Sisters in California: Yosemite!

Anything I have to say about Yosemite seems very minuscule when compared to the beauty of the place itself. Our hostess was a true park expert, and she gave us great advice for planning the day, not to mention preparing a delicious and above-and-beyond breakfast in the morning. The park was crowded, of course, on a Sunday in summer, but it didn’t hinder our explorations at all. We parked at the far end of the village loop, rode the shuttle back in, and started by hiking the Mist Trail.

Yosemite Mist Trail

As we were climbing up the stairs and getting drenched by the waterfall, we saw a lovely little rainbow. iPhones are all waterproof now, right?!

Yosemite Mist Trail

After our hike, we rode the shuttle back to the car and drove up to Glacier Point. The views were breathtaking! I’ve been to Yosemite twice before (once as a baby), but this time felt like a whole new experience.

Glacier Point

There was a little bit of traffic, and it takes a while to drive around the park at any time, however with these views we certainly didn’t mind. We added an extra hike in at the end by taking the Sentinel Dome trail. At the end of the day, we were glad to have taken the extra two miles, because it was much less crowded and offered similarly incredible vistas to Glacier Point.

Chasing Waterfalls in Tamanique

Although it’s tempting to spend every possible moment basking in the sun and infinity pool at the hotel, we’ve managed to be very active during our time here. On Monday, we drove away from the resort to explore more of the countryside. We were dropped off in the town of Tamanique, and our guide led us down a dirt path to hike to a waterfall.

El Salvador

It’s the end of the rainy season, so the scenery is lush and vibrant. We hiked for about an hour, winding down the hillside and listening to the sounds of the rushing waters below us.

Tamanique waterfalls

Once we got to the waterfall, don’t tell my mom and dad, but we jumped off the 20 ft. cliffs into the waters below. Our group of 12 was finally all together, after a few late arrivals due to varying travel plans and work schedules. There were a few different heights, but everyone ended up jumping off one of the cliffs! It’s been a blast to be with such an adventuresome crew.

Tamanique waterfalls

We could hear the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm rumbling in the distance, and our guide urged us to get dressed quickly so we’d have time to visit the second, lower waterfall. We hiked a little further down, and jumped in to swim underneath the cascading streams.

Tamanique waterfalls

I almost didn’t go in on the bottom level, because I’d dried off and didn’t want to get wet again. That would have been a mistake, because it started raining heavily while we were all in the water. The guide rushed us out and warned that the waters could rise quickly. We scrambled to put on our clothes and shoes, then slid over the muddy rocks to pull ourselves out. After a fast and breathless hike up the trail, we were back in the town, soaking wet but smiling. It was a sticky and soggy ride home in the van, but we all made it back safe and sound to Puro Surf to dry off.

Tamanique

Take a Hike

Did you know I didn't like it here in LA the first time I came? I didn't like it even one bit. That first visit was about 5 years ago, my sister and I were driving around at the end of our full California road trip, and we had no idea where to go. We took the metro to Hollywood with a lot of smelly people. We found Hollywood to be disappointing (or at least I did, but my sister might have been satisfied with seeing the sign and Ellen DeGeneres' star). We spent a day and a half here and the flight home couldn't come soon enough, although we did stay in an adorable Airbnb which provided our safe haven.

Echo Mountain Hike

I certainly didn't think that one day I would wind up living here. Things in the city have changed since our Airbnb hostess told us to only turn left at the end of our street, never right, if we wanted to preserve our safety. I found out that it's full of interesting things to see and do, beyond the star walk and Santa Monica Pier. And there are still plenty of unsettling strangers to yell at you on the sidewalk.

The biggest surprise for me about LA has been the availability of nature and outdoor explorations. I didn't know it during my first visit, or my second or third, but there are a great many hikes to be had around here. While it appears so concrete and traffic ridden to an outsider, the mountains and parks are very accessible once you live here.

Los Liones hike

I've been squeezing in as many hikes as possible during my free hours. It's hard to get myself on the stairclimber at the gym when I know there are such beautiful hills nearby. I'm envisioning myself becoming part of the group of early rising elitists that does a morning hike before the start of the workday, or (more preferably) one that at least breaks up the commute with a climb on the way home.

And for you, wherever you are, I hope it's not snowing and that you are remembering to go outside. <3

Echo Mountain Hike

Detours

It probably comes as a surprise that I went from Guatemala to California to New England to Texas. California and New England are not exactly "on the way" from Guatemala to Texas, but they're also not "not on the way". Anywhere can be on the way to anywhere else, it just depends on the way you're going.

Joshua Tree National Park

There's never a bad time of year to visit Southern California (besides when it's on fire or falling in on itself), and it's an unbelievable treat to find yourself camping on a mild night in early January (especially when it's free for Martin Luther King Day). I got to put my indoor bouldering (lack of) skills to the test outdoors when I turned my dreams of Joshua trees into reality. 

Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park

You don't even need to leave the country to find wild wonders, but, if the temperature rises above double digits, you should probably go outside.

Pace Yourself

It's starting to stay darker and cooler a little longer in the mornings, but that Texas-like ability to creep into the 90's by mid-day is still going strong enough to make you think twice about lighting cinnamon candles or ordering your various seasonal lattes. We'll be happily basking in the heat of summer until at least October around here.

IMG_8974.JPG

In August, I was able to spend a lovely day here, and I kicked myself for letting over 4 years pass in Austin before finding the time to visit. Pace Bend Park has miles and miles of trails, exhilarating cliffs for jumping off into the water, countless campsites for overnight adventurers, and some swell trees for swinging your hammock. The shallow part of Lake Travis was feeling pretty bath-like that day, but it was all just fine.

IMG_8962.JPG
FullSizeRender (9).jpg

If you're an Austin person looking for some sweaty hikes or your last swims of summer, or even a shoreline campground, I think it would really be worth your while. 

IMG_8963.JPG

Hidden Gems

In my yoga classes this week, I offered up the intention of looking at various aspects of our lives through the lens of a “Beginner’s Mind”.  This Zen Buddhist concept means shifting our attitude about familiar things: poses, hobbies, work, studies, relationships, etc. to view them from a new angle, by imagining that we are taking part in them for the very first time. The practice opens up space for different possibilities and perspectives as our habits and preconceptions are broken down. 

This got me thinking about applying a beginner’s mind to the places in which we live. When I first moved to Austin, my newcomer’s senses wanted to see and do everything. And taste everything, too, since I gained about 10 pounds upon moving here. I was a constant consumer of novelty. No adventure was too time-intensive, no distance too far. Heck, I’d sometimes even drive to San Antonio if the day felt right.

Now, as much as I love Austin, my endless explorations have settled into a routine list of favorite activities, restaurants, bars, and spots to spend my time. I guard my non-working hours closely, and if I’m going to drive south of the river or get on Mopac at all ever, there better be a darn good reason. I see the hot new places and excited out-of-towners moving in every day, but I feel happier (and lazier) to exist inside my usual bubble. My 2016 To-Try list doesn’t have nearly as many items crossed off as I was planning by this time in the year.

So I was excited last week when my friend Karina invited me to visit the River Place Nature Trail, a hike that was on my list, but off the beaten-path of nearby Austin trails. The 5-6 mile hike* overlooking the West Austin hills and eventually running alongside a river, helped me feel the same zest I felt when I first moved here, like there was something magical hiding under every rock I turned. 

While we accept more comfort in our cities, we give up some of the novelty and the zest for exploring. We settle into routines and responsibilities, and back out of more events if they’re further from our zone of normalcy. Our bodies and minds know this and start to become numb. We get tired more easily and aren’t as ignited by the idea of seeing something new or making a connection with a stranger. When we become experts on a subject, another person, or a city, the only way to counteract closed-mindedness or stagnation is to observe what we know from another side.

 

For the rest of this year, and hopefully thereafter, I’m trying to embrace the shiny, new or yet unseen parts of this city where I’ve lived for almost 4 years. I promise to say “yes” more times to something that sounds fun, before looking at Google Maps’ distance from my current location.  And to my fellow Austin dwellers, I promise that whatever I find, I’ll be sure to share with you.

*The trail is out and back, so you can make it as short or as long as you’d like.

Utah, Part II

Utah's national parks are a world of dreams and magic.

Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop
Bryce Canyon Fairyland Loop

We hiked the Fairyland Loop trail in Bryce Canyon to get a view of the canyons from all angles, and I can't recommend it highly enough. We spent the whole day in a constant state of amazement, and when I walked out of the tent at night to head to the bathroom (squat down at the edge of our campsite), I saw the biggest shooting star of my life. Thank you Utah for your incredible skies and scenery!

Bryce Canyon sunrise

WOW-oming!

Phase 3 of the trip brought us to a new state for me and a new phenomenon for both of us: forest fires!

As we crossed into Wyoming, we began to notice a lot of smoke in the air and started to hear gas station gossip about nearby towns being evacuated due to wildfires in the area. We had a "wouldn't it be cool if...?" moment* and, about 10 minutes later, the universe provided. 

Wyoming wildfire
Wyoming Wildfire

 

*"Wouldn't it be cool if we could see a wildfire up close while we're conveniently protected by our car and far enough away that it won't impact our lives or our travel plans so we can go to Idaho and eat square-shaped ice cream in peace?" It was pretty sobering to see rows of homes about to be eaten by the flames and the firefighters who were in the air spraying water from helicopters or on the ground trying to push the fire back from the road. We felt guilty taking pictures while so many people's lives were being uprooted, but once-in-a-lifetime experiences sometimes call for photos and so we summoned the war photographers in us and proceeded.

Wyoming wildfires

While we were busy looking back at that (^), we didn't notice that these were slowly sneaking up on our right:

The Tetons!

The Tetons!

The Tetons gave us shelter and an unbelievable view for the night while we entertained ourselves with long hikes in inappropriate footwear. B showed off his fire-building mastery and I cooked dinner on my brand new Coleman 2-burner camp stove, which I would regrettably end up breaking on the second night of camping, but which would be fine since I'm afraid of gas explosions anyway.

Next, we went to Yellowstone and decided to do everything in one day, a decision that was exhausting but one that we still stand by. The stones were really yellow, Old Faithful erupted while we were in the parking lot, and I learned that branches often look like moose antlers and your driving partner can get upset if you call out too many animal photo opps that are actually not.

The Earth was full of hot springs and gurgling pools and was feeling very alive! WOW-oming certainly lived up to B's nickname for it since I don't think we said any words other than amazing, incredible, beautiful, awesome, and long breathless wowww's for most of this phase of the trip. We would have loved some more time to explore, but Utah (and showers) beckoned.

Chipmunk at Grand Teton National Park