From A to Z

Arches to Zion- Utah is a land of plenty. Tall spires, deep canyons, trails and climbs, this place is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Our travels finally bringing us south (after almost 12 hours in the car!) delivered us to Arches National Park, a place I have always wanted to visit. These spacious lands dotted with back bending arches and towering formations are almost beyond imagination. The soil is deep rusty red in color, thanks to the iron content in the earth, providing the landscape with a stunning spectacle of rich contrast against the vivid blue skies.

We struck gold finding one of the very few campgrounds along the Colorado River that allowed for shade (which is completely necessary when the heat competes with Hell). The trees also provided the perfect spot for us to hang our hammock. Shortly after setting up camp, we drove into the park, following the other summer park goers, along the scenic route where walls and crazy rock formations popped up one after the next. It’s not a huge park and were able to see most of what we wanted within a couple of days. Of course, you can take much longer to explore deeper- there are many hiking trail options available. We did a few smaller hikes while ooing and aahing at the grand beauty that sprawled out before us. 

Next up was Zion National Park. It seemed eerily familiar having lived in Sedona, AZ previously. I have been told numerous times that Zion is like Sedona on crack. It’s true. The landscape is comparable in its similarities. It was ultimately decided to forego the tourist attractions of the park in place of a 2 night backpacking trip 5 miles into Kolob Canyon. Now, I am comfortable hiking being married to the outdoor man I am but typically they are hikes no more than a mile or 2 and don’t normally involve carrying 30-40lbs on my back. This felt a bit more intimidating to me. Fortunately we had staying in a comfortable hotel room the night before complete with a jacuzzi tub, so it had given me an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate my mind, body and emotional self. We had laid out the minimal amount of supplies needed for this adventure and packed our packs the morning of our trip. Well slept and well fed, it was time to venture into the great unknown.

The hike itself wasn’t actually as bad as I had anticipated with the exception of the heat and the fact that I had a searing pain shooting out of my shoulder blade, down into my arm and into my right hand but luckily I am married to a massage therapist (a great guy to have around when tired and sore!). A few stops and breaks for snacks along the way, finally counting the down the number of campsites till arriving at ours. Once again, our site was perfectly located just above a creek with a perfect little swimming hole.

Camping is one thing. Camping in the middle of monsoon season, quite another. The dark clouds took their time but nevertheless rolled in above our heads. We are always prepared for this kind of thing- we have a fly for our tent and a tarp to crouch under during stormy weather. The first evening was spent crouching under said tarp, trying to keep the tarp from catching fire as the wind blew and we cooked over husbands backpacking stove (which is different from our normal camping stove). We ate a slightly mushy meal of chinese noodles and shortly went to bed after.

The next day was sunny and hot. My body weary from our hike the day prior, I decided to spend my time lounging on a large flat rock by the creek while baking in the sun. Reading, sleeping, reading and eating. The husband always ready to explore took off for a couple of hours to check out the surrounding areas. Not a cloud in the sky, the day was beautiful and quickly came to an end. Retiring to the tent for the night once again (and not so comfortably- a super thin camping pad and lightweight sleeping bag does not equal a hotel bed by any means). It was quiet with only the sounds of crickets chirping in the background. Until it wasn’t. I don’t know where the storm came from but it came fast and hard. Thunder, lightening and the fear of flash flooding when your only form of shelter is a tent for two, does NOT make for an easy and restful night sleep! Every worst case scenario was floating through my mind. The headline of my death reading something to the likes of “Young married couple died while holding hands in their sleep, killed by bolt of lightening and found floating downstream”. Thankfully it never came to that and we woke up alive though exhausted and ready to pack it out and head back to civilization. 

This was the last of the camping experiences on our trip. I have loved sleeping under the stars and exploring new landscapes of this beautiful America, but am planning to enjoy living in the lap of luxury as we enjoy our final destination of Las Vegas, Nevada. As much as I love camping, I am also in no hurry to pitch our tent again anytime soon.



ImageBoise, Idaho. It’s certainly not an area frequently advertised in destination brochures. And it’s not that I had ever thought anything negative about the city, frankly it has just never been on my radar. The only association I had ever had with Idaho (along with most others I am sure) is “home of the potato”. Well, I must say that it far exceeded any (or lack of) expectations I had! What a pleasant little place! Boise rings of a sweet mix of Portland, Oregon meets high desert- an oasis of green in the heart of the city with sprawling, vast and open landscapes beyond its borders- mostly conservative housing a healthy level of Mormon population with pockets of liberal, hipster and granola type folk- mild winters, plentiful sunlight and an array of outdoor activities for all ages. Could it be? Is this the “perfect” place the husband and I have spent our lives seeking?

The only actual reason we had given any thought to visiting was that a dear friend of our had recently relocated there to cohabitate with his awesome girlfriend. After spending close to a week camping in the woods, they had graciously opened up their home and welcomed us with a bed, shower and most delicious dinner. We always enjoy ourselves around good friends and good food. This time was no different. Image

Though we were on vacation, our friends were not so we spent the day cruising around this unknown place, walking the streets and taking in the sights. Our extremely artistic and talented friend Aaron had drawn us a map to downtown highlighting the best route to get there. We did a little shopping, stopped for dessert and then did a little hiking. A movie was also taken in before heading back to the house to dine at a lovely establishment thanks to Brown Betty as a most reliable mode of transportation (Aaron’s “vintage” VW van). 

Our hospitable friends are also fellow camping lovers so we all packed up and drove out. Deep in the heart of the Boise National Forest, we found a pristine spot on the Boise River. The beach was sandy and white while the water was crystal clear providing us with an idyllic, granted cold, swimming spot. It was private, it was quiet and it was beautiful. Meg brought her dog Koa, which normally I would have slightly complained about (as anyone who knows me knows I am not the biggest dog lover) but this dog is super cool and actually kind of made me like dogs a little more. He’s really not irritating and added to the humor and playfulness of the weekend. We also ate really well! Turns out camping cuisine does not have to be dull and boring at all when you have a duel stove top and dutch oven. There were even appetizers. 

ImageProbably the highlight of the weekend had to be learning to hold and shoot a gun(s) for the first time. I felt it really got me in touch with my inner badass/redneck. Aaron has been a lover of the sport for some time and came fully stocked and loaded. A .22 shotgun, a .357 revolver and a .45 1911 WWI/II era were the weapons of choice. Naturally we made sure we were in a safe area with no other humans around to get caught in the line of fire. I can also honestly say that I have a whole new level of appreciation and respect for the power these weapons contain.

It was a wonderful, fun and adventure filled weekend with good laughs and awesome company. We now have an excellent reason to revisit this newly discovered happy land and look forward to next time. Boise, ID. Who knew?

Aw, Hell.

Even after spending 2 1/2 years living in Oregon we never made it to the eastern side of the state. Until now. I definitely give Mother Nature two thumbs up as it is absolutely beautiful! We had become so accustomed to the groves of forest on the western side of the state that we were in awe at the vast beauty of the open spaces we had traveled upon. Image

Having seen photos in a few Oregon magazines, we decided we wanted to see Hells Canyon. The drive to it was just as spectacular as the canyon itself. Once again, we found ourselves in search of our next home (aka campground) and found a large space right on a creek. It seems not too many people are fond of camping in the heat of the summer so we pretty much had the entire campground to ourselves. Unpacking and setting up has become a bit of a ritual at this point and therefore moves along rather quickly. I set up the tent and the husband prepares dinner. I don’t know if it has been intentional this entire time but it seems we keep holing up near water which is awesome when the temp is nearing (if not above) 100 degrees! Much of our time here was spent exploring the water, hiking up and down the creek bed looking for the perfect sunbathing spot. And the nice thing about isolation is the privacy for skinny dipping!

ImageI’m always amazed at the abundance of wildflowers that grow along the roadside even desert like areas. Driving up to the Hells Canyon lookout, we were cast with colors of purples, yellow, reds and oranges, all blossoming out the sides of rocks. The lookout that was waiting for us was a majestic vision of contrast within the landscape. We learned that Hells Canyon is the deepest gorge in North America.The Snake River winds its way through continuing to shape it. I suppose it is similar in that way to the Grand Canyon. 

Another adventure come and gone, a new place explored and more fun had. Continuing eastward and slowly but surely making our way back home. Our trip more than halfway done but not over yet!

Fruit of the Loop

Hood River, Oregon is kind of like Eden. The land is lush with orchards, Mt. Hood peaking as a backdrop and smells of fruit permeate the air around you. We watched coastal Oregon fade away in our rear view mirrors and started making our way east. There was a brief stop in Portland to catch up over sushi and a hike with a former Ashland friend and then on-wards. We had been to Hood River once before and I had always wanted to return.

Unlike our time previous when we had stayed in a posh vacation house, we were planning to camp. It took us awhile to find the most idyllic spot, passing over a crowded campground on a lake, but when we did it was worth it. Not an official campsite but you can get just about anywhere with the right vehicle! Up the mountain we rode, finding a little dirt path off-shoot that we could get the truck up. The view was perfect. Mt. Hood looming over our site as if to keep a watchful eye over us. As the sun set, the colors on the mountain shifted from a striking white to glorious pink and then to a softening shade of purple.

Camp was set up and it was time to relax. Or so we thought. As we prepared our meal for the evening and kept the fire ablaze, we kept hearing a strange sounds coming from the dark, night capped forest. It starts out as one of those things where you are not sure if you are just hearing things or not. A sound echoes and you pause to listen. Nothing. Then it comes again. And you do the same. Finally, you do hear it (and fortunately the husband heard it too!) and realize you are not crazy and there is something actually there. We never actually saw anything but it was still a bit nerve racking. I was assured that it was not a bear or mountain lion sound so that helped a bit but nevertheless kept a large stick and hatchet nearby. The husband was pretty sure it was a couple of deer or elk communicating across our campsite. I felt the need to apologize for getting between their conversation. 

After surviving the night of eerie sounds, we packed it up and drove back down the mountain to check out a fruit stand we had visited once before. The Draper Girls Country Farm is a charming little spot where during this time of year, you can pick your own strawberries. After perusing the antique shop and purchasing 2 amazingly delicious homemade mini pies and a bag of the sweetest rainier cherries, we strolled our way back to the strawberry patch. Even just standing in the middle of the patch, you could smell the sweet fragrance of the strawberries in the air. We filled up our pint and decided to spend some time lounging in the gardens, swing from the tree swing and eat one of those amazing pies. It was a picture perfect day and one that will remain in my memory for years to come.

Familiar places and faces

ImageI love coming back to our old stomping grounds. Every time we are in Ashland we are greeted with hugs, squeals and smiles. We lived here for about 2 1/2 years, which isn’t terribly long, but this is just the type of town that is easy to flow right back in to. It is comfortable in the best way and we feel at ease hopping from one favorite spot to another.

We arrived Saturday, with rains battering our truck and just enough time to spend with our lovely hostess (thank you Arica!) before we had to get ready for our other friends wedding. We donned our best (and looked quite spiffy I might add) and headed up the mountain. The wedding was taking place at the top of Mt. Ashland at the ski lodge. It is still June mind you, so the weather can be unpredictable. Rains were pouring in town but as we climbed, those little water droplets quickly transformed into snowflakes. Initially, the ceremony was to take place outdoors but it was obvious that this was no longer going to happen. The delicate flakes that danced around our vehicle suddenly became a sideways blizzard with almost whiteout conditions. The husband dropped me off at the door which was ever so gentlemanly of him as I was not dressed for the occasion- a little black dress and red heels is not snow weather attire. I found a familiar face and was directed to the bridal dressing area where I was welcomed with anticipating and happy faces. The wedding was beautiful of course and we ate, danced and spent the evening laughing uproariously.

Apparently, we arrived during a cold front because the next day was full of ominous clouds and sprinkling rains as well. After waking, we made our way to one of our favorite parks where I used to have weekly hoop jams. Which is why we were there this day! I got out the hoops, waited for the friends to arrive and spent an hour twirling and swirling until we all decided we were famished and ready for sushi! Now Kobe is one of my all-time favorite places to eat in Ashland. The crunchy cheese roll is out of this world amazing- almost dessert like. Stuffing ourselves silly and leaving with the biggest smile on my face, we were ready for darts at the Black Sheep! So many epic and fun memories have been spent here and this time was no less great. More friends arrived and we stayed until closing time. Image

Of course by this point, you are pretty wiped out but since you are on vacation and have such a short period of time with your amazing friends, you suck it up and keep going. We were a bit more lazy and struggled getting out of bed by day 3 but we felt we should get out. We wandered to a place we have driven past many times but never spent time at. The trails and gardens at the North Mountain Nature Center are beautiful! I have always dreamed of having gardens like these in my backyard but now that we are in the desert, the possibilities are not quite the same. We strolled along some of the paths, took a nap in the grass but the rain was back again (that’s Oregon for ya), so we left and went to a friends house to hot tub (and yes, I am using that as a verb). Soaking and relaxing so deeply that it was hard not to fall asleep, is just awesome. Soon it was once again time to prepare for the evenings next outing- jazz at Martinos- which used to be one of our Monday night rituals. My girlfriend has been singing with the jazz trio for a couple of years and she gets better and better every time I see her perform!

Yesterday was spent walking Main Street to do some shopping. And cupcake eating. Larry’s has the best cupcakes and I make it a point to go anytime I am in town! The sun had finally come out so our walkabout was much more enjoyable. The time had come and our final evening was upon us. And what better way to spend it than with a BBQ and gathering of our closest friends? The food was amazing of course. We drank wine, cuddled and giggled, smoked from the hookah, took endless photos and sighed through the night at our upcoming departure. 

So here I am on our final morning, cleaning up the happy messes from the blissful night before and reliving the wonderful events of our time spent in this heart warming town. I will be out of touch for the next number of days as we backpack along the Rogue River and ultimately make our way a bit south to the Redwoods. To our favorite places, super amazing friends and more memories to someday come- thank you all! Ashland, you will always hold a place in our hearts. We love you!

LA- Not just for celebrities

ImageLos Angeles. Admittedly I have never given it much credit. I have really never thought it to be much more than a smog filled, superficial, soul sucking town. But alas, it is full of vibrant personality and colorful individuals. The faces were friendly and in a city known for its reputation of health obsessed alternatives, it didn’t disappoint. We will begin this particular post with a visit to Hugo’s, a wonderful breakfast nook with lots of tasty options. As our waitress approached and I prepared to order my hot chocolate, I was slightly (but joyfully) taken aback with my milk choices. The following is a snippet of our conversation. Me “I’ll have a hot chocolate please.” Pleasant waitress “Would you like that with skim, 2%, whole, soy, rice or almond milk?” Me “Almond please!” Pleasant waitress “Wonderful!” Now where else does one get so many options? We grazed hungrily over our plates while conversing with a lovely new friend we had been “set up” with. Soon breakfast was over, we hugged, said our farewells and parted ways.

Prior to this day (the day of our arrival) the husband and myself landed ourselves in Korea town to meet with a friend. She and I have been dear friends since middle school and had not seen one another in 7 years or so. Tom N Toms is a coffee beanery with a similar vibe to Starbucks. We all ordered our mochas and lattes and sat, chatting away the next 5 hours. It was a wonderful all-inclusive catch up sesh and we were sad to see it end but it was late and we needed to find our sleeping quarters for the night. Image

High up in the misty hills we found our castle. This place was magical. The kind of place where the rich aroma of flora permeates the air and fills your nose with a sweet fragrance. The kind of place where hummingbirds and faeries frolic and play. Where the land is lush with green and dew droplets dance on blades of grass. If not for the high rent, location and the fact that it is not zoned for commercial use, it would be the perfect place for MoonStruck (see Here is where we laid our heads to rest for 2 nights sleep and dreamed of faraway lands…

Our final day, after breakfast at the milk selection place, we trucked across the vast city to Knotts Berry Farm. For those readers not aware, this “farm” is actually a giant amusement park. The first in the country actually. Filled with enough thrills, rides and coasters to allow you to relive your breakfast experience, we made our way from one 30 second ride to another. This is a slow process since the wait to get onto these thrills will have you standing in line anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. If you are not one for patience, I do not recommend this. It wouldn’t even be quite so bad if it weren’t for the ridiculous conversations you have no choice but to overhear from the tween generation. I’m sure I am aging myself by even discussing this (and I’m only 30!) but c’mon! It is hilarious to listen to and realize how far I have come in my life. Things that now seem completely insignificant to me are of the utmost importance to a 14 year old. But, so it goes. Image

In the end, LA was a fun visit. Could I live here? Probably not. The constant go, go, go energy (which is ironic considering you always seem to find yourself in gridlock traffic) of this city can make for a confusing and ultimately exhausting undertaking. However, my recent exposure will allow me to embrace future ventures into this bustling city.