The 2014 Bucket List

I just HAD to interrupt the continuing story of my 2013 National Parks Road Trip for this –

Check out: Buzzfeed’s Astounding Backpacking Trips All Over The World

Torres Del Paine perfection

Torres Del Paine perfection

GAWDAYM. I really, really wish I wasn’t in school sometimes. And…I wish I was married to some rich guy who also likes to travel. RICH MEN, COME TO ME.

So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been debating all the things I want to do now while I’m free as a bird (albeit in debt) and single (and childless – which may be forever, or not…)

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Utah Road Trip Diaries: Camping, Kayaking, and A Lot of Great Stuff in Moab

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After leaving Capitol Reef NP, we stopped by a local restaurant at the intersection of two main highways that claimed to have some of the “best food” around. It was just aiite (I guess their nice personalities and great effort makes up for it). Outside on the patio, we ate our sandwiches and talked to two guys that had been on a similar national parks road trip for a few months. We were so jealous! They went to the Grand Canyon too (my dad kept texting me fire updates and weather reports about Arizona, saying it was like 124 and 126, so we avoided that whole state in general). AND they actually saw bighorn sheep! One of the guys was like, “Yeah, he was a daddy sheep, looking at us all mean-like because he had a baby sheep behind him”. Sounded more like a protective bighorn sheep mama.

 As we drove on we continued to see more signs saying “America’s Scenic Highways”. And, ooohhhhmygod, it was true – the land looked sofuckingAMAZING!! Tall, brick-red and dark-colored rock formations surrounded the land around the road. Unfckingreal.

IMG_1581-155The only problem was that we had been going in the wrong direction for quite some time now (and we were almost out of gas, with no stations around for miles!). We actually drove to the border of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (also near Natural Bridges) instead of going north towards Moab. We were so SAD to have to turn around (I’ve seen tons of photos of Glen Canyon in Backpacker magazine, and I have to say that it’s definitely a top priority on my next road trip. It looks stunning out there!)

It was so pretty, however, that we just had to get out of the car and take a shitload of photos:

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Amphitheater-like dome

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Dark stripes of water stains on red and tan rock

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Looking out towards Glen Canyon

Luckily the Highlander just barely made it to the next gas station about 26 miles out. We headed northeast this time – on our way to MOAB!

IMG_1617It was evening when we arrived in the city. So gorgeous.

IMG_1623Instead of staying in town, however, we stayed true to our camping roots and found an awesome little BLM campsite on the edge of town. It ran alongside the Colorado river right next to the highway, but it looked really nice. We soon found out however that all the campsites had been taken up for the night. One campsite that was vacant, however, were the incredibly humongous group campsites at the end of the grounds. We asked the camp host if we could just pay and stay there for a night, and were elated when he said that we could. IT WAS HUGE!!!

Hot, sweaty, and lacking shower facilities for the past few days, I went over to one of the eight picnic tables on our campsite and began to take a shower. I didn’t care that it was a dry campground (no running water) and that I had to use our own water reserves; I was disgusting and something had to be done about it. However, I have to say that there’s nothing more peaceful or liberating than taking a butt-nekkid makeshift sponge-bath/shower on a pitch black night during the middle of a Utah summer. It was like 75 degrees at the time. So relaxing.

We soon found out however, that boats would go up and down the Colorado river at night. A large truck would drive slowly back and forth down the highway, shining its bright stadium lights on the tall rock mountains bordering the river. It was pretty bizarre (The next day we found out that a  certain Colorado tour company conducts nighttime river tours. I think it actually has a religious theme to it. Oh, Utah…).
IMG_1633When we woke up in the morning and looked around….OH MAN. We couldn’t have picked a more amazingly gorgeous campground to stay at!!!!

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Those same tall rock walls in the morning

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My little REI Campdome tent against a stunning backdrop

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Utah Travel Diaries: Rocks and More Rocks at Capitol Reef National Park

The next morning we decided to do a few short hikes around Capitol Reef. Joy’s foot blisters still hadn’t healed, and we remained a bit drained from our hike through Escalante’s slot canyons just the day before. I wanted to check out the park’s famous Waterpocket Fold (it looks bananas from the brochure!) but I think that you can only access it by backpacking – or using a heavy-duty 4WD vehicle. We kept shouting excitedly as we drove around the park in the Highlander:

WATERPOCKET FOLD!!!

WATERFOLD POCKET!!!

WATERSHIP DOWN FOLD!!

FOLD THE WATER POCKET!!

POCKET WATERFOLD!!!!

From: http://jakeklim.blogspot.com/2010/06/under-suns-anvil.html

Capitol Reef’s Waterpocket Fold. From: http://jakeklim.blogspot.com/2010/06/under-suns-anvil.html

One of the main short hikes that many visitors tend to love is the hike through the “Grand Wash” – just be careful of flash floods. They say that you should always check the weather reports the day before to see if there are any storms on the horizon. Even an inch of rain a mile away can turn into a devastating flood through a narrow canyon.

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The hike is basically a flat and sandy/pebbly trail about a few miles long (maybe less?) Joy and I pretty much just ran around the area taking figures of the GINORMOUS rocks towering above us. They’re INSANE!!! (The photos can’t do justice to how massive and crazy big these rocks are). I kept an eye to the sky to watch for darkening clouds.

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Road Trip Diaries: From Escalante National Monument to Capitol Reef National Park: AKA, The Day We Met The Thirsty Spirit (Part II)

(Continued from my previous post about our day in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument)

After our fairly “exciting” adventures in the slot canyons, we said goodbye to Escalante and headed out on Highway 12 toward our next destination – Capitol Reef National Park. However, I had heard that the BLM campground at Calf Creek was pretty nice (it also contains the trailhead for the gorgeous-looking “Calf Creek Falls hike“), so we did a short pit stop to check it out.

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A site at Calf Creek campground

Oh man. It was pretty dope. The campground was small and so scenic. Almost every site was secluded and surrounded by trees and tall carved rocks. If you’re able to secure a spot (the campground seems to be pretty popular), that seems to be one of the best campsites to stay at in the Escalante area.

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Highway 12 to Capitol Reef

The sky darkened overhead as we tried to race toward our next destination before nightfall. As a light rain pelted our windshield, we watched as our surrounding scenery progressively changed around us. Instead of bare dry rock for as far as the eye could see, now we were surrounded by a mixture of tall dark pine and glowing white aspen trees along the highway. It was refreshing.

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As we began to approach the park, we could see tall, brightly colored rock formations rise up around us like sculpted rainbow mountains. I haven’t heard much about Capitol Reef, but it looks like a photographer’s playground.

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The aptly-named Fruita campground doesn’t have much to see outside of a large orchard of apricot trees on the side (Capitol Reef, by the way, allows visitors to come and pick fruit during the harvesting seasons!). The campground has a very basic “parking lot”type layout with just a few trees at a lot of lawn at each site – and absolutely no privacy. Despite the occasional patch of rain, timed sprinklers were still watering the lawns around us. I was tired, sweaty, and desperate to take a bath. Since there were no showers (just bathrooms) in our campground, I wandered over to a sprinkler with a rag and a towel to rinse my sweat-covered skin off

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Our “oh so scenic” site at the Fruita campground

Right after we arrived, Joy started to cook our pasta dinner (we took turns cooking each meal). The rain was still a bit of an issue, however. Since our site’s table and benches were cold and wet, I stayed in my tent and rested as she filled up our jugs with water and prepped our meal.

About two hours later, I heard her go into her tent and say, “OH MY GOD”.

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How To Make Traveling Work (AKA: Ballin On A Budget)

Sorry, I had to interrupt my regularly scheduled “National Parks Road Trip 2014″ series to bring you this awesomeness right here:

I found this great blog post from a woman (who has traveled to over 70 countries) about the different ways you can make your dream travel plans come true. A lot of the tips are common sense; however they’re a great reminder that you should make traveling happen now before it’s too late! And by too late, I mean settle down and become a boring adult. Oh no, I’m not bitter…HAH!

From her Blog Post: How I Afford To Travel

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Utah Diaries: From Escalante State Park to Burgers in Boulder

We were pretty beat as we drove away from Bryce Canyon National Park. After an all day hike amongst the hoodoos, we had to drive a few hours to our next stop: Escalante. Actually – to be honest – we didn’t really know what our next stop would be. I guess that’s the beauty of going on a road trip! A month ago when we were planning our trip, I saw a picture of some gorgeous slot canyons/land formations in a Utah tourist magazine, and decided that we had to go and check out that area. It was in Escalante, but we really didn’t know what that meant. Escalante National Monument? Escalante State Park and Petrified Forest? Escalante city? We had no idea.

As we drove on, we passed by buffalo farms on the roadsides, and miles and miles of the most beautiful landscape ever. No wonder this highway (Highway 12, I believe?) has been designated as one of the “Top Most Scenic Highways of America”. I honestly thought they were lying at first. But then it just kept getting better and better:

Jumping for joy

Jumping for joy

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Mountains of red and tan rock as far as the eyes can see. Check out the highway on the bottom right.

Unfortunately, when we rolled into the town of Escalante, the visitor center had already closed (it was already past 5 pm). Joy was still sick and pretty tired, so while there were many places we could have camped at, I made an executive decision to stop and stay at Escalante State Park (and Petrified Forest – it was so cute). It also had a lake/reservoir nearby, and it was getting late. Joy likes water. I thought it might be a good match for us…

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Utah’s Bryce Canyon: Winner of the “Most Out-Of-This-World Hike in a National Park” Award

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It’s still gorgeous: outside of Zion National Park

We could have definitely stayed at Zion for another week or so, but Joy and I were only at the beginning of our National Parks road trip – we had just a little over 3 weeks left. This is how awesome Zion is: we met two Canadian guys on the Zion shuttle back to our car who said that they had driven all the way from Vancouver to Utah, JUST to hike and backpack Zion National Park!! They only had like a week and a half for the entire trip, so they pretty much drove down for a few days, spent a few days in Zion, and turned around and went straight back to Canada. No other stops along the way.

P1100722-105As we made the drive towards Bryce Canyon National Park, we stopped to hit up a mini-mart to get some snacks for the road. The store carried hardcover Babysitters Club books and used leather cowboy boots! (the kid who worked the store said that the owner “was kinda weird” and liked to stock his store with interesting stuff). But we just bought drinks and sour straw candy. We on a budget, ya know.

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BABYSITTER CLUB BOOKS in hardback!!

It was about 5 pm and cloudy when we rolled into the park. The air was muggy but cool (much cooler than Zion), sunlight beamed around the clouds, and the land was beautiful. Mule deer and their babies ate peacefully along the sides of the road as we drove past them towards the hoodoos.

After the sun set, we drove around to secure a campsite. While you can crash the campsites (there’s a few in the park), the good camp sites aren’t guaranteed (many people, it seems, do make reservations in advance). We ended up driving to the North campground where we settled in a nice spot with a lot of space in the middle of a loop. Some sites on the edges of the campground however, have amazing views of the hoodoos from their “backyard”! There’s probably only a few of them, but STILL. That must have been an amazing experience.

The next day, however, made all our campsite-finding problems totally worth it…

Bryce Canyon

View from the overlook

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Realization: I should have said “F*CK a school loan” and became a travel photographer for a magazine instead

Sometime back in June,  Backpacker Magazine emailed me and asked me if they could use one of my photos from our Sykes Hot Springs backpacking trip (2012) for an article that they wrote about hiking to the springs. I was elated. This is my dream come true!!! I LOVE that magazine (during our summer of 2013 National Parks road trip, Joy and I kept a huge stack of Backpacker magazines in the side door of our car and consulted them every time we hit up a new park or wilderness area).

Then I realized: why the hell did I go back to school. I should have tried to get gigs doing camping and travel photography for magazines instead.

Joy's ass is famous

Joy’s ass is officially famous. It’s worth its weight in gold. Or maybe tin.

The grass is always greener however. Maybe I’ll save that career for another lifetime! Or maybe in another 5 years, we shall see…

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Zion National Park: Hiking to Angel’s Landing

So…I really wanted to update this blog on a weekly basis during our month-long National Parks road trip. I REALLY did. And I tried! But there was hardly any interwebs connection wherever we went, thus making it nearly impossible to do any blog updating. Plus we were camping or backpacking the entire time. No wifi there.

After we experienced pretty much THE BEST TRIP EVER, we came back in August and I had to go directly to grad school. Nowadays, I do NOTHING ELSE except read a shit-ton of books and try to not look clueless in class.

OH YEAH. I digress. Back to the main story…

Angel’s Landing. Yeah, it was awesome. I LOVE ZION NATIONAL PARK! Top 5 fer SURE.

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Waking up to this lovely sight of the sun coming up over the mountains from our campsite

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Our campsite at the South campground

The great thing about Zion is that we arrived in the height of camping season and STILL found ourselves a campsite! The South campground is first come first served, while the other one contains reservable sites. Reservations are not needed, however. It seems that most people camp just for a night or so, while other visitors stay at nearby hotels or lodges.

Even at 9 am, the day was already getting hot.  Joy and I took the free shuttle to the beginning of Angel’s Landing, where we began our 2.5 mile ascent to the top of the mountain. NOTE: Bring a lot of water and start the hike before 9 am, when the day is not too hot and the morning is beautiful. We saw way too many people hiking up the trail around 1 pm with a small bottle of water shared between them. You WILL pass out.

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The beginning of our journey to Angel’s Landing

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Our mascot, Rainbow Pony

The hike has a lot of switch backs on the hike up, but it wasn’t too, too bad. There are plenty of places to stop along the trail and take in the view. Plus it’s paved almost all the way up! Never seen that before.

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Rock scrambling pit stop

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