Lots of big changes in my life lately.. As such, things have been busy as ever! I’ve been spending a lot of time in the mountains, and there have been a lot of unexpected trips. This phase of my life is something I’m very grateful for; I’m learning that spontaneity is good, being busy is good, and I’m being reminded of just how strong my support system is.
Much of my down time recently has been giving me a “reset” of sorts – revisiting my past interests and trying new things that interest me. One of my short term goals (which I’ve been making good on) is to spend more time outdoors. I mentioned recently on Instagram that Ryan & I invested in an “America the Beautiful” pass while visiting Yosemite following the fires, and it’s already more than paid for itself in our travels.
Another of my goals is to be more diligent with writing. Despite that, this post isn’t very word-intensive. In my opinion, my blog posts about nature-y trips don’t need a bunch of words detracting from the quiet beauty of these locations.
In short, Ryan and I stayed at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge. We spent one day of our trip exploring further along 198 through Sequoia National Park, and the next day up 180 into a small portion of Kings Canyon National Park. This trip was seen as a way to get a feel for the area, and we plan to go back and explore further!
When I moved back to California, I wanted to have more time for Disney trips, so I made it. The more I shared my adventures with my grandma, supplemented by my mom’s experiences in the park, the more vocal grandma got about wanting to go to Disneyland herself. In 2017 we decided that we would take her for her 80th birthday that was in August of that year.
Unfortunately, that fall stayed too hot, and by the time it cooled down enough for us to be comfortable taking her, the holiday madness in the parks started. With that, we decided to make the trip in the spring. We opted for the period of time after spring breaks ended and before Grad Nite season started. This meant our trip would have to take place in the last two weeks of April.
In planning this trip, we decided that we would dedicate Monday to driving down, Tuesday and Wednesday to being in the parks, and that Thursday would be for driving home. We also went into the trip with a list of pictures we knew we wanted, food we wanted to try, and rides that were important. We are proud to say we accomplished everything on our lists!
My mom and I picked up grandma at her house just before 10 a.m. on Monday, April 23rd. From there, we made our trek down to Anaheim. Quite a few stops were made along the way, and we finally made it down to the hotel just before 3 p.m.
For this trip with grandma, we decided to really splurge and stay at the Grand Californian – proximity to the parks, bell/valet services, room service, and amenities played a big role in our decision here. Of the Disneyland Resort hotels, this one truly is my favorite.. since the room renovations, the showers are to die for!
Once we got settled in the room, the three of us went into Downtown Disney for dinner. We made our own “family style” experience at La Brea Bakery, and it was just the right amount for each of us.
From dinner, we made our way through Downtown, pausing to go into some of the shops. We made it to the other end and found our next destination: Trader Sam’s.
Despite it being around 6:30 or so, we lucked into a table inside! This meant grandma got to experience the activities that accompany some of the drinks (for those who are unfamiliar, this includes brief changes in lighting, yelling by the bartenders, and other special effects).
When we left Trader Sam’s, my mom wanted to go into the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel to see their teacup chairs. This was a brief detour because by this point we were all very tired from the traveling of the day. We made it to the room and called it a night shortly after.
In the Parks – Day 1:
The next morning we all got up early and started getting ready while we waited for room service to arrive. During our trip the parks closed a little earlier and opened a little later – this kept us from having to rush ourselves and grandma first thing in the morning, and kept us from staying in the parks too late.
We were at the entrance to Disneyland about a half an hour before the park officially opened. After getting through the gates, we took advantage of the fact that the park wasn’t technically open yet and wandered through the Emporium that sits on the corner near the City Hall at the start of Main Street.
After stopping to look in the shop, we made our way down Main Street to get castle pictures before it got crowded.
We crossed the bridge into Fantasyland and went to Snow White’s Scary Adventures. When we finished there, we decided to move on to the Mad Tea Party, which grandma got a kick out of!
When we finished our spin on the teacups, grandma expressed interest in the Matterhorn, and after mom and I weighed the pros and cons (i.e. how jerky it is, the lack of real padding, etc.) we decided to get in line.
She ended up liking that one too!
When we were done there, mom wanted one of the chocolate churros that are a limited feature for Pixar Fest inspired by Coco (which I still haven’t seen), so we stopped at the churro cart in Frontierland. Once the churros were consumed, we went to Adventureland to do the Jungle Cruise.
Following the cruise, we made our way through New Orleans Square. While walking through the square, we witnessed a proposal at one of the caricature stands, which was adorable! Once we had passed through, grandma and I made our way to Haunted Mansion while mom waited elsewhere. When the ride was done, we met with mom where I waited in line for one of those Toy Story Alien popcorn buckets.
That day we had reservations at Carnation Cafe for lunch, which was phenomenal! From there, we headed across Main Street to the silhouette shop.
The silhouettes at Disneyland have to be one of my favorite souvenirs, and I’m so glad my mom brought up wanting to do one while we were in the parks with grandma.
It had been a long day already, so we started our trek to the hotel so that at the very least, grandma could have some down time. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in World of Disney, followed by the Starbucks Reserve in Downtown.
Once we got grandma back into the hotel room, I decided to look at ride wait times for some of the more intense rides that were not a particularly great idea to try and take grandma on. At that point in time, the wait time for Guardians of the Galaxy was allegedly only 45 minutes. I decided I was going to go, and I knew mom wanted to as well, so we left grandma to rest and wandered into the park (which was particularly convenient coming from the Grand Californian).
Turns out the wait time was closer to 90 minutes, which was okay overall because grandma got to really rest. When we finally got through the ride, we made our way back to the hotel room to pick up grandma so we could head back into California Adventure with her.
Our first ride stop when we were back into the park was the Little Mermaid ride. After that, we decided to take grandma on the Silly Symphony Swings. She LOVED those – they would end up being the only repeat ride with grandma the whole trip.
From the swings, we moved on to Cars Land as it was nearing dusk. The only ride we did in Cars Land that day was Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. After our ride, mom wanted a Neapolitan shake from Flo’s V8 Cafe. We walked through Cars Land with the lights on, and I made sure we walked around the back side of Flo’s toward the wharf so that grandma could see they way that the Cadillac Range gets lit up at night (a personal favorite of mine).
We got back to the hotel relatively early that night, which was good because it was a long day. According to my phone, we had walked just over 5 miles that day.
In the Parks – Day 2
Day 2 of fun in the parks started similarly to day 1 in that we got room service and went to Disneyland first. We only had one objective for that park when they opened at 9 a.m. – get a picture with the Mickey flowers in front of the train station.
After we got our picture, we hit California Adventure. Once through the park gates, I took our park tickets and got FastPasses for Radiator Springs Racers while mom and grandma took their time walking up Buena Vista Street. From there, they met me at the entrance to Cars Land so we could get a picture with the Buzz and Woody cars by the “Welcome” sign.
With our picture taken care of we made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania, which only had a 5 minute wait time. Once that ride was marked off the list, we made our way back around the pier the long way (construction is still heavily underway) to the swings so grandma could ride them again.
Mom and grandma went on their way to do Soarin’ and I made my way to the Starbucks location in the park. When we met back up, we headed towards Hollywood Land. On our way to our next destination, we took a little detour to take a picture by a mosaic wall near Schmoozies, ride Mike and Sulley to the Rescue (a ride mom and I had never been on) because grandma likes Monsters Inc, and to grab a hot dog.
Around that time was our return time for our Radiator Springs Racers FastPasses, so we made our way there through Bug’s Land so that grandma could experience that. Mom and I also paused to get FastPasses for a second round of Guardians later that afternoon. Following our race, I wandered to the Cozy Cone for a bacon mac & cheese cone and my mom went back to Flo’s for another Neapolitan shake which grandma had a little bit of.
At that point, we had finished most of what we wanted to do in California Adventure, so we headed back across the plaza to Disneyland. Our first order of business in the park was to take the railroad on a round trip. Once we made it back, we walked up main street and got pictures in our Minnie ears with the “Partners” statue.
That day was particularly warm, so we made our way towards Adventureland to get some Dole Whip and sit through a Tiki Room show. After the show we walked across the park to the Monorail. We rode the Monorail to Downtown Disney, and made a stop in the new Disney Home Store as we made our way from the station to the hotel.
With grandma at the hotel to rest once more, mom and I made our way back to California Adventure for our Guardians FastPass return. After the ride we got back to the hotel (much faster than the day before) and gathered grandma to get dinner.
We walked back to the park entrance of Disneyland and jumped on the train for a 3/4 trip to Tomorrowland. Dinner was at Pizza Planet (which is fantastic rebranding in my opinion) where mom got pasta and grandma and I got slices of pizza. Mom also got one of the Alien macaroons. After dinner, we got back on the train to go to Main Street and head back to the hotel.
Based on my phone’s tracker, we walked just over 6 miles the second in-park day of our trip.
We had room service delivered Thursday morning before we left and were thankful for bell services to help us get our stuff back down to the car. As might be anticipated with typical LA traffic, it took us an hour and a half to get the 30 miles from Anaheim to Downtown LA. We ended up making it home in just about 5 hours.
We all had a great trip to Disneyland, and I’m so grateful that I have those memories with my mom and grandma!
Ink Master has been among my favorite competition shows since it’s inception, and in 2014 it introduced me to a few tattoo artists I have dreamed of being tattooed by. One of these artists is Season 4’s runner-up Walter “Sausage” Frank. Since Ink Master, he relocated to Las Vegas and opened a shop, Revolt Tattoos, with Season 3 winner Joey Hamilton (another truly gifted artist). I have driven through the area numerous times since the shop opened, but I had yet to find a design nor actually set foot in the shop. His tattoos are striking, bold, and legible photorealistic designs, and I knew someday I would find myself wanting something sizable, detailed, and meaningful enough to contact him. I also knew my Revolt story would happen organically, when it should, but I never could have guessed what the price of that inspiration would be.
After Colin died, I knew I was going to get something tattooed on my body in remembrance of him, and initially I was decided on red roman numerals on my side of his date of death. Later, after his mom found a zoo worth of owls in his room, my plan changed. I started my artist search around Fresno, but realized that anyone who could accomplish the photorealism that I wanted would be expensive and I would have to wait. It then dawned on me that if I was going to be paying as much as I was and waiting as long as I would be, I might as well go to one of my “dream” artists.
I first contacted the shop in December 2016. I filled out the basic contact form, explaining my flexibility in timeline and in design so long as there was a photorealistic owl. Additionally, I was open to color so long as it was mostly neutral toned. For how much I like to be in control, I was pretty open about what the tattoo would look like.
Through our communication, an appointment was booked for me to come in on October 3, 2017 at 10 a.m.
From the inception of the idea, I decided I was going to make a small trip out of this appointment. I chose to not fly for a number of reasons, but fortunately for me, I have made the drive between Fresno and Vegas half a dozen times and find it relatively easy.
As it turned out, Emily’s bridal shower was the Saturday before near Pasadena, so it made sense for me to go down then, stay in the LA area, and then head to Las Vegas from there (my last post, “SoCal Adventures,” details that part of the trip). As it turned out, I made my way to Las Vegas on October 2nd.
October 2nd in Las Vegas turned out to be a dramatically different day than I had planned. The original itinerary I had included going to the Luxor to see the Bodies Exhibit, and possibly walking The Strip. With the shooting the night before, everything was closed and eerie, so I loitered in LA a little while longer than intended. I took myself to breakfast at Twisted Sage, a place my darling Sarynna had showed me on my trip with her to Azusa nearly a month before. From there, I headed into Vegas, drove past the Strip on I-15 before getting off the freeway, after which I checked into and sat in my hotel room for awhile before heading to a Yard House that was south of The Strip right off the freeway.
The following day, I had my appointment which was far and away the most well documented tattooing experience I have ever had.
My mom and aunt drove into Vegas that morning from Fresno, arriving at the hotel around 9 a.m. They ate breakfast, took their stuff to the room, and then we made our way to Revolt.
I met Walter Frank for the first time just after 10 a.m. as we discussed in more detail what I was looking for. Through our talks and looking at pictures, we decided moving the image to my hip from my side would be a better decision as far as fit, size, and longevity were concerned. This move required me to change out of the yoga pants and athletic shirt I had originally worn to the shop and into a dress which would allow easier access to my hip.
Almost 2 hours later, we had a sketch, he prepped his station, and we were ready to apply the stencil.
The shop offers live streams of their tattoos, so I took this opportunity to share the link to Walter’s station so that friends and family not present could watch the process unfold.
The course of the next 5 1/2 hours consisted of lots of tattooing, lots of jokes about ass, and walking breaks. I’ve included the “progression” pictures below:
I wanted the owl’s eyes to be Colin’s eyes. For those of you who are unfamiliar, his eyes were a dark brown that became a vibrant green in direct light. The group present acted as voting committee of how to best do them in the likeness of his eyes as to not get too muddy with the black of the outline and the pupils. We opted for a green color toward the center, becoming brown at the edges.
Walter was such a great artist to sit for. He humored our questions, sass, and the emotions associated with what we were there for for nearly 6 hours that day.
We ended up leaving the shop around 6 p.m., heading to Yard House for dinner. That evening was highly emotional, and we were all spent by the time we got to dinner. We all were asleep by 9 p.m.
The day following my appointment, we all made the drive back to Fresno.
I am so happy with my experience and the end result. This trip helped create a small light in an otherwise grim situation. As much as I don’t like the fact that my reason for going to Walter was to memorialize Colin, there is no one I would have rather had as my artist.
What was originally going to be a short trip to Las Vegas for my newest tattoo turned into a 5 day trip that started Saturday, September 30, in La Cañada, California for my darling Emily’s bridal shower!
Emily has been a close friend of mine since she moved to Fresno and started playing for the same volleyball club as I did between 7th and 8th grade. A few months back I visited her and her fiancé Bobby in Santa Barbara. Since then, more wedding plans have come to pass, and we are now a few weeks away from their big day! The shower was brunch in a family member’s backyard. I’m proud to say I won the game that was guessing Em’s age in a collection of 16 pictures!
One of my favorite features of the shower was the video Emily’s sister-in-law Amanda made with Bobby that consisted of Amanda prompting 20 questions to Bobby and him guessing Emily’s response. His answers were so genuine and honest, and Emily’s reaction to some of his answers was priceless.
I ended up staying with Emily’s mom that night near Anaheim. Being the Disney addict that I am (and knowing I was going to bite the bullet and get an annual pass again), I decided to take a quick detour on my way to her home. I was hellbent on seeing Disneyland in all of it’s Halloween glory, so I reinstated my annual pass (I went with the signature pass, I previously had a signature plus pass.. I’ll go more into this on a later post), and went into Disneyland with the intent of walking up Main Street, looking at all the decorations, and riding Haunted Mansion. Yes, that is all that I did in the park that day.
The next morning, I got up and drove to North Hollywood where another dear friend of mine lives: Catriona. We planned to spend a portion of our Sunday at Universal Studios exploring the Harry Potter section before her show that evening.
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While there, we ended up seeing a friend from high school who is currently in the frog choir, and went on a studio tour tram narrated by another cast member of the show she was in that night.
Overall, I thought the Harry Potter section was very well done, and the food was fantastic! The “big” ride that part of the park features, though, is not one that sat well with me because I cannot do 3D or copious amounts of movement in rides (for comparison, I can’t do Star Tours at Disneyland because it gives me motion sickness).
The show Cat was in that night was called The Scarlet Pimpernel, one I wasn’t familiar with. It was a very small production, but the actors were all talented, so it was enjoyable.
The next morning, October 2nd, I started my drive to Las Vegas.
Since our trip to Yosemite last September, Lela and I have both been determined to make it to Tuolumne Meadows in a timely manner. We knew going into it that in order to properly do Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding area hikes, we would need more time than we had. Nonetheless, we both wanted to get up there to see what it was about. It took us nearly a year, but on Saturday, August 5th, we finally made it.
As with most Yosemite trips, we left around 6 a.m. to head up the hill. Weather was forecasted to be a reasonable temperature, but there was a good chance of thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon – we planned outfits accordingly. The drive was a relatively easy 3 hours up, and the direction we came from required we go through part of the valley before getting onto 120 for Tioga Road.
Along the way, there were many places to pull off. One was Olmsted Point, which gave us a gorgeous view of Half Dome from the opposite side of the usual Valley view.
After that, we approached Tenaya Lake, which was breathtaking. The reflection of the mountains off the lake left us both speechless.
We reached Tuolumne Meadows midmorning, and as expected, we were met with slightly overcast weather.
Due to our time constraints, we decided that wandering around the meadows would be the best course of action for this trip. On a map of Tuolumne Meadows, we found a point of interest that we wanted to have as a true “destination” on our walk, so we headed to the east end of the meadows. We parked the car on the dirt road by Lembert Dome that leads to Tuolumne Stables and walked up the road to where the true path to the meadows starts.
Our “set” destination for that day was going to be Soda Springs and the adjacent Parsons Lodge. The path toward the heart of the meadows offered stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including Cathedral Peak (which Lela was rather taken with).
The paths through Tuolumne Meadows (that we experienced) were roughly car width, and were very well maintained. Altitude was the only thing not on our side, but overall, the weather was lovely, so we didn’t notice it much on our hike/walk.
A short while later, we made it to Soda Springs. The springs were small but fascinating:
When we left the lodge, we headed towards the Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge, which allowed us to cross the Tuolumne River.
From the bridge, we continued along the path that lead toward the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, though the visitor center was busy, so we opted to not go that far. Walking through this part of the trail made me feel like I was wandering through the set of Lord of the Rings, which made me even happier than I already was.
Perhaps my favorite part of the walk led us to a weird rock/embankment on the edge of the river. Water is probably my favorite element, and there were so few people that you could hear everything happening in Tuolumne Meadows. Lela and I sat on the water’s edge for a little while listening to the birds in the nearby trees and the water running down the river.
Some time later we headed back to the car. We decided we would go back by Tenaya Lake to eat lunch; Lela had gone to Subway the night before and picked up sandwiches for our lunch that day. We took our food and made our way down to the edge of the lake. There weren’t many people in this area, so lunch was very peaceful.
When we were done there, we started to head back toward the valley (Yosemite Valley because we have to pass through it to get back to the 41, and more broadly the Central Valley). By the time we made it back to Yosemite Valley, traffic was getting a little ridiculous, and until that moment we both had forgotten that it was the last real weekend before school was back in session.
We were both very impressed with Tuolumne Meadows, and our only regret is that we didn’t have time for any of the other hikes with true destinations at points of interest like lakes or peaks. I cannot wait to make it back up there, though that will likely have to wait until next year.
My dear friend Abigail’s 23rd birthday falls at the beginning of July, and for part of the celebration she wanted to go on a hike somewhere out of town but relatively close by. After browsing the internet and getting suggestions from friends, we decided to do the Lewis Creek Trail just north of Oakhurst the Saturday before her birthday. Earlier in that week over Taco Tuesday at my home, we decided on the more concrete details of our trip, including that we would leave town around 7 a.m. and we would make sure to bring food with us.
The trailhead is just off the 41 a couple miles outside of Oakhurst and is marked by brown signs saying “Lewis Creek Trail.” The term “trailhead” could seem misleading because the parking area looks like a large pull-off; when we got there, only one other car was parked there. We chose a spot, put on sunscreen and bug spray (both are very necessary this summer), and started our trek through the wilderness.
About 100 yards after walking through the main gate, we met a fork in the path. The sign we came across at the fork said the Lewis Creek Trail was to the right, so that’s the direction we started in. Just over 1/2 a mile from that point, we reached Corlieu Falls.
Corlieu Falls can best be seen from a platform on the path (where the above photos were taken). After a brief stop there, we continued down the trail.
After the smaller falls farther downstream, the path continues for another ~0.8 miles before you reach a house (and we learned from others on the trail that there is another parking area farther that direction). We turned back when we reached the house (after consulting the internet via our limited cell phone reception) because the other waterfall featured on the hike was off of the path to the left of the fork we encountered at the start of our hike.
It didn’t take us very long to make it back the 1.5 miles we had traveled to the original fork in the path; from there we started on the left path (technically now it was on the right from where we were). This path is much flatter and much more scenic, though it requires a lot more of what I like to refer to as “off roading.” Typically, there is a bridge to cross the river, but that was washed out. Now, there is a decently sized log across the creek and a precarious rope attached to trees on either side of the creek designated (not marked) for hikers to cross.
The trail varied between wide and narrow, and was mostly level with some areas that were steep. Areas were also washed out from the recent increase in water coming down the creek, so some places required slightly more creative methods to continue. After about 1.5 miles, we came to a junction where we were met by this sign:
From here, we turned right and headed down toward the sound of rushing water to find we were at the top of Red Rock Falls. Above the falls was a lovely spot to stop and sit for awhile. Also while there, we decided to break out the food we brought with us.
Once we finished eating, we tried to find a way to the bottom of the falls, but didn’t have much luck with what we were able to see. The best we could get was this view off the side of the landing we ate on:
We made our way back toward the car from there. The way back was easy, but we stopped frequently to take advantage of the areas of the path that opened into clearings where we could get close to the creek.
Overall, this hike was relatively quick (we spent about 3.5 hours up there) and could fall in the easy/moderate category. Most of the featured portions of the trail are shaded by the gorgeous, towering trees of the Sierra National Forest. It’s also worth noting that we were met with quite a few bugs, but got no real bites to speak of (thanks to the bug spray).
I would, and likely will, do this trail again in the future. Come to find out, this was Abigail’s second time doing parts of this hike, and she thoroughly enjoyed the second pass through. If you are looking for a good half day hike in the forest featuring waterfalls, I highly recommend this trail!
Hiking is a hobby I picked up while I lived in Colorado. Towards the beginning, I was still experiencing joint pain that was most likely caused by my time playing volleyball, and that limited the types of hikes I could take on. Due to that, I tended to limit my hikes to those rated moderate or below. Three years ago, on June 18, 2014, Charlotte and I attempted Yosemite Falls, rated at moderate to strenuous, and only made it to Columbia Rock before opting to turn back and get into the pools below Lower Yosemite Falls. Reminder: All collages can be clicked on to see the individual images in a larger format.
The lookout where we turned back
Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from Lower Yosemite Falls trail
Charlotte and I met in 7th grade and she has held a special place in my life since. She is one of the most strong willed, ambitious, and charismatic people I know. Our relationship has always been one based in a more “adult” perspective – we can go months without talking but there is no hesitation with picking up right where with left off. For undergrad, Charlotte went to Cal Berkeley, and is continuing her education with Law School at Ole Miss. This trip fell during a break in her school schedule when she happened to not only be in town, but have a full day free.
Our second attempt at the Yosemite Falls Trail (which we were determined to complete) was scheduled for Monday, June 19th, coincidentally just one day after the 3 year anniversary of our first attempt. We left town around 6 o’clock that morning, and by 8 a.m. we were in the valley.
On our way through the valley just as we crossed the river to get to the north side of the park, we stopped to capture this gorgeous view of our only plan for the day:
Needless to say, we had quite a day ahead of us. We parked the car in the lot just across the road from the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, and had to walk from there to Campground 4 where the trailhead is located. At 8:53 a.m. we left the valley floor on our journey to summit Yosemite Falls. Note: The only two times we know for sure are when we left the valley and when we got back down, every other time listed is based on picture timestamps.
Around 9:30 a.m., we made it to Columbia Rock. This portion of the journey was much easier to accomplish than I remembered, though my memory served me correctly in just how steep and winding it was.
From that point, we started the strenuous portion of the hike – 2700 ft elevation gain over about 2.6 miles. About a mile into that, we got gorgeous views of the falls and benefited from all the mist coming off the fall.
After the mist comes what seems like a desert. The trail coverage that is relatively abundant for the first half disappears, and all that is left is the sun and the sandy path. Around 11:40 a.m. we summited the falls and were pretty exhausted. The overlook was an open, rocky area that had signs pointing toward stairs which provided a closer look at the falls.
Good news – thanks to my beloved Camelbak (this is the one I have), I didn’t run out of water, nor did I feel or exhibit signs of dehydration. Bad news – the muscle fatigue was very real. Getting to the top was a push, but let me be clear, the last few stairs to and from the actual edge of the falls were painful.
As we approached Yosemite Creek, we were expecting just that – a creek. We did not anticipate just how much water would be coming down the mountain. The staircase pictured above was very narrow and led down to a lower lookout point.
Over the edge to the side of the fall
From the higher point, we could see a bridge up the Yosemite Creek which was surrounded by a bunch of rocks on the bank that would be great for laying out on. Based on trail markers we saw just before reaching the outlook, we figured the bridge was a short way up the Yosemite Point Trail which branches off of the Yosemite Falls Trail. After crossing the bridge, we opted to go opposite the direction of the trail to get to the rocks on the edge of the creek (this part is definitely not recommended by the NPS as the creek is fast moving and directly above the falls, you should stay on the trails, kids).
Working on that nice healthy glow (I don’t really “tan” per se)
While down by the creek, we had the lunch we had packed – crackers, salami, and cheese, various bars, and PB&J sandwiches. We also took this time to soak up some sun, and give our bodies some reprieve from the hike up. The water was quite possibly close to freezing, but it felt great! We spent quite awhile up there, and around 1:30 p.m. or so we started our descent.
Truth be told, we didn’t take many pictures during our ascent because of how strenuous it was and our focus being on reaching the top. The descent was when the bulk of our scenery pictures were taken, and I’ve provided a compilation below.
The edge of Half Dome is peeking around the rocks to the left of the image
Wildflowers and Yosemite Falls
The trip down the mountain was much faster than the trip up, and we made it back to the valley floor at 3:20 p.m. According to Charlotte’s Fitbit, with all of our adventures included, we took just over 31,000 steps, traveled about 13 miles, and climbed the equivalent of 380 staircases. I am so proud of what we accomplished and the view was worth every muscle-screaming step. On our way down the hill, we stopped at Robert’s Frosty in Coarsegold for soft serve as a reward for making it all the way to the top of the falls.
This trip also marked Lil’ Blue’s first to Yosemite! I greatly appreciate Charlotte letting me be *that* person who stops to take artsy pictures of my car.
It has officially been one year since Shannon and I went to Redwoods National and State Parks just north of Eureka in Orick, CA. This was a trip we first conceived shortly after finally meeting in our Senior Honor’s Seminar at Colorado State the semester before we both received our Bachelor’s degrees.
Shannon and I had been Facebook friends because of common interests realized from a “CSU Class of 2016” page for four years before we actually had a class together (and realized that we should have been real friends the whole dang time). We are both fans of adventure and loosely structured plans. Our seminar got us talking about National Parks which led Shannon to bring up the Redwoods, I mentioned I hadn’t been before, so we decided right then and there to make a trip together. We got closer over the course of the semester, too, and that definitely encouraged follow through. After graduation, we figured out when we would be in California at the same time and planned from there.
We decided that we would leave on June 5th, and come home on June 9th. It didn’t make sense for either of us to go to the other to begin the journey because of our relative starting points in California, so we opted to meet just off I-5 in Los Banos because it was the least out of the way for Shannon and the most reasonable for me to get to. From there, we got back on the 5 and headed north towards Eureka. We hardly needed directions as Shannon has been going there throughout her life to visit her paternal grandmother. Additionally, her older sister now lives in the Santa Rosa area, which is conveniently on the way to Eureka. We made a stop in Santa Rosa in the early afternoon, and met Shannon’s sister and brother-in-law for lunch.
As we drove up, we searched hotels online and made hotel reservations at the Eureka Inn. From Los Banos to Eureka is about a 6 1/2 hour drive without any stops, and we figured we may as well make it scenic. The next detour we made on the trip was at the Chandelier Tree in Leggett, CA. Unfortunately, Shannon’s truck wouldn’t fit through this tree because of the height, so we settled for walking the property.
We left from there and continued the journey north. We made it to Eureka in the early evening, checked into the hotel, and settled in for the night.
The next morning, June 6th, we got up bright and early and drove north about an hour to the parks. These parks are particularly unique in the National Park System because there is no true park entrance or exit gate, and thus, no standard park entrance fee (though there are a couple areas that are pay areas, Fern Canyon being one of them).
Trail leading to Big Tree
Shannon hugging a tree
Base of a downed redwood on the trail
Peeking out from behind a BIG tree
To start the day we parked in the Big Tree Wayside parking area and sprayed copious amounts of bug spray on our bodies. Our first move was starting up Circle Trail and moving on to Cathedral Trees Trail before crossing the road with the intent of hiking Prairie Creek Trail and finding the Corkscrew Tree. During the latter part of our hike, we definitely got a little bit lost and ended up stumbling upon the tree we were in search of, but there are much worse places to be a little lost. On the way back to the hotel for the day, we stopped in Klamath for lunch. Across the street from the diner we ate at was a drive-thru tree, and Shannon was hell-bent on getting her truck through one, so we went. Spoiler alert, success was hers!
That night, we drove into town and met Shannon’s grandma for dinner. After eating, we went to Humboldt Bay for ice cream.
On the morning of June 7th, we made our way back into the parks early, and decided we would go to the visitor center to get a permit to hike Tall Trees Trail. The road to get to this trail is relatively narrow, tree-lined, and unpaved, and requires passing through a gate that is locked and the code is changed daily. The drive was easy, and we reached the trailhead quickly.
The trail starts with 800 feet of elevation change, going down in order to get to the Tall Trees loop area. This trail was the first we encountered with wildlife that wasn’t flying or trying to bite us – I could hardly contain myself upon finally getting to see banana slugs in person (sorry Shannon!).
The path became relatively leveled out just before reaching the loop portion that runs alongside a river. These trees seemed so diverse in form despite being in such a relatively small area, and the walk was relaxing.
When we were done in the park for the day, we headed south towards Eureka. We stopped in the town of Trinidad for lunch and to sight see.
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When we got to the hotel that night and were beat, so we decided to have burritos delivered to our room (yes, to the door of our room) from a local restaurant. They were AH-mazing.
Our final morning to go in the parks, we decided to stop for brunch on the way in downtown Arcata (also known as the cutest little town I’ve seen to date). We went to a local cafe where we could order crepes, and it was a delicious choice! When breakfast was done, we headed north with Fern Canyon on our minds. The 1 1/2 lane “road” that Davidson Road becomes looks like an extended, unintended off-roading adventure through Jurassic Park. This entire day in our trip blew my mind – most of the road in and the trail for the hike looked like it genuinely hadn’t been disturbed for 325 million years.
There were waterfalls on either side of the ferns that had an unclear point of origin
Yes, our pants match – no, we didn’t plan that
Boardwalk on the upper part of the loop
After we made it back from the trail, we decided to walk out on the beach.
From there, we decided to go to Patrick’s Point State Park. This area was a pay area, and there were a lot of campgrounds, but we also found some fun stone buildings and got to see some whales.
Shannon and I concluded the day with her grandma on the way back towards Eureka. That evening we went back to the hotel and began packing so we could leave as early as possible (and reasonable) the next morning.
The trip was so memorable, and was just the beginning of a string of adventures that Shannon and I have shared in. Since this big trip, the scale has been much smaller (mostly spending time on the Central Coast of California), but there are already more big trips in the works for the two of us, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Early flights are things I only willingly sign up for in special cases – this was one. Maddy, who has always been more like a sister to me than a friend, was graduating from Baylor after completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science in just 3 years. I was not only flying out to go to her graduation, I was to help her move from Waco, TX to Phoenix, AZ where she is set to start her Master’s Degree in the fall.
My mom, her parents, and I flew out just after 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 11th to start our journey to her. After we arrived in Dallas, we waited for her grandpa to land, got the car, and started our ~90 minute drive down to Waco. I had been to Texas during summer prior to this, but I forgot that the weather there can be just as bipolar as the weather in Colorado can, and before the day was up we experienced 2 rain storms and otherwise lovely weather.
After the parents checked into the hotel they were staying at, Maddy joined us and we made our way to the Magnolia Market Silos. As “Fixer Upper” fans, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to stop into the shop and check out what the grounds had to offer.
Prior to this trip, I did not expect the Silos to be located within the city. The property was, however, every bit as precious as I was expecting. We chose to go on the Thursday before graduation ceremonies started, and because of that it wasn’t too busy to fully enjoy the experience.
A glimpse of the inside of the market area
I will not miss an opportunity to take a picture in front of a cute old car
During our visit we got food from the on-site food trucks, bought our fair share of merchandise from the market, and made sure to hit the bakery and seed shop.
From the Silos, we decided to keep the shopping theme rolling and headed toward Spice Village, which is a single shop that contains and sells products for a bunch of smaller shops. Their products range from jewelry to clothes to home goods and novelty items. On the way in, we stopped for a drink at the bar next door called Cricket’s where Maddy’s mom got wine and the rest of us ordered their frozen Jack & Coke (which was delicious!). We spent a good hour or so wandering around there before heading to the hotel to pick up the rest of our group before heading to dinner.
Dinner for that night was at a BBQ restaurant called Uncle Dan’s that Maddy had stumbled upon about a year before – she accidentally walked in the back door and ran into the Uncle Dan who welcomed her and let her continue on her way to get to the dining area. We were all left stuffed, but not too stuffed to go back to Maddy’s apartment to sample the eclairs she had made that morning. From there, the parents headed back to the hotel, while Maddy, her friend Kailee, and I ended up having a game night.
First thing the next morning, we got up and met the parents so we could get the “Maddy” tour of Baylor.
Science building to the right, Rec center to the left
One of my favorite features – benches like this are common all over campus.
Pat Neff Hall
Our tour led us around the campus starting on one side of Pat Neff Hall, looping up the center mall, and around to the other side. On that far side is a statue of Judge Baylor, the namesake of the University. Apparently a tradition is to climb the statue to sit on his lap (it’s pretty worn down) and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to do it myself.
The last stop of our tour was at the Armstrong Browning Library, which was also a small museum of sorts and a study area. This building is gorgeous, featuring tons of stained glass windows and marble. We didn’t spend too much time here, but it was definitely worth the stop. I linked the history of the building above in the library’s name.
After we toured the campus, we went to brunch at IHOP. Once we had finished, it was about time for us to go back to the apartment/hotel to get ready for the ceremony.
Baylor’s graduation ceremony was relatively quick and efficient. Once it was over, our travel group and a few of Maddy’s friends met for dinner. When dinner was through, Maddy, Kailee, Julia (another friend of theirs), and I went back to campus and to the Waco Suspension Bridge to take more pictures.
On campus, the girls climbed the Judge Baylor Statue. After we started taking pictures on the Waco Suspension Bridge, Maddy and I were inspired to take pictures that were reminiscent of a picture she and I took years ago. On the way back to the car, we stopped at the Chisholm Trail sculptures.
Maddy with Judge Baylor
Maddy, Kailee, & Julia
A fun “recreation” of a picture taken of Maddy and I years ago at Fresno City College
Maddy & Kailee
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Climbing statues in dresses with Kailee
I was 115% sure I was going to fall off the other side if I turned around
From there, we made our way back to Maddy’s apartment where a group was gathering to have another night of games.
Saturday morning Maddy, Kailee, and I met the parents at a local restaurant called Cafe Cappuccino for breakfast (it was adorable and delicious). Once breakfast was done, we made our way to McLane stadium to walk the grounds there a little bit.
After the stadium, we headed to Maddy’s apartment to pack the clothing and furnishings she still had in the apartment into her car.
Once we were done with our business in Waco, Maddy and I headed towards San Antonio – the first stop in our drive to Phoenix. On our way, we stopped in Temple, TX at a rest stop on steroids (part of a chain) called Buc-ee’s just for the novelty of it.
Pressing on, we made it from Waco to San Antonio in about 3 hours. After checking into the hotel, we walked less than two blocks to get to the Alamo.
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Of the more interesting site facts for me included that most of it was rebuilt (very little of the original building exists) and that the original property holdings were surrounding to the front, not the back as the current lot might suggest. Something I appreciated most is that the original property lines on the current lot were marked by small plaques between pavers.
Once we finished with the Alamo, we made our way to the Riverwalk. Starting somewhere in the middle, we picked a direction and just started walking, taking in everything around us. After awhile, we realized we probably needed to find a place to eat, and after picking a direction to search in, found a place within minutes.
Dinner that night was at Casa Rio, the first restaurant to take advantage of the riverwalk. It was easy to see why their business had lasted so long on the river, and after splitting a liter of peach sangria we walked back to the hotel where we called it an early night.
The next day was little more than driving from San Antonio to Las Cruces, New Mexico. We did stop in Fort Stockton at a seemingly random Mexican restaurant called Taqueria Guadalajara (the closest to an actual website I could find).
Our only regret is that we have no real reason to go back to Fort Stockton, TX, ever again.
The journey continued along I-10 West, and we hit a point in the road close enough to the border that our cell carriers believed we had left the country and sent us “Welcome to Mexico!” auto-texts advising us of our rates (this has since been cleared up).
Late in the afternoon we made it to Las Cruces, NM, and settled for the night into our hotel room. There, we had a somewhat healthy meal at Cracker Barrel (I paired vegetables with dumplings and Maddy got a salad with fried chicken on it), I helped Maddy with the basics of WordPress (her newly created page for her wood signs can be found at Maddy Ave Marvels), and we turned on Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix.
On Monday, we were up relatively early (we both originally woke up at 4 a.m., had independent thoughts that we could just get on the road now and decided against it) and on the road to Phoenix.
For the most part, this drive was uneventful. We did see a few billboards we took interest in, one of which was for Steins Ghost Town. When we got to the exit we decided to get off and see what it might be. It was noteworthy in that (unless we missed something) we were pretty sure we had stumbled into something that was supposed to be a site to stop at, but had since become a residence for about 4 people and no one took down the billboards.
After re-entering the freeway, we finished our trip to Phoenix. We made it to the house around noon, which gave us plenty of time to unload the car and start unpacking the boxes in the house.
Despite making it to the house early in the day, everything the day entailed did a number on the two of us, and we decided the best course of action for the rest of the night was to have pizza delivered, put on pjs, curl up on the denim couch (aka the best couch ever) and get through a couple episodes of Sherlock.
The next morning, May 16th, I packed for my flight, and we decided we would use the time leading up to my departure to visit the Phoenix Zoo.
We got general admission tickets and spent about 3 hours there. One of the distinguishing features of this zoo is it’s monkey walk area – after taking an anthropology class on primates my last semester of college, it was really awesome to be in a situation where I can get that close to some of the smaller creatures I learned about. I also appreciated that the lemurs had a home on islands in the middle of a gorgeous pond just off of the “Tropics Trail.”
Pond containing Lemur islands
Monkey in the monkey walk
One of the many alligators in the zoo
Leaving was bittersweet. This was the first time I had gotten to spend any meaningful amount of time in Phoenix, and what I saw of it was lovely. Truth be told, I enjoyed getting to visit just about everywhere Maddy and I went. Road trips are truly a unique experience, and I’m thankful we had the flexibility in our schedule that a trip like this required. I’m grateful I got to help with this big move, and I’m so excited to see what Maddy does in her life from here!
Though I have always been intrigued by the Dapper Day events at (not hosted by) the Disney Parks, it has been a dream of Hannah’s to go to Disneyland during Dapper Day and participate. After she took me for my birthday in March 2015, we decided our next trip together would be sponsored by me so we could celebrate her birthday, and so we could do Dapper Day. The serious planning phase started around February 2016, and it was agreed that the soonest we could make the trip would be the spring of 2017.
When we learned that the Spring 2017 Dapper Day “Outing” event in Disneyland would be April 23, we planned around that. We discussed and concluded that our best bet would be to drive down Saturday, be in the park Sunday and Monday, and then drive home Tuesday.
As planned, Hannah and I left my house on Saturday around 9 a.m. with the intention of being able to avoid the traffic through LA on our way down (unfortunately, that is never actually the case). We checked in to the Disneyland Hotel around 2 p.m. and quickly settled into our room. That afternoon, we opted to walk Downtown Disney before returning to the hotel to camp out at Trader Sam’s.
The next day we got up early and headed to the park, all decked out in our Dapper Day outfits, ready to participate!
While I had done a partial day in flip-flops in the park, heels were a new mountain to conquer (spoiler alert: I lasted an hour). For those who are interested, we both got our dresses off of amazon.com and our shoes from DSW (my shoes are Journee Collection, Hannah’s are Crown Vintage).
From pictures, we went to the walk-up Mint Julep bar in New Orleans Square to get Mickey shaped beignets for breakfast. This particular Disney food is a favorite of Hannah’s that she got me hooked on during our 2015 trip together.
Once we were done, we started on rides in Adventureland and New Orleans Square. The morning included Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. We also walked through Tarzan’s Treehouse.
Before leaving that area, we checked out a fun detail in the park to the right of the FastPass line for Indiana Jones – the home of Peter Begorra, a little man of Disney that had his own “gold book.”
We moved towards Big Thunder Mountain and Fantasyland from there. For this trip, the rides we had to do were Alice in Wonderland and the teacups. We ended up adding on the Storybook canal boats and Casey Jr. train, and Hannah got to see her favorite princess.
After that, we both needed beverages from Market House *wink wink* and so we went there before heading toward the plaza outside Town Hall to wait for the Dapper Dans. At 1:15 on the dot we heard their voices carrying down Main Street U.S.A from where we had just been, so we wandered down. After their set, we were lucky enough to get a picture with them!
As we left the Dapper Dans, my dear friend Paul made it to the park, so we met him near the Plaza Inn. We made our way to the Mark Twain Riverboat for pictures – Hannah and I begrudgingly put our shoes back on and the three of us boarded the boat. On the second floor of the three floor riverboat, there was a live band performing. It’s interesting to see how Disney doesn’t put on Dapper Day themselves, but they are active participants and do what they can to not only acknowledge the event, but contribute to the experience.
From the Rivers of America we made our way across the park to Tomorrowland so we could ride Space Mountain and drive through Autopia. After that, we switched parks and rode Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, got pizza, and all three of us squeezed into a clam shell to go through Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. Around that time we all parted ways and Hannah and I went back to our hotel room to get ready for dinner. We wandered downstairs for our Steakhouse 55 reservation and were seated almost immediately. Hannah got filet mignon, I got the salmon, we split a side of parmesan scalloped potatoes, and then had a vanilla bean creme brûlée for dessert. We both got adult beverages to accompany our dinner – Hannah got a sangria and I got a Maker’s Mark and Coke.
After dinner, we changed and headed back to the park. Originally, the intent was to see the 8:30 showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade, but we didn’t even make it to the park until then, so we beelined through Adventureland ahead of the parade path on Main Street U.S.A. to ride Indiana Jones and Haunted Mansion a second time. After hearing an announcement that it was too windy for fireworks, we made our way to Main Street to find a place on the curb for the second run of the Main Street Electrical Parade. We found a spot outside of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Hannah went inside and got us ice cream, and we waited for the parade to start. Being the second run of the night, it went from the Fire Station back towards Small World (rather than the opposite, which is the path for the earlier showing).
Super Honest Confession: I wasn’t impressed with the parade. at. all. If you know me, you know this is historically one of my favorite parades to the point where I refused to sit through Paint the Night because I thought it was going to be a knockoff. I have vivid memories of being 3 on my dad’s shoulders watching the parade from Main Street, and throughout my childhood wore out a VHS tape of the parade because I loved it so much. I understand that over the course of decades, things will degrade, but for the love of all that is sacred, please do not think it is acceptable to give Tinkerbell and her fairy friends a section of the parade when they were not a focus of Disney until the 2000’s, nor is it necessary to add dancers to the Pinocchio section. If the floats are down, drop the area entirely or keep the parade off the lineup until the problem is remedied. Despite that rant, I do have a few accolades. I was so happy to have the original feelings I had upon seeing the train coming down Main Street, the Alice in Wonderland section with the little animals was still as adorable and quirky as I remember, I appreciate that the characters now have a few extra lights incorporated into the costuming (especially the headpieces so you can see their faces), Pete’s Dragon was present in all it’s glory, and the America finale float and it’s dancing troop were seemingly untouched. I was also excited to see the Dwarves and the mine train intact, and to see the Cinderella section was mostly untouched.
When the parade was over, we decided we had gotten our money’s worth for the day and headed to our room for the night.
The next morning, the parks opened a little later, so we got to sleep in (for us) a little bit. Our plan was to go into Disneyland and have Plaza Inn for breakfast, but when the lines for Disneyland entrance were all the way across the plaza to the entrance for California Adventure at a quarter to nine, we opted to go to Starbucks in Downtown Disney instead. This reserve store is SO cool, and being a nearly 6 month partner now, I have a different appreciation of how the store is set up and everything they offer.
When we finished we headed into California Adventure, which was not slated to open to the public until 10 a.m., but we got a magic morning for staying at a Disney hotel. Once inside, we got a FastPass for Soarin’ and then made our way to Toy Story Midway Mania. I know many people who are upset that Soarin’ Over California was done away with and it changed to a world view, but I have to say, the new version is beautifully done.
Once we left Soarin’ from our FastPass usage, we moved to Ariel’s Undersea Adventure for a second ride. PSA: If you’re in line for a ride, it is rude to hold up that line (which is otherwise essentially a walk-on) so that it backs up onto a major walkway to take pictures of a mini-show for 15 minutes. If you want to watch, exit the line, the ride will still be there.
Following our trip under the sea, we got in the queue for Cove Bar, and I opted to wait for a table on the water. Paul joined us once more on our adventures. All three of us ordered drinks off the *official* secret menu. From left to right, Hannah got a Neverland Tea, Paul got an Earthquake, and I got a Fun Wheel, all of which are plays on a Long Island Ice Tea.
After Cove Bar, Hannah and I needed to swing by the room, and Paul joined us (he hadn’t seen the rooms in the Disneyland Hotel since the remodel). On our way back out, we opened the elevator doors to find Pluto wandering the halls, so naturally we asked if we could take a picture with him.
After our brief trip to the room, we opted to go to Disneyland for the Tiki Room and some Dole Whip. We rode the monorail from the hotel into Tomorrowland (something I hadn’t done in years) and by that time they were doing test runs on the Matterhorn which had been down for refurbishment, so the water was running. I got the lovely picture below while walking down the steps from the monorail platform..
After the Tiki Room, Paul had to leave us once more. Hannah and I made another pass through Haunted Mansion before walking through the shops in New Orleans Square. I also took the opportunity to do something I’ve never done before – I got a diagnosis from Shrunken Ned the Jungle Witch Doctor in the Adventureland shops and paid for a fortune from the Pirate near Pieces of Eight (but I ended up with 3).
Getting my diagnosis from Shrunken Ned
Hannah’s list of things she had to do on the trip included walking through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, so we made that the next stop on our tour.
We decided to make Cars Land the next stop from our Castle walk-through, so we headed toward that park. We took a few detours, however, to walk through some of the shops in Hollywood Land. After riding Radiator Springs Racers, I realized I needed mac and cheese in a bread cone from the Cozy Cone Motel.
After my cone, we wandered over and rode Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, followed by a final round of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
We went back to the hotel from there because it had cooled off significantly in the park (truth be told, the whole day had been relatively overcast). When we got back, we went to Disneyland because Hannah had the idea to get castle pictures at dusk. This was followed by dinner at Pizza Port in Tomorrowland. From there, it got dark quickly, so we decided to make our way over to Big Thunder Mountain. On our way, we stopped to get a picture of the “Partners” statue with the castle lit behind it.
Big Thunder Mountain is one of the rides in the park that only gets better as the night goes on, and we were lucky enough to get the last row on the train for this ride.
The last thing on Hannah’s to-do list was get a Mickey pretzel and cheese, so we made our way to the nearest pretzel stand. We got her pretzel and moved on to sit by the Rivers of America outside the entrance to Pirates so we had a view of Frontierland and the Riverboat lit up.
Once the pretzel was consumed, we decided to take one last trip among the dead at the Haunted Mansion and one more trip through Pirates of the Caribbean (two days after the fact we were very upset that we missed Johnny Depp on his most recent ride-crashing by one day). After Pirates, we called it a night on our Disney trip.
Tuesday morning we both got up relatively early and explored the grounds of the hotel prior to checkout. The Rose Court had just been visited by the landscapers and looked beautiful.
Overall, the trip was great and Dapper Day was a major success. I am definitely going to be looking for more reasons to wear my dress and shoes from the day, and am not opposed to participating in Dapper Day again in the future.