Wake Up Early. Go the Extra Mile. Bring a Friend.

I love California. I could ramble off a long list of reasons why I have called this state home for the last 10 years of my life, but for the purpose of this post – I’ll stick to one main reason – adventure at our fingertips.  

As an avid hiker and lover of all things outdoors, a friend of mine and I got the recommendation to journey 30 minutes outside of our current bubble and explore a new hike in the Easy Bay. (For my non-Bay Area friends – the San Francisco is the “Bay” and the 60-75 mile stretch from the “North Bay” (North of San Francisco – Napa, Sonoma, Marin, etc…) and the “South Bay” (San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, etc…) and also the “East Bay” (Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Walnut Creek, etc) and the “Silicon Valley” (essentially, the West of the Bay – Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, etc).

So we woke up extra early for a Saturday morning (ouch) and carpooled out to Fremont at 6:00am – stopping for Starbucks first.

Our destination – Mission Peak Regional Preserve (East Bay Regional Park District Website: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/).

We were advised to get there by 6:30am – which was the goal, but the coffee didn’t kick in soon enough and it took us an additional 15 minutes to find the trail parking lot (off Mission/Stanford Ave – behind the housing developments). And in that extra 15 minutes, the entire trail parking lot was already full (way before the sun came up) and we had to park a few blocks down the hill (appropriate as “hill” was the theme for the day) and down the street once we could find a parking spot. If parking is any indicator of popularity, we could already tell this was going to be worth it.

The bottom of the trail (at least this trail start) has a few porta-potties and picnic benches – so come prepared with your own water (snacks and hand-sanitizer) the trail head is pretty much an invitation to hit the trail – but (very) limited amenities.

Depending on when you start your hike, you’ll definitely want to check the weather temperature. We knew it would be low 50’s and dark when we started, but there was a great deal of dew and moisture in the air – and a fair amount of mist. I had hiking boots in the car, but ended up wearing my running shoes since judging by pictures, the trail looked pretty carved out. There were only a few (2-3) areas with lose gravel that made me wish I had my boots – but nothing smart foot placement and a cautious pace couldn’t handle. I also had gloves and a warm hat which came in handy as we got closer to the top. As the elevation increased, the temperature actually got colder (especially if you plan to make the climb before the sun comes up).

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From step 1 on the trail, you can be within feet of grazing cattle who aren’t even phased by your presence. It was a beautiful start to the day being able to see these cattle and near coyotes waking up in the distance. The howling of the baby coyotes trying to find their pack off in the distance was a a little eerie at first but a pretty cool reminder that we’re visiting – but this is their home.

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it – the path to the top is a CLIMB. Based on my GPS watch (Garmin Forerunner 945), it was 2,244 feet of elevation gain on the 3.43 miles to the top of Mission Peak. My suggestion – spot something in the distance (like a park bench or directional post) and commit to walking non-stop from point to point. The smaller goals take your mind off the fact that you could look up at any minute and realize that you still have so much farther to go… Your calves, hamstrings and glutes will be on fire – but think of it this way, you could pay $30+ an hour for a workout class and not work your (literal) booty off this hard – so be grateful for the free burn (your wallet and a$$ will thank you later… just not the next day (like today) where todays theme is “Sore & Hungry”).

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The recent rain made for some amazing lush and green landscapes. The entire trail was framed by green grass as beautiful rolling hills – topped off with soft clouds brushing the tops of the mountains.
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About 1/2 way up, there were a handful of rock formations like these. It was pretty cool to see, but don’t think to deep into it. Hikers were knocking these down and re-stacking them. While they look cool, they aren’t of spiritual or cultural landmarks… just well balanced rocks. And my creative angles caught the top to bottom view of these, but they aren’t more than 18 inches tall. Sorry if you thought it was bigger – it was cold outside, haha.
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Moments like this totally made the morning – just over 3/4 the way up to the top, you turn and realize that you’ve made it to the east side of the mountain. From that point on (and again, based on our start time) we were greeted by the sun – almost as if the sun was on a race with us to meet at the peak of the trail.

While we fancied ourselves of the “more fit” of those attempting the hike that morning, peoples of all abilities made it to the top and there were 4-5 benches along the trail for people to stop and rest if needed. And the incline was hard, but it never got to the point where you would need an arm rail or need to use your upper body to climb.

The top has a unique pole that everyone stops to take a picture with – the true “I did it” badge of honor to show that you’d climbed Mission Peak.

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Love this girl! Anyone who willingly wants to meet at 6:00am for an intense outdoor workout in the cold is a “ride or die” personality you want in your life – and the quality time to catch up, laugh and connect is the icing on the cake to any workout or adventure!

Just as we reached the peak, we heard a large group singing Happy Birthday with plastic cups filled with champagne to toast the birthday girl (Note to Self: Surround yourself with friends like that).

We took photos for the people who made the ascent before us – and the people behind us took our photos – the natural understanding and sense of community that I hope people carry back down the mountain and into their everyday lives. After the 3.4 miles of climbing I loved how strangers made sure they took the perfect picture for you – because they also understand what it took to get to the top (including the shared muscle fatigue and exhaustion).

Our timing – even with the 15 minutes of getting lost looking for the trail head – could not have been better. We got to the top to meet the sunrise – and take some pretty awesome pictures to welcome the sun and celebrate the climb!

 

For the anyone wondering “How did you get those photos?!?!” (the most popular question I get on my posts) – I use my iPhone for candids up and down the trail and used my GoPro Hero 8 Black to capture these awesome (and high resolution) photos.

 

I’m sure some people had no idea what we were doing – but we didn’t care. We were going for capturing the moment, excitement and accomplishment… and handstands for the sake of doing handstand!

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And if the climb (I have to reiterate CLIMB) to the top wasn’t rewarding enough, we had an equally enjoyable time back down the trail. And to our surprise, with the sun up we got to see more of our surroundings and the breathtaking Jurassic Park-vibes the trail was serving that morning…

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And the morning mist I was low-key complaining about when we got started, showcased its true value to us on the way down as we had this beautiful rainbow paint the sky in front of us the entire hike back down to the trail head.

It wasn’t till hours after the hike (and a much needed nap) I took a good look back at these pictures and saw the subtle double-rainbow that wasn’t visible to us in the moment.

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Overall, it was another great day to be alive and a beautiful adventure in California. I strongly suggestion Mission Peak for anyone wanting to see the East Bay from a new point of view – and get in a solid leg workout!

Wake Up Early (like at 5:45am on a Saturday)…

Go the Extra Mile (or 3.4 miles each way…)

Bring a Friend (to share the experience with…)

If you know of any other fun Bay Area adventure, please let me know and comment or send me a message! I’m eager to share this trail with friends and excited to see what next adventure is on the horizon!

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Appreciating Earth – Today and Everyday (especially on Earth Day)

We live in the beautiful state of California – where we have gorgeous beaches, spectacular mountains, rolling hills and more outdoor adventures than you can count.

But none of that actually counts, unless you take advantage of it!

It’s hard to find time to be adventurous and take time to disconnect – but it’s not impossible with strategic planning and sticking to tight schedules.

In honor of Earth Day (and the needed mental break), this past weekend we loaded up Black Beauty (our all black Ford Explorer Sport) and rented an AirBNB in the mountain range north of Santa Barbara. It was remote, not “that” easy to get too and a total change of pace and vibe from our lives in Silicon Valley. An afternoon drive (and a few Starbucks stops) is all it took to make our way down the 101 along the amazing coast and we were there.

We have become pretty good at the whole “road trip” thing this year. We’ve got the perfect car cooler that keeps all of our drinks and snacks chilled (and was perfect to keep grocery’s cold with our AirBnB being a healthy trip up the mountain). We know exactly how to set up the dog bed, harness and supplies needed to bring our dog (aka most important member of the family) along with us.

Side Note: If you travel with your dog, you need to purchase an AutoDogMug! It’s a water bottle with a small bowl attached to the top that allows you to squeeze water into the bowl and releasing the bottle sucks the additional water back into the bottle so you can easily offer your four legged friend some H2O by reaching over into the back seat and not have to worry about spilling or splashing!

Speaking of coolers and supplies- we have built a solid arsenal of supplies that you can’t Road Trip without…

  • Folding Chairs
  • Beach/Picnic Blanket
  • Collapsible Tent
  • First Aid Kit (and lots of sunscreen)
  • Cooler (mentioned above)
  • Charging accessories
  • Beach Towels
  • Dog Gate

And while that list sounds like a lot, it really doesn’t take up much in the car – and if you shop around you can find items that stack really well or fold flat to maximize trunk space. Anyone have any Road Trip “must haves” that we are missing?!?!

Our beach blanket lives in the car year round. It has hosted many picnics (in random parks and parking lots – especially when traveling with pets who aren’t allowed in most dining establishments), provided a cool surface when the street was too hot for puppy feet and has been more than clutch when changing tires or covering items we didn’t want see by passerby’s.

But back to our much needed “disconnect” and #ED18 (Earth Day, duh) – our AirBNB exceeded our expectations. Yeah, it was 30+ minutes from the closest grocery store and you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to it but it was 100% worth the extra haul – I could explain to you in detail why, but I’m confident the pictures below paint a pretty convincing case…

After the climb up the steep and single lane mountain road, we turned into a long gravel packed driveway that led to the coolest little cottage nestled at the top of a succulent rich landscape surrounded by lush trees and greenery. *Spotted Caesar (@Caesar_Johnson_JRT)The grounds had so many trails and paths, each one made you feel like you were exploring corners of the property never seen before – but small terra-cotta pots or clay creatures were hidden in the landscape to remind you that every inch was a part of the master plan. And if the views weren’t spectacular enough, there were about half a dozen wind-chimes scattered around the property which let you hear the ocean breeze as it climbed up the mountain, added to the soundtrack nature played and set the mood for exploring and adventuring. I’m mad that I didn’t get any pictures of the ceramic fish that I kept finding along the property – I want to find a similar one to hide in our backyard to remind me of this weekend and this property!The entire landscapes flowed naturally as if Mother Nature went above and beyond to spoil this area – but the level of detail was due to Mother Nature, one absolutely killer landscape architect and very detailed oriented gardener. We have a decent yard at home, but being able to let our dog run free around the property and take in the sights and smells made this trip extra special knowing every member (fur not not) enjoyed the retreat!

The vibrant blues and greens throughout the property echoed the clear blue skies and teal green ocean views in the distance.

This mountain retreat was so high and had such clear views that you could literally see the “line where the sky meets the sea…” (any Moana fans out there?!?!)

Does anyone know what this dinosaur of a plant is called? There were hundreds of them everywhere in Santa Barbara and along the coast and I really want them incorporated into our backyard landscape (that is – when we figure out what it is we plan on doing back there).

While the plan was to sleep in and enjoy the mini-vacation, the sun greeted us bright and early and the birds seemed to sing extra loud and extra early this weekend – and we didn’t mind the change of schedule one bit. Watching the sun rise from the east and seeing the rays of light Peak through this large tree was amazing… we went a little outside of the property line (whoops) to capture this picture. Totally worth the risk of tetanus climbing through the rusty barbed wire to get here, but I wish the photo was able to capture the soothing movement of the tall blades of grass as the wind swept through.While Caesar enjoyed chasing ground squirrels, scaring lizards from under plants and “watering” everything and anything under the sun we enjoyed finding different species of succulents and plants we can only dream of growing in our yard.

Some of the plants were the largest we had ever seen, giving us very Jurassic Park vibes.

I wish we had more time to explore all of the paths and trails carved out on the property, but the few we found were plenty enough for the weekend and beautiful reminders of Mother Nature’s beauty.

You can see some of the paths in the photo below with large stairways blocked out by large pieces of stone.

The view below is from the trail that took us just above the property our cottage sat on. It’s views like these that make you start planning what monumental life occasion could be staged here?!?! A friends wedding, a renewal of vows… OR yet another millennial photo pretending to be deep in thought so I can post it later with a meaningless quote (we all know that is coming).I have zero guilt in shameless selfies when there were so many picture perfect moments to take advantage of. But even Caesar was over taking photos after our first day exploring the property…

He was originally sitting on the bottom rock in the picture below – a picture that would have surely made him Instafamous – but he saw a lizard and took off and his endorsement deal from Petsmart remains a dream (a parent can dream…)

Being so close to Santa Barbara, we had to explore the city known for its Mediterranean climate, wine country and beautiful beach culture.

Caesar had zero complaints about our little day trip into SB. He absolutely loved running along the beach and attacking every piece of seaweed that washed on to shore. But if you are traveling with your pets make sure you plan in advance which beaches you plan on visiting as not all beaches are dog friendly. We had to make a few stops till we found a beach that was pet friendly.

Doing your homework as to where you can and can’t take your pets might help you find hidden gems in the area like hikes that lead to waterfalls (like these!).

We stumbled onto this waterfall while googling the area after we had lunch at a small park off the freeway (again, a big blanket always comes in handy).Pictures can’t do the nights sky justice….

Joshua Tree is one of the only places I have ever been with so little light pollution that the stars and moon fully illuminate the earth below.

But this cottage was so remote that the stars and moon were enough to light up the sky and cover everything in sight with a blue tint that seemed to magically enchant everything in sight (no Instagram filter can do that…. yet). We already miss the sounds of frogs croaking, creatures shuffling in the leaves under the trees, that long and winding dirt mountain road and the whimsical sound of wind-chimes dancing as the ocean breeze sweeps the mountainside.

We are grateful for the amazing AirBNB Cottage Rental, Black Beauty for a comfortable and safe trip and the ability to make the time to reset and disconnect ourselves. Sometimes you have to disconnect and hit the reset button so you can bring your best self to the table.

It’s not even Monday, and I already feel refueled and rejuvenated for the week ahead – but don’t think for one second I’m not missing relaxing on the patio of the cottage.

And we are mostly grateful for beautiful, stunning, surprising and all inspiring Mother Nature! Thank you for keeping this giant spinning ball looking so good for the past 4.54 billion years! You continue to amaze us, entertain us and reward us! We hope that we leave a minimal footprint behind (and sorry about that whole road tripping in a large SUV thing – we use recyclable bags and avoid one time use plastic bottles – so they cancel each other out, right?)

Happy Earth Day! Let me know how you celebrated Earth Day 2018 and if you know of any road trip worthy destinations please let me know!

I’m excited to report back after our next adventure (it will be our longest and farthest road trip to date)!

As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned for more pictures and videos to come!!!

Emerald Pools, Zion National Park: Day 6

Three days in Zion National Park aren’t enough..

I loved every minute we spent in the park and will be counting down the days till I return. I got an amazing first time Zion experience and I am excited return in the near future – to give a few more of the sights and sounds more love and attention!

On our third day in Zion we set sights on the hikes that we had not yet experienced. On your National Park Map you get once you enter the park, there are 15 hikes broken out into “Easy, Moderate and Strenuous.” I’m thrilled that in three days we did 11 of the 15 hikes! And we did have a dog waiting for us at home – so we could have spent more time in the park and potentially knocked out all 15 hikes in the three days – but as a responsible doggy daddy I had to make sure we didn’t leave our furry family member alone too long.

On our third day in Zion, we set out to explore a few of the remaining hikes on the to do list!

We started the day bright and early and set out to explore Lower Emerald Pool Trail, Upper Emerald Pool Trail, Kayenta Trail, Court of the Patriarchs, Zion Human History Museum and the Archaeology Trail… You know, slow day – haha.

The Emerald Pools exceeded our expectations – there was rainfall the night before which resulted in beautiful waterfalls from the upper pools into the lower pools!

The water flow even created stunning mirrored pools which gave us amazing reflections of the surrounding canyon walls – the pictures don’t do them justice at all!

I cannot stress the importance of having a good crew. There were four of us with totally different personalities and humors which kept the trip lighthearted, fun and entertaining for an entire week (which is A LOT of time to be in the car together). But I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could get the four of us together again!

The true natives of the park didn’t mind us hiking along the Keyenta Trail. They are very comfortable with the visitors in the park and weren’t even phased by us walking by.

We couldn’t resist the photo opportunity here at the Upper Pools. This cliff overlooked the mirrored pool below. The beams of lights were unexpected (and made the photos pretty gnarly) and really brought the different colors of the leaves and rocks to life.

I strongly suggest getting to the pools early in the morning so the rising sun can catch the waterfalls. It was cold, but standing under the falls (getting wet) and surrounding yourself in the almost glowing beads of water coming from above was an amazing feeling!

At this point of the trip, I really felt disconnected to the outside world. Being away from e-mail, cell phones and social media really let me appreciate the beauty around us – and the company of friends (so much deeper and stronger than any exchange on social media).

Knowing that our time in Zion was coming to an end was upsetting – but the weather was on our side during our trip and we got more done than we had originally set out to do!

Observation Point Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail, San Bench Trail, Pa’rus Trail and the entire 9.4 miles of the Narrows are on my bucket list! I cannot wait to tackle those trails in the future and welcome (and appreciate) any feedback from fellow readers who have experienced those hikes!

There is so much I could describe and explain – but pictures are worth a thousand words so I felt like it was easier to just share some highlights of this day on my Vimeo Channel!

Here is our Six Day in about two minutes:

Thank you for reading and following along! I know dragging out a week long vacation over 2 months of blog posts is a long time – But I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time each week pulling pictures and video clips together to relive this trip.

I’m sad that next week will be my last posting on this amazing Road Trip… But excited that the focus will then be on some new Mountain Biking trails that I’ve found near by in the Santa Cruz Mountains!

Thank you and stay tuned!

The Narrows, Zion National Park: Day 5

Looking back at our trip – my only regret is that we didn’t spend an entire day in the Narrows!

In Zion National Park, farthest tip of the canyon from the parks main entrance and it is also the most narrow (hence the name). The Virgin River runs through this narrow canyon which means you’re going to trek through water – which served as a refreshing change to our previous hikes and an exciting new adventure!

I strongly recommend checking with the staff at the visitors center and checking the weather forecast so you can dress accordingly for the Narrows. The water was going to be between 55-65 degrees the day of our hike. We stopped by Zion Outfitters in Springdale, UT (on the way into Zion National Park) and rented Neoprene Socks for around $7 a pair for additional warmth. We planned ahead and purchased watershoes online which was well worth the investment. Knowing we would be doing more than the Narrows on Day 5, having the extra pair of socks and shoes designated for the water allowed us to switch into dry and warm socks and shoes for the rest of the day!

I dressed for the 50-60 degree morning with a packable but warm Nike jacket – and paired it with comfortable and breathable LuluLemon running shorts… Not exactly the most fashionable look for the trail – but it was the most practical for the job at hand!

We noticed the water level rise a few inches from the time we started till we turned around. For the most part of the hike in we stayed in the shallow parts of the water to keep most of our bodies out of the water – but as the sun came up I was waist deep on multiple occasions which made for some awesome photos and I’ll never regret getting a little wet to fully experience a situation.

You can look at pictures all day long of what to expect in the canyon, but nothing is even close to what you witness in real life! I loved the small waterfalls and hanging gardens that decorate the tall and earth-toned walls on this almost never-ending hike.

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We got to the park right at 8:00am so we could be some of the first adventurers in the water. I strong suggest going early… We started with maybe 4 other people and as we made our way back to the entrance of the trail there were dozens of people – which would have taken away from the peaceful and serene experience we had just a few hours earlier.

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One of the cheesy tourist things I was most excited about was getting a walking stick as a right of passage in the Narrows. I kept reading everywhere that you don’t need to buy a stick because you just take one from the people as they leave… A very campfire and boy-scout thing to say – but that was the awesome reality of it! When we arrived, there were dozens of “well-lived” walking sticks stacked along the canyon walls, so I picked the one with the most personality and headed on my way into the canyon! And with the strength of the current and the slickness of the rocks – it was a wise choice to have the walking stick in hand! DCIM100GOPROGOPR5736.

And to continue the tradition of the canyon – as we left, I gifted my walking stick to another guy just making his way in! People in nature just seem to be better people. Maybe its the fresh air, maybe its the disconnect from day to day stress or maybe it’s because I had a bad ass walking stick.. But finishing our tour of the Narrows and handing off the ceremonial walking stick was like I was sharing the experience with someone else – I wish life had more opportunities for people to interact in these ways.

Again – my biggest regret is that we didn’t get to spend 10-12 hours in the Narrows as we didn’t get to experience all of the greatness it had in store – but I love every minute we spent in the canyon and WILL return for a full day trip one day soon!

After the Narrows we dried off (having the dry shoes and socks was clutch) and headed to a few more trails! The map from the Visitors Center had many more places to see and things to do – and we were set on doing as much as we could in our 3 days in Zion!

The hike to Hidden Canyon Trail was a straight incline for 1.5 miles… In the planning of the hikes I think I only read “1.5” and neglected to notice the INCLINE – not the best pairing after 4 hours in the Narrows – but still amazing views of the center of Zion canyon!

This is another trail I wish we would have had more time to explore. The initial hike takes you straight up (again, the incline) into the mouth of the canyon… but not down into the hidden canyon which looked like its own adventure. The weaping rock trail could be seen from the climb up to hidden canyon – pretty cool. But I’m content with seeing it from a distance and we didn’t take that short trip to see it up close and personal and this trip.

We went about 1/2 a mile on the Hidden Canyon trail – you have to climb through a small opening one person at a time to access the trail which immediately had our attention and sparked our curiosity!

This day could have easily been split into two days – which would be the first two days of my return trip to Zion in the future! I loved everything about the two full days we had in the park – and was thrilled to have one more day (Day 6) to see the remaining trails on the to do list!

Check out some video highlights from the this day on my Vimeo Channel:

One more day… Recap on its way!

Yosemite: Day 1

Yosemite National Park is one of the great American treasures everyone needs to experience! Geographically, Yosemite Valley was made sense to kick-start our road trip and adventuring – and it set the bar very high for the rest of the week!

Knowing that there is so much to do in the (freaking huge) park I wanted to make sure we got the most of our time there. So we drove up the night before and got an AirBNB in Mariposa. It was a little off the grid at a woodsy cabin off a dirt road surrounded by trees (and cows) – but totally set the tone for the week.

Our day started bright and early with temperatures in the 40’s – but taking the dog for his morning walk was lit by a sky full of stars even with the sunrise creeping up on the horizon. After filling our hydration packs and dressing in layers for day ahead, we made our way through Main Street in Mariposa on our way to Yosemite. We stopped for breakfast at Sweetwater Grocery & Deli – if you plan on stopping here make sure to give yourself time as the wait takes a while – but the breakfast sandwich is worth the wait! The store was totally stocked and we ordered sandwiches to pack away for lunch later that day. During our wait for our sandwiches we strolled around the corner to Donut-A-Go-Go which was the best find in Mariposa!

I walked in as they were stocking the shelves with fresh from the oven apple pie donuts – AMAZING! And for a small town coffee shop they whipped up a killer double iced mocha!

After fueling up in Mariposa, we made our way towards the park for a day of adventuring!

We planned the trip at the perfect time for little traffic (late September) – school had already started so there weren’t many families or college kids around. It was pretty much the four of us, our dog, Senior Citizens and Foreign Tour Groups (who were all super friendly and great to chat with around the park)!

The fee to get into the park was $30 which got you a weeks worth of access to the park – when you get this receipt DO NOT LOSE IT (“fun” story for Day 2).

On the way into Yosemite Valley guests are welcomed by El Capitan! This skyscraper of stone causes everyone to quickly grab the closest parking spot on the side of the road so they can take in its impressiveness. We jumped out of our car and immediately started taking pictures like everyone else surrounding us in the small field trimming the small two lane road of the park. We went for a small walk to get closer to El Capitan and were greeting by a small stream whose rushing waters drowned out the sounds of the cars behind us.

After taking in El Capitan we made our way in to the actual valley and were lucky enough to score a parking spot across the meadows of Yosemite Falls – another breathtaking site – especially since the falls were alive and flowing!

Tioga Pass is one of the main roads in Yosemite National Park which closes often due to snow and intense weather conditions. It snowed the night we made our way to Mariposa and the pass was closed which had us worried that our next day of adventuring would be cut short of sights and sounds if we had to reroute through Bakersfield and Fresno to get to our next destination on the trip… BUT the snow that fell the night before was melting and this contributed to the rich falls – which rangers told us we were very lucky to witness as there are times the falls aren’t flowing at all.

Yosemite Meadows

As we made our way through the meadows of Yosemite Valley we were less than 100 feet from a ton of deer – who didn’t seem to mind us visiting. One deer got within 10 feet of us and didn’t seem at all bothered by us – we actually felt bad because we felt like it was expecting us to give it a carrot (or a tip) for gracing us with its presence.

The stroll to Yosemite Falls was quick and easy – less than a mile from the Yosemite Falls bus stop if you take the Yosemite Shuttle (we would have loved to decrease our carbon footprint in the park and take the shuttle – but dogs aren’t welcome – so we had to drive).

The falls are beautiful, but if you are like me – the view from the pedestrian bridge doesn’t cut it – so I hiked up to the base of lower Yosemite Falls! It took a few minutes and it wasn’t that easy – but SO worth it! The base of the falls even had a spectacular rainbow stretching from the pool below the falls up into the base of the waterfall! The photo below doesn’t do it justice. And the strong mist from the waterfall will get you pretty wet, but after climbing that far it serves as a refreshing reward for the climb!

Yosemite Bows

We spent a great deal of our day tracing the trails of the valley connecting Yosemite Falls to Mirror Lake and then back to the open meadows. The trails connecting the parks attractions are a site themselves – all showcasing different views of the surrounding mountains. We were lucky to run into entire rock formations uniquely shaped and some decorated in moss.

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While we spent a great deal of the day hiking and making our way to Mirror Lake – it was pretty shallow and left little “mirror” to be desired… which makes me optimistic to visit again to hopefully get a better mirrored experience! BUT there were some pretty awesome views at Half Dome out in the distance – a hike I’m adding to my bucket list (anyone down to make the hike?!?!).

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The Yosemite Lodge and Visitors Center were great pit stops along the way back to where we parked the car. And since we packed our lunches we were able to throw a blanket down and have a picnic in Cook’s Meadows to refuel after hours of exploring.

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And even though the trip was planned and mapped out in great detail, we came across Pohono Falls on our exit  – and of course we had to hike to its base!

This unplanned excursion was one of the best parts of the day with caves and great views of the waterfalls runoff filling small ponds and creating miniature waterfalls. About 3/4 the way to the base of the waterfall there was a small cave that had an opening in the back of the cave exposed to the it’s own waterfall – VERY cool find on the hike!

And after visiting El Capitan, Lower Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, Cooks Meadows and Pohono Falls – we were exhausted and called it a (very successful) day!

Loved spending time outdoors and connecting with friends – and especially in Yosemite Valley! Day 1 of 2 in Yosemite Valley was a hit and it was back to Mariposa for dinner and a long nights sleep before the adventure continued… More to come, stay tuned! =)

-Matthew

NEW VIDEO UP:

Adventuring: Yosemite – Day 1

Hit the Road: Adventure Awaits!

I love to travel (shocker). This love came from my grandfather, who would would take me and my brother on road trips growing up. We would pack up our backpacks for overnights at his house or venture up to Prescott, work his food truck in East Phoenix or even trek cross country to meet family members we had never met before.

He was a modern day gypsy. Family man, provider, care-taker but wonderer and adventurer at heart. Anytime I see Route 66 signs, a truck stop (which at 9 years old felt like the coolest place on the planet) I immediately think of him and the adventures we shared. He taught me how to budget, how to read a map and how to plan one hell of a road trip.

He had "laws of the land" that you had to abide by in order to travel with him…

For example, we could order anything we wanted where ever we ate as long as you ate the whole thing – you order it, you eat it!

And you had to know your role –

-The Driver is in control of the radio (no argument on this one… and my grandfather loved Patsy Cline. He had a black cassette tape carrying case with about 30 of his favorite cassette tapes we would rotate throughout our trips – I remember dreading when Pasty would make her way into rotation, but years later she warms my heart and reminds me that my grandfather gave me a deep appreciation for the classics and true country).

-The CoPilot had one job and one job only… look important!

-The Navigator needed to have a map on hand and had to be able to tell you the direction you were headed and what the next move was (yelling MCDONALDS every time you passed one was optional – but we never missed the chance to stop for french fries).

Side note- I learned to barter and negotiate at McDonalds during road trips. Tripping cross country meant a lot of Happy Meals, and that meant occasionally getting duplicate happy meal toys. So our grandpa made us go to the counter and politely ask to exchange our toys for other toys – skills that often led to swapping toys with other kids in the Micky D's play place. Even if we (my older brother and I) couldn't get exactly what we wanted, we knew trading up to a Black or Blue Power Ranger gave us more trading potential than a Yellow Ranger (sorry Trini – you had little trade potential in 4th grade)… back to the story-

This week instead of visiting the beaches of Hawaii, sipping cocktails in Mexico or island hopping in St. Barths I took it back to my roots and my took a page from my grandfathers playbook – and hit the road to see some of our Nations treasures! And loved seeing so many of the millennials living the #VanLife. I am truly envious of those who are taking their early 20's to live off the grid and experience as much as they can while they venture across the US! Is it weird that I'm a homeowner in my early 30's and want to live in a van?!?!

So weeks before the trip I spent my free time on TripAdvisor, National Park Websites and trolling Social Media researching the best routes, destinations and attractions.

What was the best reviewed? These reviews helped prioritize hikes and travel plans!

What was cooler online than in person – like Mirror Lake in Yosemite – not as spectacular in person as online – but helped us add the Emerald Pools to our hiking plans in Yosemite which was one of the highlights!

And also, what would locals suggest – like Donut A Go Go in Mariposa, CA or Oscars Cafe in Springdale, UT!

Then I enlisted a crew of fellow road trip'ers who I knew would enjoy the trip, all bring different personalities to the trip and had an easy going personality that would keep the trip fun and positive – even if weather or unexpected circumstances changed the game plan.

And finally I had a 10 page PDF of the trip mapped out with AirBNB accommodations, routes with addresses mapped out, entry fees, attractions and daily items to accomplish (I know, doesn't really sound relaxing – but I tend to like to do more in one day than most people do in a week so this trip needed structure and a schedule. And details for another post but – our dog is part of our family and with him aging, we wanted to bring him along for the trip! And if anyone has ever traveled with their pet, there is a whole new level of planning involved with making sure your trip is puppy-proof and pet friendly!


(Note – I do not own the photos used here, replacing with my own images in the next posting)

This is the cover page of the trips "Master Plan." Everyone makes a cover page, right?!??! So crazy to look back at the original version and see how so much changed! I carried the full printout with me on the trip and made notes, revisions and updates along the trip – grabbing every map, visitors guide and handout I could so I could update this document the best I could. Can't wait to update this looking back and archive for future use!

A key detail for a comfortable road trip is a comfortable ride – which meant lots of space. With four adult men and a dog, we needed a lot of space – luckily smart packing and our Ford Explorer Sport was clutch in making for a roomy and comfortable ride! We love our Explorer which has the look and feel of a luxury vehicle with captains chairs (perfect for adult travelers), panoramic moon roof for siteseeing on the go and fold flat third row for extra storage! But also the muscle needed for off-roading in Death Valley, snowfall on Tioga Pass and championing the hills and terrain we left in our dust from California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah!

So to guarantee plenty of extra space I want to all new levels of "control freak" and made a packing list of the essentials needed on the trip with recommended extras from expert reviews online! Sure, it sounded odd to pack waterproof jackets, tank tops, water shoes and a hydration pack all for the same trip – but effective planning had wake-up calls with mornings in the 30's to afternoon hikes in the 100's – so we made sure we packed just what we needed (and very little more than what we needed)! The best thing to make sure you have to start… a comfortable sized bag and rubber bands! If you know the size of bag you are bringing you are more realistic with what you can bring, and rubber bands help you consolidate the clothes after you rolled each outfit! I'm a roller in terms of packing! Since we only spend single nights in some of our stops, it's silly to unpack – much easier to grab what you need and keep moving on! We had 8 days on the road so I packed an outfit (socks, underwear, shorts and a shirt) for each day with two wild cards – extra warm for a snow day and casual outfit just incase I didn't want to wear running/hiking shorts everyday!

I was able to fit all of my clothes in my Zoot Sports Triathlon bag, which opens pretty wide which is great for viewing my inventory of clothes and picking out just what I needed for the day!

Since I knew we'd have a significant amount of hikes, I brought two pairs of shoes to rotate through and flip flops (not pictured).

All of the outfits fit and I gained much more space once I rubber banded each outfit together allowing space on the side for extra socks (moisture wicking non-cotton socks reduce odor and are great for long days on your feet), underwear (briefs take up way less space than boxers or boxer briefs), tights for extra warmth if needed (and they were needed) and a few hats for protection from the sun (and the fact that I wasn't going to attempt to brush my hair for all 8 days)!

Sticking to the strict packing list for the basics allowed for extra space for an extra lightweight jacket and sweatpants

And with each person only bringing a backpack, we had plenty of space for pillows, blankets and gadgets which are needed for 21st century travel!

If you're like me and enjoy taking pictures and videos, having extra battery packs, chargers and USB adapters for the car ride keep you fully powered from Point A to Z and every stop along the way.

Then with the vacation days submitted to work, the out of office email notifications ready to send and the car packed up we hit the road!

I can't wait to share the trip with you all day by day, and hope it encourages you to take the trip(s) and fall in love with Mother Nature and the amazing planet we share – and also spend time with family and friends having conversations face to face and interacting in real life – instead of online!

Stay tuned as I break down our trip day by day! Starting in Yosemite Valley, across Tioga Pass, through Death Valley, experiencing Zion, Fire Valley and everything in between!

Go play in the (National) Park!

There's not a series on Netflix, Awards Show, Social Media Post or Tweet that is as impacting or memorable as seeing the marvels of Mother Nature in real life!

I grew up camping, exploring and adventuring in my backyard and the "great outdoors" if opportunists arose.

But as an adult there seem to be fewer opportunities between the the rush of everyday and the responsibilities that come with being an adult.

I'm thrilled to be disconnecting with the social media world and reconnecting with the big old world outside over the next few days.

Stay tuned for my travel blogs – Destination: Natural Parks!

The view from the meadows of Yosemite Valley with an amazing view of Yosemite Falls!

“The Sun Trail” – Cupertino, CA

About a month ago I was having trouble sleeping, waking up with anxiety about things that needed to get done and stressing about personal issues. And I had skipped my weekly hikes because “there just wasn’t time.” Luckily I felt guilted to hit the trails anyway because our dog was the one missing out because of my lack of time. Well, 2 minutes on the trail with my mind roaming – I got us lost. So instead of getting mad, I followed the sun. Committed an uphill climb to the top. And in the process, I found a beautiful trail I had never seen before. Sure, my legs were killing me but I had a goal and took in the sites along the way. That hike changed my outlook on the week ahead. Just like the sun, I need to keep my goal in sight and know I’m on the path to get there (ok – I’m not going to reach the sun on the trail, but you get it). And just like this beautiful trail – I need to take time to enjoy the journey along the way there and recognize how far I’ve come on the “trail.” 

Miley was right, It’s the Climb! 

I travel A LOT – And getting to shower and sleep in my own bed after a long trip is great, but I love getting pawed (yes, paw-ed) in the face at 6:00am by this little dude who can’t wait to hit the trails. He knows that when I’m home – it’s morning hike time!