Mount Diablo and Honey Lemon Ginger Tea

Mount Diablo and Honey Lemon Ginger Tea

What do Mount Diablo and honey lemon ginger tea have in common? Absolutely nothing, except they are both enjoyable in the wintertime. Recently I was up on Mount Diablo scouting a waterfall hike, and so I thought I’d share my favorite pictures from it, as well a single-serve recipe for honey lemon ginger tea. This week’s inspiration: Rami Malek and Herb Kelleher.

Trail Lessons

Trail Lessons

“Do you think they’ll let me run barefoot?”

I was over halfway through a triathlon and had just finished my bike ride. Staring dumbfounded at my station, I realized I had forgotten my running shoes at home. Unsure what to do, I had turned to another triathlete and half-jokingly asked this question. It turned out she had a daughter with a similar shoe size, and she must have already finished because the next thing I knew, she was handing me her daughter’s shoes and saying, “Go for it.” So I did. I raced through the run course and finished the triathlon in another woman’s shoes.

I thought of this story after a similar experience this week. I was hiking in Uvas Canyon County Park when I realized I had lost my Garmin GPS device. I rushed back to where I thought I had left it, carefully scouring dead leaves, damp soil, and clumpy hillsides. I imagined triumphantly finding it. I imagined the relief I would feel. I imagined telling this story to friends and family. This was just temporary, I assured myself.

Nothing.

Happy 2019!

Happy 2019!

Happy New Year! It feels like the rush and magic of Christmas is slowly fading away, meshing and transitioning into new ideas, new beginnings, new hopes, and new dreams for 2019.

Regardless of how big your achievements are in 2019, I hope your most rewarding experience yet will be cherishing small moments. For me, noticing little things like a brilliant shade of fall red on a maple leaf makes me feel appreciative, joyful, and present. The best kind of gift :)

The memories I treasure most in 2018 happened outside, sometimes with friends and family and sometimes on my own. Mostly they were small things like discovering ferns I have never seen before. Other times it was sitting under the stars, walking among coast redwoods, and climbing to summits.

In that spirit of presence and gratitude in the outdoors, here are my favorite memories from 2018. These thirty pictures represent precious moments, changing seasons, and natural discoveries—California wonders like calla lilies, mariposa lilies, and the Big Sur coastline. I hope you enjoy them!

Wishing you a wonderful and happy 2019 :)

Melissa

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice and Merry (almost) Christmas! I hope this week is filled with light, love, and laughter with your friends and family, new and old.

This week I returned to Marin, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, to visit a multi-tiered waterfall called Carson Falls. Carson Falls cascades through Little Carson Creek, a tributary of Kent Lake in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed. Carson Falls is my 15th trail description for Modern Hiker, and I'm really proud to have hit this milestone. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the hike!

Winter Waterfalls

Winter Waterfalls

It is teeechnically not winter yet, but with days getting shorter and Christmas in the air, it feels like it! And just like Seattle, we are in the midst of a rainy season. Sure, it’s shorter (November - March) and less intense, but it makes me excited for the waterfalls and ferny forests dripping in rain and fog. It turns out there is a word for this fresh, earthy smell after the first rain: petrichor!

So, what’s new? I wanted to share with you that over the next several weeks, I’m super excited to be working on a series of waterfall hikes in Northern California for Modern Hiker. I’ve learned so much writing about urban San Francisco hikes these past few months, and at the same time, I’m happy to be getting back into the forest, especially now that waterfall season has started.

A Hawaiian Getaway to Kauai

A Hawaiian Getaway to Kauai

When Onur and I drove out of Lihue airport in our compact Honda Fit, the first thing we noticed was how green Kauai was—the trees, the grass, the lush ridges, the steep valleys—everything was covered in plants! We breathed in the warm, humid air, like a bathtub.

Kauai turned out to be everything we had imagined a Hawaiian island to be—remote, quiet, verdant, and breezy—like we had been plopped on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Art in the Presidio

Art in the Presidio

Two Saturdays ago, Mom and Bill came to visit for Bill's birthday and I wanted to show them special places in San Francisco—places I had come across in my hiking research that I hoped they would love as much as I did. We first went to see redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, then to the Presidio to see art by Andy Goldsworthy, a site-specific artist who uses natural materials on-site, like tree branches and clay, to construct sculptures.

Mindfulness on Mission Peak

Mindfulness on Mission Peak

There are some podcasts I have memorized the introduction to. Some phrases that stick out when I listen. One is "we had to believe in impossible things" on the Ted Radio Hour podcast. Another is, "taking time to be more fully present" on Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations podcast. Sometimes I say the words out loud, as if I say them loud enough it will be true for me, too. Or maybe it's like singing along with the lyrics of my favorite song: There is pleasure in knowing the words and repeating them.

Tide pooling in San Francisco

Tide pooling in San Francisco

One of the most delightful pleasures of visiting the ocean are the colorful sea stars and anemone revealed in swirling pools of receding waves. I was stunned and brightened by the tide pools I encountered at Marshalls Beach. It was the first time I’d seen tide pools since moving to California, and it brought back fond memories of tide pooling with volunteers from the Seattle Aquarium at Puget Sound beaches.

Conquering Half Dome

Conquering Half Dome

Half Dome’s shark fin-shape is one of the most striking and recognizable rock formations at Yosemite National Park. It is also one of the most difficult hikes in U.S. national parks, notorious for its steep, 400-foot gain over 0.25 miles to the 8,836-foot summit. To assist hikers, waist-high stanchions are placed into pre-drilled holes and threaded with braided steel cables. Each year, the cables and stanchions are put up in late spring and taken down in early fall. In order to climb the cables, hikers must have a permit they can apply for in a lottery on www.recreation.gov.

So how did we end up hiking Half Dome? When we moved to California, I was determined to hike to summits—ones that would push my limits, ones that I could train hard for, and ones like Mount St. Helens that I had done in Washington State. Having new hikes to work for was a way to cope with moving to a new state and a way to continue my love of hiking in California. After doing a bit of reading, Half Dome and Mount Whitney seemed like the most exciting and obvious choices.

Sunset on Mount Umunhum

Sunset on Mount Umunhum

Our most recent adventure was driving to the summit of Mount Umunhum to watch the sunset. At 3,486 feet, Mount Umunhum is a prominent peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 25 miles south of San Jose. Up until 2017 it had been closed to the public as it went through an extensive restoration, and recently re-opened last September with a brand new 7.5-mile round-trip hike to its summit.

From Sea to Summit at Mount Tamalpais

From Sea to Summit at Mount Tamalpais

Last Saturday I took Onur on a 14-mile hike from Stinson Beach to Mount Tamalpais, one of the tallest peaks in the Bay Area at 2,571 feet. I had been researching it for Modern Hiker, and found it to be truly original—like no other hike I’d done in Washington. Of course, I wanted to share it with Onur. We parked at Stinson Beach, and from there hiked through a beautiful redwood forest before continuing on to the summit.

A Walk in Muir Woods

A Walk in Muir Woods

While I was at Muir Woods National Monument this past Wednesday, I sidled up to a ranger giving a talk, hoping to learn more about the Coast Redwoods. At that moment, I noticed a young boy watching me. He was maybe four years old, wearing shorts and a t-shirt. He looked at the ranger, looked back at me. His eyes were wide and curious. "You look like the lady [ranger]. Do you talk about trees, too?"

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part III: The Summit

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part III: The Summit

At the end of the last post, Grace and I had just finished our Trinity Alps trip when I received a voicemail letting me know I could come back and hike Mount Whitney. The Whitney Portal Road had closed because of wildfire the day Grace and I were supposed to start our hike, so the permit office was offering a seven day window to come back and try it again. Just like that, five days after our Trinity Alps trip, I was again packing for Mount Whitney. This time though, I was solo. 

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part II: The Trinity Alps

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part II: The Trinity Alps

In the previous post, Grace and I made a heartbreaking decision to abort our Mount Whitney attempt. We redirected our energy instead into a new backpacking adventure: the Four Lakes Loop in the Trinity Alps. Tuesday morning, July 10th, we picked up a london fog for Grace and a cortado for me and began the 6-hour drive north towards Redding. After spending the night at Indian Creek Lodge in Douglas City, we got up early the next morning and began what would end up being a stellar, 22-mile adventure in the Trinity Alps Wilderness!

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part I

Journey to Mount Whitney, Part I

This post is the first in a three-part series about hiking Mount Whitney with a few unexpected twists: a wildfire, an alternate trip, and eventually, a solo summit.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this. We were supposed to be driving southeast to hike to the summit of Mount Whitney. But there we were, heading north on a bright, sunny day to the Trinity Alps instead.

I had been eyeing Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, since writing about moving to California. When I submitted my permit application to hike it, mine became one of thousands entered into the annual lottery. In 2017, there were over 15,000 applications for 100 day use permits and 60 overnight permits up for grabs per day between May 1st and November 1st.

So in March, when I got the email that I had "won" an overnight camping permit, I was elated, nearly bouncing out of my chair. I had even gotten one of my preferred entry dates: Wednesday, July 11th, 2018. I requested it because the snow was likely to melt out on the infamous 99 switchbacks by then, and because it coincided with a new moon—favorable conditions for shooting the Milky Way. Immediately, I emailed Grace to see if she wanted in. The answer was yes, and we began what would become months of planning for our first Mount Whitney summit attempt.

New Article: 5 Great Hikes on the NorCal Coast

New Article: 5 Great Hikes on the NorCal Coast

Hi there. Thank you for being here. 

I wanted to share some news with you that this past week, my first California hiking article was published by Moon Travel Guides. It's a compilation of my favorite hikes that Onur and I have explored along the coast since moving here five months ago: beach hikes, mountaintop views of the NorCal coastline, and hikes to see elephant seals. Elephant seals!!

A Special Girls Hike to Borel Hill

A Special Girls Hike to Borel Hill

Since moving to the Bay Area, Onur and I have had the pleasure of reconnecting with our dear friends, Pooja and Sri, and their two precocious children, Eesha and Vikram. Sri and I met in graduate school, and after some years, he and his wife Pooja hosted me in their warm Sunnyvale apartment as I was driving up the west coast to Washington State. Fast forward almost ten years, and unbelievably, we're now just a few neighborhoods away. 

Pooja and I had talked about going hiking sometime, and decided on a special girls hike for a fun outing together. I wanted to take her and Eesha to a destination—preferably someplace with views, wildflowers, and wildlife that was less than an hour's drive from the South Bay.

I chose one of my favorite preserves: Russian Ridge Preserve, named for a Russian immigrant, Mr. Paskey, who ran a dairy farm on the land from 1920-1950. What makes this 3,137-acre preserve so special are bursting wildflowers in the springtime, views of the mountains, bay, and Pacific Ocean, and the open, often treeless ridgeline: A perfect spot for Mr. Paskey's cattle. And ridgeline enthusiasts like me.