, but for everyone it's different. If anyone is looking to go somewhere in the Caribbean soon - or needs a vacation - go to the Exumas. Do yourself a favor, unplug a little bit (yea, limited access to Wi-Fi) and drag yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of us live very fortunate lives without even realizing it. When you start boiling tap water for the purpose of drinking clean, fresh water - that's definitely when you start being grateful for much more.

DESERT X

I know I know, I promised a post on the Exumas - but friends, this post was time sensitive! If you're anywhere in the Southern California region, or are going to be before April 30, you NEED to check out Desert X.

This may seem out of the realm of what I cover and showcase, but I promise it isn't! I see the outdoors as a canvas, as art itself. These amazing Contemporary Artists have done just that - taken the natural landscape and idea of the Coachella Valley and made art OUTDOORS. As Desert X explains on it's site, this exhibition is on from February 25, 2017 to April 30, 2017 and uses the Coachella Valley as a canvas. As our natural landscape provides us with the ability to ponder and think about whatever crosses our minds, these artworks do just that as well - how does each piece address today's world? What do the trees and the sky make you think about? What does the idea of a large zig-zag wall against a beautiful blue sky make you think about?

I am not always one to dig SUPER deep into art, but I invite you to think about these works and their significance outside. Some pieces are indoor, but what do they speak to the vast landscape of the desert? 

Diving into the day, a friend and I got up early (per usual) to head to Palm Springs and hit Doug Aitken's "Mirage" early, hoping we would be some of the only people there. Thank goodness, we were! As you can see in the photos below, if there were a lot of people, it would've been hard to grab these shots.

It was a lot of fun playing around and seeing how my body showed up in the many mirrors. Staying true to the title, "Mirage," the house from different angles, inside and outside, lined up with the landscape seeming as if maybe it wasn't really there! Very cool.

Next, we stopped at the ACE Hotel to grab a map/brochure and headed to Gene Autry Trail to see Visible Distance by Jennifer Bolande. These pieces are meant to be seen from a moving car, so no photos - means you have to go see it for yourself! :)

Will Boone's "Bunker" was next. This one required a code, so I emailed the day before just in case we didn't have service.

We got to the site and went to the brown box in the ground. It was padlocked and we didn't see a keypad. After about 5 minutes of trying to jimmy the lock, I looked towards the car and what do you know - a pole with a Masterlock box. Bingo! Got the bunker door open and began climbing in - despite the warning "You assume all risk and or death entering this exhibit." UH WHAT?! Okay okay, I'll go in. I make my friend go down first and as I am climbing the ladder down, he SCREAMS! I was already nervous and this didn't help. Turns out, it was pitch black when he got down there and all of a sudden a light turned on. Where the light lit up was a person sitting in a chair! Now, of course this was just a bronze statue of JFK - but talk about a scare!

Due to the interaction, and an almost game-like experience, I think "Bunker" was one of my favorites to visit. 

Next, we headed to Sunnylands for Lita Albuquerque's "Hearth". I had never heard of this place, but was blown away by the beauty of the building and the gardens in the back. It took a little exploring, but we found her performance piece by the 'Desert X' signage that was very helpful at each site (and no, that is not a real person below).

Per the description of the piece, my friend and I sat in silence and listened to the soundtrack playing. We couldn't help ourselves also people-watching those who came to sit around the piece. The greatest was an older man taking photos with his iPad - haven't we all seen one of those before?

Another fun piece with mirrors, Phillip K. Smith's The Circle of Land and Sky, was fun to find all the different ways to see your reflection. Walking towards each mirrored piece and back, you can see the merging of the land and the sky at different levels. 

The clouds were just perfect.

Continuing on our path, we headed to Claudia Comte's "Curves and Zig Zags." Another instance where the sky showed perfectly with the piece.

Where this piece is located, there is a trail. Being a hiker, it was awesome to see everyone coming down off the trail and taking photos. One of my favorite photos below, a hiker came down with a dog that I wanted to take home. Ah!

Further South in the old town of Coachella, Armando Lerma's "La Fiesto en el Desierto", graced one of the large walls. A very different piece than what had been seen so far. It was hard to get a good photo due to the parking in front of it, so you'll have to experience this one as well for yourself :)

HANG TIGHT, we're almost through the pieces I was able to get to.

Needing another code for our next stop, I texted the day before, gaining access to an abandoned shed. About this time is where we started seeing a lot more people. It was probably around 1:00 PM? Glenn Kaino's Hollow Earth is best experienced with a small group (1-3 people, at most) and with the door to the shed closed. It's crazy looking over the large hole, how it does seem like you're looking down to the core of our planet!

Like I mentioned, this is best viewed in small group. As Desert X grows in popularity, which I know it will, please be respectful of the pieces, and those viewing them! 

Some of the pieces have hours of viewing, including this next one, Gabriel Kuri's Donation Box. We arrived within the hours, but the front door was locked. We were able to look through the window, but that's not the same! Some others who had been in before told us we were just missing the ashtray smell inside.

Making the most of our day, we took a small detour out to Noah Purifoy's Outdoor Desert Art Museum & the Big Rock. These are not a part of Desert X, but definitely great places to see if you're out that way!

With an hour drive to Whitewater Preserve and about 59 minutes until the last site closed, we booked it out of Landers to make it to Sherin Guirguis' One I Call. The road out to the 'Largest Boulder in the World' (rumored) is rough - so small cars beware (I didn't take mine this time dad).

We got to Whitewater with 2 minutes to spare, but the gates had already closed. Luckily, they were easily jump-able (not recommended). After a full day of Desert X, I was not about to leave this one behind. We ran just up the trail to the large Beehive, took some quick snaps and hit the road back home.

As you can see, Desert X has a lot to see and experience. We were able to do most of the sites in one day, so anyone can do it too! It will start getting busier, especially with music festivals coming into town soon - so go see it now!

Seeing these beautiful pieces outdoors was heaven to me - the two things I love most collaborating and making people think. I hope you enjoyed some of the photos taken and that this inspires you to take your own adventures! There doesn't need to be an exhibition to find the art outside, but it sure does help a little, right? :)

#NationalParkGeek

It is one of my life goals to make it to as many National Parks as I can. Having a serious travel bug, I’ve made some strides in the last year to a few well known parks - Grand Canyon, Zion, Sequoia, Shenandoah Valley, Big Bend & Joshua Tree.

The best thing about living in Southern California, is there are so many parks in the western half of the United States. I can easily find a cheap(er) flight or rent a car and do quick weekend trips. I don’t base all my vacations around knocking these off my list, but I will always look to see if where I am going/who I am visiting is close to one!

Being a huge fan of hiking, it is a habit to look for the coolest places to see and hike to when I travel. Growing up in a few different places, it’s always fun for me to see the different landscapes in different states and of course, different countries. The visual creative in me sees it almost as art in a gallery - one that I may have to brace crazy conditions to be able to see and appreciate.

Below are a few photos of my most recent (2015-2016) National Park adventures. I’ll go into some detail, but mostly I want to inspire your travel through the visuals and make you want to explore that area or experience the vast landscape for your self!

If you have any questions about the trails, conditions, where I stayed, etc. let me know! I am more than happy to help out.

2015

Grand Canyon (Arizona) - October
Just passing through! A few friends and I took a trip from Arizona to Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend and on our way home, we made a pit stop at the Grand Canyon. The goal is to go back soon and conquer Havasu & Mooney Falls - of course! :)

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2016

Zion (Utah) - April
Trails: Hidden Canyon, Emerald Pools, Angel’s Landing, Narrows Entrance

Another quick weekend trip (Friday - Sunday) with a few friends to Zion National Park and it was absolutely amazing - jaw dropper forsure. We were able to do all the trails above and drive around a bit. We rented a car (thank you Enterprise) instead of taking one of our own. We stayed in Hurricane at a cheaper, but not terrible hotel, to save on cost and then drove into the park each day - maybe 25 minute drive?

I would say the easiest was definitely the Emerald Pools hike, then Hidden Canyon and Angel's Landing. Everything we read about Angel's Landing before going made the hike seem absolutely TERRIFYING. However, it wasn't at all. If you're not good with heights, you may want to think twice, but I was able to do it, I just tried not to look down too many times - haha! The views along the way are definitely worth it - for all the hikes we did. We got a lot a great photos from Zion, so enjoy the below!

Sequoia (California) - September
Moro Rock, General Sherman Tree, Crescent Meadow, Tokopah Falls

Again, an absolutely beautiful park. It was still nice and chilly when a friend and I went to Sequoia - which was very nice. We started off with Tokopah Falls - which we didn't end up finding any waterfall, but the creek a long the way was nice and there were some awesome rock structures at the end. I would say all these trails were relatively easy. There are also a few locations in Sequoia that are perfect photo ops - like the fallen tree that has been carved out and definitely Moro Rock. I was slightly unsatisfied with Crescent Meadow, but I am assuming it is a better site in the Spring. OH - and we camped - highly recommend because camping is always a blasty blast. We stayed at Stony Creek Campground.

Shenandoah (Virginia) - October
Dark Hollow Falls, Hawksbill Summit

The weekend I made it to the Shenandoah Valley, I was supposed to be in Charleston for a Bachelorette weekend - but Hurricane Matthew had other plans for me (and getting to hit another NP I wasn't complaining). My mom drove up from Florida and picked me up in Charlotte, NC and we drove up to the Roanoke area to visit with my cousins and see some local sites. Although it was a very rainy day, we were able to hit 2 trails and see the fog hitting the mountain tops.

Also, if you're in the area be sure to check out the farms! We went apple picking in the rain and it was a lot of fun.

Big Bend (Texas) - October
Boquillas Border Crossing, Santa Elena Canyon, Scenic Drives

A quick trip through this park, but well worth it. There were definitely other trails I would have loved to hit here, but this was a quick weekend trip - seeing many other places in West Texas. We flew into El Paso and stayed in this cozy AirBnb - hitting the road early to stop by Prada Marfa, Roadside Target, and other fun sites. Once in the National Park, we drove directly to the Boquillas Border Crossing and took a small boat across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Despite what you may think, it was very safe. We took donkeys up to the small village and had lunch, walked around, and headed back to make sure we hit Santa Elena before sunset. That night we stayed in Alpine at a loft style AirBnb. Early rise the next morning to hit Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands before flying out early Monday morning from El Paso.

With such a small amount of time and over 1,000 miles in driving - we hit some incredible places in West Texas.

Joshua Tree (California) - November
Jumbo Rocks, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley

As always, the desert is a magical place. The lighting always seems supreme and the vastness creates incredible shots. We got to Joshua Tree about mid day and started with Hidden Valley and the Skull Rock. We played around on the rocks a bit before heading over to the Jumbo Rocks area for sunset. We didn't secure a campsite, and of course they were full, so we ended up setting up our tent on BLM land outside of the park. It was perfectly safe and there were a good amount of people out there with us. One tip - make sure your car can make it. I have a Mazda 3 and I really was wishing I was in a jeep (sorry dad). But, we made it easily and set up our tent and made dinner over a portable stove. Waking up to nearly deserted land was wonderful - everyone should camp sometime out on the public land!

Thank you so much for sticking through to the end and witnessing my hard work. I hope the photos above inspire you to get out and see the National Parks of the US (and world). They are preserved for a reason. If there are any questions - reach out! Stay tuned for my next post about my recent trip to the Exuma Cays (Bahamas)!

Sturtevant Falls - Angeles National Forest

With the recent rain in Southern California, all the local waterfalls are finally refreshed! Amazing, right? I couldn't miss an opportunity like this, so a friend and I went to check out one of many - Sturtevant Falls just NE of Pasadena.

This is my first post, so I'll use it to showcase my style and to educate about this hike. As a designer & artist, my brain works visually. My photos are intended to tell the story, while I add in helpful tips and key points that I would have liked to have known before taking the trek.
Something I have run into a few times in Southern California on hikes is the 'Adventure Pass.' Before this hike, I had never purchased one (oops!) but didn't want to chance the ticket this time.

An early morning, I was up before 5 AM - yes I can't believe it still - to drive about an hour to the parking lot. At 6:30 - the lot was FULL! Granted, this was a beautiful Saturday morning and the trailhead spread to a bunch of hikes.

We ended up having to park in one of the pull-offs on the way up to the parking lot instead of at the top. We made the mistake of going all the way up to the lot and coming back to find parking. A huge tip would be to buy the adventure pass at the top and then find parking - saves the walk up from the car twice.

A few years ago, for my birthday,I hiked (and jumped into the pools) Hermit Falls - it was definitely a lot of fun. I can't speak to the condition of the area now, but with more rain, I am sure there's more water! Just be safe, as always, if you're going to cliff jump. Mt. Wilson is on my list for this year as part of the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge!

The hike itself wasn't strenuous or long (my phone said about 5.4 miles total walking for us) - the hardest part for me was actually the very end. At the trailhead, it's a fairly steep downgrade, so once you're on the way back up to the parking lot, it's all uphill. Make sure you have water! If it's a hot day, which most days are here, you'll need it for this stretch especially.

I tend to seek out waterfall hikes and one of my favorite part of a lot of these hikes is following a stream - it's comforting. The sound of water feels safe - like if you were to get lost, you could always find your way back.

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After roughly 2.5 miles we hit the main attraction - Sturtevant Falls! I always pack a ton of snacks and lots of water. It's nice to enjoy the waterfall for a while, rather than just coming and going.

Even when hikes aren't a loop, there's always so much to see that's different. On the way in, we noticed a few logs across the stream and planned on coming back to one of them to snap a few photos. On the way back, we totally missed them! We ended up backtracking slightly just to look for it, but it's so funny how the scene can be completely different from either direction.

Along the trail, there are a couple inspirational signs - like the one above. It's a nice reminder (especially after getting up before the sun) why you got outside or why you love the outdoors. Maybe you're not someone who relates to this, but I am sure it resonates with a few people out on the trails every day.

If you have any questions about this hike or any in the area - will your car make it up? If you're allergic to goats, should you go? - I am open to help answer those questions! I am learning how to share my photos with my love for hiking and traveling and if there's anything else that would be helpful, let me know!

Here are a few links I checked out before taking this hike:
AllTrails
hikespeak