Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and Beyond!

Yikes.  I had completely forgotten about this blog.  In the interest of finishing what I’ve started (which is extremely important to me), I will at the very least describe the end of our cross country excursion and talk a little about where we are now (Portland!).  Who knows, maybe I’ll be compelled to continue this thing… but considering my track record for the past month, I’m not sure how likely that is…

Where do I even begin?  The drive from Utah across Nevada to California was long, but definitely beautiful.  One night, on our way from Moab to Cedar City, UT (which was actually a really great place- some of the nicest people ever!) we saw a full moon and the crisp outlines of black mountain shadows over a gorgeous sunset- it was probably the prettiest drive of my entire life (or at least one of the top 10).  IMG_3300

The next morning we drove across Nevada- which was, admittedly, uneventful until we spotted a group of desert big horn sheep running into the desert.  IMG_3301(We have no picture of the sheep- we were literally frozen in awe at their prettiness and only snapped a shot after they’d run far from view- but the scenery is beautiful anyhow.)

As we neared the California border we got a little worried about forest fires.  The sky was an eerie brown color and the air was thick with smoke.  As we headed toward our campsite (or rather the campsite we randomly looked up in the middle of Nevada) we learned that there had literally been forest fires around Lee Vining the day before, we were headed a little south of there to June Lake and decided to check it out- assuring ourselves that we’d turn back if it didn’t seem safe.  In the end, going to the site ended up being one of our best decisions!  June Lake was beautiful- we met some great people and shared coffee/ juice in the morning and learned so much about California, the fires and what it’s like to grow up on the (rarely acknowledged) east side of the state.

After a nice break in June Lake (which is actually a cute ski town), we finally made our way to Yosemite! Yosemite is a place I’ve been dreaming about since I was just a little kiddo- or at least since high school… Needless to say, it lives up to all the hype.  We spent three glorious days hiking miles and miles from the crack of dawn (I made us get up before the sun) until we couldn’t take another step and even weird California national park pizza started to smell irresistible.  We didn’t do Half Dome- maybe next time, but we did see the sun come up over the top of the mountains and hiked some of the scariest, skinniest trails I’ve ever attempted in my life (so far).  It was good for my extremely minor acrophobia and seemed only to make me even more excited to be on the west coast in the land of tall mountains.  IMG_6199 IMG_6197IMG_6207 IMG_6175 IMG_3346

After overloading on Yosemite views, we headed up toward Lake Tahoe.  I had been wanting to go there ever since I read a list of the most beautiful clear water in the US.  Whether it’s the most blue or the most clear is hard to say, but it was undoubtedly one of the prettiest lakes I’ve ever seen.  It was like the Caribbean surrounded by giant evergreens and mountains.  IMG_3336 IMG_3344 I’m not sure if it was the weather (that was a bit too cold for swimming) the months on the road in a tiny car, or the fact that I’d been feeling sick (pregnancy!) for the past couple months that made us change our plans at this point- but after one measly little day in Lake Tahoe, Adam and I packed up our things and made a bee-line north for the Pacific Northwest.

The plan was to move to Seattle, so we broke the drive up into three days, stopping in Ashland and Portland before what we thought was our final destination.  The first night in Ashland was spent in a crappy hotel that smelled like old ladies had been smoking in there since the 1950’s (though the no-smoking sign on the door indicated otherwise).  We decided that spending as little time in the hotel was our best bet so we headed downtown for an Italian meal- which was actually awesome, completely unexpected in southern Oregon, and made it even better I think.  We walked around the cute downtown, then headed home to bed for an early morning.

We wanted to get as much time in Portland as possible, even though we only had one night in a hotel.  We woke up before the sun and headed towards the city.  We spent the entire rainy day walking the length of Division street (through Mt. Tabor Park) towards downtown.  We ate great Mexican food and ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s because the line at Salt and Straw didn’t seem worth it- little did we know).  We talked the entire time about how one day we’d like to live in Portland- especially while we were surrounded by the Douglas Firs dripping with PNW rain in Mt. Tabor.  We spoke rationally, however, about how “right now is not a good time” and “maybe when we’re really ready to settle down” and “we needed a real, bustling city like Seattle for a while first”.

So the next day, we (reluctantly?) repacked our tiny car and headed towards Seattle- our final stop for a while.  We walked all over the city, ate vegan bar food in Capital Hill and corn at Pike’s Place market, we stood in a line around the corner to try the famous seafood bisque (and loved it!), went for an epic trail run in Discovery Park, and apartment searched, apartment searched, apartment searched. But nothing felt right.

The city just didn’t feel like it was where we were supposed to be, though we did a great job of convincing ourselves every day that it was- we just needed to find an apartment.  On Labor Day we hiked Rattlesnake Ridge along with every other person from Seattle and the surrounding area.  It felt less like a hike and more like standing in line while shuffling forward to see the view (see why I always made us wake up at the crack of dawn to go for a hike??).  This hike was important though.  It actually changed everything.

Me: “So, I know we’re planning to look for an apartment in Seattle until the end of September, but I have a feeling we’re going to end up in Portland.”

Adam: “Yeah, me too.”

10 minutes later…

Me (while waiting in line to shuffle a few more feet up the bottle-necked trail): “Let’s just go to Portland now.”

IMG_6195This is me and Vera standing in all our “we’re-moving-to-Portland-bliss” at the bottom of Rattlesnake Ridge.

So, here we are in Portland, Oregon and super happy about having a family in this great little city.  We left Seattle a day later and found an apartment in Portland in one and a half days.  The city welcomed us with open arms.  We had dinners with friends and family and felt immediately at home.  Since then we’ve been hiking and running and exploring and eating our way through Portland and the surrounding beauty.  I have very little trust in Adam and my ability to stay put, but for now this feels right and it seems that we’ll be here for at least a little while.

Utah- Better Late than Never

Life has gotten a little crazy all of the sudden- well, at least my ability to get to the computer has been greatly compromised by all of the awesome things we’ve been doing; hence the super long delay between posts.

So where were we? Oh right, Colorado on our way to Utah- Moab to be exact.  About a year ago Adam and I flew into Denver and drove through Utah hitting Arches, Bryce and Zion.  It was probably one of our best trips ever, and Arches was easily one of the prettiest National Parks we’d ever been to (in part due to our early morning sunrise hike, that was so early we were the only two people on the trail and at delicate arch).

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Moab last April- jackets are definitely not necessary in August.

Not that the other parks weren’t wonderful, but when it came time to figure out where to go after Colorado, it seemed like an easy decision: Moab Part II.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this week in the desert heat.  We had a campsite all week, which meant being outside basically every second of the 100 degree days- of course while Vera sat in air-conditioned doggie day cares 🙂  As soon as we pulled into our campsite, however, all of my apprehensions melted away.   Moab is the best.

We started almost every morning with a run through a canyon that lead to a beautiful natural bridge.  IMG_3251

After our run, we would go back to town for smoothies at a cute local coffee shop where we would stay while Adam worked and I read and wrote and researched our upcoming destinations.  It would start to get broiling hot around 2pm so we’d head back to the campground for a dip in the pool before picking Vera up for our evening hiking excursions- which mostly turned into drives around the National Park because it was too. damn. hot. to walk around even for a few minutes.  IMG_3257

Arches was just as pretty as we remembered, even though we were just doing short drive-by walks.  We decided to leave Vera over night at the doggie daycare, mostly because the lady who runs it is the nicest, but also because we couldn’t really hike any of the National Parks with her (not to mention get out of the heat to go into a restaurant).  FullSizeRender(7)

Above is the view from one of our Vera-free-night hikes.

One night we decided to take a drive because it was raining- so we went to a ghost town near by (which scared me to death).

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Adam wasn’t nearly as scared as I was and bravely walked around, getting a closer look at the place.  It turns out all my fears were for naught and there was nothing to be scared of- but the grey, cloudy skies definitely didn’t help!

By the time we picked Vera up on Friday, we were ready to have her back- we missed her! (Even if she is annoying to sleep with in a super hot, stuffy tent.) We all went on a short hike to Corona Arch, which is probably my favorite hike in the Moab area.

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Moab is definitely a town we will be back to visit- there’s something about the energy there.  Everyone seems happy and content and you can’t really beat the landscape.  For all my worrying about the heat, it was actually a little sad to be leaving, though our week in Utah was followed by an awesome week in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe and beyond, so it was hard not to be excited!

Colorful Colorado

The drive from Lincoln to Colorado (Estes to be exact) wasn’t that big of a deal and we did it all on Saturday.  It’s amazing how flat the eastern part of Colorado is (it seems like no one ever mentions it)- then all of the sudden the mountains pop up out of nowhere and Colorado looks like all the pictures we’ve seen. Seeing the mountains in the distance was awesome- especially since we had been driving on a flat, unchanging landscape for hours, it finally felt like we were getting somewhere.  The first half of our trip was, of course, amazing, but Adam and I both couldn’t help looking at Colorado as sort of a beginning- the start of mountains and hiking and landscape that looks totally foreign to us.

We were completely unprepared for our first night in the beautiful state.  We figured we could easily find a campsite- since there are hundreds- it turns out, however, we completely underestimated Coloradans’ love of the mountains.  Every single campsite was full and we were beginning to worry that we’d have to just pull off to the side of the road and sleep in our car until a cop told us to move- this is made worse by the fact that our car is Completely Full and our seats will in no way recline.  Adam took the reigns and went into the ranger station near Longs Peak and asked the advice of some of the nicest park rangers that ever lived.  They told us about free dispersed camping just down the road- which also happened to be some of the best campsites Adam and I had ever been to (at least without having to sling backpacks on our backs and hike miles to seclusion- this site we drove right up to). We also got to use our hammock for the first time! IMG_3161I’m not sure Vera likes it as much as we do…  It was such a great night- the weather was perfect, we saw millions of stars (a cute little kiddo near us exclaimed that there were “30 stars!”), and we didn’t have to pay a dime for our stay.  It was actually hard to pack up camp the next morning and move on to our cabin in Raymond.

We did our first official Colorado Mountain Hike on Sunday morning.  It was a fairly steep incline that lead to a summit with breathtaking views of the Rockies.  IMG_5875 IMG_3165After our hike, we drove out to our tiny, cute little cabin, where we would spend the next couple of days.  IMG_3210We spent the week hiking, sitting by rivers, running, seeing amazing wildlife (like the giant elk that was 1 foot in front of our car!) and hanging out in Kind Coffee Shop (well, Adam wasn’t exactly hanging out, he was working).   FullSizeRender(6) FullSizeRender(5) On Thursday and Friday night we camped inside of Rocky Mountain National Park (at Glacier Basin)- it was beautiful, but we were so spoiled from the dispersed camping the first night- this didn’t really compare.  We decided to hike in the park on Saturday so we dropped Vera off at daycare (no dogs allowed in the National Parks)- which, though we missed her, was totally worth it.  The hike that day was amazing, and of course surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  IMG_6046 IMG_3221We hiked up Deer Mountain because we knew we wouldn’t have time for any of the bigger hikes since we couldn’t drop Vera off until 8 (one day we’ll come back and do a 14er!)- the afternoon thunderstorms are the real deal and we didn’t want to risk being on an exposed mountain top when one rolled in.

That night we stayed in Boulder and got to eat at Salt thanks to Mom and Dad G.!  It was such a nice treat after cooking on a camp stove for the past week.  On Sunday morning we woke up for a hike in El Dorado that was gorgeous before heading onward to Denver.  IMG_3224Our week in Denver was wonderful! It was, honestly, so, so nice to be back in a city- it definitely helped that we stayed in one of the best houses we’ve ever been in.  Adam went to the 360 idev conference for most of the week, while I cooked, ran through city streets, relished in the number of different languages I heard, took great yoga classes, and enjoyed our awesome little pretend home.   IMG_3227 Denver (and being back in a city) would have been awesome on its own, but it was made even better by seeing one of the best people I know- Laura!  It was so nice to see her and hear all about her new life in Colorado.  It’s going to be a strange year not teaching with all of my favorite CCAA people- I miss everyone so much already!  IMG_6066(1)We ended our stint in Colorado by camping in our all-time favorite Colorado Campsite along the Guanella Pass near Georgetown (an old and beautiful gold mining town).  IMG_3233 IMG_6084 IMG_3239Because of the spill in the Animas River, we had to change our original plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Escalante for the next week.  We decided that since Moab, Utah treated us so well the first time we visited, it wouldn’t be so bad to return- onward to the desert heat!

We are! Penn Sta… er… Nebraska!

We left Marfa, Texas and promptly headed north to the land of open restaurants (Santa Fe, New Mexico).  It was the first of three days of long, long drives.  For once we based our destination on something other than blindly following the internet- this time we have Newsies to thank for ending up in Santa Fe.

Aside from Adam singing rendition after rendition of the song, Santa Fe was a pretty nice place to stop over for the night.  We found a randomly really pretty park in the city at sunset and ate some pizza… which wasn’t so bad as long as you thought of it more as bread with a whole lot of toppings on it.  FullSizeRender(4)The next day we set out early for another long, long day of driving across the flat expanse of the Middle West.  Before we reached the Great Plains, however, we stopped off in the southeastern part of Colorado for a quick hike.

IMG_5941 It was beautiful and a really nice way to break up the drive.  That night we stayed in Burlington, Colorado- a tiny town off of I-70 where you can not even drink the water because nitrate levels are too high (we found out this is the case in most of Nebraska as well- something we thought we would have heard about before now…).  We only stopped in Burlington because I found great reviews online for this coffee shop– but it wasn’t open anyhow, so the stop was really just a midway point between Santa Fe and Lincoln.

Sunday was another long day of driving, but luckily Lincoln, Nebraska was waiting for us at the end of the trip and we wouldn’t have to drive again for another week.  The first thing I noticed when we got to Lincoln was how much it reminded me of Penn State- a smallish town that centers around a Big Ten school- but since our bed time is about the time college kids go out, the parties and late night drinking really had no effect on us (also there were no “WE ARE!!” cheers to wake us up in the middle of the night).

Lincoln was a nice break from figuring out the logistics of camping and finding food.  We took one road trip with some of Adam’s friends from work to eat at Modern Love (the vegan restaurant in Omaha)- it was great and a nice surprise considering we didn’t think we’d find much veggie-friendly food in beef country.  Speaking of veggie-friendly food, we did have a great veggie burger (ok… I went there twice… Adam went three times) and the ice cream we had was pretty great (no Ice Cream Show, but we’ll take it).  IMG_5947Vera finally got her staples out and is all healed!  (Thanks to the nicest vet ever!)IMG_5948

Overall, Nebraska was a great place to visit for a week, but the mountains are calling and we can’t wait until Colorado!

NoLa: The Land of Highs and Lows

Before we get into our week in New Orleans, we must first describe the drive from the tippy top of Alabama, all the way down to the bottom.  Recently I reread To Kill a Mockingbird and became slightly obsessed with small, sleepy southern towns.  At one point we were planning on doing a road trip that covered only the back roads of the south, but life got in the way.  So when I found out that Harper Lee was from Monroeville, Alabama- which was sort of on our way from Chattanoonga to New Orleans, I knew I wanted to stop.  Besides, after reading the town’s tourist information, how could we not want to go (I mean there is a painted birdhouse walking tour?!).  IMG_5800

As with any sleepy southern town, there wasn’t very much going on when we got there- but really that’s what I was most interested in seeing: people sitting the day away on porches, little stores shut up and closed for the weekend, and empty streets to walk along.  FullSizeRender(2)From Monroeville, we drove to Mobile Alabama and stayed the night- incidentally we also had some of the best Mexican food we’ve ever had in our lives (the best being in Chattanooga of all places).  Sunday we headed through the southern, coastal portion of Mississippi and onward towards New Orleans!IMG_4355Vera is loving spending so much time all together.  We were so happy that she was starting to act like herself, because at the end of our stay in New Orleans we experienced our first, and only NoLa low.  A woman we met there told us that New Orleans is the land of ‘high highs and low lows’- but up until Thursday, we experienced nothing that could be classified as a low.  That morning, however, when Adam was walking Vera, another dog ran up and bit her- the laceration was really bad and we had to take her to an emergency vet.  She stayed there all day for surgery and to be stapled back up.  IMG_5859She’s been doing much better since Thursday (as the former picture suggests) and has moments where we think even she forgets that she has such a huge cut in her side.

The beginning of our week in New Orleans was a totally different story- we love that city!  It might, of course have had something to do with the fact that we missed the city life- but the houses! How can you not fall in love with all the adorable, colorful, tiny houses?  We spent the week choosing our favorite and landed on the following house:  IMG_5779Of course we can’t really be sure.  Though we walked around endlessly, exploring as many of the neighborhoods and backstreets as we could, there’s no way of really knowing if this was the best- but it would definitely end up in the top five.

Aside from choosing our favorite houses, we also used the walks to see as much of New Orleans as possible- checking off as many recommendations and obligatory tourist stops as we could.

First, we ate beignets (which we could eat every day forever.)IMG_5819We walked along the Mississippi River.  We went to Siberia, a metal bar, and ate a beet burger (it was the best food we’ve eaten at a bar, ever.) We walked on Bourbon Street for one block and took this picture, then promptly exited.  IMG_5855 We rode our bikes in City Park and walked all the way from the 7th ward down to the Lower 9th to check out how far the development has come along since Katrina.  IMG_5839We ate gumbo and po’boys and even saw Uncle Dave!  We checked out the street art and found Adam’s favorite.  IMG_5815 We got to stay in a super cute, awesome house in the 7th ward and met the neighbors (the people in New Orleans are so much friendlier than anyone else- we had conversations with neighbors that lasted multiple hours).  FullSizeRender(3)We didn’t really get to see any parades (just one tiny one that was more like a bunch of people from some company walking the same way on the street than a parade).  I found out that it was because parades happen every month of the year except July when I went to the Backstreet Museum in Treme.  We definitely need to go back to New Orleans, but we’re happy to move on to the open country of West Texas.

‘Chatty’ Chattanooga

Adam kept trying to convince me that the phrase “Chatty Chattanooga” was an actual thing people say because people in the city talk a lot- and though I still don’t believe him, it’s undeniable that we definitely had more conversations with locals here than we did in Asheville… or really most places we’ve been.  People seemed ready and willing to have a conversation about basically anything, even if you were only standing next to one another waiting to cross the same street.  It was really nice to be able to get insiders’ perspectives on this city.  It was clear that there is a lot of pride around the rebuilding of Chattanooga, and for a good reason.  Chattanooga was a great place to spend a week- there were bridges to walk over, ice cream to eat, trails to run, and plenty of people to talk to.

We actually stopped off in Cloudland Canyon State Park in the northern tip of Georgia before we began our Chattanooga adventures.  This park was gorgeous and our campsite was beautiful and secluded.    IMG_2960The next morning we woke up early to go for a seriously breathtaking sunrise run along the rim of the canyon.

IMG_2977After our run, we quickly reloaded the car and made our way to Chattanooga.

IMG_5681The summer heat was getting pretty intense, so the first thing we did when we got to Chattanooga was head to the blue hole in Soddy Daisy.  Unfortunately, it started thunder storming about a half an hour after we got there, so we weren’t able to swim- though we had two of the best conversations with people from the area who gave us tons of recommendations and welcomed us to Chattanooga- so all was not lost- besides we went back later on in the week.  The water along Chickamauga Creek is crystal clear and a serious relief from the heat- especially since we had been camping for so many days in a row.  IMG_3006We ran and hiked a ton of trails around the city, mostly in Raccoon and Lookout Mountains.  One morning during our run, the clouds hadn’t lifted yet and looked like a river amongst the mountains.  IMG_5732Lookout Mountain was a beautiful hike, though it started off horribly with Vera getting a fish hook stuck in her ear- something we didn’t exactly think we had to worry about happening up in the mountains, but Vera handled it well and happily hiked up to the lookout after we performed minor surgery on her.  IMG_2994 IMG_5735The rest of our Chattanooga adventures involved walking around the city (mostly over the same walking bridge)and eating ice cream.  IMG_5767We’ll miss Chattanooga, but we were definitely ready to leave at the end of the week- it’s hard not to be excited for New Orleans!

Food + Beer = Asheville

About five years ago, Adam and I decided that we wanted to visit Asheville, North Carolina.  I’m not sure where this desire came from; I don’t even think we’d met anyone who lived there until years later.  Based on the influx of northerners, it’s possible we were also influenced by some mysterious marketing campaign.  Regardless of the reason, we excitedly decided to book a cabin in the woods somewhere near Asheville for that Christmas time.  Unfortunately for us, however, our plans were thwarted by ‘Snowmageddon 2010’.  This, I think only served to make us more enticed by this little city.

When we began preparations for this summer, we decided that starting off in Asheville might be the easiest transition from NYC to life on the road.  I met a native ‘Ashevillian’ last summer who confirmed all our Internet Research about how the city is not only surrounded by beautiful mountains, but is also inhabited by open-minded, happy people who drink a lot of beer and eat only good food.

Asheville, to put it simply, met and exceeded all of our (super high) expectations.  We stayed in the Asheville area for two full weeks before moving on.  In that time we climbed to some of the prettiest views we’d ever seen, went on amazing trail runs, ate incredible food, and of course, drank great beer at many of the local breweries.

We stayed in a cabin for the first week out in Leicester, North Carolina. (We had the top floor above the garage).

IMG_2920The second week we spent camping at Lake Powhatan, which was right along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway.  IMG_5245

On July 4th, we hiked out to Skinny Dip Falls to go swimming, but unfortunately it was grey and rainy so we decided not to jump in.  We’re pretty sure Vera was ok with that idea since she associates water only with taking a bath (one of her least favorite things to do).  FullSizeRender(1)Probably my favorite hike was the morning we climbed to the top of Max Patch, an area on top of a mountain once cleared for a pasture, that offers 360 degree views of the Great Smokey and Black Mountain Ranges. Views for days…

IMG_5223 IMG_5227Also, on this hike, we got to see our first ever baby llama.

IMG_5233It was definitely hard to say goodbye to the comforts of Asheville, but we were excited about pushing onward to Adam’s most anticipated stop: Chattanooga, Tennessee (of course, his anticipation was based solely on this article from Outside Magazine).