Misc Adventures of the Southeast

Hi everyone! I received an email from my friend Lisa the other week and she reminded me that I have not written a post since February. This blog is a way for her to keep up with my adventures as she doesn’t have any social media or text messaging. I suck at phone calls so our communication is usually hand-written letters and emails. I believe the last time I talked to her on the phone was actually during my last post when I called her during the Yuma half marathon.

I have so many adventures to update everyone on: Death Valley, Joshua Tree X 2, Red Rocks X 2, Zion (loooove that place…already planning my next trip), Hualapi mountain park, Channel Islands…so many adventures and hikes!

I found this post in my drafts that is from last year when I lived in Savannah, GA so it’s just some miscellaneous photos of places I went. It’s fitting as the only news I really have is that I will be moving to Raleigh, NC in August to begin my next, and FINAL, residency! I am very excited about the opportunity and about being closer to friends. You bet your bottom dollar I’ll be upping the ante on the adventuring of the southwest before I go 🙂 Also, I got an awesome ass camera with my credit card points I’ve been hoarding since 2006. I had enough fro a 40″ flat screen smart tv but I’ve no use for such things so I got a sweet ass camera. Happily my pictures will be way better than what you are viewing now so get ready!

Starting off, the botanical gardens in Atlanta, GA. I enjoyed this gardens because you have wonderful views of the city that pop out.

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The one below and the snake will grow will grass and flowers. I wish I could have gone back to see them finished!

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It’s never a complete gardens unless it has a Chihuly piece!

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Daffin Park in Savannah, GA

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Oatland Island in Savannah, GA – This is the closest you’ll get to a zoo in Savannah. It’s a cute little park with beautiful trails.

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They have wolves which I’ve never seen anywhere else.

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Downtown Savannah along the river

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These topless palm trees were a surprise every time I saw them.

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Touring this battleship in Tampa, FL when I went for the Gasparilla half marathon. I enjoyed this event and recommend touring the ship if you’re in the area.

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I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying their summer 🙂

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Yuma Half Marathon and Organ Pipe National Park Adventures 1/31/15-2/1/15

I’m so excited to share this update with y’all! It was super fun 🙂

So, my friend from Bullhead City, AZ said she’d adventure with me over the weekend. Then, as most people do, that was cancelled. I did what I do every time that happens: I went anyway. Because if I didn’t do something every time someone bailed or every time I didn’t have anyone to do something with I would have missed out on about 98% of the awesome things I’ve seen and done over the last few years.  I went home from work Friday evening, slept for four hours, and started driving at somewhere between midnight and 1am towards Sedona where I planned to do their half marathon and then go hiking and camping.

Well, it wouldn’t be a ‘KJ Adventure’ if I didn’t forget about the time change from CA to AZ. And this is after living in AZ and after talking to my friend all week and being aware of the time change. I *might* have made it in time but that wasn’t worth the gamble of making the 7 hour trek so I rerouted and headed south to Yuma, AZ, which was only four hours away, for their half marathon.  Major kudos to the folks of the Sedona Marathon though as they had great communication for my last minute questions (yes, I’m that annoying person who isn’t registered and has all types of questions more often than not…but I don’t plan well in advance and when I need to go, I need to go). I tried to coordinate my interview in AZ last year with the Sedona half marathon but it didn’t work out so maybe next year I can go…third time’s a charm?!

The drive to Yuma was uneventful. It was dark but I bet the scenery was beautiful. Lots of mountains were gone through but I couldn’t see them. I wasn’t sure if there was race day registration but since it was a smaller race I figured it’d be OK. My experience with small races is always a positive one. They always seem happy to have one more person sign up and don’t have all those demands on no race day packet pick up; they’re generally hassle free.

I get there just before 7AM and as I start walking towards the commotion they begin the national anthem. I stop where I am until it is finished and continue on. I find the registration booth and, as suspected, they are happy to have me sign up. I hear the full marathon start and they say 20 minutes until the half starts. Their card machine was having trouble and they had to try three times to get a signal for it to be processed…I just kept thinking about all that I had left to do: use the facilities, clip my toenails, put on my shoes, eat my breakfast, haha….oops. As I waited I looked around at the participants. Usually I get really excited at small races to see people at my level and then realize they are all there for the 5k and I am left to essentially run the race alone as the other participants are using this as a training run for a full. This time though I was excited as there were people of all abilities and the event only offered a full and half so everyone that was left was in the half! The registration lady was also able to tell me where the registration fee went to which was great. This is unlike the Pittsburgh marathon which I will write more about in a separate post. Because this post is about awesome fun!

My card finally got processed, I got my bag, t-shirt, and headed to the restroom. This race started at the Cocopah Casino which was great because there were real bathrooms! I then went to my car, clipped my toenails, threw my stuff in my vest pockets (couldn’t find my SPI belt, naturally), got my socks and shoes on, and headed towards the start line. As soon as I got in line they gave the 30 second countdown…nothing like cutting it close! And then we were off!

Yuma is in the desert which I absolutely love. This was an out an back course run along the highway so if you don’t love the desert as much as I do you probably won’t find much joy in the scenery. I loved the view of the sun rising over the mountains (the sunrise in AZ doesn’t happen until about 7:30, you guys…), the desert flora, the desert smell after the rain the night before, and the farm land we passed. There were some spectators who were all delightful. One girl had a sign that said ‘Yu-ma inspiration’ which I got a good chuckle out of.

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I loved seeing this green in the desert:

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I started in the back which meant that, while I could have gone faster, I fell in pace with them which was fine because after only sleeping four hours, driving for 4-5 hours, and still trying to completely kick this sickness I had no expectations of myself today except to have fun. And fun I did have. I lollygagged like whoa, y’all. I finished in 3:15. For real. I ran a little, stopped to eat my clementines in my pocket, and take pictures. That’s right…I took photos from my phone. And that’s not all: I instagrammed my photo, I texted my friends, and I actually made a phone call!!! I was THAT person in the event. But I stayed to the side and didn’t impede anyone’s performance or stop abruptly. I did all of this because I was holding my phone since I couldn’t find my SPI belt. And you know what? I didn’t mind. I really needed to call my friend Lisa and it was nice to be able to talk to her while walking and enjoying the desert views. Hopefully I won’t make that a habit but it served its purpose for this event.

At the end of the race there were still lots of people at the finish cheering us on which I was very surprised about for the smallness of the event. It was refreshing. They had some snacks, water, and juices at the end aaaaaand….FREE MASSAGES! That’s right, FREE. I saw them and figured they cost money so I went to stretch in the grass with my goods when a race official walked by and said ‘we have people to do that for you!’ and pointed to the massage tents. Those weren’t his words exactly but something like it. He said it in a way as to imply it was free. I decided to go check it out and had a great massage by a girl named Mary. She was delightful. She was super friendly, listened to my needs, and did her thing. They were students at the local school and it was indeed free. I got a $5 change roll I had in my trunk from emptying my piggy bank in the summer and gave a donation. Everyone’s emphasis was on the runners having a good time which was great. It was a great event; I’d recommend it. They had ample water stops just about every mile which also included gatorade and all types of snacks (oranges, bananas, m&ms, protein bars) after the turn around. I lollygagged with lots of m&m’s for a few miles. After I was offered them for the fourth time I had to politely decline!

Crushed it: with 30 seconds to spare

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The ribbon on the medal is great. While the medal doesn’t specify if you did the full or half, the ribbon does. It also has some pictures and whatnot on it.

After the event I headed south some more to Organ Pipe National Park. This was about 3 hours from Yuma. The drive was beautiful because I love the desert. Lots of mountains and the color brown 🙂 There wasn’t much that you passed on the way and as you get closer to the park you just kind of get a little concerned about continuing. The only other cars you really see are Border Patrol vehicles. The town of Yuma is tiny: you pass a few gas stations, a diner, and some Mexican travel insurance places (one is drive-thru…hmmm…). Then you go through two border patrol stops. At the second one I let them know I was going camping in the park and asked if it was safe. They assured me it was and said there are a bunch of other people there. Good enough for me; I had my knife and mace just in case…safety first! Speaking of mace, my coworker told me there is now a gel mace that won’t fly back in your face if it’s windy outside. I need to get me some of that and you should get yourself some too!

The cacti become more abundant and suddenly you’re surrounded by cactus and mountains…my favorite! And it was raining so it smelled so goooooood!

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Once I got to the park I picked a spot and started to set up shop. Now, camping solo with a new tent probably wasn’t the best idea but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to try. I was having trouble with my tent but would get it set up one way or another. I also am not above asking for help so when I saw people arrive back at the camp site two plots over I mosied over knowing the sun was on its last leg. The inhabitants of the plot were one male and one female. As soon as I walked over the female said: “Hi! Need help with your tent?” to which I just laughed that it was that obvious. They came over and showed me that I almost had it, I just had to bend the back of the poles but me being me was afraid to do that for fear of breaking it. They assured me they are resilient. At least I wasn’t too far off! They also told me they were going to have a fire soon and invited me over for dinner. This was great because the website said you could have a fire but the only fire you could have was in a grill provided at each plot. I had no charcoal. I had some sausages and some duraflame logs because I thought there would be a pit and I could buy some firewood…lesson learned!

i thoroughly enjoyed the view from my campsite:

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I took my sausages, buns, jalapeno ketchup (yes, for real!), and mini bottles of wine over to their plot after I got settled. We had my sausages as an appetizer and they were delicious. They were the turkey kind with cheese in the middle. Yes! We then feasted on foil pack meals consisting of green beans, potatoes, and kielbasa. Yes! It was all so delicious. I shared my wine and they shared their beer. It was SO nice to be around friendly people.

We chatted the remainder of the night and played some story and word association games (hint: no matter what your employment background is, try not respond ‘heroin’ when someone says ‘spoon’…it makes for good stories though). They told me about their time in the park so far and said they rode their bikes around the 21 mile scenic drive route. Genius! I will have to remember to take my bike on trips that have stuff like that; that would have been awesome.

Oh, my new friends also shared their s’mores and let me tell you this: if you’ve never toasted your graham crackers you’re missing out.

The view from my tent was a wonderful view to wake up to:

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I was brushing my teeth in the bath area and when i turned around i saw the sun start to poke its head up so i ran out to get a photo and enjoying it knowing it would be up fast.

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I set my alarm for 7AM the next day so I would have time to eat breakfast, pack up, and get to the shuttle by 8:15. The park is excellent and does a lot of educational things for the campers. Saturday night they had an informational session on cacti which I didn’t know about or I certainly would have done that. Sunday at 2pm they were supposed to have an informational session on ocotillo cactus but not enough people signed up. I wish I knew or I would have signed up! I heard about that while buying postcards at the visitor’s center. I didn’t see any signs for these sessions. Maybe they were at the visitor’s center but by the time I got there on Saturday it was closed. The only sign that’s posted outside is about a shuttle that will take you to a trailhead so you can see more of the park. You can hike out to those places and then back to the campgrounds but that would make for a long day so it’s nice they have the option to make it a one-way trip.

There was only one other person on the shuttle with me. The driver was super nice and doubled as our tour guide. We drove 15miles to the trailhead and on the way we drove right along the Mexican border. Like, the fence that divides the two countries was a stone’s throw away. There are lots of signs all over about seeing smugglers and illegal activity. The driver said that most of the smuggling is drugs, not people. He also said it’s fairly safe and compared them to Alaskan bears. He said that the smugglers don’t want to be bothered and will leave you alone if you leave them alone. He said they know the fastest way to make the border more secure and keep them from smuggling their goods is if anyone gets injured. That reassured me a little. There is also emergency button in the middle of nowhere for anyone, citizen or not, to push if they are in danger of dying. They push the button and wait for help. I could have used one of those later in the day. But more on that later.

We had good conversation on the drive about the desert flora and fauna and the driver pulled over so we could hike up a little ways to see this elephant tree. These are only found in limited parts of Arizona and California so it was cool to be able to see.

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We got to the trail and the driver told us to stop by the visitor’s center later to tell him how our hikes were. I told him I would definitely be in on my way out as I want to get some postcards. The other passenger went to the left for the longer route and went to the right as I wanted the shorter distance because I had a 7hour drive ahead of me. I wanted to leave around 1pm.

The driver said he loves being out here because it’s the one place you can get true quiet. He said the only thing you can hear are your footsteps, your breath, and the wildlife. He was right; it was so peaceful; no traffic and no people. Every now and then you’ll think you hear someone else but it’s rustling from an animal fairly far away…it’s just that quiet that you can hear what you normally can’t hear elsewhere.

We started at the Senita Basin trail. The other guy went left to Red Tanks (the shuttle drops off there on other days) and I went towards Victoria Mines. I started out on my journey and loved just being out in the quiet of the desert. I took in the sights and sounds. Also, don’t forget to look down; the stones and rocks on the trail were stunning. The picture doesn’t do it justice. I wish I knew about rocks and could identify them.

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This is an ocotillo cactus. They look dead but when they bloom they are covered in green and produce flowers. A pretty amazing transformation:

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Cholla cactus (on the left of the trail; the fuzzy looking one) and a dead cactus with the superstructure exposed:

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I knew from talking to the ranger and the map that I just needed to stay to the right. Sometimes the trail would to in two different directions so I always stayed to the right although I’m not sure that’s always the best option! The trails always seemed to meet back up but a few times I wondered if they would. At one point I had gone for quite some time without seeing a sign. Out of nowhere three people were coming towards me so I asked them if they knew what trail they were on. They didn’t so I asked if I was going towards the campground and they assured me I was and that there was a sign a bit ahead. Some more views:

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Senita Basin is actually named after the senita cactus but there aren’t any found on the trails. We saw some on the drive but i didn’t get a photo. They kind of look like organ pipes but are fuzzy at the top. I have seen some before and thought they were dying organ pipes. Nope! Senita cacti! 20150201_100106

Below is the creosote bush. It is responsible for the amazing smell of the desert after the rain. I.love.it. The ranger told me I can replicate the smell if I cup my hand behind it and breathe into it. He was right! I love it. I took a sprig home with me 🙂

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The Organ pipe:

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The mighty Saguaro Cactus:

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I continued on and came to the sign. I went straight to see Victoria Mines.

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I then headed back to the sign and made the right to go towards the campground. There are two signs at this junction. Two! I followed the hill down and finished my water because I was thirsty and thought I’d be alright for 1.8miles. Then…at the bottom of the hill…there are four different trails that lead off. FOUR! This is where the trouble came and I needed one of those danger call buttons.

I actually started up the right trail the first time but something didn’t seem right to me. It was hilly and rocky and not like any of the other trails I just came from. I was thinking in terms of consistency and accessibility. Silly me! I turned around and took the one closest to the right like I was told to do (the one I first took was the second to the right) and ventured down. At some points the trail split in two so I just stayed to the right. Not always right. At one point there was a dead end. Back I went and forward I went. I decided to eat one of my clementines because I was thirsty and hungry. As I was looking down peeling it I heard a loud thud and something running away. I looked up and, if I was in Pennsylvania, would have thought it was deer. But it was so loud and heavy so I knew it wasn’t. I knew that coyotes and bobcats come out at night so that comforted me. I kept on. I saw animal tracks in the dirt. They looked like little hooves. Then a few minutes later I heard snorting. It was a javelina!!! I knew at least I could eat that if I had to. A javelina is a pig-like animal.

I got to the end and nothing. NOTHING. Well, something but nothing that seemed like it’d be a trail to continue on. *sigh* I turn around and head back. I had my Garmin so I knew the distances I was going and had already gone 2.5 miles out of my between the two trails. Now I had to go back. At one point I sat under a tree to get some shade and empty the rocks out of my shoes. As I was sitting there I heard a noise like a noise I’ve never heard before. In the van the ranger said ‘maybe you’ll see the drone’ to which the other man responded ‘I thought I heard a drone last night as I was laying there; it was a real faint bzzzzz noise’. I thought maybe that was the drone and it would save me. I looked around and saw a Harris’ Hawk flying pretty far away. It was so quiet out there in the desert that I could hear the wings flying through the air. It was a really awesome moment. I listened to it flying around for a bit. It stopped about 20 feet from me and then flew around some more. I also saw a desert cottontail so had I not gotten lost I wouldn’t have seen or heard these awesome things.

I get back to my feet and see that blisters were forming so I bandaged them up with the bandaids I keep in my pack, loosened my laces in the toe box, and forged ahead. As I was going back there seemed to be more split trails. I got to another dead end. Back I went and forward I went. In the beginning I figured this might be the right trail because there was some light trash. I later found out that was a ‘smugglers trail’ and the black jugs you see laying around are their water jugs. I guess they also like energy drinks.

I get back to the intersection where the four trails branch off. I honestly don’t remember what I did next. I know what I did; just not the order. At one point I started going back towards the sign but then headed back down because it seemed so far and steep. I then tried out the other two trails at one point. I eventually made it back to the sign to make sure I wasn’t making things up. I even yelled out to see if anyone was around. Sound carries because it’s so quiet. No response. You can seemingly see forever…no one in sight and I couldn’t see the campsite. I tried to tell the direction by the sun but it was at high noon so I had no idea which way was north or south.

Once I got back down to the intersection after confirming it was the right direction I stood there, cried, and yelled ‘why is there no sign’?! Yes, I cried. I am not above that. I was tired, I was hot, I was thirsty, not a soul was in sight, and I didn’t feel confident in my ability to kill and eat a javelina for sustenance.

I must have tried the other trails after that because if I knew the other two weren’t it I wouldn’t have gone back to look for signs. After the process of elimination I went back up the first hill I tried. I had now gone 5 miles out of my way, with no water, after already hiking 4-5 miles and knew I had 2 more to go. I eventually saw a man and asked him if this was the way to the campsite. He said yes and exclaimed that I looked tired. I just smiled and nodded, afraid I would cry again if I spoke. That would have been a mixture of frustration and relief, at least. I kept going and he joked, ‘there’s no water until then though’! Um, not funny. I politely laughed, half turning around, and continued on.

I got to the end of the trail and there was a registry so I stopped to sign that. The man that made the poor joke was coming back already and exclaimed ‘you didn’t jog back’?! I then told him what happened. We made some small talk and I then bee-lined it for my car and chugged about a gallon of water.

I went to the visitor’s center and the ranger that drove us there said ‘you made it in’! To which I said ‘yeah, listen, I have a suggestion’ and suggested they put a sign there. He said he has more to put up…yeah, that’d be a good idea dude. I think my problem was that most people get to the campground and go exploring so if they get there they know what the trail looks like but since I didn’t get to do that and started from the other direction I wasn’t too sure. Or maybe I’m just directionally challenged. I really don’t know. But since then I have purchased a bigger water pack since my 32oz didn’t cut it and I will be buying a compass. Someone told me that if you have an iphone that has a compass. I do not. And my phone died as I was out there anyway. So, compass. Yes.

Despite all of that, I still had a blast and would love to go back to see more of the park. All of the rangers were very nice and I’d love to do more of the educational sessions they offer. If you ever have the chance to see this park I would recommend it. Just pack enough water 🙂

Some misc photos to end:

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When I headed from PA to AZ last May, I put this figuring with the Saguaro in my car. I found it fitting that my car hit it’s 100,000th mile in one of my favorite places, the desert 🙂20150201_165823

I didn’t get to make the whole drive back in the daylight since I got lost but I got to drive from AZ to CA into the sunset and that wasn’t a bad trade off at all:20150201_180353

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Exploring Beautiful Colorado 1/15/15-1/18/15

Two weeks ago I went to visit my friend from graduate school in Denver. The plane ticket was pretty darn cheap; only $150. Not that I have $150 for a plane ticket but you know how sometimes you just need a serious change of scenery and need to see someone who at least understands part of your life? Well, that’s the point I was at and a plane ticket was bought. Pretty cheap considering getting anywhere to the east coast where the rest of my friends live is at least $400. I originally picked that weekend because I thought I had off MLK day but it turns out I didn’t. But, I figured, whatever…I spent all of the holidays alone and I’ll be damned if I was going to spend MLK weekend alone too! And there was a half marathon that weekend! Done.

The Monday before I left I woke up in the middle of the night feeling pretty crappy. Figures…finally go to take a needed break but it’s too late and the good ole immune system is shot from stress and sickness ensues. I made a concoction in the blender of garlic, apple cider vinegar, honey, and lemon to try to kill whatever it is I was about to be consumed with. Normally I get a cold thing anywhere from Jan-March so I figured this was it. I drank 2 Tbs of my mixture with water twice per day and I seemed to be going through each phase pretty fast; about one day each. I took a half day Thursday to get to the airport by 1:40pm and was feeling pretty good and excited for my adventure.

My friend picked me up from the airport where we promptly ordered pizza to pick up on the way home. Her two friends joined us and one brought some champagne. Yessssss pizza and booze and good company; it was so needed. Sadly, after a few hours my throat got so sore I didn’t even want to talk anymore. And it just got worse from there. I was basically dead for the rest of my trip. I felt so bad that I didn’t even do the half marathon (luckily I didn’t register because I was going to feel it out so no money was lost). There was lots of snotting and coughing on the plane from many others; I tried to not breathe when I heard it but maybe something from traveling stirred it all back up and it slammed me pretty good. I joked earlier in the day about wearing my respirator I use at work on the plane but everyone agreed that if I did that I’d never actually make it on the plane. Perhaps I should have tried. Normally I get my cold and feel yucky but this time I had some chest thing added in: a wet cough with phlegm and all. I’ve never had that before. Y’all, the stuff going around this winter is gross. I’m on week three and still coughing stuff up. Stay safe and healthy!

Anyway, with that said, looking at my photos I feel like my whole trip was a dream. I was so dazed the whole time that, while I enjoyed it and was mindful of the beauty, I felt like I was in some weird half-asleep zombie mode. My friend was super awesome though and wasn’t grossed out by my grossness, took me to jamba juice where I purchased pretty much the whole store, and even made me chicken noodle soup from scratch. I feel like I saw a good amount of Denver all things considered. And we rested a decent amount and watched movies and tv in the night. I’m sorry my recap of the places won’t be much more than photos but please enjoy the beauty that Denver has to offer through them! I plan on going back later this year in the summer or fall (I briefly glanced at prices and they were even cheaper….it’s like they’re giving flights away!) so hopefully that trip will be filled with health.

First things first:

The flight from LA to Denver is so beautiful. I almost took a later flight on Thursday so I didn’t have to use time for a half day but wanted to fly in the daytime so I could see the land below. Best decision ever. It is just beautiful mountains the whole way. You can even spot some red rocks. I should have taken photos but I was so mesmerized by what I was seeing. It wasn’t until the sun was setting that I couldn’t take it anymore and knew I had to share what I was seeing.

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The Denver airport also has this fun map of the United States showing the fun things each state has to offer.

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I had planned on going to work with my friend on Friday to see her site but that didn’t happen with my death plague. Instead I slept in, scraped myself together, and left the house at 1:30pm…pretty bad. My friend lives just over a mile from the Denver Botanical Gardens so I went there for free with my season pass. I enjoyed walking there because the neighborhoods of Denver remind me of Pittsburgh. It’s the first place I’ve been since I left for the west last May that was similar to where I came from. I was also surprised to see cactus. I really didn’t know much about Denver at all when I went but learned they have lots of cacti and random plants you wouldn’t think because of their crazy climate. It was funny to see a prickly pear covered in snow!

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I really enjoyed the botanical gardens. Most of it was outside but they had an inside rainforest area and orchid room, both shown below.

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Even though most outdoor stuff was dead I still found it beautiful to walk around. It was in the 50s so it was like a nice fall day.

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They even have one Chihuly piece. I always love seeing his work in the different gardens.

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The next day we went to  the Garden Of The Gods. It’s a park with crazy natural rock formations. Super beautiful:

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After the gardens we went to Manitoa Springs which is at the base of Pike’s Peak. It’s a super cute little town. I spent my time playing skeeball 🙂

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Sunday we went to Boulder City which is another super cute town, similar to Pittsburgh, home of THE best candy store ever (and I know my candy stores), and a super delicious brunch place.

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We then went to Red Rocks Amphitheater. I had no idea what this was. Driving by it you’d never know that an amphitheater was inside the rock formations. The formations look awesome enough on their own but when you see what is inside it’s just crazy. When I visit again hopefully there’s a show I can see or a free movie that they show in the summer. I think there are also hiking trails there. I look forward to actually doing some good hiking the next time I go.

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And last on the stop was Dinosaur ridge, a place filled with fossils and whatnot.

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This stegosaurus has THE tiniest head ever!

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And that was it. Next time it’s on, Denver!

Mandeville Canyon Trail – 1/11/15

I got in two hikes this past weekend because a meet up group was doing this one on Sunday. They normally do fitness-y things south of where I am and never have the desire to battle traffic during the week. This hike was on the weekend and was less than a half an hour from where I live so I figured I may as well go!

The drive up was beautiful. I was around traffic maybe 10 minutes and the rest was on residential suburban type streets lined with delightful fall foliage. I felt like I was in Pittsburgh’s shadyside or Mt. Washington neighborhoods.

The lot at the trailhead is small but there is some street parking. I found my group and we exchanged pleasantries while we waited for everyone else. It wasn’t the type of pleasantries you hate having with people; the superficial small talk, you know? It was nice.

I had no idea what type of trail it would be so, learning from the Heninger Flats hike, I had my water pack filled with snacks. It was another overcast day so it was cool at least, just in case. We set out and it’s a beautiful trail. You’re just out there surrounded by the rolling greens, trees, and dirt trails.

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This trail is nice because there are gradual uphill portions or you can take the more serious trails which have steeper uphills. We chose the steeper ones, obviously. They were steep but they weren’t all too high so you had some level areas before getting to more steep sections which made it nice. Once at the end you can climb some stairs to a little overlook thing. There were some areas where you could see the city but because of the cloudy day we couldn’t really see them which made me happy! One person said she felt like she was hiking in Germany. I had never been there but she lived there for four years so I took her word for it. All that was needed was a nice German pub at the end! The fog was starting to roll in which made for an amazing time. My phone died so I was unable to take any more photos but go on this hike! It’s not too crowded and the people that were on it were great.

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Point Vicente lighthouse at Palos Verdes Loop Trail Hike and South Coast Botanic Garden- 1/10/15

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I chose to go on this hike because you can tour the lighthouse for free on the second Saturday of each month. I love anything I can do for free! This hike is more of a leisurely stroll; it’s short and flat. It’s beautiful as the trail is right along the coast so you get views of the cliffs and the ocean. There is no beach access but you might just see some whales! The book said Dec-March is a good time for whale watching and I was able to see two! I had never seen a whale before, something my coworkers found amusing. No whales in Pennsylvania! The whales ran parallel to me the whole time I walked towards the lighthouse which was fun. I enjoyed seeing them spout water and at one point the whales tail stayed in the air and danced a little bit…almost like he was putting on a show for us. A few people had binoculars so I took that as a sign that people come here just to watch the whales. I think I need to get a pair of binoculars! Especially because last week at Calabasas Peak I saw the most amazing blue jay and would have loved to get a closer look. Things to look into…

The landscaping is also wonderful. The smells of the greenery and the ocean, along with the views, creates a bit of a sensory overload. The trail listed names of flowers and had signs along the path giving tidbits of information and history.

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Once at the lighthouse they have military checking you in (and throughout the area) asking you to write your name, city of residence, and number in your party; I wrote ‘1’, of course. I went to the lighthouse and once inside you climb a few flights, maybe 4. I don’t remember it being many. Once at the top, there was a wait to go the last few steps that lead you to the light. I had only been in one lighthouse before last year in Savannah and that one was tallllll. It had so many flights and once you got to the top you could walk out on the walkway that went around the top. This one didn’t go outside (which was ok because it was raining!) but it was neat to be able to see the light at the top; it was so tiny! Walking up towards the lighthouse on the trail you can see the light go on and off. When you see how small the light is you’re surprised that it can reach as far as it does.

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After the lighthouse I went to a little museum that was also there. As I was walking towards it I hear kissing sounds and the couple who were in front of me in line for the top of the lighthouse just standing and embracing and continuing to kiss. *ugh* I say. Really, right here? I continue on my way and saw a man with a serious looking camera pointing in a direction that I would walk through. It was one of those moments that goes by so quickly but that has so many thoughts go through your mind. I thought: Ok, I’ll go walk behind…wait, what is he taking a picture of? The parking lot is over there…he shuffles his camera, I shuffle to stop heading behind him, he looks at me, puts his camera back up, we dance, I just keep going to go around him, I see lots of other people looking towards the parking lot and when I finally get around the man and to the building I look to my left and see the guy from the embracing couple on his knee. Aaaah, a proposal. Way to almost mess it up, KJ, I said to myself.  When we were waiting in the lighthouse I thought the guy was trying to make eye contact which I felt was weird because I’ve been in LA way too long. Being tired of wasting my breath saying pleasantries with people who don’t respond and only stare, I pretended to be super interested with looking out the window. Now it kind of made sense. He was probably nervous and just wanted to keep his mind from going crazy. I know when I’m about to go into the OR to fit something and I’m nervous I try to converse with anyone I can no matter what it’s about. Any friendly smile or act of sincerity is a welcome distraction. Lesson learned: always say hello anyway. Oh! And she said yes so that was delightful 🙂

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The museum was cute and little. They had some photos, replicas, articles of history, and some miniatures of lighthouses from around the world which was cute. I then headed back down the trail to the parking lot. There is a parking lot at the lighthouse if you don’t want to walk on the trail but that would be silly because it’s delightful.

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It was a dreary day which is rare for southern California. This probably would have been a better trail for a hot day and I should have gone on a more strenuous one instead but the whole second Saturday thing kept me going. Still beautiful even in the rain! I walked at a leisurely pace, stopped often for photos and to read the signs, and toured the lighthouse in 1hr20min so it makes for a quick morning out.

Also, exercise ‘safety first’! It’s tempting to get a closer view but with drop offs like that I certainly am not taking any chances!

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After the trail I went to the Botanical Gardens. I got into this one free with my season pass. I got a season pass to the Desert Botanical Gardens when I was in Phoenix and I get into 300 other gardens across the country for free which is awesome. Last month I went to Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens which is one I can get into free as well. I will post up pictures of those eventually as well.

This gardens is all outside and is pretty fun. The thing I liked about this garden is that there’s a lot of land that they let you adventure through. Most gardens make you stay on certain paths but here you could go on some dirt paths. If I saw some of these paths in other gardens I would never think to go on them without getting reprimanded. I didn’t see the whole thing because it started raining more and I was getting restless (hungry and excited to get to the rugby game). I look forward to going back again.

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They had benches throughout the gardens in honor of those who have passed. They were nice and I stopped to read the plaques on them

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But if I honored someone on this bench I’d be a little sad that no one can see, or even get to, it. Hopefully they do some maintenance there soon.

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They have a lake but it is completely dry because of the drought. Preserve that water, y’all!20150110_125745

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I love these flowers they had everywhere. I see these at Cedars Sinai hospital and they make me so happy. I learned that they are Iceland Poppies.

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I also love the desert area, obviously 🙂

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I also got myself this fern; I love it!

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Oh, and the gardens are only about a 15 minute drive from the lighthouse so after you finish with the trail head on over!

Calabasas Peak hike – 1/3/14

Aaaaaah, this was better than words can even describe but I will do my best.

I was drawn to this hike because of the red rocks, rock formations, and the uphill nature of the trail. It didn’t seem too far away and was near a town called Topanga, just a little bit north of Santa Monica. Topanga…suddenly my entire childhood made sense!

The book directed me to Red Rock Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. It said it was a 5 mile roundtrip hike, the midpoint being at the top of a 2,165foot peak. Sounds pretty good to me. I plugged in the directions and set out. The drive up was beautiful and couldn’t believe how little I had to drive to get out to what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I get to Red Rock Canyon Rd and feel like perhaps this isn’t the right way. The road was residential, small, dirt, and just didn’t seem like there’d be a park anywhere near it. I tried to call the number for the park and look up where I was on a map but of course cell signal was at a minimum so I went to the end of the road where it went straight over a little driveway bridge to someone’s gated private property or it might have gone left but there was a drop off where there must have been some type of creek or something. Most people might not think anything of it but I just had a dream the night before about my car diving down into a cliff. I’ve been having reoccurring dreams about falling off of cliffs, either in cars or on foot, since I was 3 years old. I used to have them all of the time but they have dissipated as I have gotten older but they still happen. I’m pretty sure that’s how I died in a past life.

Anyway, I carefully turned around on this tiny road and went back to the end of the road and made a left. I didn’t have a plan but I thought I’d see what was up the main road a little ways. Turns out there wasn’t much up that way but it sure made for a beautiful drive. I drove around the mountain for an hour and didn’t even care. The views were stunning and it was quiet with very few cars. Eventually I got cell service and saw I was close and got directions on my phone this time (as opposed to the car gps) and started following those. It took me right back to that little dinky road! By the time I got back to the road there were people out and about so I asked a father who was playing with his son if the road would take me to the park. He said it did and that when I thought it was wrong to keep going and then keep going some more and I’ll find it. I got back to that scary turn where I turned back before and made the left. As soon as I did I saw a sign for the park. Hahaha figures! I thought about getting out and walking around the corner when I was there the first time but I really didn’t think that was the right way at all.

I get to an area that says to take an envelope, fill out the front, put in $5 and place it on the dash. The ranger takes license plate numbers, I guess, and if he doesn’t receive your payment I assume you’ll receive a fun ticket in the mail. I wasn’t sure if my pass would work so I filled out an envelope. Now, the area was still a tiny road. I drove a little bit forward and then felt like I shouldn’t be driving on this road. I wasn’t sure if this was the parking area or not, although it didn’t look like a parking area. The book said to drive to the parking area but I backed up and read all of the signs at the envelope station. Nothing said this was or wasn’t the parking area. A car finally came by; an SUV of sorts. They kept going and I figured if they can make the drive, my little car can so I proceeded on. This picture is of the drive out but this is what the road was like…hardly looks like something you should continue driving on! Or maybe that’s just the Pennsylvania in me. We have lots of back roads but you can tell whether they are roads to be driven on or not.

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I park in the correct area and continue on. There were only 3 other cars besides mine…a good sign! It’s beautiful from the start. I love this giant rock made up of smaller rocks and spooky faced rock.

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The book says that when I get to a T to go right. I get to that point and head to the right. It has been a gradual uphill to this point and the sights are stunning. I feel like I stopped every five feet for a photo. I passed a few people…literally a few. This trail was basically empty and I loved it. Everyone was super friendly. A runner passed me on the way up and he even took the time to exchange a hello.

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As you get closer to the top it begins to get a little steeper but the sights are still amazing so it’s easy to keep going. The runner came back down as I was still on the way up. We chatted for a bit and he told me the other trail if I would have gone left was ‘saddle-something-or-other-trail’. He went back down and I went back up. Once at the top there was another man with a dog who the runner told me about. He let me know the dog wasn’t on a leash but that he is friendly, as is the owner. So nice that people look out for each other here! Such a nice change from the LA norm I’m around. The dog owner was a friendly older man who came up the other way. He showed me where I started and said he thought about coming up that way but wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He asked if I made it in about an hour and that’s about when I had. He said the runner said he did it in 30min so he figured it’d be a 60min walk. That runner sure was serious! I told the man he sure could make it and to try it out. He also pointed to a little hill to the right and said that up a trail there was a book people could sign at the top. I never found the trail so I didn’t go up. I saw what might have been a trail but being by myself I didn’t want to go up it, especially with my falling off the cliff dream. Instead I settled in on some big rock formations and hid away to knit and enjoy some snacks. It was super delightful and one of my best moments since I’ve moved here. I stayed in those rocks for a little over an hour and then headed back down.

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This was one amazing hike. It reminded me of being in the desert so that may be why I’m so partial to it. Everyone on the trail was very friendly and everyone who was there wanted to be out and active. No one was wearing spandex 3 sizes too small with their bits hanging out and everyone who had a dog had a full sized dog without clothing. The people were hikers, runners, and bikers. It was a great atmosphere. I left my $5 without any negative feelings and would have happily paid $10 to enjoy this magical trail. I want to call to see if my pass will work here but even if it doesn’t I will go back.

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I am excited to do a lot of other hikes up tall mountains, especially in the San Bernardino National Forest. They will have to wait though as my book says the hikes take 8-12 hours which is great but there just isn’t that kind of daylight right now. It will be something to look forward to and if they will be more hikes like Calabasas Peak it will be worth the wait!

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20150103_131308My trusty travel partner…some day I’ll have people to do things with…some day….

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20150103_141345You will also see THE best decoration ever: party cat. He is wearing a party hat and blowing a party horn. Topanga is an amazing town.

Sturtevant Falls and Hermit Falls hike – 1/1/15

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I decided to checkout Sturtevant Falls because…waterfall, duh. The book said this was a 3.5mile roundtrip hike. It is also near Altadena in the Angeles Forest like Eaton Canyon so as I got closer I had more roads filled with all of the greenery: palm trees, firs, cacti, dead trees, red leaves, green trees…I love it! I got up earlyish on New Year’s Day and made some guacamole to take with me. I started the drive and got to the mountains in about 45 minutes; not bad at all! The book said you’d need the parking pass so I made sure to have mine in tow.

Once I got there, I got to drive up the mountain about 3 miles which was a nice and unexpected treat. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

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I think I got there around 9:30am. I figured that would be an ok time because people would probably be hungover and sleeping in after last night’s festivities. The parking area is limited and it was already full. I saw a sign that said parking $10 and had a sign pointing down. There was a guy just standing in the way staring at his phone so I was irritated, naturally. I was able to drive passed him before he started yelling at me. Turns out he works there…well, sir, get off your phone and pay attention when an automobile is driving at you! *sigh* He said there was one more spot left but that they were double parking so I’d have to leave my keys. I said that was fine and then showed him the yearly pass I have and asked if that’s what they used. He said he never saw it before and after I read the back he informed me that this is a private lot and it’d be $10. WHAT?! I just stared at him for a minute and then said, thanks but no thanks. I’m still really confused how there is a private lot in a national forest. Maybe I don’t get how stuff like that works but doesn’t that seem not right?! I surely didn’t want to pay $10 and figured I’d just find somewhere else to go as there are lots of trails nearby and I had my hiking book with me. I guess people are doing the whole new year’s resolution thing and starting the year with a healthy hike. I told myself it’d be ok because in a few weeks they’d be back to sleeping in. I mean…I totally support all y’all in your new resolutions! I started to head back down the hill and saw a little parking spot behind a car on the hill. I made a 3-point turn, threw my parking pass on the dash, and said that was good enough. There was no sign that said no parking so I took my chances.

There were a good amount of groups of people but it wasn’t unbearable. Everyone was friendly and the majority seemed to be foreign tourists of families. Shortly after I started there was a wide paved road that went down and a thin dirt trail that went right. There was a sign that pointed to Sturtevant Falls down the paved road and to Hermit Falls on the trail. I decided to keep to my plan and go to Sturtevant. And I saw some people go towards Hermit so naturally I went the opposite way!

The paved trail went down and once it leveled off it was beautiful. Well, the whole thing had been beautiful so far but it was so nice once you were down in the…canyon, would you call it? You were just down in this mountain surrounded by beautiful trees, small little creeks and streams, and the sound of the water from them. There were no views of the city so it was like you were in a whole different world without the reminder of what you had to go back to. You could really just relax and be at peace. I also really enjoyed that you could look up at times and see the tops of other mountains. It was a reminder that you were down inside this amazing land formation.

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I was surprised to see cabins throughout the trail and I became jealous of them. I realized I have never had the desire to go camping until I moved here. I’ve gone camping before but have never been much more than a 1 night camper and never got too excited about it although I always had fun. After seeing the camping at Heninger Flats last week and seeing these cabins I realized I really just wanted to stay and enjoy the quiet and sweet smells of nature. I guess I’m going to have to buy a tent!

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There were a couple of creek crossings, the biggest one right before the falls. The rocks could be slippery and I often bent down to steady myself with my hand on other rocks. It’s not a deep creek so you can walk across if you don’t mind getting your feet wet. Getting to the falls is worth traversing the creek for! It’s quite a calming place. I found myself a comfortable place to sit, got out my guacamole, juice, and a book and enjoyed just being away from the madness.

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I then made my way back and when I got to the Hermit Falls turn decided I may as well do that too. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from only hiking twice in CA is that CA hiking is no joke. Some trail portions are pretty thin and there are cliffs you can fall off if you’re not paying attention or lose your footing. This trail was one of those. It was beautiful and the whole way to the falls was downhill. I was actually happy about that fact because coming back up would get my heart pumping and glutes firing!

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There wasn’t a dull sight the whole way and I only passed two groups of people the entire way down. The bottom was pretty uneventful but it was beautiful and I sat for a while listening to the creek. There were more cabins at the bottom. I then began my journey back to the top. I passed a few groups of people going up so I made good timing with hitting this trail. I think this hike was about 3 miles round trip. Once you get back on the paved trail to go to the parking lot it’s a little steep but not for long. That and the creek crossing would be the only things that might be difficult for some otherwise it’s a good trail for all levels.

Once I got back to my car and started driving down the mountain I saw lots of cars parked along the road even where it said no parking. Seemed as if some people were parked about a mile or so down the road. That makes for a serious hike: having to hike a mile uphill before even starting! That would be ok if you want a little extra but the road is pretty dangerous because of the curves. If you’re driving, also watch out for bikers.

It’s a great trail; go and have some fun!

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