Yesterday, I was catching sight of little nooks and eaves, elegant Spanish tiles, and hidden courtyards spilling with flowerpots in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a seaside city in Monterey County so charming it feels like you're walking through a gingerbread village. No really, it's that cute! It's also an easy drive from the South Bay-just over 80 miles southwest.
With spring in full swing, it felt like the right time to visit Yosemite National Park-before the waterfalls started drying out and high tourist season kicked in. I dreaded the 4+ hour drive to Yosemite from the Bay Area, but luckily, my editor at Moon Travel Guides tipped me off to a hostel called Yosemite Bug, just under an hour's drive from the park entrance.
So, with my bed booked, my 2 day, 1 night visit was set. The plan was to arrive in the afternoon and scout the park in the evening. The next day I would hike Upper Yosemite Falls and do some more exploring before heading home. I had read there were public showers at Half Dome Village, so I planned to check those out too. Here are some highlights from my first visit to Yosemite National Park!
Onur and I have been taking day trips to the California coast since we moved here back in January, and have found it to be a special way for us to connect and discover California together. So far we've driven to Santa Cruz, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Monterey, so when Onur proposed another coastal drive, I got excited about our next prospective destination. I asked him what he thought about taking our usual drives a bit further—a little over two hours—to Big Sur. The pictures and descriptions of the Big Sur Coast Highway in my book, Moon California, looked fantastic, and I had seen lots of scenic spots on Instagram too. Onur was game, so we packed up our usual road trip fare—water bottles, dates, and walnuts—and were soon on our way. Here are four of our favorite moments from our Big Sur Coast Highway road trip.
Last Friday, in a breezeless, 80-degree heat wave, I pulled into a dusty parking lot at Sunol Regional Wilderness. The park, located on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay, had looked so idyllic in pictures: a valley floor dusted with a cocoa barn, a domino run of cattle gates, and tiny turtle ponds. It had been high on my wish list for a while. When the wind gusts had died down and the meadows turned an effervescent green, I knew it was the right time to hike it.
This past Monday, I opened up Google Maps and searched for patches of green. I was looking for a nearby hike (preferably to a summit) that had great views, would give me a good workout, and leave me enough time to get home and make dinner. As the morning sunshine quickly ticked away, I spotted the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, roughly an hour's drive south from Silicon Valley.
Clicking through the preserve's website, I discovered a 7.4 mile, 1150-foot elevation gain hike to a mountaintop called Mount Umunhum. This jogged my memory: A new friend, Davina, had just mentioned Mount Umunhum to me a few days ago. It turns out the Mount Umunhum Trail and Mount Umunhum's summit opened to the public in September 2017. The trail was new!
When our friend, Andrew, came to visit last weekend from Washington, we wanted to take him someplace special. Pinnacles National Park was at the top of our list, and since it was only an hour and a half drive from the South Bay, it seemed like the best choice. None of us had been to Pinnacles before, so we'd get to know a new-to-us national park together.
And it ended up being a fantastic trip! We were blown away exploring mystical caves, admiring Pinnacles' signature spires, and spotting California condors. The icing on the cake was discovering it all together.
It's been three weeks since we moved to the Bay Area, and we are on our way to settling in. The other day, while taking a walk with Onur, we glanced at each other, feeling confused. The sun was shining bright, and at the same time, it felt like we were in an air-conditioned building.
It was a strange feeling, almost like sitting at a desk with a sunlamp on one side and a fan blowing in your face on the other. In Washington State, cold rain and scattered sunbreaks are the norm in February, and I don't remember it being as windy as we've been experiencing here, in the South Bay.
Rain beetled on our windshield, crackling like static electricity. It was the kind of rain that made me want to drive the actual speed limit. The kind that left big splotchy streaks on my soft cotton pants while we were loading up the car. Our road trip was off to a blustery start.
When we first talked about traveling from Washington to California for my husband, Onur's, new job, my antenna perked up at the idea of a "Road Trip!" We could see the redwoods! Drive along the ocean! Stop at cute beachside towns! Take one last trip before Onur started his new job! Have "the tank" (a.k.a our trusty Subaru) with us from the get-go in California!
It's a New Year, and a new adventure for our family. In a few days we're moving to California, where my husband, Onur, will start a new job in the Bay Area. Surprise! As you can imagine, we're nervous, excited, sad, and scared, but ultimately happy for the opportunity to grow in our relationship and our careers.
Throughout our eight years together in Washington State, we've watched a rainstorm from a cabin on the Olympic Coast, jet-skied on Lake Chelan, ridden horses on the beach in Seabrook, Washington, and visited our friends, George and Sheila, on Whidbey Island more times than we can count. Close friends became our family—a network of trust, support, laughter, and faith—as we navigated our lives together in Washington.
It was cold, it was raining, and as far as I could tell, there wasn't going to be a break in the weather no matter which way we headed. Feeling weary of packing up my rain gear and hiking in blustery weather, I texted my hiking buddy Grace. She suggested a "Tour de Seattle" from Kerry Park in Queen Anne to Olympic Sculpture Park and beyond. Sounded great to me!
Here's a look at the urban hike we did through downtown Seattle, with stops at Myrtle Edwards Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, Pike Place Market, The London Plane, Intrigue Chocolate, and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. At the end of the post, I'll share some tips for doing an urban hike in the rain :)
On New Year's Eve, Grace and I slipped on our microspikes, tethered our snowshoes to our packs, and set out on our last snowshoe of the year. Our initial choice, Indian Creek, had led us to a bare, 3.0 mile road walk—not exactly the experience we were looking for. So! We paused and hit reset, sitting in Grace's idling Subaru and thumbing through a paperback of Snowshoe Routes: Washington for another option.
We wanted something not-too-difficult, since we were going out snowshoeing on New Year's Day too, but we also wanted pretty, snow-covered views. Wenatchee Crest was only about a 20 minute drive from Indian Creek, and at 6 miles roundtrip, 400 feet elevation gain, it wouldn't break our fitness bank for the next day. Our adventure ended up being a wonderful last hurrah of 2017, with some surprises, too!
My Instagram friend Mitch recently talked about the balance between traveling to a new place and revisiting an old favorite, and I couldn't help recognizing the sentiment. Most of the time I'm compelled to hike in places I've never been before, mainly for practical reasons: improving my knowledge of hiking in Washington State and pushing myself outside my boundaries.
But there's always one or two hikes—or, in this case, a snowshoe—that I come back to year after year. Mazama Ridge is that snowshoe for me: a wide, gently rolling fairway with gratifying views of Mount Rainier. In the summertime, magenta paintbrush and periwinkle lupine douse the meadow-like ridge, while winter turns her into a vast white playground.
High Hut is a bucket list snowshoe offering piercing views of Mount Rainier and a one-of-a-kind backcountry experience. Part of a system of huts and ski trails managed by the Mount Tahoma Trails Association (MTTA), it's located 13 miles southwest of the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier, about a 2 hour drive southeast from Seattle.
The cabin-style hut was built by the volunteer-run MTTA, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 in order to develop a trail and hut system near Mount Rainier. Huts provide shelter, sleeping quarters, a communal warming space for backcountry travelers, and a winter getaway for skiers, bikers, and snowshoers. The MTTA's 25-mile trail system and four huts were inspired by hut-to-hut trails and mountain chalets in the Alps.
For our first snowshoe of the year, Grace and I headed to Crystal Mountain. With the snow level rising to 4000 feet, we figured our chances of finding fresh powder would be better at a ski resort or Mount Rainier. I had also hiked a loop on the Silver Creek trail, PCT, and Buillon Basin trail this past summer, and wanted to come back to check it out in the wintertime.
O.O. Denny Park, a 30 minute drive northeast of Seattle, is a quiet, secluded park that is a great option when you are short on time and looking for a burst of nature. A 2.5 mile, moderately hilly loop will take you from the waterfront—with restrooms, a playground, pebbly beach, and large picnic area—to a well-groomed trail system winding through a lush ravine. Highlights are a 600+-year-old tree trunk named Sylvia, a trio of beautifully crafted wooden bridges, and the opportunity to enjoy waterfront views from benches and picnic tables in the park.
There's something skin-prickling and hair-raising about hiking in October: Leaves stir and rustle, trees creak and moan in the wind, temperatures cool, and nightfall creeps in. Embrace the spooky change in the season with one of these three family-friendly hikes that will give you a spine-tingling thrill for Halloween. Each hike includes a "Spook factor" from one to ten, with ten being a full-blown, expect-ghosts-to-emerge-out-of-the-walls creepiness. Bwah-ha-ha! :-)
It's fall season in Seattle and it's a great time of year to hike! Greenery is lit aglow in burnished red, marigold, and pumpkin orange. Warm sunrises greet shorter days and brisk mornings, and the taste of snow is on the tip of our tongues.
Now is the time to get outside and savor golden larches and fall foliage, dripping moss and sweet, earth-scented paths, and—when the rainy season kicks into gear—newly swollen rivers and waterfalls.
Fall weather can also turn on a dime, so get ready before you head out. Check the weather forecast and road and trail conditions. Pack warm layers, rain protection, and traction devices—like microspikes—for the possibility of snow.
Here are ten beautiful hikes for a taste of the fall season!
As we wrap up the summer, I wanted to say a big "Thank You!" to everyone who cheered for and donated to our team—The Big Three—during Washington Trails Association's 2017 Hike-a-Thon.
We are so proud to support an organization that is a tireless advocate for trails and outdoor access for all in Washington State, and we couldn't have done it without your support!
September 2017 marked our fifth anniversary, and we knew we wanted to do something special to celebrate. Onur had taken a day trip to Zion National Park—located in southwestern Utah—in 2016, and suggested we return for our anniversary. He didn't have to ask me twice; I was in!
Zion is famous for its sheer, multi-colored cliffs—uplifted layers of sedimentary rock known as the Grand Staircase—carved into a dazzling canyon. The Virgin River flows wide and easy along the length of the canyon, while soft brick- and sand-colored walls of sandstone rise like cathedrals from the valley floor. It was easy to lose ourselves in the magnitude and wonder of the place.
Excitement for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse had been building throughout the summer, and Onur and I were getting excited too. We were mulling over options to travel to Oregon when the Mount St. Helens Institute announced a guided eclipse hike to Coldwater Peak.
Although we'd only experience a partial eclipse from Coldwater Peak--about 97%--we thought it sounded like a fun activity to do together. The field trip included camping on Coldwater Ridge the night before, as well as dinner, breakfast, and lunch. Onur would have the chance to visit the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, a place he'd never been before, and we'd also be able to do something new together as a couple: camp together!